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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Why do I chase Islam? (first entry corrected)


Abdul-Hadi

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Why do I chase Islam?

This isn't a rhetorical question, I really would like to understand the pathology of my continual fascination with a religion, worldview, and life path that I have no familial, ethnic, or historical connection to. I simply do not understand what it is about Islam that intrigues me so, and furthermore, I do not understand exactly why I cannot leave it alone. So the point of making this blog was essentially to let out my feelings in a way where others don't feel like the "owe" me a response. Let me dive a little bit into my own history.

I am a third generation Ukrainian American. I was born and baptized into the Catholic church (Eastern Rite, Ukrainian specifically). I can remember plenty of Sunday mornings of going to church with my entire family (Yes, dad was still around at that point) & at a young age, it didn't mean much to me in that I didn't understand exactly why we had to get up early, get dressed in business casual clothing and drive about a half hour out to another county, wherein we would go sit in a little old white building for an hour or so-- standing up, sitting down, repeating words in a call and response style, kneeling down, standing up again & the older kids and adults would file out into a line and the old grandpa of a man who led this activity would one by one, use a golden spoon to place a little bit of bread into their mouths before they took a sip of something called "wine" out of the most expensive looking cup I had ever seen (ornate with gold and silver)-- then we would just turn around and go home, and life would continue as normal.

When I turned seven years old, that's when things began to change for me. I had gone to Sunday School and become familiar with the elementary stories of the Garden, Noah, and the star of our specific show, a man named Jesus, but I hadn't seen what my part in all of this was, as I was quite literally along for the ride. Then I was told that I would be training to be able to participate in the ritual of bread and wine, what those in the know called "communion". I had to go into a little booth with a screen and tell the kindly old grandpa (whom we called "Father") about all of the bad things I had done, they called them "sins", and I had to say that I was sorry for them which, when I heard myself saying things like "I was mean to my baby sister/I disobeyed my father/I said rude words/etc" I legitimately felt for the first time that I wasn't a very good person & then I was assigned a few prayers to say not as punishment, but to show Jesus that I really was sorry for doing these bad things. This was called "reconciliation" and it had to take place before I could participate in communion. You were supposed to do this as often as you needed to, but ideally once a week. However, this being the early 1990s, nobody really did aside from the few older people in our rural corner of post-industrial upstate New York.

After I made communion for the first time, with all of the pomp and circumstance involved in any Eastern Catholic milestone, I began to feel more and more of a connection to what was happening on Sunday mornings. I still didn't understand the words that were being spoken by the priest very well, or why they never changed from week to week, but I felt a very deep connection to the physicality of the church itself. I was enamored by the darkness of the interior: the dark wood paneling, the deep red carpet, the large wooden pews, the absolutely gorgeous stained glass windows, the scent of frankincense and candle wax, the opulence of the sacramental implements of our small rural congregation in all of their splendor... something about the aesthetic of the place made me feel safe despite this being a public place where I had to behave myself and “act my age” (to quote my parents). I didn't feel threatened or exposed here, I felt a sense of immense comfort as the rays of sun poured through the multi colored stained glass windows. It was like stepping out of the time and space that I occupied in Harpursville, NY and being swaddled in some sort of otherworldly space.

Bringing it back to where I am now: In light of this, why do I chase Islam? What is it about the religion of my parents that isn't “enough” for me, particularly when the research that I have done thus far has shown to me that the path of Islam is so much more demanding than any branch of Christianity that I have dabbled in since I left the confines of the church to go out and live the typical suburban small town American teenage life with all of its vices, distractions, and ennui? Furthermore, with all of the time I have spent making peace with my conception of Jesus-as-personal-lord-and-savior, all of the wrestling with the Old and New Testaments, all of the going out and coming back again when a new church would inevitably be missing that “something special”...

...Why am I so curious about, fascinated by, and attracted to Islam, to impress a girl? (there isn't one who would be impressed, and you can't even meet women or date as a Muslim. I don't have parents to arrange a marriage for me, so choosing a Muslim life would invariably be a lonely and celibate one).

...is it to shock my parents? (My father hasn't talked to me in years and denies me and my sister as his children now that he's gotten his marriage to my mother annulled by that same religion that I took so much comfort in throughout my life whereas my mother is a rather live and let live person, but seems to look at Islam and the Qur'an with a nervous apprehension)

...Am I trying to be a non-conformist and stick my finger in the eye of American society? (Not at all, America is no longer a “Christian nation” and likely never truly was when you look into what happened across America's short history thus far & Islam is certainly not a religion for people who do not wish to conform to social norms)

...Am I seeking approval from others? (Absolutely not, I don;t know enough people to do something like that and even if I was super well known and liked in this area, there would be no pressure to convert to Islam at all as most people are quite irreligious & have not even a cursory understanding of Islam)

...Is this an attempt to be “unique” and build an identity? (I am already too “unique” for my own good and this has had a detrimental effect on finding work, making friends, meeting a wife, even finding a church where I fit in. Besides, I already have a concept of identity when it comes to asserting oneself as a unique individual with dignity).


None of these potential excuses feel remotely legitimate at all. At this point in time I don't even have an answer aside from “Every time I try to write-off Islam, I can't walk away but for a few months” and in addition to that, my periods of putting Islam into the back of my mind usually end up stressful and riddled with tragic news & painful life transitions. I wouldn't even be able to be a “good Muslim” due to my autism spectrum related fascination with music, my inability to speak, write, read, or comprehend another language without translating its meaning back into English in my own head (I did this a lot when Ukrainian was being spoken at church), my distaste for being around other men + their painfully desperate attempts to not look remotely sensitive or warm & my tendency to have female friends who I am closer to.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't even know where to start if I chose to dive head-first into Islam and make a commitment to radically reorganizing my life, forgetting everything about who I thought I was & what I knew, to become someone completely different... all the while dealing with a mental illness that makes even the most ridiculous conspiracy theories seem like objective reality.

Writing this blog wasn't a request for assistance from the forum members of ShiaChat. It's more an attempt to organize and catalog my thoughts, and figure out exactly what's taking place inside of my head that's got me so fascinated and intrigued with this specific religion that by all intents and purposes, asks its adherents to live as the polar opposite of the identity I have already crafted for myself since the tender age of sixteen.

Inshallah, I will discover the source.

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  • Advanced Member

I am genuinely touched, reading this. You seem to be an honest soul seeking for the truth so don't let yourself down by giving into your doubts. We are all imperfect human beings, but by the end of our journey here, all that matters is whether or not we've done everything we could possibly do. It is true that an Islamic lifestyle could be different to your current lifestyle but you have the rest of your life to accustom yourself to it. Being born Christian, and struggling to find the truth, then submitting to your renewed perception of the truth by adapting to an alien lifestyle would be very noble of you. Standing by what you believe true, even after being bombarded by doubts and possibly rejection from others is in itself, a great accomplishment. Undoubtedly, that would make you better than most Muslims. 

I wish you the best in your journey for finding a peace of mind, and solace for the soul.

Edited by A_A
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  • Advanced Member

Perhaps I'm not writing this blog for me. Maybe the haters haven't stopped to think about that.


It could be that I'm compelled to write it for the other person suffering worse than me in a similar situation. Someone who has the "barrel to their temple" so to speak, someone who is about to make the biggest mistake that any human can make, someone about to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution.

Or perhaps its because I come from the Christian tradition and I have compassion for those who are suffering, for those who doubt, for people who no doubt were sold a bill of goods by American society or the West that they never ordered and do not want.


Maybe it's because I'm not adhering to Arabic cultural dictates of shame/honor?

That could be the reason why I care little about hiding my faults, my pain, my illness, and my sins in a society that has given itself over to despair (heroin addiction), vice (casinos), and hatred/racism.

Maybe, just maybe this isn't about me.


 

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      "Read your book; your own self is sufficient as a reckoner against you this day." Al Isra (17:14)
      Our self definitely contains this fundamental idea of god and that is the reason it will be a proof against us finally. Also, Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states, "The one who recognized his self, recognized his lord" implying that ultimately our self consists all those fundamentals we need to understand the idea of God in its entirety. So, now let us go further to address what is left with us.
      We see that ultimately we now have to see what can be the possible reality of God. And we shall only use the most basic rational ways to reach the results inshallah. We can easily think of some possiblilities. Either God is one or more than one. Within these two broad categories of reality of God lies a long list of classifications. We are not going to mention them as it is not at all necessary to ponder on each and every speculation regarding these categories. Definition of more than one gods is followed in the polytheistic systems. This is a possibility but let us match this idea with what our self testifies. It doesn't matter for us over here whether Gods are two, three or more than that but the fact of the matter is that does our pure and perfect self which is the essence of our being accept it? Our self contains the innate idea of God which must be an ultimate inspiration. Can we have more than one ultimate inspiration? If we have many inspirations within our idea of God, those inspirations should either be absolutely equal or they should differ from each other. If they are equal then why are they having multiple forms? There multiple forms is a proof of the fact that they are different. Even if there forms are identical in a way that they are exactly a replica of each other then they cannot be absolute or independent. Because a replica needs to have an original version which means it depends on it's original form and that implies that it is not absolute but rather relative to the existence of the original version. Another proof is there similarlity which itself testifies that they are not unique.
      So, absoluteness with exact equality is impossible and hence we are left with another option that they are different. Now, being different is itself a proof that one inspiration is better than another and one is best of all of them. So, again the multiplicity of the inspiration will finally melt down into a single inspiration which is best of all of them. We see this in the polythiestic faiths where one god is better than other and one of them is best of all. Because establishing such an idea is possible but it will not sustain. It will finally break into a hierarchy. This defeats the argument of multiple gods. As the gods which are different, comparative and have a hierarchy can be an inspiration but not ultimate inspiration. Our soul is traversing on a path which should end up on the absolute, the ultimate inspiration and objective rather than a passer-by-checkpoint or a short term goal. A doctor will never settle alone with a medical science degree. He/she will explore more unless and until he reaches a point where he doesn't need to strive further.
      The Holy Quran challenges the idea of multiple gods or even a lower form of god by stating:
      Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. Al Isra (17:22)
      This verse is not neglecting the possibility of a human being to accept multiple gods but rather it is clarifying that one would not achieve and would be finally neglected and despised if they do so. Because, naturally it means lowering the bar of the objective and inspiration which will be problematic for none but the self of the person as his soul will loose the ability to explore, think and ascend further. Finally, submitting to something less than the ultimate inspiration actually means submitting to someone who carries it's own inspiration. As Quran says:
      "Those whom they call upon, themselves seek the means of access to their Lord-- whoever of them is nearest-- and they hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement; surely the chastisement of your Lord is a thing to be cautious of." Al Isra (17:57)
      So, we notice how beautifully these verses state which is extremely fundamental to our souls. How these verses convert the fundamentals of every being into words and negate the reality of polythiestic ideologies. The verses of Quran are definitely speaking the voice of our self here which we don't listen. Concluding the above argument, we stand clear that atheism is impossible and an athiest has a god which he submits but is unaware of his own submission. And polytheism which might be a possible inclination will vanish if we deeply ponder upon the fundamentals of our self. We will understand if we ponder carefully that all the entities that we accidently thought of as gods were short of being an ultimate inspiration.
      Now, if we enter into the realm of monotheism, we again need to deal with several questions. Now, the focus of discussion has shifted from 'what is the suitable idea of god?' to 'how should we define a single inspiration/God?' There can be a few possibilities. But those possibilties are not what we are looking to identify but rather what our soul will find to be the best. We need to understand that we are not forcing our conscience to accept something which is not asked for and is inferior. The concept of a single inspiration is proven but that inspiration should fit into the exact criteria of what our conscience fundamentally wants. It was stated in the above discussion that there must be atleast one ultimate inspiration above all that should suffice the requirement of our final destiny or objective on this journey of our soul. Further, we also stated while having an argument on polytheism that inspiration can be comparative and different but such inspiration cannot be considered ultimate inspiration. It might be the best among all but if it is comparable then it is not unique. Our ultimate inspiration should be one, unique, independent and above everything while being the origin of everything. Can an entity within the realm of creation fulfill such a criteria? Can we call a creation, an origin of other creation? Even if this creation is not known to us or it is something really amazing and out of the box? The problem over here is that, whatever it might be, it is still a creation and hence it doesn't fulfills the criteria of being above all. Because, it lies withing the realm of creation and is remotely comparable to something even if the comparison is not that close. A star we see in the sky might be a million light years apart but the distance is still finite and it can be compared to other stars because it is has all the features of a star. So, this short example shows that our conscience will never settle with an ultimate inspiration which is not unique in all aspects and has nothing remotely similar. One might say, what about this universe as a single entity? Well, this universe is a system which is dependent upon several physical forces and natural phenomenas and if we contemplate the origin of these forces we are left with a question mark. It doesn't suffice the criteria of the self that the inspiration should be independent. So, whatsoever we might imagine and regardless of how much we move ahead, our self searches for more.
      We our left with nothing but to take an option of this ultimate inspiration which is away from all bounds. This process of reasoning to reach the final conclusion is quite clear in the Holy Book (Qur'an) where Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام) says:
      So when the night over-shadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do not love the setting ones.
      Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people.
      Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah).
      Al Anaam (6:76-78)
      As Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states the definition of that one god, the ultimate inspiration below:
      Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks......
      He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.
      (excerpts of Nahj ul Balagha sermon 1)
      As Amir al Mumineen (عليه السلام) defines, this is the ultimate destiny and inspiration our self is looking for and this is the only inspiration which can set pure moral standards for our conscience. Hence, this is the best and most beautiful definition of monotheism as it is testified by the soul and it is fundamental and intrinsic within ourselves.
      Concluding this entire discussion now, we reach a conclusion which is solely given to us by our pure soul and our conscience. Similar to this, as described in the above verses, every particle in this entire universe is in complete servitude to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) (the ultimate inspiration). Hence, while setting up moral principles, they should be derived from this inspiration and nothing else. Such should be the fundamental of the religion of our conscience. Therefore, monotheism in theory and in action is our fundamental principle whether we accept it or deny it. As the verse below says:
      "Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray...." Al Isra (17:15)
      At last, the acting upon this principle just means pure servitude. We end on where we started. Serving the commandment of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) is the only way to act upon the principle of monotheism and for this Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given commandments in his book of principles i.e Quran. Along with this he has brought the guiding inspirations which are not the ultimate inspirations but just the checkpoints on the path. Not the destiny but the bridge that connects to destiny. These are the prophets and Ahlulbayt (عليه السلام). This is just a brief Islamic point of view to elaborate the principle of monotheism and not necessarily the scope of our discussion for now. In this way we conclude our discussion by claiming from the purity of our soul that:
      "Verily, we belong to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) and verily to him do we return."
      [Al Baqarah (2:156)]
    • By Muntazir e Mahdi in Bayaan e Muntazir
         0
      کتنی بار تو انسانیت کو مارے گا بتا؟
      کب تک تو کائینات کو رلائے گا بتا؟

      کعبة سے تو کرارؑ کو کرپایا نہ ختم
      کب تک تو دیواروں سے مٹائے گا بتا؟

      نامِ حق سے باطل تیرا کام ہے منافق
      کب تک تو حق کو جھٹلائے گا بتا؟

      تیری سیاہ روح، نہ کوئلہ، ہے جہنم کا ایندھن
      کب تک تو جلتے در سے منہ موڑے کا بتا؟

      آتا ہے بقية اللّٰهؑ اور دَورِ عدل و انصاف
      کب تک تو اپنے انجام سے بھاگے گا بتا؟

      تو  نے بہایا نہ صرف آب تو نے بہایا ہے لہو
      کب تک تو منتظر کو اس سے لکھوائے گا بتا؟
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