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In the Name of God بسم الله

Longtime lurker, with a few questions

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Guest vozazab

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Hi all.  I've been "lurking" this forum for 2-3 years and have finally decided to post.

I feel no need to go into significant depth about my backstory.  Suffice to say that I am in my early 30's, born and raised in the United States. I was not confirmed or baptized into any religious faith as a child. By my teenage years I was a confident atheist.  During my late teens this confidence began to wane, and I took greater interest in religion, mainly Christianity.  I read many theological works and have probably read the Bible more carefully than a majority of practicing Christians.  

A few years after that, I began to take interest in Islam as well. The publication of the Study Quran was a major breakthrough in terms of opening up my vantage and being able to get a window into some idea what the Quran was and what it had to say, the breadth and depth of the Islamic tradition(s), and the disagreements and antagonisms therein.  

While I think I understand why I am attracted to Islam and its undiluted Abrahamic monotheism and programmatic approach to life, I cannot completely pin down the reason that I am attracted to Shiism.  For sure, it would be easier in many ways if I preferred ahl al-Sunnah.  Perhaps it's because I like to root for the underdog. Perhaps it is the charisma of Ali shines through when compared to the other rightly guided caliphs. Perhaps it is that the Shiite narrative seems to make sense; the calamity of Thursday, the Hadith of pen and paper, Sahaba fighting Sahaba, you all know.  My distaste for the US relationships with the Gulf States (and the Gulf States' hypocritical relations with Israel & the US/West) no doubt plays a role too.

Leaving aside the problems I continue to have with religious belief in general for another time, I'd like to ask for insight into three particular roadblocks that so far have held me back from pursuing Shia Islam any further than reading books and watching YouTube videos.

1 - In order to recite the second line of the Shahada, in essence, I would have to accept the Quran.  Yet the Quran is written in Arabic, a language that I do not understand or know.  Unlike Christians, who accept translations of the Hebrew/Greek manuscripts of the Bible as a "real Bible", Muslims believe that the Arabic Quran is the only authentic Quran.  Thus, in order to read the Quran, it would take me, conservatively, 1-3 years of 10+ man-hours/week to learn Quranic Arabic.  How am I supposed to accept Islam in any form without being about to read the central theophany of the religion, and the proof of Muhammad's prophethood?

2 - The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.  I can't say I have the same confidence regarding Shiism.  American Shiism seems less interested in reverts in general, and the Masjids/Mosques often have a dominant ethnic/national group (Indo-Pakistani, Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, etc.) and seem rather protective of preserving this dynamic.  I can't help but fear that I would not quite be welcomed by any Shia community near me (which would be, by necessity of geography, Indo-Pakistani).

3 -  This may seem like a silly concern, but it's hard to get over it.  I have read that many Islamic jurists/scholars believe that the punishment for apostasy is death.  What if I convert and, in ten years, decide that I was wrong?  Would people, if only a few of them, be trying to kill me from then on?  And if not kill me, then ruin my reputation?

Thanks in advance to any and all who take the time to read this and respond to it.  I hope nothing I wrote offends anyone, please understand that I necessarily come from a position of being on the outside looking in, and therefore my perception is limited or even warped. 

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5 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

3 -  This may seem like a silly concern, but it's hard to get over it.  I have read that many Islamic jurists/scholars believe that the punishment for apostasy is death.  What if I convert and, in ten years, decide that I was wrong?  Would people, if only a few of them, be trying to kill me from then on?  And if not kill me, then ruin my reputation?

Hi/Salam according to shia Islam if a convert will apostate after conversion at first time he won't face any punishment except asking for repentance & returning to Islam which It can repeats up to three times .

5 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

Gulf States

You mean Persian Gulf :book:

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On 9/10/2021 at 10:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

1 - In order to recite the second line of the Shahada, in essence, I would have to accept the Quran.

Shahadatayn   is to testify or stand witness to the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad (s). 

"I testify that there is no god except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."

https://en.wikishia.net/view/Shahadatayn

Al-Shahada al-Thalitha, or the Third Testimony, follows the Shahadatayn (testification of monotheism and the prophethood of Muhammad (s)) and consists in a testification of the wilaya of Ali b. Abi Talib (a). It is usually expressed with the following phrases: "I bear witness that Ali is the wali of Allah", "I bear witness that Ali is the proof of Allah", and "I bear witness that Ali is rightly the Ruler of the Believers" (أشهَدُ أَنّ عَلیاً اَمیرالمؤمنین حقاً).[2]

https://en.wikishia.net/view/Third_Testimony

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On 9/10/2021 at 10:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

Hi all.  I've been "lurking" this forum for 2-3 years and have finally decided to post.

I feel no need to go into significant depth about my backstory.  Suffice to say that I am in my early 30's, born and raised in the United States. I was not confirmed or baptized into any religious faith as a child. By my teenage years I was a confident atheist.  During my late teens this confidence began to wane, and I took greater interest in religion, mainly Christianity.  I read many theological works and have probably read the Bible more carefully than a majority of practicing Christians.  

A few years after that, I began to take interest in Islam as well. The publication of the Study Quran was a major breakthrough in terms of opening up my vantage and being able to get a window into some idea what the Quran was and what it had to say, the breadth and depth of the Islamic tradition(s), and the disagreements and antagonisms therein.  

While I think I understand why I am attracted to Islam and its undiluted Abrahamic monotheism and programmatic approach to life, I cannot completely pin down the reason that I am attracted to Shiism.  For sure, it would be easier in many ways if I preferred ahl al-Sunnah.  Perhaps it's because I like to root for the underdog. Perhaps it is the charisma of Ali shines through when compared to the other rightly guided caliphs. Perhaps it is that the Shiite narrative seems to make sense; the calamity of Thursday, the Hadith of pen and paper, Sahaba fighting Sahaba, you all know.  My distaste for the US relationships with the Gulf States (and the Gulf States' hypocritical relations with Israel & the US/West) no doubt plays a role too.

Leaving aside the problems I continue to have with religious belief in general for another time, I'd like to ask for insight into three particular roadblocks that so far have held me back from pursuing Shia Islam any further than reading books and watching YouTube videos.

1 - In order to recite the second line of the Shahada, in essence, I would have to accept the Quran.  Yet the Quran is written in Arabic, a language that I do not understand or know.  Unlike Christians, who accept translations of the Hebrew/Greek manuscripts of the Bible as a "real Bible", Muslims believe that the Arabic Quran is the only authentic Quran.  Thus, in order to read the Quran, it would take me, conservatively, 1-3 years of 10+ man-hours/week to learn Quranic Arabic.  How am I supposed to accept Islam in any form without being about to read the central theophany of the religion, and the proof of Muhammad's prophethood?

2 - The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.  I can't say I have the same confidence regarding Shiism.  American Shiism seems less interested in reverts in general, and the Masjids/Mosques often have a dominant ethnic/national group (Indo-Pakistani, Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, etc.) and seem rather protective of preserving this dynamic.  I can't help but fear that I would not quite be welcomed by any Shia community near me (which would be, by necessity of geography, Indo-Pakistani).

3 -  This may seem like a silly concern, but it's hard to get over it.  I have read that many Islamic jurists/scholars believe that the punishment for apostasy is death.  What if I convert and, in ten years, decide that I was wrong?  Would people, if only a few of them, be trying to kill me from then on?  And if not kill me, then ruin my reputation?

Thanks in advance to any and all who take the time to read this and respond to it.  I hope nothing I wrote offends anyone, please understand that I necessarily come from a position of being on the outside looking in, and therefore my perception is limited or even warped. 

1. There are a lot of Muslims that don't understand Arabic myself included this doesn't hinder your relationship with Allah 

2. Tell them you are a revert they will treat you with the best of respect. In my own community when I became a shia people bought me McDonald's, gave me an English quran, gave me a turbah, gave me a few books, and they gave me a tasbeeh. Trust me you won't get a cold reception 

3. As for the death penalty to apostates that only applies to free men who were born of 2 Muslims and have been Muslim since birth so the death penalty won't apply to you. 

May Allah bless and guide you dear brother 

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6 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

 What if I convert and, in ten years, decide that I was wrong?  Would people, if only a few of them, be trying to kill me from then on?  And if not kill me, then ruin my reputation?

Murtad Milli” means a person who converted to Islam and then later on he rejects Islam. Milli is from millat which means religion. The term “murtad milli” implies that the person has apostated from his religion and the Muslim community.

• A former kãfir [non Muslim] who became a Muslim and then apostates (murtad milli), he is given a second chance: if he repents, then he is not to be killed; but if he does not repent, then he is to be killed.

This punishment is only applicable in case of apostasy by men; in case of women, the punishment is not death but life imprisonment.

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The punishment prescribed by the shari`ah for apostasy is death.
Even the terms used by the shari`ah for apostates give the idea of treason to this whole phenomenon. “Murtad” means apostate. Murtad can be of two types: fitri and milli.
(1) “Murtad Fitri” means a person who is born of a Muslim parent and then he rejects Islam. “Fitrah” means creation. The term “murtad fitri” implies that the person has apostated from the faith in which he was born.
(2) “Murtad Milli” means a person who converted to Islam and then later on he rejects Islam. Milli is from millat which means religion. The term “murtad milli” implies that the person has apostated from his religion and the Muslim community.
In the first case, the apostasy is like the treason against God; whereas in the second case, the apostasy is like the treason against the Muslim community. Probably, that is why the Sh`iah jurisprudence deals with these two kinds of murtads differently:
• A former kãfir who became a Muslim and then apostates (murtad milli), he is given a second chance: if he repents, then he is not to be killed; but if he does not repent, then he is to be killed.
• But one who is born as a Muslim and then apostates (murtad fitri), he is to be killed even if he repents. It is important to understand that in case a murtad fitri repents, Allãh may accept his repentance and he may be forgiven in the hereafter, but he still has to go through the punishment prescribed for his treason in this world.[7]
This punishment is only applicable in case of apostasy by men; in case of women, the punishment is not death but life imprisonment.

http://shiastudies.com/en/4629/irtidad-apostasy-in-islam/

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If you all don't mind I will continue on with a response here.  I thank you all for the time and effort you have put in to answering my post.


I will leave off for now from further discussing the worldly problem of making friends / being accepted within the religion and instead address some of what was said regarding the Prophethood of Muhammad, the necessity of understanding the Arabic Quran, the questions around proper punishment for Apostasy, as well as how those concerns about punishment for apostasy relate to my problems with religious belief in general.


1 - In reference to the Prophethood of Muhammad.  It is not so much that I doubt that Muhammad of Arabia was a Prophet of God; rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 


 I certainly would like to agree with the Quran when it says that there is not a community to which a Prophet (or "warner"?) has not been sent (Quran 13:8); at least in the sense, that I agree that any just God would not leave people without guidance and then condemn them to Hell without giving them any chance on Earth of salvation, which is something that certain Protestant Christians believe and it boggles my mind that that could equate to an omnibenificent deity.


2 - Regarding the second line of the Shahada, as Abu Hadi said, I'm certainly not going to recite it not knowing what exactly it means, and my reticence to do so is as much out of respect for the believers and the religion itself than anything else.  It would be an insult to the believers if I were to say something I don't believe.   I have no problem whatsoever with "no God but God", nor do I figure would many Christians, Jews, or Hindus have any problem with saying that.


By way of trying to understand what the second line of the Shahada actually means - what I would actually be committing myself to is that a) Muhammad is the final Prophet / Seal of the Prophets, b) that the Quran is, or is a necessary part of, this Message given to him by God, and therefore c) I accept that Islam is the religion perfected for mankind (Quran 5:3).  Do I have this right?


3 - I am not reassured by the conflicting answers above about apostasy.  Some of you say that it is or can be cause for a death sentence, and this appears to bear out on the link posted by Ashvazdanghe as well as the information I can gather from al-islam.org.  Abu Hadi appears to categorically say such a ruling is a Wahhabi/Salafist concept not shared by Shia.  Mahdavist said that the issue is hotly debated, but by virtue of not living under an Islamic government, there is no entity or person that would be empowered to carry out the punishment even if it were justified.  The idea that my life would be 'saved' by *not* liiving under Islamic government is cold comfort. 


The idea that at least some people within the Shia Islamic tradition believe someone who leaves the religion should be killed (or punished in any way besides banishment, for that matter) dissuades me from drawing near to the religion.  This leads in to a comment about my more general problems with religious belief:


4 - When asked what my religious beliefs are I occasionally respond with the paradoxical statement "agnostic monotheist".  What I am getting at with that is that I feel near-certain that there is some first-mover, or first cause, or one Origin from which all creation sprang forth.  The nature of this deity, however, eludes me and seems like it should elude me, given that there is both an infinite quantitative and qualitative difference between me (or any other human) and this original Source, and therefore I can never quite understand what this source is, and therefore it seems paradoxical to join up with any religious tradition or creed which is necessarily exclusive of other religions and creeds.


On the other hand, one of the things I like about Islam is that, while it of course holds that Islam is the "perfect" religion, most (non Wahhabi/Salafi) Muslims don't denegrate other religious traditions or disregard their validity in some sense.  The "my religion is completely right and all others are completely wrong" attitude is very off-putting to me. Meanwhile many Christians seem to prefer atheists/agnostics to Muslims.  I think Islamophobia has a lot to do with this.  Anyway...

An Addendum -  Regarding Abu Hadi's "Rome wasn't built in a day" comment,  I understand him to mean that belief in Islam is a bit like physical exercise, in that it is self-reinforcing, that works reinforce and grow faith.  However, as I now sit outside of faith, it also strikes me as a "fake it until you make it" type attitude to take.  Meaning, if I surround myself with only Shia Muslims, only engage with Shia Islamic reading material, and perform the prayers and rituals, I am more likely to become convinced of its truth: I accept that.  But I also feel this is applicable to other forms of belief: for instance, if this were 1932 and I were to join the Communist Party, and only associate with other Communists, and only read the Daily Worker, I would be rather likely to remain within that belief system (until I get purged when another faction takes control of the Party, lol).  But I think, my point stands, that the "Rome wasn't built in a day" is more a comment about belief-in-general than belief in Islam. 

 

Again, thanks to anybody who reads and/or engages with me here.  I apologize if I am somewhat exhausting, if I miss the point, or worse yet, if I am offensive, ignorant, or irreverent. That is not my intention - I genuinely, very badly, want to learn more and the only way I know how to do that is by pushing back where I feel something doesn't add up.  I will also say that my soul is hungry and overdue for this sort of engagement with believers on these matters.  I have spent hundreds of hours alone with this subject matter in my own mind, and just this short back-and-forth here has been almost exhilarating, as if letting the cap off a steam-valve.  Even if the discussion ends here, and I hope it doesn't - thanks and peace to you all.

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21 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

am not reassured by the conflicting answers above about apostasy.  Some of you say that it is or can be cause for a death sentence

Maybe this will help answer some of your questions.

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2 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

3 - I am not reassured by the conflicting answers above about apostasy.  Some of you say that it is or can be cause for a death sentence, and this appears to bear out on the link posted by Ashvazdanghe as well as the information I can gather from al-islam.org.  Abu Hadi appears to categorically say such a ruling is a Wahhabi/Salafist concept not shared by Shia.  Mahdavist said that the issue is hotly debated, but by virtue of not living under an Islamic government, there is no entity or person that would be empowered to carry out the punishment even if it were justified.  The idea that my life would be 'saved' by *not* liiving under Islamic government is cold comfort. 

Hi/ Salam for any convert who comes from other religions  to Islam punishment  of apostasy  is not death even if convert lives under Islamic  government  even so proving it about  born muslims is virtually  impossible  , so therefore you can't  find death punishment  for apostasy under Islamic government  of Iran.

2 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

1 - In reference to the Prophethood of Muhammad.  It is not so much that I doubt that Muhammad of Arabia was a Prophet of God; rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 

A Clear Meaning of ‘Seal’

In truth, the movement of humanity upon its way towards perfection has passed through various states with sending of the prophets and they have attained a level upon this way so that they can stand on their own two feet. That is, by relying upon the universal teachings of Islam, they can solve their problems.

In other words, Islam is the final law and it is the age of maturity of humanity. From the point of view of belief, it is the most perfect of contents of religious thought and from the point of view of practice, it has so been formulated that it is coordinated with every age and every generation.

The Reason for the “Seal of the Prophethood”

1. We have many traditions which prove the seal of the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam, among which are:

Among the Traditions recorded by Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari, he records the Prophet as saying, “Among the religions, Islam is like a house which has been built and completed and made beautiful and only one mud brick remains; whoever enters through there or looks through that, says, ‘How beautiful,’ but this has an empty place. I am that last mud brick and all prophets end with me.” (2)

Imam Sadiq says, “The permissible of Muhammad is permissible until the Day of Resurrection and the forbidden is forbidden until the Day of Resurrection.”(3) In the famous Traditions of the Shiites and Sunnite from the Prophet, we read that he said to ‘Ali, “You are like Aaron in relation to Moses in relation to me, other than the fact that after me there will be no prophet,” and tens of other Traditions. As to the seal of the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam, there are some questions which we should turn our attention towards.

http://en.al-shia.org/content/prophet-islam-“seal-prophethood”

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1. The necessity of this issue

If a person accepts Islam with sufficient reasons, they have no choice but to accept the ending of prophethood with him.

2. Verses of the Holy Qur’an are also clear proof of the end of prophethood with the Prophet of Islam.

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets: and God has full knowledge of all things.”(1)

 Islam came and did away with this ignorant custom saying foster children are not covered by the Divine Law like real children. Among them was Zayd, the foster child of the Prophet of Islam who was considered to be a child of the Prophet. Thus the Holy Qur’an says that you should only describe the real qualities of the Prophet which are two: Divine mission and Seal of Prophethood instead of introducing him as the father of one of these individuals.

http://en.al-shia.org/content/prophet-islam-“seal-prophethood”

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1. Some people say that if the sending of the Prophets was through Divine Grace, why should the people of our age be deprived of this Grace? Why do you not find a new way to guide the people of our age?

But they are negligent of one point and that is that the deprivation in our age is not because they do not merit it, but because humanity’s thoughts and awareness have ended and by understanding the precepts of the Holy Prophet of Islam, they can continue them. It is perhaps a good idea to give an example here.

Quote

It is just like a five stages study program which must be followed to be completed. If a physician does not go to school and college, it does not mean that he does not have merit, it is because of this that this amount of knowledge which he gains will help him to solve the scientific difficulties he faces.

The prophets, who came and brought a law or a book, were five: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, peace be upon them and Muhammad, peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants. They made efforts in a particular area of the history for the guidance and perfection of humanity and this passed beyond a certain stage. The second phase of the prophets was handed over and has reached a level whereby they have found their final state and the strength to continue the way.

 

2. As human society is continuously changing, how can we with the permanent laws of Islam, answer the needs of that?

For instance, a universal principle of Islam is: respect the agreements that you make and be loyal. It is clear that with the passing of time, new social and commercial and political ties will be made whereby a person can answer them by taking the major principle into consideration.

Quote

Islam has two kinds of laws: one is a series of laws which resemble permanent qualities of particular human beings, like the necessity for the belief in unity, the implementation of the principles of justice, struggle against any kind of oppression.

But another part is a series of general principles which, with other changes and by the doing away of them, they take on a new form and they answer the problems of each age.

 

http://en.al-shia.org/content/prophet-islam-“seal-prophethood”

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3 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 


 I certainly would like to agree with the Quran when it says that there is not a community to which a Prophet (or "warner"?) has not been sent (Quran 13:8);

Salam, 

إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُنْذِرٌ ۖ وَلِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ {7}

You are only a warner and (there is) a guide for every people.

Brother as you can see, this verse mentioning Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as a warner, not as a guide. The mission of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is mentioned in several other verses of Quran, the one I recall at the moment is as under:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِنْ كَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ {2}

[Shakir 62:2] He it is Who raised among the inhabitants of Mecca an Messenger from among themselves, (1) who recites to them His communications and (2) purifies them, and (3) teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error,

You can see the mission of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), I have numbered them for your ease. 

So the mission of Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) excluding his status of "warner" is to recite divine communication, purify people and to teach them the book and wisdom. 

Coming back to verse # 7 of chapter 13, specifically to phrase "and for every nation there is a guide". The guidance is solely in the hands of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى), He has mentioned it in several places that "He guides whomsoever He wishes" and at one place He even said that Prophet cannot guide anyone he like rather it is Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) who guides whomsoever He wishes. 

I suggest you to understand the system of guidance at first place. You have a builtin guidance system (we call it takwini guidance) then God send Prophets for warning and teaching (we call it tashri'i guidance). 

I am running short of time, just want to suggest you to read some articles about tashri'i & takwini guidance perhaps you will find one at www.al-islam.org. 

I will try to give you a brief response after a while Insha Allah.

Wassalam!!

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6 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

If you all don't mind I will continue on with a response here.  I thank you all for the time and effort you have put in to answering my post.


I will leave off for now from further discussing the worldly problem of making friends / being accepted within the religion and instead address some of what was said regarding the Prophethood of Muhammad, the necessity of understanding the Arabic Quran, the questions around proper punishment for Apostasy, as well as how those concerns about punishment for apostasy relate to my problems with religious belief in general.


1 - In reference to the Prophethood of Muhammad.  It is not so much that I doubt that Muhammad of Arabia was a Prophet of God; rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 


 I certainly would like to agree with the Quran when it says that there is not a community to which a Prophet (or "warner"?) has not been sent (Quran 13:8); at least in the sense, that I agree that any just God would not leave people without guidance and then condemn them to Hell without giving them any chance on Earth of salvation, which is something that certain Protestant Christians believe and it boggles my mind that that could equate to an omnibenificent deity.

 

These things are all related to each other. If you believe that Prophet Muhammad was a Messenger of God, then you believe in the Quran, the written part of this Message. The Quran states 

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.

Holy Quran 33:40

The exact word used in this verse in 'khatama' which means to place a seal over something. The word was used before Islam when someone would place a seal over a jar. When you placed the seal on the jar, the Arabs would say 'khatama' , 'he is sealing it'. The function of a seal is to keep what is inside pure, so it doesn't mix with other things from the environment. Or like in the old days when they would place a wax seal on a letter, each institution or kingdom would have it's own seal so that if the seal was tampered with, you would know it and would know that they letter is not authentic. So the institution of Prophethood was sealed, and this occurred after the last verse of the Quran was revealed in the 10th year after Hijra (631 A.D)  with the verses of Surat Al Maidah(after the events of Ghadir Khum in which Imam Ali((عليه السلام)) was publically designated by Prophet Muhammad as his successor)

..Today I have completed your religion for you, and I have perfected My favor on you, and I am satisfied with Islam as a religion for you...

Holy Quran 5:3

After this point, the phenomenon of a human being receiving direct revelation from God thru the Angel Gabriel was stopped. The reason, we as Muslims believe, it was stopped was because it was no longer necessary. After the revelation of the verse, human beings had everything they needed in order to live a life that was in accordance with what God wanted for them, meaning they had the ability to fulfill their potential as human beings to the fullest extent and be the best version of themselves and live the most happy and fulfilling life that was possible here on earth. So concurrently with this, the institution of Prophethood was also no longer necessary since the Prophet was only the vehicle for conveying the Message from God to human beings and this Message was complete. 

The completion of the Message along with nomination of an individual (Imam Ali((عليه السلام))) who could act as the Wali(explained in the previous post) for the Muslims meant that we , as human beings, had all the necessary tools to live a happy and fulfilling life in accordance with what God wants for us. The reason why this potential wasn't fulfilled was because, shortly after this, the majority of Muslims rejected the Wali that was appointed by God and chose the one who came to power via a political coup and so this guidance was not realized in the early days after Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) and we are still suffering the effects of that today. 

To draw an analogy, you might have all the tools, knowledge, and materials at your disposal to build your dream house, but your dream house won't become a reality until you put in the work in order to build it. The tools, knowledge, and materials are not going to build the house. You have to do that. All the tools, materials, and knowledge currently exists to build the kind of society and world that we want to exist, but people have to be willing to put in the work in order to build that. Most people are not willing to do that, and that is why it doesn't exist. 

7 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

 


3 - I am not reassured by the conflicting answers above about apostasy.  Some of you say that it is or can be cause for a death sentence, and this appears to bear out on the link posted by Ashvazdanghe as well as the information I can gather from al-islam.org.  Abu Hadi appears to categorically say such a ruling is a Wahhabi/Salafist concept not shared by Shia.  Mahdavist said that the issue is hotly debated, but by virtue of not living under an Islamic government, there is no entity or person that would be empowered to carry out the punishment even if it were justified.  The idea that my life would be 'saved' by *not* liiving under Islamic government is cold comfort. 


The idea that at least some people within the Shia Islamic tradition believe someone who leaves the religion should be killed (or punished in any way besides banishment, for that matter) dissuades me from drawing near to the religion.  This leads in to a comment about my more general problems with religious belief:

The controversy amoung ulema is whether someone who is born Muslim (not a revert because this doesn't apply ), raised as a Muslim, understands the religion, then rejects it and goes around in the community encouraging others to reject it can receive the death sentence after a trial in an Islamic Country and by a Muslim Jurist. This is the controversy. 

The death sentence wouldn't be carried out because they become an apostate. It would be carried out for a crime which is referred to by jurists as 'fasad fil ard' (spreading corruption on the earth). A crime would fit into this category if what they are doing is affecting the whole society in a negative way and pulling people away from the religion of Islam deliberately and not by accident or without knowledge. The analogy that is sometimes used for this crime is that if we are all in a boat in the middle of the ocean and someone starts to drill a hole in the boat, so that we all might drown as a result of that hole when the boat starts to sink, we have the right to stop that person from drilling the hole in the boat. If they won't stop voluntarily, we have the right to stop them involuntarily since we will all be harmed by their action. 

In a Muslim society, you have people of all different faith levels and knowledge levels. There are certain people who are venerable to those who 'sell' apostasy in a Muslim community since their arguments might sound attractive to those who are ignorant. So if the laws of the society are based on Islam, i.e. a Muslim country, then someone who is actively selling apostasy is actively undermining the foundation of the society. This is equivalent to collaborating with the enemy in a time of war. It is treason. In most countries, including the United States, the penalty for treason is death. This is well known. The definition of treason in the US is different because the basis for the laws in the US is not Islam, or actually any religion. 

At the same time, even in Muslim countries, like Iran, an apostate is not put to death immediately, as is sometimes falsely reported in the Western Media. They are given the option to stop broadcasting their views. If they don't stop, then they are asked to leave the country. If they continue and don't leave the country, then there is a trial in which evidence is presented, and then a determination is made as to a sentence. In most cases, even after that point, they are given many options, including the option just to stay silent on this subject. If after all this, they still stubbornly refuse, then in some cases the penalty is carried out, although even at this point, there is a difference of opinion amoung jurists as to what the penalty is or if there is even a penalty. So if someone disbelieves in God, widely broadcasts this opinion in an area where they know that the jurists are of the opinion that there is a penalty for apostasy, continues to do it and insists on it, and doesn't take any of the opportunities they are given to escape the punishment, well that is just foolish. Sorry. 

7 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:


4 - When asked what my religious beliefs are I occasionally respond with the paradoxical statement "agnostic monotheist".  What I am getting at with that is that I feel near-certain that there is some first-mover, or first cause, or one Origin from which all creation sprang forth.  The nature of this deity, however, eludes me and seems like it should elude me, given that there is both an infinite quantitative and qualitative difference between me (or any other human) and this original Source, and therefore I can never quite understand what this source is, and therefore it seems paradoxical to join up with any religious tradition or creed which is necessarily exclusive of other religions and creeds.


On the other hand, one of the things I like about Islam is that, while it of course holds that Islam is the "perfect" religion, most (non Wahhabi/Salafi) Muslims don't denegrate other religious traditions or disregard their validity in some sense.  The "my religion is completely right and all others are completely wrong" attitude is very off-putting to me. Meanwhile many Christians seem to prefer atheists/agnostics to Muslims.  I think Islamophobia has a lot to do with this.  Anyway...

An Addendum -  Regarding Abu Hadi's "Rome wasn't built in a day" comment,  I understand him to mean that belief in Islam is a bit like physical exercise, in that it is self-reinforcing, that works reinforce and grow faith.  However, as I now sit outside of faith, it also strikes me as a "fake it until you make it" type attitude to take.  Meaning, if I surround myself with only Shia Muslims, only engage with Shia Islamic reading material, and perform the prayers and rituals, I am more likely to become convinced of its truth: I accept that.  But I also feel this is applicable to other forms of belief: for instance, if this were 1932 and I were to join the Communist Party, and only associate with other Communists, and only read the Daily Worker, I would be rather likely to remain within that belief system (until I get purged when another faction takes control of the Party, lol).  But I think, my point stands, that the "Rome wasn't built in a day" is more a comment about belief-in-general than belief in Islam. 

4. I had the same opinion as you during the period when I left the Christian Church, as an active member, at 17 years old, and when I did my Shahada at 20. 

I considered myself an 'agnostic monotheist' at this stage. I always believed in God, but I didn't think that an entity like God, who is so different from us, would even care to communicate with us lowly human beings. The thing that convinced me that God does communicate with us was the Holy Quran. There are many verses in the Holy Quran that talk about facts of science, that are facts now, that were not known by anyone in the 6th century A.D. Things like the Big Bang, Plate Tectonics, The Water Cycle, the movement of the planets in space, the fact that the water of the oceans don't mix together, fact about embryology, etc, are all talked about in detail in the Quran. If a human being wrote the Quran, even if they guessed about these things and got some of them right, there is no possibility that they could have gotten all of them right and none of them wrong. It is not possible. Which means that a human being didn't write the Quran. It is revelation from God. If it is a revelation from God, that means that God communicates with us. If God communicates with us, that means God cares about us, and this fact is something everyone should be thankful for. So out of thankfulness for this fact, we should follow and obey God. That is Islam in a nutshell. 

As for the Addendum, yes, you might have initially joined the Communist Party, but if the teachings of the Communist Party were not in line with reality and the nature of yourself, eventually you would reach a point where the actions were not sufficient to sustain your faith. Then you would leave the Communist Party at that point, or would stay on only for the material benefits you were getting from this but your faith would be gone. In order for actions to sustain faith, what you have faith in must be in harmony with the reality of yourself and the  world you live in, otherwise your belief and actions would fall out of sync. If they fell out of sync, this would undermine your faith and you would not believe it anymore. It would be like those cults, where the 'Dear Leader' sets him/herself up as the ideal human being who is seeking nothing but the good and benefit of their followers. The reason why most people eventually leave a cult is because those things are actually not true, and the 'Dear Leader' is only out for their own benefit and they are usually far from the ideal human being. Once people realize this they leave. 

Islam is the 'Deen Al Haqq', the religion that is based on truth and putting everything in it's proper place.  When I say 'Islam' I mean the Holy Quran and authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad as taught and explained to us by the Wali(Imam Ali) and the Ahl Al Bayt((عليه السلام)). If you find anything false in this, then you are allowed not to believe in it, but if you don't find anything false in it, then you are obliged to follow it. If this wasn't based on truth, you would find it like a cult, many followers at first then gradually shrinking over time. If something is based on truth, it only grows and expands with time. That is how you tell the difference. Islam started with one person, Prophet Muhammad(p.b.u.h) 1400 years ago. The second Muslim was a women, his wife Khajida(peace and blessings be upon her). The third was his nephew and the one he raised from a baby, Imam Ali(peace and blessings be upon him). For years these were the only three Muslims on earth. Now there are billions, and more every year. That is the difference. 

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On 9/10/2021 at 11:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

2 - The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.  I can't say I have the same confidence regarding Shiism.  American Shiism seems less interested in reverts in general, and the Masjids/Mosques often have a dominant ethnic/national group (Indo-Pakistani, Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, etc.) and seem rather protective of preserving this dynamic.  I can't help but fear that I would not quite be welcomed by any Shia community near me (which would be, by necessity of geography, Indo-Pakistani).

Imam Ali ((عليه السلام)) once said it is better to be with good company than it is to be alone, and it is better yet to be alone than with bad company.

People who would alienate a brother in faith are people of bad company.

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On 9/11/2021 at 8:52 AM, Guest vozazab said:

The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.  

I don't know if this really counts but just putting this out there. I am a born Shia, lived all my life in a country with a sizeable Shia population but never had even one IRL Shia friend or even an acquaintance. Just never happened.

The only Shia social circle I have is SC. I believe it's the same for @notme who is revert.

Having a family who practises the same faith, of course, make a huge difference but just saying you can still have non Muslim or sunni friends and still be a Shia. Over time you might get some Shia friends or you might not. Either way don't let it stand in the way of following a school of faith you believe in otherwise.

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12 hours ago, Guest vozazab said:

1 - In reference to the Prophethood of Muhammad.  It is not so much that I doubt that Muhammad of Arabia was a Prophet of God; rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 

If you have no doubt that Muhammad (peace and blessings, be upon him) of Arabia is a Prophet of God; then you must trust him in his claim and that of what is stated in the Blessed Qur’an, that he is the “Seal of the Prophets”.

As to your question, “How should I be able to know?”

He is ONLY ONE from all the Prophets (peace be upon them all) before to have made this claim. 
This claim is UNIQUE to him.

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On 9/10/2021 at 10:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

In order to recite the second line of the Shahada, in essence, I would have to accept the Quran.  Yet the Quran is written in Arabic, a language that I do not understand or know.

Maybe this youtube chanal would help. Personally I don't find it to be such a big problem. There are plenty of good translations out there. I use the Tanzil Quran Navigator a lot. It has a number of translations to choose from in many languages. But even if you understand the Arabic text you also has to read the commentary - the Tafsir. (In Christianity they call it "Exegesis.") I am told that even if you understand the Arabic words many of them has a bunch of meanings that you would need the Tafsir in order to pick the right one(s).

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In regards to the community, you don't need to join a mosque. I'm born-shia, living in the USA now and I've been secluded from all mosques, i completely understand when you say that they're not welcoming if you're not "from them" , i can relate .. plus, its covid so you don't want to mix with people either. Shiachat.com is a great online community and you'll always feel welcomed here

 

 

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I will admit I maintain better ties with my former religion Judaism than the Shias where I live.  But that also has to do with the fact that I suffer from mental illness and jews just understand the issue so much better.  Shias are very nice people and should be welcoming to you but should you have a problem that they don’t understand then don’t expect help.  That’s all from my experience.

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14 hours ago, -Enlightened said:

In regards to the community, you don't need to join a mosque. I'm born-shia, living in the USA now and I've been secluded from all mosques, i completely understand when you say that they're not welcoming if you're not "from them" , i can relate .. plus, its covid so you don't want to mix with people either. Shiachat.com is a great online community and you'll always feel welcomed here

 

 

I am in the same position. I used to go to one mosque, then I started going to another one. But it was obvious I was not welcome at either center, so I stopped going. There are 3 other centers but they are far and I don't want to try them. In my case, I limited my interaction with people, so then the speakers started focusing on my sins and every time I hear them, I feel personally attacked. I have been called Yazid and Iblees frequently. So now everytime a speaker starts talking about them, I feel like he is talking about me. 

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On 9/10/2021 at 11:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.

They would not be very good friends and will turn on you if you have a change of heart and mind. Have you seen how some of them behave online? Just recently, a young lady became Shia and they were sending her death threats and  threating to rape her. I'm glad that I am no longer influenced by Salafism and that I am now a Shia. Not even a Protestant Christian would dare threaten rape on a woman who leaves church. Salafism is repulsive and shameless although you would have a  stronger support system.  If that's your concern, Shiachat is a good support system for reverts and we are pretty open.

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On 9/10/2021 at 10:52 PM, Guest vozazab said:

1 - In order to recite the second line of the Shahada, in essence, I would have to accept the Quran.  Yet the Quran is written in Arabic, a language that I do not understand or know.  Unlike Christians, who accept translations of the Hebrew/Greek manuscripts of the Bible as a "real Bible", Muslims believe that the Arabic Quran is the only authentic Quran.  Thus, in order to read the Quran, it would take me, conservatively, 1-3 years of 10+ man-hours/week to learn Quranic Arabic.  How am I supposed to accept Islam in any form without being about to read the central theophany of the religion, and the proof of Muhammad's prophethood?

2 - The American Shia community, from what I can gather, is not the most welcoming of converts/reverts.  Although I am repulsed by Salafism and find it at least as distasteful as (and quite similar to) my least favorite forms of Protestant Christianity, I can at least imagine that I would have friends within 3-6 months of conversion/reversion.  I can't say I have the same confidence regarding Shiism.  American Shiism seems less interested in reverts in general, and the Masjids/Mosques often have a dominant ethnic/national group (Indo-Pakistani, Lebanese, Iraqi, Yemeni, etc.) and seem rather protective of preserving this dynamic.  I can't help but fear that I would not quite be welcomed by any Shia community near me (which would be, by necessity of geography, Indo-Pakistani).

3 -  This may seem like a silly concern, but it's hard to get over it.  I have read that many Islamic jurists/scholars believe that the punishment for apostasy is death.  What if I convert and, in ten years, decide that I was wrong?  Would people, if only a few of them, be trying to kill me from then on?  And if not kill me, then ruin my reputation?

Thanks in advance to any and all who take the time to read this and respond to it.  I hope nothing I wrote offends anyone, please understand that I necessarily come from a position of being on the outside looking in, and therefore my perception is limited or even warped. 

Salaam,

1) While it is encouraged to learn Arabic, there is plenty of English literature available to accept the Quran. Please bear in mind that there are Arabs who are not Muslims and also there were Arabs who heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) recite the Quran and were still not convinced so learning Arabic is not a prerequisite for shahada.

2) The America Shia community is still in its infancy and mostly comprised of 1st generation America shias. It will take us time to fully assimilate and become American shias. In other words, we are so obsessed with bringing 'azadari' (mourning for Imam Hussain (as)) that we have not yet focused on the revert community. Alhumdulillah it is starting to change now slowly but surely. It will take time and patience though. I would say only in the last 10 years has the prominence of English lecturers grown. Prior to that, it was merely Arabic/Urdu/Persian speakers.
Elephant in the Room: There is a small group that is skeptical of 'westerner' in the mosque. Is he/she FBI? Are they spying on us? That mentality also exists and is not helpful at all.

3) No brother, no one will try to kill you. At most, they may disassociate from you and of course there will be a few "I told you so" comments.

On 9/11/2021 at 11:12 PM, Guest vozazab said:


1 - In reference to the Prophethood of Muhammad.  It is not so much that I doubt that Muhammad of Arabia was a Prophet of God; rather I have doubt that Muhammad was necessarily the "seal of the Prophets" (Quran 33:40), or the Final Prophet ever to be sent to mankind. I cannot at this time make that statement in good faith, that God will never send another Prophet.  How should I be able to know? 


 I certainly would like to agree with the Quran when it says that there is not a community to which a Prophet (or "warner"?) has not been sent (Quran 13:8); at least in the sense, that I agree that any just God would not leave people without guidance and then condemn them to Hell without giving them any chance on Earth of salvation, which is something that certain Protestant Christians believe and it boggles my mind that that could equate to an omnibenificent deity.


2 - Regarding the second line of the Shahada, as Abu Hadi said, I'm certainly not going to recite it not knowing what exactly it means, and my reticence to do so is as much out of respect for the believers and the religion itself than anything else.  It would be an insult to the believers if I were to say something I don't believe.   I have no problem whatsoever with "no God but God", nor do I figure would many Christians, Jews, or Hindus have any problem with saying that.


By way of trying to understand what the second line of the Shahada actually means - what I would actually be committing myself to is that a) Muhammad is the final Prophet / Seal of the Prophets, b) that the Quran is, or is a necessary part of, this Message given to him by God, and therefore c) I accept that Islam is the religion perfected for mankind (Quran 5:3).  Do I have this right?


3 - I am not reassured by the conflicting answers above about apostasy.  Some of you say that it is or can be cause for a death sentence, and this appears to bear out on the link posted by Ashvazdanghe as well as the information I can gather from al-islam.org.  Abu Hadi appears to categorically say such a ruling is a Wahhabi/Salafist concept not shared by Shia.  Mahdavist said that the issue is hotly debated, but by virtue of not living under an Islamic government, there is no entity or person that would be empowered to carry out the punishment even if it were justified.  The idea that my life would be 'saved' by *not* liiving under Islamic government is cold comfort. 


The idea that at least some people within the Shia Islamic tradition believe someone who leaves the religion should be killed (or punished in any way besides banishment, for that matter) dissuades me from drawing near to the religion.  This leads in to a comment about my more general problems with religious belief:


4 - When asked what my religious beliefs are I occasionally respond with the paradoxical statement "agnostic monotheist".  What I am getting at with that is that I feel near-certain that there is some first-mover, or first cause, or one Origin from which all creation sprang forth.  The nature of this deity, however, eludes me and seems like it should elude me, given that there is both an infinite quantitative and qualitative difference between me (or any other human) and this original Source, and therefore I can never quite understand what this source is, and therefore it seems paradoxical to join up with any religious tradition or creed which is necessarily exclusive of other religions and creeds.

1) From Noah to Abraham to Moses to Jesus, the Abrahamic faiths promised an upcoming prophet. Muhammad/Quran is the only one who promised no more prophets and the completion of God's message. It is not a coincidence that since Muhammad, there has been no other monotheistic (and Abrahamic) faith. That should be sufficient. If by chance, this is wrong and someone comes along with further message from Allah, that is when you deal with the issue. It would be presumptuous to say I wont revert because Islam/Muhammad could be wrong in the future.

2) Yes, You would be admitting Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as Allah's prophet and his finality as a prophet.

3) Islam categorizes apostasy into 2 categories - born Muslims and reverts and carry difference penance. Born muslims going apostate is punishable by death; reverts going apostate is not. It is not that cut'n'dry though. It also matters whether you are publicizing your apostasy or keeping it to yourself. If you are not aggrandizing your apostasy, then I dont believe you meet the criteria for 'death sentence'. 
Lastly, Islam sees apostasy as treason and most countries deal with treason very severely.

4) One origin = monotheist. that is a biggest jump.

Now its just a matter of what version of God do you perceive to be the most accurate. :) 

On 9/11/2021 at 11:12 PM, Guest vozazab said:

An Addendum -  Regarding Abu Hadi's "Rome wasn't built in a day" comment,  I understand him to mean that belief in Islam is a bit like physical exercise, in that it is self-reinforcing, that works reinforce and grow faith.  However, as I now sit outside of faith, it also strikes me as a "fake it until you make it" type attitude to take.  Meaning, if I surround myself with only Shia Muslims, only engage with Shia Islamic reading material, and perform the prayers and rituals, I am more likely to become convinced of its truth: I accept that.  But I also feel this is applicable to other forms of belief: for instance, if this were 1932 and I were to join the Communist Party, and only associate with other Communists, and only read the Daily Worker, I would be rather likely to remain within that belief system (until I get purged when another faction takes control of the Party, lol).  But I think, my point stands, that the "Rome wasn't built in a day" is more a comment about belief-in-general than belief in Islam. 

There is validity in @Abu Hadi comments and your response as well. 

"Rome wasn't built in a day" can also mean that it may take a lifetime for someone to accept what they consider the correct faith to be. 

I hope and pray you find the truth that you are actively seeking.

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Hey brother, so glad to see you've taken the initiative to get in touch with believers in your pursuit of truth, It's really commendable that you've taken this step.

I've gone through your posts and I want to just highlight a few things and give you my personal opinion and experience with such matters.

The ultimate goal in my humble opinion is the pursuit of truth, whatever it may be, and what ever form/name it takes. I am not a revert, but I grew up reading the bible and studying Hinduism and Buddhism at a young age of about 15 years old, and then later began looking into Greek philosophical works, and then later into the works of mystics, saints, and gnostics of all religions in my pursuit of truth and trying to understand the nature of the world around me and it's reality, because I always felt there were many things regarding the human condition and the world that were not adding up, something was wrong, and I wanted to see how man, in the classical sense of the term, attempted to make sense of the world and the human condition, each from their own perspective.

I did not grow up around Shia per se either, neither was I active at any mosque or center, occasionally I would go every now and then but I can't say I had a community or a certain set of individuals around me of the same belief. It was a mix of Christian, Athiest, Agnostic, Shia, and Sunni friends, although my first friend was a christian, if that means anything. I can maybe say I did have the choice to be more involved or have people of the same beliefs around me but I did not pursue it, it didn't seem that important me at the time and I was young to say the least. I'm glad though that I didn't it could have probably made me more bias and hindered me in my pursuit of truth and understanding. In my own home, I was encouraged and never told to put off or not read any material that was contradictory to our own beliefs, I had even read the works of the leading atheist thinkers, and I never really felt bad about it or was told off, not that my family were not religious, which they very much are to the core, but that pursuit of knowledge is something that us as Shia do not take issue with, nor do we shy away from discourse and different beliefs and opinions. That was the impression I had and still believe in as do many others, I have met a revert who became Shia for that very reason since they were told by the Sunni Imams they visited to stay away from the Shia as they do magic (more common and absurd a claim than you might imagine), and they are perverse, and they are sly and mix truth with falsehood, and they will drag you into a pit that you cannot get out of, whilst the Shia Imams at the mosques did not discourage them from visiting their Sunni counterparts. Not to say that all Sunni Imams would say this, that would be an injustice and a blatant lie and generalization on my part, as I spent my youth among Sunni Imams and praying congregational prayers with them, and studied under them as well, with no outright objection. It comes down to extremism and there is a fair share of that among all people of belief, religious or otherwise.

As for the Qur'an being in Arabic, the Qu'ran is a sacred text specific to Islam, just as any other religion claims to have sacred scriptures, whilst it is true that you cannot take the translation as the exact words of God that is, in my opinion, very reasonable and logical, even if the Church claims the translation of the Bible can be accepted as "the word of God", can a logical individual really accept such a claim, among those who did not is Isaac Newton, and to me it is an obvious thing not to accept, translations can never be "the word of God" by virtue of the fact that God himself chose a semetic language for his revelations, and the languages that God chose, are extremely complex in terms of meaning, possibility and grammar. Languages that are incomparable to English, Latin, Anglo-Saxon in any way. So the church's claim is also unacceptable and they do not claim either that any layman can claim to derive exact meaning from the bible simply by analyzing the verses themselves, and the bibles sold themselves in the footnotes will many a time show you the root meaning of the word in the original language, and study of works on bible exegesis/studies, will show that they themselves often refer to the original language to make meaning of that which they study/read. So its not an issue specific to Islam, almost every Western muslim I would assume owns a translated copy of the Qu'ran and I don't believe that when they read it, they doubt that which they read and understand as not the word of God, they take meaning and have an initial understanding and realisation, and when wanting to delve deeper into the meaning they refer to works of scholars the expand on the meanings based on the scholars understanding of the Arabic language. As such, there shouldn't be an issue in you reading a translation of the Qu'ran and when wanting to derive deeper meaning, you can refer books of Exegesis, or Scholars, as even Arabs cannot derive meaning from the Qu'ran just as those who are fluent in Hebrew also refer to scholars of Hebrew to make sense of their scriptures.

This is why God sent prophets and not books, tablets, and scriptures alone. And is also why the Qu'ran addressees this issue by saying it is incumbent upon each group of people, that logically cannot individually dedicate their lives to the study of religion and abandon their worldly affairs and responsibilities to send one individual from among them to study religion in order for them to return and explain it to them, and the scripture is the "religious text" so that is what needs to be explained.

As for the Holy Prophet (sawa) being the 'seal' of prophets, this is a Quranic claim for one, if you accept the validity of the Qu'ran than naturally you accept its claims, secondly the claim of prophet-hood alone is not sufficient for it's acceptance, there are proofs that are required, such claims must be tested and this is also logical and reasonable.
Several things come to mind:

Previous Abrahamic faiths all make claim to the coming of another Prophet, Islam does not make that claim, and embraces and acknowledges the different scriptures and the different prophets, Abrahmic and otherwise, it is the most pluralistic religion in the sense that it does not just require to accept the prophet of it's message but rather makes claim that a Muslim must recognise and believe in every other prophet and their scriptures and accept them as one of his own in order to be considered a Muslim. In the prayers of the Shia Imams, we first send our blessings and prayers upon the previous Major prophets before we reach our own prophet when we want to address God.
Islam and the Qu'ran does not negate and invalidate any of the other prophets, nor their claims of the coming of another Prophet after them, but rather affirms it and makes the claim that Muhammad (sawa) is the one being referred to in the other scriptures and the claims of the previous prophets ((عليه السلام)).

I wrote your points down and naturally more comes to mind as I write, in order not to mix things up and cause confusion, I will suffice with that I've written and make edits when needed at a later time.

As for the stance of Islamic Scholars regarding Apostasy, why should that drive you away from religious belief? If you are sincere in your pursuit of truth than nothing should put you away from getting to the bottom of it. It is not a "condition" of being a Muslim that you should accept every single belief proposed by scholars of that religion. Yes there are certain pillar beliefs that one must uphold, such as the statements of the Shahada among other things, but with regards to religious rulings they are not written in stone, there is space for diversity and discussion in terms of validity and morality or such positions and in my humble opinion that's how it should be. There is no obligation on you to believe in such things in order to be a Muslim, you can become Muslim and then read, research and discuss.
You say religious belief because there is a common understanding that religion historically was highlighted for its execution and persecution of those who denied it or challenged it, but if we want to be fair and just, this is not specific to religion, wars have been waged in past and recent history on the pretext that the opposing side rejects certain political beliefs, and thus the killing of those who follow the opposing belief is justified, and the execution or exile of such individuals is reasonable, Charlie Chaplin himself faced issues for holding different beliefs (I use Chaplin just as a common example, I'm sure if you look into what I've written you can yourself conclude which historical events I am referring to) there are certain armies (not militias) of COUNTRIES in the world placed on the terrorism list, allowing the U.S army to assassinate, kill, arrest, and persecute at will with no consequence based on the view of the governments they represent (armies per se are not ideological, unlike militias, they take the position of the government they represent).
Does that put you off from politics? It is safe to say, these views exist everywhere and even in academia there have been scholars who have lost their positions, and their scholarly works are not published by their own universities (referring to Ivy League universities here) because of their views on Darwinism for example.
We are facing Covid now and there have even been calls on news channels for the death of those who oppose vaccination.

What I mean to say brother is that it shouldn't put you off so long as it's not a condition posed upon you by religion to believe in, historically when people converted to Islam, the Prophet (sawa) did not begin interrogating them and making sure they had a certain fixed belief in certain rulings and understandings and it was understood that there was always space for discussion and questioning, and the Prophet (sawa) and the Imams ((عليه السلام)) were ALWAYS questioned on everything including apostasy, which is why we have a plethora of hadith today, because Islam opened that door and set certain individuals one can refer to and discuss and debate with.

Islam is not a purely faith based religion, belief without conviction and reason is condemned in the Qu'ran on multiple occasions. Faith without reason and intellect is not sufficient or acceptable, for those already Muslim and those learning about Islam alike, and if I may say so, for any sincere pursuer of the truth.

As for community and communities accepting you, although I am somewhat secluded myself right now and don't have a community I ascribe to or that I can feel comfortable in, this is not due to them being Shia per se, it may be highlighted more in Shia circles, and Sunnis due to their pursuit of Dawah are more open in that regard, that has not a shred of relation to truth whatsoever, what is comfortable is not necessarily what is right, and any person, in any circle, religious or otherwise with a minority claim will always feel lonely in one sense or the other, let alone when we look at communities that come from certain ethnic backgrounds that are satisfied with their own circles of individuals that are like them in terms of ethnicity and/or race. Don't let that hold you back from being firm in your pursuit of truth.
In the long run, I get how difficult it can be, and it always pains me to read these words written by you and others facing these struggles, and I thank God always for the fact that I grew up with multiple groups of individuals and that I don't have that disease as far as I know. It just comes down to human nature, these divides are more common than we'd like, the sunni world is much bigger than the Shia, Shia's are primarily known to be in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, India, Pakistan etc. and historically they always had the lower hand and were oppressed in their own countries even in some in which they represented a majority of the population, and so they stuck to each other, because until recently even though some Shia populated countries shared borders, the people themselves held strong feelings about the other side and interaction on any scale was minimal.
It is a sad reality but trying to understand it somewhat eases the pain, but what eases it most with is the Qur'anic position of the level piety being what distinguishes man from one another, and the words of the Holy Prophet (sawa) and the Imams ((عليه السلام)) in that we are either brothers in faith or equals in humanity and that there is no difference between an Arab or a Persian, a Black man or White, or Red. Except in Piety.

I wouldn't divorce myself from the general non Muslim community, if I lived in one, and I would strive to have healthy relations with all peoples, as piety is not specific to Muslims, neither are good manners, or behavior.

I would give this book a read if you haven't already:
https://www.al-islam.org/inquiries-about-islam-shaykh-muhammad-jawad-chirri

I apologize if I missed anything out, or rambled on for too long or made any presumptions, I see you as my brother genuinely in the pursuit of truth and wish you all the best in your journey and look forward to hearing from you about your conclusions, realizations, questions on what I consider the only journey really worth taking.
Keep going, and peace be upon you.



 

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On 9/17/2021 at 11:10 PM, ShiaMan14 said:

2) The America Shia community is still in its infancy and mostly comprised of 1st generation America shias. It will take us time to fully assimilate and become American shias. In other words, we are so obsessed with bringing 'azadari' (mourning for Imam Hussain (as)) that we have not yet focused on the revert community. Alhumdulillah it is starting to change now slowly but surely. It will take time and patience though. I would say only in the last 10 years has the prominence of English lecturers grown. Prior to that, it was merely Arabic/Urdu/Persian speakers.

Salam I have seen recent Ahlulbayt  documentary "The Shia of America " in ten parts about migration  of first generations  of Shia muslims & developing  of Shia Islam between them & black communities of America  which It has showed which according to ethnicity , Lebanese  Shias are third or fourth generations  of American Shias & black Shias are first or second generation  nevertheless  Lebanese migrants have had lose their connection with most  shia practices likewise  'Azadari' (mourning for Imam Hussain (as)) after migration  which  the shia practices have revived between them & shia Islam has spread between black communities after Iran  revolution .

The Shia of America - OFFICIAL TRAILER - YouTube

 

 

Part One: Michigan City | The Shia of America - YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHb_1JrtByw

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On 9/17/2021 at 2:40 PM, ShiaMan14 said:


Elephant in the Room: There is a small group that is skeptical of 'westerner' in the mosque. Is he/she FBI? Are they spying on us? That mentality also exists and is not helpful at all.

 

I agree it's not helpful, but there is a 'but' for this one. This is why I said in my previous posts that Shia are 'standofish' in Western Countries (US / Canada / UK / Australia) and there is a reason for this. It is because the governments of those countries believe that Iran (the only predominantly Shia country in the world that does not bow before Western Imperialism) is their enemy and Israel is their friend (they mistakenly believe this, btw). So they actively try to undermine and destroy from within any Shia organizations in these countries that have sincere and strong leadership. Anyone who has been involved in these organizations has seen instances of this. Some are real and some are imagined. The problem is because we, as citizens of these countries can never get any good information about this from the government (they put all these activities under the heading of 'National Security' and thus they are secret), we have no way of knowing what is real and what is not real. This creates a kind of paranoia in these groups, centers, which is the main goal of these activities. To turn brothers and sisters against each other and make them not trust each other, so that they don't reach their goals

I remember a few years back there was a right wing congressman that was going on t.v. saying 'Why don't muslims (in the US) start universities, hospitals, large charity organizations, like the Christians do'. Making it seem like Muslims are somehow defective and not good at doing things like this. At the same time, they will never admit the fact, even though there are cases that have been well documents of the US government using it's vast resources to try and destroy Islamic organizations in the US that they merely 'suspected' were involved in terrorist activities without any proof of this, which at the same time, they don't do this to Christian organizations that are actually involved in terrorist activities, like the abortion clinic bombers or the right wing paramilitary groups. Obviously, I don't believe that those organizations reflect the real values of Christianity so them calling themselves Christian is a kind of a joke and a fraud (just like groups like ISIS or Taliban calling themselves 'Islamic Orgainzations is a joke and a fraud) but at the same time, we cant deny the facts of the group. These groups are treated differently, and it's because of their religious affiliation or perceived political leanings. 

If a white person, or someone of a background other than that which is dominant at that masjid, walks in, people should not automatically assume they are a spy / agent. They should also not assume that they are not. They should look at that person's behavior. If they go in and start gossiping about people, start telling lies about one person to another, start trying to gather information of a personal nature on people, i.e. cause fitna then most likely they are an agent and they should be treated with extreme caution. At the same time, if someone comes in and they are humble, don't tell lies, don't gossip about people, don't try to turn people against each other, do not ask people for information of a personal / confidential nature then almost guaranteed they are not an agent but only a sincere person who is seeking the truth and they should be treated with kindness and respect. So behavior should be the criteria, not the color of someone's skin or the color of their eyes or hair, or what language they speak or where they were born. 

BTW, and this just makes sense from a logical point of view, the vast majority of the agents that the US government uses to break up Islamic Orgainzations are either

1) Sayed, alim, male, with strong family backgrounds in the community where they are going to. So these men are automatically given 'credibility' even when they don't deserve it. 

2) Young ,attractive, white women. For obvious reasons. 

So these two groups, if they enter an organization 'out of the blue' should be given extra scrutiny. There are of course many who are sincere and not agents, but their behavior should be looked at carefully. 

Edited by Abu Hadi
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