Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Challenging People's Faith

I've mentioned -- and often in details -- in many posts that religion and Holy Books are ALL about interpretations (particularly WHO is doing the interpretation). As I've promised, I'll be posting on that later on (I've written a 12-page essay-like piece on that with several examples to show what I mean, but now is not the time to post that. It's still under construction, anyway. Perhaps I can turn it into a book several decades from now, yeah?)

But here ... I'm going to say something that seems very offensive to a lot of people. Clearly, my asking for Quranic verses when someone says, "The Quran says ..." is not a good thing to ask of some Muslims, and it can be taken to mean that I don't believe in the Quran or that I think the Prophet's interpretation of the Quran was wrong. (Speaking of his interpretation of the Quran, what IS his interpretation of the Quran? So much can be written about this, and I will be doing it soon, ka khairee, don't worry, but when people say that the hadiths are his interpretations of the Quran, it's not true at all. Another point I'mmna make here that's not too relevant but oh well ... is: Does Sunnah = Hadith? The answer is more than just a yes or no, and I will provide my own answer in some time but not yet.) Gosh, there's SO much to say and SO much to dooooooooooo!!

Anyway, so I'm gonna paste a response to some silly comments posted elsewhere 'cause I think it's necessary and I know I'll be needing the same things in the future, so I might as well keep a copy at hand to paste wherever needed :D It's to/for people with "faith" who are afraid of being questioned and challenged, or anyone who doesn't like being asked, "Where in the Quran is it written that ...?"

The reason I ask for reference when someone says "The Quran sayss so" is to show that the Quran isn't as specific as we've made it to be. It's not. Plus, ANYONE can tell us, "The Quran says ...," but how do we know if it's true? If someone tells you, "The Quran says to kill non-Muslims," you shouldn't get offended or attacked; you should say, "Where does the Quran say that?" That way, you can read the verse yourself, read neighboring verses, understand its context, and figure out what made the person make such an unfair claim. You'll be able to have a discussion with that person and perhaps be successful in clarifying a major misconception about the Quran.

Similarly, when someone tells me, "The Quran says women should cover their faces" (lots of Muslims believe this), my response is: Where? We'll come to see that the Quran never actually says it; interpretations of certain verses (certain TERMS, in fact) of the Quran say that. People say that, not the Quran.

What Might be Wrong with Me

I'm surrounded by millions of different perspectives and by people I consider scholars, so, just so people know, when I go too much in detail into something, it's perhaps my way of imitating the people I admire. My daily life activities include spending hours with these people (whom, again, I consider intellectuals and scholars, and as I've said in another blog post before, I'm very strict on who can be a scholar), having them ask me questions that take me months to figure out answers to. I'll come up with an answer, be it something that's directly from the Quran, and they'll challenge it. At first, it used to upset me and even offend me because I was like, "Leave me alone. I'm fine this way!" But now, years later, I see what they were trying to do to me. A professor in my department once gave me an article to read, saying he thinks I'll be interested in it, and said to me, "Come by when you're done with it, and we'll discuss it. What I am looking for is your critique of the article."

So I said okay. I went to him a few days later, after having read that article four or five times (it's called "Speaking for the Subaltern" by Gayatri Spivak), making sure I fully understood the author's purpose and understood it well enough to critique it. Turned out, I hadn't understood the article at all because he asked me questions that I had no answers to! Each question I tried to answer, he challenged me further and said, "Come back tomorrow."

It was frustrating at first, but this teacher prepared me to read things more critically, to be able to RESPOND to something after reading it, to be able to QUESTION something.

What I probably need to learn is to not impose the same style on other Muslims -- if it's imposing at all, that is. We commonly here the adage, "Ignorance is bliss," and though I myself can't imaging seeing ANY bliss in ignorance, I guess it's true and it works for a lot of people. I see it works for some of us here as well, and that's just really sad to know. But then again, if it's bliss for some of us, who is anyone to tell us it's sad.

I'm not a normal person (normal meaning typical, really), and everyone who doesn't know me well knows this. I'm normal to close friends who know me well and who know HOW to respond to my comments, but people who don't know me well, it takes them a while to absorb my thoughts (yeah, sadly, some of them never do). So, when I challenge you, it's not because I hate you but because I'm convinced that you'll learn so much more if you're challenged than if you aren't.

If you're not okay with it, ignore my comments everywhere. That way, we'll never have to get into "arguments" or discussions. A person can't have a discussion with her/himself alone, as we all know, so if you don't reply to me, I will understand that you just don't want to get into a discussion about it. That's fine with me.

I've said over and over, if you don't know the answer to something, simply ADMIT it. Don't get offended. We're humans; we learn, and we don't know everything. People will ask you things you don't know answers to, and those questions may never have crossed your mind before, but why see it as an insult? Why feel attacked?

I will pose many questions and challenges, and I will say things that many Muslims will not like. Eventually, you'll learn how to handle differences -- extreme, extreeeeeme differences -- and live in peace with those who are different from you, even if they have the same religion as you. But, noooooo, we'd rather ask questions like, "Are you Muslim?" as if someone's not being a Muslim will take away the meaning or purpose of the questions that are asked of you!

I question people's faith, and I don't see why I don't have a right to do this. What I have no right to do, my friends, is to tell someone which religion to follow, as that is a decision each human must make for her/himself individually and is nothing that someone else can make for her/him.

I'm an opinionated individual, and if some of us have a problem with that, ignore my posts. Really, that'll save you a lot of mental trauma, since I know that not many people can handle differences or my views. I'm always willing to have a discussion; I APPRECIATE being questioned - believe me, it feels fantastic to be questioned by people I consider intellectuals, but to be questioned by people who are just as "lay" as I am feels even better in that finally, I get to talk to someone on my level and not fifty levels above me.

For me, the more I'm challenged and questioned, the more I learn. There's SO much in life to learn that sometimes we don't know what to learn and how! So when someone asks me questions or challenges me, I know what to focus on for that moment and how to go about finding my answers. So anyone who thinks that I'd ever, ever be upset or feel attacked when someone questions my beliefs, think again 'cause it's certainly not the case with me. I accept all questions, and I take differences in beliefs to be an excellent way to learn something new and more -- and to appreciate my own beliefs because I know that no matter what happens, nothing and no one can take my beliefs away from me. The more I'm challenged, the stronger my faith in my beliefs becomes, and the better I feel about my own beliefs. Life would be so much more blissful if it was like that for everyone else, because to say that this is such a liberating and satisfying feeling is to say the least.

Remember that my focuses within Islamic Studies include:

- hermeneutics (mostly comparison of classical and contemporary interpretations of Islam, with emphasis on women and non-Muslims in Islamic law)
- Islamic philosophy (emphasis mostly on the existence of God and on the formulation of Islamic law)
- gender relations


  1. God, you do talk a lot. But what I love the most about it here is that, whoever stops to read your thoughts and pay real attention to it, not only will learn a lot, but will be able to see the structure of your thoughts coming up and strong. I'm starting to save these things cause, in the near future, when Qrratugai becomes a MUST name in Islamic studies, I'm the one to write a book on the structure of her thoughts.

    Jeez, you'll make me rich and famous. I knew there was a reason I couldn't stop smiling when you're around!

    Now, serious.... it's always refreshing to see someone whose faith is not shaken by questions; on the very contrary, it comes out stronger and clearer. This is the kind of faith that actually holds faiths, the faith supported by intelligence; not ignorance.

    Way to go, girl!

  2. LOL!! Ohhhhhhh my God! LOOK who thought me worthy of visiting me :D :D :D :D

    Naaa, these aren't much, girl! We have our grand plans to live for, y'know ;) Which include writing books together on the topic we've discussed! Yeah! We DO have a brilliant future, trust me!

    And, amor, until I reached the line "I knew there was a reason I couldn't stop smiling when you're around!" I had no idea it was you!
    lol. Love you too much!


Dare to opine :)

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