Friday, January 14, 2011

Disagreeing with the Majority

This post was inspired by a close friend's, and hers is titled "Religious Freedom." Only, hers is so much more precise and to-the-point. 'Course, I am utterly incapable of ever being as succinct! 

Our societies aren't really used to differences of opinion. It's either "our" way or "no way." I know of some Muslims who have completely left Islam because they're not allowed to present their opinions (we're taught that "having opinions is forbidden in Islam because it leads to creation of new branches in Islam, and division in Islam is haraam."). I really don't blame them. We're also taught that anyone who leaves Islam is to be killed, and then you ask them to define Muslim, and the definition they might give often may not even apply to them – ‘cause, they say, a Muslim is someone who prays 5 times a day, wears hijab if female, doesn’t curse, doesn’t lie, respects parents, obeys husband if woman, and so on. 

We think we're SO on the right path that anyone who disagrees with us even slightly is on the wrong. They mark it as "deviance from Islam"when in reality, it's simply deviance from the traditionally accepted, mainstream, majority thought. And they tell us that all deviance is forbidden and deviants go to hell! What the hell? I don't like this thinking, and it poses so many dangers for our society. A perfect example would be the recent murder of Salman Tasseer for expressing disagreement with Pakistan’s blasphemy law. It's exactly the perception of our religion that we're not even allowed to "criticize" (I don't call it criticism, but even if it IS criticism, so what? What's wrong with it?) our "Muslim leaders," or ulama, or those whom the majority of us consider scholars that is so smothering one just wants to ignore it and say goodbye to it altogether. And, no, I don’t think that’s stupid on the part of those who do end up leaving. I mean, what? Disagreeing with traditional perspectives on religion/justice/equality/human rights, etc.? But it's not to condescend them; it's only to say that they don't hold the exact same value in every single Muslim's life.

I'm really sorry that we don't have a better place in our society for Muslims who question out loud and want to *understand* before they accept anything as legitimate for themselves; I'm sorry that we don't have a place in our society for Muslims who prefer science to religious beliefs and practices that do not seem rational to them; I'm sorry that we have no respect or tolerance for any Muslim who doesn't live up to *our* standards; and I'm sorry that it is *our* anti-reason, anti-thinking attitude that often leads to many Muslims' becoming apostates.

The same style of thinking we forbid on Muslims today is the reason that Islam flourished so quickly universally in its early days. But how many Muslims pause to study Islam, Islamic history, the major Muslim icons of our glorious (yes, glorious) past to be able to respect those who either leave Islam or who are unsure about Islam but were born to Muslim families?

In my opinion, the more we suppress people's inner thoughts and the less media we provide them through which to express their beliefs openly, the easier we make it for them to just leave Islam.

So, my suggestion to all Muslims (or non-Muslims going through the same thing) who are surrounded by the conservative lot, or extremist of other sorts, who just won’t understand that faith is faith and that everyone’s relationship with God need not be the same or that everyone doesn’t have the same understanding of the same religion: Do not doubt yourself (though even if you do, just keep studying; there’s nothing wrong with doubt, as it can actually help with improving our own selves and lead us to pursue more education), and don't let anyone disrespect you for your beliefs. If they think they have the right to disrespect you, that automatically gives you the right to disrespect them as well – not that I believe you should disrespect them in return, though. Just that I believe we treat others the way we want them to treat us. Besides, at least you make up your own mind and it's not made up for you by anyone else. How many of us get to do that? We say, "Hey, I chose Islam myself. I studied it, and it's my choice, okay?"

Well, "That's great to know," I say. "But... how many other religions did you study along with it? And how many other views of this same religion did you study? And by studying other religions, I don't mean going to anti-Christian websites or others that think they have thoroughly and impartially studied other religions and know what they're talking about. I mean studying them from *their* perspectives, using *their* sources." But nope ... we feel too inadequate to do that because if we study other people's religions from their perspective, what if we are convinced and we turn to their religion and leave Islam? This is the fear too many of us have, unfortunately. That should prove whose imaan/faith is so low. What we need to understand is that it’s not about proving people’s religions correct. I see the attempts of folks to “prove” a religion’s veracity as silly, unhealthy, and just plain wrong. Let people be, damnit! It’s about understanding why people believe what they believe and accepting them for what they are.

Anyway, I find the poem below very relevant to this. Enjoy!

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?

If you've done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.

If you've not done this, you probably don't understand this poem,
or think it's not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day's time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.

But if you've arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you're open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.

How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

~ by Federico Moramarco


  1. loved the line faith is faith!

    when you know deep inside that you are right, the dang, nothing else matters! good post!

  2. I agree with you and I believe the only way we can move forwards is via dialogues. The only way we can understand one another is via listening and talking to one another however to all things there is a limit.

    The problem always comes down to this, religious views do not appreciate nor have any place of tolerance to those which are non-religious. No matter how much we talk the truth is no one can ever get away with insulting the God or the prophet(s). What can be considered as an insult I do not know I agree but no one should insult anyone if they do not have a point but I also cannot ignore the fact that some people get insulted just by the way someone looks at them!

    Let me end this by two of my favorite quotes:
    "If a man cannot change the world then at least he should try to change himself from within"Confucius
    "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." Horace Mann

  3. I absolutely loved the poem, and I wholeheartedly agree with this post.

    I think a sure sign that someone is wrong, is if they're absolutely 100% sure that they are right.

    One of my favourite quotes is by Paulo Coelho, it says: In order to believe in your own choice, you don't have to prove other people's choices wrong. I think this is so true, and if everyone just lived by it (live and let live) the world would be a much better place.

  4. Dear all,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Glad I made a little sense in there! :)

    Kochaye, that's actually very true, at least for most of us! If something sounds or looks non-religious, we're going to reject it immediately and perhaps even feel so sorry for the person who did/said it that we'll start inviting her/him into Islam. I remember CRYING when a friend of mine told me she's left Islam.
    About insulting - yes, I agree. But, like you said, we don't always know what's gonna insult the other person. For example, the way I speak of certain hadiths or certain established Muslim scholars' perceptions of non-Muslims or certain Quranic verses, I offend some of my Muslim friends, although I don't mean to. And I think atheists offend theists just by EXISTING! lol. :D

    Becky Jaan, my favorite quote, toooooooooooooooooo! :D So much wisdom in it!

  5. I am always clear about my opinion and only I tend to be near those who disagree with me more as I want to be corrected! My key principle is argue and at the end of the day do not forget the other person is a human just like you.
    Sadly I have seen to many people who would end friendship just because their friend for once were honest about their opinion.

  6. Kochaye, though I prefer the term 'debate' or 'discuss' over argue, I too like a good argument/discussion. I'd never terminate a friendship just because someone disagree with me - rather the opposite, I think passionate discussions are so important for a friendship, and in order for each of us to grow individually.
    Like you said, it's fine to disagree and argue, as long as none of us forget we are all human beings. There's a difference between arguing sensible and politely, and then putting down another persons beliefs just for the sake of it.

  7. Good post and good comments.

    As many great masters have said, the one person i can change is myself and the best, is to do that. If the change is for good, the rest will follow the same path automatically. No shouting from rooftops or terrorising is required.

  8. Beautifully put yogi! So very true!

  9. Hi, Yogi! And welcome to my blog :) Thanks for such an important piece of wisdom! How truue!


Dare to opine :)

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