Minority Views

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had an amazing 2010, and I’A 2011 will be even better!

I’ve been on vacation for the past 2 weeks, which is why I didn’t post or comment much.  I have exams this week, and after that I’ll be back, I promise! 😀

One thing I wanted to share was a realization I had a few weeks ago.  The MA I’m doing now is in Development studies, so a lot of it is economics, politics, and sociology.  I noticed that I usually tend to believe minority views, especially in terms of politics.  The people I study with agree with me because we are all very critical of development as a field as well as of the West in general.  However, I noticed from the comments on this blog as well as general conversations I have, that most people are not critical of the West or Western foreign policy.  For example, everyone I study with found it typical that Assange got accused of rape one day before releasing top-secret documents.  None of us thought it was a coincidence, and none of us believed that he did it.  We all assumed it was the US and their political games.  This was confirmed when Sweden dropped the rape charges 5 hours after arresting Assange.

Another example is the fact that we are more sensitive to colonialism and neo-colonialism.  None of us think colonialism is over, hence neo-colonialism.  It’s obvious in the West’s foreign policy and it’s obvious in development and aid.  Even more obvious is the way many ordinary Westerners see Africa, the Middle East, Muslims, etc.

Anyway, my point is that when it comes to politics, I usually have no issue being in the minority in terms of my views.  But when it comes to Islam, it’s a different story.  I somehow feel like if my views are minority views, then they must be wrong.  I am, beyond doubt, a progressive Muslim.  Which is definitely a minority within Islam.  But I don’t know why I always seem to think that if the majority of Muslims think something, then it must be right.

Then one day in class I realized that if I believe in things most people don’t believe in, and I don’t question myself, then why can’t I do that with Islam?  No, I don’t believe homosexuals are going to hell; I don’t believe in the hijab, I don’t believe women and men are not equal in the Qur’an.  Just like I don’t believe colonialism is over, I don’t believe the developing world is to blame for most of its problems, and I don’t believe that the United Nations really wants to help people.

I wonder why it is that I can’t be as sure about my Islamic beliefs?  Is it because there’s more at stake?



22 thoughts on “Minority Views

  1. Certain aspects that many believe in, dont have to be true, it might be that they were made up under some certain Caliph or period, but other aspects that are so clear in the Quran you have to believe in or you break with the religion. YOu have to ask yourself certain things..do you believe in the Quran? Do you believe in Allah? I his Prophet? If you do that then its hard to question aspects of the Quran or the Prophets words.

    I think that we have to question a lot of things, but if we question Allah and his holy Book, then why do we call ourselves muslims?

  2. Because for most of those things you can hold your beliefs and still be counted as a citizen with an opinion…even if others dont agree with you…however, if you claim to have beliefs that differ or believe certain things in Islam just dont sit right with you then you have the very widespread Muslim ummah ready to judge, attack and condemn you for your “unbelief”. That’s a different ball game when those who differ with you on what you believe are ready to take physical action against you…or at the very least symbolically send you to hell. (I worry that a great many Muslims would actually very willingly send others to hell if God left it up to them…thankfully he does not)

    As for questioning God? Even God allows questions…if you don’t understand why something IS…you question it until you are satisfied with the answer or you reject the answer. If rejecting something in Islam throws you outside the pale of Islam…I dare say a great many Muslims do not have the right to call themselves as such.

    Bahlool…here is the thing..”certain things in the Quran that are so clear” may be clear to YOU or other people but that doesnt mean they have to be clear to ME or other people in regards to how you view it or believe it. It is claimed again and again that Arabic words have nuance…that one word one sentence can have many meanings…why can’t we take the best meaning every single time? Isn’t that what religion is supposed to bring out in us…only best things? So why then decide that god hates muslims, god hates nonmuslims, god hates women for the most part if we are to believe how those “clear” verses are interpreted at times..and and and…those are the worst meanings derived from those ayats…far from a religion of peace it denotes a religion of hate…off to hell you go willy nilly and who cares what you believe to be true about yourself. No questions are allowed…answers have been copy pasted from days gone by and thats all we are entitled too.

    We are not sheep…each one undertakes their own journey of discovery. My discovery might not be yours…my beliefs might not be yours…and the ONLY thing in the Quran this absolutely clear is that eventually we all die…who knew. We dont need religion to tell us that.

    A person with a brain is a thinking questioning being…when you stop asking or just accept answers without caring where they came from or how they originated then you have no need of a brain…you are no better than sheep. Who wants to be a sheep?

    • I agree to an extent…then again, in many countries (including the US), it is difficult to criticize foreign policy etc without being attacked or called unpatriotic etc. So criticism usually comes at a price whether its politics, religion, or something else.

      I totally agree: I would rather constantly be in a state in confusion than in a state of not questioning/thinking/criticizing…which seems to be a state lots of people have gotten stuck in.

  3. God doesnt hate women, on the opposite you wont find a singel religious book that says believing men and women, the Quran recognizes both sex in that matter and gives them their due rights. As for soemthing that is not clear for you, that is your problem. You said it so nicely, Arabic has differend nuances, if every sect in islam is agreed upon what a certain thing means, then its weird that a none arab, non alim, thinks he or she can translate it differendly.
    No certain aspects of religion you cant question, thats why its part of faith and belief. Shiaiislam (opposite to wahabism) says that you have part aql part faith. It doesnt work to have it all on aql and it doesnt work to have it all on faith. If Allah says in the Quran he hates gays, then he hates gays and no reinterpretation of yours will change that. The Quran warns us too, about choosing wrong in this life.

    The Quran speaks of hell, so suddenly its a religion of hate because it punishes those who do not want to follow the rules? If you commit a crime, wont you be punished in your country? does that mean your country is a horrible one?

    A person who is stubborn is also questioning and even when he or she gets proof, refuses to understand or grasp or realise the truth.

    The commander of the faithful Ali (a.s) stated; I am amazed concerning one who harbours a doubt concerning [the existence] of Allah (swt) , while he is able to observe [other] creatures [that] Allah (swt) has created!

    (Nahaj all Balaghah, Sent. 121)

    According to your logic, we can question Allahs excistens too..why say we are muslims if we do that? As i stated, some clear aspects of the Quran are not to be questioned if you wish to call yourself a muslim. If Allah says you get punished for lying then you get punished for lying and no new reinterpretation will change that. There are other religions for that person to follow. We as muslims have to believe in Allahs tawheed, in Allahs Quran, in Allahs last Prophet. If we question any of those, and refuse to believe in them, then we are not muslims. Its like saying i am a muslim atheist..eh?

    • “If you commit a crime, wont you be punished in your country? does that mean your country is a horrible one?”

      I liked how you put this. I am reading a book currently which says that when we take punishment out of a system we also squeeze out justice. I couldn’t agree with you more!

      “on the opposite you wont find a singel religious book that says believing men and women, the Quran recognizes both sex in that matter and gives them their due rights. ”

      I don’t think this is true. Men and women are both addressed in many Hindu texts including (ironically!) the Manu Smitri. Men and women are also addressed equally in the Sikh Adi Granth, in fact women are praised more than men in the Adi Granth. My own personal favourite is this:

      We are born of woman,
      we are conceived in the womb of woman,
      we are engaged and married to woman.
      We make friendship with woman
      and the lineage continued because of woman.
      When one woman dies,
      we take another one,
      we are bound with the world through woman.
      We grow up stronger and wiser having drunk milk from the breast of woman.
      Why should we talk ill of her,
      who gives birth to Kings?
      The woman is born from woman;
      there is none without her.
      Only the One True Lord is without woman.
      (Guru Nanak, Asa Di Var, pg 473)

      • It’s interesting how many scriptures have bits and pieces that portray women very positively, and yet are still quite patriarchal. We love to quote the passage from the Qur’an that goes “believing men and believing women…” as if it makes up for all the passages that appear to favour men. It’s almost like a racist person saying “well I have black friends…” Right, but that doesn’t make everything okay.

  4. Bahlool…once again you use a sin such as lying to make a point. We do NOT need religion to tell us lying is bad…we know that it is because of the consequences that arise from it. You claim that because you, and any other Muslim that agrees with your premise, have decided on a fact about the Quran than that is all there is too it. I’m saying…because it is nuanced and varied, there can be more than one way to view that fact” and I, and a great many others, prefer to view it in the best possible way.

    99 Names of God are all positive…why not interpret in a positive light as well?

    You comment as if your truth, and those who believe as you, is the only truth that matters. Well, with your truth people go to hell simply because they love the same gender and believe with all their hearts that they were born that way..that they didn’t choose that path…it chose them. Since God knows what is in our hearts…then let us assume God is not as hateful as you make him out to be…and considers that in the great scheme of things…that is what I am saying.

    And one more thing…knowing and understanding arabic in no way means you have some sort of upper hand over understanding the Qurans message…beacause even those who DO know and understand the Quran have come to differing conclusion about what certain ayats mean. Not a good argument there.

    btw..you make being stubbon sound like a bad thing 😉

  5. I like this post so much, Sara. Really enjoyed it, thank you so much for sharing it with your readers!

    You wrote, “No, I don’t believe homosexuals are going to hell; I don’t believe in the hijab, I don’t believe women and men are not equal in the Qur’an. Just like I don’t believe colonialism is over, I don’t believe the developing world is to blame for most of its problems, and I don’t believe that the United Nations really wants to help people.”

    Maybe that is the root of your problem? I mean you and I, we all are, products of the 21st century but we have this constant struggle with what we are and what we are *supposed to be*. And what we are *supposed to be* is from another era and another place. Maybe not today, but 7th century Arabians did believe that gays were going to hell. Maybe women and men were not equal then. Our problem is that because we can’t be what we are *supposed to be*, we try to find ways to make another era and another place seem like our times and our place.

    You don’t believe that colonialism is over or that the developing world is not to be blamed for most of its problems, or that the United Nations doesn’t really want to help people, but these are from *your* observations. You have noticed this around you, thought about it and have reached your own conclusions. You have read a variety of sources of information and knowledge (sometimes opposing in theory to each other) and your opinions are a result of careful analysis of all that information.

    That doesn’t happen with religions. In organised religions we don’t form opinions, we follow someone else’s opinions; we don’t observe, we only agree with what is being told to us; we are asked to think on the one hand, and on the other hand offered a carefully guided framework to think *within.* We never reach conclusions, we merely subscribe to beliefs. Are we given the flexibility to read and question? There is only one Book that has to be followed and never questioned. How many (Devilish) books do we read against the opinions of that one Book?! There is little room for informed inquiry when you can’t even privately question the authorship of that Book. Whenever I have quoted from any book I have without fail had a couple of people comment starting with “I don’t agree with the author”; can that happen with any religious scriptural book? It would be blasphemy if someone even attempted that. Can any Muslim or Christian read the Quran and the Bible respectively and then say “Hmm, I don’t agree with God. Jesus couldn’t have been born to a virgin”? So we try and explain to ourselves what God was *actually* trying to say and because that is the ‘minority view’ we feel we are not following the truth. What is truth? Sometimes truth is anything that people have believed in for too many years to count. Sometimes truth is just strength through number. But what is our personal Truth? Do we have the freedom to search for it?

    I think if I was taught from childhood that the UN has full support from Allah, then even if I could see that it doesn’t really want to help people I would not be able to bring myself to accept it. I would find new ways to reconcile with it. This is one reason we choose to condemn one type of colonialism and turn a blind eye to another because one we feel is sanctioned by God and so can’t be bad. This is why when a Muslim scholar of the learning and knowledge like Farid Esack says that women and men are NOT equal in the Quran (but that they should have been!) he is called a kafir by none other than a Muslim woman feminist and called a “stupid man” by another angry Arab woman scholar.

    I think it takes great courage to speak like Esack and at least I can say for myself that I don’t even have the courage to think like him, let alone speak like him. And so I feel like many times I am in the same boat as you. Questions arise in my mind but I don’t have the freedom to try to think about the answers. This is why this post made me think so passionately. I think I go through the ‘minority view’ phase every now and again.

    • I think what is most difficult for me is that I am constantly in this battle between what I feel and what I think. I feel God, I know God exists and I know God is Good (whatever that is). I feel the same way about Islam: I feel that it is a valid way to connect with God, and I definitely want that connection.
      But then my brain starts analyzing and I hit lots and lots of problems. Even contextualizing is not enough anymore, because how can I accept that at one point in time, God wanted gay people to die or whatever? I can’t.
      So the battle continue. A lot of the time I just don’t think about it.

  6. For me it is difficult to be “progressive” because I question if my beliefs are so far out of the orthodoxy that I may not be Muslim but something else. For example, there are things that are negative to women, non-muslims, and homosexuals in the Quran. No amount of “reinterpreting” is going to change that. So if I reject them, then I am essentially rejecting the word of God. This is troublesome.

    So this leads me to my next conclusion, that perhaps the Quran isn’t the literal word of God but something else. However, Islam hinges on the belief that the Quran is a direct revelation from Allah. So if I question that, where does that leave me?
    So yes, I doubt and wonder if I am wrong about everything.

    • The problem is that the questions you bring up have not been brought up often…they lead us to unchartered territory and that is what’s so scary. If these debates existed and were discussed openly, then many people who want to be Muslim would have no problem identifying themselves as such, instead of feeling that we are too far away from orthodoxy to even be part of the religion.

  7. I applaud progressive views and opinions wherever I see them. Minority or not, this world is inhabited by a large population with a large range of views, beliefs, lifestyles and preferences. You can’t just shove your rules and views in everyone’s faces. This is where progression comes in – without it, everyone will just be seething at… everyone.

    • I like how you point out that being progressive means accepting different views…I think that is the core of it all: I don’t have to agree with you, but I won’t take away your right to express yourself.

  8. Sara when does your questioning remove you from the fold of islam? If you question the Quran or the Prophet or Allah, are you still a muslim? As i stated you have to have the proper understanding of the quran and the arabic language otherwise you will make the same mistake that the wahabis are doing.
    Imam Ali spoke about the khawarij and stated that they read the quran but it doesnt go above their throats..so a lot of knowledge but no understanding of religion.

    I dont like many laws in Sweden, but i still follow them. I think you should apply the same thinking to islam. for instance. In shia islam we have muta, its allowed, but you dont have to do it, and many shia women i know disslike it.
    Same goes with the laws of Allah. I am for death sentence but i could never be able to participate in punishing the offender.
    If you question Allah or his quran, are you still a muslim? Where do you put the line between a muslim and a nonmuslim?
    I met a “muslim” girl once..like that Hirsa Ali you used to have in HOlland, she didnt believe in the Quran not in Muhammed and not in Allah, but she used to say she is muslim..if you follow the Aqeedah of the shias and the sunnis you will see that the Quran is seen to be unchanged and the word of Allah. So why believe in the Quran if you only believe in aspects in it that you like and avoid aspects that you disslike?

  9. Interesting thoughts by everyone.

    But as a normal insignificant human being in terms with the majesty of Allah SWT , why does one expect to understand everything anyway ?
    I have an education. This tendency of I have read most of the relevant books on this topic and hence now I am equipped with the relevant tools to make sense whatever topic I need to understand . Is this not another expression of our love of oneself – following our Nafs ? Books may equip with you with lots of ‘facts’ or conclusions derived from ‘facts’ or a ‘frame work’ to make sense of the world but is it really enough to understand Allah (SWT)’s wisdom ?

  10. “But as a normal insignificant human being in terms with the majesty of Allah SWT , why does one expect to understand everything anyway ?”

    I think, when sentences like this are used time and time again to prove a point, what we are really saying is: “shut up and follow, stop trying to be smart.”

    And that is just an unhealthy way of approaching life, especially when we should be seeking education, not shying away from it because we are told we couldn’t possibly understand.

    Ahmad, so you think our grasping at understanding is merely nafs? How shallow of an idea, no?

    Surely an educated person understands that they know nothing, but does that stop us from trying? God I hope it does not.

  11. Let me just add, the hadith are books written by men, but I bet you use those to “understand Allah,” no? Some Muslims would go so far as to put hadith on the same level as Quran. Is that not just another framework to make sense of the world?

    Why would you be against fact, knowledge and conclusions as a way of understanding Allah? These realms of the human experience are just as important as spirituality and faith. They are all symbols we use to try understanding it all, why would you be against that?

  12. “Surely an educated person understands that they know nothing, but does that stop us from trying? God I hope it does not.”

    No I was cautioning that they are not in themselves sufficient enough and we need to have sufficient humility to accept that.

    I recall reading somewhere that the Shaitan of an Alim is an Alim which I think sums up the situation that many of us are in quite well . Personally I think they (fact,knowledge and conclusions) are not sufficient in themselves to understand Allah SWT’s wisdom. To expect them to answer every question is a sign of humanity’s conceit and hubris.
    That is why traditional ulama usually ended thier discussions with the words Allah u Alam – Allah knows Best.
    Personally I would rather be ignorant than whisperings shaitan and my nafs lead me astray. Rather than wasting my time in endless speculation , I would work on my controlling of Nafs – not only actions but also my feelings – gratitude to Allah and my fellow human beings.

  13. If you would rather be ignorant then you would rather ignore the commands of the Quran, no?

    We are told to seek knowledge for a reason, maybe questioning is part of that reason, we don’t know, only God does. Choosing ignorance over thought? I surely would not.

    I assume, since you are typing this response to Sara as a reaction to her post, that you are saying she is wasting her time in endless speculation?

    Why? Because you do not like what she is pondering?

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