“The self-assured believer is a greater sinner in the eyes of God than the troubled disbeliever” – Søren Kierkegaard
I was sneered at with pity, frowned upon with telling eyes that bequeathed a sense of “you’re in need of reform” when I once entered a room brimming with hijab-clad women. Such instances used to unlatch a deep sense of insecurity back when my mind was colonised by conformity. My saturday arabic school teacher would stare me out and enunciate “hell” with such visuality whenever the topic of headscarves dictated our lesson that my subconscious remained haunted by those punishing red flames for what was left of the weekend. Although I have experienced some of the most remarkable exhibitions of condemnation amongst (some) Muslim circles throughout my life, I do not doubt that arrogance is a human trait, not a prescription of Faith. Nevertheless, the course of judgement is perverse.
We have long endured a stifling complacency within our community which, in short, forbids the rumination of said beliefs concerning our human condition. Today’s collective Muslim psyche has rarely pondered inwardly – instead it issues condemnations and passes judgement on everything and everyone that doesn’t subscribe to its narrow-minded outlook. Never did my teacher advise me to trust my conscience. Yet, the more I’ve probed my conditioned perception of God and what it means to be a believer, the more I’ve unearthed of my love for the Divine.
Broadly speaking, I take offence to the way some Muslims pharisaically project. Proudly declaring yourself a ‘Muslim’ does not grant you sovereignty over Truth. In fact, I would argue that the very notion, ‘Muslim’, has been appropriated by Muslims, thereby excluding many people from our community (and beyond) who may not fit the physical mould that currently prevails yet submit their affairs to the Almighty. Knowledge is communal, and Truth cannot be monopolised. Our community would do well to disembark its high horse and realise that once the objectionable hobby of dispensing judgement and issuing petty fatwas ensues, we have become deviant, not divine. Religious bigotry is unashamedly repugnant at best.
Knowledge that leads to Truth does not discriminate on the basis of material dimensions, dress codes, or religious hierarchies. The extent to which Truth manifests depends on the vitality of the soul, and its digestion is contingent upon the quality of the mind that navigates the journey of discovery. Few have the courage to detach from the robotic and feeble course of dogmatic absorption and opt to seek Truth in solitude. The tyranny of the unthinking majority and the quantitative advantage of the consumers of practicality mean that this status quo will persist. Blindly devouring clerical directives is not Islam. We have been exposed by our own habits and conjecture as simply too presumptuous, too conditioned to question anything and everything we’re fed in the name of obedience, which is a painful actuality when considered in light of the fact that God prescribes for mankind that they think for themselves:
“Will they not, then, ponder over this Qur’an? – or are there locks upon their hearts?” – 47:24
Ironic, isn’t it, how often the Almighty speaks of such “locks” throughout the Scripture, yet how little attention we actually give to that turn of phrase – after all, we have a habit of envisaging the figurative chains encircling our liberty as being external to us. But what if those chains, the cage we so often allude to and blame for our existential anxiety, are self-imposed? What if it is indeed a product of our own misconduct, misapprehension, and negligence?
To question everything you’ve been taught is not to doubt God as most will warn you. It is to seek Him. Anyone who tells you otherwise (and that would be a very substantial segment of the ‘religious’ community) is very much an embedded figurine, an impediment within the macro Truth-seeking battle that gives life its purpose. Under such circumstances, I would warmly advise you to beware of these obstructions, and to proceed by boldly dismissing their obvious cynicism. Explore the Path for yourself. It is no coincidence that those who are fearful about asking questions pertaining to certain practices and God happen to also be those who (usually) do not have sufficient answers to many of these questions, probably due to their lack of courage-in-faith, and confidence in the Shelter of their Lord.
“However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth” – John Stuart Mill
In light of the plague of extravagant self-regard that we have accustomed our sheikhs and ourselves to, are we galavanting towards dead dogma? Is this the living Truth? As long as the tyranny of institutionalised religion, disguised as viceroyalty, continues to reign over our free-thinking nature, spiritual docility will submerge us. That is to say, as long as one’s conduct is derived through the arbitrary architecture of clerics and so-called men of religious authority (many of whom just so happen to cunningly profiteer from the methodological mechanisation of the metaphysical) rather than that of God’s (n.b. these are proving to be two increasingly divergent paradigms), we will continue to recoil in the circle of life, and peace of soul will be but a distant, if not unbeknownst, dream. God endowed mankind with His Words, His Messengers, and His Essence, embedded in our nature by virtue of our humanity. Everything else is fanciful innovation, a ploy that the religious elite instituted to colonise your mind into submission to their power, not to God. Why else would they exist when God’s Laws are innately self-evident?
With all ambiguities pertaining to your ideology, regardless of which doctrine or book it happens to be rooted in, scrutinise them, explore them, doubt them – over and over again. Discern, for yourself, the Essence of the Holy Spirit from the largely superficial concoctions and practices you’ve been served. When you begin to feel overcome by a sense of triumph concerning your spiritual condition, dig deeper. Never cease to challenge your mind to decipher what it claims to know. If a great mind knows that it knows nothing (à la Socrates), so should the person housing that mind. The Infinite is inexhaustible.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Ride your own. Seize your conscience and teach it to seek inwardly, rather than solely through the local sheikh. Just as every fingerprint bears its own maze, so too does every soul’s imprint. The campers of complacent religiosity will probably undermine your search for Truth. They will guilt-trip you, scare you, and shame you every time you take a step outside their black box. Let nothing faze you except the Magnificence of the One, Whose Light shades the seeker, and under which all darkness elapses.
Regardless of their pleas, unplug.
“Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth” – Ludwig Börne