Faiza (United States)
I wish to commend Dr. Ali Sina on his most excellent and informative Web site.
I am a freethinker also, although my current situation does not allow for me to reveal myself publicly because of my husband, who would probably declare our marriage void if he knew what I truly believe. Although he is a Muslim and determined to stay as such, he is not a fundamentalist. Born in Morocco, he is one of those people who is very much against terrorism, insisting that it is not "true Islam." He is Muslim due to the circumstances of having been born to Muslim parents and eventually meeting a sheikh through a circle of friends when he was in his teens. It was the meeting of this man, who preached about the horrors of the so-called torture in the grave and hellfire that eventually cemented in my husband a fear of this deity called Allah, a fear prevalent in people who follow this religion.
I must admit that I, too, was frightened of the threats in Islam until recently. I would like to share this with you because it is a fine example of how we, as humans, are prone to fear, which, in my opinion is the driving factor of religion. A few years ago, I started at the point I am now, believing in a higher power much as you describe but rejecting conventional Judeo-Christian and Muslim beliefs as myths. Then late one night, I was flipping through channels (insomnia) when I came upon a program about people who have had near-death experiences. There was one woman whose heart had stopped beating during surgery. She described a beautiful afterlife, available to all; a higher power, loving to all, which she described as the light-in-the-tunnel about which most of us who have seen such programs have heard. She was saying how she no longer feared death. I had a tremendously wonderful feeling after hearing this woman's story. I thought about this quite a bit in the next few days. I also thought about the traditional concepts of hell in various religions.
I must have been doing a lot of thinking because, inevitably, this concept worked its way into my dreams. A few weeks later I dreamed that I was climbing a staircase. On the edge of each step stood creatures I could not see clearly, although I know they were there. As I climbed the staircase I said to one of them, "There is no hell." And it replied, "No, don't say that, there is a hell." "Really?" I said, "What's it like then?" "It is like this," said the creature, and, as soon as these words reached my ears, I fell from the staircase and plunged into a void, and as I fell, I had the feeling of being smothered by ever-increasing darkness. Like falling into a pool of viscous ink.
I have a pretty nifty imagination, don't you think'? (There might be a career for me as a novelist.) Anyway, that was my take on the dream, and I thought nothing about it after that.
A year later, after I was married, my husband, while trying to get me to become a "serious Muslim" told me about something the Muslims believe in called the sirat, the bridge to heaven. Sinners supposedly slip off this bridge and plunge for many years until they reach hell. Now, as you can see, I got a twinge of fear hearing this. No, make that massive fear. As a result, I spent a good six months under the "trance" of Islam, reciting the Fatihah ad nauseam so that I could get it perfect for when I performed the prayer. And I started to study the Koran.
But, thankfully, my search did not stop there. I made it my quest to research this "wonderful" religion called Islam. I used my husband's extensive personal library, and, of course, the Internet. I am thankful for this curiosity because, had I not ventured to learn more about Islam, I might have become one of those people who post chastising messages against the Faith Freedom Web site. I saw the Koran for what it really is: a bunch of rehashed Bible stories, legends, and half-baked theories peppered with threats and served under the guise of poetry that is actually quite mediocre, at best.
At this point I can almost hear all those Muslims out there, "May Allah curse you!" "You will go to hell just like you dreamed!" and many other far harsher descriptions of reprimand from both human and divine sources. What more can I say to them Ali has not told them through the Faith Freedom site already`? Human fear may be the most powerful emotion of all. Fear is fed by all things unknown. It is the puzzlement of primitive man when he sees strange things he does not understand, like women who menstruate every month but do not seem to wither and die from the bleeding. It is the bogeyman in a child's closet. It is the knowledge that we all die, and that no one can stop it.
Fear is the tool that molesters employ with children so that they can continue to do so for years with a simple "If you tell I will kill your parents." That's not so different than "Do this or else I will cut off your hand, foot, or head." Or "Do this or Allah will plunge you into the hellfire."
It's all about interpretation of unknown situations. My husband loves Jesus the way Muslims do. As a result, he has had numerous dreams of Jesus. A person ready to accept Christianity would have interpreted that dream as a sign to leave Islam and accept Christianity, whereas my husband is a Muslim who also dreams of Muhammad. He therefore interprets this dream as a sign of the validity of Islam. I know of a woman who once dreamed of a man who glowed like gold and was riding a horse. Someone told her that this was Saint George. So she believed it, and now is a devout Christian.
Muslims need to realize that they are not the only people who have been given so-called miracles and blessings, as well as "signs" appearing to be from God. If Islam is so universal, why do some Christians receive healings when they go to shrines bedecked with crosses and things that God supposedly despises? These healings are well documented. I read of a woman whose severed spinal cord fused "miraculously" as she recited a verse in the New Testament. Is God in the business of tricking people by giving them miraculous signs so that they may fall astray? If so, then that implies that God hates every person except the ones born to Muslim parents or the ones who come into contact with Muslims. And if these so-called kafir people receive healings from satanic sources, then what makes the Muslims so sure that the Koran is not from satanic sources as well? After all, if Satan can heal people miraculously, then it is not a big task for him to compose a poem with a few stories and so-called valid scientific information.
Of course, debating the issue from either side is ludicrous. There are entire countries out there filled with people who never get a chance to know what Islam is about. I asked my husband this, in the guise of wanting to know the truth, and he was not able to answer me. He shrugged and said something about "Allah's will."
Again, I don't think his fear will allow him to explore this further because it is very devastating to most people when they venture out of their comfort zones. Likewise, there are people out there who live their whole lives under the shadow of the Koran, never encountering any other point of view. The truth is that people believe what they are told and very few try to venture beyond this.
It was very painful for me to shed Islam because when I let go of it, although I felt relief at the separation, I also felt a void, a wound that bled invisibly as I tried to go about my daily life, and I desperately searched for something, anything, to soothe it. For weeks I tried to hang on to another religion as a bandage, but each attempt left me with doubts: Is this the right way? What if I'm wrong? But I eventually realized that the best way to go about it was to just let the wound heal by itself, no bandages, no crutches.
So I wish to thank All for his Web site because I found material there that helped me confront and conquer my fears. Just like a parent who leads a child to the very closet that houses an alleged bogeyman so that he can see that, indeed, there is no such bogeyman. I needed someone to do that for me, and, even though I have never met him, his willingness to put himself on the line and write the truth on his Web site is exactly what I needed.
As soon as I came to grips with the truth, I was completely at peace, more at peace than I have ever been in my entire life. I sleep very well: no visitations from any divine source to warn me about my decision. I take this as a sign of sanity. Since I have let go of the fear that Allah was going to get me, my nights have been remarkably peaceful and nightmare-free.
A few weeks ago, my husband told me a story about a man who lived to a very old age and died twenty years ago. All his life this man preached Islam and was even the one who called the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) in his little town every day until his final illness. On his deathbed, he asked for his family-he had had several sons and daughers who in turn had families of their own. After his family came to him, he asked for a copy of the Koran. He had tears in his eyes, so his family thought that he was going to recite a part of it for one last time, as they had seen him do so many times in the past. But when they put it in his hands he said, "I hereby renounce everything written in this book. It is a lie." And then the man died.
I was speechless when I heard this. I could see myself in this man, hopelessly "trapped" in the role carved out for him, afraid to tell others that he had found out the truth. I also wondered when this happened, exactly. Did he find out at the end of his life? Or did he go through decades of torturous pretense?
I asked my husband why he thought the man did this. My husband gave me the explanation given by his skeikh: That the man probably had too much vanity when he preached. That because of this, Allah sought to punish him by willing for him to utter these words right before he died, so that he would be denied the rewards of the hereafter. At this point, I was appalled at my husband's skeikh for saying this of an supposedly all-powerful deity. It makes Allah sound not only angry, but downright malicious and petty. Again, it's all about interpretation.
I am in the process of assessing my relationship with my husband. I know that I cannot tell him without divorcing him, and I need to consider not only myself but my children as well. My husband is not a malicious person, but who knows what he might do if he is provoked by the realization that I have apostated and do not wish to go back to Islam? I might gather up enough courage to run and build a life where I should not hide my belief. Or it may well be that I, too, will be like that old man, brave enough to tell the truth only on my deathbed.