a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  Spiritual journey
I like to think of myself as a religious person. That is, I would like my deen to play a larger role in my everyday life. In terms of praying 5 times a day, which I believe to an accurate index, for myself at least, of how ‘religious’ one is, I fare badly. Throughout my life, my regularity in prayers has come and gone. However, it lasted the longest time in my 2nd and 3rd year of college. At the time I was going through terrible problems in college and I reached out to prayer as a way of getting through.

However during that time there were many questions I had about Islam. I needed them to be answered first because if I had doubts, I didn’t want to be up there praying like a hypocrite in a religious garb I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. It must be said, the religious views in Saudi Arabia, at the time I was growing up there, dazzle the mind today. In the 7th grade, our religion teacher once told us that if there were a Jew in the room right now, he’d kill him with his bare hands. He got all worked up and sweaty as he shouted this at us aggressively, as if daring someone in the class to be a Jew.

Uncertainties started creeping in from the age of 16 and they grew because there was absolutely no one I could talk to about them who wouldn’t feel embarrassed or angry to hear such doubts. There were many things that crept up in my mind that troubled me a lot. A man could not cut his beard at all. A woman should speak to the non-mehrum man in a harsh tone of voice. That Islam was a “code of life” whatever the hell that meant. These issues remained unanswered and I found myself gradually drifting away from Islam. I stopped praying and later started wondering about other, more fundamental things. Will someone as good as Mother Teresa go to hell? Will only the Sunni Muslims to heaven? Will all non-Muslims go to hell? Will a person really go to heaven if he is just able to say the sahada, even if he doesn’t practice anything else about his religion? And in contrast, if a moral, upstanding Christian dies without saying the sahada, will he really spend eternity in the most horrifying cesspit of torture and misery? What if someone has never heard of Islam or even if he has, got the wrong information and decided it wasn’t for him, will he go to hell forever and ever as well? How can this be? Is this not at odds with Allah being the Most Merciful?

By far, the idea I had the most trouble with was of all non-Muslims being thrown in hell regardless of how they lived their lives. I just couldn’t accept that. What if I were born a non-Muslim? I might never have heard about Islam. I might have been too busy with life to ever stop and think about religion. I might have been too sick to do so. There were many reasons to suppose that a person not born a Muslim might stay that way. I just couldn’t accept it.

I turned to prayers again during my second year in college because I was going through a huge crisis in life and needed solace and hope, which prayer adequately provided. However the doubts were still there so I decided I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite. I was going to look into these doubts. By then the Internet was available to help me look for some answers.

I don’t remember exactly when I came across it, but before long I realized the scholars behind the Understanding-Islam website were changing my whole outlook on Islam. The site has a huge Question-and-Answer section where anybody can post a question with the answered displayed on the site. When I first came across the site, there were 1400 questions and answers on display. Now there are more than a 3,000. It had answers to so many of my burning questions, and the answers were convincing. I had my inbuilt bullshit detector cranked all the way up. I wasn’t going to accept an illogical answer to the issues I had. I wasn’t going to take anything on faith alone. I needed real explanations using logic and reason or I wasn’t buying it at all.

Some of the many issues I had were answered here:

What will happens to the Christians and Jews?
What is Taqdeer (Fate)?
Taqleed and the opinions expressed in “Understanding-Islam”
How do we judge between scholars?
What was Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage?

These were just some of the questions I went through to get my head straight. Islam went from being a religion full of illogical medieval dogma to being an intellectually appealing, 21st century religion. I no long walked around with doubts or unanswered questions. My religion was good, it was modern, and above all, it just made really good sense. After months of reading and studying, I was at peace with myself. I believed in my religion and knew exactly why I believed what I believed.

More on this later…  
my friend! Im SO DARNED glad that u asked those questions and in fact pursued them till u found perfect answers. I read the Q/A's and the guys at Understanding Islam have done a brilliant job. Very good...

As far as im concerned, I found those answers three years back when I started reading about Sufism. If u are not familiar with Sufi tenets, then ull be surprised to know that Sufis began saying that all people who believe in honesty and goodness and devotion and general good moral values will go to heaven a long long time ago...their ideals and sayings mostly used to be against dogmatic scholars and theologians and thus there has bin a historical clash between Sufis and scholars in general in Islam...but I found my answers there...and many pppl find their answers elsewhere...as long as we find them, things are good...

but seriously u and I need to sit down and chat...lol...we have similar questions and similar problems in life...

Ooty and Dr.Pak, the young doctors! Don't ever stop this search. Keep on questioning and striving for them with sincerety because it is an ongoing process.

"Keh aa rahi hay mudaam sadai kun-fa-ya-koon".
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Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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