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What type of Muslim would you be?

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I’m starting to realise something, if I didn’t know any Muslims, if I wasn’t told anything about Islam from websites and information pamphlets, if all I had as my source of information was the Quran, I would practice the religion completely differently to how it usually is now.

Ok so I still haven’t finished it (I know I know tick tock) so I can only base this blog entry on what I have read so far. I also cannot read Arabic so basing it on an English translation (M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, oxford classic, to be precise). But the Quran doesn’t seem to make Islam as ritualistic, OCD, complicated and nitpicking as Muslims would have you believe.

First things first: Hadith. Now these are the stories/sayings of the prophet Muhammed, they are not part of the Quran. For the most part they are considered pretty essential to a Muslim to tell them how to practise their religion and to expand on what the Quran says.
I have noticed in the last few years that all too often Muslim’s seem to put hadith equal to what is meant to be the word of God, the Quran, in fact in some cases they put it above.
I’ve thought that strange before truly knowing the religion, now I am learning the religion I find it wrong/haram.
Hadith’s were not written by the prophet, they were collected after he had died. The prophet was also just a man, he isn’t the son of god, or divine, a human with the faults that humans have. So why are people using his alleged teachings and sayings as an essential part of their religion?

niqab

God’s wish, or mans?


The Quran states that it is the completed word of god, it has perfected the religion, you need nothing else. It gives the rules, it tells you who god loves, it tells you who will be punished, it tells you the sins, it even tells you heritage laws. It also tells you time and time again that Muhammed’s ONLY duty is to deliever the Quran

“We did not leave anything out of this book, then all will be gathered before their Lord (for judgment). Those who do not believe our verses are deaf and dumb; in total darkness. God sends astray whomever He wills, and directs whomever He wills in the right path.” (6:38-39)
“Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He revealed THIS BOOK FULLY DETAILED? (6:114)
“The word of your Lord is COMPLETE in truth & justice.” (6:115)
“You (Muhammad) cannot guide even the ones you love. God is the one who guides whomever He wills, for He knows best those who deserve the guidance.” (28:56)
“You have NO duty EXCEPT delivering (Quran)” (42:48)
“Your ONLY duty is delivering (Quran), while we will call them to account.” (13:40)
But how is it that they come to you for judgment while they have the Torah, in which is the judgment of Allah? Then they turn away, [even] after that; but those are not [in fact] believers (5:43)

These are just SOME quotes from the Quran to show my point, there are more. Things such as stoning are not mentioned anywhere in the Quran, that comes from hadith, the burka/niqab too. People tell me the hadith helps them know how to be a muslim, but surely if it isn’t in the Quran, then there is a reason why God didn’t put it there? He doesn’t strike me as the forgetful type.

Wudu. This is the specific way to clean before you pray. To me it seems very OCD. I was told to perform wudu as follows:

1. Wash hands 3 times
Use left hand to wash right hand, up to and including the wrist, 3 times. Then, use right hand to wash left hand, up to and including the wrist, 3 times.
2. Rinse water in mouth 3 times
Cup right hand with water and put in mouth, then spit it out, 3 times.
3. Snuff water in nose 3 times
4. Wash face 3 times
5. Wash forearms 3 times
Wipe right forearm with left hand, all the way up to and including the elbow, 3 times. Wipe left forearm with right hand, all the way up to and including the elbow, 3 times.
6. Wipe water over head/hair 1 times
7. Wipe the inside and back of ears 1 time
Wash both ears at the same time
8. Wash feet
Wash right foot, including the ankle, with left hand, 3 times. Wipe between each toe on right foot, with left hand pinky, 1 time.
Wash left foot, including the ankle, with right hand, 3 times. Wipe between each toe on left foot, with right hand pinky, 1 time.
So can you imagine how much my jaw dropped when I read wudu in the quran (5:6) as: “When you intend to offer prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles”.
Where is the awful sniffing water in my nose bit? Where is the obsession with the number three? Where is the specific right/left hand order? I can guess where… I feel lied to!

God doesn’t beat around the bush, he is pretty happy to say exactly who is going to hell and who isn’t. He also states that he can forgive anything other than disbelief and putting another god equal to him. There are certain obligations in Islam that are repeated again and again: regular prayers, giving to charity, being just to orphans, believe in Allah and the last day. These people will receive great reward, and considering how often this message is repeated, it is safe to assume that it reflects on the importance of them. If I only got my Islamic information from Muslims and never read the Quran I would think: “women put a scarf on your head” was written on page one in bold.
So much focus is put on that and many other little details, things that have only been given a blip of a mention, or perhaps no mention at all. So many arguments, so many threats. God is probably highly confused why so many are happy to harass uncovered women whilst orphans are being neglected.
halal butchers
Halal: Muslim’s have to eat food that is slaughtered in a certain way, with God’s name said over it. Oh and of course, they can’t eat pork.
Ok, halal, now this is something I thought was very black and white. It is a pain in the west, especially when you don’t live in a high Muslim populated area, your food options are limited. But wait, once again the quran shocks me:
“He only prohibits for you the eating of animals that die of themselves (without human interference), blood, the Meat of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. If one is forced (to eat these), without being malicious or deliberate, he incurs no sin. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” (2:173)
“Prohibited for you are animals that die of themselves, blood, the MEAT of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. (Animals that die of themselves include those) strangled, struck with an object, fallen from a height, gored, attacked by a wild animal – unless you save your animal before it dies – and animals sacrificed on altars.” (5:3)
“I do not find in the revelations given to me any food that is prohibited for any eater except: (1) carrion, (2) running blood, (3) the meat of pigs, for it is contaminated, and (4) the meat of animals blasphemously dedicated to other than GOD.” If one is forced (to eat these), without being deliberate or malicious, then your Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful. (6:145)
Hang on, where is the mention of slitting the throat? What in those passages say I can’t go buy chicken from my local Tesco? All those times my husband has looked longingly at steak on the menu but opted for the fish, for what? Maybe this is where I need the hadith, maybe the details are there, but God also says:
“Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture (Jews & Christians) is lawful (halal) for you” (5:5)
“Why should you NOT eat from that upon which God’s name has been mentioned ? He has detailed for you what is prohibited for you, unless you are forced. Indeed, many people mislead others with their personal opinions, without knowledge. Your Lord is fully aware of the transgressors.” (6:119)
So he even states that he has detailed what you can and cannot eat, I guess that means we don’t need any more information, it is all there. So I can’t eat pigs, I can’t eat a bit of road kill, no running blood, I can’t strangle the animal, nor can I go steal meat from a pagans alter, or push a cow off a building to eat it, or beat it to death. Ok, I understand all that, so why can’t I go buy my chicken from Tesco?!
This halal business is, well, just that, a money making business. What I’m reading seems to be pretty clear that unless specifically stated in the quran, ALL other food is lawful, ALL other ways of slaughtering is lawful. Over 90% of halal meat in England is stunned before slaughter, some countries state that all meat must be stunned, therefore exactly what is different between halal and normal supermarket? The price for one (halal is often more experience). Maybe it’s the fact that supposedly a halal butcher is saying the name of God over the animal? Well my husband does that before he eats anyway. So it is the specific way of cutting the throat. Our butchers slit throats too, however that is neither here nor there because the Quran doesn’t say it has to be killed in that way, just not in the ways given.
Using common sense, when they hunted in the time of the prophet they likely killed their game with a bow and arrow etc, not chased after it with a dagger to slit it’s throat. A nice clean kill from a distance is far more humane than wounding until you get close enough to finish it off too.

Ok I’m going on and on now. I just feel like I’m reading a completely different book to the Muslims I have met. People often ask me if my husband and I have lots of problems due to having different religions, but I actually believe we would have far more disagreements if I was Muslim: I would be a Quranist, I wouldn’t put much emphasis on hair covering, I wouldn’t only eat halal, my wudu would be short and simple. To some it might look like I would be a half arsed Muslim, but I actually think they are the ones making it harder than it was meant to be.
I cannot wait to read more of the Quran, it is truly fascinating to see what the Quran actually says compared to what I have been lead to believe it says.

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Muslims in the west

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Is it impossible?

Muslims in the west

Being a Muslim in a nonmuslim country obviously brings up issues that you don’t get in Egypt et el. Considering Islam is meant to be more than just a belief in a certain god, but a complete way of life, living in a country where that isn’t the way of life makes me imagine Muslims here are often faced with tricky situations and choices.
Praying for example. As far as I’m aware employers don’t legally have to give Muslim’s more time on their break to make sure they can pray, nor do they need to allow them to split their break and have it at the set times of prayer. Muslim men on Fridays have a much bigger problem as praying jumuah at the mosque is compulsory for them (women don’t need to go to mosque to pray), so unless you have a very lenient boss, it is either not going to happen, or you have to quit.
And it isn’t just that where problems rise up about work for Muslims in the west. I work in a cinema, the cinema has a bar, selling alcohol is haram (forbidden). I asked my managers if they could avoid putting me on it this month and they were fine with that. However, I am working kiosk, the main part of the job. There we sell popcorn, coke, nachos and, oh dear, hotdogs. Pork hotdogs. Like with alcohol, a Muslim cannot consume or sell pork. Those two things alone limit you greatly from what jobs you can go for, especially if you are unskilled or need something more flexible, such as supermarkets, restaurants, bars.
And what about when it comes to eating out? Unless you live in one of the high Muslim populated areas or want a kebab, you are stuck with vegetarian or fish as you are supposed to eat only “halal”. Now as it is Ramadan and we cannot eat until after nine, we haven’t eaten out so I haven’t had to deal with the limitation. I don’t really care for fish and kebabs should come with a three drink minimum.
Another thing I haven’t yet had to deal with is having a man (such as postman) knock on my door unexpectantly, so I haven’t had to deal with the rush and inconvenience of throwing something over my head and making sure my arms and legs are fully covered too.
And that leads me to clothes. Now this is only a problem if you are particularly conservative and just wear abayas as even the ones on eBay are double or more the price as those abroad. Other than that however I have found there are so many options in normal highstreet shops that can give you perfectly acceptable modest covering. Maxi dresses, waterfall cardigans, wide leg jeans, linen trousers, boat neck t shirts, etc etc. Mixing and matching such options mean no shop is off limits. I can’t even look at clothes now without thinking whether it is appropriate, and if not what can I add to it to make it so! I love looking at Muslim fashion blogs such as this one for inspiration: http://luffisallyouneed.blogspot.co.uk/p/about-me.html. Women such as her certainly don’t seem oppressed to me.
As for hijabs, once again you are not limited to specialist online stores or a trip to Edgware road, as pretty scarves can be found anywhere (in fact the newest member to my hijab collection comes from New Look).
I’ve personally not had to deal with discrimination going out and about in a hijab, but I’m sure for some it is a persistent issue they face. It is one of the things those in a minority will likely always have to deal with sadly. Reading about this subject online meant I came across both the extremes. Some islamaphobes telling Muslims to bugger off where they came from (a common misconception that Islam is a region not a religion), and some Muslims calling to force their beliefs on Christian countries. Sadly the first group believe all Muslims think like the second group, and the second group believe we all think like the first. The majority of people don’t think like either alhamduallah, both are hateful and, well, idiotic to be honest. I don’t believe England will erupt into a religious war like some OTT people on the sites have predicted, I have faith in my county and its people, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist etc. I truly believe we are one of the more diverse and tolerant countries in the world and will continue to be so.
Sadly these negative attitudes cause be extremists and bigots means the normal Muslim has to deal with the backlash. Being in a minority means you might not have anyone/ or very few to turn to who can emphasise though, especially if you don’t have a local mosque where you can meet other members of your faith.
And that brings me to a problem I have faced. In a Muslim country there are mosques on every corner, and between those corners there are speakers doing the call to prayer (also known as the adhan). This lets people know, wherever they are, whatever they are doing, that it is time to perform wudu and pray, which also means you know exactly when to break and start the fast. Every day the time changes slightly so it is something you have to keep checking up on when you don’t have the announcement. Also, people differ sometimes greatly on what the actual times are, and when you are waiting to eat after a whole day of sustaining, every minute counts.

I know if I was being a Muslim for a month in Egypt, I’d have all the resources, I wouldn’t feel concerned about going out in hijab, hell even if I went out in a burka people wouldn’t care. My prayers would be on time, and I would have muslim sisters all around me to help and guide. I guess that is the true benefit of the Muslim for a Month holiday which started this whole idea, it is just so easy. But it is also unrealistic, why would a British person wanting to really know what it would be like to be Muslim, do it in a way that has little reflection on how he/she would actually live as a Muslim?
There is one benefit to being a Muslim in the west compared to the Middle East- you don’t have the issue of confusing Islam and culture. The two have become so mingled there that many Muslims are not quite sure where the line is. In fact whether here or there the only way to truly know what Islam is, is to read the Quran. That way you get the true message, you don’t get a bias (be it positive or negative) interpretation, you don’t get it mixed with the Arab culture, you get Islam.
You can be a Muslim anywhere in the world, after all the word simply means: “one who submits to God”. Yes there are parts of the finer details that can be more difficult, perhaps impossible to follow in a Christian country, but you don’t need to turn to some bearded fellow for the answer, as the Quran says God knows what is in your heart and knows your intention, that is what is important.