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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.

It’s the final countdown

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salah

How do I feel knowing that I only have one full day left living the “atheist life” (whatever that is)? Frustrated, excited, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, thoughtful, both unprepared and ready… I’m certainly not going to wake up on Friday and know exactly what I’m supposed to do, but then the whole month is the learning experience, the days leading up to it are just some basic prep work.
I feel like I’m a student again. My notepad is out and I write down the Arabic words that flow so easily from my husband’s lips but sound as strained as a gurgling fish from mine. I’ve never been one for languages, I seem to have a limit on how many words I can learn, every new one he teaches me seems to push out the old. At this rate I won’t be able to haggle with taxi drivers the next time I’m in Egypt!
Then there is the wudu (specific way of washing before praying) and the prayers themselves. It is not exactly coming naturally to me at the moment. The thought of then putting the words to the action seems like some complex mathematical problem that far outweighs my ability.
Added to that are the stresses that effect both my husband and I. I’m used to Islamic scholars disagreeing, but when it comes to prayer times (specifically Fijr which is the dawn prayer that announces that start of the fast) I stupidly assumed they would all be on the same wavelength. Not so. After checking a number of sources (three phone apps, London central mosque, local Islamic community centre and a general site giving times for all areas) I have concluded it is somewhere between 2:40am and 4:20am, splendid.

But it isn’t all frantic stress.

hijab

some of my hijab collection

My hijabs are arriving thick and fast. I’m spending far too much time in front of the mirror with youtube clips playing on my phone with a long list of ways to wrap them. I’ve still yet to master a nice and practical way for work though (must be able to take me rushing about and picking things up without falling into my face, over heating me and slipping). I’ve also become somewhat of a stalker, whenever I see a woman in a nicely wrapped hijab I unintentionally follow her around the shop trying to work out how she done it. I check out what women are wearing and whether or not it is suitable and if I can recreate the nice ones that are. Sorry to my hijabi friends reading this but I’ve probably gone down your facebook photos checking out all your different outfit-hijab combinations. It really is becoming somewhat of an addiction.
There is also the bond it is creating with my husband. He doesn’t have any expectations for after the month, but I can tell he is enjoying having someone to share Ramadan with. For once we are able to talk about religion without it forming into a debate. He talks, I listen- it is quite a new concept for us.

I’m not going to lie, my fast preparation was a complete disaster, I fell into the mindset that I might as well enjoy it whilst I can. I promise to you all though I will be honest, if I slip up I will write it here, no matter how ashamed and guilty I feel. I always intended to make this an honest documentation of what I am doing and not a piece of fiction. I’m hoping knowing that I have an audience, be it big or small, I won’t feel like I can get away with making a half hearted attempt.

Anyway back to my lessons, alas not hijab wrapping ones, wish me luck!