The news is full of muslim converts striking out for Syria to answer the IS call to jihad, but what about those who no longer feel connected to Islam? In a religion inconsistent with science, logic, human rights and ethics, one so riddled with contradiction it offers equal endorsement of opposing arguments, rational-minded individuals must be leaving Islam in droves.
Summer is a speck in the rearview mirror and Autumn is well underway. The metamorphosis outside echoes my internal state of flux. Tremulously yet inexorably, as a compass needle seeks true North, my worldview is re-orienting and an unexpected casualty in this stripping away of superfluity is my faith. It’s been a slow creeping process, this revolution of mine – seasonal in its pace and just as imperceptible. But I can see now it’s been building for a while.
When I first converted Muslims viewed me either as ‘extra special’, sprinkling me with ‘Mashallah’s’ like confetti, or conversely, appraised me with closed faces and narrowed eyes that judged me inferior because I was a westerner, a product of kuffar, not to be trusted.
Other white converts I met seemed to have gone full-musulmán with their uniform of stiff wiry beard, artfully wrapped headscarf and speech peppered with English accented Islamic expressions – this I thought was more suspect.
Despite having done my research I was dismayed to find practical Islam didn’t quite reflect the theory. In Islamic bookshops I found books that made me queasy with their advice to avoid contact with non-muslims, their archaic outlines of the duties of a wife to her husband: seeking permission for everything, never calling him by name, never refusing his desires in bed.
I tried to swallow my reservations and remain objective but every time I thought I had resolved one misgiving another sprang up in its place in a perverse muslim version of Whack-A-Mole. I fought to keep an open mind and was conscious that a blurring of the line between culture and religion accounted for much of what unsettled me. Unfortunately, more often than not, reciprocal tolerance from my new ‘brothers and sisters’ was conspicuous by its absence.
Trying to recapture the light
When my in-laws finally turned on me after seven years of ill-disguised resentment, I began to see hypocrisy and contradiction everywhere in Islam but still I shut these doubts down; telling myself I was letting subjectivity taint my perspective, that I lacked strength of belief, that this was a failure on my part.
In an attempt to rekindle the sputtering flame and extinguish the doubts I immersed myself, not only in practical information regarding Islam, but in memoirs and biographies of converts, and the classical Islamic literature of Rumi and Khayyam, trying to recapture the light that drew me over twelve years ago.
The initial source of that light of course was the man who is now my husband. It was my desire to attain the quiet confidence and self-assurance with which he moved through the world that, when asked, he attributed to his faith. In retrospect I see his poise was simply a character trait, as likely present in a mail-man as a muslim.
But hindsight, in its undeniable capacity for self-flagellation, is as useless as it is merciless. We are each responsible for moving through life on a path of our choosing, and for finding a better one if the first is unsatisfactory. Changing mistakes or wrongs that have gone before would fundamentally change who we are, and whether or not that would be a good thing, I believe, is impossible to predict.
So I take my past experiences and try to regret nothing.
Things have changed
I immersed myself a second time in all things Islamic but this time different aspects jumped out at me and it was evident my trajectory had changed – though still looking for reasons to believe, I was now coming from a critic’s point of view, not from the perspective of one whose heart was already sold. This time I needed convincing not corroboration…
Next week: My quest to rekindle my faith has an unexpected outcome… Leaving Islam – irreconcilable differences