Archive for August, 2013
It’s the end of Ramadan, and I spent it thinking (at least, when I could).
I have considered some difficult questions—some I have blogged about, some I have not.
I was hoping to arrive at more definitive answers, I suppose. Though, I suspect that it’s the process of questioning that really matters, and that that’s something that shouldn’t come to an end.
Remembering back to those days when I rarely if ever questioned—I thought that those leaders we looked up to, who pontificated on everything from “Islamic psychology” to architecture and spoke in pompous tones as if they knew what they were talking about… knew what they were talking about. And that they held the keys to our salvation. So, I felt duty-bound to stifle any questions that bubbled up from my sub-conscious before they could possibly contaminate my faith. I wasn’t really being honest then, deep down. The results of that were destructive.
Moving on… I am trying to put the shards of what is left back together. That which seems to be worth keeping. And trying to find antidotes to the flashbacks and lasting effects of the past. And I can see from some of the search-terms that people use and arrive at this blog that there are some others out there who are doing similar things. Who knows how many of us there are out there.
Three things seem to help somewhat in the moving-on process—humor (even if it’s more like gallows humor…), art (other peoples’ art, not mine—I can’t draw or anything worth beans) and being in nature. More on those things anon.
In Islam as I was taught it, following the sunna in the literal, mimetic sense was the goal. Belief wasn’t separate from physical practice. Sure, our intentions, as well as having sound belief (aqida) were seen as absolutely essential, or one’s actions wouldn’t be accepted or rewarded by God. But it was the physical practice was the focus, really.
And the sunna as it was presented to us was all about the body. Molding our daily physical habits—how we slept, woke up, used the toilet, bathed, ate, drank, dressed, left the house….
But this focus on our bodies worked out differently for men and women and genderqueer folks: Men were to follow the life-example of the Prophet. Women were to follow his example too, except when it came to the (numerous) points when gender affects the law, and then they were to follow the example of the Prophet’s wives and female Companions. Genderqueer people… didn’t have a pattern to follow at all, because their existence wasn’t even acknowledged. The bodiliness of the practice of the sunna effectively erased their very existence, forcing them to lie daily to themselves as they attempted to live a gendered pattern that wasn’t their own.
The interpretations of Islam that I was taught had pretty straightforward answers to that question.
At the most basic, the answer was that God has provided detailed and authoritative guidance to all human beings (including me) in the Qur’an and the sunna.
Possible answers to the question of how to access that guidance and apply it to my life varied: Do you need to follow a scholar or scholars? If so, which one(s)? What about madhhabs? As a convert, how would you go about choosing which madhhab to follow?… and so on.
But whatever the answer, it was the sunna that in the end was central. Even the Qur’an was read and interpreted through the sunna. And out of the sunna came a template—a pattern that we were supposed to live our lives by.
What exactly following the life-example of the Prophet meant in reality depended on the interpretation and the community. There were those men who tried to follow it down to the last seventh century Arabian detail—peppering their everyday speech with Arabic words, carrying miswaks in their pockets, wearing short thobes or even turbans. (Mind you, their poly-cotton blend thobes had been made in China, but let’s not get overly technical here….) Then, there were other men who argued that this is taking things too far (especially in North America), but they had their own pet aspects of the Prophet’s example that they saw as non-negotiable, whether it was praying tarawih or wives being forever held hostage to the appearance of her husband’s guests (who would drop by without calling and who would of course have to be fed and served and might even elect to stay the night, regardless of whatever other plans she might have made).