Letting Go…

When I lost religion a few months ago, I did what any sane and reasonable person might do to cement the deal and make it official: I changed my facebook profile. Under the religion heading it now reads, “Free from religion”. Of course, it is true that I have never really been free from Islam. In fact, since just before my apostacy,  it has taken a hold of me like  an ever lurking, suffocating presence, never far from my consciousness.

While some commenters have chosen to take an aggressive and accusatory tone towards my discontent and others have been sympathetic,this  and this comment really sums it up the best. Losing religion is like a breakup. It’s an earth shattering and cathartic process. Sometimes it’s torturous and other times exhilarating. But mostly torturous. Sure, there’s the realization that I no longer have to worry about eating certain things or asking the waiter if there’s wine in the brown sauce or if there’s bacon grease in the mashed potatoes.  There’s the ease of going to get my hair done in an actual salon among real people, not hidden away in some back room because I cover my hair. There’s a slew of things that I can freely enjoy now that I didn’t before.  Things that blogger evebitestheapple calls “Fringe Benefits”.

But mostly it’s been torturous, a constant battle to overcome regrets and resentment. There’s a reason why the phrase, “losing my religion” exists in the vernacular. It’s not just an REM song, it’s a commonly used southern colloquialism which means something like “at the end of my rope”. It’s what a person feels when they’ve just had enough and can’t take it anymore.

It’s definitely not easy.

I’ve been fighting an epic battle to overcome the negative emotions.  Anger and resentment still lurk.  But in the last few weeks, it’s gotten better. For no particular reason, it’s like a tiny weight has been lifted. A small measure, to be sure, but noticeable still. I don’t want to be angry anymore. I’m tired of reading blogs and feeling a veiled sense of hostility. To be honest, it’s been the progressive and moderate voices that disturb me the most. Perhaps because that’s the only way I could ever imagine my life as a Muslim, and yet I find it so artificial. So false. I find it dishonest that (especially) women are taking great leaps to make Islam livable and acceptable to our modern morality, changing essential concepts found within the Quran and hadith and cemented by 140o years of scholarship, “reinterpreting” them into something so far away from what must have surely been the original intent as recognized by the Bedouins of the 7th century. Because God couldn’t possibly have thought women were lesser, or that non-Muslims unequal. The prophet couldn’t have possibly married a child or ordered stonings and beheadings. No, that’s impossible. So instead, let’s change the doctrine into something that works for today, rather than abandoning it altogether. It’s easier to change the religion instead of leaving it.  I chose the latter. But that’s my opinion and you know what they say about those.

It’s wrong of me to feel anger towards reformists.I’ve realized that while I stand by my beliefs and assessment, it really doesn’t matter what Islam was meant to be as orchestrated by Muhammad, or his loyal followers or the fourteen centuries of scholarship. It only matters what it is today and what it will be in the future.  It only matters what it can be. So for the sake of humanity everywhere, for my daughter and future grandchildren, it is much more advantageous to seek out an Islam that gives women equal footing in public and in private, an Islam that is tolerant to non-Muslims, and an Islam that views God as one of forgiveness and love while seeking out the kind and gentle qualities of its prophet. An Islam that can coexist.

It’s wrong of me to feel this anger because of what I am and what I believe. I believe people in America have the right to practice their faith in whatever way they see fit. But most importantly, I believe that women have the right to see their chosen destinies fulfilled, a right to self-determination and an essential belief in their own self worth and value, irrespective of traditional, conservative gender roles . I believe this can only be accomplished through progressive and reformist thought and for this reason, most especially, I support the movement.

More than anything I resent myself. I truly wish I never converted. I simply cannot understand why I ever chose to willingly enter a community in which questions of whether it’s okay for a woman to pray next to a man, or uncover her head, or even speak in public is “acceptable”–a community in which most of its members would answer a resounding no to the above questions. In this day and age. What the hell was I thinking?  I can’t believe I would willingly enter a religion in which owning a dog is a scandal and listening to music controversial.  Why on earth would I choose such a thing for myself? Me, the girl who used wear bright purple hair and listen to punk rock. The girl who never listened to anyone and could never be tamed. The girl who was wild and fun and mouthy and  just a bit crazy. The g irl who used to smoke ganja perched atop ancient oak trees, far above the world, swaying in the breeze.  

Why?

Perhaps this has been the hardest question of all and one I will surely continue to ask.

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39 Comments

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39 responses to “Letting Go…

  1. Lisa

    I have tremendous respect for your thoughtful introspection, Steph. Keep on keepin’ on, friend.

    • Hey Lisa, how come you neve link to your real blog from mine? Are you afraid of the lunatics following you over there? Just curious. 🙂 The reason I ask is that I’ve thought of linking to your blog in a post before then I thought you might not appreciate it.

      • Lisa

        Hmmm! Am I not linking to my blog? I thought I was! My new blog, right? lisamorguess.wordpress.com . Or do you mean one of my old blogs?

        Eh, not really afraid of the lunatics 😉 And yes, feel free to link to my blog!

        • Lisa

          Ahhhh, I see now. What happened was, when I first moved to WordPress and was trying to figure it out, I created that blog and never used it because I didn’t like the name. I didn’t realize that that’s what my profile is linked to. Damn. I will have to figure out how to change that.

  2. SOLIDSOUL

    peace an blessings Muhammad was a very simple person and spent all his life in simplicity. He was very unceremonious and informal in his habits. He ate whatever he was given.
    even when he was the ruler of a state and undisputed leader of the people. He sat on the floor, bare ground or a mat without any hesitation, alone or in the company of other people. He ate bread made from coarse flour and even spent days on mere dates. He wore simple clothes and did not like display or show. He was by nature simple and liked simplicity and informality in everything.

    Ibn Masud said that God’s Messenger slept on a reed mat and got up with the mark of it on his body. He said, “O God’s Messenger! I wish you would order us to spread something out for you and make something.” The Prophet replied, “What have I to do with the world, I am like a rider who rests for a while under the shade of a tree, then goes off and leaves it.” Ubaid-Allah bin Muhsin reported God’s Messenger as saying, “If anyone among you is secure in mind in the morning, healthy in body and has food for the day, it is as though the whole world has been brought into his Possession.”

    Abu Hurairah reported God’s Messenger as saying, “Look at those who are inferior to you and do not look at those who are superior to you, for that is more likely to keep you from despising God’s Favour on you.” Abu Talha said, “When we complained to God’s Messenger of hunger and raised our clothes to show we were each carrying a stone over our belly, he raised his clothes and showed that he had two stones on his belly.”

    He liked simple living and wanted his family to lead a simple life and abstain from ostentatious living. He often wore thick clothes. His bed was sometimes of rough blanket sometimes of skin filled with palm fibres and sometimes of ordinary coarse cloth..

    In the ninth year of Al-Hijrah, WHEN ISLAMIC STATE WAS EXTENDED FROM YEMEN TO SYRIA ITS RULER MUHAMMAD HAD ONLY ONE BED AND ONE DRY WATER-BAG OF SKIN (when the Islamic state had extended from Yemen to Syria, its ruler had only one bed and one dry water-bag of skin)

    . A’isha reported that when he died,” THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE HOUSE TO EAT EXCEPT SOME BARLEY” (there was nothing in the house to eat except some barley).

    Once Umar entered Muhammad’s house and noticed the state of the furniture in it. Muhammad himself had only one sheet of cloth round him to cover the lower part of his body. There was one simple bed, with one pillow filled with nut fibre; on one side of the room was some barley and in one corner near his feet was an animal skin. There were some water-bag skins hanging beside his bed. Umar said that on seeing this tears came into his eyes. God’s Messenger asked the reason for his tears. He replied, “O God’s Messenger! Why shouldn’t I cry! The strings of the bed have left marks on your body. This is a small room with all your furniture, I can see what there is. The Kaiser of Rome and Kisra of Persia enjoy luxurious living while you, God’s Messenger, and the Chosen One, live like this.” He said, “Ibn Khattab! Don’t you like that they choose this world and we choose the Hereafter?”.

    In short, Muhammad lived and liked a simple life and enjoyed every minute of it. He taught his companions, through his personal example, to lead a simple life and not to be ostentatious.
    ********************************************************************

    dear sister stephanie , when enemies of islam and (fake) ex Muslims abuse, slander and say muhammad (sas) WAS BAD and is a false prophet, tears roll on my cheek and i start crying.

  3. Why do you consistently reply with a post that has absolutely nothing to do with the original? I didn’t write anything abusive or slanderous. The events I refer to can be found in the same hadith collections from which you refer, although I do believe Muhammad was a false prophet. I no longer believe in prophets.

    The morality of Muhamamad is perhaps an important discussion to be had. I personally don’t think its fair to judge his actions on our modern standards when he probably behaved appropriately for the time and place in which he came. I don’t think he was particularly righteous however, and I’m not going to base my entire life around his actions although you are certainly free to (well as long as you don’t try and kill anyone). In any case, many of his actions are pretty much obsolete, in my opinion.

  4. Anonie

    Your old life seems much like mine, although I was Seattle grunge not punk. Do you ever think you converted for redemption? My mouthy aunt Michelle once sat me done several years after my conversion and asked me point blank why I choose to keep punishing myself. What did I do to deserve being in a constant state of self-flagellation.? She said if it was important for me to be treated like shit (she did say that), then why don’t I pick a religion closer to my parents like Catholicism or even Mormonism (‘because they like to treat their women like shit too’ she says.)

    I would always say I converted for intrinsic reasons, wanting some daily ritual but now 10 years out feel embarrassed largely by the community for the very idiotic ideas you posted above. How could I justify these egregious attitudes towards women, whether in a feminist framework or not? Anyhow, It is a major strain on my marriage. My husband was told by “good” Muslims I was a lousy choice of spouse – age, western, divorced, femionist, etc and now he feels they were right. He still won’t let me go. I suspect you will be bummed out for some time, especially as your spouse and children are Muslim too. I wish you well.

    My facebook has no religious status. I didn’t know you could (I am new to it) and my husband went on forever about my not wanting to identify with my people, or have pictures of me with no veil, or not yell at old friends who post pictures of me with no veil, nor saying MashAllah or whatever on my status. I too wish to be happy in my new life without faith, and largely I am. I feel guilt in that happiness which stems from freedom of movement and ideas, but not guilty enough to go back. Sorry for the uber long comment.

    At least it isn’t a litany of youtube videos showing you the error in your thoughts, eh?

    • I love long comments and they’re always welcome, although “a litany of youtube videos” are not 🙂

      I think the discipline factor was huge for me as well and I can’t really say that I felt any sense of punishment during my life while practicing. At least, not from my husband who is traditional but very kind and uncontrolling. I think for me the word is closer to restrictive. What I can and can’t do simply because I’m a woman. As if having a vagina and 2 X chromosomes automatically dictates manner of speech, dress, action, etc. The greater society in which we live controls our roles within gender but it’s nothing compared to Islam. The need for discipline soon gave way for a feeling of suffocation under all those rules!

  5. I think that in the west, converting to Islam is a pretty edgy thing to do 🙂 It takes some thinking outside the box. I do see it as somehow consistent with how you describe yourself, even if ultimately it was never going to work out.

    • It’s definitley non-conformist. I’d thought about that quite a bit in the past–the fact that being a Muslim appeases that rebellous side of myself somehow and also knowing that should I have been born a Muslim, or live in a Muslim country, I probably would have rebelled and apostatacized early in life.

  6. Probably one of the reasons you accepted Islam is because of hadiths that were listed above by Solid Soul. All us converts were sold a neat little package of carefully selected hadith and ayat to make even the strongest feminist at least give a second thought about Islam.

    I love the song ‘Losing My Religion’. I used to sing it anytime my eman was low in an effort to pull myself back into Islam and “hold onto the rope of Allah”. Didn’t seem to work this last time though, lol.

    How did changing your facebook profile work out for you? Did alot of Muslims remove you from their friends list or was it a fairly easy conversion? I’m asking because I’ve been trying to figure out the facebook dilemma myself. I disabled my account shortly before I apostated because I didn’t want to deal with all the comments and trying to figure out who to remove from my friends list. I decided I’d go back after about 3 months or so. I no longer have a real interest in FB since I apostated because it can be rather boring. But since more companies are using FB to communicate I imagine I will have to enable my account sooner or later. So I’ve been wondering how I’m going to go about it. Any tips you have are definitely appreciated.

    • No I don’t know that anyone de-friended me or that any one even took much notice. I have no idea what type of gossip is going on in the community although I know there is some and my husband is catching some flack as well.

      This little blog seems to have caused the most trouble, as it was never completely anonymous and I was stupid enough to link to it from my old blog and invite a few people I know in real life. Turns out one of the trolls was someone I know and was only playing a role so she could express her very strong opinion without regard for the usual ettiquette one reserves for real life acquaintances. It’s a shame really, as I rather enjoyed our little banter and I would have gladly entered a civil debate and discussion with the full knowledge of her identity. It bothers me some, but I refuse to be silenced. These are my thoughts and I’ve just as much right to express them as any other person in the free world. No one is forced to read.

      So, no I don’t have any tips for you other than if someone is causing you grief or you suspect they are being dishonest or trying to cause you harm then remove them from your life, or in this case your friends list. Life’s too short really. Most of humanity is surprisingly able to get along even amongst disagreements of the most essential kinds like those involving religion. At least that’s what I’ve found.

  7. Adeel

    I feel you need not only let go of religion figuratively but any mental attachments towards it , i.e i don’t understand why you have such angry feelings ? Sure you became muslim, you were in egoic state of mind then but now u are clear where you are, who you are ? Questions for me which have no true answers, although i’d like to say we are not the mind.

    Perhaps i seem puzzled since when i left religion last Ramadan it was the most amazing feeling (i was in a state of total bliss when i discovered i was nothing but a soul/energy just here without needing a reason). I suppose as a guy of only 22 i had less direct people to deal with, having few strict Muslim friends and starting to experiment with meditation and drug use which totally altered my perspectives on life. However my secret is no more and my new “revelation” has only damaged one relationship, that with my father, since i was a very “obidient” hell fearing muslim (i.e selfish) and in his eyes on the “right path”, he gives me lectures once in a while. I cannot wait to bring up children one day to be free of dogma and indoctrination. I see it daily, now with my nephew and father, whispering in his ears, it disturbs me to a certain degree.

    Just be in the present moment. Observe the anger. Realise it’s not who you are just like religion, you cannot be defined by emotion or belief.

    • Hi and welcome. You sound very Zen (which is a compliment BTW).
      Sometimes I do think it would be easier if I could just burn my bridges, which is a path I would have taken in the past. However, being still married to a Muslim and having Muslim children, it’s as if I can never be completely free from Islam. That fuels my anger some, but usually only in small ways like today when my 6 year old came home from the Islamic school with a note asking her to remove her fingernail polish since it’s not “allowed for prayer”. These incidents are more just lingering, nagging nuisances. My anger is probably ultimately aimed at myself, although it is easing more and more by the day. Thank you for your comment and I look forward to hearing more of your experiences and observations.

      • Adeel

        I have indeed been inspired by new age writing which is heavily influenced by Eastern ideas especially Zen. It and other things eventually led to my own self inquiry which ultimately led to my own veil to evaporate. Men can be more heavily trenched in ignorance, which i personally attribute to their ego’s. It is harder to penetrate or rather they are less conscious of their beings (thus feeling greater fear and more hostile towards others especially women).

        Well i share some of your experience, being born in a “Muslim family” and all. I shall never truly be free from it, and indeed next Ramadan could be an awkward time especially since I’m considering in continuing to fast (in essence i think its a good practice but my father would likely be argumentative and proclaiming me as a hypocrite, although i tend not to take things he says to heart anymore simply realising he is unconscious) I once remarked “do you love me any less now”, a very queer thing to say since he has never uttered the “L-word” to me my whole life, he fell silent, i in an instant i saw that he searched and found something but did not express it for fear.

        Does your daughter have to remain in a Muslim school? I guess that conversation could just make things “worse” but one can’t help and be affected by trivialities of life, especially when they are so unrelated to spirituality. It’s like when my father pointed out the noor (light) in the face of people with beards, even in this one instance of a man who supposedly shot and killed Policemen in the name of “Islam” (in Pakistan). When will Muslim see through this veil of ignorance? How far are people willing to take it? I guess this is where you rightfully pointed out the emergence of”modern/reformist/western” Muslims who have come up with up with their “contemporary” solutions. It’s like masking one veil with another. Why delude oneself for the sake of it? Are we this scared to face realities? Why not free our minds fully and enquire freely without any predetermined conceptions/projections. Why not live with one simple principle, that of Love.

        P.S Excuse my rhetorical questions, it’s like I’m using your blog for my own philosophical rants! I’m too inconsistent to have my own blog. Hope you don’t mind my comments and they are in some way adding something 🙂

        • Adeel

          *hope* they are in some way

        • I know what you mean about Ramadan. I, too am considering fasting as I’ve always enjoyed it and find some type of strength through the physcial deprivation.

          Regarding my daughter, well, not sending them to Islamic school, or even not raising them within Islam is simply a battle I cannot win, nor do I care to fight it. To be fair, my husband and I agreed to raise our children as Muslim, and I couldn’t possibly expect him to disavow this agreement simply because I’ve lost faith. I’m grateful that he has been open and our marriage strong enought to withstand my own apostacy. I couldn’t expect to project that on my children or expect my husband to agree. Truthfully, I was never comfortable sending her to Islamic school, even when I was practicing and the plan was to send her until she got a good foundation in Arabic and Quran and then put her in public school at around the third grade or so. Hopefully, this plan will come to be and she will grow being exposed to music and art and many of the “Western” ideas I hold dear.

  8. I was chatting with a young woman recently who is mouthy, a little stubborn, witty, quick, sometimes very angry – a sweet person. She said she converted to Islam to shock and rebel. Could rebellion be a reason for you too?

    This post made me a little sad 😦 I can understand your anger but I hope you feel better about it soon. Good luck, S and take care!

    • Why are you sad, dear? I’m truly feeling better by the day, much, much better than I was even just a few weeks ago.
      I do think, as I mentioned in the above comment to Sarah, that there was an aspect of my conversion that was very much a non-comformist act and ultimately a rebellion from aspects of my own culture which I dislike. Things like the sexualization of women and racism. Unfortunately, I found many more things in Islam and among Muslim cultures which I found much more distainable. Ultimately though, it isn’t just the culture I dislike. I really just don’t like (or believe) the Quran and the vision of God that it puts forth. I realize this might be offensive for some to swallow but it’s the truth. Hope I didn’t make you more sad :(…

      • I’m sad because you didn’t have to go through this pain 😦 I can understand your frustration and anger because even I feel angry when I’m struggling with a concept and I’m offered excuses and told that, “no you don’t understand … it was important to raid caravans.” I recall reading No God but God and in it Aslan writes why it was important to raid caravans for the first batch of Muslims. I shut the book instantly when I read that. It took me four days to get back to the book; I felt so much anger.

        I think there is no such thing as “everlasting universal message” in any book. There are amazing moral lessons in holy books and we have so much to thank them for those lessons but there is the other side as well. At least I don’t think that the message of Quran is for all times and universal. The kind of new meanings that I see being explained by contemporary Muslims is unique. Like you said, for 1400 years no one had any problems with what was accepted as the message of Quran. Then in the 1970s Feminism rose and now we have new explanations for the words that were written down in the 7th century in a very different society for a very different society. If a text is being reinterpreted it means that it *needs* to be reinterpreted. Without reinterpretation it is neither universal nor for all times. I also don’t understand the esoteric meanings that I have been hearing forever now that no one has cared to explain.

        Human mind is so apt at making connections that if we tried we’d even find mysticism in a recipe for felafel but many don’t desire it. I don’t believe that intelligent people can be sold a religion. You are a very intelligent woman and I don’t think that you are the kind of person who would convert without study to a religion that is presented to you in a fancy package.

  9. Sig

    Why? I go with what Eve said. We were sold something. It wasn’t the truth, the whole truth, so help them allah. You speak of reformist visions of Islam. We were sold a vision of Islam that was an amalgamation of the language of reformist Islam with the imagery of traditionalism, of grand buildings and Muslim doctors in America. “The golden age…,” “rights that weren’t in the Bible” (as if this is even remotely relevant now), “sheltering peace…” You might think back to your perspective on dawah materials after you were Muslim for a while. Even while I was still a sincere believer in the goodness of Islam and theism, I was mortified by dawah materials, by the half-truths in them, the outright lies and distortions. I rarely, if ever, took part in distributing these booklets and pamphlets and websites, because I did not want to be held responsible before god or the person I gave this material for for the lies contained within – when I knew that they were not telling the whole truth, giving people an incomplete portrait.

    For too often, it’s after you convert that you start hearing, “No, that is not…,” “Oh but women must…,” or “No, you were not given the full and correct…” In 20 years of being a Muslim and post-Muslim, talking to so many people who converted in the 80s and 90s, I have heard this story many times over. Ultimately, I think every one converted for their own reasons. Maybe one reason, maybe a mixture of them. I find it as problematic to say, “I know someone who converted to rebel, perhaps you did the same” as “Ashley converted because she married an Arab guy, so you probably did too.” Speaking only for myself, there was not much rebellion in following a lifestyle that was even more conservative and restrictive than anything my conservative and restrictive parents could have dreamed of.

    Kicking yourself over it is natural. It’s part of the process of deconversion. So many of us, especially women, lost so much being Muslim. I known too many women who are living in poverty and grappling with gaps in employment and raising children on their own (honorable Muslim exes having gone the way of the wind) after spending far too long struggling to be “the ideal Muslimah” — on top of the grief of realizing how many years, experiences have been lost, friendships and relationships with family ruined, etc. And too, I know quite a few guys struggling with some of the same things (although not the same level of financial instability).

    • Hi Sig, yes I definitely bought into the package of liberation, truth and tolerance. I clung tightly to it for many years, despite reading things to the contrary. I remember an early run-in with a large bound book of Bukhari and thinking how ugly, non-tolerant, and superstitious it all was. I just couldn’t swallow it, and so I swallowed the doubt for many more years. Even still, today when I see people posting the “nice” hadith on FB or whatever, I have the sudden urge to counter it with one of the not so nice ones. Of course I don’t but it angers me how people can cherry pick from the hadith and even the Quran.

  10. almostclever

    I have no wisdom to impart, no deep seeded knowledge… Just hugs, and a deep understanding of what you are talking about.

  11. Powerful post. It made me feel a bit sad for you, but I am glad to read you are moving on and doing better each day. Best wishes.

  12. almostclever

    Look out for “The Good Book: A Humanist Bible.” The author was on Colbert last night and it actually sounds like something very interesting. This guy is a doctor in Philosophy and has basically pulled together philosophical wisdom from both east and west – from scholars from many different ages. His proclamation is that our ethics do not need to come from religion but from our own human sense of what people need in order to “live well.” He doesn’t bash or try to disprove religion, he just wants to show another way. A way I believe you and I may be interested in.
    It’s on my list to read once college is done.

  13. Very moving post. I understand where you are coming from, and I sympathize a lot with it. I also see reformist Islam as artificial at times, but I also understand that we are socialized to believe that by traditional Islam, which is currently much more powerful. Who knows, when the tables turn we may think that traditional Islam is artificial, which is certainly something I think right now. Both types are constructs because at the end of the day, religion is something constructed by human beings, even if based on authentic texts.
    At the end of the day, I always find it safer to complain about Muslims, not Islam. And even then, not all MUslims are the way you described in your post, so it’s difficult to generalize. I’m a Muslim, and I know so many others that believe in gender equality, human rights, co-existence, etc. So I doubt Islam is the problem; some Muslims are.

    • Yes, actually I see them both as artificial as all religions are. And of course I realize Muslims are able to be compassionate and thoughtful human beings, but does this have anything particularly to do with religion? I mean, humanity is capable of such good and evil, irrespective of religion.

      It’s nearly impossible to seperate Muslims and Islam, or Islam and culture, as the two are inextricably intertwined. However, I do think Islam should be taken to task. I’m not personally a believer in ‘true’ Islam. Islam can be interpreted in so many ways and is pracitced by a diverse group of people. However, when Muslims commit atrocities or deny women or homosexuals or non-Muslims their human rights, they do have the backing of authentic texts. It’s fine to profess the obscurity of past practices and modernize Islam. I just find it dishonest when people completely dismiss the ugly underbelly, namely the hadith and some uncomfortable verses in the Quran, and make Islam out to be some utopic and perfect vision for humanity.

      My question is, if it becomes necessary to change Islam in such a drastic way, why even continue calling it Islam. Why cling to a belief system that is so flawed that it must be completly reformed? Why is belonging to a religion even necessary at this point? It’s an interesting and complex question. But of course this is coming from someone who has ultimately rejected the Quran as divine or Muhammad as a prophet and I don’t expect every Muslim to do this. That’s why I say, I support reformist movements within Islam, because it’s a better alternative.

  14. I think why I don’t understand reformist Islam is because I was raised into traditional Islam. But I was never taught that Muslims should or even could kill. My ancestors were from the Hashim tribe so even today my side of the family is very traditional and religious. The ahadith that were shared with us when we were children were all positive. Although I have nothing against that kind of upbringing, I’m raising my children differently. Because I’m interested in religions I’m giving them choice and teaching them about as many religions as I know about. I have also taught them about things that were not taught to me so they are not shocked later on and don’t begin to distance themselves from Islam unnecessarily. Every religion is how an individual lives it and we have the potential to make every religion peaceful and beautiful. That is what reformist Islam is trying to do and it’s all alright until someone tries to redefine history. That is what I don’t agree with.

  15. Glad you’re finding some peace, but sorry people still think your personal choices are their business.

  16. Charlene

    Well I was raised in my religion (my family is largely preachers and missionaries…and we didn’t see “those others” but once a year at most), so I don’t have to answer the “why” of believing in the first place. But I do understand the pain of leaving. I’m well over a decade into my own apostasy and still angry. Angrier every day it sometimes seems.

    I can’t count the number of people who told me that my experience was the result not of abusive teachings in the Good Book but of “a few bad apples”, and “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” and that kind of thing. Unfortunately I’d done too much of my own studying to give those arguments any credence. No, really, the Bible does teach those ugly things…but the nice Christians skim over them and pretend they’re not there. And since I was raised to see Bible-believing as an all-or-nothing proposition (or you’ll wind up in Hell anyhow), I still have trouble picking and choosing like that, and it’s easier to just toss the whole works. If I’m doomed anyhow, why not take the easy road?

    Your description of yourself pre-Islam vs. within Islam reminds me of something I read in a book called Reviving Ophelia. About how, at adolescence (or in my case, much earlier) so many girls go from being Tom Sawyer to being Becky Thatcher. They lose themselves in an attempt to become socially acceptable (an impossible task even without the religious restrictions). They become “female impersonators”. I don’t know if that resonates with you or not, but it sure did with me.

    And another book that really spoke to my experience, this time my experience with losing my religion, is Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd. She was, like me, raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment and eventually realized that it just was not working. Her journey was a long one, as mine has been, and of course we continue to revisit things again and again, each time from a different perspective and with more insight.

    • Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ll definitely check them out. I’ve read another by Sue Monk Kidd and liked it as well. As for anger, I’m making a conscious choice to let the anger go, with mixed results depending on the day.

  17. Helene

    Charlene,
    You’ve given me an expression I’ve been looking for my entire adult life, but couldn’t find. Women have so excoriated themselves, they’re not women, they are “female impersonators.” Thank you. Signed, a permanently lapsed Episcopalian. (I still miss the smells and bells. But it’s over. )

  18. Hi Helene, and welcome to the blog…
    You’ve highlighted an aspect of Charlene’s post that I’ve taken the time to review again and it’s given me pause. The idea of a “female impersonator” is intriquing and really hits home for me….the wheels are turning 🙂 Thanks and please visit again.

  19. annie

    stephanie,I felt very touched by what I read.You are a courageous woman.Faith is not about labels.We question, we have doubts in time we will find answers inshallah.Life is tough for thinking people.Ipray for you. Annie

  20. Jude

    I love your blog. You are a smart and strong woman, I too wondered how someone as smart as you could convert to Islam .

    Sorry to hear about your marriage, I hope all for the better. I hope you got custody of your children and raise your girls to be like you .

    Do you, as an ex-convert, feel that you have a duty towards women out there who are targeted by dawahgandists ? I’m saying this because I just stumbled upon a blog by a new convert whose husband has taken another wife and it broke my heart reading how she is trying to justify it in spite of her pain, and all the comments telling her to be patient. I think that Internet is a great tool to help these vulnerable women, I know it helped in my case although I’m still closet-apostate due to my living in a strict muslim country. I would have helped too but writing isn’t my thing as you can tell LOL. And like you I hate the moderate muslim blogs and feel they are deceiving women.

    You can at least keep this blog up and running even if you decide to stop writing , and I hope you never will stop.

    • This is one of the sweetest comments I’ve ever recieved and I think your writing is lovely 🙂

      I don’t know that I feel I have a duty to any particular person or woman, per se. I don’t know that I’m looking to fight some battle or crusade (pardon the expression). I just want to put my story out there and I do hope it helps someone or at least gives them pause and gets them thinking.

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