My experiments with Islam
Just read the comments of any online news article under bomb blast or harassment of women in Muslim nations, what you find is that most of the non Muslims look at Islam as a religion filled with sexists and fanatics and they declare Islam as the reason behind it. I believe an average human being cannot and does not think beyond it. There rests the problem. He CANNOT think and he NEVER tries to think.
Being a born Hindu, I honestly don’t know what Ramayana or Bhagavad Gita talks about. I have never read them and I am neither ashamed of it nor proud. Living with the atheists has made me an agnostic. I love questioning things and call myself an iconoclast. I didn’t quite realise that this attitude would not be encouraged in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, I managed to find some answers.
I lived with an Afghan family for few days and consider that as my privilege. Not many foreigners would dare to live outside their guest house in Kabul. Similarly I too had my fears. Eventually I decided that I will be living with them and it turned out to be phenomenal!
The family with whom I stayed was very religious. It was all new for me as I had never lived in a Muslim household before. Their way of living and accepting things was very different than mine. I always questioned them on personal freedom and liberty. I asked the girls if they ever wanted to go out and see the world. They bluntly said, ‘No, we cannot go because we are not supposed to go. Our customs doesn’t let us go’. They said they can go out of the country only with a man and never alone. They never interacted with a stranger. These are just their fundamental practices which I observed.
As the days passed my interest in knowing Islam grew large and I started asking what I call the ‘provocative questions’. I questioned about the Prophet and his principles. I asked ‘why is that a Muslim man can have 4 wives at a time and women are not supposed to practice it? Why haven’t you questioned it yet? How can you share your spouse with somebody else?’ For most of my questions theyÂ didn’tÂ have any answer because of two reasons.
1. TheyÂ couldn’tÂ answer me in English
2. Simple, theyÂ didn’tÂ know!
Yes, theyÂ didn’tÂ know. As I have figured out, that is the problem of majority of Muslims. They don’t know what the Holy Quran speaks of. People at my work place were far more informed than the family with whom I lived. An officer there explained to me, “It is a tragedy that we ourselves don’t know what the Quran preaches. Illiterate people blindly believe what the Mulla (head of a Mosque) says. I am not stating that all Mullas are degenerated men. But what some of them preach is not true Islam. The Taliban corrupted them and is still doing the same”. In addition to this I would like to add a bit what the MP had told me. She said, “During the elections, my opponents bribed a Mulla and asked him to tell people that I am a Christian and thus should not vote me. I just could not accept it. You know what I did? I bribed another Mulla to say that I am a true Muslim and whatever the other Mulla is talking is untrue”. It sounds funny but the gravity of the matter is severe. I believe that the Mullas are being used as pawns for fulfilling selfish political ambitions and also by some men who want to live with their superiority unchallenged. Whatever the intention may be, the life of a commoner is being affected, especially that of women.
The officer continued, “I guess you don’t know what Islam is. According to me it is the best of religions. We have only one God that is Allah. Our religion gives equal status to women. Immediately after the death of Prophet Mohammad an election took place to choose his successor. Women were given the right of voting. I think Islam is the first religion to let women elect. All women participated and choose our leader Ali. Talking about women let me tell you that, Prophet Mohammed never had 9 wives at a time. He got married only when he lost a wife. Besides he wanted the Muslim population to increase rapidly as it was a new religion and that’s why he asked men to marry another woman only with the consent of the first wife. If the wifeÂ didn’tÂ consent he could not marry”.
“We have a custom where we pay Mahr (bride price) as a token of respect. She can claim it whenever she wants. This is way of showing our love and respect to women. The expenses of marriage always lay on the man. The Quran doesn’t tell a man to punish woman or hurt her. It has never told people to kill another for the sake of religion. It hurts me to tell that Islam is being viewed as a dangerous religion when in fact people who call it dangerous never try to know the true essence of it”.
“I have 3 girl children at home. I don’t want to marry again, I never will. I love my wife and children. I have worked in Kabul during Taliban and I am still working. I know what they did to women. The practices which they left behind haunts me like a scar. I want all my children to study well. I want my girls to be independent. With all these ideals I am still a Muslim. I am ashamed to tell you that even I have not read whole of the Quran. I only practice whatever I have read”.
He told me that I should be careful when I talk about religion. Although his answers were not convincing to me, he was right. I was always being guided by what I heard about Islam and had hardly attempted to search for the truth. However I must assert that I was never judgemental. I am not a religious person and probably that is the reason I never tried to link religion with my perspectives. I failed in accepting the fact that religion is nothing but a way of life. It has greater things to talk about and not just God.
After a lot of pondering over the issue I have come to the conclusion that, no matter if you are an Atheist or Agnostic or anybody who is a non believer or a believer, you have to know what all religions stands for. Not because you believe in God or you don’t, it’s because you have to know what you are, where your practices come from and most importantly to know how the society works. I have decided that I will read Quran and also Bible and Bhagavad Gita. It’s not because I want to start believing in God, it’s just because I want to know my people well. Everything in this world stands on a belief, the kind of belief I saw in Afghanistan has finally let me to take up something which I always uncared-for.Spiritus International Trust‘ wherein we are working on areas like Education, Health, Legal awareness to general public etc.Â I have always wanted to work in the area of Human Rights. Grave violation of Human Rights and Conflict are the reasons behind my interest in Afghanistan.Â To read other posts,Â click here.[/box]