Now i'm gonna attempt to summarize my relationship with religion in the 25 i've been on this Earth, naturally i won't get everything i wanna say down in just this blog. but here we go...
Now my life has gone like this, I was born on October 18th, 1986 in Minnesota, USA. At the age of 2 I moved to Saudi Arabia and I lived there consistently barring vacations until 1999. There are a couple of things I should note about my life growing up there. It was there that I learned to hate the religious police, I was never at the end of their wrath or ire but I remember seeing them do stuff. I remember once they came to my neighborhood block, think of it as an urban neighborhood cul de sac but with the island being the local mosque. I remember the mutawa came in their SUVs and blocked each entrance and knocked on everyones doors to go to prayer, I dont remember the reason, and I just remember them doing this.
I remember standing across the street from the Russian mall and seeing an old mutawa man sitting on the steps with a whipping stick, at that moment I thought nothing of him, but then this thin young woman walks up and the wind blows, her abaya blows off a bit and showing off her designer jeans underneath, and I remember seeing this old man start yelling at her "shame on you! Shame on you!" and whipping her few times on her back. This wasnt just a yelling, it wasnt father and daughter or anything else, just this old religious guy whipping a stranger girl whose fault was that the wind blew her abaya. That image seeing it first hand still sticks with me today, and I must have been maybe like 8.
I went through the Saudi public education system for all but 1.5 years of my consistent living in Saudi. In there they got Quran classes. At one point I could memorize and recite the book back and forth, I got awards in excellence for the religion courses. Remember family throwing a party in my home, my grandma came all the way, on a 2 hour trip to celebrate this, and she never left her home.
By 1999 my family moved to the USA because my father got an assignment with the oil company in Houston, and I lived there for 3 years. At the time my mothers health was failing and she needed a pacemaker and she went to Mayo clinic in Minnesota to get surgery, and thankfully she is still alive and well with me and my family to this day. Once my dads assignment was done my father had enough money and investment that he retired and we moved to Minnesota and Ive been there ever since. Ive gone back to Saudi every other summer since then.
Coming to the USA was a period of great deshelling for me, when I went into the American education system I excelled in math, science (odd I know, when you think of Saudi but yes), but I was not good in English. No NOT because I sucked at English, I spoke it fluently thanks to my mom (who is American), and could read and write it just fine. My problem was critical thinking and a bit of lack of imagination. Like many countries in the world, their education system is based on rote not critical thinking. And it took me a while to learn it.
When I took my Arabic classes, it was all based around memorization and recitation. I STILL to this day remember one of the stories: "two boys and their mom live in a farm (Saudi farm is one with a ton of palm trees and they harvest the dates), the two boys run out of the house and run into the farm. They find a beehive and mess with the bees, the bees chase the boys and they run home to their who keps them safe and she makes them *something*.. " but that is the jest of the story. Its very basic child story and I am paraphrasing but you get my point. It was never about what was the lesson here? those types of questions were never asked.
So when I arrived in America to stay in 1999, I was 13 years old. I was ignorant about a lot of things, different religions, different thinking, I remember having a couple of my friends in middle school laugh at me because I had to ask the question what is a condom I really didnt know. And this is before the internet became as big and as user friendly as it is today. So I had a lot of learning and catching up to do.
The first time I ever had my religion challenged was via Televangelists on TV screaming if you dont accept Christ you'll end up in Hell. Now this remark really did shake me as a 13-14 year old young teenager, so I turned to my mom and she offered me a Torah and a Bible, and I tried understanding it from their viewpoint. Because my mother was one who converted herself, so she allowed me to see other texts. I even had an obsession with Greek/Roman mythology tales (still have the books out) to the point my parents were a little scared I believed in those stories. I was just enthralled, thought the stories were so cool and still do. First time I ever met an Atheist was when I was in my first year in high school, he was a French exchange student. I actually remember being perplexed at the notion of living a life in disbelief in God.
Ok. Fast forward to college, in 2004 when I started my college career. I would end up meeting liberals, conservatives, Atheists, Christians, other Muslims, Buddhists. Really the only group I ever had real issues with were argumentative and talk-down Atheists, Christians, and Muslims. Thats why Ive said on the forum I really dislike preachy people, and still do. But at first where I had no real skin for criticism on faith, I was still slowly growing one. It was around this time as well when I started to look deeper into my religion, specifically its hadiths. And as some already know I started not taking them as seriously, in a sense I gave em up. The Quran I still read and have read several times, and I read certain surahs often.
But ok. Lets fast forward to today in 2012. LGBT issue has been the one social issue where Ive made a complete 180 on, and I wrote about that in this blog (though I was obviously wrong about the not being attracted to the same sex part obviously). However I gotta say, ever since I told my mother about the relationship, what at first seemed like cool acceptance has been nothing but guilt tripping about hellfire (so yeah, another thing that I now sympathize LGBT with). Wife beating (actually spousal abuse period), honor killing, and child marriages Ive always abhorred. I remember last time I was in Saudi in 2010 I was in my grandmas house and my little cousin Munira (who was 8) is playing with me (I dragged my Wii from USA along with Mario so the two of us had something to play together), shes very sweet and wicked smart young girl. I remember looking at my dad and saying to him in English (most of my extended family has like basic English understanding) how the hadiths say that Aisha was her age. And I remember seeing the look on his face as it twinced and then he pushed away and ignored it. $hit like that does indeed stay on my mind.
I lost fear of hell/judgment sometime in the mid 2000s, I stopped caring about where Ill end up primarily because reading scripture and Hadith tells me its basically a crapshoot so. As a kid I never believed in the jins, which are one of the considered supernatural creatures/beings in Islam. When I pray I pray for guidance, but I tend to believe that that deity does not give a damn. I find especially in 2012 my religiosity is slipping into basically apathy, indifference. I only care for the things that people do in its name. Yesterday last night, I went out with some very lovely Muslimahs friends (that Ive grown up with) to the Turkish-American Society Center and broke fast and salat there with some of my Turkish friends as well. The entire time I never brought up religion, but I love the sense of community, we have similar interest, we talk about Saudi, we talk about college, video games, the Olympics, the future, work, stuff like that.
And I think introspectively and I dont know where I am in regards to religion and me. Am I just a secular Apatheistic culture Muslim (all those labels -_-)? Because when i think Muslim, i gravitate towards the community aspects by far the most and i think of all the friend and loved ones i have that are Muslim. I find prayer relaxing, but i don't feel like i am connecting with God. As an ex-girlfriend has said to me "you have a very cold attitude towards religion".
Recently I was at home with the family, my mom and dad and my brother Khalid were talking about his med school. How he has to study really hard to do well on his MCAT exams this September. My mom in the last two years has become VERY religious (more so than my dad, who is Saudi), kept pressing about pray to Allah to help you do well, and she kept pressing it. I interrupted and said "if I were you I would sit here and focus on the books." I get the response "what do you mean you dont believe in prayer" I responded As "I think, study first, pray second" mom and dad literally gasp outloud (my dad's eyes almost buldging) and mom responds "you act like you dont have faith in God."
And I cant help but remain silent.