After starting this blog, visiting numerous forums, and talking to some people in my life about possibly converting, I’m worried about something. A very dear, very wise person said to me, “If you want to be part of a religion, that’s fine. But don’t half-ass it or make a joke out of it”. This was also following a conversation about a mutual friend who considers himself Jewish, but eats bacon and only practices on holidays… but still claims to be “more Jewish” than other friends who are Jews in name only.
I have read so many conflicting things about what it means to be Muslim. Then there are the different sects, each of whom is convinced is the only correct path. The Quranists, for example, believe the only correct Muslim path is the Straight Path outlined in the Quran, but they are a tiny minority. The big sects have their own beliefs too, legitimized by centuries of evolving tradition. The Islam that I want to follow is that which is outlined in the Quran, not the traditions that sprung up after… but is that really Islam? Islam today has pillars and special hygiene rules and religious figures to inform me of what I should believe… perfectly legitimate religious practices, but not what drew me to Islam… the Quran did that all by itself.
I want to call myself “Muslim”, but is that an accurate definition of how I understand Islam vs. how the majority of Muslims see it? Words label us, and that can be a good thing: it provides a sense of safety and understanding. But if I label myself a Muslim, what if all I am doing is confusing and alienating others who hold their Islam dear and don’t want some newb coming in and shaking up definitions? How compassionate is it to piss people off with just one word?
Originally, I thought that if people born into a religion can question it, then maybe converts can too. But maybe thats too simplistic, or even just misses the point. I want to be Muslim to be closer to God and to be a better person… just studying Islam has already made me a better person in small but significant ways: I care less about makeup, I’m letting negative emotions go more often then I used to, I’m being more considerate of others, I’m placing more value on my family… the list goes on. My motivation to become Muslim was not to simply give myself a new label. And if that label creates animosity and confusion in others when I apply it to myself, maybe its a bad idea to use it at all. The flip-side, of course, is that if I keep this label and re-define it for myself I won’t be alone – many Muslims are re-examining what it means to be Muslim. They are a small group and maybe they could use one more person to re-define the label. But is that a religious imperative, or a political one?
Anyways, thats what I’m musing about. Do I continue here, a Muslimah-to-be, or do I become something else? Blue-Eyed Monotheist just doesn’t have the same ring to it…