You Down With G-O-D?


When I went through rush (the process of becoming a sorostitude) they told us there were three things you don’t talk about: Booze, Boys, and Bible.  Well, guess what? Farrah and I have really outdone ourselves covering Boys and Booze (Check it out here). Time to talk Bible.

or more specifically, for me, Quran.

or Koran.

Whether you Q it or K it, if you’re Muslim, you gotta revere it. and if youre not, lucky you don’t have to follow all its rules– cause trust me, there’s a lot.

Now- I want to warn all my lovely joons that what I write about is my own experience, and by no means, am I trying to represent every Iranian Muslim girl of my generation. If anything, I want you guys to read, be entertained, laugh out loud at the expense of Saaghi, and then go about your day. CAPISCHE? COOL. I’m trying to avoid a Rushdie Fatwa here. Thanks.

I grew up with pretty religious Shi’ite parents. The practicing kind, the pray 3 times a day, fast, and attend mosque- kind. Islam felt as connected to my identity, as my Iranian heritage. Nowrouz was a traditional haft-seen ( I ain’t explaining that sorry) along with a prayer from the Quran.

When I was 5, I would dream about Prophet Mohammed and Imam Ali. I even made up this notion that some Imam was under our apartment. Morbid child, I know. but I was rather obsessed with the religious themes that surrounded me– the stories, the symbols, the Prophets, and of course, Allah/GOD.

Every child is scared of God, right? And every child attempts to picture God. For me, Allah was a very big black man (dont ask) and he meant business. His voice was thunderous and he watched from up in the clouds. My parents always told me that God sees and hears everything— even your thoughts– and this REALLY freaked my 5 year old self out.

Uh OH could God see that I ate candy before bedtime?

Or could he hear me thinking about stealing crayons from school?

Or see me making my Barbies kiss? 

The habit of questioning and monitoring my thoughts lasted well into my teenage years. Of course, when I was 13 I didn’t think God was a black guy and Muhammad a cloaked sidekick-ish figure–but I had Allah on the brain. I didn’t drink, I prayed like my parents, I went to Sunday School, learned Quranic Arabic, and even memorized part of it. I participated in a Quran Reciting competition– and I won bitches.

But fo real, my friends now would probably never recognize the young girl that I was.

So what changed? How’d I go from Sunday School prodigy to writing about Sex & Fessenjoon?  Nothing. Nothing changed and that was the problem. You see,

Islam failed me. Just as it is failing this new generation.

My religious leaders failed to update with the times, failed to accommodate modernity, and failed to live up to their promise of being learned. They lost me from the moment they stopped caring about understanding me as a believer, and instead just wanting to keep count.

The Islam I was presented with didn’t meet my needs, didn’t explain itself, and definitely did not rationally explain its rules and guidelines. By the time I was 15, I decided I was too intelligent to blindly follow something that didn’t even connect to me.

Sundays I’d be hearing my local akhoond (mullah) telling me (and other students) that listening to Music was bad, haraam. Then, during the week at school, listening to Eminem– I’d think, well, Marshall Mathers understands me more then God ever will. Listen, Quran, if you transcend time, why the HELL am I not understanding wtf you’re saying?

You could say that I was presented with an extreme version of Shi’ite Islam– prohibiting music, sex, alcohol, HALLOWEEN (I’m not kidding), and other aspects of life (especially Western life) that become inevitable. And my parents were quick to discourage the extremism, they just sent me to religious Sunday school for the sake of keeping some religion alive in their kids.

Yet, my Sunday school, and the ‘Islam’ around me isn’t unique. Its everywhere. It’s the standard.

The moderate Islam that we see being PR’ed today, the ALL-AMERICAN-MUSLIM — that’s the exception. And in fact, in some circles, that moderate Islam doesn’t even count– its a pick-and-choose-what-you-like form of religion. CAFETERIA MUSLIM.

I know Islam gets a bad rep nowadays, especially with assholes like Bin Laden, and by no means am I trying to continue the hate or Islamophobia here. I am not saying Islam is an oppressive religion.

I am saying that Shi’ite Islam is a religion that resembles an oligarchy. Distribution of information is in the hands of the few ‘learned’ men that study in Qom or Najaf. 

Its almost like the French Aristocracy– people starving in the streets, while Marie Antoinette tells them to eat Cake. These men, Grand Ayatollahs, who interpret the Quran (and basically set the rules for Shia Muslims) are  cut off from the reality of their followers. And the consequence of that?


Hypocrisy, something Iran

What I have seen my religion do to my peers, the young people in the West, is breed hypocrisy (which I think is the real gateway drug). and a massive amount of it. Let me explain how:

If you grow up with MTV and go to high school in the U.S., you’re going to know more about sex, drugs, and alcohol then your parents did. If you’re curious to try any of the above things– bad news>>Sorry about it guys, but here’s the deal. If you call yourself a Shi’ite Muslim and you drink Alcohol– that is a sin. If you have sex before marriage, it is a sin. If you want to attend your white friend’s pool party, and youre a boy or girl– you better be covering your ‘adornments’.

These are the rules as they are presented to us.

I don’t want to get into any philosophical debates on what the Quran and Muhammed really meant with the Hijab, or if Islam is really against alcohol. I’m looking at the facts of today–Shia Islam as it is practiced TODAY by the older generation, and TAUGHT to the younger generation.

What ends up happening is, we’re forced to choose or be hypocrites. For me, given my personality and personal curiosities– it came down to– you can either be a Muslim or you can live as you like. I have had countless friends decide they can have their cake and eat it too– Up in the clubs on friday, sitting quietly in the mosque on Saturdays. Active sex lives and pork-eating habits until Ramadan hits. But, where’s the truth in that? Is religion about faith or about following rules?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to scream during mourning for Imam Hussein that I LOVED SEX & LONG ISLAND ICED TEAS, but I couldn’t sit there and pretend that I was crying for an Imam who was slaughtered to save a religion I was basically defying and desecrating with my actions.

I couldn’t cheapen Islam, and I wouldnt practice it unless I could stay true to it.

Now you can turn around and tell me– that doesn’t have to be Shia Islam. Really? Find me a legitimate Shia cleric that will condone downing shots of Belvedere  and enjoying premarital sex, and I will dedicate all my Saturdays to the Mosque.

My problem with it isn’t that I’m not allowed to drink or have sex or wear miniskirts–thats just the surface– its that I don’t understand why I have to adopt certain lifestyle choices that a) were written centuries ago b) have NO bearing on my belief in GOD or ability to be a good person.

GUESS WHAT? I can give Zakaat, 10 percent of my income, to the less fortunate– tell the truth and take care not to hurt others or cheat them of anything EVEN if I get SHWAAASTED ON fridays.

and GUESS WHAT ELSE? I COULD also read my prayers (namaaz), fast for Ramadan, and memorize the Quran– AND STILL BE A SHITTY LYING CHEATING PERSON!

One has no bearing on the other, in my opinion.

Anyone Muslim reading this could feel differently– maybe you found harmony in your life between religion and reality, and I commend you for it. My beef is not with you who choose to be religious or practicing Muslims, my issue is with our so-called ‘leaders’.

Why do I have to pay for their failure? Religion is so highly connected with culture, but as a young Muslim in America I was forced to choose and this meant abandoning part of my identity because I wanted to deviate from the rules.

Now I’m no religious expert or theologist but after my teenage self felt so neglected by my religion, I decided to do a bit of research on the real story behind Islam. I’m not going to get into a ‘History Of Islam’ here, but let me just say– in my own way, I had to find peace with my religion. The answers I found are my own, and give me that sense of harmony.

Bismillah-ir-Rahmaneh–JUST KIDDING Joonies.

I’ve ranted long enough.

Bored? Am I an Infidel too?

Or want to tell me about your experiences with YOUR religion–whether its Islam, Baha’ism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism–etc!!! I really would love to know :)



Ya Allah,

saaghi  ساقی

P.S. not to get repetitive but EVERYTHING ABOVE IS MY OWN OPINION. thanks.

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  1. I didn’t understand the point of this post. I’m Muslim and Iranian in the US. I don’t drink and I’m not really tempted to. Alcohol has bad affects for your health and is the cause of so many social problems, I think that’s why its prohibited. It has nothing to do with being a better person. Islam is a lifestyle..rules are set up to protect the individual as well as keeping the overall health of a society.
    Akhoonds don’t control knowledge, people are more than welcome to get up and go do their own research. I understand where you are coming from though, Islam is represented through cultural means. I feel like the issues raised by clergymen are issues that are deemed important by that culture (in our case government) so Islam is misrepresented.
    Now when you say that you have to adopt certain lifestyle choices from centuries ago, what exactly are you referring to?

    • Hi Sara!

      Thanks for reading :) I really respect your decision to practice Islam and follow its rules.
      But people are different. My upbringing, where I grew up, and all the people around me had a huge influence on the way I perceived and grew to understand my religion– I’m sure the case was similar for you–so its not surprise that we have come to two different conclusions.
      TO further elaborate on my point about ‘rules’ and how they isolate young muslims (and this again is my personal opinion): Islam defines itself as being the one true word of god–no edits, no human meddling–and its, as you said, a lifestyle. Now, this is a contradiction in and of itself. If you adopt the guidelines of a lifestyle that has seen no reform, you are rejecting any validity to the concept of ‘modernity’. Its the same as if I use candles and gas lights when electricity has already been invented. Thats what the Amish do, and guess where they live? IN isolation.

      Islam, the religion as it is presented and taught today, condemns the youth to the same.

      You must understand that there is no version of Islam that allows for flexibility. There is no ‘Reformist Islam”. For young people who have found compromise and harmony, they are practicing the Islam they have personalized for themselves, and no ‘akhoond’ would condone it.

      Either way, its cool to agree to disagree :)

      – Saaghi

      • Why would you think there isn’t any reform? The rules set up and discussed by akhoonds are not exactly the same as those that akhoonds would say like several hundred years ago. If you look at the rulings and resaleh of religios scholars even decades ago you’ll see there are lots of differences with the rulings of today’s akhoonds. Not to mention akhoond be akhoond fargh mikone lol Islamic rules and laws are based on study and interpretation. As time passes by and we gain more life experience we’re going to have different interpretations of the same hadiths, quranic verses, etc.And at the end of the day its a personal relationship between you and God/religion, not akhoond. It’s up to you to decide what you think is right and wrong, and to be sincere about your decisions (which can be so hard to do sometimes lol)
        Islam presents a direction for its followers but much of it is vague leaving people room to use their own heads to interpret things. Just like any historical book, thing also have to be put in context. I don’t know, that’s how I view it. There is a difference between Islam and Sonnati Islam. I was lucky to be raised in a religous but non-traditional family.

  2. Saw this on Twitter and was curious. I am a member of a “weird” religion, weird as in does fit in at all with the modern American lifestyle. I think that’s one of the reasons that I find Islam so interesting; it’s kind of similar to the displacement I feel all the time. I came to religion as an adult, so now, having chosen it, I’m pretty hardcore. I saw everything in the college years, not just drinking and drugging, but everybody screwing ENDLESSLY, “experimenting” with sexuality, and then the best part of course, ROCK N’ ROLL! And I guess I sort of rejected it. I still like the music, and I’m in one of the few conservative religions where drinking is cool, but I no longer think of a religions “rules” as oppressive, but they make sense to me. I want to follow them for myself, not for culture, family, or clergy. And of course, you can deviate from the rules and still want to please God (I think, I don’t want to speak for Islam.) Ultimately, I think I follow “the rules” because they seem to me to be a good model for how to live. And yeah, it does get very complicated and conflicted, but that’s the nature of our earthly existence, I guess.

    • Very interesting Susanna!

      It is true that the perception of a convert to Islam is very different from someone born and raised in that religion. This is true for all religions.

      And you pinned the nail on the head with “very complicated and conflicted, but that’s the nature of our earthly existence”

      Thanks for your feed back!


  3. “I couldn’t cheapen Islam, and I wouldnt practice it unless I could stay true to it.”
    “and GUESS WHAT ELSE? I COULD also read my prayers (namaaz), fast for Ramadan, and memorize the Quran– AND STILL BE A SHITTY LYING CHEATING PERSON!”

    these two statemetns resonated with me–i don’t drink, nor do i believe in pre-marital sex, but i didn’t give up on living in the west and enjoying things like halloween and also managing to squeeze in my prayers (not all of em but whatever i could)–i couldn’t be a hypocrite—i couldn’t pray and then lie and cheat people—i just couldn’t—-i have struggled in my journey as trying to be a practicing muslim but seeing hypocrites around me all the time:)

    kudos to u for having the courage to speak up what your hearts have experienced—i know i say blasphemous things often, but putting them on a blog would mean serious evidence against me on the day of judgement;) (lol)

  4. Sara,
    That is exactly what she is saying. She was a practicing Muslim as a young girl, not knowing the meaning behind the practices.

  5. Taraneh says:

    Saaghi joon,

    I just want to say that your background and upbringing sounds so interesting to me. My parents have always prayed and went to Mecca and are pretty devoted Muslims but have never ever told us to pray or eat halal or refrain from drinking etc (my first time wasted my dad was like “aww she’s so cute!” To my boyfriend at the time -and my dad doesn’t drink at all) so you can imagine my upbringing was different and I have been told a great deal about balance, peace, Zen Buddhism, genuine kindness for everything and everyone, etc growing up and have just recently decided and devoted myself to praying – I still drink and go out… I just feel like one thing my parents have always emphasized is that even in the Koran it says to move with your time… My mother never fails to pray but may do it with nail polish. I guess some people would disagree with this style of living but I believe that my parents have had me learn Islam through Molana’s spiritual connection more than what any particular akhoond says. So I don’t know- I just hope it’s not bad that I’m kind of a cafeteria Muslim? I just feel like reform doesn’t necessarily have to be a top-down process… Maybe you can start on your own? Find a middle path that serves your mind, body, and soul (if you believe in it).

    But I have always felt how you do too… I don’t like (in general) someone telling me how my spiritual path should be from a stage or podium … I think it’s entirely internal and personal but the rules do have a reason – some of them outdated (like eating pork back in the day wasn’t a bright idea because of all the ailments — but now the conditions are pretty sanitary) so maybe find the reason behind the rules and decide if they’re still relevant or not. You clearly know a lot more about Islam than I do so I’d love to hear your take on my long rant.

  6. Well I don’t follow a religion. But I have read the Quran and I think its a very beautiful book. The problem is that the mullahs and people before them have used the book and interpreted it in a way that it could be used as a vehement for power and control. In the Quran, there is absolutely nothing written about music being prohibited. Nothing written about wearing the hijab. It all falls under interpretation because that’s what is the problem.


  1. […] The way I feel about religion is the way I feel about myself during Puberty. Hate it, but can’… […]

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