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