Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feeling vs. Logic

I was just reading this lovely post by Sarah, and it got me reminiscing about the day I decided to be a Muslim. My dad's Muslim so technically I was born a Muslim, but I didn't really call myself one until the day I began praying, in April last year.

I had always tried to approach Islam (and religion in general) from a logical point of view. How do we know God exists? How do we know the Qur'an is authentic? How do we know Islam is the true religion? I used to have endless discussions (*ahem* arguments) with friends about these topics. They would always win. I realized I never had a good enough argument as to why God/Islam were not real. As many books and articles as I read about these issues, I never really found an argument that a friend couldn't refute.

It still wasn't enough though. There was a point where I realized God did exist, and Islam was real, but where I felt I wasn't ready to become a Muslim yet. Soon after this I figured out what was stopping me: a feeling. I didn't feel God or Islam. This is really hard to describe. I just suddenly knew that when I got that feeling, I would be ready to become a Muslim. I wasn't sure when I would get it, or how to speed up the process of getting it, but I just knew that it wasn't about logic anymore. I was convinced in my head. (I'm not going to say "I just needed to be convinced in my heart" cause it sounds unbearably corny and Hollywoodish. Although I did just say it. Anyway!)

Then one day I got the feeling! I woke up and realized that I wanted to start praying. This was it! I asked a friend to teach me how to pray that night. I got very emotional and started crying halfway through, which lengthened the whole process by an hour, but it was happy crying so it was all good. After that I said the shahada and went to sleep. The next morning I woke up a Muslim.

Since then I've never looked back. Nothing has been able to turn me away from Islam, simply because I now feel Islam and God in me all the time. There are many things I'm still unsure of, but they haven't made me doubt Islam itself. Logic (and the type of education I had) would have made me turn away when I found out about polygamy, beating (disciplining?) wives, and inheritance in the Qur'an. Feeling made me research it further and understand that there are different interpretations and understandings of these verses. Not once did I doubt God: it was always Muslims who I doubted, and their interpretations.

What was it like for you? Was it a logical/emotional decision to become a Muslim, or both?
Since I grew up with a Muslim parent, I was already exposed to Islam to an extent, although thankfully I was never forced or pressured to be a Muslim until I decided to be. I'm guessing it might be different for someone who wasn't exposed to Islam, for them it might be a combined logic/feeling decision. I'd love to hear everyone's experiences!


Sarah the Seeker said...

Thanks for the shout out!

I think the balance between head and heart seems to be a delicate one. Too much feeling and not enough logic isn't really sustainable, it wasn't for me anyway in my pentecostal phase. I find it hard now to trust my feelings, and so I keep it all rational. I'm afraid even to ask myself what I feel. But then as you say, too much logic without feeling can never convince you to actually commit to religion.

I think of it like chewing and swallowing, chewing meaning thinking about it and swallowing meaning surrendering to it. When you're spiritually hungry, you will "chew" on religion and at a certain point you will decide to "swallow" it. But when you are very hungry, it's tempting to swallow without chewing properly. This can lead to indigestion and if you are unlucky you can even end up throwing it up again. (Sorry that's kind of a gross metaphor in the end!)

Islam seems to encourage a rational approach and to go slowly with it, so that your zeal doesn't run away with your reason, which I think is good. I like the way you did it. I'll be interested to see what others say too.

Anonymous said...

When I took the Shahadah I actually knew just the basics of Islam. I liked how involved religion was in the lives of the Muslims I knew. I think just in the past couple of years I've been questioning things more, but it's made my faith stronger. That's exactly how it is for me - I don't doubt God, but certain interpretations I doubt.

ellen557 said...

This post was lovely <3
There's something about praying isn't there? I agree with you there, I haven't made that conscious decision to be Muslim but I can't stop praying! Hahaha ah dear. I think I too am waiting for the "feeling".

Mrs. S said...

This was such a great post. I think it's so amazing and really beautiful that you chose to be a Muslim and took the time to learn about what Islam means rather than just say you were because your dad is. It's too bad that more "born" Muslims do not take the time to study their deen. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah: it is definitely a balance, too much feeling and not enough logic can be disastrous. I love the whole chewing/swallowing analogy, I feel it sums up any religious experience perfectly.

Thanks for posting :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur: I feel like having the strength to question things will make anyone's faith stronger. Many Muslims are too scared to question anything, and this to me is a sign of weak faith. If you trust in God 100% why not research things that you don't feel comfortable with? If you find out that particular thing is actually in Islam, then you can accept it knowing you researched it first.

Thanks for posting!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ellen: from reading your blog I also think you're waiting for the feeling! I think it's already kind of there, since praying is obviously such an emotional experience for you (as it should be). I hope the feeling grows!

Thanks for posting :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mrs S: thanks for the lovely comment :) I agree, I think if more born Muslims took the time to understand Islam, then we wouldn't have so many cultural beliefs seeping into the religion.

Thanks for posting!

Solace In Islam said...

I agree, it is a balance. There were some aspects of Islam that appealed to my heart, some to my head. And the final decision was easy - heart and head agreed.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Solace: the final decision should definitely mean both heart and head agreeing :) Thanks for posting!

CooL MuslimaH said...


Islam or contenment is all about your connection with Allah and that is through heart not mind..

Until and unless i cry in a dua i don't feel i've made any dua at all..
I feel what you say but can't express it..silly me!

p.s- BTW "postcolonalism" was one of my exam paper and i love this topic and was thinking since months to post about it on my blog.Saw this on your blog tooo..*smile*

.~Cool Muslimah~

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Cool Muslimah: wow, that's great - I too feel that the more emotional I get during prayer the more in touch I was with God.

You should definitely post about postcolonialism! Such an interesting topic!

Thanks for commenting :)

Lisa said...

I love your story of never looking back from Islam habibty. Perhaps that and the balance is what one needs to go forward and remain in the religion.

My decision was all about the women I saw who were outwardly covered. I was reminded of the Mormon church I had run to at 15 with Islam.

My decision was almost entirely based on being close to becoming a conservative Jew, and then deciding not to. The reason: there WAS such a thing as race, as one Jewish lady put it. It would be hard to be a Jew unless I was one by race as well.

So I rode my bike across the street to where there wasn't such a thing as race: the masjid.

I think if I had felt things more and really investigated it all logically, I would have held tight to my deen. Love you lots dear!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Lisa: that's so interesting about the race/Jewish point. I've always wondered about that, since being a Jew often seems like a racial and religious identity. Is it easy to convert to Judaism in general? I heard it's really hard.

Thanks for posting, love you!

Jasmine said...

I was born Muslim, but non-practicing: mainly culture dominated. Then later I awoke with a strong strong desire to pray and change my ways: which I did. Then people (other Muslims) started harrassing me with "you should be doing this, you should be doing that, this invalidates, that invalidates, this person is going to hell, that person is going to hell" and my family were crying all the time because I covered my hair - and then I found myself in a place where nothing is right enough and stopped everything completely. Went back to the drawing board and now I am a muslim in a way where my Islam is in me, my character, actions and beliefs and I will probably not post my islam on my body any time soon - because it attracts a lot of badness which interferes with my faith.
Did I answer the question? Not sure!
It was "in me" (cant really describe) but it took a lot of thinking to find a way that allowed me to be. I don't cover my hair or think I have to, I don't wear abaya or think I have to, I maintain modesty and manners etc etc and all that jazz,and I believe elhandulilah and if I am wrong, I am not wrong from bad intention or influence, but from sincerity of wanting to do what I think is best and not what another tells me to.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine: I think I see Islam the exact same way you do - my views are pretty much the same as yours, word for word!

"now I am a muslim in a way where my Islam is in me, my character, actions and beliefs and I will probably not post my islam on my body any time soon - because it attracts a lot of badness which interferes with my faith."

I can't emphasize how true this is - I also feel like Islam is in me, and that that's how it's supposed to be. I love the way you see Islam, it's VERY refreshing!

Thanks for posting :)

Umm Omar said...

Lovely post. It's so nice to learn more about you and your experience. I was raised Muslim, but there was definitely a day when I chose Islam for myself. For me, too, it was a combination, but it started with feeling and then led to more serious thinking.

Jasmine said...

Aww, thanks Cairo ;0)! It IS really nice when you speak your belief and you dont get chewed up and spat out for it, sister vibes coming at you! Jasmine xx

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Umm Omar: I think choosing Islam for yourself makes all the difference!

Jasmine: thanks sister :D I'm glad I found you :P It's hard to find fellow Muslimahs that feel the way I do so when I come across one it's great!

sabrina said...

That feeling is only from Allah (swt) as He is the the turner of the hearts. Subhanallah, he chose you out of so many. So happy you're happy, and that you found peace:)

kizzie said...

It's funny the other day this thought came to mind, I remember when we used to go to St.Andrews and we got there really early and we were about to go up the stairs and you told me I don't really believe in God. I was a bit surprised, but it made me more interested to get to know you. Looking back, I can't help but think...damn..you've been through a lot and I'm happy to be part of this journey!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sabrina: thanks, that's very sweet! Hope you're settling down in Cali and like it :)

Kizzie: wow, can't believe you remember that! It was like 2 years ago...so much has changed since then!

julie said...

Jasmine & Cairo:
so it's not just me then? :D Very encouraging. You are both very clear thinkers and writers masha'Allah!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Julie: it's always nice to see opinions like your own, especially when they don't tend to be common! Thanks for the compliment and for posting :)

G said...

Well, firstly I love your blog. I have been reading a lot of your posts for over 2 hours now. As you know I have had problems identifying myself as a Muslim too. In fact I would say I am still having them. It is so refreshing to hear from someone who came from the same background and it gives me hope that one day I will also get that feeling in my heart.

Seriously amazed at this blog Sara!