You Said It

I Want to Believe

I have three main beliefs: science, feminism, and Allah. I still haven’t reconciled them.

Illustration by Cynthia

To say that I’m confused about religion would be an understatement. In just the past few years, I’ve gone from Muslim to agnostic to super-religious Muslim to now…when I don’t really know what I am. Sometimes I feel like I should just forget about God and make a shrine to John Green and worship him instead.

I grew up in Pakistan, where almost everyone is a Muslim. My parents are Muslims, as are most of my friends, neighbors, teachers, and relatives. I went to a secular school in Karachi, but some of my teachers frequently gave religious lectures, and we’d start each day by reciting verses from the Qur’an. I was raised Muslim too, and for most of my life I never questioned the existence of God. I had been taught to believe, and I did—until I was around 14.

That was when I started having doubts about God. Where did he come from? Why did he create this world? All faiths say they are the one true religion, so who’s right and who’s wrong? These questions bothered me more and more with each passing day.

At the same time, I was getting really into science, which teaches me not to accept anything as true without solid proof. I like graphs and statistics and test results—things that are objective and quantifiable. I want detailed reports published in reputable scientific journals. I want full disclosure. I’m a fan of the scientific method.

And you know what is probably the most unprovable thing in the whole world? The existence of God/Allah/a higher power. Faith in God is necessarily blind faith, which cannot be quantified, and my science-loving brain does not like that at all. Believing in something with no proof makes me feel like an idiot, a fool. I would never believe in paranormal activity or hypnosis, so why should God be any different?

By the time I turned 15, I had become a total agnostic. But this didn’t sit well with me, either. Agnosticism is at heart a belief in uncertainty, and I like being absolutely certain about what I believe. I found that when I didn’t believe in God, I didn’t believe in anything—I couldn’t make sense of the suffering that I saw around me, and I just felt scared about life. This led to a full-blown existentialist crisis: I thought the world was absurd and meaningless and that nothing was real and that maybe it would be best if everyone just died and the world ended.

At 17, desperate to re-establish some meaning in my life, I enrolled in some orthodox Islamic classes. Fundamentalist Islam is nothing if not certain, and this kind of absolute faith calmed me, for a time. During this period, I refused to talk to guys and threw away all my CDs (OK, I just packed them into boxes—let’s not get extreme!), because fundamentalists interpret the Qur’an as forbidding music as well as friendship between unrelated women and men (you’re not even supposed to make eye contact with the “opposite” sex). I followed all the rules zealously, thinking the more of them I abided by, the closer I’d get to God.

After a month of super-strict religious adherence, I started to hate God. I thought he was harsh and sexist and that his rules were ridiculous and arbitrary. I was miserable without my music and without any fun in my life (I had decided that fun was sinful too, and that God would punish me for having it). In my desperation to find God, I had embarked on a rigid path that made me feel less connected to him, and to myself.

Most devout Muslims consider it a fard, or obligation, for all women to wear some kind of headscarf, and I did try, during this period, to wear a hijab. Now, I think it’s important to point out that the hijab is not the tool of oppression that most non-Muslims think it is. A lot of moderate Muslims wear the hijab too, by choice, and many fundamentalist Muslims are total feminists—in fact, for some Muslim feminists wearing the veil is a feminist act.

By this point in my life I’d started identifying as a feminist, and I’d read so many stories by and about women who had found strength in the hijab. I was especially inspired by the example of Yvonne Ridley, a journalist who wrote about how wearing one liberated and empowered her by preventing people from judging her on her appearance. I thought it might free me, too.

I dug out one of my regular old scarves and asked a friend to show me how to fashion it into a veil. The moment I finished tying it around my head, I burst into tears. I felt hidden, confined, restricted. I cried again when my father laughed upon seeing me in my new garb. (My parents were, and still are, moderate Muslims. Moderates are guided by a more liberal interpretation of the Qur’an than fundamentalists are—they pray and fast but don’t believe that wearing the hijab or following extreme strictures like complete segregation of men and women is necessary.) I cried all the way to school, where everyone gawked when I walked in—the self-proclaimed agnostic who frequently called out sexism within Islam was now a hijabi? One of my friends even came up to me and told me to stop pretending. And the thing was, she was right. I was pretending. I had always hated it when Muslims said stuff like “a woman’s modesty is her beauty”—it feels like an attempt to control women, to keep us hidden and ashamed of our physical beings.

And that’s how I felt in my makeshift hijab—not liberated but constrained. It became yet another thing that made me feel distant from God, so I stopped wearing it after just five days.

I know a lot of Westerners see Islam as a misogynistic faith, and it can be, just like Christianity or Judaism or Mormonism or really any other organized structure in our patriarchal society. And, just like almost any major religion, Islam is often used to reinforce traditional gender roles—by, for example, putting men in positions of authority over women, teaching that men and women are fundamentally different, and/or telling women to be good wives and mothers, subservient to their husbands/fathers/male family members, so that God will be pleased with them. I can’t get with any organization that would limit a woman’s choices so narrowly. Sometimes I wonder if religion is just a tool that those in power have used over the centuries to oppress and pacify the masses.

On the other hand, it was Islam that gave women the right to work, own property, and divorce all the way back in the seventh century, hundreds of years before the West granted women such freedoms. Some of the best scholars in the early days of Islam were women, like the prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha. The problem is that too many of today’s Muslims dismiss the rights that were given to women from day one.

I’ve come to realize that the Qur’an is like poetry—its meaning changes depending on how it’s interpreted. Patriarchal readings of it will produce patriarchal results, and since I live in a patriarchal culture, those interpretations were mostly what I was exposed to growing up. But scholars like Amina Wadud, Khaled Abou El Fadl, and Leila Ahmed provide interpretations of the Qur’an that are liberal, progressive, and feminist. Their readings make sense to me—a God who created women can’t be sexist.

In the past few years I have had approximately 74,843,458,259 thoughts regarding Islam, God, feminism, and science. I’ve taken courses at Zaynab Academy and Al-Huda, two orthodox Islamic learning centers, and have read endless books of Islamic teachings. I’ve also researched most of the other big religions, but somehow I always return to Islam. That might be because I was raised Muslim, but it’s also the faith that feels best to me when I’m really being receptive to God. When I’m able to let go of my skepticism and believe in him, it is the most empowering, freeing experience ever. When I fast and pray in that state, I do so out of love for, not fear of, God, and prayer nourishes my soul in a way that I can’t rationally explain; I feel a strange joy that is both ecstatic and tranquil, and my heart feels at rest.

Today I find myself wavering between a more moderate version of Islam and agnosticism—between God and science. Despite all my natural skepticism, I yearn for God. I don’t want to be super-religious anymore, but I don’t want to be an atheist either. I just want to connect to a greater purpose.

I’ve found that almost everyone I know has been, at some point, troubled by the same religious doubts and confusion that I’m having. Most of my Muslim friends have doubted God at some point. Even my Islamic teachers, it turns out, aren’t always sure—they’ve just figured out how to deal with their uncertainty more effectively. One of my physics teachers told me that he prays just because he wants to be on the safe side, but that he isn’t positive that God exists.

And I’ve come to believe that Islam and science might actually be compatible. A lot of the early Muslims, like Averroes, Ibn Yunus, and Avicenna were pioneers in the fields of science and medicine. The Qur’an also touches on such topics as embryonic growth and planetary orbits, which suggests to me that even though science can’t prove that God exists, it can be used to explain his creation. I look at everything he made with amazement and awe—everything from a blade of grass to the northern lights inspires a reverential sense of wonder in me and makes me feel connected to a higher power. Science and religion share this sense of awe, and of reverence, for the universe.

I’m also getting more comfortable with the idea of believing in something without seeing proof. After all, everything that science has demonstrated to be true was once totally unproven, but that didn’t make it any less real. And there are a lot of things that science can’t explain, like the placebo effect and why we yawn, but science and religion combined can help provide a better understanding of this universe. I can believe in science and religion at the same time.

I think it might even be possible to balance those beliefs while maintaining every bit of my feminism. I’m hoping this won’t feel like a juggling act, but rather that those three threads can be woven together to make my connections to everything in the universe, and beyond it, that much stronger. When I attended lectures at orthodox Islamic centers, I was surprised by how many of the women there were doctors, and my teacher, a woman who wore the niqab, cited scientific research when explaining the reasons for certain rules in the Qur’an. These women are proof (ha) that I don’t have to stop believing in anything I don’t want to.

I haven’t gotten where I want to be yet. I still have doubts about the existence of God. And I still struggle with some of the more misogynistic strains of Islam. But I’m getting closer. I am still trying to find my way back to him. I know that I will not find him through logic, but by following my heart. I believe it will get me there. ♦

Shanzeh Khurram is an 18-year-old feminist who lives in California and writes for SPARK and The Huffington Post. She loves books, making collages, and John Green.

53 Comments

  • Abby December 27th, 2012 3:20 PM

    This is awesome. You’re awesome. I’m not religious… but this is just awesome.

  • Christi December 27th, 2012 3:22 PM

    Great article! And good luck on your personal journey! :)

  • koalabears December 27th, 2012 3:25 PM

    I love this.

  • puffling December 27th, 2012 3:26 PM

    I am so glad to see this article.

    I know the theme of this month is meant to be Faith, but every time I’ve visited Rookie this December I’ve felt like I’m drowning in Christianity and Jesus!!!

    Shanzeh, I have one question for you – you refer to Allah in your article with male pronouns.

    Obviously that’s the norm for all monotheistic religions and of course God is portrayed as a man in our patriarchal society – but do you believe that to be true?

    I don’t think any God would be constrained by the human invention of gender.

    • indaslicht December 27th, 2012 5:41 PM

      As I’ve learned, Allah is neither male nor female, but is only referred to with male pronouns. I don’t know why, though, but that’s how He is referred to in the Qur’an. I *think* it has more to do with the way the Arabic language works rather than Islam itself.

    • Nomi December 27th, 2012 6:28 PM

      I feel the same way about the Christianity overload! It’s very refreshing to see an article about Islam, especially because so many of my friends are Muslim.

  • spudzine December 27th, 2012 3:27 PM

    From the moment I started reading this article, I knew that I had finally found a blog post that has connected to me deeply. My Dad is from Pakistan, and he also happens to be a Muslim. I was born a Muslim, but I never really questioned my faith, because I didn’t really know what to question. However, I started questioning my beliefs recently when bad things were happening in my life. It’s tough for me to admit this, but I was doubting God. I was doubting Islam, mainly because I started believing in feminism and didn’t understand why there was so much-SO MUCH-sexism going on around me. My father is also very sexist, and laughs at my mention of rights. He laughs as women who wear the things they want to wear, he makes fun of women who participate in stereotypically male activities- he hates everyone. When I was bullied by some boys who happened to be Muslim, my Dad stood up for them, instead of defending his daughter. At the time, I thought-where is HIS peace, his Islam? But now I realize that most of the sexism does not come from the religion, but from the people in it. Not just Islam, but other religions as well. So I thank God that I realized that Islam really is about peace, as well as women’s rights, because I do not have to listen to the men who are self-righteous just because they think Islam tells them to be that way-because it doesn’t. Not at all.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/

    • Isil December 27th, 2012 5:19 PM

      Oh my god, it’s like you are my soul-twin or something. I’m a muslim, too. Not my father, but my mother thinks a little like that. She thinks men has a right to do everything, but we don’t. She thinks men could lost their virginity before marriage, but women can’t. I’ve never argue with my mother about this issue, I always be quiet when she opens this subject. I’m a virgin still, but I don’t think men can lost their virginity because “it’s their requirement, they need to have sex blabla” that’s bullshit. It’s my requirement, too. That’s why girls do masturbation like boys. And if I’m gonna go to hell because I lost my virginity, men should go, too.

      I’m just too angry.

      • spudzine December 28th, 2012 11:38 AM

        It’s okay girl, we’re all in this together.

        I mean my Mom is the same way, keeping quiet when my Dad says anything out of bounds, and she also agrees with whatever he says, even when he’s not in the room, no matter how wrong it is. My Mom’s not even a Muslim, which is the part that really makes me question WHY she stands up for his sexist “Islamic” beliefs. I believe that in Our religion, we are not supposed to have sex before marriage, male or female. But if a Muslim parent was telling their Muslim son to have some Muslim sex, then they should most definitely tell their daughter to do the same. What I don’t get is why our own PARENTS have daughters if they’re just going to make fun of us? Honestly, it’s like I’m only around to be used to higher my parents’ low, low self-esteem. Especially my Dad’s.

        http://spudzine.tumblr.com/

        • Isil December 28th, 2012 5:50 PM

          I don’t get the manner of my mum’s either. She is a Muslim, but she’s not a religious person. Not at all. I think the things she said about virginity and sex is related to her cultural knowledge. She always humiliates western countries because they can have sex whenever they want. People gets close-minded when they starting to get older…

          http://isilnoir.wordpress.com

  • MegW December 27th, 2012 3:36 PM

    I love this. Also… JOHN GREEN! YEAH!

  • Lindi December 27th, 2012 3:50 PM

    This is really, really great. I’m not religious at all but this really connected with me, thank you <3

  • kmb December 27th, 2012 3:52 PM

    What a beautiful post! My best friend and I are arguing because we are both lovers of science, but I believe in God and he does not, and he thinks this makes me less trustworthy as a scientist. I feel that my motives for doing the work – love of the world, desire to help others, and awe in the universe – are the same as his, and my analysis just as rigorous, so why the trouble? This post explores these subjects with detail, grace and openness. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • wiltedrues December 27th, 2012 4:23 PM

    I loved this article at the moment you mentioned John Green! Hahah but its very well written and interesting. I’ve been hoping for more articles about Islam so thank you!

  • atticus December 27th, 2012 5:04 PM

    So much love. I was especially taken by the following lines
    “I know a lot of Westerners see Islam as a misogynistic faith, and it can be, just like Christianity or Judaism or Mormonism or really any other organized structure in our patriarchal society” and
    “I’ve come to realize that the Qur’an is like poetry—its meaning changes depending on how it’s interpreted. Patriarchal readings of it will produce patriarchal results, and since I live in a patriarchal culture, those interpretations were mostly what I was exposed to growing up. But scholars like Amina Wadud, Khaled Abou El Fadl, and Leila Ahmed provide interpretations of the Qur’an that are liberal, progressive, and feminist. Their readings make sense to me—a God who created women can’t be sexist.”

  • Isil December 27th, 2012 5:13 PM

    I’m a Muslim from Turkey, and I really expected an article like that on Rookie because you’re the ones that I trust their words.

    To be honest, I don’t have a ability called empathy. I always think people who don’t think like me are wrong. I’m not gonna say negative things right now please don’t understand these things wrong because I really like to know. I don’t have really religious friends who wear turban, I have some, but I’ve never asked them anything about this because I got afraid that they might find this question mean.

    They’ve always said us that Allah is forgiving, kind etc. and I’ve always thought when I was young “Allah is the BEST!” . And they teach us that Allah is really the best. Then why women think that Allah thinks they are contemptible and lustful, and they should hide them from men because they are evil, they might distract men’s concentration. Why women think like that and hide behind turbans? Why they think nice and kind Allah wants to separate women and men? Shouldn’t Allah has to be equal?

    • rolaroid December 27th, 2012 8:07 PM

      hi isil, i am not muslim (in fact i am armenian) but i have been surrounded by muslims my whole life. as far as i know, and have been told, it is more a cultural thing than religious. if you look back to beyond 30 years ago, many muslims did not wear veils or turbans. particularly in the middle east, wearing the veil became commonplace in iran in the late 70s following the revolution, when the islamist brotherhood took over. even the imam in egypt has said it is a cultural thing, not religious. sometimes certain things are misinterpreted, and in a way it is a sign of freedom for some women and has allowed them to demonstrate their faith and devotion. it is not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Tasya December 28th, 2012 3:54 AM

      As a Muslim feminist, I’ve always had those questions about gender inequality in Islam. Like rolaroid said here, I think it’s just a cultural thing. Because Islam has given women rights, we should be aware of that. It shows that Islam isn’t really sexist.

      And I recently read somewhere on this site that it’s all a matter of balance. Allah created men and women with different qualities and when we are united or married, it works well. However, I’m still confused about homosexuals and those kinds of things. Though I fully support them.

      Another thing, is that if you read the Quran, the prophet Muhammad is always described as gentle and caring, which are usually considered as feminine traits. In fact, growing up, I went to an Islamic school and we were always taught to act like that, whether we are boys or girls. And another thing is that Allah has no gender. We use the pronoun ‘Him/ He’ because of our limited vocabulary as human beings. So in a way, He is equal and fair but we just don’t understand it yet.

      • Isil December 28th, 2012 6:01 PM

        Thank you both for your answers, they are really helpful and I agree with you. I realized it when you said it is more than a religious thing, it’s cultural. Ten or fifteen years ago there are NO people in Turkey who wears turbans. You can only see one or two in the streets. With the governance of a conservative party, people started to get “religious”. Now people force their daughters to wear turban when their hair starts to grow.

        But I still don’t get it. Also there are beliefs like that “you should read Qur’an in arabic”. People reads arabic Qur’an, they learn arabic alphabet just to read it, but they don’t now what it means. I don’t know, maybe they are just too close-minded, or they are too naive and they believe they are doing something religious, or maybe it is really a religious thing (but I don’t think so). I just get sad when I see girls dropped high school, wear turban and read Qur’an in a language they don’t even know, marry when they get 15 years old. I know that they have a lots of potentials but they’re wasting it. Just to pray. They just want the world to stop and they think we shouldn’t do any scientific innovations or so, we should just sit and pray.

        Please don’t get me wrong. I’m so angry about it because I’m living in a so conservative strict in Istanbul, and people’s thoughts are always blocking me.

        http://isilnoir.wordpress.com

  • galaxypirate December 27th, 2012 6:07 PM

    This is so amazing. I want to be your friend.

  • clairee December 27th, 2012 6:08 PM

    I really really enjoyed this article. It’s so refreshing to read about the experience of someone who seeks to understand and learn and think about what she believes on her own, and in such a non-judgmental way. Bravo.

    http://modalityblog.wordpress.com/

  • monabanana December 27th, 2012 6:29 PM

    I loved this article! Being a fifteen year old muslim and wearing hijab, I totally related to that! I believe that wearing hijab is not only a religious act, but also truly feminist!

  • emilykatherine December 27th, 2012 6:33 PM

    this article is amazing! and to be honest this is probably exactly the same as how i feel about a God or a higher power!

  • Marian December 27th, 2012 7:29 PM

    This article is so beautifully written and refreshing. It has given me a totally new presepective on Islam and its belief systems And the fact that up you love John Green made it 1000 times cooler!

  • dharma94ara December 27th, 2012 7:35 PM

    This is a very rare article based on common situations I think a lot of people face. Religion and it’s testimonts can be easy to dismiss and be labeled as sexist. But religion is a lot of times ideas and as you said poetry. It is about interpretation and I think you found the right message.

  • VioletViolet December 27th, 2012 8:11 PM

    Wow, what a great article! I have struggled with my Christian faith and/or lack thereof depending on the time for the past handful of years. I have been all over the spectrum from extremely religious to agnostic to atheist. I just identify as being spiritual now but I do believe there is a higher being (though I think of this being as genderless). I have always identified as feminist, but through the years have been afraid to question patriarchal or sexist teachings and interpretations of the Bible until fairly recently. You’ve given me much food for thought and also helped to push my way a little courage to explore more and read more open-minded interpretations of religious texts. I also loved what you wrote, “After all, everything that science has demonstrated to be true was once totally unproven, but that didn’t make it any less real.”

  • Esme December 27th, 2012 9:27 PM

    Such a brilliant article. I think I’m an atheist (atm!) but I grew up with a lot of Muslim friends and get really frustrated by people’s misconceptions and blind judgments of Islam, and specifically of Muslim women. Sending this link to so many people right now – so honest and informative!

  • 062131 December 27th, 2012 10:21 PM

    Really good article! We have many misconceptions about other cultures and religions so it’s always nice to make everything a bit more clear; while still reading about a human’s experiences and thoughts, instead of, I don’t know, wikipedia.

    “Science and religion share this sense of awe, and of reverence, for the universe.” I love this! I’m not religious but I do feel it. I don’t know if there’s a higher being, but do I even need to? Sometimes I just look around and think, the universe and things are PRETTY COOL.

  • Cactus Woman December 27th, 2012 10:57 PM

    Regardless of what path you choose to take, I still think it would be a good idea to make a John Green shrine. :)
    DFTBA

  • tuntematon December 27th, 2012 11:30 PM

    I love this! :D I try to tell all my friends that Islam isn’t a sexist religion by default. and of course they don’t believe me…

  • cherrycola27 December 27th, 2012 11:32 PM

    I didn’t read past the first two sentences, but JOHN GREEN!
    DFTBA! :) I agree though, we should all make him a shrine.

  • cherrycola27 December 27th, 2012 11:39 PM

    Wow, I really loved this. Powerful.

  • meanderleigh December 28th, 2012 12:57 AM

    I often have the same thoughts about shrines and John Green. This is a really lovely piece you’ve written – your perspective and experience with religion is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Thank you for sharing. DFTBA.

  • Lulu December 28th, 2012 1:34 AM

    This was a really great article, Shanzeh – I don’t really know what I believe in, and I found it really comforting to read about somebody who thinks God and science can co-exist in a persons beliefs.

    Also, I can’t believe how many nerdfighters are on here. This is good, yes :D

  • Afiqa December 28th, 2012 2:08 AM

    I’m a Muslim and 16 years old. I always mix Islam with Science because I kinda have this believe that Allah swt set created the universe so we could study it through science. If He wanted us to just believe in Him and that He created everything without any explanation then wouldn’t it be easier to create humans who don’t think and aren’t curious? And being a good Muslim means being liked by other people because they don’t judge and they don’t feel themselves as perfect or better than anyone else but they just feel happy and gooey in the inside. Islam is a really simple religion and if you watch the religious tv programmes, they won’t make you feel intimidated. They’ll make it seem so easy to live in Islam without feeling restricted at all.

  • llamalina December 28th, 2012 3:04 AM

    I love, love, love this so much. I relate immensely – not so much to being a Muslim, though one of my best friends is Muslim and I try to learn about the culture and religion as much as I can – but to growing up in a strict faith (I was raised Catholic) and juggling agnosticism (and, for me, later atheism) with the ideas that I had believed in so faithfully as a child, simply because I didn’t know anything else. I consider myself an atheist now, but who knows if that’s for forever or just for now. But anyway, I really liked this and your thoughts were just so genuine and I can relate and your struggle is not alone. (:

    http://llamalina.blogspot.com

  • Hropkey December 28th, 2012 3:25 AM

    I love this! I’ve grown up Jewish and I think there’s so much similarity in the way that Jews and Muslims view G-d, for all our differences. And science and religion- oh man, I have gotten so many doubtful looks about my love of science, considering the main career paths I’m planning on taking right now are either ecological planner or becoming a cantor, which is a member of the Jewish clergy. For Judaism at least, the whole point of the religion is that you’re supposed to struggle with it. Being Jewish is not supposed to be easy. That also happens to be why I love it so much.

  • Tasya December 28th, 2012 3:42 AM

    oh my god… this is almost like you’re talking about ME!! Except I was a muslim first, then super religious then agnostic and now a moderate one. My family are all moderate muslims, and I come from a Muslim country (Brunei). A lot of people wear headscarves here and usually it’s the ones who don’t wear them are judged by the rest. I went to an Islamic school as a kid, it’s mandatory for all muslims in this country. I’ve always thought I was the only one who felt this way! Because everyone else seemed to blindly except Islam, I actually still feel guilty for doubting God even for a second. I still think about it though, and our existence and His creations. I don’t pray though, but I want to start, I just keep procrastinating. But I definitely feel closer for some reason because I 100% believe now. The Quran gives me the chills — in a good way! I haven’t finished reading it but it’s so beautifully written that it makes my heart crumple and the things that are talked about are sometimes unreal.

    You’re truly inspiring! Thank you for writing such a wonderful and articulate article. I’m also a feminist and am in love with John Green — he’s the best!

    • hzfa sm April 16th, 2013 4:06 AM

      It’s almost like YOU were talking about ME Tasya!! I’m from Brunei too :D and yes like you I had doubts recently about the existence of God as I was going through a difficult phase in my life and of course I then resort to praying to Allah but inevitably I started questioning His existence but felt extremely guilty afterwards and finally decided that no matter what I should really not question my faith in Islam but really embrace it. You are really right about how everyone else here seem to accept Islam blindly just because we were brought up (almost like forced) to believe in God and Islam not letting us to have room for doubts. Because for me, that period of having doubts have actually made me realised that Allah really exists and actually made me closer because the more doubts I had, the more I was trying to find answers by reading up on Islam and reciting the Quran and reading their translations. I do pray occasionally but like you, I procrastinate alot :(

  • Iman December 28th, 2012 7:06 AM

    This article is GENIUS. Really. I’m a Muslim as well, and I’ve felt the same feelings you describe in your article. It’s so comforting to know that there are others that feel the same way about God and feminism and what links the two.
    Thankyouthankyouthankyou :)

  • CheriTori December 28th, 2012 7:28 AM

    Your post=INCREDIBLE (seriously)

    Allah has been my one constant throughout life, and as such, I have never questioned my belief in Him. But being a Feminist, or Whatever I am, I have always struggled to reconcile my (the way I thought it) paradoxical beliefs. I have never had to deal with critisism of my religion or beliefs unless its on news websites or (sadly enough) You tube, as I live in a Middle- eastern country. and I am quite surprised about how many cultures Interpret Islam. because here, Men RESPECT women. like, a lot. Since I started wearing an Hijab 3 years ago, I have realised that its not restrictive at all. Right, now, I enjoy the benefits of wearing an Abaya in public, as the respect I receive from the opposite sex is unexpectedly awesome. I mean, I have men open doors for me ALL THE TIME! and I have realised now, that just because a certain someone Interprets Islam in a patriarchal way, does NOT mean that its the way its supposed to be interpreted. so I will just go on being a muslim AND a feminist AND a Science Major. Cuz I know that Allah Loves me just the way I am, and as long as I have Him on my side, I dont need to worry about what anyone says on my beliefs.

  • Serena.K December 28th, 2012 9:00 AM

    It’s so cool knowing that there are so many other Muslim Rookies! Shanzeh, this was a really good article. Until recently I struggled with reconciling science and feminism with Islam but the more I learn about Islam the more I realize that it is truly a feminist religion, one that I could go as far as saying is intertwined with science, too. Seriously, just look at the history of Islamic science. Plus, the Qur’an refers to a bunch of things (like the expansion of the universe or, like you said, embryonic growth) that civilization couldn’t possibly have known at the time and were later able to prove through science, not to mention its emphasis on pursuing knowledge. I’m still confused about some things (like the mainstream Islamic view towards homosexuality, for ex) but I’m getting there. I hope you do too :)

  • pamplamousse December 28th, 2012 11:01 AM

    I really enjoyed this religious debate/ interview with Richard Dawkin’s the other day. Hopefully some of you Rookies will too!
    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/general/2012/12/2012121791038231381.html

  • wallflower152 December 28th, 2012 12:26 PM

    I already posted what I am about to say on the “A Holy Alliance: Faith and Feminism” article earlier this month but I wanted to say it again because it really relates to this post. I’ve sometimes had troubling reconciling my religious and scientific beliefs. I took an astronomy class in college and on the first day of class my professor said something that really helped me accept these conflicting beliefs for what they are.

    God, whichever God you believe in, is supernatural. The word supernatural literally means “above nature.” It means the natural laws that apply to this universe do not apply to God. Therefore there is no true scientific way to prove or disprove God’s existence. God exists in a completely different realm, if you will, than the universe.

    I don’t know if I put that in the same way as my professor did but I hope you can get something out of it cuz it really helped me. : )

  • dumbpling December 28th, 2012 5:31 PM

    I’ll join you on the John Green thing…

  • Iram December 29th, 2012 3:23 PM

    I think that Islam is portrayed as a misogynistic faith as some believers confuse culture and religion creating a WHOLE NEW extremist version of Islam, which is totally wrong.

    Thank you Shanzeh for wirting this brilliant article, as not only can many relate to it, but it describes my situation perfectly as I often doubt Allah (God) but eventually revert back and believe, and also love, Him/Her. I’ll be sure to check out some of your other work as it seems fantastic!

  • Miss Erin December 30th, 2012 1:01 AM

    I’m a Christian and this is one of the most relatable things I’ve ever read about religion. It’s wonderful, thank you so much for writing it and sharing it.

  • Katie M December 30th, 2012 2:42 AM

    This is so insighful and beautifully written. For a long time I resented Islam but, thanks to people such as yourself, have recently started to question my resent on the basis that I am very ill informed. I think the text of the Quaran (rich, as I’m yet to read it, but from what I have read) when read literally seems extremely oppressive of a lot of people, moreso (albeit not by much) than the Bible and other religious texts, but I realise now that religion has a lot more to do with how it is interpreted. I still heavily disagree with organized religion, but no longer with relgious people – if that makes any sense. I’m an agnostic athiest; as a liberal feminist and very liberal human being, in all aspects of life, I’ve found myself confused as to my own faith – I don’t believe in an all-powerful God, but I’d like to think that there’s ‘something’, and can identify a surprising amount with this post. I really find this fascinating. Thank you for a lovely, educational read. I envy your talent :)

  • Nadya December 30th, 2012 3:31 AM

    Thank you so much for this. As someone who is also a Muslim and considers herself a feminist, this really helped me to realize that I’m not the only one who’s confused.

  • Rea December 31st, 2012 3:02 PM

    “Despite all my natural skepticism, I yearn for God. I don’t want to be super-religious anymore, but I don’t want to be an atheist either. I just want to connect to a greater purpose.”

    And John Green, yes. Subvert the patriarchal paradigm!

  • Semonte January 3rd, 2013 7:28 AM

    I was raised a Muslim in a “moderate Muslim” family in England. But, like you, I started doubting my faith when I was around 11 or 12. It was partly because I was getting really into sciences, especially physics, and I didn’t like not having proof of Allah’s existence. It was partly because I started asking questions that I found couldn’t be answered and left holes in the whole idea of religion. It was partly because I wanted rights, equality, and free will to do as I wish. It was partly because of selfish reasons, when I first sunk into depression, and I wondered why Allah, a supposedly merciful being, would allow depression to ruin a young girl’s life. Whichever reason, I lost faith pretty quickly and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back.

    But I have never found it plausible to believe that there isn’t some sort of “divine spirit” up there because chance seems too kind. Chance seems too positive. Whether it’s Allah/God, the Triple Goddess and the Horned God, Zeus and his crew, or even some sort of computer programmer in the distant future who built a world to simulate the lives of ancestors, I think there has to be *something* up there.

  • diniada13 January 5th, 2013 12:20 AM

    Nice to know there’s a lot Rookie muslims out there, and I’m not the only one doubting my faith! Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts! I hope we’ll all get to His right path somehow, someday.

  • orthopedicsaddleshoes May 5th, 2013 9:02 AM

    “Science and religion share this sense of awe, and of reverence, for the universe.”
    This is such a great, great sentence that I hadn’t been able to articulate before. I’ve been loving all of this month’s Rookies articles, but so far this is the one that got closer to my heart.
    Also, I love your sincerity while talking about the hijab.
    Also also, I can’t believe you’re only 18! You’re so freaking smart! I would just like to say that, even though this is the only thing written by you that I’ve read, I really admire you and wish the best for you.