My family is originally from Pakistan, and we moved to the States when I was 6. We lived in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for the first few years of my life, but I don’t remember much of it.
I grew up in what I consider a moderate Sunni Muslim household. We didn’t wear hijab or pray 5 times a day, but we didn’t drink alcohol, eat pork, or date non-Muslims either. We read the Quran and went to mosque, but we cherry picked the things we wanted to practice. It was that somewhere-in-between area that most American Muslims fall into.
My parents made us to go to Islamic Sunday school at the local mosque where we learned to read (but not understand) Arabic. Most of my knowledge of Islam came from what we were taught by the imams, my teachers and my parents.
I’ve had doubts about God ever since I can remember, but I (and my parents) tried to quash them. I started questioning things at a really early age. By 8, I was wondering why God needed us to pray 5 times a day and why he needed constant reminding of how awesome he is. By 13, I was grilling my parents about how we could have predestiny and free will at the same time as Islam claims. (There are some hilariously broody diary entries from this phase in my life that I might post at some point so we can all have a good laugh.)
When I started college, I considered myself an agnostic. The more I questioned things, the less I believed. I took a lot of theology and history of religion classes in an attempt to seek out “the truth.” I wanted to learn everything I could about all religions, and that, in a nutshell, is what killed God for me. I guess a little knowledge goes a long way.
I’ve been a proud atheist for 9 years, and life has never been better. So why bother reading the Quran now?
Here’s the deal: I realized about a year ago that I had never eaten pork in my entire life. Not even after my deconversion. I couldn’t bring myself to eat pork, no matter how good it looked or smelled. Just admitting that it looked and smelled good was a battle. I felt like such a dumb shit when I realized what I was doing — letting some God I didn’t believe in hold me back from trying something new. Even when I turned my back on Islam, I couldn’t let it all go.
I am proof that indoctrination works. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. What other things was religion holding me back from? What else was lurking around from my past?
I eventually did work up the nerve to try pork. I loved it. Not just because it was my way of saying “fuck you” to the invisible man in the sky, but because I thought it was actually good, and oddly enough, it’s become one of my favorite foods.
And that’s why I’m reading the Quran now.
I feel like I was tricked into believing some petty stupid things all my life, not just about God, but also about life in general. I want to see where it all came from. This is my way of understanding Islam, working out those issues, and really moving past religion. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll get out of it, but if it inspires even one person to question what they were raised to believe, then it’ll be worth sitting through all those “God is so awesome” surahs.
So that’s it. I cracked open my Quran on July 3, 2008, and I’ll start writing about it soon.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, check out the FAQ. If you have any questions, leave a comment there and I’ll get back to you.
Let the good times begin.