Islam is my Louvre – Part II by Valentina Khan


I was once asked “why do I stay Muslim”? That was the question prompt, and it begged an answer…Reason #2: I believe Islam has vagueness in the Quran (I answered Reason 1 and 2 yesterday…)

What do I mean by all this vagueness?

First of all, Judaism and Christianity-based characters have made appearances in Islam by way of shared stories and prominent shared figures: Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Lot, Aron, Moses, Job, Jonas, Noah, Jesus, Mary and so on. Growing up Muslim, these prominent religious figures across the Abrahamic spectrum were names that were mentioned time and time again as part of the religious history and teachings. So I feel a sense of relief, that as a Muslim, we are not sailing alone in the sea of faith with no shared history with any other faith, but we are on the same island (so to speak) with our Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters.

To me this feels cozy and familial when being in the company of Jews and Christians.  Whether I’m at a Synagogue, Church, or Mosque praying it all feels familiar and I like that there are no hardline rules on where to feel the presence of God. I believe Islam allows us to feel the presence of God anywhere, including other houses of worship.

Beside the closeness to Abrahamic faiths, there is another mention in the Quran about there having been over 100,000 Prophets sent by God unto earth all prior to Muhammad in 620 AD. Since that large number is referenced in the Quran, as vague as it is to who, what, where these so-called Prophets sent by God are, I instead look to all the ancient faiths prior to Islam: Zoroastrianism, Bahai, Hinduism, Buddhism, Ancient Native faiths, and think, OK Lord, you must have been referring to all of these faiths that came before Islam because they have rich histories and prominent figures within their own stories to learn from.

This vague reference in the Quran that makes mention of all these thousands of Prophets that have come before Muhammad and sent to different people, in different geographic locations, at different times in history, again makes me feel connected, and unified. United with so many people of various faiths from all times, that brings home my overall belief: that God created us all in many tribes and nations, so that we may know one another and live together….I’m into this. Humanity and being together and not divided is my creed. And if I’m interpreting Islam properly, that is a very large underlying message speaking loud and clear to me.

Reason #3: My last true and sincere reason on why I stay Muslim is because of what God says to us in every opening line of every Surah:

God is the most merciful the most compassionate.

That is the first line we read when we pray and when we recite from the Holy book. Over and over and over again. I feel, It’s God reinforcing mercy and compassion in all our hearts. Why? Because anger, holding grudges, hate, and being spiteful is a malaise of the heart and leads to all kinds of sicknesses, diseases and sometimes death. Heard of Cain and Able? When a believer prays or reads this opening verse, a sense of understanding that we are to live our daily lives with benevolence and mercy to ourselves first and others becomes overwhelmingly clear. I like this. I really like this. I like it so much, that it makes me stay Muslim. Yes, my faith has been enhanced by the other lanes to God, meaning other theologies and philosophies, but I really am content with my role as a Muslim in the 21st century from the Western social context. I do think there are verses and beliefs within Islam that should stay in 7th century Arabia, but there are also bridges from that time period that extend to today and depending on the person, their interpretation, and their social context that bridge can either make sense and fit with the general ethos of other world religions or not.

To me, Islam is a like a museum, my very own Louvre, filled with artists of different time periods and genres- accepted, respected and celebrated. Yes, I know this might sound too ideological and that there are verses that can refute my thoughts, and completely demystify my theme of unity. But I truly believe there are other verses that take precedence, weighed more, have more value, and are carried throughout time, similar to the ones above that debunk certain dogmatic and inflexible verses.  Similarly, with all the wisdom each world religion imparts on us, living in a state of peace should be second nature. Unfortunately we are missing the point, drastically.

I think more women need to sit and talk, and talk, and talk some more. It’s through our time spent together and discussing life, what the point is, on how to live it fully, the messages of all the world religions would be lived out everyday from the top down. Should anything divide and pull people apart it would be money, power, greed, but not religions. Once you peel back the layers of religion it all comes down to guidelines, roadmaps, tutorials, “how to” manuals on living good, decent lives with others. We have one life, maybe long, maybe short, to think we have been created so different, with distinct DNA and to fight with one another or spend a lifetime trying to convince people that one ideaology is more valid than the other, hurts my heart. It’s like looking at the painting, standing in front of it, refusing to accept the art, asking for your own brush or worse, can of spray paint and tagging graffit  all over what would otherwise be considered a masterpiece- humanity with all its shortcomings and beauty is a masterpeice. People who practice a religion or lack thereof are the paintings, so let’s put them behind the plexiglass and appreciate.

 

Valentina Khan, JD, MA is the Managing Director for Investors Philanthropic. She was born & raised in Orange County, California. She grew up in North Tustin, a supportive and kind town to which she attributes her love for diversity & doing community work. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California Bachelor of Arts, received her Juris Doctorate at Taft Law School, & continued her education with a Masters of Arts degree from Claremont School of Theology. She is the visionary and co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, & was a contributing member to the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, both of which are non-profit organizations that focus on building bridges of understanding, compassion, and friendship within the interfaith communities. Valentina is  the creator & teacher of Dance Barre ® a fun ballet barre fitness method, a yoga enthusiast, and lover of fashion and travel. She speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Farsi, Urdu, and (semi-fluency) French.

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Categories: General, Islam, Islamic feminism, Women's Power, Women's Voices

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15 replies

  1. I like the way you weave all religious traditions into your faith… if only this attitude was more prevalent we might be able to live in a more peaceful culture. I wish I saw this as a reality.

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  2. Bravo! These are my thoughts and prayers also! May Allah bless you for this beautiful dawah! Thanks for articulating some of the pearls of Islam. Alhamdulilah! One love;0)

    Like

  3. As we say in (one of) my tradition(s), so mote it be! Thanks for a moving, thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my primary criticisms of people (like VP Pence) who call themselves Christian but are extremely conservative but do not act with charity and, unlike you, are not open to conversations with people of other faiths is that they seem not to have read–much less acted upon the lessons of–the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the Beatitudes. I’m wondering what is your take on the Sermon on the Mount. It seems to me that that’s the core of the Abrahamic religions. That’s where the compassion lives. What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I didn’t push the like bottom but I like the honesty of your showing of feeling. You are talking about why you stay Muslim, and I ask you why you stay believing in any religions at all! You mean or stay saying about God say this and sent Prophets to us and so on, but haven’t you ask yourself why, why should God needs prophets to talk to his or her(?) creations? so many prophets, so many different religions, why? (say by the way that Bahai was after Muhammad and was killed by the fanatic Muslims in between!) I am talking to you as a man who was Muslim and had lived in a Muslim country and believed once all these. I don’t want to influence you in any directions, my direction is a way into the divine, a God in a whole, we, all as humans, are in a kind of connection of one soul, we are all one soul who included every creation, not only on Earth, this tiny little planet, but the whole universe. have you ever thought about why should be this tiny planet the centre of the world??! or why we have so many different kinds of human? or why at all God needs so many kinds of religions??? <3 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really like the query about why god needs prophets to speak for humans. My personal experience suggests that sometimes a direct line opens to that which is greater than ourselves, and sometimes it doesn’t. Religions have a way of masking this truth, except for those religions like that of the Goddess or Indigenous peoples who believe that immanence/ direct experience in Nature leads us home to ourselves/divine.

      Liked by 2 people

        • Hi there,

          Thank you for your comment-

          In my opinion, this life can feel lonely without some higher power to call on…. if I’m drowning in the ocean or alone on a deserted island I wouldn’t call out for my husband, children or parents first, I would pray to God, call out, plead for “God” to save me. But that’s just me… I feel that God is a security blanket, because I don’t think I could truly handle this life all alone, or just nature and myself, or just humanity… the mystery of this higher power that we people of faith believe has supposedly revealed “him/herself” to other humans whether through hard to believe stories or miracles… just makes me feel comforted.

          I like praying and meditating for myself and to a higher power, I also like making “sacrifices” ie- fasting for the higher power, trying to live a decent life for my sake, the sake of my legacy, and also as a form of respect to a higher power.

          I personally, enjoy and like having a higher power be a dominant presence in my life… as for religion… I’m very flexible with that. I know that is more sociopolitical and very dense all around. However, since I enjoy praying like a Muslim… it’s second nature for me to continue to be a Muslim. As you read above, I’m a fluid and flexible person and don’t think my style prayer is the best or right way, it is what is good for me. However I can pray with nonMuslims just as easily because I choose to. Overall whether myths, fables, or true life, prophets all the way back to Zoroaster all had something of value to bring to humanity, and I respect any kind of message of kindness, compassion, being good and doing good!
          Thanks again for your comment!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I Thank You also for your open-hearted comments, I do the same; pray to God or what so ever should be called. We all as humans need a higher might to help us because we are helpless. And as you say; in any religions we can find good things to help us to get through this hard life. But I found my way to this higher might with a clear and clean heart without any conventional belief but my own. I’m also flexible and don’t like dogmatic opinions in any kind. Thank you again dear friend and blessing 🙏❤❤

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      • I agree with these two comments. Carol Christ wrote a stunningly good book; SHE WHO CHANGES: Re-imagining the Divine in the World (2003), It’s about the process philosophy of Charles Hartshorne. Carol says, basically, that the Goddess (and, I guess, the various gods) lives with us and goes through the things we go through and changes with us. I read that as direct address, not sermons hurled at us by distant prophets.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is very beautiful writing. The way you feel is the way I am sure many of my Muslim friends feel without being to articulate it. Thank you!

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