Khalid Zaheer
“I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.” — Imam Shafa’i
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When questioning beliefs leads to confusions

Question:
I came across your “Exchange with a non-Muslim” at this moment in my life when I feel lost and emotionally exhausted.

I am a 28-year-old Muslim Egyptian female who was raised to fear and thank Allah all the time. Yet, I was not brought up to question things, especially those related to religious matters. When I got exposed to different cultures and views I was shocked at how ignorant I was of my own religion.

I started reading. The more I read the more questions I had.

And until now, no answers. For no reason, maybe. On my mind now:

1. Scholars draw their understanding from older scholars and this goes back to more than a millennium. How do I trust them?

2. One scholar uses a hadith as evidence and another says it’s a weak hadith. How do I trust hadith now when it was collected two centuries after prophet Muhammad (pbuh) died? If I don’t trust it, I’ll doubt everything, even the way I pray.

3. Same verse in Qur’an can be interpreted differently. Can I have my own interpretation? Why would I trust either version?

4. You can still take whatever opinion you want, no? Is there a punishment for me or the opinion giver if his view turns out to be wrong on the Day of Judgment? For example, if for any reason I take Sheikh Hassan El Banna’s view and evidence that headscarf isn’t obligatory, what consequence do I expect and what is the evidence he’s wrong other than being against ijma’ (consensus).

5. Where, for instance, does it say in Qur’an that whoever leaves Islam should be killed? If one decides so, let them do whatever. Islam doesn’t need them and won’t miss anything.

6. So I can’t get married to a Christian man because he’s a Kafir? (Some say I can. How do I choose?) Why is it that my brother can get married to a Christian woman? Isn’t she Kafira as well? Where is the evidence in Qur’an and how do I find it?

7. Why 4 wives for men? Not 2, 3, 10?

8. Islam is submission. Take it or leave it. But am I not supposed to think?

9. I hope I don’t sound rude: Why do I trust you, for instance, when no one is perfect?

The reason why I decided to write to you is what you said:

“Clarity of a message is its intrinsic attribute which an open-minded person can appreciate and uncover… This life is a trial for all humans. If one were to seek the truth one would get it; if one were not to seek it, one would not get it. This principle is true both in case of total truth as well as partial truth.”

This is one more thing I tell myself might be true: “You’re not really looking for the truth.” Don’t know if this is true.

I am a simple individual who has many things going on in her life. I lost my peace of mind since I started questioning. I thought religion was unquestionable and this turned out to be untrue in my case.

I am going up and down with my Iman, which should never be the case. I have been going around in a vicious circle for 10 months, which should never be the case. Doubting my religion and can’t live without it.

I'll highly appreciate any help.

Response:
Don’t be too worried: What you are experiencing is what all intelligent believers go through. They have one of the two options in their lives: Believe in their faith more strongly or discard it forever. Alhamdulilah, because our faith is based on truth, I am confident that a sincere person like you will come stronger out of this temporary phase of trial. Please go through my article on the blog “How Is Faith Acquired and Strengthened?”. A faith based on a mere mention of information of elders is no faith. It has got to go through the vicissitudes of tests and trials to strengthen.

My brief answers to your questions are:

1. One is responsible to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah as a Muslim. If you don’t feel comfortable with one point of view, follow the other that you think is more convincing. We are not expected to follow what is ultimately true. We are expected to follow what is relatively true. In the process we should continue to look for better versions of truth.

2. Please rest assured that your prayers don’t owe their existence to ahadith. They have come down to us through sunnah mutawatira: The first entire generation transmitting it to the next one and so on. Hadith is a statement of the prophet, alaihissalam, only when you are comfortable that it was said by him. Before that, it is only a claim. Many ahadith, probably most, give an immediate feeling that they were prophet’s words. Some don’t do so. It’s always your judgment call. You have to be fair in judging, because it’s a matter of statements attributed to our prophet.

3. I would say look for the best interpretation of scholars. Try avoiding coming up with your own interpretation unless you feel confident that you have become a scholar. Even when you are forced to form an opinion of your own, try to get it checked with a scholar.

4. You are most likely to be rewarded for your faulty opinion even if it was wrong if it was formed with good intentions and proper care. If Hasan Al-Banna’s opinion appeals to you to be convincing, it’s Islam’s verdict for you on the issue so long as it continues to convince you. There is nothing that can be described ijma’ in Islamic law except Qur’an and Sunnah. It is a term employed by some people for many scholarly opinions without any convincing reasons. It can only be justifiably used for Qur’an and Sunnah Mutawatira like prayers etc.

5. It doesn’t say anywhere in Qur’an that if a person changes faith, he should be killed. It is mentioned in hadith. You will find the reason for it in Q&As in my site. It was an era-specific requirement which is not applicable to any other times except for the times of the prophet, alaihissalam.

6. You can’t get married to a Christian because marriage is a serious matter. You will have children after marriage. A relationship as serious as that of a spouse cannot be had with someone who rejects the fact that prophet Muhammad was God’s messenger. By the way, a Christian can only be a Kafir if he rejects Islam after knowing that it’s a true message of God. Otherwise he is just a non-Muslim. The permission to your brother is only a legal one now. Some scholars say that it isn’t permitted now anymore. The permission was granted on the occasion when converting wives to Islam was a very likely possibility given that Muslims had the dominant influence in those days. The fact that Qur’an mentions that the Muhsanaat (chaste women) of Ahle Kitab are permissible for believing men is a statement that by implication means that the same is not true for Muslim women.

7. Men are neither forced nor encouraged to have four wives; they are just allowed to do so. Good Muslim men should consider that possibility only when there is a definite social or moral need for it. A woman makes a home. She cannot make two homes simultaneously.

8. Islam means submission after you have understood it. I have to first understand what exactly is expected of me and then I will submit. If someone is not convinced about the correctness of Islamic claim, he/she should first convince himself/herself about it. However, conviction doesn’t mean hundred percent conviction. We are obedient to God despite having questions about His message. Faith grows gradually and intellect is the medium that enables it to grow.

9. You don’t sound rude. You are extremely polite. You don’t need to follow any of the things I have mentioned if they don’t make sense to you. You have to be convinced that what I am saying is making Islamic sense before you accept what I say. That’s going to be a principle applicable for all people who give opinions on Islam.

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