[This is a 5 min. read]
“I sent you this message because even though I’m solidly sure that you won’t have much to say, I have this dying hope that you’d disappoint this conviction.” – the end of your letter.
I was having dinner with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and we were talking about religion and misconceptions. I was in the process of explaining a refutation when, in a flight of impatience or over-excitement, thanks to a mildly prolonged elaboration on my part, my friend practically shouted at me: “get to the point!”. So I smiled and decided to skip the details and fly from top to top over the mountains of my wisdom when in a mid fly he caught my line of thought and landed on the hill of my conclusion, before I even had the satisfaction of getting there.
Another similar happening decided to print itself in my near past when instead of entertaining a question-answer deduction of the same Islamic answer, but with another dear friend, he demanded that I drop this act and again, get to my point. And the same manner practices itself when I myself get too close to skipping pages of a book chapter when the author is making such an excruciatingly lengthy build up to the sort of answer I’m too impatient to wait for.
This grasping at answers, my friend, is very similar to your fainting hope. Usually it happens when your mind has exhausted its powers in understanding the point behind this or that rule, or when your kind of reality has somehow verged on defying the point behind it. However, you still are, somehow deep down, ready for a satiating answer. If you had not made that last line of your letter that I quoted, I might have found it difficult to meet you half way. Your ‘hope’ of having your advocacy of Hijab and your ‘sisterhood’ rekindled is exactly what I’ll build on here, in-sha’Allah. It is your faith, purely.
Now, in order to formulate a reply to you. I would like to, very humbly, start with three points, and a request.
I can ‘convince you of Hijab’ and express to you why you are feeling it deserting you in that insufferable manner you have so delectably described. Philosophy is easy, you know. Thinking costs us no muscle aches, and with our intellectual faculties we can play many mind games and build very appealing arguments. I actually enjoy doing that.
Islam isn’t about only being ‘convinced’. Now this is important. The course of this religion’s descent consumed twenty three years, and this is simply because each verse or teaching actually had a story behind it, with people involved; people who did things, wrong and right. People who learned Islam and lived it. William James, a renowned turn of the century psychologist, started a lecture with a detailed comparison between existential and empirical judgments. In simple terms, he said that when we talk about the psychology of religious people, we are bound to reflect on their experiences, not the endless theories, medical or psychological, that might dictate the rules of their behavior.
Islam, just as it is not only about instating mental convictions, it is also never about blind, habitual practicing. Islam’s idea of freedom envelops in it a full release from ties to any practice whatsoever except if a mindful attachment to the sake of God exists. Even if that practice is religious, if it’s shackled to human habit, it loses flare and dies out in its bearer’s heart. So what that alights is the fact that Islam is about both: the experience, and the mental enlightenment that surrounds it. If separated, both tend to dwindle away and perish.
Now comes my request:
Many discussions I’ve been part of before (examples about: homosexuality, happy sinners, sad good-doers, Hijab, controversial decrees and the like) tended to all diverge out of point and somehow converge towards the blur of a missing big picture of this religion’s architecture. In the spirit of being both theoretical and practical, I urge you before anything to read a small book. Nothing more than that for now. It’s a light kind of experience.
The book is called Towards Understanding Islam by an author named Al–Maudoudi. It is available online (and on kindle) and I think it’s an eight hours read, over two or three days. I have read both the Arabic and English versions and I recommend either. After that, it’ll get interesting. If you don’t wish to read the book, then I might find it difficult to tackle some points I find necessary and I might be deemed useless to you. Also, you actually locating the book and reading it is part of my reply, and lies in the heart of my argument about empirical persuasion.
Waiting for your answer.
P.S. Have you already taken off your Hijab?