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On faith

“I find your lack of faith disturbing” 
- Darth Vader

I write this knowing that many people struggle with faith and the lack of it. I hope this writing can be of help to you, as it was for me. 

In the past decade, I’ve struggled with having faith. The lows have begun to rival the mids and the highs. The fluctuation in my levels of faith has made me question how “Muslim” I really am since faith has been commonly accepted as the sole path to belief. 

Ramadan gives me a moment to pause and think about why. 

What first came to mind is that Islam acknowledges that faith increases and that it decreases, which made me feel a little better about my fluctuations. 

My second thought is about my initial disposition or primordial nature, known as fitra in Arabic. In my early teenage years prior to embracing Islam, I was internally agnostic leaning towards atheism. 

At this time, I clearly lacked faith. This makes me embracing Islam because of faith, not likely. 

Looking back, I think I decided to embrace Islam because it “made sense”. The case for God and moral principled living seemed logical. 

My father taught me a lot about belief being one of reason. He often asked me to think about the “why” of belief and pushed me to ponder creation and existence. 

In contrast to focusing on the compulsion of belief as in the “you must believe, or you will burn in hell” type of belief. He simply reasoned with me. In retrospect, his efforts were successful in helping me understand why I believe. 

At the same time, I had read The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley, which not only made me believe in the power of redemption and reinvention but further reinforced the case for Islam as a rational, cosmopolitan, progressive way of living. 

I tried hard to bolt faith onto my belief through many forms and fashions both inward and outward. While these attempts were necessary, I don’t know how effective they were. 

Faithful experiences seem hard to come by and seem more serendipitous than planned. I might have been arrogant in thinking I can find faith. More times than none, faith seems to find me in unexpected tribulations, conversations with strangers and observations in nature and animals. 

I am grateful for these encounters, as without them I would feel empty and vacuous. Faith is beautiful, and I deeply cherish and treasure every moment of faith that comes my way. 

Looking back, many people had prescribed me as a person of faith, someone who is “religious” and other inaccurate observations. Truthfully, I felt at odds with these descriptions because deep down I didn’t feel that way. I have never for a moment thought of myself as a “man of faith” or someone who embodies piety. 

Anytime I would hear these observations, I would later recite this prayer to my self: 

O Allah, do not call me to account for what they say and forgive me for what they have no knowledge of [and make me better than they imagine].

I’m starting to realize that I might not have as much faith as I would like to have. I’m becoming more comfortable that my belief is founded more in reason than it is in faith.

I don’t think faith and reason are mutually exclusive and I think they can exist together peacefully. They are both important and both have a role to play. 

Maybe in the Ramadans to come, I may come to learn how to make sense of the two, so I can find some peace in my belief.

If you are struggling, I hope you find reconciliation.