I’m a Muslim in that I feel allegiance to the Muslims as a people. It’s not a blind patriotism. I don’t feel allegiance to any particular sect, doctrine or government. As a member of this cultural group (or groups), somebody who lives with and sympathises with and loves many believing Muslims and their overwhelmingly warm and humane culture, I recognise that the Qur’an is the source text that is crucial to us. We do with it what we can. The range of what we’ve done throughout history is astounding.
There is the Islam of the Sultan and the Islam of the Sufi. The Sultan’s rulebook religion, the god-idol that fits into the human mind. And the Sufi’s tradition of peaceful wandering, of poverty, of shrines and poetry, of Qawwali songs and intoxication. It is the latter that attracts me, the Sufi’s but not the Sultan’s Islam. The Islam of Hallaj, not of the authorities who mutilated and murdered him.
If you ask which Islam is inspired by the Qur’an, I must reply that both are.
I am Marxist enough to believe that religions are for the most part products of the material conditions from which they arise. Islam arose from a culture of Beduin raiding and enforced tribal consensus, and yet managed to move beyond this to something new, still pointing further to possibilities for future development. I believe it is possible, but by no means inevitable, for Muslims of the present and future to make an Islamic society better than the society made by the Prophet’s companions.
I love the implications of ‘la illaha illa allah’ – there is no god but God – an-noor, al-haqq, the Light, the Real. Nothing worthy of worship except the Real – not money nor nation, not race nor Sultan, not idol nor ideology.
I love the centrality to Islam of tawheed – the unity from which multiplicity arises – and I see evolution and Big Bang theory as expressions of the same principle.
I love ‘alhumdulillah’ – the praise of the Real and gratefulness to it for this mystery and our experience of it.
Sometimes I sense God and the divine patterning emanating from Him. And sometimes I don’t.
I hope without certainty for the afterlife.
The certainty of the static believer and the certainty of the atheist are equally distant from me.
My fundamental position is one of radical agnosis, not a wishy-washy refusal to make my mind up but a recognition that my mind matters little. This state of unknowing is the basis of mysticism and humility and is paradoxically described by some as knowledge. Dhu’ n-Noon said, “To ponder the essence of God is ignorance, and to point to Him is shirk (idolatrous association), and real gnosis is bewilderment.”
What I believe today is not necessarily what I’ll believe tomorrow. If I am unknowable to myself, how can I know God?