Monday, 23 May 2011

Challenged by the Church!

The blog has been fairly silent lately; and for that I apologise! Allot has been going on, (not good, not bad, mostly indifferent though!), however I promise to update on all that later this week!
For now, I am really looking for some input on this one!
Here’s the thing: I feel like going to the church!
It has been on my mind for a while, and has been peaked by 3 main issues: first, my mum said she wanted to go to church but didn’t feel like going alone! I offered to go with her, but I don’t think she wanted to explain away her hijab wearing daughter at a new church, so she didn’t take me up on my offer! (the Church thing stayed in my head though!).
Then: I suddenly found myself watching ‘BBC Songs of Praise every Sunday night, and tuning in to ‘Choral Even song on BBC Radio 3 (and often reading/singing along!). Then, I started working for my colleague Sangeev on a new church focused documentary he was making. This required me to visit loads of churches, (and also got me reading ‘Churches and how to read them), which I found fascinating! Tonight, I walked past the church at the end of my street (accidentally on purpose), and wandered inside (accidentally on purpose too!), to see what was going on!! It turns out that the building I assumed to be the church was actually their office building! However they gave me some literature (that too in an accessible format!), and they told me they were having an open evening which I could visit if I wanted to, and which would be taking place the very next day!
I came home, had a look at their evangelistic website (and then got very confused!), what is this church thing all about! Where has it come from, and why is it so prominent just now!

Why do I want to go to Church?
Well, I can tell you why not! Its not for doctrinal reasons; I found the discrepancies within Christianity a long time ago; and have long since got over them! Islam works for me and makes sense for me and there isn’t allot of spiritual gain I’d usurp from Christian worship!
Its not ‘faking it; If I attend to support my mother, or any one else in my family; I’ll be attending as a Muslim; and both she and the church will just have to get with my programme!
Its not really for socialisation; I have a vibrant, supportive circle of friends and struggle to keep up with my existing social commitments; never mind taking on new ones!

So: what is it! …., well, this is where I run in to trouble! For as much as I vehemently declare that its none of the above; there are some overlaps; and other than that; I can’t come up with a plausible argument either for nor against going!

The fact is, there is a gap; a gap in my spiritual life; a gap in my family relations; and a gap in my personal identity; a gap which is perfectly Church shaped! That is to say, not the fundamentalist cult like Church I grew up in, but a Church that fulfils a church-like purpose, yet maintains a distance and above all, a respect and reverence for other faiths and spiritual paths!
My mosque isn’t working for me!! Yeah; much as I hate to admit it, my mosque is failing me! I don’t know when it started; like many shias around the world, I live in a shia community that is more ethnically defined than spiritually. While I understand the predominant Urdu spoken at my local centre, its not my mother tongue and there are gaps in terms of what I gain; this became increasingly evident when Ahlulbayt TV began broadcasting English lectures and emphasising the obvious gaps in my knowledge! But while knowledge can be gained through self-study, the growth and communion gleaned through coming together for spiritual reflection and learning is something that just can’t be done in isolation, and despite all of my online shia brothers and sisters around the world, there is something about sharing a cup of tea, praying together or just talking it out!
There is something more to this gap though; something about childhood, about belonging, about feeling like I have a place in my community. Many of us struggle with belonging, but how do you juggle it as a revert disabled Muslim! There are just too many characteristics to prioritise; and where one fits, another does not! I am accepted as a shia Muslim in a shia mosque, yet I’m considered a non-believer at most suni centres! Moreover, the disability thing overshadows all other characteristics of difference while in the mosque! In a church, the attitude to both Islam and Christianity would be wrong; I know this logically, yet spiritually I feel drawn back there!
Its more for myself; the Church would never take me as I was; and if they did accept me, it would be with the intent of converting me somewhere along the line, thus destroying any illusion of equality I did have! All the same; I want to sing; (despite the Islamic attitude to music, communal singing and praise has always been incredibly important to me). I want to pray with other people. I want to be around people who put God first and who enjoy spiritual discussion and reaching their full spiritual potential. Maybe I should just go; attend a few services and get the church thing out of my system! On the other hand, if I do go, I may find myself embroiled in some high Church drama which I simply don’t have the time or inclination for right now! Moreover, it feels like cheating on my Muslim faithful (it even feels like cheating on myself!), and I wonder if the disadvantages outnumber any advantages their might be.
Is it just a reflection of the insecurity and chaos of my life right now, so that the need to regress to childhood comforts and familiarities is merely inevitable, or is there something stronger at work! Am I on the fringe of a faith crisis; or simply needing to further define my spiritual journey!
Please do comment; I really want to hear from other reverts on this; did you ever go through something like this? Would you recommend I go or not go! Or, if you are a Christian, would you ever consider visiting a mosque? Could you recommend any Churches that would welcome Muslims who simply want to observe while maintaining their own faith?
Am I just going mad?
I’ll leave you all to ponder this while I have another coffee and try to divert my attention to more useless pursuits!

2 comments:

  1. My dearest SR Masooma tried to post this, but the blog was giving her grief so she Emailed it, if any one else is having trouble commenting do let me know Insha Allah! Her comment is pasted below.
    I've felt that pull, too. There is a holy/sacred feeling to some
    church spaces that has a lot to do with architecture that many Western
    mosques lack. And the community opportunities in many churches are far
    superior to many Western mosques. And, you're right, the "ethnic"
    flavor of many Muslim communities makes them feel less like 'home' and
    like I'm permanently a guest or outsider. - masooma

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  2. I am not a revert. But I don't feel detached from you either, somehow I can "feel" it. Perhaps I can comprehend your level of spirituality and your spiritual needs (that I don't have a set solution for). You speak of belonging, and I can sense the same somehow... I run out of words when I want to express my emotions and right now it is happening to me, I want to write so much to this post, but unable to put to words my thoughts and emotions.

    Suddenly, that line from the Ziyarat-e-Arbaeen said by Imam Hussain a.s. comes to my mind:
    "O Lord! What did he lose who found You! And what did he found who lost You!"

    All that I can comprehend, is that it is a tough path. Probably the conversion itself might not be that tough, but to retain eemaan to a certain time or to certain stage till the soul reaches the higher status/high maturity is tough, or maybe it is tough beyond that as well. And it is the same for the non-reverts. Or maybe, that "torn" feeling the saints have spoken about in the Love of God is this same, they want to know God, who is Incomprehensible to our limited minds... And we, the average people, get weak in the pursuit... Maybe...
    We, as typical Muslims born into Muslim families, are also prone to many errors since our childhood injected by the society, and to get rid of them is not easy either, these call us back, the belongings, and they are very near and dear to us, it gets tough.

    But one thing that just breaks any thoughts of "belonging" or such is Moharram. It just washes away everything, it always gives me a new life - and it doesn't matter which language and which culture I am in, I feel I belong to it (Moharram), and vice versa.

    It is the first of Moharram here. I read your post of 'the Message from Moharram' and it was very great - thank you for putting it to words.

    I realize what I have written is not quite streamlined, but I hope I am able to share my feelings.

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