On this day, sixteen years ago, I became a believer, albeit one still wavering. A lot has happened since then. The zealotry of youth has given way to more considered thought, more open to new ideas. Gone the certainty in absolutes, the black and white view of the world; in their place more nuanced understandings, and shades of grey, and pastel tones.
In place of the defence of fundamentalism, a readiness to think for myself, to shun group-think, to question accepted wisdom; to reject cynical, manipulative propaganda, whether it originates with “friend” or “foe”. Verses of the Qur’an resonate within in place of the clamour of the community… “Stand out firmly for justice, even against yourselves” … “and God does not love the arrogant, boastful” … “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth” … For every moment, an answer.
Today a faith ready to reject all that seems ungodly. Today a faith ready to centre on what is good and virtuous, to believe in a better way, beyond the simplistic renderings of an academic creed. And finally, to recall the best of advice: “Do you exhort people to goodness and forget yourselves, and you recite the Book? Have you no understanding?”
Whether out of loneliness, ego or fear of damnation, I spent years praying that my nearest and dearest would join me on this path, as I suppose they did in reverse. But as a dear friend once put it: “What foolishness to concern yourself with the fate of others and forget yourself.”
This is a faith which calls us to affect change in ourselves. But most of us have been fools, turning it into a repository of slogans and a wellspring of identity. The faith that we have presented appeals to no one: it is all ego. Had we let our faith reform and renew our spirit, exhorting ourselves to goodness: then perhaps we might find ourselves in a better place and standing.
Each day is a new beginning, an opportunity to start afresh. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day, a source of change. Not unlike this day sixteen years ago.