In good faith

I think without my faith, I would have struggled to deal with the emotional impact of my diagnosis. By faith, though, I don’t mean the faith community to which I belong — if anything, that is mostly unhelpful, for Muslims carry with them a lot of prejudice and cultural baggage which often makes them insensitive to the effects of a condition such as this. By faith I mean my relationship with my Creator, and the practical toolkit the faith provides in dealing with loss and hardship.

Yes, I had my beloved at my side to help me through, but without my faith, I would not have her either. Certainly, there was no real psychological support from any healthcare professional I ever came across, or from my wider family. We carried this alone — just the two of us — buoyed by our faith in the One, who provides replete examples from history as to how to overcome such tests. Those are the stories of the Quran. As for the rulings and opinions of men: their unsympathetic interventions through millennia would consign the likes of me to a life of isolation and rejection.

You can probably see why I am not of the school of thought which demands devout obedience to tradition and subservience to old opinions. I take what is good and beneficial, but all that flies in the face of divine justice and mercy, I set aside. The Quran tells stories of pious men tried with childlessness and affliction, rejected by their people. Inspiring stories which seed hope. But books of fiqh can often tell a different story altogether, delineating all the reasons one may (and sometimes should) abandon their spouse to a life of loneliness. No compassion and mercy at all.

In the early days, I was of those who believed that Islam means “submission”. Submission to or acceptance of divine decree, certainly. But to the full body of imagined consensus, and cultural expectation, political authority or communal expediency; no, I will forever be the contrarian. Through nearly a quarter of a century walking this path, and in my interactions with trusted teachers and guides, I have come to see that Islam is really an active path towards achieving a state of safety, good health and fairness. 

A Muslim is a person who is trying their best to walk that path of promoting safety, health and fairness in their own lives and in their community. Often, this will fly in the face of what we actually encounter amongst believers. So be it. You have to find your way. Take nothing for granted. And at this point, I am just repeating myself, for I have said all of this before. Go and read that instead: Faith is a mechanism which should liberate you; if it doesn’t, it’s not true faith.

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