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mattbrowne's avatar

Can Muslims question their faith and what they perceive as God's rules?

Asked by mattbrowne (31640points) June 27th, 2010

Many people told me that Muslims aren’t supposed to question their faith with all its rules. However, I think that well-educated Muslims (as well as well-educated Jews and Christians) should question everything. Religious beliefs without critical thinking are empty and meaningless. Believers with brains running on autopilot not only dishonor God’s wonderful creation like the universe, planet Earth, life on Earth and especially human beings capable of making some sense of our universe. Humans are not mindless robots blindly following some binary code being carried out in their CPUs.

But questioning our faiths and all of God’s rules by applying critical thinking can also lead to answers why many elements of our faiths and their rules actually make a lot of sense. Human altruism for example does have survival value, if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective. Then look at Zakat, the third pillar of Islam. It makes a lot of sense. Or take daily prayer. It makes a lot of sense. It slows down our minds, especially in a technologically advanced world where everything seems to accelerate. Prayers can give us back our strength and focus.

Jesus said that if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. This metaphor is reflected in various nonviolent resistance strategies that led India into independence and helped Martin Luther King’s dream come true. It even brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989.

I think many rules are actually rules invented by humans. They are cultural traditions. For example that Catholic priests can’t marry or that Muslims should not eat pork. The latter was invented because there were no refrigerators in the 5th century and extreme heat can render pork inedible. If people eat it they can get very sick. But there’s more it. Food and the preparation of food became a symbol and a set of rituals which are very important for social bonding. Therefore even in 2010 with plenty of refrigerators not eating pork can make sense. Muslims share common rituals. Christians share common rituals. Jews share common rituals. Hindus share common rituals. Wikipedia states that the purposes of rituals are varied; with religious obligations or ideals, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, social and moral education, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one’s affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event or just for the pleasure of the ritual itself.

So to me eating pork in an abstract form isn’t a sin. Same as eating meat on Friday for Christians. It simply means that these believers do not share all rituals common in their religion. If God exists he loves people regardless of whether they eat pork or not. God loves people when they care for the poor. I think we have to keep in mind that religions do evolve. They cannot be frozen at a particular point in the past. Religions do have to make sense in the context of today’s world. Do they?

If educated religious believers are convinced they are doing the right thing because of their critical thinking, then their belief has true value. If you force people to believe in God or even make threats that atheism is punishable by death and the belief in the Prophet is mandatory, such a belief is essentially worthless. Only after Muslims and Christians and Jews have dealt with their doubts and questioned their belief can they become true believers. Do you agree?

What are the views of the Muslim communities when it comes to questioning their faith and God’s rules?

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12 Answers

Your_Majesty's avatar

I agree with you. But most Islamic believer are taught(and forced) to not question their ritual,culture,God,etc. It’s all about faith. When people are blinded and heavily manipulated by what they called as “faith” evidence won’t be necessary anymore.

I live in a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and one of the most religion-fanatic country. No one dare to question Islamic people about their faith and their God(You could be killed here if you do that). In my opinion it’s simply because they have been heavily brainwashed by their parents(and other authorized ‘saint’ Ulama/priests) from generation to generation that limit/prevent the believers from early ages to become more critical toward their religion.

Direct punishment and other authorized physical abuse are usual and would be given to those who violate the rule of their religion(Islam). Pacifism is the way they taught people all around the world from ancient times.

I believe each religion has many branch and each fraction has its own differences. What I explain here is the way Islam(majority branch) took its place in Indonesian community.

Buttonstc's avatar

I really wonder if there are any devout branches of Islam would allow questioning of the teachings.

Yes, there are more secularised Muslims to whom this might apply, but they consider themselves Muslim primarily in cultural terms rather than religious terms.

A good example of this would be the family of the young woman who was recently crowned a Beauty Pageant winner.

Someone here posted a Q about whether she was concerned about a fattwah being issued against her for appearing in a bathing suit.

But reading interviews with her, it became quite clear that she and her family described themselves as cultural Muslims but not devout or beholden to narrow minded interpretations of Islam.

But I have a close friend who is a practicing Orthodox Jew who once told me that he considers himself an agnostic as to whether God even exists.

This really blew my mind, as I was aware of all the ways that he arranged his life to accompdate all the details. This affected everything from what foods he bought and the extremely limited number of restaurants at which he could eat all the way to his job hours.

Because he worked as a computer consultant, frequently switching companies, he constantly had to negotiate getting off early on Fridays to be able to make it to Temple prior to Sundown.

Because he was not allowed to drive or cook, he had to make arrangements to be within walking distance of the temple he attended and have meals until sundown on Sat. Plus numerous other accompdations around special holidays, etc. etc. It was no small thing in his life.

But, he told me that Judaism has a long history of study and questioning everything.

And that’s certainly true. There is a deep reverence for rigorous learning and equally rigorous questioning within Judaism ( the film Yentl is but one example which springs to mind) so I could see his point.

But I then asked him why he would go to the trouble of rearranging so many of the details of his life in order to follow all the exacting rules and regulations to please a God that one is not even sure exists.

His answer was classic. He just shrugged and said, “it never hurts, just in case”.

I’m not sure how many other Orthodox share his agnostic stance, but he had obviously discussed this with Rabbis and other Orthodox for much of his life and felt quite comfortable with it.

I just don’t think there is an equivalent corollary within Islam, but I would be most interested to know if I’m mistaken about that. I just have difficulty picturing a devout Muslim being able to get away with a stance such as that without being totally ostracized (or beheaded).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Most Muslims I know have questioned their faith much more than people I know of any other religion.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Me too, but do Imans actually support them in their quest or do they have to keep this to themselves and just mention it to westerners like us…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne No, they don’t just ‘mention it to Westerners like us’ – I’ve been privvy to Muslim gatherings and workgroups where it accepted that, historically, Islam was a religion of questioning, of hundreds of ways of thinking and interpreting and that’s how it truly ought to be.

anartist's avatar

Although Islam as a religion is more oriented toward submission—Islam means “submission to the will of God”—enlightened, educated Muslims can and do question their faith as do enlightened educated Jews and Christians. The core tenets, however, discourage this more than those of Christianity, which discourage questioning more than Judaism.

Judaism emphasis on law,
Christianity emphasis on faith,
Islam, emphasis on submission to the will of God.

Many of the stricter Islamic rules are very similar to the strictest rules of orthodox Judaism and born of the same formative cultural circumstances.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I’m impressed. And that’s a very good sign. These Muslim should speak out, for example when imams in other countries discourage questioning Islam.

mattbrowne's avatar

@anartist – What about Talmudic Judaism and the endless debates, for example as shown in the movie Yentl?

anartist's avatar

Yentl?? are you talking about rabbinic pilpul [or hairsplitting debates—aka a slow and painful way to develop and define Talmudic law] —I don’t remember Yentl that well—Barbara Streisand in drag as a young male Talmudic scholar???

mattbrowne's avatar

@anartist – Well, I’ve also read about this approach in Rabbi Michael Lerner’s book “The Left Hand of God”. Questioning is being encouraged in his view.

anartist's avatar

Have any Muslims weighed in on this Q?
Surely Fluther must have a few Muslim jellies?
Or are you just hanging back and watching the rest of us spew hot air?

@mattbrowne yes, I have heard of that work, and am somewhat interested in it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Not yet. There’s at least one sticking around (Theby?). Another one left because of the Draw Muhammad debate.

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