Saying Goodbye to Islam

Today is my last day as a Muslim. No more constantly checking the time for salat, no more reading/wrestling with passages from the Qur’an, no more “Salaam’s” or “Ramadan mubarak’s”, no more standing toe-to-toe/shoulder-to-shoulder in a line of men prostrating to Allah, no more listening to the ethereal melody of the adhan (call to prayer), no more washing dishes with ”Allahu Akbar” on repeat upon my lips.

No more, Islam.

Out of every month so far, this one has witnessed the most change. Islam and I were once sworn enemies. Now, we are friends. Once upon a time, I wanted to kill Muslims. Every. Last. One of them. Now, I’d welcome them into my home.

Islam taught me that Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorists, are terrorists. Muslims do not kill innocent people. Murderers kill innocent people. So there are no Islamic terrorists. That term is oxymoronic. Don’t make the mistake of confusing these terms.

 Before Ramadan, I didn’t really understand hunger or physical/spiritual discipline. Islam taught me temperance and empathy. Before Islam, I thought Muhammad was a selfish and delusional man. In my opinion, he was not. He and I are brothers now. We understand one another, because we know what it means to desire change in the world. We know what it’s like to experience things we don’t fully understand and be haunted by them day and night. Day, and night…

His wisdom is teaching me how to accept one’s calling.

Peace and blessings upon you, Prophet Muhammad. Peace and blessings at last, brother.

But this isn’t just the end of Islam for me. As the sun sets on August 31st, 2011, Project Conversion enters into the last third–the last four months of the year. The first 1/3 of the year chiseled away years of animosity toward the world of faith, the middle 1/3 planted a seed. This month, that seed burst violently…with terrifying beauty, from the soil tilled by the first eight faiths. As I open my eyes on September 1st and rise as a Sikh, I will step forward–trembling but faithful–toward what the last 1/3 of the year holds.

Who will I be? What, will I be?

Only the universe, God, and destiny knows. But as scared and exhausted as I am, as much as my mind and soul ache and my spirit cries for mercy, I have no choice but to go forward. I cannot stop now. The muezzin of destiny calls me forth like a gentle lover’s voice.

I must be the change, I must be, I must.

I…

Thank you, Mentor Adam Beyah, for guiding me this month and for welcoming me into your world of faith. To the brothers and sisters at Masjid Omar Ibn Sayyid, your house of worship and the warmth of your welcome every jum’ah (Friday prayers) will be sorely missed. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you for your kindness.

To all the Muslim brothers and sisters of our Congregation, you are indeed a chest of gems, and have kept the tradition of our vibrant community alive. Inshallah, you will stay with us for the remaining months and offer your insight.

Now that you’ve known me as a Muslim, how do you feel about Islam? Where you once like me, an enemy of the faith? Have you looked into Islam more or learned something new since we began on August 1st? Inshallah, you have learned and come to respect Islam just as I have these last 31 days. To learn more, visit your local masjid or simply ask a Muslim you know. I promise, they will be honored to answer your kind inquiry.

It is my pleasure to offer you a final asalaam alaikum. Peace be upon you, and thanks for joining me this month.

 

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  • http://classicmomscorner.blogspot.com/ Shawn Cannon

    Loved your awesome post today. Thanks for the insight!

  • http://kaweah.com Dan Jensen

    Thank you for helping us to see Islám in your embodiment of it, Andrew.

    I don’t think I will ever say goodbye to Islam. It’s too much a part of me. And no, it’s not a terrorist religion, but please allow me to explain.

    Having been raised a Bahá’í, I was raised with some aspects of Islám. I recited holy verses every day, I fasted, I went on pilgrimage, and so forth. I even studied Arabic, and just ask my brother: I was often found holding a Qur’án. There were several major threads of Islamic thought that made me who I am today. The greatest legacy of Islám in my life remains a core aspect of my personal philosophy: severe monotheism. I have so taken the Muslim notion of a God who is beyond all images and partners that I am essentially an atheist.

    To me, to characterize God is to form images of God, and to form images of God is idolatry. My problem with idolatry is not that Muhammad told me it’s bad, though Muhammad may have helped me to understand it the way I do. My problem with idolatry is that it closes the mind. If I say to myself “God is great,” I am straightaway putting God in a cage of “greatness.” I begin to see the world as the plaything of a “great” power. But is that really what—or who—God is? I have thus created an image in my head that I use as an object of worship. It may not be carved out of wood, but it’s an idol just the same. And this idol is sure to conflict with your mental idol, sooner or later. It may even conflict with an image of divinity and the world that might expand my outlook on life, but if I am too faithful to my “great” God, I may never open my eyes to another image. That would be a sad state of affairs.

    I understand that my idea of Islám is rather heterodox, and so I am not inclined to associate myself with the name “Muslim”; but I am convinced that this holy atheism of mine is the essence of Islám, and so I am convinced that Islám is a faith of open mind and unobstructed vision. My Islám is not the Islám of the suicide bomber, but then it is not the Islám of holy verses and holy men. It is the Islám of a holy universe.

    Peace.

    • abowen

      Dan. We are brothers from different mothers, pal.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Art Sherwood

    Thank you Andrew for sharing this journey with us. I never really knew much about the Muslim faith and you have helped me understand them a lot more. It sounds like you really have some powerful experiences this month and I really hope to hear more details about them, when you’re ready to share.
    I look forward to following you this next month as you delve into Sikh-ism (is that a word?).

    Keep going, brother!

    • abowen

      Thanks for sticking around, Art! When I figure things out, I’ll be sure to let you know. Yeah, you can use Sikhism, thought I’m sure there’s another term. I’ll check that out for us ; )

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David Kearns

    Thank you for your open mind, perhaps you will return, Islam has that effect on many people.

    As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatUllah wa barakatuh, Brother.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jamicam

    I “met” you this month and was delighted to read your posts about Islam. Amazed at your discipline to jump into Ramadhan along with everything else! Happy to call you my brother.

    Now, as you fold up your prayer rug and don your turban, I’ll be reading your posts with curiosity.

    Wa alaykum assalam… and upon YOU be PEACE.

    • abowen

      Jamicam,

      Thanks for hanging with me. Means a lot when the faithful credit me with at least some understanding. I learned a lot from you folks. Thanks!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Umm Yasmin

    I haven’t posted so much as I thought I would this month, but I’ve been following your posts with delight – and wish you all the very best for the rest of the year too!
    wasalam

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Betsy

    I started following you only in the last month and recognize in you that passion of those who seek the good that they know must exist. Augustine, Francis, Mohammed, Dorothy Day, Paul Farmer, so many I cannot count. As one who was born into the Christian Story, I have easily recognized the seekers inmy own path. Now, God calls us all from that single path and you Andrew and people like ypu will show us this way. I’m pretty old to do anything as brave as this journey you have taken, but knowing that there are seekers like you- well it gives me peace. I think about the amazing women who came together and formed what they call ‘a Faith Club” and am certain that in conversations between people of faith lies true peace. I hope there is a book at the end of this year long jpurney because such a book would make a difference in our world. This work you are doing is important and beautiful.

    • abowen

      Betsy,

      What a fantastic message. I’m glad to see that my work has some worth in your eyes. I hope I continue to hold your confidence. Peace.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Wafa

    God be with you & be merceiful towords your quist.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tima

    May God guide/keep you on a path that will bring and keep you spiritual fulfillment, for that is when one is truly blessed and happy.
    God Bless.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tima

    Well said Betsy!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Hameed Agha

    Dear. I think you made a very big mistake please kindly review Quran Karim properly and will show you the right direction and I am sure you will return back to Islam.

    • abowen

      Hameed,

      You misunderstand my purpose. I am here to understand those around me from the inside out, not to convert. There can be no mistake when we set out to join our fellow man in love and understanding.

  • http://HaveImportantQuestion Nancy

    I not islam or muslim, im full american lady which i have met this moroccan over there in Kenitra Morocco an he wants me to come over there to marry him so he can come here, an been talking to him now for 4 months which i have falling in love with him, but i not sure his love same as i feel. Now i were to go over there, what will i be expecting to happen when i get there an what will occur.
    An also i can only have 3 weeks off to get married if i truly go there im kinda sketish about it but my heart crys for him though, but i just wanted to know what i wallking in to an maybe you can shade some light on the subject. hope you can help me in this. I do respect all people an i would never do anything to hurt him or his family

    • abowen

      Nancy,

      How did you meet this man? If you aren’t sure, that’s probably a sign to be cautious. If his only motivation for marrying you is so that he can come to the U.S., I think you have your answer there.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    Of the various fibers of this thread who sincerely believe that no terrorist has ever been a Muslim, I inquire as to why nearly all terrorists invoke a Muslim reference whenever they do their jihadist deeds. Do these attackers believe that their pre-attack proclamations in the name of Allah or in the name of his effects are nothing but meaningless air?

    • abowen

      Abambagibus,

      Of course they don’t see their convictions as meaningless air, otherwise why proclaim? My argument is that because their actions violate Islam (most religions carry the same notion) in such a fundamental way, that to even call them true Muslims is a stretch. Go deeper. Why call a Christian terrorist a Christian terrorist? Why not just a terrorist? To assert that they belong to a wider group that denounces their actions is unfair to the group at large, because in one act, these criminals suddenly represent an entire faith without the permission of the faithful.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    According to Ablowen, who apparently aspires to imaginary parallels in the absence of obliques : as there are organized terrorists invoking the name of their Muslim God and his most relevant derivatives, so there are organized terrorists invoking the name of their Christian God and His most relevant derivatives. As to the latter, I wish that he would provide me with names and documentation. Such information has so far eluded me. Otherwise I’m inclined to think that my imaginary adjective is real. Scilicet Ab Ambagibus.

    • abowen

      Abambagibus,

      I never claimed there weren’t organizations performing acts of violence in the name of a certain god. There indeed are. My argument is that in the face of the core values of said faiths, these persons surely misrepresent the mainstream. If I were a Muslim, I would not want those who crashed into the towers labeled as “Muslim” terrorists simply because killing innocent people is strickly forbidden in the faith. Therefore, they are not acting Muslims. In a similar way, how could those so-called “Christians” who slaughtered thousands of Muslims and Jews during the Crusades in the name of Christ actually claim to be Christians when such acts clearly go against the teachings of Jesus?

      When we made general associations based on fringe elements, or elements that do not accurately portray a group, we have the sort of discrimination and blind ignorance/hatred toward groups we see in this country today. I speak from experience, being among these various groups.

      Your opinion is yours, of course, but you will not find support for generalities based on extremes here. Thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    That you “never claimed there weren’t organizations performing acts of violence in the name of a certain god” means that you claim that there are, but of course. According to multiplicative law, a negative renders a negative quite positive. And, while, by reason of an understandable necessity, you quite positively posit that each of these self-allegedly faithful but wrathful organizations proclaims itself in the name of a particular faith, be that faith Islam or Christianity or whatever, you continue to fail to provide me with the particulars on the matter of terrorism for the sake of the Faith in Jesus. Particulars on the matter of terrorism perpetrated in the name of the crescent and star are everywhere to be found. Need I trot them out to remind you? Just give me the name of at least one of the organizations now terrorizing millions in the name of the cross. That is all that I ask.

    • abowen

      Oh Abambagibus, I knew your tunnel vision would surface eventually.

      Yours is a narrow view of the world, it seems. Whereas I recognize acts of both love and malice in all faiths, enacted by various people, who form many interpretations of each faith, you seem to believe that Christians in particular have never acted in malice in the name of their faith. I could give you, not the name of an organization who has terrorized millions in the name of faith, but of a man who claimed Christianity and slaughtered millions by his version of that faith. His name was Adolf Hitler. Want an organization? What about the “Holy Mother Church,” whose satellite kingdoms of northern Europe invaded, forced conversions and/or slaughtered countless Native tribes in the Americas…all in the name of Christ? And what about every so-called “pagan” in both Europe and the Colonies killed for “witch craft” and “Satan worship”? I assume these judgements would not be carried out without the premise that only a Christian faith will do for proper society.

      You seem to think this is a game of keeping score, of seeing which “side” has done worse than the other, but I do not play sides. To be sure, there are misguided people who do horrible things in the name of a certain faith, however it is not fair to lump them in the same pen with those who do not share their fringe views. My outlook is more universal, wider, and so I can see these different parties, whereas you have an obvious bias against Islam in particular, and perhaps faiths other than Christianity (out of which version, by the way? Lest we forget the battles/wars fought–those killed by conflicting versions of Christianity).

      Again, I do not find any of these players in the history of the Christian faith to actually be true Christians, nor will I unjustly lump them together with those peaceful Christians who follow the example of Christ. If you don’t follow the guidelines, you aren’t a member of the club, no matter how loud you scream that you are. Islam prohibits the killing of innocents. Period. Those men who crashed into the towers and those who kill themselves and others in public spaces do so in the name of their ego, yet they hijack the name of Allah or God. Judging otherwise creates an unfair generalization and bias–one that you so flawlessly exhibit. I appreciate you demonstrating this point so clearly and colorfully. Examples such as yours give us ample warning of what traps await us.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    Sir Abowen :

    Of yourself you claim: “Whereas I recognize acts of both love and malice in all faiths, enacted by various people, who form many interpretations of each faith, you seem to believe that Christians in particular have never acted in malice in the name of their faith.”

    In accord I reply: Whence do you draw the this inference? The omission of the negative is not the admission of it. Yet your deprecation of me is based on the insistence that it is. Otherwise your calumny is empty. Your unwitting support of this fallacy, however, induces me to infer that the light that you shed is refracted thru a most emotional lens. Otherwise you wouldn’t have stooped to what for you seems to be the necessity of ad hominem disdain.

    Of course, Christianity is historically fraught with violent aberrations against the aberrations against it, … aberrations which it perceived thru a mode of apperception which, forever evolving, has evolved, … moving historically closer to the spatiotemporally transcendent, therefore non-historical, fullness of the Christ within us all. Christians are presently more open to the realization of their spiritual evolution.

    Of yourself you claim: “I could give you, not the name of an organization who has terrorized millions in the name of faith, but of a man who claimed Christianity and slaughtered millions by his version of that faith. His name was Adolf Hitler. Want an organization? What about the “Holy Mother Church,” whose satellite kingdoms of northern Europe invaded, forced conversions and/or slaughtered countless Native tribes in the Americas…all in the name of Christ?”

    In accord I reply: You adduce the sins of the past, the long past, as proof of the sins of the present, the immediate present. But this adduction is valid only if founded on the premise that spiritual stasis, not spiritual evolution, is the basis of any true Faith. Accordingly, in spite of our external, thus secular, transformations, it is from cradle to crypt that we never really change internally. The past is ever present. The present is the past. And the dead past looks forever alive thru the lens of your ever present preference for looking thru it.

    As for Hitler, it was the image of the Lutheran Church, by virtue of its Germanic roots, that served as a means of public persuasion, especially over a populace with a generally Lutheran bent. Non-Lutheran and non-Germanic, the Italianate Catholic Church was an abhorrent aberration of the Aryan spirit that pulsed thru the bodies of all true Germans, supposedly. His National Socialist Party of Germany had politicized its Faith in much the same way as certain Muslim ‘parties’ are presently politicizing theirs.

    Of yourself you claim: “My outlook is more universal, wider, and so I can see these different parties, whereas you have an obvious bias against Islam in particular, and perhaps faiths other than Christianity (out of which version, by the way? Lest we forget the battles/wars fought–those killed by conflicting versions of Christianity).”

    In accord I reply: Again you erroneously infer. My bias is not against Islam, but against violence, especially murderous violence. Were I living in the time of the Inquisition, I’d be railing against the violence perpetrated in the name of Christianity, at which time some sanctimonious Christian would have slammed me for being against Christianity. In the domain that would employ it to transpersonally substantiate a politically interpersonal form, especially in a manner unfaithful to it, a Faith becomes faithless to itself.

    Of myself I include: From the fact I’m an ardent student of the Buddha, of the Christ, of Plotinus and Rumi and Kant, please infer the Faith I am truly against. Though I am certainly not as universally comprehensive in spirit as you, nor as wise, nor as loving, I am ignorant enough to understand that I’m evolving. Yet, in the midst of this evolution and by the power of it, I who am therefore beneath you at least in the way you propose, must acquiesce to admit that it is the ‘Faith of the Ego over egos’ that I abhor, the selfsame Faith that on occasion has impelled itself to violence.

    Still, I pray that the Holy Ghost may haunt your sullen spirit into becoming a neighbor of true understanding and care, even care for the likes of your affective inferiors. You may continue your tirade, as I retire to ponder Matthew. I’m assuming a Nominalist posture, at least for now.

    Adhuc Ab Ambagibus

    • abowen

      Ambagibus,

      You’ve taken so much time here, you must be tired, weary in your ponderings…I can feel the strain and stress in your words. I’m humbled that you find comfort here, to express yourself, but I think we can both agree that it’s not the place for you…at least not right now.

      Since you are studying Matthew, I recommend the time-tested Beatitudes, one of my favorite passages of Scripture. As for Rumi, a most exemplary Muslim and sage, I think you’ll enjoy this:

      “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I’ll meet you there.

      When the soul lies down in that grass
      the world is too full to talk about.”
      –Rumi

      May we meet there, someday. Until then, go in peace.

      Andrew

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Anjali

    Dear Mr. Bowen,

    I was wondering how/why you originally hated muslims so much before you took up this project. I am so happy that you were liberated from this hatred though :) I hope the rest of your journey goes well.
    Sat Sri Akal,
    -Anjali

    • abowen

      Anjali,

      Please, call me Andrew. I originally hated Muslims because I was ignorant and believed what everyone else told me about them instead of seeking truth on my own. A horrible memory for me…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mark Jones

    As one with several Muslim aquaintences & at least two very close Muslim friends I have to ask… If a terrorist is a terrorist, & the vast majority seeking to kill us are Muslim, then how is the term ‘Islamic terrorist’ an oxymoron? Even the Muslims I know use the term.

    my one & only beef with the Muslim faith is that none are willing to come out and publicly denounce the actions of these supposed ‘few’ monsters.

    • abowen

      Mark,

      First of all, this is my opinion given my experience with Muslims I interacted with over the month. I call “Islamic terrorism” an oxymoron because the Qur’an prohibits a Muslim from taking innocent lives. The 9/11 hijackers took innocent lives, therefore the act was an unIslamic one. In many cases, so-called Islamic terrorist target civilians and so I place them in the same batch. They may call themselves Muslims, but their actions speak louder. They are simply murderers. You don’t have to agree, that’s just my stance.

      As for your beef with the faith, there have been numerous Islamic groups who have openly condemned any and all acts of terrorism. Here is a small list for you: http://kurzman.unc.edu/islamic-statements-against-terrorism/

      What it comes down to though, is how long will folks who are innocent of the charges have to apologize on behalf of criminals? Does it make it any better? If you’re an American, should you have to personally apologize every time a small, fringe group of Americans or an individual does something wrong? No, I don’t think so.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mariah Kornegay

    I hope by you experiencing this religon it helped you and other people to realize the untruths about Muslims. 9/11 caused a lot of people to be ignorant and discriminate against Muslims. I personally never discriminated against Muslims because I knew that there are some extremists who take it too far. I hope this was a great experience for you.

    • abowen

      Mariah,

      It certainly did. The learning and change was incredible.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mariah Kornegay

    I hope that you experiencing this religon made you realize the untruths about Muslims. Muslims recieved a bad rep by the 9/11 attack, which caused a lot of discrimination against Muslims. Personally I never believed that Muslims were all to faul for what happened, they were extremists. I hope that this experience helped you change your preconcieved notions about Muslims.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Safiyyah

    We alejke. I was following your blog and reading, and was very happy you met Islam in our sacret month of Ramadan. So no, I am wondering, since I am , elhamdulillah, a Muslim.. How are you, without islam? How is it going for you?
    Has anything changed in your perspective, or do you miss something from islam?
    since, i was secretly hoping, you would embrace islam and be our brother, permanently..

    Best regards;

    • abowen

      Safiyyah,

      Asalaam aleikum. On the contrary, I don’t feel as though I ever left Islam. I have taken much of each path with me and continue as a student as each. Though they may not be agreeable with many Muslims, I consider those within the faith brothers and sisters all the same.