We got married last year and following the first few months something was painfully obvious. Despite being Muslims, the two of us had a completely different understanding of the religion that we practiced, Islam.
I was fortunate enough to have learnt from teachers who came from different sects that dominate the region of sub-continent. Moreover, while producing Audio Video (A/V) content for an international organization I got this opportunity to interact with Muslim scholars who came from other parts of the world as well as professionals with a background in International Humanitarian Law. The entire exposure had encouraged me to identify commonalities and differences between different schools of thought that co-exist both at a local and a global level.
Thus, while practicing religion, for most part I preferred to focus on following the commandments that were basic in nature and where little or no differences were visible among the scholars. However, with the passage of time it was apparent to me that certain notions associated with the religion were mainly because of the cultural influence and that over the years, scholars from almost every sect had contributed to denounce the misconceptions.
I was still in my early 20s when in view of whatever knowledge I had and despite wondering if rationality was really a holy thing; I had decided to dismiss certain ancestral beliefs. My wife on the other hand like most Pakistani girls had limited exposure and consequently was more inclined towards concepts, rituals and practices that she had inherited from her ancestors.
Moreover, both of us at the time of our marriage were at an age where accepting new ideas is not an easy task anyway. Therefore, as far as the religion was concerned it was only obvious that we ended up arguing over one matter or the other at least once a month.
However, just before Ramazan this year we acknowledged the fact that the two of us were yet to complete the reading of Holy Quran and that there was a need to learn from the holy book together and that too with an open mind. We assured each other that we were going to do away with any of our existing beliefs that went against the teachings of Allah Almighty and that we will not let our egos come in the way.
While reading the initial chapters it was evident that we lacked appropriate knowledge.
Gradually, it became easy for us to admit where we were wrong. Our faulty belief systems got challenged and after coming to know about stories of people before us, eventually our world views began to expand. We began to realize that numerous generations have come and gone and that our case would not be any different. Realizing that this world has seen better people than us, we began to appreciate the value of humility.
Allah Almighty’s challenge in the Holy Quran to match and produce similar work as well as the example of Surah-Al Hajj (where Allah Almighty says, “O people, an example is presented, so listen to it. Indeed, those you invoke besides Allah will never create [as much as] a fly, even if they gathered together for that purpose. And if the fly should steal away from them a [tiny] thing, they could not recover it from him. Weak are the pursuer and pursued.” 22:73) provided solid grounds to comprehend that there was no need to be afraid of logic and that it was alright to be rationale.
The whole experience of learning from the Holy Quran has allowed us to grow as a couple and we have been able to reach consensus on various issues. Still, there are certain areas where our differences remain and where we need to work more before we will be able to find a common ground.
After having read the Holy Quran I had been quick to recommend the same practice to other people in my sphere of influence. I believe it is unfortunate and illogical that Muslims with extremely good educational backgrounds do not read the holy book themselves and instead allow the so called clerics (who are generally biased and have limited world views) to lead them into confusion and disarray.
Following my experience of reading the holy book there seems no need to support rituals and practices of a particular sect and in order to maintain sanity it seems important not to judge each other’s intentions and respect the minor differences that prevail. Moreover, it also seems obvious that there is no need to quarrel and that it is important to treat those with kindness who either come from a different religion or don’t believe in one.
It is also crystal clear that towards the end of the day we are all in the middle of a test. To some questions the answers will be obvious (like black and white) while for others (the ones in grey) we will have to wait a little. It’s a journey where intentions matter and where frankly, we have little time together. We can either spoil the trip by finding faults in each other’s intents and actions or we can make this expedition memorable by allowing each other the space to do what the conscience demands us to.