Muslims in CollegeMany people think Islam is a restrictive religion. People often associate it with rules, sexual repression, and oppression of women. However, I don't believe that is what Islam is all about.
This week at my school (ASU-Main), they had Islam week, which by the end of it, seemed to have been overlapped by Native American Awareness day and Christians standing on the side of walkways screaming at people (not that this is the normal behavior for Christians, but at ASU, it happens a lot -- not that anyone ever listens to them!).
I personally attended one of the seminars there called "What is Islam?" and loved learning about some aspects of Islam. And it turns out, Islam is pretty alright. In fact, nothing that was said in that seminar really contradicts anything I believe about religion at all, well except perhaps the not having sex before marriage because I personally believe that is a rather amoral (having no moral or immoral properties) act. Saying that sex before marriage is immoral is, in my opinion, just as unrealistic as saying that using contraception is immoral, despite how completely different those two things are. Never-the-less, if that is someone's religious or moral belief, I can understand why they think that and respect their right to believe that.
Well, in the seminar, I asked a lot of hard questions, things that address the very nature of religion. I asked questions like "What is the nature of God? Is he a being which exists in a physical space, or is he an entity? Does he exist in one place or everywhere?"
The answer I got was that the nature of God is quite unknown, which is something I can respect, as that means that Islam doesn't impose its own perception of God unto others. Personally, I think the idea of God as a being in wrong. No bible says that God is a being. God is, as one quantum physicist had said, non-form. God has a nature, but God does not have need for a body. In fact, to be omnipresent, the idea of God having a body makes little sense at all.
Another person asked,
"Is God male or female?"
The host of the seminar answered, "God has no gender. He is referred to as He because we have to use pronouns to describe Him, but gender is made by God."
I also asked questions that would make most religious experts stumble on their words like, "Why is it that God is a monarch? God doesn't seem to be a fan of democracy because he simply tells us what is good and what is not and expects us to follow it, and if we don't, we suffer hell fire."
The man responded that in Islam, God is not a dictator. There are certain times when God's law is supreme, like when society believes in something that is immoral, but God's laws are not written in the stars. If something brings a better outcome, a person can break those laws. For instance, if a man has a gun to your head, it is okay for a person to lie to spare his life. He also explains how society can also dictate was is good and not, this power isn't reserved specifically to God.
The most profound thing I must say about this seminar, though, is when he said that man can find God through nature. This is the thing in which founds my entire spiritual beliefs. Simply put, I believe the idea that Man needs a book to find God is ridiculous! Books can be interpreted a million different ways. A hundred people can read the same passage and come up with 30 or 40 different answers. Words can be twisted to make them say whatever you want and be used for evil, and the fact that it has to pass a language barrier makes religious misinterpretation ever more likely. Furthermore, one has to deal with complex ideas like whether the words are figurative or literal. And even scholars can't agree on what the bible says, no matter which religious bible you're using.
Plus, what if you're raised by wolves?
<---------Like this guy?
Or you live in a culture where that religion isn't allowed and you never here about it?
God doesn't have to be known through a book, through a college, through religious leaders. God, spirituality, and the like, can all be obtained through nature because these things exist within nature. Morality exists within nature. You can learn to be kind to others without a book. You can learn to pray to God without a preacher. If God exists, he exists in everything around us!
That's why I believe that God IS nature. And whether you do or not, it doesn't matter. I don't believe that good people can die and still go to hell (like so many religious pamphlets I've seen). I don't believe that only Christians are truly good (like many other religious pamphlets I've seen). And I certainly don't believe you need a guide to find God, nor do you necessarily even have to believe in God to escape hell fire (despite the fact I don't believe heaven or hell exist either).
That's the one thing that gets me about Islam though, that you do have to believe in God and the prophets to go to heaven, with exception. And that's fine. They really aren't so bad.
Finally, I would like to say that Muslims are good people just like most of the rest of us are. And Islam is a good religion. Islam doesn't oppress women. And it's certainly not a violent religion. It's people who do these things, and it can be done in the name of any religion. The Muslim wars and the poor living conditions in Muslim states is no indicator that the religion is bad either (otherwise Southern Nigeria would be doing a lot better!). People need to stop judging other people's religion and start focusing on understanding and accepting each others differences.
If you wish to follow up on this and learn more about different religions, you can check out the interfaith movement's website and attend some of their meetings: http://www.interfaitharizona.com/ or check out faith organizations near you. This group is GREAT. They teach so much about various religions and religious tolerance. They're awesome!