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needing spiritual change....help

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I converted to Islam 3-4 years ago. There are many things I love about Islam, but I find that for many reasons I am becoming more and more unhappy with my faith. I am beginning to think it may be time to start searching for a new faith, but I don't know if I will be able to find anything that fits my beliefs. I would probably be happy just worshiping in my own way, but I feel that a spiritual community is important for my kids. I just retook the beliefnet quiz and it came up with reform Judaism and Baha'i. Oddly, i have been considering both for a while, but haven't really researched either.

What I want to find is a faith that promotes pure monotheism,and looks at its religious texts as allegories rather than facts. Something that promotes God's forgiveness and love more than the hellfire and brimstone, and that does not segregate men and women. I also want a faith with a strong community where people meet weekly and there are religious classes for children available where they can meet other children of their own faith and that have their same values. Finally, I want a faith that believes that God judges you purely on the way you interact with the world around you and the kindness and compassion that you show to the world.

So, after all that, do you have any suggestions or ideas as to what to pursue?
I feel a bit lost right now.
post #2 of 16
As a somehwat unconventional Muslim, I can relate to your concerns and what you are looking for in religion. In my own ongoing struggle, I have found that some forms of Islamic Sufism attend to these concerns. When I read The Knowing Heart I was so grateful for its message. However, it, also, is not "perfect."

Even though the other religions you mention are appealing, they each have their "problems," as all religions do. For example, I looked into Baha'i faith at the beginning of my journey. I find their spiritual practices and attitude inspiring. However, as the time since the religion's original revelations increases, more schisms among the faithful are also increasing, and the concept of the unified governing council is proving problematic. Judaism in some forms is also very appealing, but it is not the "perfect religion," either.

While I may not agree with (perhaps) the majority of Muslims on a great many subjects, I am happy that in Islam as I and many others understand it, God is the ultimate authority, and scholars can only offer opinions towards what is good and true. For me, the more orthodox interpretations of Shariah are subverting the essential message of God's mercy and compassion, and the need to care for one another in this life. I don't say this as a way to convince you to stay in Islam--your religion is between you and God--but just as an example of how maybe "the grass is always greener." Changing religions may or may not be the answer. But changing your perspective within your own religion could also make a difference.

I went through a time of great uncertainty about my choice of religion as well--and I still have times of uncertainty. (From listening to radio shows like Speaking of Faith, which profile spiritual philosophers of many backgrounds, and reading books by authors like Karen Armstrong, I've learned that this is just a normal part of spiritual life!) There are Muslims out there who share beliefs in pure monotheism, the Qur'an as a document to be viewed in context and on an allegorical level, God's compassion over God's judgment, and nonsegregation of men and women. (I know many progressive Muslims share these values, for example. But even among my husband's mainstream Muslim family members in another country, there are some who share these beliefs.) I haven't found many local religious communities in Islam that focus on these things--for those of us not in NYC or something, it's a matter of finding like-minded individuals within larger communities.

I know how painful it is to feel without a spiritual home, and I wish you all the best in your struggle.
post #3 of 16
FWIW, I believe in a creator God that is manifested in all of reality (in this universe and in infinite parallel universes) to obtain infinite understanding. God is everything so God understands everything and thus loves infinitely/unconditionally. That's what I believe, don't know if there's a label for it.. optimistic pan-deism? lol. Have you considered a UU church?
post #4 of 16
I have been a member of ECKANKAR for many years. It answered many of my questions about life and spirit. You can check out www.eckankar.org for an overview and to find a group near you.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
I don't know if I necessarily want to change my faith entirely. I honestly don't think I could if I wanted to, y/k? I have a lot invested in my faith and I really love it, I guess I am just not feeling very nourished by it. I think part of the problem is that I took on Islam as my course of study in college and got very burned out, so I have been having a hard time really reading for spiritual nourishment. We have two masjids in town, but most of the people there are of south east asian or Egyptian descent, and I often don't feel very comfortable there because everyone speaks to each other in other languages like my kids and I are not there. Also, the one masjid that is family friendly has its women's room upstairs and has no elevator, so I cannot take my wheelchair bound daughter with me, which is a real problem.

I have tryed to go to the UU congregation from time to time, but I always leave there dissapointed. I don't really know what I am looking for in posting here.
post #6 of 16
pray and ask G-d for help in your spirituality. I am Jewish and not Muslim so I really don't know much about how your faith works so really that is the only thing I can think of. Oh and maybe talk to some other women and see if they would be interested in doing some sort of weekly learning or something. Good Luck!!!
post #7 of 16
Okay, so I'm Jewish and you can just take this for what it's worth, but some years back DH and I went to a retreat that was at a Sufi center in the Berkshires, and this was just a community that was so intense, so centered, so powerful in this incredibly quiet, spiritual way ... and sweet beyond words ... really, just very gentle and loving people ... it was an extraordinary experience.

Totally getting that you don't want to abandon your faith entirely, what you typed made me think of this community. Not assuming that all Sufi communities are alike, but it does occur to me ... is there a Sufi community near you that you can connect with?

(Irrelevant to the post but just to clarify about the retreat, it was a Jewish retreat that was hosted by the Sufi center. )
post #8 of 16
Originally Posted by Summertime Mommy View Post
I don't know if I necessarily want to change my faith entirely. I honestly don't think I could if I wanted to, y/k? I have a lot invested in my faith and I really love it, I guess I am just not feeling very nourished by it. I think part of the problem is that I took on Islam as my course of study in college and got very burned out, so I have been having a hard time really reading for spiritual nourishment. We have two masjids in town, but most of the people there are of south east asian or Egyptian descent, and I often don't feel very comfortable there because everyone speaks to each other in other languages like my kids and I are not there. Also, the one masjid that is family friendly has its women's room upstairs and has no elevator, so I cannot take my wheelchair bound daughter with me, which is a real problem.

I have tryed to go to the UU congregation from time to time, but I always leave there dissapointed. I don't really know what I am looking for in posting here.
i can sympathize in many ways, as a seeker who wants to find a home in Islam but is still burdened by confusion. so you are not alone, fwiw.

my first thought is that the women's room has to be made more accessible. are there plans at the masjid to do this, both for wheelchairs and for the aging? it seems like something very important for which funds could be found. it would benefit future generations, too.

are there any women at all, either at the masjid or in your university program, with whom you connect? even finding one other person with whom you could study, or have a cup of tea, might be helpful.

i, too, have been struggling with the language barrier and feeling a part of things. if i go to masjid and there are a couple of women i know, i am fine. but if they are not there, i suddenly find i am surrounded by arabic, turkish, bengali....people forget that i am excluded. one day i was so lonely, feeling that i should not even bother to learn a religion that requires me to read arabic.... it was a bad day. then a Syrian sister invited me to her home and overwhelmed me with love and hospitality. subhanallah.

then there's my progressive views, which are usually a nonisssue (we pray, eat snacks, talk about children). but at times i hold my breath, waiting to subdue my inner turmoil. for now, i just tell myself my faith, and what lies in my heart, is between me and God. i have to trust the bit of wisdom my creator has given me.

i hope you find some peace in your seeking.
post #9 of 16
Many years ago I got a call out of the blue from an old high school friend. He told me how he had gone off to college, started drinking and partying and found himself dissatisfied with his lifestyle so he started attending the campus Christian fellowship group and decided to be a Christian. But he became disillusioned because many of the people in the Christian groups were dishonest, hypocritical, held beliefs he didn't agree with, were judgemental, etc., and as a result he was thinking of converting to Islam and wanted my advice.

I told him that although I would be very happy (duh) if he chose to become Muslim, I wanted him to become Muslim for the right reasons. I told him that he should choose his religion on the basis of what HE believed about GOD, not what the other people who identified themselves as "XYZ-ians" did/believed.

You find dumbasses (pardon my coarseness) in every religion and in my own experience (and I know I'm not alone in this) I know that no matter what group you identify with you are going to always feel like a spiritual or even literal stranger. I believe the Prophet (Peace be upon him) alluded to this when he mentioned that Islam would become a stranger (define "Islam" how you will for this purpose) and "glad tidings to the strangers".

For me, this has always been easier than it might be for others because I'm A) an introvert and B) I developed a strong independence thanks to years of teasing and bullying and generaly social-outcastedness at school attached to my "nerd" status. So I learned early on that I was never going to fit in with or please anyone, especially considering how intellectually and spiritually intense a person I am.

I'm not saying I *never* feel lonely or sad, I *am* a human being afterall, but I have accepted that I can be who I am and believe what I believe without necessarily needing intense community support for that. I have developed a more easygoing, tolerant attitude toward those around me who have different beliefs within Islam, even if I can't stand them. It just doesn't get me upset anymore because I know what I believe and I'm comfortable with that and I've come to a point where I can look at people and say "they're doing their best to get close to God and so am I and God bless them and me". I dunno, something relaxed in me when I hit my 30s, it was like things that used to be big important frustrating issues for me suddenly weren't anymore. (Does that make any sense?)

As an introvert, I also have a difficult time making friends, I am somebody who needs to have only a few really deep connections to stay personally nourished. I have two really close friends in other states/countries who I keep in touch with, I have my husband and my kids... I make my home the "community" I want to see, and then I invite others to participate sometimes.

You can also do your best to make inroads to your communities. One of my personal "issues" is that I really see the American Muslim community as in a state of critical evolution now, away from those immigrant folks and towards the native-born American Muslims. I think in the next generation (our kids') we're going to see a real shift finally from control by the immigrants to control by the natives and I think that's going to improve things a lot. This means we get to be the architects of our own reality, and it's something I'm having fun with-- inventing our own American Muslim subcultures as *I* want it to be, our own family traditions (like Ramadhan calendars-- my personal favorite new tradition I'm infecting everyone around me with) and I think if you can hold your head up high and say "This is who we are" there will eventually be immigrant types who will look at you and realize that you're making Islam work and belong in the American context and if they don't get on board with that real quick then their kids or grandkids won't even BE Muslim anymore and you may find more people joining you.

So you have to kind of be a leader rather than a follower. "Ask not what your religion can do for you, ask what you can do for your religion" perhaps? I'm serious!

By the way, on the side, I also think you might be interested in the various forms of Sufism, just in case you haven't considered that avenue yet. Investigate in particular the writings of the female saint Rabi`ah al-`Adawiyyah.

Finally, I spent 8 years living in the Middle of Nowhere with few Muslims. Now I live in Muslim Central where there are many different types of Muslims and many more people to relate to. I think being in that kind of environment can help too, when you have more people (and possibly even mosques/organizations) to choose from, you can find some people you might relate to, even a little bit, and that makes you feel less isolated. You don't have to agree on everything but at least you can take the good and leave the rest.

So the moral of the story is that you can religion-hop all you want but you will likely never find that real community backing that it seems like you're looking for. People are people (with all their idiosyncracies and issues) in every religion and all over the world. Create the world you want to see, even if on a small scale.

HTH. Forgive me if anything is garbled up there, I'm sick and exhausted and I didn't proof-read!
post #10 of 16
UmmZaynab, though i am not the author of the OP, i want to say thanks for your thoughtful post. i know i will be remembering "glad tidings to the strangers" in the future.
post #11 of 16
UmmZaynab, I feel like you could have been posting on my behalf.

Summertime Mommy, I accepted Islam more than 10 years ago. I live in an area with two masajid, though back then there was only one. There was, in fact, a schism that sparked the creation of the second, and during this schism my morality was attacked, based on my progressive views and behaviors (I am an activist/advocate by nature and before I had kids, I had time for such things). One thing UmmZaynab said about immigrant and native-born people...not that all our immigrants have such incredibly oppressive ways, but some do, and in our case there were about 20-30 immigrants, quite young, going through their crests and troughs of culture shock together, and all in the wake of 9/11. So their anger grew because they were together, and their reactions were bolder because of their numbers. As I said, a new mosque was established (alhamdulillah!). People who knew better about me rallied around me, and my home in the mosque remained secure.

Anyway, here we are 8 years or so down the road, and many of those folks have moved on, others have mellowed themselves, and their place in our local community has sort of stabilized. We still very much have a bipolar community, but now it's more like a family, where everyone loves everyone--and thinks "those other guys" are crazy.

I get my joy and passion and energy out of t he mystical experiences of the day, communion with nature and environment and animals, and art. Farming and serving people (I particularly love the elderly) bring me peace and are constant dhikr for me.

I won't get deeply into my beliefs, but I'm not as literal as perhaps most Muslims. Even my dh and I disagree, surely, on many points. But on the last day we stand alone, and in our graves we lie alone, and so we've both given up the need to identify with one another too much based on behaviors beyond the most basic (5 "pillars" and widely accepted Sunnah).

I am lucky to have a couple Muslim sisters who embrace the job of promoting Islam to our kids. We suck at it sometimes, but like UZ said, we're responsible for helping them love the religion. There's nothing for them to see in the broader culture that would suggest it, and materialism is so rampant it's easy to be pulled away into the culture of want.

Our mosque has a ramp--and it's used regularly. The other is ground-level at the men's entrance, but the women's entrance is behind the dumpster. I'd suggest that any man who would turn away a sister in a wheelchair should volunteer to carry her chair as needed up and down steps.

I'd also recommend contact with a sufi group if you have access. But remember too that the path you walk is yours alone. Sometimes it is a lonely place, but it can be beautiful, too. We are out there, mama. Peace to you.

P.S. UZ, can you do a thread/share more info about Ramadan calendars? Intrigued.
post #12 of 16

I've been where you're at. Heck, I even go to the UU church from time to time... as to be honest, our masjid is lacking in providing spiritual nourishment IMHO. I actually was torn between converting to Islam and Judaism for a very long time--but with prayer, ended up with Islam. There's a lot I don't like...and definitely the focus on hellfire/punishment is one of them. I agree with the suggestions to look into a Sufi group. There's the Threshold Society, Al Jerrahi, and a whole bunch of others. One thing I do like is to listen to the Khutbahs at http://www.nurashkijerrahi.org/main.htm

I too got very interested in the Baha'i faith after attending a Bahai mediation training and meeting so many wonderful Bahais. If there is a community near you, you might want to try visiting. Baha'u'llah (?sp) and his son used to pray salat--and some just consider them an offshoot of Islam. That reminds me, if you attend a Sunni masjid, you might want to look into a Shi'a masjid or vice-versa. I'd also definitely visit a Reformed congregation. Usually, they'll offer courses for those who are interested.

When I lived in Brooklyn, the masjids were even more segregated and it drove me batty. There were the Egyptians, the Pakistanis, the Turks, the African-Americans, the Yemenis, etc. Everybody had their own masjid. I'm in Northern Florida now, and about the only good thing about being here is that people do intermingle more out of necessity. It also makes English more of the de-facto language.... although you still have pockets of people catching up in their native tongues. I would talk to the masjid leadership about your concerns regarding your daughter. They should be able to make accomodations for both of you. (Heck, the whole women in a separate space is another pet peeve of mine. I prefer the Indonesian/Malaysian approach where they just divide the hall down the middle. Women aren't in the back... they're not in the basement... etc.)

I do believe that God will walk with you on your path wherever it leads you. Trust God to guide you.
post #13 of 16
Hi there Summertime Mommy.....
I know I am replying to this thread a little late...but I REALLY feel you Mama and I would really love to offer my perspective.

I too converted 3-4 years ago. I too feel that spiritual void, even though I am a Muslim. And I too sometimes look to other spiritual outlets from other faiths.

I would like to share with you all who posted here something my dear friend, a 60 year old Hippie Sufi Muslim American man, told me. He said "Darling, there is Islam, the institution, with a capital "I." And then there is islam, God's islam, the word for submission, the word for peace, with a lower case i."

I think what we're all disillusioned with is the world's official version of Islam -- not God's islam.

I really do think that God made islam very personal, and very wide. There are so many mysteries in the Quran and the hadith, and anyone who says that "This verse means this and only this," is only giving an opinion -- NOT a divine decree. Mama, you have to listen to your heart first. Why did islam appeal to you? Now onto the specifics....

1. You said you want a faith that promotes pure monotheism. That is definitely Islam. One God. I also think that the Quran verses (literally "ayats" - "signs") are more allegorical than literal. God's mysteries are hidden in these verses, and trust me, they can mean more than one thing at one time. And a lot of times, the verses about fire and brimstome are used as a deterrent -- and to look at one such example literally, God says that the people in hell etc. are "khasiroon" literally losers. But this can mean that they lose themselves (ie lose the true spirit of God which is good) b/c theyve done bad. Also, God says he repeats creation -- could this mean we live again? Daja vu? (Conservative Muslims may scoff at this, but what I am saying is that God's Word is so mysterious.)

2. "that does not segregate men and women." Islam has a great track record for not segregating men and women, because obviously we have to work together in community and society. There are times when it does and when it doesnt.

you also said " I want a faith that believes that God judges you purely on the way you interact with the world around you and the kindness and compassion that you show to the world"

Mama, I really do think that this is the God of Islam, the God of Bahai, the God of Judaism, and the God of Christianity. You will find this God in all of those faiths. Because that IS who God IS, no matter what anyone tells you. In Islam, God judges you based on your intentions and good deeds. That sound to me exactly what you are describing.

So don't worry mama. I think you just need to crawl back a little from the official "Islam" and go back to "islam," however and whatever your heart tells you that is.

Because, honestly, my dear mama, it sounds to me that you really are searching for that "islam", but that the world has failed you in giving you what you are looking for....instead it has given you "Islam".....but don't worry Mama.....some of the best muslims (note the lower case m - in arabic this means "submitters") tend to be the ones who feel let down by the world and just want God, God, God.

Love you. And I'm pretty sure God appreciates you being so honest.
post #14 of 16
Summertime Mommy, how are you faring? Have you had any opportunities this Ramadan to find the shine in your heart and to burnish it back to brilliance? Hope so, mama.

Thank you, youngspiritmom, for digging out this thread.
post #15 of 16

youngspiritmom, that was a beautiful post.
post #16 of 16
Originally Posted by umsami View Post

youngspiritmom, that was a beautiful post.

Ameen. thank you for sharing from your heart.
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