1. What, to you, is practicing Islam?
Practicing Islam is belief in one God, His angels, His Books, His Prophets, the Last Day, and in God’s power in our lives—that is, that all power comes from God. Following Islam’s five “pillars,” then, is the material/physical expression of those beliefs. Those practices are, of course, witnessing my belief in God and Muhammad’s prophethood; regular prayer; obligatory alms; fasting the month of Ramadan; and making the hajj someday, God willing.
Your question about revolution and democracy is important—here is my personal outlook: Humankind’s laws are not God’s laws, obviously, and no human can enforce God’s laws to perfection. I am not “into” politics, personally—I never much have been, although I do vote. The wonderful thing about democratic societies is that they allow us to practice, and for the most part to observe the rules of our religion. America protects our rights to religion. I see humankind’s efforts as too corruptible to entrust people with the total oversight of my practice. Islamic law, Sharia, as humans’ best efforts to create guidelines for living in harmony with one another in accordance with God’s commands. As with American democracy, the original intent is true and noble, but people always have a way of ruining things.
This is why I am liberal-minded. It is up to each individual to choose her/his course. Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion; no one should be forced to submit to Islam—and I see that as a clear indication that, while God’s commands are clear, people must always be allowed to choose whether to follow them.
I am doing my best to make sense—in one line: Islam must be a choice; following Islamic laws must be an individual, personal decision.
At the same time, once I have decided to submit to God, it is my responsibility not to allow others to oppress me. I have enough troubles with this on an individual level—I am so blessed to live in a country that protects my right to be Muslim.
2. Honestly, I have not studied Sharia—I place my interest in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (following the examples of Muhammad, pbuh). I mean, I know people who have degrees in Islamic law—so I am afraid I am not equipped to answer questions about specifics. But again—I think this is a standard to which people must choose to be held.
3. I am actually quite comfortable with my role as a woman in Islam. What I find wonderful is the extent to which Islam celebrates mothers. I do not see equal treatment as necessarily identical treatment. I prefer covering my body in public—hijab, as this state of being covered is commonly called, has been a tool for me to overcome, to a point, some of my own body issues. I certainly am more comfortable not worrying about my chubby arms in short sleeves, or whether my legs look all right in a short skirt.
I also tend to see the division of duties as a comfortable social order—I am the Minister of the Interior, while my husband is the Secretary of State, so to speak. I feel that this gives enormous value and validity to my jobs at home. I am in charge of family finances, teaching my son by example, as well as the day-to-day stuff. Obviously, there are aspects of Sharia that I do not know the reasons for, such as the rule on testimony,but I know that there is a good deal of wisdom in the world that has yet to touch me. The world is not perfect, but Muslims are encouraged to live not solely for this world. This is part of my jihad.
Sorry this got so long…I could have written so much more…it is so hard to give a thoughtful, acceptable answer in limited space and time.
Peace be upon us all!