I did an interview for You, Me & Religion months ago and then forgot all about it until this week when the blog contacted me to let me know that the interview had been published. An excerpt is below and you can read the full interview here, including the very interesting comments. Would love you to visit and leave a comment.
2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was raised by religious Muslim parents, but I believe that being born into Islam doesn’t necessarily make you a Muslim, it’s a conscious decision that requires living in a very conscientious, measured way. I think every Muslim, whether born or not has their moment when they decide this is the faith for them and this is their “conversion” in a way.
3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
I think people like to label Muslims as moderate, traditional, extreme and this goes against the grain of what Islam is about. To call one a moderate Muslim is to assume the others are intolerant, to say one is mainstream, is to say the views of another are “fringe” or not as relevant in some way. I believe that it is a characteristic of Islam to have balance in all things and to follow what we call the “middle way.”
I am also not keen on the labels of “practising” or “not practising”. By definition, to be a Muslim is to practice the faith. I don’t feel that my faith is abstract or something that is put aside and then brought out to philosophise about sometimes. It is a practical guide to living – from the time we wake in the morning and get dressed to the time we sleep, we infuse every act with thoughtfulness and aim to make it an act of worship, even something like putting on our shoes! The same with the milestones in our life – birth, marriage, death, business, for each of them we have guidance from our faith about the best way. So for me, to be a Muslim, you have to be practising. You may not be able to include every element in your life – hijab, diet etc, but you will still aspire to.
7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I love the idea that every single act I do can be an act of worship. They are things I have to do anyway – bathing, eating, raising my children, being my husbands soulmate, but done in the way my faith guides me, with the right intention and with a level of thought and care they become acts of worship. In this way no action in life has to be wasteful. You might be making dinner, but making it with care and attention, within the prescribed requirements of my faith and with a thought for the needs and preferences for my family, cooking becomes worship.
The other thing I love about Islam is the way that it gives every person their rights – in particular the vulnerable. Women have the right to an education, to work and own property or run a business. We have the right to choose who we marry and the right to divorce. Children have the right to be cared for and protected, the right to be educated and also to be loved and nurtured. Parents have the right to be respected and cared for in their old age. Neighbours have rights over each other as do the poor and orphaned in a community. At the same time we are encouraged to put the rights of others over our own and to fulfil our responsibilities towards all those around us.
Finally I love the closeness to my Creator. We are told in the Quran that “We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Quran 5:16). We have no church, no hierarchy, no clergy, it is simply me and my Lord.
11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I believe that it should be a matter of choice. I wear the hijab and follow Islamic law where possible in my private Life (i.e. I don’t take interest on money, I eat halal food).
I think both things have been much maligned through lack of understanding. Shariah has been taken as a threat to existing law in both the US and the UK, when in actual fact it is mostly consistent with the law and practised voluntary. Shariah courts in the UK work in much the same as arbitration does and adherence to their rulings is voluntary and not enforceable by law. Shariah means a clear straight path, basically the easiest path to the resolution for a problem. Often a Shariah court is the only avenue for a woman to get a divorce or try to get some of the other rights she is due under Islam (i.e. alimony and child maintenance) when the man cannot be made to provide these under a countries law.
Similarly hijab is often misunderstood. It is not just a piece of material, but a concept – the idea of being modest and undertaking your public duties from a position of purity – dealing with people on the basis of your intelligence and character and not the way you look. I don’t think it should be forced on any women, similarly I don’t believe it should be banned – both positions take the choice away from the woman and disempower her.