- Founder/s: ??? (unknown or of doubtful authenticity, except that it was definitely more than one)
- Approximate age: 2500-3000 years
- Place of origin: India
- Holy book/s: Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Epics and others
- Original language of holy book/s: Sanskrit
- Demonym of adherents: Hindus
- Approximate number of current global adherents: 1, 000,000,000
- Place of worship name/s: temple, mandir, mandira
No wait, not yet I didn’t! I had certain experiences that caused me to re-examine my understanding of spiritual matters. One of the most prominent was one that I still remember to this day:
I was going home from school, walking past Pymmes Park when I looked up at the sky. For a split second I saw a face. The face was a woman’s, literally black skinned, bald, and smiling at me. She didn’t look like anyone I knew at the time.
(and admittedly she was hot! LOL)
Then I ignored it and carried on walking. It was just a figment of my imagination… except it was unbidden. I hadn’t been thinking about women beforehand, I just looked up and saw it as easily as I would’ve seen a cloud had any been there. For years I didn’t think about it again.
Another experience was a bit more recognisable to other people. Years before the one above, I was walking home from school (again) and it was snowing. It had been snowing for a fair few hours so the snow had settled. When I turned onto my road I looked at the settled snow and WHOA! The road was covered in a few inches of snow, and it was completely undisturbed! No footprints, no tyre tracks, no fallen leaves or branches, no other people or animals around, nothing! And it was still snowing so It was beautiful, and I was suddenly really happy!
Some time after that, round about the age of 16, I’d finally worked out the secret to happiness: don’t express strong emotions! In my head (and on paper) I’d grouped emotions into good and bad. Good ones were Calm, Joy & Love; bad ones were Anger, Fear & Grief. I’d found a website (radically reworked from when I first saw it) that explained Islam in a new way, a way that incorporated scientific understanding and I loved it! It only relied on the Qur’ān for guidance not the ahādiyth (nowadays known as the Qur’āniyyah or Qur’ān-alone movement*). I’d heard of and read works from Adnan Oktar (pen name: Harun Yahya), Tariq Ramadan, Khalid Yasin and others, but this website was really clear.
Islam really was the truth after all!
* You’d think other Muslims would be all good with that but HELL NO! There are tons of detractors calling them Satanic, innovators, anti-sunnah, etc. Even following the Islamic line of thought that was backward thinking; so the ahādiyth (which were made up from the minds of men) are as essential to Islam as the Qur’ān (the “direct words of Allah Himself”)? Did Muhammad rely on al-Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi, Muslim or al-Muwatta to explain the revelation, or did he forbid his followers from writing anything from him except the Qur’an? Relying on ahādiyth seems like borderline shirk to me.
In my early 20s I also read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I used it as a guide for my creativity, because like most creatives I’d been stifled, convinced that writing could only ever be a hobby at best. This book taught me to not just indulge in my creativity, but to see it as a way of life and source of energy that would guide me to whatever I wanted in life. Basically the Law of Attraction, but with real-life examples and techniques I could actually use in my ordinary life.
And I’d had many other such experiences, both entrenched in and independent of Islamic influence. Mostly they involved visions, visualisations, dreams (that made bloody sense to me for once!) and new life experiences.
Suffice it to say, the most defining one so far is my choice to apostatise. That came about through looking back on my life up to that point (mid-September 2013, 1 year & 10 months ago now) and realising that ultimately Islam didn’t help me. It held me back in areas of my life that would’ve made me a better person, and other reasons in the link below.
What do I think of spiritual stuff now? This is what I said in The Big News:
- Monotheistic, still deciding what to call ‘God’ (Allah, Yahweh & God all have an anthropomorphic slant, but I believe It is not human or like any biological organism, and is definitely not male or female)
- Trusting of emotions as well as rationality, subjectivity and objectivity
- Understanding the importance of self-esteem, sense of purpose and following my desires
- Trusting of my real-time experiences over pronouncements of ancient books
- Prioritising external material blessings over internal spiritual ones (not because I think it’s more important, but because I’ve been brought up to do the reverse so much I’m trying to balance it out)
- Situationist, fallible & liable to change without notice (which is a good thing; change is the foundation of reality. People who refuse to change refuse to improve, and people who refuse to improve are fucked)
- No longer feel guilty about swearing!
- I’ve decided what to call ‘God’. I call it Divinity or The Divinity – I know you can translate Allah this way but let me explain. Allah is contracted from al-ilāh, and ilah means god/ divinity. However, ilāh is specifically male/ masculine so al-ilāh (Allah) is referring to a male. How do I know this? Because it has a feminine/ female form – ilāhah. Remember Arabic has no neuter pronoun, so linguistically a deity has to be either male or female. However the word divinity is neuter; it can refer to a female, male or sexless being,
- Regarding the word god, it is usually used in reference to a humanoid being. In fact, if you look at mythologies all over the world that describe gods & goddesses, you’d swear they were talking about normal humans most of the time! They have parents, siblings and children; use weapons & tools; live in physical places; eat, drink & shag (especially Zeus); and even own pets and slaves! So now when I hear the word god or God I think of that,
- More than ever now I understand that physical and spiritual happiness cannot exist independently. They could very well be the same thing,
- There’s no difference between mind, soul, spirit or psyche. They are all different names for exactly the same thing. I’d come to this conclusion ages ago but forgot to mention it on this blog,
- Destiny/ fate is not just Divinity’s creation, we humans (I’d argue all living things) co-create it both for ourselves and for others. It’s true that we are largely responsible for our lives (karma, law of attraction, whatever) but not completely. Situations outside our control (aka. accidents) happen, and we are influenced by family/ friends/ environment/ culture, but it’s still within our control to change them. The more we practise manipulating our destinies by large-scale actions, the more luck we create for and attract to ourselves. Again I understood this years ago but forgot to mention it here,
- Angels and devils are nothing but figments of our imagination, HOWEVER this doesn’t make them non-existent. For some weird reason it makes sense to think of there being other spirits among/ within us, since the soul behaves like different beings at times. Devils are often scapegoats we use to avoid admitting we are evil at times. However, I like the Jewish understanding of Satan: he’s NOT the cause of evil, he’s doing what Yahweh told him to do – tempt us away from good. But it’s totally on our heads if we obey ’cause it was our job to fail! There’s a website which gives intriguing info on the history of spiritual beings but…
Oh wait, now I remember: angelsghosts.com.
- Before I believed sex was unnecessary for individual survival, only necessary for procreation. When doing it, though, it’s still important to make it pleasurable – especially for the woman since we men have done so much psychological damage to them. And the concept of spiritual sexuality always appealed to me. Now I see sexuality as a fundamental function of the soul even from before birth. Why? I don’t know, but it gives us energy, sharper senses, greater awareness of the immediate surroundings, greater impetus to think for ourselves, and PLEASURE!!! Also, whereas I used to think all sex outside of heterosexual marriage was wrong, I now think any sex is good as long as it’s between consenting adults (or coevals in the case of adolescents) who care about giving pleasure to the other party. Oh, and no STIs,
- In fact, now I believe that sexual pleasure is MUCH more important than procreation. A happy sex life makes a better example for children to follow when they grow up. And yes, children should be taught about sex young. Even Islam isn’t that prudish (even if muslims are). The argument that it’ll make them want to do it more is crap; I knew about sex since I was 8 but lost my virginity at 25. If children are taught how it works when young they won’t have to rely on porn for guidance, and if taught properly they’ll know how to avoid inflicting pain, unnecessary hurt feelings, unwanted pregnancies, STIs, etc,
- My stance on emotions is totally inverted. Now I think strong emotions that generate action are generally better than weak ones that inhibit action. I’ve reclassified Anger as good and Calm as bad. As I said in The Big News, I also believe “patience is not a virtue” and “good things come to those who don’t wait”. In fact, with my girlfriend I use a new stock phrase – “the power of impatience”!
- We humans share a lot more in common with animals than we like to think. In fact, we are just another species of animal. We have bodies as they do, and we have souls AS THEY DO (note: animal comes from anima/ animus, Latin for soul!),
- Strangely, despite the stereotype it seems humans are the most sex-crazed animals on Earth! As far as I know we’re the only animals whose sexual urges aren’t limited by time of year or availability of partners. We’re always at it and always thinking about it,
- I no longer feel obligated to respect any religion. In fact, I kinda see it as important to challenge people’s religiosity otherwise they typically don’t learn. Ironically, since quitting Islam I have become more interested in religious history!
- Still situationist, fallible & liable to change without notice.
(In case you’re wondering about the featured image of the dark-skinned Indian woman, that’s to symbolise my shift in focus from the spiritual/ conceptual to the physical.)
Mostly inspired by my irtidad (apostasy from Islam), but also from my constant reflections on the divine even when I was a Muslim.
As a Muslim I never believed in a gendered god. From what I’d understood Islam didn’t either. The only reason Allah is known as “He” is because Arabic has no neuter pronouns, everything is a he or a she. To this day I find that stupid, in all languages that use gendered pronouns for inanimate objects, not just Arabic. Moon = male, sun = female, etc. Meanwhile “It” sounded generic and disrespectful, like how you’d describe a rock or a dog.
An anthropomorphic god was wrong too, and Islam makes it very clear that Allah is not like us. He doesn’t need sustenance, procreate (therefore the son/children-of-God doctrine was total bollocks), get tired, age, die, get forgetful or make mistakes, etc. He is not like any of His creations.
So for most of my life I had a term in my head to refer to Allah: the Meta-Force. Force because He has no physical form or substance yet still makes things happen, Meta- because I thought of forces (like gravity, electromagnetism, strong & weak nuclear, etc.) as creations and astagfirullah for defining the Almighty by His creations! To me Allah was invisible and all-seeing, inaudible* and all-hearing, omnipotent, omniscient yet only partially knowable, omnibenevolent**, etc.
* except for the one and only time in human history He spoke to Moses through the burning bush.
** as for people who posit the “problem of evil”, to me there was no such problem. Evil is caused by us, choosing to act upon the whispers of our eternal enemy the Satan. It was that simple.
God, Yahweh and Allah were synonymous, just different names for exactly the same thing. Despite what evangelical Christians (and even some Muslims) like to think, the god of the Bible, Torah & Qur’an were one and the same being. It’s just the Bible & Torah were distorted by people through the passage of time. Unlike a lot of Muslims, I also didn’t exclude the possibility that Krishna, Rama, the Buddha, etc. were all prophets too. Muhammad reportedly said there were 124,000 prophets throughout human history and the Qur’an only mentions about 25 by name. It also stood to reason that other holy scriptures (Upanishads, Tripitaka, and others) could very well have been messages of Allah that got distorted after the messengers died. Therefore I always felt a bit compelled to respect them all even if I believed they were wrong.
Allah occupies a dimension completely outside of our universe that we have no hope of ever accessing. We’d have to exit the space-time fabric and enter worlds with more than 3 dimensions, which is and always will be impossible no matter how advanced our technology becomes. There is a hadiyth (narration of Muhammad) that says there are seven worlds/ dimensions/ universes layered on top of each other. As vast and beautiful as it is, our universe (the dunya) is the lowest of all, a mere drop in the ocean compared to the next one above. That one is only a drop in the ocean compared to the one above it, which is only a drop in the ocean compared to the one above it, etc. Then the highest of them is – again – a drop in the ocean compared to what’s above it: the kursiy* of Allah. The only thing above that is Allah Himself, for whom there is no comparison.
* Often translated as throne, but the throne of Allah is called a different name – ‘arsh. Kursiy really translates as footstool.
As I grew older and wiser (I like to think!) my understanding of Allah evolved again. For a start I decided that since Allah wasn’t male I should stop saying “He”. Fuck the supposed disrespect, “It” or “IT” was more accurate.
However, I had given very little thought to my personal relationship with Allah, simply because Islam does not mention personal relationships with God much beyond love, hope and fear. This is the state a true believer is meant to die in: simultaneously loving to serve and remember Allah; hoping that all our love, good intentions & actions will be enough to earn us Paradise; fearing that it may not be.
Oh yeah, and love what Allah and His messenger love and hate what Allah and His messenger hates.
Islamic prayers are also extremely ritualised. The exact same movements of standing/ bowing/ prostrating/ kneeling/ raising the right index finger, 5 times a day every day. The words are identical each and every time except a part in the standing when you recite any part of the Qur’an you choose, as long as it’s no less than 3 verses. And always in Arabic, don’t care if you’re in the 80+% of non-Arabic speaking Muslimiyn worldwide. No let-offs, only exceptions are if you’re mentally or physically incapable of performing them, and if you do them late you must make them up. The repetitiveness is meant to focus you on Allah, so that your faith & sincerity will increase to the point where you’ll be praying as if you can directly see Him. Even though Muhammad explicitly stated we cannot see Allah.
You are allowed to make personalised supplications outside of prayer times for any reason you want, but since the prophet also did them it’s recommended to follow his examples verbatim. And since he was an Arabic-speaking Arab, it’s better to do them in Arabic.
In summary Islam’s stance is: Allah created us, we just have to sincerely serve Him and hope for a good afterlife. This dunya is a prison for the believers and paradise to unbelievers, but it’s all good because the akhirah (hereafter) will be eternal happiness for you and eternal torture for them. Just have sabr (patience/ forbearance), focus on the akhirah instead of the dunya. Allah has already spelt out everything we need to know for life, just use your free will to obey and submit. Oh, and think for yourself because Allah commands it.
So what about angels, jinn & prophets?
Islam is very clear on that:
Prophets (anbiya) are humans so spiritually pure and the rest of humanity so impure Allah gave them authority to dispense His messages. According to conventional Islamic belief, all prophets were men. All of them were tasked to deliver Allah’s message to their people, whereas only Muhammad was instructed to deliver to all humanity as he was the last one.
This always begged the question in my mind: what qualifies some people to be that spiritually pure? Obviously age doesn’t factor in: Muhammad was a prophet at age 40 while Jesus was a prophet from birth!
Angels (mala’ika) are another type of creation altogether, totally unrelated to us. They travel at light speed, don’t eat or drink, and carry out Allah’s commands exactly since they don’t have free will, and they can live all the way to Judgment Day. They can visit our world (when Allah allows it) but don’t live in it. The Qur’an and ahadiyth don’t describe their appearances at all, apart from just that they’re massive, made of light and have any number of wings.
I thought of them as God’s tools in a way, as they’re tasked with stuff like directing the winds, telling seeds to grow, carrying souls into foetuses, carrying Allah’s throne & footstool, blowing the trumpet on Judgment Day, etc.
Jinn are another type of creation. The closest Biblical equivalent is demons, but not all jinn are evil. Just most of them, same as humans because they also have free will. They are similar in power to angels, as they’re created from “smokeless fire” – whatever that means. They live in our world, form communities, eat, drink, procreate and have religions like us. They usually don’t get involved with us – so possessions are damn near non-existent – but will attack us if disturbed. Ibliys was their ancestor, and when he refused to prostrate to Adam he became the Shaytan (devil). Although he hates us and wants us all to burn in Hell, Allah is so merciful Shaytan is allowed to live ’til Judgment Day. According to one report, Allah is even SO merciful that if Shaytan were to repent Allah would forgive him!!!
Devils (shayatiyn) are just any evil-minded beings, usually jinn but can be used for humans too.
Since I believed in Islam so strongly, I believed jinn and angels must be empirically verifiable. For years I scoured the Internet for scientific explanations, and the ones that made most sense to me were that angels are the fundamental forces of nature (gravity, weak & nuclear, electromagnetism) and jinn are bacteria.