In this op-ed, Nada Mousa explores how to reconcile complex philosophical questions with your faith as a Muslim. The views represented in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Muslim Girl as a whole or as a publication.
Being Muslim, no matter where you are in the world, continues to be challenging. We are faced with opposing worldviews and political stigma that results in a sense of isolation. Every day, stories about the hardships faced by Muslims globally are surfacing in increasing numbers.
Just a few days ago in the United Kingdom, a Muslim father took to social media in disbelief over his daughter’s homework assignment.
His thirteen year old daughter’s Religion and Philosophy teacher assigned a topic that requires students to speak on the existence of God in light of the 9/11 attacks. The underlying philosophical concepts beg to discuss the reality of evil and good and its relation to God’s existence.
The teacher asked students to form opinions about a subject matter which is arguably beyond their years; even great philosophers have been stumped once or twice in an effort to prove the existence of the divine. Understandably, the girl’s father appeared to be outraged by the boldness and audacity of this particular homework assignment, given its complexity and his daughter’s age and faith. And such a task appears to undermine the very values of Islam — the belief in one God, Allah.
In this case, the teacher probably thought that his or her homework assignment allowed the students an opportunity to critically engage with difficult philosophical concepts. While this may have been well-intentioned, the results are rather provocative, as they shed light on a much broader issue regarding the difficulty of practicing Islam in the 21st century.
Every day, young Muslim men and women are coming face to face with new ideologies that complicate their understanding of Islam. Provoked by a world whose intellectual capacity knows no bounds, we ask, how can we best balance being Muslim with modern-day discourse?
Answers to complicated questions never come easy; however, nothing worthwhile comes easily. That being said, to live in accordance with the Islamic faith while still participating in provocative conversations, we must enhance our internal strength. Certainly it is a difficult request to ask of our Muslim youth, who are dealing with discrimination and bullying at school, and in the world at large because of their religious identity.
As society moves forward, we must not fall behind in fear of losing our faith. Nor should we blindly accept the information being fed to us. As intelligent and educated youth, we have the ability to be steadfast in our beliefs while still entertaining the thoughts of others.
But, as society moves forward, we must not fall behind in fear of losing our faith. Nor should we blindly accept the information being fed to us. As intelligent and educated youth, we have the ability to be steadfast in our beliefs while still entertaining the thoughts of others.
I personally chose to pursue a philosophy degree in college. Granted, my parents were not thrilled at this idea. And days after my decision, questions about my future job opportunities and my faith started filling my inbox and my head. Doubt came in quicker than I had expected. Should I do this? Will I lose my faith by critically thinking about concepts that Islam has dictated answers to already?
Four years later, and I still have these questions buzzing around in my head, but they are much quieter because I learned that if a thought or an idea could threaten my beliefs, than I needed to make my faith stronger. With that mentality, I dove headfirst into a new philosophy for my studies and for life: Having courage of conviction (like the great Elle Woods once said) in my faith will guide me through. Now, I still love to push boundaries and ask unanswerable questions, but I never faltered in my Islamic beliefs.
As for the parents of young adults today, I can see how the such questions may appear to be Islamophobic — it approaches the assignment as if the attacks were sanctioned by Islam; note it doesn’t ask how Muslims explain the attacks — and how the mention of terror attacks incite a sense of pain; however, hiding from such questions does not put forth solutions-focused dialogues. And on the part of educators, it should be expected that each teacher understand her student body and their vulnerabilities, especially for Muslim students. All that said and done though, I like to end with a saying a wise professor once told me: “Have affairs with ideas, but do not marry them.”