Jul 22, 2010

The Faith Club, Chapter 11

Well, chapter after chapter, we have to listen to these women whine -- why should we expect it to stop now?  Except, now it's Ranya's turn to whine about her religion.  *roll eyes*

First thing that struck a nerve was this, "To me, the concept of God has been co-opted by the outspoken Muslims who speak of a conditional God who approves of me only if I pray, wash, dress, and eat a certain way." (page 159) I don't think God is conditional, number one.  Number two, I don't think that God is asking us (Muslims) to do these things for His benefit, but for ours.  I think that God loves us (mankind) and that these "rituals" (whether you're talking an Islamic, Christian, Jewish or whatever religion) are a way for US to show Him our love and/or devotion.

On the same page, Ranya says

"I don't like the idea that I am only a Muslim if I cover my head and act a certain way.  I can accept a headcovering as a sign of respect in the house of God, but I don't want it to be the thing that qualifies a woman for membership in Islam."

Uh...it's NOT.  There are many women that I know who are Muslim who don't wear a headscarf.  I think that Ranya is too concerned about what everyone else thinks of her - she will NEVER be truly happy in any country or religion until she is able to get over herself and her giant ego.

On the next page, Suzanne sums up my feelings (and maybe anyone else's who's had the misfortune to read this book!). "Frankly, I was getting frustrated hearing Ranya lament  week after week about how she had no Imam, mosque and no community....I wondered if her inability to find a welcoming mosque stemmed from a prejudice that religious communities where inherently close-minded."


She goes on later to say,

My husband and I find that our church community helps us provide our children a moral compass for life.  It helps us renew and enhance our own faith through communal prayer and study.  And it provides the opportunity to experience God's goodness through communal acts of charity and service.  It keeps me grounded at the same time that it lifts me up.
Wow -- replace the word "church" with "mosque" and this could have been written by me!  I mean, I don't have to like every person who goes to the mosque.  I don't have to agree with the way that everyone does something, or dresses or what have you.  I think it's petty to do so.  What is Ranya's deal?

Then, Ranya writes, "I cannot believe that God, who created us in so many different variations , can be of a limited, close-minded nature.  How is that possible?"  That's right, Ranya -- how is that possible?  The only person who has ever said that he was "limited" or "close-minded" is Ranya herself.  The God that she describes here is NOT the God of Islam.  She is simply creating her own issues, then complaining about it.

In the same paragraph, she says, "...why would He communicate with just one person?" Once again, who said this??  In the Quran, God tells us about talking to Moses, Joesph, Jonah, Suleiman....and more.  There are many prophets and messengers that He talked to.  What the hell is Ranya on?  Earlier on in this book, she talked of how God calls Jews and Christians "The People of the Book" in the Quran -- now she's discounting everything!  I hate her more with every whiny sentence.

Later in the chapter, they discuss the 5 daily prayers in Islam. Five prayers...they take maybe 5 minutes each to perform...so we're talking less than 1/2 hour in an entire day devoted to prayer...and she considers that extreme?  Really??

When she tries to say how she prays, but not the "prescribed" prayers, she says, "Do I pray? Yes, I do.  I held a Quran and prayed before I gave birth." (page 170) -- Okay, we've already talked with my issues around this.  But here's what gets to me.  How does holding a book -- any holy book -- make one faithful?  To me, it's like holding on to the steering wheel of my car and calling myself a race car driver.  Seriously??  I don't consider holding a book a part of faith, whether it's a Quran, Bible, Torah...whatever.

She whines more and more about "her form" of praying.  How it's the way that "she" practices Islam.  You know what -- we ALL do this.  In Islam, it's called dua (supplication) -- a little prayer sent up to God, "please let me pass this test", "Please let this dinner turn out", "Thank you for this glorious day" etc.  They're little "mini prayers" if you want to think of it that way, but they are in no way new to Islam.  Then, she says about her little "modern form" of prayer "I don't have to be in a mosque or even at home to pray."  Once again, who the hell told her that?  You know, my kids have a CD filled with little Islamic children's songs.  One of them is called "All the Crazy spots" -- a song talking about all the strange places that the singer has prayed...in Islam, the entire world is our mosque.  We can pray anywhere ~ why doesn't Ranya know this??

Then, she says "I explained...how vulnerable I felt as a Muslim in the eyes of other Muslims who asserted that it was their right to qualify or disqualify me as a member of the religion."  No Muslim should EVER do this!  Only God knows what is inside the heart of a man or woman, and only God can be the judge.  If Ranya faced people like this, than truly do feel sorry for her -- but I also wonder if she even gave them a chance.  She seems to look at the world as "out to get her."  I have found that you tend to find what you're looking for - you know the old adage "Seek and you shall find"

(at this point, my daughter bumped me and it published before I was done or had spell checked --- there's more!)

Finally, Ranya meets a group of "like minded" Muslims who all prayed together.  She talks about the fuss about the segregation.  I feel the need to explain once again.  Back in the day, the men prayed in the front, older children behind them (to watch/learn) and the women behind them (to correct/guide).  How is this a bad form of segregation?  Sure, hard-core extremists have gone and made things more segregated, but that's politics once again, not religion.

As Ranya met these new Muslims, I wondered how she could like these ones, but be so repulsed by the others.  Some of these girls wore a headscarf (and she didn't run in fear) and she even said "Most had no extended families here , having left them behind in lands as varied as Malaysia and Uzbekistan." Watch out people -- Ranya's hanging with the immigrants!!!  *gasp*

Then, she talks about hanging out with these people for a day of fasting because, "the festivities and traditions of the holiday are made more meaningful ... when those around you are fasting..." -- You mean -- the RITUAL of fasting?  I thought Ranya wasn't about rituals??  This woman is so contradictory and I cannot begin to pretend to like herand her "better than you" attitude.

Whew!  That was quite the post...but I warned you all!!


Erin said...

I just finished this chapter...well Heather you took the words right out of my mouth. On page 158,in the first paragraph,Ranya says that she submits (to God) when the scope of something is too big for her to control, that Fate is God's will. The she spends the rest of the chapter whining (again). Woe is me, I don't have a Mosque to go to....isn't this something she can control? Or, if it's too much for her to handle, maybe she should pray about it? To me it seems she's so busy complaining about how hard it is for her, she missing her own point in the first paragraph....if it's too big for her, submit.
I do find Priscilla a less whiny. She seems to be coming more fully into her beliefs.

On to chapter 12!

Keahn said...

I'll be leaving for a 3-day weekend of camping (oh, joy) with my husband, so I'll be reading C11 and beyond then. Right now, though, I must say that, according to your post, Ranya is sounding more and more like a few of my daughters, especially ONE in particular. You don't know where Ranya is getting all of stuff from and wish she'd get over it -- I feel the same way about V. She certainly doesn't get her ideas from me and I wish she'd get over herself!

Just had to share (vent). Speaking of prayer. I could use a few sent my way, dear groupies, so that I can find peace amid the relestless natives I call my ADULT children.

Hethr said...

peace amid adult (or near enough) children? Are you insane??

Keahn said...

there are those who would swear that I am.

Keahn said...

(I may have figured out what I was doing incorrectly)

For a chapter on Rituals, Chapter 11 didn't seem to focus too much on that aspect ~ at least not as deeply as I expected it to.

Ranya, at times, to me, seems oblivous to the fact that ALL faiths have followers who are narrow-thinkers:

"As the women gathered for prayer, one of them told my mother that her prayers could not be accepted because she wore nail polish. Dumbfounded, my mother explained that nail polish did not exist in [Muhammad's]time. This kind of thinking is part of what contributes to my difficulty in findig a mosque today" (159).

I am often dismayed by the interpretations of Scripture and the ways of the church that many Catholic colleagues come up with, as well; however, if you think that you can find the perfect church where everyone is going to see things exactly the same way as you view your faith -- "What I am lacking is a community of like-minded Muslims" (159)-- well, good luck with that, let me know how that ends up working out for you.

When it comes to rituals, finding a "community of like-minded" followers is what can result in a community of faith(ful) zombies. I prefer to have a few individuals who look around and shout, "Hey! I'm not getting a good feeling about this -- let's review."

Keahn said...


Suzanne seems to be a little more tangible in this chapter, though some of her comments still hang on the edge of being sappy. I did like her passage on how she and her husband find a "moral compass for life" through their church community. How "it helps [them] to renew and enchance [their] own faith through communal prayer and study" and how "it provides the opportunity to experience God's goodness through communal acts of charity and service. [Keeping them] grounded at the same time that it lifts[them] up" (161).

I was also impressed with her realization that motherhood, although she did not phrase it exactly this way, is a ministry. We all have a ministry, but not everyone realizes what it is and every ministry isn't necessarily seen, or identified, by others as such.

I have a passion for writing letters to family, friends, and acquaintences longhand. Good old-fashion snail-mail. I can't imagine a time when I didn't write letters and I'm probably one of the few people around who get as excited about a new postage stamp being released as others get when their favorite band is touring, and making a stop for a concert in their town.

It wasn't until a few years ago that a close friend told me that she believed that my letter writing (or writing in general) was my ministry. She said this while conveying to me that my letters always seemed to come in the post at a time when she really needed a lift (spiritual or emotional), or to seriously rethink something. Life is complicated and busy. Months will go by between family and friends. I'll get an itch to write a letter and usually someone's name will catch itself in my mind and heart. So I write to them. More often than not, I receive a phone call or an email in response and they tell me that they happened to be going through a rough time and my letter was just what they needed to perk up their day, or gain perspective on something. But I never really thought of it as a ministry - my ministry -- until my friend acknowledged it as such.

Keahn said...

(contining...last section)

I had to agree with Ranya when she stated that:
"I feel that a majority of those who adhere to formal religious practices have decided that their tradition holds the one true key to God" (164). So many times I am face-to-face with Catholics / Christians who emit a very smug attitude because they feel that their ways are THE ways and the rest of us will either rot in hell or miss the Rapture bus.

I also found myself agreeing with her on how many Americans (people in general) view Islam and Muslims by what they read, see, or hear in the media and should be taking "an extra step to put the news involving Islam into perspective" (167).

Because of a recent blog I read and commented on, written by a young, Catholic woman / mother, that I found discouraging, Ranya's following words stuck out for me:

"For Muslims, the call to prayer is not so much about degree of religiousity but rather a tradition that is likened to the ringing of church bells. The call in its content is universal, for it is nothing more than the affirmation of God's greatness and a reminder for all to pray" (169).

The woman I referred to above, wrote her blog on how much she disliked the COEXIST bumper sticker that many people are currently placing on their vehicles. The word COEXIST is written out in religious symbols and she finds it degrading. It makes her angry. I've seen the bumper sticker and actually like it. Like Ranya, I believe that the persons who place it on their vehicle bumper do so for all the right reasons and that it is "nothing more than the affirmation of God's greatness and a reminder for all" on what their faith should embrace. It was difficult for me to stay connected to a blog where such vehement animosity resulted over a bumper sticker, so I decided to disconnect from it in pursuit of better, more balanced blogs. ;)

I particularly liked Suzanne's focus on how very much the various religious leaders: Jesus, Hillel, and Muhammad had similar messages. I bought a wonderful book filled with the messages of Jesus and Buddha a few years ago that did exactly the same thing -- side by side.

While this book has a lot of what we've all referred to as "whining" by each one of the authors, it also has had an occasional gem to share -- the biggest being that ALL faiths are much more alike than different.

(Guess I just had too much to say this time)

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