Posts from Memory Lane: Pursuing the Spiritual

Thursday, April 11, 2013

These posts were written during the summer while I was in Bangladesh, in preparation for the upcoming academic year. Long story short: when I looked back at the archive, I didn't have the desire or the time to put them up. But now, since I'm coming back to the blog, I decided that some of them aren't half bad. Read on!

I was never told to be Muslim.

I grew up in a particularly secular household with a smattering of Christmas and Easter, though until only very recently, I didn't know their religious significance. During my teenage years, I fashioned myself to be an existentialist - though I still held onto agnostic beliefs at that time, so I guess I wasn't a straightforward one. When I finally chose to participate more in my ethnic heritage and culture, I found myself gravitating towards Islam in a way that made me feel calm and correct. It knit some of my spiritual beliefs together and also felt appropriate given my Bengali background.

When I was an existentialist, I took comfort in the idea that none of our actions really mattered. It sounds strange that this would be comforting; after all, I'm the one always running around doing things for the betterment of humankind. However, it made me feel as if the pressure was off and I could do that which felt best for myself. I didn't have to measure myself against anyone's standards because there were no standards. Just me.

Somehow this belief morphed into a deep understanding of predestination. Don't ask me how. It made sense that the threads of an idea - that control of our actions is out of our hands - could blossom into something else entirely.

I also found myself worshiping in a non-traditional way. Until very recently, I did not know how to pray properly and had not been into a mosque. But through meditation and seeking the advice of God, I found myself gaining the same wisdom and spiritualism that could be found in more traditional practices. Learning them was more correct, more true to the source, but spirituality need not be straight and narrow.

And, you might ask, how I retained my very liberal beliefs while feeling also very devout. First, the stereotype that Muslims are all conservative is false, but beyond that, I find myself believing that the choices of others are theirs alone and that we are all equal in the eyes of God. These are two tenets of Islam that are key to my understanding of the religion; we are given what we are given by God and we need not judge others for what they are given and what they choose to take. Obscure? Maybe. But it amounts to a practice of loving people and not judging them. It amounts to reflecting my spiritual self in the real world.

I am always a bit hesitant to talk about religion, considering that it is such a fraught topic and there will always be those who eschew my actual words for their own opinions. But my decision to come into religion was itself a journey, just as much of the other things I've written about have been. Journeys towards honoring the self that I want to be and will be in the future. Let's embark.