These are some frequently asked questions that Muslims and non-Muslims have about Agnostic Muslims.
Q1: Can you be Agnostic & Muslim?
Yes, there’s no conflict logically. Being a Muslim is conditioned upon belief and faith. Agnosticism is about knowledge. It is an admission that one doesn’t *know* for certain. It does NOT preclude belief. One can be an Agnostic Deist or an Agnostic Atheist or pretty much an Agnostic anything. The words Agnostic and Gnostic are merely qualifiers.
Q2: Why not just ignore scripture entirely rather than pick and choose?
The question presupposes an all-or-nothing approach which is not a necessary condition for reading any text. Though being objective, many people are brought up with the religion they associate with. It becomes such a large part of your life that letting go entirely is often impossible (consider those with family for instance). Admitting flaws in a system doesn’t immediately remove you from it. Unless you’re North Korea.
Q3: How can you challenge the Divinity of the Quran when it is so perfect?
Because it isn’t perfect! There are ideas simply not applicable in today’s era. Challenging it using logic rather than blinding yourself to the obvious is being honest with yourself.
Q4: Why “Agnostic Muslim” & not “Cultural Muslim”?
Because for many of us, it is Islam that has had the greater impact on us than any particular culture. Some of us also remain spiritual and enjoy participating in religious traditions, festivals and celebrations.
Q5: Aren’t labels just stupid? Why not just be a human being?
Yes labels are very problematic and they can never encompass all aspects of a person. However we live in a world where labels are unavoidable. So we would rather choose our own and define it for ourselves, on the understanding that we are all individuals.
Q6: Is anything mandatory to be an Agnostic Muslim?
1. Being Agnostic.
2. Identifying as a Muslim.
3. Accepting Qur’an is fallible.
Apart from that, nothing is mandatory. You can take as much or as little as you like to practice from Islam. Whatever gives you peace. The whole idea is to free up your humanity and reason while identifying as a Muslim to whatever extent suits you personally.
Q7: What do I do if I read something in the Qur’an that seems bad or doesn’t make sense?
No problem. Use your own reason. Trust yourself. Yes you are fallible. But so is the Qur’an.
Q8: Why are you doing this?
Because we would like an alternative to either being forced to follow traditional Islam or leaving Islam completely.
Q9: Why not become a Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Scientologist or Unitarian or make up your own religion?
Because we are familiar with the Islamic tradition. Many of our family, loved ones, friends and community are Muslims and we enjoy sharing with them. We are not familiar with other traditions and have no desire to invent a new one. All religions are flawed & fallible human attempts at reaching out to an invisible God. So why not stick to what you know and brings us comfort and peace.
Q10: What do you think about Ex-Muslims?
We totally empathise with Ex-Muslims and completely support their right to leave Islam without fear of abuse intimidation or violence. We hope that our own efforts at breaking down barriers will help them also in breaking down the taboo surrounding leaving Islam.
Q11: You’re not following “True Islam” so why don’t you just leave Islam?
We don’t accept that there is such a thing as “True Islam”. Even Prophet Muhammad himself did & said different things at different points of his lifetime and in reaction to and according to the circumstances he faced. Since then Islam has always been a multitude of interpretations, schools of thought, groups, parties and sects each laying claim to “True Islam”. Mystical traditions as well as literalist traditions. Liberal traditions as well as conservative traditions. We want to stop playing this ridiculous game of “True Islam” because it only affirms the false dichotomy the extremists want to impose – the “Us versus Them” mentality. We refuse to leave Islam because it just as much our religion as anyone else’s and nobody can take that away from us if we do not want to give it up. We want to stay and fight for the Islam that we think is best? Why should we abandon our loved ones & fellow Muslims to the mercy of the hardliners to bully them?
Q12: Isn’t this group just a first step to leaving Islam completely?
No it is not. We love and appreciate many aspects of Islam and draw on the 1400 years of Islamic wisdom and varied traditions. It is a wisdom and tradition we are part of and appreciate and love. Some of us actually did leave Islam, but we came back. For example Hassan Radwan left Islam for 7 years. He came back because something was missing in my life. The spiritual aspects of Islam that he loved when he was a Muslim He realised he still loved. They hadn’t suddenly become bad just because he no longer believed the Quran was from God. We want those things to be part of our lives. They belong to us as much as any other Muslim. We value and treasure them. So no, this group is not a first step to leaving Islam. If some want to leave Islam, fine – we will support them – but for the very many like us, who value and treasure aspects of Islam that they want to keep and give them a spiritual connection to the unknown we call God – then we have every right to do that and this is what this group is about.
Q13: Why not just interpret the Qur’an the way you want?
We want to be honest with ourselves and accept what the Qur’an actually says & admit that, yes it does say some pretty nasty things. We want to stop pretending it doesn’t. We don’t want to twist, turn and hammer round pegs into square holes and come up with embarrassingly laughable apologetics. We can accept the Qur’an is sometimes wrong and still be a Muslim. We want to kick that door open.
Q14: Are you saying there is nothing special or good about the Qur’an?
No. Not at all. The Qur’an is a remarkable book with a great deal of wisdom. But it is not infallible. It contains many things that are quite simply wrong. We’re happy to accept Muhammad was inspired to utter the words of the Qur’an. We are all inspired and driven by whatever power/force drives this universe – call it God if you will. But this inspiration comes through our fallible human mind and character. Muhammad could not have done anything other than express his inspiration according to his time, culture, and personality.
Q15: How do we know what’s right & wrong?
This is simply something we humans must work out for ourselves. Struggling with difficult moral and ethical questions is part of being human. We must simply use all the resources at our disposal and by discussing with others, we come to the best judgments we can.
Q16: Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?
We reject the concept of Heaven, Hell & the Day of Judgment as portrayed in Qur’an or any other so-called “Holy” scripture. If there is some sort of reckoning then we believe it would be proportionate and based on our actions. It would take into account our flawed nature and the fact that our freewill is limited at best and largely determined by biology and environment.
Q17: What do you think of Shari’ah Law?
We reject Shari’ah Law & we reject the very notion of a “Perfect Divine Law for all times and all places”. All laws are human laws and all forms of government are human forms of government. Flawed and very fallible. They always have been and always will be. All we can be expected to do is strive to make the best laws and governments we can with the tools we have.
Q18: Why is it important to accept the fallibility of the Qur’an?
We believe that by doing so it would solve a great deal of our problems, while at the same time allowing us to retain our faith as Muslims. It is the belief in the infallibility of the Qur’an that is undermining Islam. Because it forces us to either invent tenuous and flimsy apologetics or compels us towards harsh literalist views. Placing human reason above revelation is essential because once you remove: “God said you must do X Y Z” Then you allow good ideas to battle with bad ideas on a level playing field, rather than protecting bad ideas on the pretext that: “God said it.”