I recently attended my 2nd Friday prayer time after which those who were able (didn’t have to rush of to work or other commitments), gathered at the nearby shopping centre for some lunch and a time to be together. It was great and the people were lovely, but I’ll skip ahead for now as that’s not the focus of this post.
As the numbers dwindled, myself, the Imam and 1 other couple remained. It was fascinating to listen to them speak with him as they had questions about organ donation (permissible or not), and then the topics rolled to prayers, and then fasting for Ramadan and everyone’s experiences of this so far.
I cannot remember what they were discussing, but Mrs Muslim (because obviously I don’t want to use her name, I’ve not sought permission and she may not want to be identified), suggested that Imam explain for me something that he’d just said. He responded with, ‘I’m waiting for her to ask a question’.
Now, some people might find that harsh, or dismissive but I don’t think that was the case at all. I suspect he was being respectful. From our brief email correspondence, he knew I was interested in learning about Islam. Likely he’d noticed I was eagerly listening to their conversation and surmised that I would ask a question if I wanted clarification. I felt the conversations they were having were providing me with a much broader understanding and context than direct question answer ever could. I said I was picking up a lot from just listening. And hopefully I sounded more confident than I felt.
But that was Friday. It is now Sunday. And I’ve been pondering that concept ‘waiting for her to ask a question’. Why haven’t I asked any questions? When I’m at home I have plenty of questions. And as they arise, I google them and look through as many varied sources as I can find, especially ones who reference the Quran in some way.
So why haven’t I asked any questions?
It isn’t that I don’t have questions. I currently have 2 questions, in fact one of them is quite an important question! The lesser question is ‘How can there be Devine Destiny and still humans have free will?’. This seems contradictory to me. I re-watched Episode 20 of Islam Unveiled (highly recommend watching), on Devine Destiny and I’m still not clear on how both can exist. The second question, the one which is ever more important, is if I converted to Islam in the future, what would Allah expect me to do with my marriage? This I have googled, and found mildly conflicting information, but my instincts tell me I know where the truth lies, and I probably don’t want to hear it.
Don’t misunderstand, I do want to know what the Quran says regarding the matter, but part of me feels that once I know, it will be much harder to continue learning. I don’t want to experience the ‘what’s the point then’ feeling and stop learning.
Now, returning to why I don’t ask questions. Growing up, asking questions was strongly discouraged. Not by adults or not intentionally. No one ever sat me down and said ‘ok you shouldn’t ask questions. It’s not ok to ask questions so don’t.’ In fact, it was quite the opposite. I felt encouraged by adults, the education system, TV etc, to ask questions. The discouragement came in the form of responses.
I try not to think back on this, because the feelings are as raw and stabbing as they were when they happened, but I can recall numerous occasions were I would ask a question and be laughed at, ridiculed, told to shut up, called names and generally dismissed from ‘peers’. That stuff hurts and it has long lasting impacts on people.
People’s nature is to avoid hurt. To create various coping mechanism to avoid being hurt. In my case, I stopped asking questions to other people unless I was certain I either knew the answer or knew the type of response I would receive (that it would be positive), or knew that I could hold my own in the following conversation (particularly if our opinions differed).
I have questions, but I’m not used to the traditional means of acquiring answers (asking someone) being a safe option. I know that the Imam will provide a safe and positively worded answer, so time and conversation permitting, I will seek an answer on Friday next.