Saturday, February 16, 2013
Shahadah (My Commitment To God and Islam)
This is my public statement of the Shahadah. I would be honored if you would bear witness to it.
There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.
I have now been a Muslim since February 13, 2013. My desire was to have my Muslim brothers and sisters bear witness to this before I stated it in a public fashion. I realize that this will come as a shock and will be hard for many of you to accept. I have kept this to my myself for many reasons, just as there are many reasons I have come to this choice. It is the benefit of hindsight that allows us to see with clarity the path that we've been on our entire lives. For me, I have been studying Islam more or less (at times) intensely since 2006, when I began my first reading of the Qur'an. In my quietest moments - which have been many, many hours over the past few years, I have felt a force pulling me in this direction.
Since 2006, many life events have set me on this path. These events began with my disillusionment over a radio entertainment career in Las Vegas and St. Louis, where I also suffered a divorce at the beginning of 2009. I went through a phase where I was ideologically lost, yet seeking and diving into various forms of spirituality and ideology. I then experienced the death of my ex-wife (she died in 2011) and a near fatal car accident in 2009. The latter incident is the primary "rift in time" that set me on a new course. I experienced a mystical presence of the divine in that car that can only be the presence of God. Since that time, I have felt compelled to not touch one recreational substance, nor have I been promiscuous. The sexual decision in particular was not intentional - per se - it was simply what I "felt" was right as I was trying to get my life back on track. The decision to avoid alcohol and other drugs was a definite decision, but I have had no trouble staying on that path. I know that The Divine Energy/God/Allah has been the reason why. As I look back now, these past four years since the accident have been leading me directly on this path - the straight and true way.
Due to the incident in the car - where I felt ultimate peace and that my life was in control of something larger than myself, despite my severe injuries, I lost my fear of death. Ever since my stance and passion for issues of justice and equality have only intensified. My ex-wife's death is another reason why. If my purpose, meaning, activism, life course, simple accident, or any other reason should lead me to an "early" death, then so be it. I have clarity of mind in regards to justice, and where I believe God is guiding me. This is only in a general fashion though, and this is a key statement. I realize what I don't realize. This is that the mystery that has been the key factor in my coming to Islam is also the mystery that is necessary to keep me on the path. I am not stating that I know, I am saying that I feel direction, and I pray that I never lose that key mystical element.
I desire to embark on the Sufi path and tradition. I would welcome advice and guidance in that regard. I am a contemplative by nature, and it is many hours of solitude, prayer, reading and thinking over a number of years that has been a major part of the process leading me to Islam. I have read works and criticisms of Rumi, Hafiz, Ghazali, three different (English) translations of the Qur'an and numerous works of English-speaking Muslim scholars - primarily Sufi in nature. I also have a passion to learn Arabic. I want to read the Qur'an as it was delivered in its original form to the Prophet. This will be an ongoing process of course, but any advice on good methods, institutions or instructional material as to how to do so are welcome too.
Christ the teacher is still a very powerful presence to me as I was raised Christian. I left that religion in my early 20's (I'm 38 now), and have claimed no one religion until now. I never lost an element of belief in something bigger than myself, and that mystery of what we call God; said another way: the absence of anthropomorphism, particularly emphasized (from my limited experience) in the Sufi tradition. These thoughts have served as a key draw from the depths of my essence to Islam. In addition, much (though certainly not all) of the Christianity of the West has become too closely associated with the religion of empire. I realize that every religion has its problem areas, I've spent hours contemplating this. Yet, I still feel that Islam is the one universal religion that truly brings all races, ethnicities, classes, and nations together. God has been my guide in this area. God is energy to me. God is love, and God is ineffable.
I still believe there are many paths to the truth. I believe that those who follow universal principles that we can clearly see as pointing to God - no matter what faith one might claim (or not claim) are going with the grain of the universal. That energy is love. To make this perfectly clear then in regards to my beliefs in Islam: I am not and will not be extremist or an extreme fundamentalist in Islam. That side of Islam is ugly and frankly, repulsive to me. I am a peaceful man. I do not believe in coercion. I believe in all the freedoms which we should have in the United States, but that are quickly disappearing. I practice nonviolence to the extent that I am able, yet I am not an absolutist. I believe that God does not ask those of us who are not experiencing oppression to dictate to those who are oppressed the means by which they throw off their oppression. I borrow from the Christian Black Liberation Theology in this regard.
That is enough for now. Of course all of our paths and knowledge are ever expanding and always open to revision as our life direction guides us. I am overjoyed though at this decision, and I have never felt more sure of anything in my life. Again, I am aware that this will be difficult for many of you to accept and if you cannot accept it, know that I still extend my love to you and that I understand. My social justice views and my political/social/civil views have not changed. These have been developing right alongside my spirituality, many times in fact because of my spirituality, and I do not feel that there is any need to change them. The divine energy I believe in is based on love first and foremost, and I will not conform to anyone's interpretation of doctrine that doesn't hold love as the ultimate.
I thank you for reading, know that I extend my love, and that there is a metaphysical supreme energy that cannot be explained through rationality or our limited human abilities to perceive the universe. This is my statement and commitment to that energy - which we in Islam refer to as Allah. Blessings to you and your family.