29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16)
How often do we make being a "good Muslim" or "good Christian" or "good believer" or attaining salvation into something more than belief? How often does it come down to you must believe X, but also do Y, Z, and A, B, C? Paul told the Philippian jailer "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
Is belief all that is needed?
Yesterday I introduced The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf in this post. I promised to tell you about a conversation ...
and while you read it, think about this question: what makes one a believer? Believing or is there more? Are there "saved" believers and then those who believe, but, well, they don't do all the rest of the required stuff? Read on.
Khadra and her cultural Muslim friend Chrif from Tunisia were talking about religion. He was studying Buddhism which he adamantly declared was a philosophy and not a religion. Khadra countered that it was both "like any other religion...like Islam."
"No way like Islam. If you believe in Islam you have to believe in cutting off hands and stoning and ..."
"No you don't. Surrender to the oneness of Reality, that's all that makes you a Muslim." ...
"Read the fine print before you sign, woman. It's a bait and switch. Believe in One God, or 'Divine Reality' as you put it so fancy? Fine, now you have to believe in the Prophet."
"Peace and blessings be upon him," Khadra interjected, on purpose, just to annoy him.
Chrif went on as if she'd said nothing. "Believe in the Prophet? Now you have to sign up for hadith and ulema and shariah and all that shit, on some level." Khadra winced when he called shariah and hadith "shit." But she knew what he meant. "It's all one package, baby. That's how the scam works. The Islam Scam." It had a catchy ring.
Part of her agreed with him. The part that didn't pressed on, "But shariah law is elastic. It changes. It evolved slowly, like Talmudic law."
"Well, I'm not up for Talmudic law either. Same bullshit," he said.
Chrif was too cynical for Sufism. He called them snake charmers...
"Okay, there's progressive Islam," Khadra tried.
"Oh, please.There's no such thing as progressive Islam. That is such a crock. What is that, some sheikhs who'll only flog you twenty lashes instead of eighty?"
Khadra sighed. She just wanted to make him admit that being Muslim wasn't such a straitjacket.It was the same argument she had with her mother.She didn't expect Chrif to be arguing for the same thing as her mother, that Islam was rigid and homogenous. It's like, they both wanted Islam to be this monolith, only for her mother it was good,for him bad. She knew it wasn't that simple.
I've heard people say in order to be Muslim you simply must submit to God, say the shahada and perform the five pillars of Islam. Some say only the shahada is required, but to be a good Muslim, you will do all the other stuff. Still others say anyone who submits to God is muslim (small m...meaning one who submits to God). No belief in Muhammad as prophet required.
Yet Chrif believes there's a whole lot more to Islam and one is wise to consider it all before leaping. Do you agree? I read a blog post recently of a young woman who was wishing she'd learned more about the religion before becoming a Muslim. I got the impression she felt she could not get out or at the very least she could no longer ask questions about Islam like she could have prior to her conversion. Why is that? Must one fully consider a religion and all possible questions before converting (to any religion...I don't mean only Islam) because there is no going back?
What makes one a believer? Saying something? Praying something? Doing something? All of the above? What is special about belief if it really boils down to all these other things?