Chapter 1: My Journey from Faith to Doubt -8-

I returned empty-handed, just as millions of Christians before me have left empty-handed. But who among them is willing to admit to that? The difference between me and them is that I used my mind, while they are happy to leave it on the shelf. The truth is that Jesus and the Christian god let me down. As for the Christians. they are not prepared to admit that he has let them down in any way. They will blame themselves so that they don’t have to blame Jesus.

I wonder how people can believe all the nonsense in the holy books about answering prayers, when that belief is clearly shown to be false every minute of every day. How can Christians bear witness every day that God helped them achieve this or that, without seeing that their success and failure is no different than anyone else’s, and that it has nothing to do with prayer, Jesus, or God? Yet nothing seems to affect the vigour or spread of Christianity, and new converts arrive every day!

Yes, how can people believe such nonsense? How could he lie to people? Did he really even say any of it? The truth is that he— or, rather, those who invented his words—are very clever, and knows very well that most people are foolish enough to believe anything. If not, then they wouldn’t have spent two-thousand years asking, seeking, and knocking on Jesus’ door without anyone ever answering them.

Stranger than that is that they all come up with different reasons and justifications as to why God didn’t reply to them on this occasion, and why Jesus didn’t grant them that request. And yet they don’t cease insisting that He answers their prayers, while He doesn’t cease ignoring them. Their disappointment is turned into a profound wisdom. God bless the ignorant! They live in bliss! It seems that religions cannot survive without stupidity, lies, and captivating promises.

I repeat: I wonder how people believe such things, defending them with unmatched zeal and vigour, despite their belief clearly being in vain and for nothing. If the matter has to do with promises of the next life, then of course that cannot be disproven, as it is like all eschatological events that cannot be verified, and so faith is enough and reason moves aside for it. But as for matters of this life, it is very easy to verify whether the promises are true or not, and yet, despite this, the believer doesn’t apply reason to it. Instead, he looks at it with the eye of faith, and the eye of faith sees wisdoms and excuses. This is amongst the wonders of faith: it can do what reason cannot. The heavens have cut off the words of every spokesman. (26)

Now, events moved quickly between me and my Lord. I had been disappointed by Him, as I had been disappointed by Jesus. Each one was as impoverished as the other. My Lord laid upon me obligations, but then threw me out. He promised me, but then failed to deliver. He raised my hopes, but then dashed them. Oh, what a waste of life spent in sincere devotion to Him due to my stupidity and thinking good of Him!

I was still being tugged back and forth between faith and doubt when the final break occurred between Him and me. I stopped praying, stopped fasting, and lost faith in the things I used to believe in. I regretted all that I had wasted in this respect. It was like a divorce and a parting of ways. I could not believe how foolish I had been. Who can remove the mark of prostration that disfigures my forehead, for it does not befit the wise in their advanced years?

From now on, I shall go it alone, without a god robbing me of my being. I know in advance that going it alone and standing on your own two feet is arduous and bleak—no, it is not bleak, at least not in my view, nor in the view of the man who believes in himself and believes in the spirit that rages inside us, in our ambitions and hopes. I will live with my belief in my dreams, my self-confidence, and my ability recognise lies and nonsense. I will live with my belief in action, striving to achieve the best that I can. Woe to the one who knows the truth but is not deserving of it, who is unable to handle it! For if he is not up to it, my advice to him is to never come near it this book!

Doubts are nothing new in my life. They have beset me before, a long time ago. But I would quickly bury them straightaway and hide their signs. I used to constantly doubt things when I was a youngster, to the same extent that I was also very devout. I was regularly beset by a wave of doubts, and then a wave of pious devotion, as though lightening flashed inside of me and then subsided and became still again. I never used to hide my doubts when I was a student, and because of this I was denied the scholarships and financial support that the wealthy citizens of my town would bestow upon my colleagues so that they could study abroad. In fact, some of my colleagues went about distorting and exaggerating these doubts to deprive me of a scholarship to study abroad, so that they could take my place.

I don’t deny that these doubts had a certain expediency, for they differed in times of hardship from times of ease. Can the friend (or God) truly be known, except in times of hardship? But that certainly didn’t mean that expediency was behind these doubts. The matter was far more complicated than that, just as my devotion was. The battle between my doubts and my faith swayed back and forth between them. Glory be to the One who turns hearts. This is what the masses say, for the hearts of men are between two fingers of the Merciful, and He turns them as He wishes, as related in the noble hadith, and which they support with the words of God, Most High: “And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered.” (27)

My relationship with God was severed. I no longer asked Him for anything or relied on Him for anything. In fact, I challenge Him to prevent me from doing that which I can do, or make me do that which I cannot do. I have no need of Him if it is really true that He has any influence in the things we do. That is, of course, if it is actually true that He even cares about people’s needs, or hears their du’as, or even knows they even exist! Despite that, everything in my life is going just fine of its own accord: it has its ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and bad times, good and bad fortunes, its comings and goings. Life has remained the way life always is: with complications, compositions, responsibilities, varieties, swings, and roundabouts.

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(26) From an Arab proverb: “Jahizah has cut off the words of every spokesman.” ( لكِّ لوقَ ُةزيَهِجَ تعطق بيطخ) Elders of two tribes met to resolve a murder. They were discussing whether blood money should be paid, when a woman called Jahizah interrupted saying “The killer had been caught and killed!” This left the speakers in the meeting with nothing to discuss.

(27)
Surah Al-Anfar 8:24

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