“I am ready to build the new…”

“Hey Irshad! Peace with with you! I am back from India and done with fighting the old. I am ready to build the new…”

That statement came from Sara, a young Muslim woman whom I’ve been mentoring. Months ago, Sara got in touch with me out of the blue. She had a boatload of questions about love, God, Islam and her own faith. At first, she turned to my Guidance Team with her questions. From them, she got some excellent advice and the confidence to take her questions one step further – by putting them to me.

But I refused to answer them because I’m not a guru; I’m a teacher in the Socratic style. Instead, I challenged Sara to come up with her own answers and then bring them to me for discussion (read: interrogation).

She did, and that’s when the fun really began. We’ve been going back and forth on all kinds of issues, including why she thinks she’s a Muslim. Has she considered other faiths? If not, why not? What about ditching God altogether? Would it be legitimate to walk away? Or, without having wrestled with her big questions, would leaving God amount to running away?

After several weeks of reflection in her family’s homeland, India, here’s how Sara explains why she chooses to believe in God:

“Life is difficult. There is great suffering on Earth. Introducing life on a planet without any sort of concrete guidance from the Creator himself would, I think, be cruel. If there is purpose to each of our lives, then there must be a way or path to find that purpose.”

So why choose an Islamic path? Why not a Jewish one? Sara goes on:

“The reason I cannot subscribe to Judaism is the idea that the Children of Israel are the chosen ones. I do not believe in exclusivity. If there is a way that God has prescribed, it should be received equally among God’s children.”

What about Christianity?

“I do not believe anybody should die for my sins. If I am an evil person, I will suffer for my sins, and thus, each individual will ultimately be accountable for him or herself.”

Which brings Sara to Islam.

“In essence, I believe the tenets of the faith are beautiful. A text re-affirming the prophets and scriptures of the past. Urging listeners and followers to regard each other as fellow people of the book. No exclusivity. Accountability for every individual. No concept of original sin, even in regards to women. [The Qur’an claims that God created one spouse and then the other. It doesn’t specify which gender came first.] The importance of deeds, not just words. The oneness of God.”

Then why is she struggling with her faith? Sara responds:

“The current state of Islamic practice. The self-righteous idiots who propagate the fundamentalist strain are truly repulsive. But I realize that the only way substantive change will occur is if we respond with introspection and critical thinking, all with an open mind. Just talking to you about God and what it means to have real faith has helped me to understand that, despite the darkness of today’s world, the light of hope still exists. Irshad, I am ready to begin my quest for the God of love in Islam. I am ready to build my moral courage!”

I asked Sara if she’s ready to help others build their moral courage – by becoming a guest blogger on irshadmanji.com. She’s thrilled and freaked out at the same time. “I am not a scholar,” Sara reminds me, “I am just an avid reader.”

Just? Wasn’t “Read!” the first command of God to the prophet of Islam? If reading works for Allah, it works for me.

Sara begins blogging next week about her quest for the God of love. After each of her posts, we’ll hold a Q & A via Twitter. There, she’ll reply to your questions.

Follow Sara at @Muslims4Reform and me at @IrshadManji. If you have questions now, use #Muslims4Reform.

Let us begin building the new.

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