(I wrote fragments of this post in the beautiful Stephanie‘s comment section.)
So the people who read my blog–all, like, four of you–may or may not occasionally feel displaced with how many times I repeat the word God instead of replacing God with a pronoun. In Islam, God is strictly neither male nor female. You may have correctly guessed that I don’t believe in using pronouns to describe God, and definitely not masculine pronouns, because I believe that God originally gave us more information about God’s nature than we understand today, and through patriarchal practices we’ve picked and chosen to accept only “masculine” (by human definition) traits. I believe we’ve deluding ourselves into accepting a certain inaccurate image of God by dismissing/overlooking/under-emphasizing/and even erasing God’s “feminine” qualities, which tend to be more positive–loving, considerate, forgiving.
(Yes, I do realize this is almost self-defeating, because “God” itself is masculine since there exists the word “Goddess.” But I feel, still, that this makes a difference.)
Because language has an impact. This is the same reason that, when I speak English, I use the word God instead of Allah. Allah is Arabic. I say Allah when I speak Arabic. Now, I don’t have a problem with mixing languages. In fact, I am quite fond of mixing languages. Among a billion other examples, I refer to my mother as Ma (soft a) instead of Mom, even when I speak English. Most times I don’t even do it on purpose–I tell my friend I’m going for a walk and for some reason I end up saying it in French. My mind just goes there. But what I do have a problem with, is that whenever I say the word God, everyone–including my mother–feels the need to “correct” me.
And that needs to stop. Why? Because I’m afraid that we are creating a difference–a state of behaving as though there were two, and that one of them is correct because even while we know each term refers to one God, we elevate one term over the other and treat it differently as though it were different–a different being. And that is so sinful, in implying that there’s more than one God; it’s enough of a sin to make you stop being Muslim. Astagfirullah, God forgive us.
What also makes me uncomfortable is when Muslims suggest that God and Satan are opposites of each other. It doesn’t make sense to me and even feels sacrilegious, because God created Satan, and only gave as much to Satan as what was due to Satan, as with all creations. The way I see it, in order for something to be the true opposite of another, it would have to be a whole opposite–and while Satan is a “whole” as we can define “whole” I believe God is a whole that we are not capable of completely grasping. We can only understand a small fraction. Satan is not magnificent enough to be the opposite of God. Satan’s evil is not whole enough compared to God’s good.
God is a Whole that we can’t comprehend. God has said, after all, that God made us out of God’s spirit. If this is the same way jinn were created, then God created Satan with a fraction God’s own qualities. However, I do believe Satan is Evil and God is Not Evil, even though God may have those qualities to have created Satan, and that has to do with the way I see evil. I don’t believe someone can truly be evil unless they intend to be evil, and since jinn have free will, they can choose to be evil. Intention includes really truly consenting to be evil–without being pressured or threatened. So, while God may have certain characteristics, those characteristics themselves are not evil–but it is fully consenting to evil that makes a being evil, and I don’t believe God ever does anything to any soul that it did not deserve.
And so yes, I do see Satan as an actual physical being, (some Muslims believe he isn’t and that he’s a metaphor for our inner dark side) but I don’t believe that Satan is limited that way. If Satan can sway us, I don’t think we’re as inherently good and innocent as we believe we are.
A natural question arises then, of why God would allow evil to continue if God is Supremely Good. I don’t know if this helps, but for me, personally, I always feel that it is a test of character. Of course, my life hasn’t been nearly has difficult as most people’s in the world. I was physically abused for 16 years and witnessed domestic violence (which I’m certain messed up my head) as well as witnessed the abuse of my two little brothers. But this is really miniscule compared to the suffering that goes on in the world–acid thrown on women’s faces after they’ve been raped, sex trafficking, torture and murder, natural disasters–so I can’t comfortably say that it must all be a test of character, because that just sounds so unsympathetic and pretentious through implication that victims who had it much harder than me and were unable to stay strong “failed.” And that’s the last sentiment I would ever want to communicate.
Somehow though, in my relatively safe little world, I continue to believe that God both plays a role and plays a role of supreme good. I think this is a blessing. I do believe that the very belief in God contributes to the survival of the species as a whole, even though it seems that suffering is indiscriminate, because whenever I feel very very weak with pain, I think of this verse from the Qur’an:
“On no soul does God place a burden greater than the soul can bear.” (Qur’an 2:286)
and it actually gives me strength, so I do strongly believe that it is a belief in God that contributes to the survival of civilization through catastrophes.
Also, the way I see survival on an individual level, I believe that I’m alive as long as I believe in God, because I was made of God’s spirit and dwell with that existence of my soul, and death–actual biological death–is only a passing, and not a real death. As C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
That quote also reminds me of an excerpt of a poem:
“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”
I can’t really explain why I’m at peace with this, but it gives me the strength to be persistent and carry on as God would want of me. I certainly would understand if others were not feeling as at peace. I’ve had more than my share of moments of anguish–tearing at myself, sobbing into late nights, questioning my own sanity, believing myself to be damaged, and even becoming angry with God.
Muslims are taught, I’ve noticed, that it is wrong to become angry with God. I think we as woman are taught this especially. But Maryam, Mary, when giving birth to Jesus, cursed God herself and questioned why God didn’t just create her to be something insignificant instead of someone who had to endure so much pain. She raged at God in her moment of agony.
And God said she is a perfect woman.
I don’t believe we should ever forget that things happen for reasons that only God knows and that there are things we are not meant to understand, but Maryam herself expressed her rage–and when she was done she sang lovingly to her tiny baby. We are not only capable of great rage but great love. I would even say that to become angry with God is to become more intimate with God. It is an expression of passion with our Creator.