Visiting a Mosque

I often end up throwing myself into situations outside of my comfort zone because the growth of my soul is so important to me. Also I’m impulsive so I decide I’m going to do a thing and then I wonder why I ever signed myself up for such a thing! Visiting a mosque might be the boldest thing I’ve done yet.

I told some of my friends that I would like to find more Muslim friends, people I can know locally and not through the Internet. People who can help me connect with the human beings behind Islam. One of them told me that a local mosque is offering weekly coffee nights open to anyone. I decided that that was perfect and I called them up to verify it was happening.

It was awkward on the phone trying to explain my query. I probably gave the man who answered the very incorrect impression that I might be learning more in order to convert. Oh well. In person I think it will be easier to explain my motivations and why I want to learn more about Islam. (I did actually take a college class on Islamic history so I’m not entirely ignorant on Islam. It’s more the social side of it that I need to connect with).

I am extremely confident in my faith, so I don’t want anyone stressing out that I’m going to get sucked into a different religion. Hinduism is completely perfect for me and it always will be. Since I am not insecure about my own beliefs, I feel confident that I can listen and learn and engage with other people’s beliefs and hopefully bridge a bit of the gap that can come between Muslims and Hindus.

I need to get to know Muslims as human beings and I also need them to get to know us as human beings. Interfaith friendship, discussion, and dialog will benefit everyone, I think.

It is not “giving in” to anything, but rather it is practicing what I believe, which is that every person is God and should be respected and loved as such.

visiting a mosque
My signature pink glasses are broken :(

So Tuesday evening I arrived at the mosque. It took me a while to figure out where I was supposed to go, but I called the office and a nice man came out and held the door for me and the stroller. The gentleman leading the information session was lovely and kind. He reminded me so much of my friend Jay. Same accent, but also same mannerisms, same soft way of speaking. He brought out pie and ice cream for me and Garrick. There were three other ladies there a little bit older than me. Garrick and I were a bit late because we had trouble figuring out where we were supposed to be.

He was speaking and saying all the “right things” about how much Islam respects Jesus and things like that. Not surprising since I have no doubt the other three ladies were Christian (though they were also very open minded and knowledgeable people as well). Quickly we all realized that he was speaking about a splinter group of Islam. His religion is Ahmadiyya Muslim, which he was quick to tell us was persecuted by other Muslims!

There was definitely a “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy going on from both sides. Other Muslims dismiss his group as not real Islam and his group also dismisses them as turning away from God and not understanding the true message of Islam (which is peace, love, and service to humanity).

I could appreciate his message. At first I thought maybe this is a reform of Islam that I could support.

They are speaking my language!
They are speaking my language!

But then he began to speak about missionary work and I asked him if they were focusing on converting other Muslims to their version or people of all religions to their Islam. And he said both.

My heart sank as I realized that he has the same joyful glow of a Christian missionary who is sure that as soon as people hear about their prophet or their teaching, everyone will see the truth and join their movement.

This is a viewpoint I find is common in monotheistic people and people who see time as linear. They see the world moving towards a greater fulfillment of all prophecies, a time when we’ll all be united and all these properties will come to fruition. The second coming will be here.

And I don’t know how to break through that way of looking at the world to get them to understand that some people don’t think that way and that it is problematic to think that your prophet is going to fulfill all the religions of all the world and and bring them to full fruition.

Hinduism isn’t waiting for fruition, it isn’t waiting for end times, it isn’t waiting for anything. He has an impression that Hindus are waiting for the second coming of Krishna. I guess you could look at it that way in terms of Kalki, the last avatar Vishnu, coming but it’s not like oh that’s the time when we’re all going to go to heaven and join God. It’s just another point along the cycle and it’s not an endpoint it’s an end for this manifestation of the world and another will arise.

When I brought up that I was Hindu he said that he spoke to many Hindus and had some come visit their mosque before and it sounded like it was very productive wonderful conversations. He’s open about reaching out to other peoples…but he still thinks that his new prophet is a prophet for all peoples in all religions. He basically said that he thinks that this is the way that will unite all of us. So as much as he was a lovely person and his message is very peaceful, it still leads towards taking away a fundamental aspect of Hinduism.

Like here:

articles of faith

This is lovely, they include the Gita as a revealed scripture and Krishna as a prophet. BUT I do not and will never believe in a last day of resurrection and judgment of humanity. Groups like this, I admire their desire for unity and bringing together of humanity, but they make assumptions about what other religions actually believe. They think because they believe in a last day of judgement, it must be true and therefore all other faiths must also believe this.

And I’m not sure that I have the words or if anyone has the words to get through to him why this is not going to work for us. I guess I can kind of see where he’s coming from. If you believe that there is one God who has one message for humanity, then you think that all the religions and scriptures are God revealing one message to a variety of different people, trying to get all of us to the same place.

But that’s not the only way to look at it. Thinking that we have to all course correct towards this one message doesn’t allow room for belief in different Gods, different goals, different reasons why we’re here. Maybe there is only one reason, but no one has the right to dictate that they know what it is and everyone else must agree.

The other ladies reiterated a tired trope that there is one God and we all call him by different names.

I don’t think I can agree with that any more. My conception of what a God even is is radically different from that of the religions of the book.

As much as the messages of most religions may focus on peace, kindness, and loving others as yourself, there are important and legitimate differences and we do need to be allowed to pursue our own vision of what the truth is even if that doesn’t fit someone else’s model. I’m never going to be okay with a religious group trying to bring everyone under one fold.

However, this vision of Islam is pretty close to what I would hope Islam can be. In the True Islam brochure he gave me it states that true Islam recognizes that no religion can monopolize salvation, rejects the concept of a blood-thirsty Messiah, and advocates separation of religion and state. All great things that I am relieved to hear! (It also says it champions the equality, education and empowerment of women, but of course there was still a separate women-only entrance to the mosque).

IMG_4980

 

I have to admit that his descriptions of the behavior of other Muslim groups towards his group did not do anything to allay my fears about Islam. His group is quite persecuted and his own life was in danger in riots against them in Pakistan about 40 years ago.

These people want us to believe that they have the correct interpretation of Islam, but do they? Is this actually true Islam or wishful thinking of what it could be? If mainstream Islam rejects them, I’m sorry to say that leaves me still fearful that “true Islam” is the larger groups who would bring about the destruction of my religion.

I’ll keep trying to learn more and meet more Muslims and hopefully find a common ground that doesn’t involve the whole world becoming Muslim. Wish me luck! And any advice or insight is welcome.

New to this blog? Check out these posts:

What Makes Me A Hindu?

Did I Start Out Christian?

Why Am I Called “The White Hindu”?

New to Hinduism? Learn more here:

Hinduism 101: What Do Hindus Believe?

Can I Convert To Hinduism?

Your First Visit To A Hindu Temple

Super Simple Daily Puja

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • David Murali Cowan

    Ambaa, i am curious why you choose to visit a ahmadiyaa mosque and not the sunnah?

    • zaheer

      Becoz Ahmadiyya mosques do not have the word Ahmadiyya written inscribed on their entrances. moreover it was closer to her, i suspect.

    • Ambaa

      It was rather an accident, actually!

      I reached out to my friends to say that I wanted to meet with Muslims in person and get to know each other in a personal way. One mentioned that they drove by a mosque offering a meet-a-muslim evening. So I went and it turned out to be Ahmadiyva!

  • Simba

    You could read Islamic Jihad by M.A.Khan ( may shock you and appear disruptive/anti-Islam but it gives all the references to prove his statements). Within 6 months of converting to Islaman THEN proceed with your quest of finding a common ground.It’s said,that all religions have a common Spiritual base but here thee are differences.Islam for what it claims has always been a socio-political movement.I don’t wish to be anti-Islam but the book I mentioned will give you some facts which will never be told yto you by the friendly neighbourhood Muslim.I have had extensive discussions with Indian people who have “lost’ some relative to Islam–for various reasons.They all have come to the same conclusions–there is a systematic attempt to cut off the roots of the neo-convert. Within 6 months of conversion to Islam,the person starts hating his/her previous religion AND his loved ones.Please also read :—http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/AnwarShaikh.html. Anwar Shaikh was a Pakistani Muslim who had helped kill Hindus during the partition of India and later became a Vedantin.When I talked to some of my Muslim colleagues,who had themselves volunteered to claim Hindu past of their families now talked of Islamic supremacy and the need to fulfill the prophecy of their Prophet–Islam will rule the world.Forget the wrong interpretations of Quran,M.A.Khan will tell you how Quran was written many years later the Prophet.No one really knows how many and how many times it’s “whitewashed”.

    There is also a fact unknown to many–there is no such thing as Islamic art and architecture.All these beautiful structures including the gardens of Persia preceded Islam.Excellent and highly developed culture preceded Islam’s invasion in Syria,Egypt,Persia, Byzantium( a part of it is today’s Turkey)some Central Asian nations and India.They were adopted and appropriated by Islamic rulers after invading and capturing the regions.Saudi Arabia, where Islam originated did not have such structures at all.In fact,the Prophet had advised his followers against such constructions-even over his burial place.

    Be careful.Many intelligent people have been sucked into.many women visit UAE,Turkey as tourists or for work and fall for some men there and though proud Catholics or atheists,allow their children to be raised Muslim. Such is the trap for the gullible (not charm or appeal).After all,we follow the religion given to us by parents.I have already suggested,way back,a few books to point out the similarities between the esoteric concepts between Christianity and Sanatan Dharma.There are none between Islam and these although some may claim to the contrary.

    Regret expressing some strong opinion but must say what I feel and have experienced.All of us,as humans,have common fears,desires and aspirations but the living by rules here is at times restrictive,conversions are mandatory here though denied cleverly.Coercion is only evident after a few years of marriage to them.Even educated Muslim women ,who don’t wear hijaab,will gradually bring a non-Muslim daughter in law into the Islamic fold,though in my experience 3 Hindu mothers-in -law have told their Muslim daughters-in-law( marriages involved police protection) to follow their religion proudly,expose their children to both religions and once they attain adulthood, adopt any religion they wanted.This freedom is praiseworthy.

    So think well before you fall for the sweet human brotherhood talk.

    • Cindy Bird

      I would say there’s only one mistake in your post. Islamic “Art” is only recognized as the verses of the Quran written in calligraphy. All other “Islamic” art is recognized as Persian or Syrian or so forth.

      • Simba

        Thanks,Cindy Bird.I forgot to mention this.I also forgot to mention that the Prophet was probably the only humble person in terms of display of power and wealth and there is some evidence of him having had some revelation when we try to interprete “baal e jigral” which meant Wings of Gabriel.This is considered by many as the Prophet’s consciousness having reached the Ajna Chakra which has 2 energy projections,which were interpreted by him as wings.So despite what Islamic Jihad mentioned ,in this particular matter,He was at least to some extent enlightened.We can’t of course judge the level of this state of consciousness.Later,it became only a politial social movement since Arabia was quite backward.

        • Cindy Bird

          You’re quite right. I think many people in the West have chosen NOT to learn the truth of Islamic history. Also even in Western Comparative Religions or “Humanities” classes offered in American High Schools, they rarely cover more than a very basic version of the Islamic religion. In order to understand the difference between Islam the religion as opposed to Islamist Terror groups you do need more than a basic idea of what true Muslims believe as opposed to what terror groups aligned with Islam teach and distort as the beliefs of Muslims.

          • Simba

            Thanks,Cindy Bird.Despite some people being bad and some others good or even noble,what I don’t like about Muslims is their desire to spread their religion.I have already mentioned that anybody who marries into their families is gradually coerced into Islam and children are invariably so without giving them any chance to determine on their own.One reason behind this is their silly belief that one who brings even one person into the Islamic fold,goes straight to heaven.That’s why I have suggested to Ambaa two sources–Islamic Jihad by M.A.Khan and A YouTube video on Anwar Shaikh.

          • Cindy Bird

            I think you’re right. That’s why I brought up knowing the beliefs of the Muslims not associated with terror or Islamist groups. Not knowing the beliefs or that there may be an ulterior motive in getting you to convert is how people get caught.

          • Simba

            Thanks again,Cindy Bird.

            I felt very sad reading about the harassment you faced from your Christian neighbours.But that should not “make “you feel despondent and suck into the decency of the Muslim neighbours.No attempt to prejudice you on my part here,but this is how the Muslims win people over before the reality is understood.Mind well,all people from Muslim countries including Asians are new there and will have faced some racism or another form of harassment,which– ,and not kindness–makes them feel empathy towards you.

            In India,this is how many people were sucked into Islam.Due to socio-economic flaws,many non-Muslims tilted towards those who exhibited false sympathy or offered funds to help survive.

            In this context,the safer religions are Hinduism,Buddhism,Zoroastrianism- which don’t actively or surreptitiously try to win converts.It’s another matter whether they have their own flaws.If you read the references provided by me and carefully read, twice,my reply to Ambaa,you will know what I am hinting at.

          • Cindy Bird

            I did and do face harassment from my Christian neighbors but it’s because I’m Buddhist and living in Alabama. I think maybe you have me confused with someone else. I did get my car keyed. I did get a note on a Church letterhead telling me, “Idol-worshiper get out of this complex before you bring the wrath of God on us” and I did get my Prayer Flags torn down, But I have never considered becoming Muslim. I’ve been Buddhist for 20 years.

          • Simba

            No Cindy Bird, I never even implied that you were thinking of conversion.I merely mentioned how they operate and how gullible people get ensnared.It wasn’t you I ever meant.In fact I have observed a very rare resolute nature on your part in your first post itself. I also sensed that ,when you stood by your son and that was and is very noble and worthy of praise.

            Couldn’t you approach the police or the Court for the harassment or they would be indifferent?

          • Cindy Bird

            Go to the Police in Birmingham, AL? They would take the report and send it to Officer McCan the garbage can. The Southern Baptist Convention’s home city is Birmingham. Most here are S. Baptist. There’s about 250 Buddhists here. so we just band together. Within a 10 block radius from my apartment there are 15 churches. Most S. Baptist. Also thank you for your kind words. We thought about moving to a place with a higher Buddhist population, but I have Systemic Lupus. UAB Hospital is 3rd in the country for treatment and my doctor is in the top 5 Lupus docs in the world. So moving is not really an option. I just use the incidents as an opportunity to practice patience and compassion.

          • Simba

            Sad to learn this.In a culturally diverse and supposedly tolerant nation .

      • Simba

        One more correction:–It’s Baal E Jibral and not baal e jigral as misspelt by me.

    • King

      Well Said!!!!

      • Simba

        Thanks,King. Typed most very fast and so the text appears flawed in terms of grammar and spellings.

  • S Kr

    Basically, this brings out the stark contrast between monotheism/monoculture and polytheism. I think anyone raised in, or any follower of polytheistic or plural tradition like Hinduism will have same reaction as you – that, dude, don’t assume for everyone, keep your thing personal.

    As far as Ahmadiyas go, they are relatively peaceful than Sunnis or Shias, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is – they will support Sunnis and Shias, and fellow Muslims only.
    Case in point -> some of the early backers of Pakistan and financiers were Ahmadiyas. They chose to cleave India for Muslim interests than live together with Hindus. E.g. Zafarullah Khan, Abdus Salam (who was a great physicist), etc. So, pardon me if I don’t fully trust their apparent respect for Gita and Krishna.

    Similar is the case with other smaller Islamic groups like Shias, Ismaili Shias, etc. They are persecuted by Sunnis, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is – they will go against Hindus, and side with other Muslims; no matter that once the kufr Hindu has been defeated, they will again go back to fighting each other. Like Sunnis+Shias+Ahmedis in Pakistan first cleansed Hindus, and now the Sunnis are busy killing Shias and Ahmediyas.

    • Ambaa

      Very interesting point

  • Bei Dawei

    Ahmadis believe that their founder, Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908) was the Mahdi, the renewer of Islam, and the Promised One of all religions (which explains their interest in the dasavatara). While he is called a prophet, he did not reveal a new religious law, as Muhammad did (this is their interpretation of the traditional Muslim belief that Muhammad is the “Seal of the Prophets”). Incidentally Ahmad also taught that Jesus survived his crucifixion and is buried in Srinagar. Your informant is correct about Ahmadis being persecuted, especially in Pakistan.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you for giving me more information!

  • Ch Billy

    This is a very nice initiative Ambaa. I am curious to learn more about the mainstream Sunni and Shia versions, especially their idea of Hinduism, through you. Best of luck.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I will try some other types of mosques too. I think getting to know people in person is going to be much better than through comments on the Internet!

  • HARRY

    I wish you all the best in finding common ground with other Muslim, but I am afraid you won’t find the common ground, because they always reject everything Hinduism stands for, even a most tolerant Muslim rejects whole of Hinduism and this will always be the case because Hinduism doesn’t fit in to their model of belief. We always think outside the box and this is not allowed in any Abrahamic concept. This is the case for rejections according to their book, it’s simple as this. You only need to apply logic and you will know, and the people you find common ground with other Muslim are not true Muslim according to the rest of the Muslims. This will always be the case.

    • Ambaa

      Indeed :(

  • Kiam Larsen

    Aamabee, First off, I want to Thank You for your very Interesting Article. A Job well done. As a Buddhist, I “Read” and See” So very much Similarity in the Christian and Muslim faiths. They seem to hate each other because both believe that they are the Only True Faith. I wish you much Luck and guidance in your search. Thank you for your well written article.

    • Ambaa

      Exactly. And no worries about my name! :)

  • Kiam Larsen

    I am sorry Ambaa that I spelled your name wrong in my first post.

  • Anny

    “These people want us to believe that they have the correct interpretation of Islam, but do they? Is this actually true Islam or wishful thinking of what it could be? If mainstream Islam rejects them, I’m sorry to say that leaves me still fearful that “true Islam” is the larger groups who would bring about the destruction of my religion.”

    My branch of Christianity is relatively open to the idea that no religion can monopolize salvation, believes in the equality of people of all genders and sexual orientations, doesn’t use the image of a “bloodthirsty Messiah” – things you mention in your post that we might have in common with the mosque you visited. And sometimes people hear about that and wonder whether we’re “really” Christians, since those ideas are not universal within Christianity, or even in the majority. But I would say we absolutely are real Christians, and could argue that we are doing a better job of following Jesus in some ways (and maybe not in other ways). I don’t want to say that any branch of my religion is the “true” one (we are a diverse group!) but I think within the religion there is space to critique each other and say, “hey, I don’t think such-and-such thing you’re doing is in line with what our faith is about”.

    Another point – I think the line between what a religion is and what it could be is a bit fuzzy, because part of what defines my community is what we’re striving for and hoping to be. Maybe this has something to do with the monotheistic linear thinking you talk about! We are trying to get closer and closer to this future world where we are all living in peace with God and each other, and we know our religion could do better than what it’s doing right now.

  • Mudassar Khalid

    “It also says it champions the equality,
    education and empowerment of women, but of course there was still a
    separate women-only entrance to the mosque”…..i’ll question my faith about Women equality the day all feminists would agree to let women play with men in US open :)…….cuz if i question now they unveil the women empowerment history in Islam through laws of Inheritance, option to be separate (divorce) if woman dislike her husband and a lot more empowerment initiatives by Prophet Muhammad (PBUP).

  • jazz

    Watch the debate between Sri Sri Ravisankar and Dr. Zakir naik. You will find a lot of common grounds.