Agnostic Muslims

Check out the new Agnostic Muslims page!  I support this movement very much so please check it out.

“How can a person be both Agnostic… AND Muslim?” To many people, it makes no sense. A Muslim is one who believes in Allah, first and foremost. He believes the Quran is the literal word of Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger. But an agnostic is someone who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the nature or existence of God, let alone the divine origins of the Quran, or the divine purpose of Muhammad- peace and blessings be upon him and on us all. But here’s what makes no sense to us.

Today, just like yesterday, and countless days before that, thousands of Muslim children were born. Those of us who maintain this website were among those children. Perhaps you are one of them as well.

And the thing that makes no sense is that none of us were born believing in God, or believing that God communicated his most important message to mankind through an angel to an unsuspecting Arab merchant, for it to be transmitted over the centuries for our implementation today. Those are things that we had to be taught. And while all of us were taught those things in one way or another, we also learned other things, and we may have come to different conclusions than the ones we were “supposed” to. Many of us simply don’t believe the supernatural premises of Islam in the literal sense.

We may believe in God; or we may not be sure. We may think there is something after this life, or we may feel uncomfortable speculating that there is.

We may think the Qur’an is a great work of literature, full of ancient wisdom for today; or we may think it’s kind of outdated and even a little violent and divisive.

We may think that Muhammad was a wise leader who spoke his inspired reflections on mankind’s relationship with one another and with God; or we may think he was simply a man of his time who possibly did some things we would not consider particularly ethical or redeeming.

And what makes the least sense of all to us is the notion that it is some kind of act of faith or piety to keep these thoughts private, to never speak of them. That it is somehow blasphemous or insulting to be honest about our ideas concerning our own religious heritage. The truth is that millions of Muslims around the world feel as we do. They have doubts about what they are told by the conservative “guardians of Islam” must be accepted on faith. They are perhaps even cynical toward these spokespeople for our shared faith, who warn so ominously of what should happen to people who share their doubts publicly. But what does that kind of an environment do to a people?

It promotes hypocrisy. It suppresses honesty. It destroys critical thought. It denies people the basic right of sharing their opinions. It prevents them from freely exchanging ideas and learning from one another. We are Agnostic because of our doubts and questions. But we are Muslims because of our faith…

That if we are born into Islam, nobody has the right to take it away from us or tell us what it should mean to us.

That Islam is at its core a tradition of wonder and appreciation for the mystery and majesty of Allah’s creation.

That no merciful God would ever punish or persecute his creations for using their brains, for asking questions, and for not knowing. We reject the rightness of anyone who would deny us the right to ask these questions openly. And we welcome anyone to ask and explore them with us.

Wasalaam. And in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and Most Merciful, we begin.

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7 thoughts on “Agnostic Muslims

  1. So sameer, let me ask you this. Do you believe there is a creator of everything or there is none? Answer me from your own logic. “I don’t know,” isn’t an answer, it’s a illogical answer.

    1. Pretending to know something you don’t is the answer the that gets humanity nowhere. Honestly taking stock of where we are, and saying, “I don’t know” when we don’t know, is what saves us from charging people with witchcraft who we’ll later realize just had epilepsy.

      Watch Matt Dillahunty speak on the maturity it takes to say, “I don’t know” when we don’t have the answers.

      The very definition of agnosticism is to assert that human knowledge is too limited to actually “know”. But even if we don’t have good reasons for our beliefs, we often hold beliefs nonetheless.

      For example, we may be agnostic about whether one can truly know there is a god, and deep down, not actually believe in a god. That would make one an agnostic-atheist.

  2. You have worded this beautifully. It’s sad that we are literally indoctrinated in to our religion. Instead of seeing the beauty and wisdom and love, we are made to fear the wrath of God and subsequent consequences of possessing doubts and questions. And it doesn’t stop there. If anything, such a decree only pushes us towards a shabby and shaky conscious.

    Thank you Sameer and good luck to you in your endeavors to search for the truth. 🙂

  3. Excellent piece. Very important topic for people like myself and Hassan Radwan who cannot entirely accept traditionalist religious dogma, nor materialistic scientism and atheism.

    I saw some folks in his videos and articles commenting “ah this is pure hindu belief” but I feel this is very disingenuous to say. Hinduism like Islam, is not monolithic, and there are traditionalist elements of it which can be quite disconcerting I have found. There are even dogmatic traditionalist hindus who have murdered non-hindus for eating beef (supported by sricpture and all). Of course Hinduism can be beautiful, but the point is that this man’s conclusions should not be seen as someone trying to make their religion like another’s, because that would be a very surface level observation. Hassan’s stated belief about judgement and actions sound to some like karma, but can we really say he believes in karma as such, when his religious language is expressed through an islamicate paradigm that stresses intention (i.e. belief)? As I see it a healthy pluralism would respect differences, (but also celebrate them).

    The core of what the Agnostic Muslim position seeks to my mind is not simply pluralism, or critical reasoning, or even moderation, but Spiritual Humanism. We should all gather around this. Fortunately there are strains of thinking propagating spiritual humanism in nearly every major religion, including Islam. Of course there where the Mu’tazilites which advocated for reason, and there are many elements of a more humanistic vision as one looks to the “heterodox” Islams through the centuries. But one movement I know of has in fact retained this pith impressively and is in fact the largest majority in Turkey (more than %15) and in other parts of central Asia, yet surprisingly few outside these regions know of them; they are the qizilbash Alevis (not to be confused with Alewis).

    I have spent time with Alevis and know that they do not worship Ali as many accuse, but see the figure as a non-historical/non-literal embodiment of human perfection or insan kiamil. They often make sujud in a circle as opposed to towards mecca because as they say “our spiritual focus is with each other not on some building in mecca” It is by going inward to esoteric meanings that they have been able to triumph over dogma. I find their beliefs to be very close to Hassan’s central conclusions. I hope diligent seekers will learn about and appreciate their way inshallah.

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