In my childhood days, Islam was more of a culture rather than a religion. I do Islamic practices because my family and community urged me to do so, because “it is written”. But I guess it was just silly to force a child to practice a religion by habit while not giving out any logical explanation. When I grew up, I began questioning those practices, not doing as frequently as I was before just because I feel like they have no absolute basis. It was just a habit, and habit can be changed overtime. From that point on in my middle school days, I have been labeled as a no-good Moslem by my friends and family members. My mother used to say that I will go to the depth of hell because I did not do my prayers.
For me, religion is not something you can force upon another or make another person believe by habitualizing their everyday practices. It goes beyond all that. It is something that should have a solid ground to stand on, that must be accepted by both logic and heart, and therefore keeping your flame of faith inside without ever being burned down. That is something very lacking in our global culture of religion, especially in Indonesia.
I am extremely sure that many people find doubts about their religion the same way as I did as an Indonesian. People in Indonesia identify themselves by the religion, but it became more of a culture rather than the basic value of religion, which is to understand fully of God’s fragments and embrace it everywhere around us. Indonesians teach their children religious practices with the argumentation that we must do that as a devoted religious person, and so, lots of people only do their practices simply because its a habit or because they do not want to be labeled as a no-good person. They do not have a solid ground to stand on, and when the scenery changes, it will become very hard for them to keep their faith up. The very thing that is lacking in Indonesian religious teaching is that they skipped the central foudation of beliefs, which is to make them believe.
I only started practicing Islam again in the end of my high school days. I started questioning about Islamic practices, with many of the people around me saying “you simply must do this because its the Islamic way”. I started practicing because I found my reasons.
To be truthful, I never do any of Islamic practices simply because it is written. I do those practices for the logical reasonings I found behind them. I do fasting to gain full control of myself and not give out to my urges. I wear hijab because I want to avoid unnecessary business and the starings, to feel safe. I do my everyday prayers because it gives me moments of tranquility, a chance to let me speak to myself and feel connected to the Being that makes this universe alive. And for me, those reasonings have more solid ground than just because somebody told me to do the practices. Not my surroundings, not my parents, not even the Quran can force me to practice my religion. It all started with reasonings, which differs from one person to another, and that is the one step that cannot be skipped through.
This morning Sarah told me how she feels spiritual but do not know what to believe, even though she is by culture a Catholic. That reminded me of Abu’s case as well. I was in that state a few years ago, and that was because the society forced me to practice what I have yet to grasp my understandings on. My response to her was that you must do what you see fit, but make sure that you find your reasons first. For me, it is Islam that I choose to believe in, the religion that is so strict in the matter of self control because its foundation is that what makes us human is the fact that we have our own conciousness, can make our own reasonings, and can have more self-control than animals that only being devoured by their biological urges.
I found myself constantly falling in love with Islam because it teaches me how to become human.
What is your reason?
Lintang Cahyaningsih – Universitas Gadjah Mada