The Horrific 4 is a fiction series deliberately pushing to an extreme the worse prejudices seen in the Arab world, sometimes with a satirical tone. The aim is to bust the taboos around discussing the real sensitive topics fueling those prejudices. The 4 characters are not meant to represent role models. Both appreciative and unappreciative readers' comments will be published. Insults and derogatory language will be edited out.
Hi there. My name is Mohamed, and I’m an atheist. I know, what an irony. Add to that the fact that I used to be the head imam at my little Arab town’s main mosque.
Yes, yes, shocking.
I myself sometimes wonder how on earth I got to where I am right now. From mister local Salafi preacher to mister atheist doubter. It’s crazy when I think about it.
The transition started about three years ago. A few teenagers came to me at the mosque with some questions about God and angels. Then it was grown men. The latter had been reading some of this Internet stuff, and voiced to me some of their doubts.
“Imam Mohamed, what exactly happens after you die? Why is it wrong to masturbate? Are the Shia really evil deviants who deserve to burn in hell? Why can’t I have sex with my two wives at the same time? How did God create Eve from Adam’s rib? What do you know about the Mu'tazila? Why is wine haram, since we’re promised rivers of it in heaven? Wouldn’t a sip be okay? Why should reason be subservient to revelation?”
I’d tell them what I knew, and instruct them to have faith, well, in their faith. But their questions persisted.
“It doesn’t make sense, Imam Mohamed,” they’d tell me. “We came to you because people said you’re reasonable. All the other imams we asked told us to avoid doubting and questioning because it’s the devil’s way of misleading us from the right path.”
I gotta admit, part of me loved it. I mean having people entrusting you to think on their behalf and answer their questions. I loved the power it gave me over them. Oh the awesome things I could do with it.
But another part of me felt an obligation to help them as best as I could, and so I taught myself how to use the Internet at a local cybercafe nearby the mosque, and began reading some of the things my doubtful congregants told me about.
Then came the scientific facts and their unsparing scrutiny into the picture, and things started to look different to me.
Soon, I’d realize I stepped onto a slippery slope, and the rest is history as they say.
To be completely honest, it’s not like I’m committed to my atheism, because I’m still very open to changing my mind. What I am certainly committed to is evidence. And you know, reasonable stuff, and being honest enough to admit we don’t know something when we actually freaking don’t. THAT, I won’t budge on.
Not even if my annoying booze-smuggling neighbor and childhood friend, Saleem, divorced his wife and married his goat like he once promised me he would if I gave up on my doubts.
Maybe I should have never told him, that night last month, about my heretical ideas. Too bad we were both hammered (he had insisted on making me taste his merchandise, arguing that religionmen certainly have a special pass before the Almighty). So I drunk, and then I couldn’t keep my fucking mouth shut.
Forgive my language, but the idiot just doesn’t get it! Not only that, but while he considers his alcohol smuggling activities “an evil necessity to make decent money,” he considers my doubts the real big bad unjustifiable sin.
Heck, is a sin ever even justified? Gosh, I don’t know.
It’s not like I wanted my faith to weaken. I have reasons for my doubts and my rejection of various notions. Strong reasons.
Maybe God does exist for real, at least a reasonable version beyond our rational comprehension, I don’t know, BUT...
... After all I’ve been through and seen from my perspective as a former imam, I have come to a depressing, but somehow SUPER liberating conclusion: organized religion, in its institutionalized form at least, and especially how we choose to preach it and practice it in our society, is a scandalous hypocrisy.
The prophet’s first wife, Khadeeja, was a successful businesswoman, but God forbid if our women started working and asserting their independence.
And let’s not even get into the Friday sermon topics that I was often instructed to talk about by the local governor. God bless our ruler, God grant him success in applying his policies, God curse his evil opponents, bla bla bla.
Corrupt to the core.
Anyway, after some time, I couldn’t answer many of the valid the questions the youthful members of my congregation came to me with. My own doubts crept in.
Mixed feelings overwhelmed me. I refused to preach the government’s lies in my Friday sermons. I couldn’t perform my duties well. Complaints were made to the governor’s Religious Affairs committee, and eventually, I was relieved from my duties and removed from the mosque.
Now I run a groceries shop, and most of my customers are worshippers from the mosque I served in who sympathized with my stance against the governor.
Hamid, a devout Muslim professor of physics at our nearby local university tells me I did the right thing by refusing to be prostituted by politicians. He comes to buy his grocery supplies from me all the time to support my small business.
How he holds his scientific beliefs and remains a devout believing Muslim at the same time, I don’t know, but we sure do have interesting conversations. I haven’t shared with him any of my newfound beliefs. Maybe I will. For now though, I’m just glad I don’t have to pretend I know everything and lie to my congregation with a straight face.