If I Should Speak, page 10
“So God died?”
He chuckled. “No, no, dear, the son died, and God left the flesh then.”
“So when we say he’s the son, the Father, and the Spirit, is that at the same time or is it like the father went into the flesh of the son until the son died?”
“You can say that.”
She could say that! She was asking him!
Tamika had hung up the phone more puzzled than when she had picked it up, frustrated with Makisha’s uncle and everyone else.
Her mother, the idea had suddenly come to her.
After again promising to pay Makisha back, she called her mother (to whom she lied about her reason, claiming that she was just reading the Bible and wanted to know).
But her mother only confounded her more. Her explanation was different than the reverend’s! Her mother explained the Trinity as the three existing all at once, and she had claimed that when Jesus was crucified, it was not the son but the Lord, which was why he shed his blood for them and died for everyone’s sins, because only the Lord could die for their sins, although he was the son too.
That night Tamika was fuming, feeling as if her entire upbringing, her life, had been a lie. No one seemed to have any idea upon what the religion was truly founded, each having his or her own explanation for Jesus’ divinity, everyone’s view drastically different from the other’s. It was crazy. How was she supposed to reconcile all of that and “just believe”? In what! How was she supposed to accept the religion for herself if she did not understand it clearly, let alone try to convert people to it? What was she supposed to say to potential Christians when explaining what they should believe? Was she to make up an explanation, and so long as it made sense to her, tell them it, although it could likely contradict another Christian’s? Although she wanted to believe it, tried to believe it, convinced herself she had to believe it, she could not. She simply could not. Inside, she knew better.
…Was it her fitrah that prevented her from accepting it?
Tamika wrestled with her thoughts for a couple of days, sleeping in Makisha’s room until Thursday night. They spent the evenings discussing Christianity, and Tamika would express her frustration, asking question after question, while Makisha downplayed all of Tamika’s concerns. She told Tamika not to question God, to just believe, and she warned that questioning could cause her to “turn her back on Christ.”
But Tamika wanted to know how Makisha was sure that Christianity was the religion of God, the one in which she should “just believe” and not question. Tamika told Makisha she had no problem “just believing” and not questioning, so long as she was sure that what she was believing was in fact from God. So she would insist on knowing how Makisha was sure—absolutely positive—that Christianity was the truth, from God, and not any other religion. Once she had that answer, Tamika told her, she would have no problem “just believing.”
Makisha had no answer except that it was what the Bible taught, and that the Bible was the word of God. But why the Bible and not the Qur’an, Tamika wanted to know? How was Makisha so sure, so content that she was right?
Although Makisha thought Tamika was trying to be difficult, “brainwashed” by her roommates, Tamika seriously wanted to know how Makisha was able to be so comfortable and strong in her beliefs. This was something Tamika wanted, envied. She wanted to be at peace, sure she was doing the right thing, but she simply could not achieve that by “just believing.” Why couldn’t Makisha understand that? Why didn’t she get it?
“Just believe” in what? That was the question that remained in Tamika’s mind. She had no problem “just believing,” she kept telling herself, but only after she was sure that what she had was truth! But how could she be sure? How? How?
After analyzing her own situation, Tamika had come to the conclusion that she had believed in Christianity only because it was all she had been taught. And if that was a sufficient reason to “just believe,” then how could Tamika believe her religion was right and others wrong, given that everyone was taught something, and, for many, it was not Christianity? So should they too “just believe” because it had been taught to them by their parents and community? It made no sense. Certainly, there had to be more to truth than “just believing” without questioning, especially when it was not even clear the authenticity of the “truth.”
Was it possible that this fitrah Aminah was talking about was actually real? Was it possible that deep inside Tamika knew what was true?
It sounded too easy, too good to be true.
But what if it were true? What if God had taken a covenant from all humans before putting them on earth? And what if Tamika was one of them?
Friday afternoon, after her classes, Tamika returned to her apartment, having almost forgotten that she had been upset with her roommates. Her heart and mind were filled with a determination that eclipsed anything she may have felt about the past occurrence. She wanted to know the answers to her questions about religion and Christianity.
She was relieved that no one was home when she arrived at the apartment, because the first thing she wanted to do was to browse through some of the books on the bookshelves. Although she had written about Islam on her note cards based on what she had learned from the interview with Aminah and turned them in, she was not satisfied with her knowledge thus far. Her mind was filled with questions and curiosity about Islam, pushing her to learn more.
After selecting several books from the shelves, including the two Aminah had shown her, Tamika sat on the couch and eagerly began to read. The first book from which she read was The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) . She glanced at the author’s name before reading: Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. Bilal Philips? He must have converted, she concluded judging from his last name, unable to help wondering what it was that made him choose Islam. But she had never heard of him.
She skimmed through the book, and the words “...Covenant With Aadam” caught her eye. She flipped through the chapter, and, sure enough, there it was, a section entitled “The Fitrah.”
Unexpectedly, Tamika’s heart raced as she began reading the chapter. She was hopeful and scared as she read, hopeful because she was going to have some answers, but scared because it possibly meant that what she feared for the last few days was true.
“Allaah’s Covenant With Aadam.” Tamika already knew that Allah or “Allaah,” as this author spelled it, was the Arabic word for God, as had been explained to her earlier.
As she read, she came across a reference to the Qur’anic verse to which Aminah had referred regarding the covenant:
When your Lord drew forth from the loins of the children of Aadam, their descendants and made them testify concerning themselves. (Saying): “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we testify it.” (This) in case you say on the Day of Judgment, “We were unaware of this.” Or in case you say, “It was our ancestors who made partners (with Allaah) and we are only their descendants. Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?”
The author went on to explain:
“The verse and prophetic explanation confirm the fact that everyone is responsible for belief in God and on the Day of Judgment excuses will not be accepted. Every human being has the belief in God imprinted on his soul and Allaah shows every idolater during the course of his life, signs that his idol is not God. Hence, every sane human being is required to believe in God beyond His creation and not manifest in it.”
Tamika felt herself becoming nervous. What he said made sense. It made sense that God would have some indicator for people to know what was true and what was not, aside from what they were told by parents and others, because this inevitably varied from person to person.
Drawn in, she continued reading until she came upon, “The Prophet also said, ‘Each child is born in a state of Fitrah, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian.’” Heart racing, she read on,
“So, just as a child’s body submits to the physical laws which Allaah has put in nature, its soul also
The adult must follow the religion of knowledge and reason. The words hung in her mind, and she asked herself, although she did not want to, Am I following the religion of knowledge and reason? Or am I following my parents?
As she reflected on what she had read, Tamika could not deny that, inside, she knew the author was right. She did not want him to be, because his being wrong would make her life a lot simpler. But she could not deny that he presented something that was most likely correct, especially when compared to the other alternative, which was to “just believe”—in whatever—without questioning.
And then, she wondered, confirming what she feared, how could it be that the only “true religion” was confusing, wherein everyone was forced to rationalize, create analogies, justify their beliefs, and, consequently, end up with a different religion than the next person because within that “true religion,” everyone’s concept of God was different?
No, it was not possible that God would put humans on earth and fill the true religion with confusion and contradictory concepts, making its very foundation unclear, while maintaining that it was the only path to Heaven. Where was the justice in that, the sense? Tamika could not, would not, no matter how she tried to rationalize it, accept that God would do such a thing. How could He truly be “Just” if He did not make truth clear from falsehood?
And then, as Aminah had asked her, if Christianity was in fact the path to Heaven, how could she explain the sudden change in the message of the prophets? Yes, Tamika even remembered reading in the Bible that people should not worship other gods besides God and that they should make no images of Him, and that God was neither a man nor the son of man. But Jesus was both man and the son of man, not to mention the fact that other prophets did not worship him—and that necessarily meant he fell under the category of “another” god, which, of course, she was not supposed to worship.
Then why was it that Christians believed that the only way to Heaven was through worshipping Jesus, a man, the son of a human being? And why was it that they believed that worshipping God alone was a path to Hell, when in the Old Testament it was the path to Heaven? Would God burn His servants in Hell because they worshipped Him alone, and would He put others in Paradise because they worshipped a man, a part of His creation, Jesus?
Even as an adolescent, when Tamika had become very much involved in the church’s youth group and choir, she had questions about what she was supposed to believe, namely the Trinity and God dying. Although the spearhead of many evangelical activities, she did not understand what she was teaching. Oftentimes, she would ask her mother or other family members about the Trinity, but no one answered her question directly, continually telling her that she had to “believe.”
Over time, Tamika had come to leave the issue alone, and although never coming to terms with what was actually true, she accepted that she should just believe and not question God. But it had never occurred to her that what she was being taught was possibly not from God.
The sound of keys in the door interrupted her thoughts, but she resumed reading, now not caring if anyone saw her. She had a major paper and presentation to do for her religion class, and her roommates would most likely attribute her avid reading to her trying to complete the assignment.
Tamika looked up and forced a smile in response to Dee, the memory of Dee laughing at her suddenly returning to her. She resumed reading, unsure what else to do.
“We were so worried about you.” Dee’s voice filled the room, again interrupting Tamika.
Worried? Oh, she had forgotten. She had not come home the other night. She forced a smile, glancing at Dee then back to the book. “I was with a friend.”
“Yeah, I figured that may have been it,” Dee replied, concerned. “But we had no idea.”
“Sorry,” Tamika mumbled, hoping that Dee would leave her alone.
And she did. A moment later, Dee was in the bedroom.
Having completed the section on the fitrah, Tamika picked up the next book, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam. As she read, she learned that there were various references in the Qur’an to scientific subjects that had only recently been discovered, like details on how a fetus formed, the formation of mountains, the origin of the universe, how the cerebrum functioned, the barrier between fresh and salt water, deep seas and their internal waves, and clouds. Concerning these scientific miracles in the Qur’an, a Dr. T. V. N. Persaud had stated:
“It seems to me that Muhammad was a very ordinary man. He could not read or write. In fact, he was illiterate. We are talking about fourteen hundred years ago. You have someone who was illiterate making profound pronouncements and statements and that are amazingly scientifically accurate about scientific nature. I personally cannot see how this could be a mere chance. There are too many accuracies and, like Dr. Moore, I have no difficulty in my mind concerning that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which led him to these statements.”
And the book contained many more similar quotes from experts in science. And although Tamika was in no way a scientist, she too found it hard to believe that such a man could have known all of those things at that time. Even for a literate man, this would be amazing, even if that man lived later than the time that the prophet Muhammad lived. But given that he was not only illiterate but lived a long time ago, there was no way he could have known all of that.
...Unless God had revealed it to him.
Startled, Tamika glanced up to find Dee standing a few feet from her, arms folded, biting her lower lip, eyes gazing sadly at her as if something had been troubling her for some time.
“Yes?” Tamika replied, forehead creased in confusion, wondering if she had done something wrong.
Dee sighed, dragged herself to the couch and sat a comfortable distance from Tamika. She frowned and leaned forward, resting her lower arms on her thighs. “I was just thinking about when you were asking Aminah about Islam.”
“And,” she breathed, unable to explain herself clearly. “I just wanted to, uh…” She let her gaze fall to her fingers, with which she played, face full of shame. “I just wanted to apologize if I offended you, you know, for…” she paused, “laughing and stuff.”
Tamika was quiet.
“I mean, I was just thinking about it, and, gosh, you know, I feel so bad.”
Tamika felt sorry for Dee all of a sudden as she watched her carry on. Tamika could tell that this had been really bothering her roommate.
“I don’t know,” Dee sighed, “but I just wanted to apologize.”
Tamika forced a smile and shrugged. “Don’t worry about it,” she told her sincerely. “I mean, it’s confusing, I know.”
“Religion, you mean?”
Tamika nodded, surprising herself by her confession. “I still haven’t figured it all out myself.”
Dee was silent, hesitating before asking, “You ever think about becoming a Muslim?”
The inquiry startled Tamika. She was not prepared for such a question. But she calmed herself. “Not really.”
There was silence again, and the two did not speak for some time.
“You ever think about becoming Christian?” Tamika did not know why she asked it, except it was a logical response to Dee’s question.
Dee chuckled and shook her head. “Never.”
Inside, Tamika grew defensive, but her curiosity was peaked. “Why not?” she asked nonchalantly,
“I read a lot about it,” Dee shared, “you know, because most of my family is Christian, but it never made sense to me, any of it.”
Tamika was silent, relating, but not wanting to.
“I mean,” Dee went on, “I don’t mean it offensively when I say it doesn’t make sense.”
Tamika nodded, understanding.
“But for me, it’s unclear what they believe. Some believe Jesus is God, some just that he’s the son of God and some that he’s both.”
“There are a lot of different sects.”
“Yeah, but still.”
“Don’t they have a lot of sects of Muslims?” Tamika asked.
“Yeah, I guess you can say that, but we’re not supposed to.”
“You mean that there’s only one sect that’s correct?”
Dee shrugged. “I suppose you can say it like that, but I guess I’d explain that there is only one Islam.”
“But don’t all the sects say that?”
She smiled. “I suppose they may, but the difference is that in Islam, you still have the Qur’an and the authentic statements of the Prophet, peace be upon him, so there’s not too much room for arguing.” She added, “Although people do.”
Tamika paused before inquiring, “So what kind of Muslims are the Black Muslims?”
Dee glanced sideways at Tamika, eyebrows raised. “Black Muslims?”
“Yeah, like the ones who sell newspapers and stuff.”
“Oh,” Dee laughed, “you mean the Nation of Islam?”
“Those aren’t Muslims,” she replied simply.
“They aren’t?” Tamika was confused.
“They’re not even considered a sect of Islam.”
“Really? But they say they’re Muslim.”