Why I self-identify as an ‘Agnostic Muslim’

I find comfort in prayer and I still instinctively refer to verses of the Qur'an or hadith and draw on many aspects of Islamic wisdom and teachings, despite the fact I reject other parts of it

Since I began identifying as an Agnostic Muslim many people have asked me why? And what is an Agnostic Muslim?

Just to briefly recap my story: I was born Muslim and practised as devoutly as I could for 50 years. Islam guided every aspect of my life. But towards the latter years I suffered a deep crisis of faith. My doubts and questions led me to reject Islam completely and I began to make videos critiquing aspects of Islam. I joined the Council of Ex-Muslims to support Maryam Namazie and others in breaking down the taboos related to Islam. I also helped found the Council of Ex-Muslims online forum to provide a safe place for freethinkers to express themselves and find support.

While I still support Maryam's work and stand by my previous videos, my own personal journey did not stop there. Although I no longer believe in Islam in the traditional way, I don't feel completely comfortable with the label ex-Muslim either. Nor do I feel at ease identifying as an Atheist.

I prefer the label Agnostic Muslim as it reflects my doubts as well as my faith. I do believe in "something" - something beyond this material existence - something I can't define or quantify - you can call this "something" God if you want. Yet at the same time I believe it is impossible to prove or disprove its existence.

I feel comfortable identifying as a Muslim. Not because I believe it's the one true religion but simply because it's the tradition I am familiar with. My family, friends and loved ones are Muslims and I enjoy participating in Islamic festivals and celebrations with them. I find comfort in prayer and I still instinctively refer to verses of the Qur'an or hadith and draw on many aspects of Islamic wisdom and teachings, despite the fact I reject other parts of it.

However, I don't believe the Qur'an is infallible. I'm happy to accept that the scripture’s origin is God inspiring man to utter the words of the Qur'an. I think we are all inspired and driven by whatever power and forces drive this universe. But this inspiration comes through our fallible human mind and character.

Although the Qur'an contains a great deal of wisdom, it is inextricably tied to its context and environment. Most important of all, it is fallible and must be subject to human reason, and not the other way around.

There maybe ultimate truth, but from our human perspective, truth is relative. So I am neither dogmatic nor insistent that my way is the only way. My faith is universalistic, inclusive, pluralistic and accepting of differences.
If a Just and Merciful God exists, then he chose to create a world with plenty of reasonable doubt about his existence and about religion. In which case the only thing that would be of interest to such a God would be our actions. How we live our lives. The choices we make. The good we do and the love we show. Not whether we believed in him or not. Nor what religion – if any – you follow.

I reject the traditional view of Heaven, Hell and the Day of Judgment. If there is some sort of reckoning, then it would be based on our actions not what religion we follow. Plus it would take into account our flawed nature and the fact that our freewill is limited at best and largely determined by biology and environment.

I not only reject the notion of Shari'ah Law – I reject the very idea of a "Perfect Divine Law for all times and all places." All laws are human laws and all forms of government are human forms of government. They are flawed and very fallible. They always have been and always will be. All we can be expected to do is strive to make the best laws and governments we can with the tools we have.

I strongly believe that if Muslims were able to recognise the "human" origin of the Qur'an it would solve a great deal of our problems, while at the same time allowing them to retain their faith as Muslims. It is the belief in infallibility that is actually undermining Islam. Because it forces us to either invent dishonest and laughable apologetics or compels us towards harsh literalist views.

Hassan Radwan

Hassan Radwan is the former Amir of a North London Da’wah group and ex-editor pf Islamic magazine ‘The Clarion’. He has written four books for Muslim children and spent fifteen years as a teacher at Yusuf Islam's Islamia School

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