My immediate family, in terms of religious configuration in my mid-teens constituted of Catholics, members of the Church of England, moderately high-ranking Freemasons, fervent Astrologers, Spiritualists, dedicated Baptists, Capitalists, drug-worshipping Agnostics and West Ham United supporters.
Twice or thrice I would sink the intrigue of my eyes into a handful of photographs of my christening, having been a 370-day-old toddler I don’t recall the movements of the occasion. Yet, I often dreamt visits to this rag of history in my later childhood, strolling about a time locked Mary, Queen of Peace Church, appearing to me in sepia, silently inquiring of the significance of such a large gathering commemorating me.
I was Susie Lou’s (one of my mother’s childhood nicknames) firstborn, she cherished my unique existence and I believe handed me into the arms of Father Lawler on that warm, late August day as a harmless, bloodless sacrifice to please the gaze of her dependably Roman Catholic father, attempting to mirror the unrivalled love he had bestowed upon her over two decades.
My grandfather saw his eldest daughter bear four more children, none of whom felt the cool sensation of priestly water smear their scalp. My two aunts on that side have yet to be visited by the stork and even if there were a belated arrival, the aforementioned once-appeased look of devotion has since ceased to invite light. My mother’s father relinquished his smile, set down his eyelids and locked up his eighty years of narrative in mid-2006. I miss him.
I am ashamed to say that I sometimes assumed a “holier-than-thou” position in regards to my family and would manipulate the fact my parents disowned any notion that normal people should seek to attain useful information.
They hid behind blockades of knowledge substitutes, the owners of these obstacles branded their creations with such outlandishly deceptive titles as ‘The Daily Mirror’, ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Daily Mail’.
In spite of this I still needed, just as the duckling does the duck, chestnut does the oak tree, to extract as much comprehension of life as I could from these individuals.
Questions were at times lassoed by me, in other situations they were pre-empted, examples like how my floppy ears were filled with the moralistic saga of Eve and Adam. But when the infamous ladder of evolution also flashed before us Genesis was effortlessly juxtaposed by them with this puzzling piece of data.
Meaningful ideas and concepts held no physical weight for the King clan therefore amazingly the jigsaw could make like a low-flying cloud and fit perfectly against its enemy.
Being less than ten years old I stacked this conundrum vertically alongside a figure of comparables; we were Christians (or at least bearers of crucifixes) without knowing church, created beings lacking a common purpose, evasive of death, yet guaranteed Heaven. Thankfully, owing to gravity, Jenga is a game set to a limited length of time.
I love music, I hardly ever see or hear her intoxicating serenade these days, but until I find a mistress as satisfying I can’t forget her. I always wanted to impress her, show my appreciation, more than dance with her; when you couple this with a desire to belong and bust free from a childhood that only saw new clothes on birthdays then out spews a 17-year-old, wrapped in import saggy jeans and a grubby hoodie, crouched on a church pew.
Curled around my neck were walkman wires emanating from Hip-Hop tapes from whence I sought intelligent lyrical advice. My GAP sheltered head bowed over the scene of an embrace, my palms embroiled in one lingering straight kiss.
When or why this prayer gesture became a prerequisite of entering a conversation with Christianity’s God I can only guess.
With my makeshift hand microphone on I worriedly asked for time and guidance, naïvely anticipating that I could put off death until my lazy heart and mind would bother to resolve my way of life if He gave me the go-ahead.
Quest for the Truth
I remained in this begging position for longer than was common in such a place of worship. Partly because I hoped to appear sincere to my cousin who sat beside me, but mainly due to the fact that I had reached the end of my time questioning Christianity and I believed that my next stage of life would possibly involve abandoning His directive.
Six years down the road I struggle to distinguish how much of my continued attendance at Amyand Park Chapel was down to going through the motions in order to at least appear subservient to my Creator, what proportion was that somewhat religious hankering for belonging, how prominent was the want of meaning, to what depth rebellion against Mother’s anti-religious sentiment went and what part a lack of alternative spiritual solutions played. The place disappointed me.
Any direct questions regarding the origin of dogmatic equations were brushed aside, most relevant to me these days are those I presented regarding the nature of the Trinity, most discouraging at the time was the lack of factual information amongst any of the available scholars pertaining to the science of comparative religions, and most distasteful was the accepted undercurrent of racism.
The latter conducting my aunt’s short burst of inquiry after her discovery of my decision – “but Lori, you’re English!”
For me Anglo-political nationalistic conservatism could not go hand-in-hand with Divine Law.
I meant to go and study the other religions at some point, it sounds cool to say you have. My disillusionment with Christendom had convinced me that the true purpose of life could be extracted from a number of sources, mostly religious, save at times even the brief bursts of revelation we all receive.
I suppose I can appreciate that view now although a far more logical understanding of the issue is what I have thankfully adopted.
My head is once again bowing; less close to the ground this time. Trapped in my headlights is a chapter of a short information book. Concurrently I am writing my beloved poetry, at the top of my pad’s page is a scribbled line to inspire my creative forces. I am nowhere near as conscious of the significance of the moment as I should be.
The words I had been reading had focused mainly on science, specifically embryology, geology, anatomy, meteorology, oceanography and cosmology. Within the cover’s confines I’d also read a little history, some current affairs and admittedly had been enlightened.
There was also frank advice to my soul; I suppose this section was taken with a pinch of salt as I had been exposed to similar rhetoric from elsewhere.
Reflecting Islam with Evidence and Proof
What I focused on was the evidence; tangible, comprehendible, logical, researchable, factual proof of a system. I pondered. What I could not shake off was this glaring sense of recognition. I knew exactly where I had known this elucidation from; I would later discover that the term for it was fitrah.
I was asking myself during this moment of reflection whether or not the statement I had copied onto my paper was true and if I believed it. The constituents of the legend that I wrestled with were nothing more than one rejection and an affirmation.
I must emphasize that what I felt in that instant was not an overawing, supernatural sensation of being lifted onto a higher spiritual plain; no, it was far more sober, unpretentious and realistic than that.
A person’s brain cannot be seen until their head is opened up (I favor a tin-opener for the task) yet we accept that it must be sitting within one’s cranial wall. We observe the bodily functions triggered by the brain, respect that without the brain in place we are lifeless, fully understand that were the brain to malfunction various measures must be put in place to rectify it or if the failure is too extensive then we are rendered ‘brain-dead’, it is the definite end of the race for survival.
For us to be convinced that this sealed muscle is present underneath those layers we need very little persuasion despite it being very possible that nobody will ever smell, feel or hear our brain.
One biology book or an explanation from our parents in nursery years is usually enough to make us believe. Yet the existence and lordship of a universal Creator Whose Hallmark resounds in every atom of matter known to man, is denied regularly.
Imagine a little Nokia phone arguing with its owner that it produced itself or came about by a chance chemical reaction! Our bodies are almost infinitely more complex than a mobile telephone handset, so I was never convinced of an atheistic existence.
After far, far more examination than any of us apply to dodgy traditional theories I concluded that Muhammad (peace be upon him), the son of `Abdullah who lived in Arabia was the Prophet of Almighty God, following on from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus and the many other envoys sent to guide man and womankind.
The Book revealed to him, the most superb act of literature of all time, the Quran was the literal word of God. Muhammad was neither a divine being, a saint nor was he a member of God’s family; he simply came to give us the message that we are to worship God alone.
One of the facets of Islam that I treasure and was so intrigued by five years ago was the concept of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. In a number of the bright white churches I visited, the sense of segregation and stranglehold of xenophobic tendencies really put me off.
Teenagers sometimes take up a cause that they feel passionate about and it’s usually private (except within the family home) and healthy, examples include anti-fur, social injustice, vegetarianism, sharing thrash metal with neighbours and loved ones at such a volume that nobody misses out. Mine was the equality of races.
The pre-conversion venue I know most intimately is Amyand Park, I mean I’m not so naïve as to expect the United Colors of Benetton to greet me when I totter into a Baptist church in Twickenham, but such a pale, inflexible lot obstructed likelihood of my attachment.
Even the solitary non-English family of attendees there were referred to openly as “the Ethiopians;” first names like Azarias and Hezkias were moulded to suit the preferences of the parishioners until ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Jimmy’ evolved and I felt shame for them.
When I enter any moderately sized mosque I encounter a rainbow of people, I can totally see why Nick Griffin and his charming BNP absolutely loathe us; the flesh of pink, brown, yellow, auburn, terracotta, coffee, pallid, crème, ebony, ivory, beige, bronze and then my cherry cheeks brimming with amusement are a refreshing sight.
The negation and affirmation; that there is no deity worthy of worship but God and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger is the foundation of Islam. Complications beyond that are dealt with in due course.
I try hard to live my life according to this simple discovery and I pray that as I fizzle out, whenever it may be or wherever I shall be, that I have not let go of that wonderful understanding.