“I understood the luxury of faith when I was falling 10,000 feet from the sky.”
I first started questioning organized religion at the tender age of 15, when I witnessed a goat being butchered as part of the ritualistic Eid sacrifice. I asked myself: what was the point of such barbarism? What satisfaction could the Almighty possibly get from the murder of an innocent animal? Eventually, I started questioning other aspects of faith as well, such as the four wives allowance. It was not just my own faith that I was scrutinizing; the skepticism extended to other religions too. Even though most people associated themselves with a particular religion, I realized that an overwhelming majority were simply born into one without ever understanding its true essence.
Inevitably, I started looking down upon people who believed that they were the chosen ones. I found it hilarious yet sad that they needed to adhere to a strict set of rules just to be closer to their creator. How insecure must they be that they constantly needed to remind God of their insignificant existence? As time passed, I kept up with this arrogant supercilious attitude. After all, I managed to drive away the inherent insecurities and fear that 96% of the world’s population was cursed with. I was at an all-time high.
Two years later, my mother called me up and invited me to spend my summer vacations with her in the States. Having traveled on airplanes numerous times before, the 26 hour journey did not seem so bad. As you may have guessed, this was not going to be your typical airplane ride. Six hours into the flight, the plane started going through some minor turbulence, which prompted people to start praying; how pathetic, I thought to myself. Then, without any warning, the plane went into an uncontrolled descent. I was scared to death; being just seventeen years old, I didn’t deserve to die. A million things went through my mind, but perhaps the most overwhelming thought was that of the other side. Would my existence be forever erased once that plane crashed into the ground? In this chaos, I noticed that the old lady sitting next to me did not utter a sound. With a rosary in her hand, she was surprisingly calm. Eyes closed and utterly relaxed, it was like she had drifted into a state of trance.
It was then that I realized how I actually envied her for the fact that she had something to look forward to when that plane crashed. There was another world waiting for her in the hereafter while I had nothing. Even if all this was not true, it was this belief that gave her the utmost comfort while she stared death in the face. Though the plane miraculously leveled, I spent the rest of the flight wishing that I had perished. It was me who was wrong all along; mankind does need something to believe in. We are insignificant as death could strike us at any time.
Today, my formerly haughty attitude has transformed into that of regret. This is not one of those typical life changing stories where the arrogant non-believer moulds himself into a religious clerk. I am by no means a model Muslim. However, I know now that those who believe are not wrong – they are lucky.