I Missed a Prayer but Was Not Turned into Stone
05 Jun, 2007
Dear Ali Sina (Editor, FFI)
I am a 44-year-old man, married with 2 teen children. I am originally from ESFAHAN. As you know, my city of origin Esfahan is considered one of the most religious cities in Iran. Esfahanis, in general, have been a source of reliance for the Islamic regime of Iran. My city of birth is notorious as the “number 1” supplier of martyrs, intelligence agents, torturers, jailers, mullahs and occasionally religious scholars, politicians and intellectuals since the 1979 revolution. I grew up in such religious environment in a very typical religious Esfahani family.
I was born in October 1961. I was the third of my parents’ five children. Like most Iranians, we were Shias. We weren’t zealots, but we were one of the more devout families in my neighborhood. My parents’ piety was, for me, the most salient feature of my childhood.
My father made sure that his children performed their daily prayers, and as we got older he saw to it that we observed the fasts of Ramadan. When I was about ten years old, my father started hauling me along to the annual rites commemorating the 7th-century beheading of Imam Ali’s son Hussein. At first, I was allowed to simply slap my chest during the processions, but by the time I was 12, I’d graduated to flogging myself with chains. A few years later, when I was in high school, I often found myself alone in the school mosque during the noontime prayer. This was the atmosphere I spent most of my teen years as a youngster.
By the late 1970s, dissatisfaction with the Shah was becoming universal. Many Iranians began to openly express their opposition to the Shah and their support for Khomeini. As this wave of opposition swept over Esfahan, I joined the Revolution.
At first, I participated in the actions of groups who opposed the Shah for religious reasons. These groups orchestrated the closing of Esfahan’s schools and prodded businesses in the city’s bazaars to shut down to demonstrate their solidarity. I also joined mobs that vandalized banks and other institutions on which the regime depended.
In the fall of 1978, I had a chance encounter with an older cousin. My cousin was also dedicated to the overthrow of the Shah, but he belonged to a socialist group whose vision for Iran’s future was quite unlike that pictured by the religious right. We had a long discussion about the Revolution. I remember our conversation and my cousin’s scorn for my religious views.
When my cousin explained his own none religious reasons for opposing the Shah, I felt ashamed and foolish. That very day, I made the decision to neglect my evening prayers. As I fell asleep that night, I thought it unlikely that I’d wake the next morning. I expected—as my parents had raised me to expect—that I would be turned to stone.
When I woke up, flesh and blood, then next morning, I abandoned Islam! To this day, after almost 28 years of passage of time, I still feel ambivalent about the suddenness of this transformation. Nevertheless, the change must have been rooted firmly, as I have never been tempted to return to the fold.
How we overthrew the shah of Iran, what I experienced as a soldier serving in the Iranian army in Mehran during Iran/Iraq war, how I eventually escaped across the border into Pakistan, taking then a U turn towards the west all the way into Mexico and across “Rio Grande” river into the USA, are all stories unrelated to what has caused me to write to you today. What I have mentioned to you so far is just an overview of what I stand for today and how I got to it.
Today, I have 2 children. My goal is to be a father who deserves respect and provides guidance. My children often confront me with questions I have a hard time responding to. Before I made a decision to become a father, I thought it would be wise to teach my children to be humans with love, respect and tolerance for all. My mind was set to raise them free from the tight grasp of all religions with a mind not limited by the threat of the all mighty god. What I had failed to anticipate was the reality of what our society is made of and how others’ culture and beliefs affect us.
How am I suppose to respond when my children come from school wondering why their classmates have stories about their weekend experience at Senegal, Church, Mosque and Temple to share with each other wile my children don’t even know what these places are for? How do I respond when they ask me, referring to the Muslims’ Ramadan, the Christians’ Christmas and the Jews’ Yam Kop ore: “Daddy when or what do we celebrate”? How do I explain what “In God We Trust” embroiled on all our monitory notes mean? In sum, how do I free my family from the grasp of religion while the constitution only guarantees the freedom of religion?
Your story was a perfect testimony to the fact that lies cannot be sustained forever. This is what gives me assurance that the end of Islam is near. You were told that if you miss a prayer, you would be turned into stone. You had based your faith on this lie. Once the fallacy of it became obvious to you, the entire edifice of lies crumbled in front of you.
All of us who left our faiths had similar experiences. For some of us it was much more difficult to give up those lies. We tried to cling to them harder because we did not know what to believe if we give them up. But once the seed of doubt was sown in our minds, there was no fighting it back. What happened to you and the rest of us will happen to other Muslims too. All of them will eventually wake up and realize they have been lied to. Many Muslims write to curse us and to spew their venom. They do this because we have shattered their belief. They feel the pain and they blame us for it. They think by attacking us they would feel good again. But it won’t help them. The nagging doubt eats them away from within. Eventually they will have to face the truth and it is then that they will leave Islam and will be free. Once the lies of Islam become universally known, its collapse will be inevitable. With the Internet, this truth is becoming known fast. Islam’s days are numbered.
You ask me what to tell your children. I think you should tell them the truth. Tell them the universe is a mystery that no one can fathom. Tell them that there are realities that transcend the material world. The world is governed by Principles. There is an order in the nature that cannot be measured or defined. Things happen and there is beauty and harmony, but you cannot find the controlling center of it, because there isn't any.
Our challenge as humans is to understand the principle governing the universe and live in harmony with it. What we believe is irrelevant. It is how we live that brings us happiness. Think of gravity. This is a principle. If you respect it, you can benefit from it but if you disregard it you can fall and hurt yourselg. Your belief or disbelief of it makes no difference. You are bound by it whether you are aware of it or not. You can use fire to make life better or you can destroy your life with it. Our happiness depends on understanding the principle governing the universe and living by it. The Principle is one. There is only a single Principle underlying the world of being. But in each sphere of existence IT manifests itself differently.
At a personal level, the principle is to love your self. Know that you deserve to be loved because you exist. A cat knows that. He does not think that he has to do anything to be loved. He knows that he should be loved for the fact that he exists. Animals know this principle better than humans and they are content. That is because they can't lie to themselves. At the interpersonal level, the principle is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. This is only what we humans are capable of. Animals do not have societies like ours and they have no need for the Golden Rule. The law of "might is right" serves them fine. Empathy is something that only emotionally evolved humans can have. People, who are not emotionally mature, have no empathy. Their feelings for others, is akin to those of animals. Ideologies such as Islam that do not promote empathy for all mankind, promote animalism.
Be content and a source of happiness to others. That is all there is to life. All ideologies are meaningless. All theories of life are based on human ignorance. They are all subject to change. The farther we can see, the more we discover the depth of our ignorance. There is no truth to understand except the fact that we are here to live and be happy. There is nothing to fight for, nothing to die for and nothing to kill for. Life is for living, not for dying. “Forgotten lie the martyrs in their dusty catacombs, and the faiths, for which they died, are cold and dead.” 
But we humans are social animals. We need to interact, have ceremonies, rituals and magic. We need to belong and be part of a community. So choose a community that you like and be part of it. What community you choose is up to you. It depends what is available where you live. If there is a Unitarian Universalist Church in your area, pay them a visit. They are open to everyone and they respect your belief. Otherwise find a non-fundamentalist Christian church close to you. It really does not matter which church or temple you go to. People are all the same. You can find goodness everywhere. You want to join the community not the doctrine. Choose a community that promotes love for all mankind and foments hatred for no one. Islam is uniquely evil because it teaches hate. Avoid doctrines that divide humanity into us vs. them and claim to own the truth. No one owns the truth. Those who make that claim, to the extent that they are certain of it, are lying to themselves. Truth cannot be found. It is a mirage. Don’t fight over an illusion. Live in harmony with your neighbor and be a solace, a fountain of comfort to others.
Teach your children tolerance. Tell them that no one can ever know the absolute Truth. Absolutes do not exist. Infinity, like zero, is a figment of human imagination. Neither one of them is real. They are nothing but convenient lies. All we humans can aspire is to learn a finite part of the truth. The moment you think you have found the ultimate Truth is the moment that you have lost it. That is the moment that you shut the doors of knowledge to your face and it is the beginning of your downfall. Never be certain of anything. Doubt everything. To know that you don't know is the foundation of all wisdom. Willing to doubt what you know is the virtue of the sage. Haughtiness and arrogance are the traits of the fool.
 Margaret A Murray in The Genesis of Religion