I Missed a Prayer and
I Was Not Turned into Stone
Mr. Ali Sina,
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
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.
A Murray in The Genesis of Religion