Zia Hassan

My Religion A Stew Of Wonder

My first experience with religion happened when I was a child. I was told, right out of the gate, that I was Muslim. I attended a jamaat with my parents each Friday night, and celebrated Eid.

My family also celebrated Christmas. It was probably because they wanted to make sure my sister and I didn’t miss out on any American fun as children.

So here I was: an American Muslim kid with immigrant parents, experiencing the drudgery of going to a weekly religious service with none of the fun stuff, and experiencing all the fun stuff of a different religion without the drudgery.

In middle school, I lived in Egypt which made me proud to be Muslim. The kids there were cool, hip even. It was normal.

A year after I moved back to the states, 9/11 happened and I was thrown against the cold bathroom wall by a classmate accusing “my people” for being responsible for this terrorist attack. It’d possible he was joking, playfully fighting as high schoolers will do… but all I remember was his hands holding my wrists.

I went through an intense period of atheism after that. I figured it didn’t make sense to follow rigid religions. I was free to make my own choices. I didn’t believe in God, and I didn’t pray.

But it wasn’t fulfilling. It also didn’t help my relationships with non-atheists, with whom I would argue when the topic came up. I’d use what I called “logic” to dismantle their beliefs.

In my 30’s, I started to realize that these folks, most of them, were simply trying to live their lives, and that their religious beliefs were tools that helped them do that.

And then I realized that I had my own tools. I was religious too, but I didn’t have a religion.

My list of tools included:

  • zazen meditation
  • good foof
  • music
  • fireflies
  • writing
  • songwriting
  • recording
  • lifting weights
  • reading
  • time and energy tracking

These daily routines enrich my life, gave me the ability to figure out my meaning and purpose. They still do.

I don’t pray, but praying isn’t a requirement of religion. Neither is believing in a deity. I now say “I don’t know” with confidence but it is fun to process the fact that there are secrets in the universe that cannot be known.

It all boils in a stew of wonder. That’s nourishment.