Jan of 2019, maula visits Bangalore. The very first ziyafat was held at my father-in-laws place. My father-in-law is a pious, wealthy and extremely generous person. Revered by everyone in the community and personally known to maula. I had the fortune of being in the ziyafat from start to end. The whole event would last for around 2 hours. Because I was family, I was in his presence for what, at that time, seemed like an eternity. Before, I had only heard stories of greatness and of miracles of this person, seated here before me. Stories and miracles that would put those of the mythologies to shame. But as he sat the before me, I couldn’t help but observe him, quite keenly, as he went by, answering arzies of family who were there with all their hopes and aspirations to find some solace in their otherwise painful and complicated lives. What I saw discombobulated me. Here, before me was the most supremely powerful all knowing ‘gaib na janaar’, answering the arzies, with indecision, dismissiveness, and a sense of absolute vagueness, like that one would expect off some banal politician. I saw confusion in the eyes of this god-man. He couldn’t understand some simple concepts, and had to have things repeated to him numerous times by his son-in-law standing beside him. No confidant humility, that I expected, exuded from him. This was a different person from the man who sits at the takhat and reads those scripted sermons so vivaciously that Bohras swear by. I admit, that it was at the end of a very long day for him and he was tired, like any person would be, but these were not difficult topics that were being discussed. Surely, for a man of his claimed stature it shouldn’t be a difficult feat to just understand simple questions, let alone answer them. Sometimes he would defer giving answers to his arzies to another time, claiming to consider and deliberate on the subject. Why would an all-knowing have to deliberate? Wouldn’t he simply, know? How could the maula that claimed to know the secrets hidden in the depth of our hearts, not understand something that is laid out before him in clear speech? Why would the all-knowing maula not know if and why IVF was haram, and why would he have a consult a doctor on what course of action his predecessors prescribed?
At that moment I tabled away all these feelings and notions. But at the back of my mind the questions had already formed. I couldn’t stop them from forming even if I tried. My neurons wouldn’t stop firing. Could this all be a ruse? What if maula, the central concept of my belief, the pillar that upholds the Bohra version of Islam, is in fact, just as we all are flawed imperfect and human?
In the days and months following, even though I tried to fight it, it all came back to me, the question surrounding astronomy, evolution and other scientific explanations of life that contradicted with my religious indoctrination. I got an education. For many days and for the first time, I studied these topics with an open mind, without letting religion colour the process. I stepped outside the small circle of my flavour of religion (after all Bohra make up only 0.0077% of the world’s population as of Sept 2019) and explored the history of other religions, the historical myths of early ancestral humans, from Greek mythology to the influence of Zoroastrianism on Islam. The philosophy of the human condition, the need of religion for psychological appeasement and to bring a semblance of sanity in a world of vast unknown. Read works by polished thinkers and highly rational people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Alain De Botton. Studied logic theory to ensure my thinking and those of others were not fallacious and riddled with bias. Tried having a discussion with a Bohra cleric renowned for clearing ‘doubts’ of the followers (got no answers). After all of this came to the only conclusion that can be made by any sane rational mind, in my humble opinion.
God did not make Man. Man, made God.