When I was a young man, I turned toward the Qiblah and prayed to Allah. I fasted for a month every year, and I refused all alcoholic beverages. I exchanged Arabic greetings with my fellow believers. Of course I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where I lived for a year and studied Arabic so that I could better understand the words of Allah. You might have found me carrying around a copy of the Holy Qur’án—just in case I might have some free reading time. And, yes: I was a virgin, though perhaps not entirely by choice.
If you had asked me back then whether I was a Muslim, I would have denied it, for I was a member of a Shi’ite splinter group that refuses to be identified as Muslims. It’s a long story—let’s just say that it’s hazardous to be called a heretic in Iran. But when I look back at my youth I say, “what a Muslim!”
I was a bit of a fundamentalist. No, I wasn’t outraged by the sight of a woman’s face or anything like that, though I was a bit of a stickler about modesty. Idolatry was my hang-up. I was something of a fanatic about it. I stood firm against the worship of men, and my stomach turned whenever one of my fellow believers presumed to be able to measure the goodness of any person. The soul was a sacred trust to me, and I thought it blasphemy to claim to be able to probe it. Did these people think that they knew the mind of God? These idolators saw their religious heroes as partners of God, whether they admitted it or not. And as for their enemies, …
Yes, I was a bit of a fanatic. I was such a radical iconoclast that I couldn’t help but see idolatry more and more in my religious community, right up to the day that I determined that my religion itself was a kind of idolatry. What a crazy Muslim I was.
I suppose I still am.