Have you ever wondered about this? I know that our parents and teachers always discourage us from asking any questions related to God.. God as an Entity.. God as a Being.. God as a Material Presence. Yet, you can never shut up a child's imagination.
That was not the first inquiry I had about God. Like any other child, you expect me to have went through all the usual details of "What is God?", "Where is He?", "Why can't we see Him?", and so on. Never was I able to find an answer, or let me say.. a solid convincing answer.. to any of those questions. Everything I was told, after the warnings and threats of course, was so evasive.. Barely causing me to have a dangled chin and go like: "Huh?"
One might think that he/she is the only one having a problem understanding the answers that others are trying to make him reach. After all, the people uttering all this nonsense looked as if they were so sure and so serious about the "information" (if I can call it so) that they are giving. How funny it is, when you grow up to discover that those people had absolutely no idea about what they were talking about. Why didn't they just say that they didn't know? Why do they feel obliged to give answers? Why did they try making up meaningless sentences to confuse the person who is asking?
Apparently (as I've come to learn later), everything has a reason.. Doesn't have to be logical or real.. But there must be a reason somewhere.
For 3 whole years, I was forbidden to attend religion classes at school. Each teacher cleverly passed the wisdom to his colleagues, so they didn't even have to see for themselves why I deserved such a "punishment". I don't know what I did wrong then. School is all about curious students searching for answers, and experienced teachers satisfying this curiosity. I really didn't care to receive a definite answer.. All I wanted was anything that would aid me during my search. Or even a simple "I don't know," so that I can go on asking someone else.
Anyway, my questions were considered a crime.. Religion teachers thought that I intended to make fun of them and embarrass them in front of the whole class. They didn't even care to tell me those charges against me.. It was enough that I received the final sentence: No More Religion Classes for You.
On the other hand, you might find it extremely surprising that I passed all my religion exams. Of course they wanted to get rid of me.. They never dared to discuss my answers. I don't know what took place while my answers were being graded.. Probably I was the reason behind many heated debates among those great teachers.. Whatever took place inside that grading room, the result was that I passed and was never allowed to see my answer sheet.
It was clear they feared me. Maybe they thought I was demonized.. Or they simply didn't want me to awake any doubts or inquiries that have been resting in peace, buried deep down in their subconscious.. Never was I given a chance to question anything divine.
You may wonder: "what could she have done to deserve all this?" What sort of question did I ask?.. Well, normally the situation didn't reach this far as a result of a single question. My annoying habit of inquiring about reasons behind everything I heard.. along with openly objecting that some ideas were not clear enough.. in addition to seeking to verify that I understood the right meaning explained by the teacher.. all this made me unwelcomed. But sure, there was the straw that brought about all the catastrophic consequences.. It was the question you read in the title.
I don't remember what that day's class was about.. Still I can remember every single thing that happened after I raised my hand, requesting permission to ask about something.. I know what you might be thinking now.. No, I never regretted asking.
-"Mr. M, We always refer to God using the pronoun 'He'. Why's that?"
-"That's how God ordered us to call him."
-"Does this mean that God is a man?"
-"No, no. Of course not! May God protect us from the devil! God is not a man. He created all men and women."
-"Yes, I know that. But we suppose that God is a man, cause we use 'He' to refer to him, right?"
-"No. We use 'He' because we only have 2 pronouns in Arabic. And 'he' is perefered to 'she'."
-"Why is that? I believe they are both the same, but one refers to the male and the other to the female."
-"Don't you know that in Arabic when we want to refer to a group of girls, we say 'honna' (plural female pronoun in Arabic)."
-"What if this group had 100 girls and one boy?.. In this case we say 'hom' (plural masculine pronoun). So can you now see that a single 'he' in the middle of 100 'honna' is able to change the pronoun to the masculine?"
-"OK. Now I understand.. This means that God is a man."
-"Oh.. God forgive you. I told you NO."
-"But It can not be otherwise, Mr.. God sent us his religion in Arabic. He could have changed these language rules if He was not a man."
-"God sent his message in the language that the people spoke."
-"Did all people speak Arabic at that time? I don't think so. He chose the language and He chose the people who speak it."
-"What do you want to reach Fantasia?"
-"I want to say that God is a man. Because whether in Arabic or English or French, we refer to him with the masculine pronoun."
-"That's not right. God does not have a gender. Forget about pronouns."
-"OK. Why did he favor males to females then?"
-"God doesn't favor except those who obey him."
-"No. He has favorites. It is so clear that He wanted us to know that He is a man."
-"Fantasia, let's talk about this later. Don't waste the time of the class."
(Lots of students kept begging him to answer my questions)
"No. This is not the time to talk about such things. It is 7aram to talk about God in this way."
-"Mr, it seems that you insist that God is not a man. OK.. Is God a woman?"
-"WHAT?!!.. Are you crazy?.. Beg for God's forgiveness! Beg for God's forgiveness!"
-"Why? I didn't insult God. And you were not angry when I asked if God is a man. What's wrong with asking the other way round?"
-"You do not realize the huge sin you are committing.. I am not willing to burn in hell because of a crazy girl like you."
-"What sin? I am only asking.. Why will you burn in hell if you answer me? Does God hate women that much? Why did He create them then? And if God has no gender, why will it be a sin to refer to God as 'She' for example?"
-"Enough Fantasia. Go out! Out!.. I have put up with your madness for so long. That's enough."
I left.. And as soon as I closed the door behind me, Mr. M. kept warning all the students that anyone who will ask similar questions about God will burn in hell for eternity. He kept shouting and shouting, till he was almost out of breath. He could have had a heart attack on this day. When the bell rang, he rushed out of the classroom, clearly avoiding seeing me. The next time I met him, he told me that I can never attend his classes again.. If I want to succeed in religion, I have to shut up during his class and never utter a word, or else I was not welcomed at all.
I refused to be treated in such a way.. I didn't commit a crime. God said that people must seek knowledge. He didn't mention that we should exclude Him while seeking that knowledge.. The thought of having the choice of not attending was far more better than sitting like a silent dog in the classroom. How can a student learn when his/her inquiries will be punished by eternal damnation?.. Which questions are fine to ask and which must a student avoid?.. How will someone have true belief in something that he/she is not even able to inquire about?.. Why did God create curiosity in young minds?.. I won't shut up Mr. And I don't want to succeed in your subject. I will gladly bear the cross that you tied on me.
Young Fantasia was being discriminated against by a religion teacher!.. He feared that her question will throw him in eternal hell. It never occured to him that discrimination is an actual sin. It never occured to him that refusing to perform his duty towards one of his students is a sin. It never occured to him that terrorizing his students with eternal damnation is a sin. And it never occured to him that.. after all.. God could be a woman!