Saturday, February 24, 2007
  The Hand of God
I tend to be the sort of person who looks very skeptically on people who claim to see the Hand of God at work in their own lives. It seems only one step from saying, "God wanted me to be a..." (insert profession) to the trucker who believed God wanted him to cut off his right hand, or Andrea Yates who said that God had told her to kill her children.

I tend to think, rather sarcastically, "How do you know that the difficulties you're having at med school means He doesn't want you to be a doctor after all? Maybe it means He wants you to prove your dedication to it." Or that just because an opportunity arises before you that means God wants you to take it? Certainly He provides lots of opportunities for ill-doings as well as good ones.

And yet, in my own life, so many of the coincidental occurrences feel like something more than just coincidence. Like writing for the Religion News Service. A woman who I did not know put up a notice on a yahoogroup we both belong to that she was going to be leaving them and they needed someone to replace her. I jumped at the opportunity, but the chance that she and I would be on the same group (which had been created only a few months before hand) seems incredible.

Similarly writing for Newsweek-The Washington Post. A woman in a yahoogroup I belong to reads the On Faith section, and had complained that no one brought up Eid, and suggested they get a few more Muslim panelists. She recommended me, largely (I think) because I am currently Director of the Islamic Writers Alliance. Again, I jumped at the opportunity, and again was accepted.

My very clear emotional reaction to these coincidences is that God is showering me with blessings and opportunities. Which is not much different than saying, "God's plan for me is to be a writer."

I wonder what it is in the human psyche that doesn't cope well with coincidence. When a novelist puts in too many coincidental occurrences, the reader feels cheated or that things are simply too pat. When other people claim to see purpose in coincidence, it makes at least some of us squirm. And yet, there seems to be something that leads most of us to feel like those coincidences are indeed God blessing us (or cursing us if the coincidence is something like you and a fast moving car happened to occupy the same intersection at the same time), like God is mapping out a plan fo us.

Are we simply so desperate for a shape to our lives, or some greater meaning? I certainly don't feel like I am hungry for a greater meaning to life -- the thought of a hereafter is far more disquieting to me than the thought that we simply die and the worms return our bodies to the cycle of life -- and yet I at times I feel like God is pushing me around on a chessboard. (And lucky me, I get to be a queen rather than a pawn!)

The Islamic answer goes right back to the fitrah, to the essential human condition which includes the recognition of God. Humanity, according to this concept, is tuned to God, tuned to be receptive to Him. Seeing His hand in coincidence is part of our essential nature, and the reason we don't buy it in a novel is the author ain't God. I guess that's part of why I'm Muslim, cause it sure seems to be part of the human condition, based on my observations.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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