Note: What’s previously under the category “About me and my journey” have been moved into the category “Exegesis and theory.”
My name is Lambda Moses (pen name). I’m a Quranist (for people objecting this label, see this link). I’m a UCLA student, double majoring in molecular, cell, and developmental biology (MCDB), and computational and systems biology (C&SB). Besides science, I like art, philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine, and of course, cats, or Felis catus :P.
I was born and raised in China as an atheist. I was curious about what Allah is. I thought He would be like Buddah so I could draw His image on my books to get blessings (wearing a jade Buddah for blessings and protection is a common practice in China), but when found out more about Islam, I was impressed about the idea of Monotheism and the absurdity of idol worhip and talisman. At that time, not a good critical thinker, I would easily associate myself with anything that gave me cool feelings, such as futurism (which I now reject) and graffiti, so in February 2010, I decided to convert Sunni Islam (I hit a Sunni website and didn’t know about Quranists) and followed the article about Allah on what I should do to become a Muslim (I didn’t practice and didn’t stop eating pork until April 2010).
In my first prayer, though I did the rituals wrong, I felt my spirit cleansed, a feeling never felt before. Finding the instruction of prayer online way too complicated, I began to read the Quran on my own to find how I shall pray (I didn’t know the existence of Hadith and Sunnah at that time), but I did not find such instructions on prayer or instructions on zakat or hajj. I had a little doubt on the website and thought about reform against ritualism. Yet I didn’t voice my concerns – I was still a beginner, so I didn’t know enough to comment. I officially became Sunni as I found the importance of Hadith. To be honest, for a few months, finding the Quran no unhelpful, I only read the Hadith, but not the Quran. I took the rituals very seriously; while most Chinese Muslim women don’t wear hijab, I didn’t allow any bit of hair to be shown and wore sleeve guards if a long-sleeved shirt did not cover up to the wrist. I went to high school in Shenzhen. I attended mosque as frequently as I could even though there was no public transport to the only mosque in Shenzhen.
But I still remember two conversations. My head teacher in high school didn’t like my conversion. She asked me, “What did you learn from converting Islam?” I didn’t know what to say except “It’s cool.” Later, in summer 2011, on my way back from Cornell summer school to Shanghai, I sat next to a Chinese American Christian. We talked about Christianity and Islam. She said Jesus would save us on Day of Judgment, and asked me who would save us according to Islam. I recall from a hadith that the answer should be Muhammad, so I answered “Muhammad,” but I also recalled from the Quran that the answer should be “Nobody but God.” What did I learn from Islam? In 2011, I was so crazy about Tap Tap Revenge and Star Wars that I spent more money on them than on charity. Even when praying, I was thinking about them, totally forgetting about God. After reading a book given to me by an imam (Nawawi’s 40 Hadiths), I knew I was wrong. I did improve spiritually. But I didn’t think and couldn’t form a big picture of life as I now do. I was too occupied with detailed individual rules (rather than linking the rules into a coherent system like I now do) to think about God. In Cornell summer school, I never thought about how the classes I took could benefit me, and didn’t take them seriously. Meanwhile, I often showed off how smart I was. I thought Islam did not relate to deep values in life; I would be fine as long as I abided by those rules. As a result, while I did get A for hard upper division classes at UCLA, I “Bced” the English as second language class and introduction to engineering in Cornell summer school.
My parents strongly opposed my conversion to Islam. They tried every means to drive me out of Islam, including threatening me of not letting me to go to college, but all those did not work. Running out of methods, they converted Christianity in October 2011, since they knew that Christians also believe in God and their way of serving God was more “acceptable.” They brought me to church, and then I realized that my initial skepticism of ritualism was right. The church welcomes all who are interested so they can hear the Gospel and their sermons are pertinent to our everyday life, while the mosques I attended refused to let someone in due to the dress code and complicated rituals and their sermons are often more relevant to rituals than everyday life. I began to question my faith. I searched the internet for how to pray according to Quran alone, and I hit Edip Yuksel. His articles convinced me to give up Hadith. I became a Quranist in November, 2011. Then I read his Quran, a Reformist Translation, and I was very impressed by how I could see messages of peace and justice; I’ve never been attempting to understand the Quran until I became a Quranist. For why Hadith is not reliable, please consult the websites of many other Islamic scholars such as Edip Yuksel and Ahmed Subhy Mansour.
Above is how I became a Quranist. I’ve changed a lot since then; for instance, while I was a top science student before becoming a Quranist, I never thought about the nature of science and I only studied for a rank and a kind of cool feeling, but the Quran inspired me to philosophise about science and the nature of things I encounter, constructing a coherent system about life and the world around us. It inspired me to think. The changes that occurred to me, the coherence of the Quran, as well as the simplicity and universality of the message of Monotheism affirmed my faith. At present, I have my own approach and I’m independent from any other scholar. See this article and this article for a more detailed account of my evolution as a Quranist.
About this blog
The purpose of this blog has changed in its history. Initially, this blog was opened as a supplement to the Facebook group Quran De Novo. I founded that group because I found most Quranist groups focusing too much on arguments against Sunni and other religions and on some repetitive corrections of misconceptions about Islam, while ignoring deepening our understanding of the Quran and real practices of God’s way. Also, I found Western scholars not reading the Quran properly because they assume the necessity of Hadith. My goal of this blog at that time was to show that it’s possible and amazing that we don’t need any history in order to understand the Quran and that the Quran is the word of God, using my method with emphasis on structure and texual coherence (see this link for details about that method). However, the purpose of this blog shifted, as I questioned the vital role I used to assign to structure as un-Quranic and I found it takes much more expertise than I expected to argue about history the way Islamic scholars do.
So now, the purpose of this blog is to share my insights by reading the Quran as the Quran itself instructs me, and to inspire new thoughts. Topics I address include exegesis methodology, theology, science, and other insights.
The purpose of this blog is NOT to correct misconceptions about Islam or to argue against other religions or problems in the Muslim world and culture for the following reasons:
- God’s system is independent from any organized religion. God’s system is not a culture, and transcends culture, from the cultures in the societies of Abraham and Moses to the culture in the contemporary world
- Islam is pure Monotheism centering on the concept of Monotheism rather than rituals, not a collection of religious institutions that claim that certain rituals are paramount. However, many people confuse the cultural definition of Islam – which is just a collective term describing whatever that call themselves Islam though many of them are actually polytheistic – with the theological definition of Islam as pure Monotheism, as defined in the Quran.
- Focusing on problems in the Muslim world and criticizing Sunnis and correcting misconceptions is not inclusive to people who do not have a background in a Sunni or Shia majority environment or do not identify with the culture of the Muslim (cultural definition) world
- God’s system is for every human being, regardless of religious or ethnic background, so our missionary should not focus on some ethnic groups but not others
- People who have degrees in Islamic studies have already done an excellent job on what I’m not going to do, and can do a much better job than I can thanks to their expertise and their cultural upbringing
- If we don’t deepen our understanding of Quran, then we’re limiting our ability to correct misconceptions about Islam and etc.
So am I a hypocrite just because I don’t seem to care about mainstream issues? No. Since nobody can master every single skill and every single field of study, there has to be specialization and cooperation. Yes, if we believe that the Quran is the word of God and thus its self-alleged completeness and ease to understand, then specialization in exegesis is not necessary, but activism is a completely different thing. It takes training, research, time, and etc. to be an activist. Yes, it’s virtuous to advocate reforms and human rights in the Islamic (cultural definition) world. But it’s also virtuous to heal diseases and appreciate God’s creation in the universe. Actually in my freshman year, I have considered anthropology, religious studies, and philosophy as my major, but after taking some classes, I found that the former two are not the best fit for me and my greatest interest and talent are still in the sciences. I would definitely be a good Islamic reform activist like Ahmed Subhy Mansour if I major in either of the former two or Middle Eastern studies and get a PhD in Islamic studies, but since this field is not for me, I’ll leave it to people who are better suited.
So how am I not a hypocrite? I’m on my way to becoming a biologist of some sort, most likely a systems biologist. Yes, I know, we’re commanded by God to build a just and peaceful society, and I can do so by contributing my research to future medicine and by contributing thoughts to bridge the gap between science and religion (that was created in modern time), just like BioLogos and Faraday Institute are doing. I’m interested in translating between the languages of traditional medicine (such as traditional Chinese medicine and the medicine of Avicenna) and modern Western biomedicine, and systems biology is a promising tool. The significance of this translation is: Number one, it can help bridging cultural gaps, and number two, it can help to standardize, improve the safety of, and critically analyze traditional medicine, which can manage diseases at a much lower cost than Western biomedicine. Meanwhile, this may philosophically inspire Western biomedicine. The implication can be increased human unity across cultures and more affordable healthcare for the underserved and improved healthcare quality in developing countries (of course, this will also need the effort of healthcare professionals, public health professionals, and activists that I often encounter on Quranist groups). The significance of bridging the gap between science and religion is it’s potential contribution to better education and scientific research (and thus reform) in the Islamic world in a deeply Islamic language. Most sciensts advocating the harmony between science and religion are Christians, so I’d like to offer a Muslim voice that is lacking. All these means that I have to get the best training possible for my field, so I will not have time to do the research of Islamic scholars. In sum, this is my role, an element playing its role in the system of the Quranic social project, and I don’t have to repeat the roles many have taken in Quranist groups. I’m not an Islamic scholar and I don’t identify with the Islamic (cultural definition) culture; I just do what I’m better suited to do and I’m not a hypocrite.
Posts in this blog are written in the first person. I know that this makes the posts sound like diaries and academic papers don’t do that, but I’m still doing it because it reminds you of the humaness of those opinions. Also, I don’t delete posts whose ideas I no longer adhere to. I change when I find my previous beliefs problematic. I leave the posts I found problematic as archive so you will know the importance of the thought process and the humaness of this blog. I try to show how I reached my conclusions since the thought process is also a source of information, and it can also be critiqued and can inspire new ideas. When reading my posts, please note the date the post was published since I change, and please have your own copy of the Quran ready. I don’t usually put the entire verse I cite in my posts, since I prefer to integrate idea from multiple verses and passages.
Now you know something about me and my blog. Enjoy reading and please share your thoughts!