This is your friendly neighborhood ex-Muslim. In today’s post, I am going to respond to an interview between Dave Chappelle and David Letterman in which Dave Chappelle touches a bit on his Islamic faith and how he became a Muslim as well as the myth about the well of Zam Zam.
The conversation starts with David asking Chappelle about his religious beliefs to which Chappelle confirms that he is indeed a Muslim and he converted to Islam at the age of 17. In explaining the circumstances surrounding his conversion, Chappelle goes on to say,
“When I was 17, I was living in Washington, and there was a pizza shop across my house. And there were these Muslim dudes that worked there. I used to go in there, crack jokes. And I was also a naturally curious guy. And I would ask them questions about his religion. And the guy was so passionate about it. It was very compelling.”
This is a minor point, but of course, devout Muslims would be passionate about their religion. If I were to go to a devoted Christian baker and asked them about their religion, they would most likely be happy to evangelize to me too. So how do we know who is right when facing a Christian and Muslim both speaking passionately? When someone speaks from the heart, it might feel real, but it doesn’t make it necessarily so. We have to focus on arguments.
Just because you don’t believe in religion doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful life. There are many other ways that you can make your life meaningful. I hear lots of converts to other religions talk about how they were lost and religion helped them. Richard Dawkins once said,
“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”.
Life can be wonderful and meaningful if you make it that way. Without the existence of god.
Ralph Lewis, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has said,
“A fundamental source of meaning for most people is knowing that we matter—that our life matters to others, that our life has an effect on the lives of others, and that others care about us. When bad things happen to people, suffering can be partially mitigated if the sufferer has reason to expect that something good might come out of their misfortune—perhaps some positive impact on others. Most people, religious or secular, want to know that they matter to other people—to know that people care about them. Religious people additionally want to feel that they matter to God—they want the universe to care.”
I think that raises an interesting point. We all want to feel like we are important and we have our own ways of dealing with that. For some people, they want to be helpful to others and look after their loved ones. Some want to build a business or make money. Some want an impact on the world. Similarly, there are religious people also who find the meaning of life in worshiping and following their religion and pleasing their God. Tony Robbins has identified at the core, there are 6 basic needs we all have: Certainty/Comfort, Uncertainty/Variety, Significance, Love & Connection, Growth, and Contribution. This is a pretty comprehensive list and you can see that with or without a God this is what we are all craving and looking for.
Ralph Lewis further goes on to write “Religion is not the source of purpose, meaning, and morality. Rather, religion can be understood as having incorporated these natural motivational and social dispositions and having coevolved with human cultures over time. Unsurprisingly, religion has also incorporated our more selfish, aggressive, competitive, and xenophobic human proclivities. Modern secular societies with the lowest levels of religious belief have achieved far more compassion and flourishing than religious ones.” This is true. Secular countries have achieved far more compassion for people of different backgrounds than religious ones. Being an ex-Muslim or an LGBT in a religious country is dangerous.
Then the discussion turns to the well called Zam Zam. Here is a snippet of how the conversion went:
David:” I am read about you being Muslim and they reference something that I was fascinated about: the well of Zam zam.”
Chappelle: “There’s a well called Zam zam in Saudi Arabia.”
David: “And the myth goes that a family walking through the dessert dying of thirst. And this endless well presents itself. You and I can go see it.”
Chappelle: “I could go see it. You’d probably have to make some phone calls.”
David: “Have you been there?”
Chappelle: “I have.”
David: “It’s only open to Muslims? It’s not a tourist attraction?”
Chappelle: “No. Not sure it will be”
Now, pay attention to how they have “forgotten” to mention some important detail of the actual story. David explains the story as if this family was lost somewhere in the desert when they came across the well and Dave didn’t bother to explain it better either. Let’s read how the story actually goes.
According to IslamQA:
“Ibraaheem moved to Egypt with his wife (Saraa), then he came back to Palestine, bringing his wife and a slave woman of hers called Haajar. Ibraaheem longed to have children, but his wife was barren and had grown old. When she saw how much her husband longed to have a child, she gave her slave woman, Haajar, to him. So he married her and was blessed with his son Ismaa’eel from her: “’My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous.’ So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy”
Before we move forward you can already see some issues here. Ibrahim was supposed to be a man of God. Instead of finding another way to have a child (uhh, can’t God intervene?) he decides to buy a slave just so that he can impregnate her and have a child? What about the love he had for Saraa? I would have loved for David Letterman to have mentioned this in the interview. I wonder what Dave Chappelle would have replied with. Surely as an African American man, he wouldn’t have said slavery is okay. Anyway, let’s continue reading.
“After Haajar gave birth to Ismaa’eel, Saarah began to feel jealous, so she asked Ibraaheem to send them away from her. Allaah revealed to Ibraaheem that he should take Haajar and the infant Ismaa’eel and take them to Makkah. So he took them and left Haajar and her child Ismaa’eel in a bleak isolated place in which there was no water, then he left them and went back to Palestine. Haajar said to him, “For whom are you leaving us in this forsaken valley?” But Ibraaheem went and left her, and she said, “Has Allaah commanded you to do this?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then Allaah will not cause us to be lost.””
Wait, what? That’s his new wife who he has kids with and this righteous woman of god, Saraah, wife of a prophet wants him to send her away? Also, you’re telling me that Allah agreed with Ismaeel’s jealous wife? I’m sorry, but these guys seem like some crazy cult followers to me. Haajar is okay with being left in the desert? Or maybe that’s just what they wrote to make the story seem better.
I don’t remember David or Dave mentioning this part of the story. So Ibrahim decided to leave his child and the woman he married to have the child with in the middle of nowhere because Allah told him to? What kind of God would allow such a thing? After being used to have a child with, she is left in an isolated place with no water or anything? Is this really the man you want to glorify? The man who just left his wife and child to die in the desert? If someone was to do this today to their wife and child, everyone, including Muslims would be outraged.
The story goes on,
“Ibraaheem submitted to the command of his Lord and patiently bore the separation from his wife and child. Then he turned towards where they were at the Sacred House and prayed for them in the following words
“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As-Salaah. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks”
Oh, how kind of Ibrahim, at least he prayed for them right? How sweet of him! *sarcasm*
“Haajar stayed in Makkah, eating the food and drinking the water that Ibraaheem had left for her and her son. When that ran out, she and her son became thirsty. She looked for water, and climbed the hill of al-Safaa but she did not see anything. Then she climbed the hill of al-Marwah but she did not see anything. She did that seven times, then she turned towards Ismaa’eel and saw water gushing from beneath his feet. She rejoiced and drank some, and gave some to her son to drink. Then a tribe – Jurham – came to Haajar and asked her permission to settle by the water. She gave them permission and they settled beside her. When Ismaa’eel grew up, he married one of their women and learned Arabic from them.”
So that is how the story, or should I say “myth” as David rightfully put it, goes. In the interview, they imply that the whole family, including Ibrahim, was just lost in the desert until they found this well. And that’s why people run back and forth at the hajj now. Not such a nice story, is it? Not really. We just give it a pass because it’s ‘religious’. Chances are none of this really happened. There is no reference to Abraham going to Makkah to establish a house anywhere in the Bible. But even as a myth, there’s quite a lot of troubling elements there.
Much later in the video, Chappelle explains what makes Islam comfortable to him.
“The Thing that comforts me about it is the idea that all this is from a singular source. That this source is ultimately kind. And even though we may not understand the intentions of this source, we’re all connected and bound by it. It’s not as it’s been presented in the public space. It’s such a narrow and dismissive view of a religious belief. It’s a beautiful religion. A beautiful religion…..”
Islam is a beautiful religion? So is sex slavery, stoning of adulterers, blasphemers, and apostates, oppression against women, etc. beautiful to you? But Islam has good things, right?
Why focus on the negative you might ask? Because when you sign up for religion, you have to look at both the good and bad. It’s a complete package. I would really advise you to learn more about Islam. A lot of Muslims don’t know much about their religion.
A couple of weeks ago a Facebook page “feminism Pakistan” shared a controversial image showing how it doesn’t make sense to be a feminist and a Muslim. As expected, the post became very controversial and many Muslims got angry and called it a lie.. Even though all the points presented in the picture are actually true and backed up by authentic Islamic sources and multiple scholars agree with them to an extent. This is what happens when Muslims don’t know much about their religion. I would assume that if Dave knew about what Islam actually preaches, he would think twice before assuming that Islam is beautiful.
In Conclusion, I personally don’t care if Dave is a Muslim or not. He has every right to be Muslim, but we can look at the arguments. What I find hilarious is that Muslims are praising him and calling him intelligent.
There’s a video on YouTube titled “Dave Chappelle reveals how he found Islam at a pizza shop” and the comments are filled with Muslims calling him a deep thinker or an intelligent individual. Here are just a few examples:
“This guy is not just a comedian, I see a deep-thinking philosopher”
“Not only is Dave Chappelle the funniest man on Earth but he’s extremely intelligent and extremely deep”
Because he liked the behavior of Muslim workers and was fascinated to learn how passionate they were about Islam? Imagine if things were the other way around. Imagine if an ex Muslim said, “There were these atheist guys who worked at the pizza shop. I would get along with them and ask them questions about atheism and I was very drawn to how passionate they were about this. It was compelling”. I bet Muslims would be like “Oh so you left Islam for pizza – typical!” and Ali Dawah would make a video “exposing” him.
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