I was talking to one of my friends the other day about the importance of being true to yourself. It is easier for me at the age of 35 to be true to myself but I wish I knew what that meant in my teens. However there are still times when I question my decisions, when life becomes so hard that I feel overwhelmed or perplexed. My answer at those times is to turn to my religious beliefs.
One of the lessons that stood out to me the most at the conference is that when Prophet Muhammad tried to share the message of Islam in Mecca and his people turned against him, the one thing they could not say is that he was not of them. Muhammad (pabbuh) was an active participant in Society and even after he was marginalised by his people he did not shy away from conversation or partaking in his societal duties. This is a very important lesson for today’s Society.
People don’t feel confident enough to express themselves and stand by their beliefs. People shy away from tricky or difficult conversations for the fear of revealing too much about themselves and their beliefs. People don’t vote because they feel that it is their right to assert. We are those people. Here is where we work, have our businesses, pay our taxes and is where our home is. How can we feel like guests in our home? Why can we not open up and be ourselves? And what have we got to hide? Nothing.
I think that as Muslims we feel a bit out of sorts because it is difficult to answer the questions that our friends ask regarding our beliefs. Questions like:
- why do you no longer do your eyebrows?
- Why are you now wearing a scarf?
- Why do you pray five times a day?
- How can you fast without drinking water?
- Why don’t women get the same amount of inheritance as men?
If I had a penny…
If you now want the answer to these questions, I will give it to you plain and simple – I don’t know. I don’t really know why we pray five times a day! Here is what I do know. I know that praying makes me feel hopeful and peaceful. Praying Fajr (the early morning prayer) does not make me more tired than usual. I know that people who believe in God are more hopeful, happier, are less likely to suffer from blood pressure issues, have heart attacks and commit suicide. I know that psychologists believe that seeing the sun rise makes people happier and more at peace with themselves. I also know that wearing a scarf has made sense to me and if you want to learn more about it please have a read of my Reasons for wearing Hijab blog post.
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi reminded me that Kant (a philosopher/sociologist) believed the human mind develops and is shaped by the information around it, even as it tries to understand the world. We have the ability to ask the deepest of philosophical questions yet we cannot answer without turning to philosophy, science, history, religion and even then sometimes there is no answer.
I remember reading a book in my teens that explained that being a Muslim meant understanding that some questions may never be answered and being ok with it. At the time I thought -” no way! I am sure I can find the answer!” Until I did A’level History and was taught that history is the interpretation of the person who is living it and whose records are kept as well as the way in which it is understood by the reader.
We live in a world of Consumerism and Google. We don’t know an answer we Google it so it is hard to understand why children die of cancer and others survive. As human beings, we are all tested to the edge of our belief. My religious beliefs, my belief that God’s got my back are what has gotten me through the darkest hours.
So what do I do when my beliefs are challenged or questioned? I reflect before responding and I will only engage in it if it’ll be of benefit to me and/or the questioner. Sometimes I answer at a later date when I know the answer. Sometimes I don’t answer because I don’t have to explain myself. I am who I am. A product of my environment and my beliefs and I am grateful for being who I am.
Our beliefs don’t make us aliens if anything they humanize and humble us. For me it is rational to believe in God and for you maybe it isn’t, I won’t overlook your ideas and participation in society because you don’t believe in what I believe. What I will do is agree to disagree, maybe share a vegetarian platter, discuss religion when it comes up and books when they are mentioned.
Another thing I don’t do is engage in the “Well, in Saudi Arabia or Timbuktu they do this…” argument because I have never lived outside Europe. I live here, I am a product of this environment and my opinions are subjective to the rational of this country not the one in Saudi, China, India or Iran. Therefore I have a right to practice my religion here just as I have a right to live and make my choices.
As a Muslim, Islam is in my speech and my thought process and the way I relate to others. I don’t need to stifle it in order to belong, I just need to accept that not everyone is going to like many parts of my personality, stand up to those who alienate me in a kind and proactive manner. We are not guests ,we are at home so be confident of your place in Society. Be true to your religion and your Civic Duty. Be True to yourself.
Are you confident with your place in Society? Do you feel at home where you live? How do you remain true to yourself?
📷 from Mend Community‘s Instagram.