I have been coming across many friends and family these days who have either a) had a big change come into their life or b) looking to make a big change in their life. Some of us fear change and some of us welcome it. I am from the latter category. I wanted to share my experience with change so that you can either identify with it and relate to it.
When I began practicing Islam, I had this surge of exuberant energy. I felt like an eagle soaring through the smooth and rough edges of my so called life. It is this spiritual high that many face when they first discover or rediscover that they believe in something beyond comprehension. It becomes addictive and soon your family and friends worry about you. They are happy for you because you are happy. But they are concerned that you will leave all the other parts of you behind. They are also concerned about what it is that you believe in. A few of them, more than less, are rather annoyed by your constant jabber about your new found faith or lifestyle, and to some degree, rightfully so. Who wants to hear someone say “I am free at last!” or “Allah hu Akbar!” or whatever it is that you would say to show your connection to your spirituality or lifestyle. Suddenly your Facebook, Instagram, twitter is filllled with enlightening quotes or angry defensive remarks you post to defend your new lifestyle. I believe that this spiritual surge is something that is meant to happen. In order to move on to different phases in life, we must peel like an orange, so to speak. Peeling layers zestfully and with gusto. It’s so satisfying.
Eventually this surge dies down. And when it completely dies down, you realize you still have a lot to learn. And that’s when these whispers come in. Whispers from friends, family, and strangers.
“If God created you, He should love you regardless. He shouldn’t need your prayers.”
“Are you really going to wear that scarf all the time?”
“Quite a hypocrite for backbiting, that’s not very Muslim of you.”
“Our friendship has changed. You have changed”
“If there is a God, why do we suffer?”
I was and still am bombarded by questions and I don’t have an answer for all of them. When one practices a faith, this does not make them an automatic scholar. Having faith, practicing faith, and being a scholar in your faith are 3 very different components. A person of faith would like to keep learning about their faith. But they will not have an answer to everything. Some times, I do have the answer. And sometimes I have to find the answer. And sometimes, I just know that I have faith. And maybe that answer doesn’t work for everyone. But if there is one thing that faith has solidified for me, it’s that my life will always be solely dependant on me. First and foremost, I will have to be content with how I am living my life. Everyone else’s ideas of me will have to take a back seat. Having said this, I don’t believe you should follow religion blindly. I feel you should learn about religions. And I believe if you choose to practice one, at least learn the basic history and general aspects of it.
Wearing a hijab, I find, is a beautiful thing. I find that the moment I wrap a scarf around my head, it still gives me that same confidence and contentment that it did when I first began to wear it. But it has always made me a target with Muslims and non Muslims alike. Strangers have come up to me and asked my why I wear it. They have complimented it or just felt that they have a right to keep staring at me, which they do. People assume that when someone wears a hijab, they suddenly know more about Islam than the average person. This was a hinderance and a blessing. A hinderance because I will NOT have the answer to everything. A blessing because, after having people ask me a lot of questions, I try even harder to learn more about Islam. I don’t know everything and, in all honesty, I don’t think I ever will.
The hardest part of my “change” has been what people have assumed that I view them as. Some Muslims think I look down on them because they don’t wear hijab. Some people following another religion, or no religion, have asked me if I believe they will go to hell. And many have asked my views on homosexuality. I felt like everyone suddenly felt like I am pointing fingers at them. I couldn’t shake this feeling of sadness and with my sadness I delved deeper into learning Islam. And I realized that I am not an intolerant human being. I never have been and I never would be. I am stubborn, I am spoiled, I am loud, I am fierce, and I am bubbly. I am a Muslim and I thrive off of Islam. Islam teaches me how to be tolerant, even when you disagree. It also keeps telling me to point the finger back at myself if I point a finger at others. Me practicing Islam has to do with ME. You could keep worrying about whether or not I agree with what you do, practice, or wear, but I can assure you, your race, your religion, your sexuality, your ideology, your eye colour, whether you like grilled cheese sandwiches or not, your choice of latte or americano, how many thread counts you would like on your bed sheets, NONE OF THIS MATTERS TO ME. If you are tolerant with me, I will be tolerant with you. We will not agree on things. Some of them will be silly and some of them will be serious. But that’s life. Not everyone drinks the same cup of tea. What matters is how we treat each other aside from our differences.
The other day my nephew was listening to that Rihanna, Kanye (don’t get me started on Kanye!), and Paul McCartney song. I think it’s called Four Five seconds. I generally don’t care much for music but my nephew thought his singing skills were exceptional and I was complaining that, unfortunately, they weren’t Grammy material. I looked up the lyrics to this song and something resonated with me: “They want to buy my pride, but that just ain’t up for sale”. As tears flowed down my chubby little cheeks, I realized that it’s important for me to keep true to myself. If I was to conform each and every time someone had a different point of view, or whether they agreed with me or not, I would simply shrivel up like a burned piece of paper and eventually whither away. I will stand my ground, not out of stubbornness, because this is the first time in my life that I feel solid. Unshakeable. That is enough for me.
I would love to hear about your journeys.