The most judged, misunderstood, criticized and ridiculed members of our society are the practicing Muslims. At least, that’s what my personal experience makes me want to believe. Being under everyone’s constant, harsh scrutiny is mentally exhausting and at times depressing.
Being born in a Muslim family is an honour. I could have been born into some other religion and who knows I would have even died a non-believer! But I’m a Muslim, Alhumdolillah and that’s a privilege. It’s a medal. A prize!
I began working on my relationship with Allah Almighty when I was a first year university student. I mean I knew Allah Almighty since the day I opened my eyes into this world and learned how to recite the Quran and offer my Salah at a young age. But at that time, I was not regular in my prayers and did not wear a headscarf. I also did not find myself much interested in actually studying Islam.
When I began walking the Islamic path, I realized that Islam was beautiful and easy but people were difficult. I remember my first day wearing a black headscarf. The moment I entered my university, I had people looking at me differently. Some were staring at me while others seemed surprised. One of my friends, Fatima beamed at me. Her words of encouragement hold a safe place in my heart even today. She not only said I was doing a good job but also complimented my new look. From then on to this day, my life as a Muslimah has met with many challenges.
My greatest tragedy is being around people who do not practice religion yet, who do not have extensive knowledge about Islam and yet they never cease to make fun of me or make me feel like I am an eccentric, probably not fit for today’s contemporary living. What hurts me most is when they pass stinging remarks to make me feel like I’m hiding behind Islam to cover my flaws.
I have had people in my life who wouldn’t spare a moment in degrading me simply because they do not comprehend my life or relate to my mindset. When I started wearing Hijab, I actually made myself a target for some people. At every given opportunity, I was mocked. My extended family incessantly reminded me that all my good deeds were a total waste, and that I was going to burn in hell.
Being a Muslimah does not mean I am oppressed or imprisoned. Practicing Islam does not make me a narrow-minded individual and in no way does my religion stop me from living my life like any other person. But yes, there are certain things that others may find hard to accept but those things are no big deal for me. Like for example, I recently gave up on music. I love music and I sing really well and even at this moment if you play my favourite song, I’m sure I’m going to start singing and tapping my foot. But I know Islam forbids it and so I avoid it. The problem is when I am reminded of my “other” similar habits.
There is always someone who will pass a sarcastic comment like, “Oh, but you watch movies too. Isn’t that forbidden in Islam?” I mean for God’s sake I am not watching porn and you know even if someone watches porn, Allah does not permit us to judge that person. Let’s just leave things between Allah and His servants!
Covering myself with headscarf and shawl does not mean my actions have to be watched and observed all the time. Besides, being a practicing Muslimah does not make me a hermit. I am not living in the woods. Come on, everyone! I have not renounced life! I live my life just like any other normal person. Making Islam my lifestyle has not stopped me from enjoying things like shopping or eating out with friends or pursuing my dreams or using technology to my liking.
Let me share with you a small incident. Once in my prayer, I was crying before my Lord when my maternal-uncle’s wife saw me in that weird state with my puffy, red eyes, pink nose and wet face. She was quiet. But after a few days, she brought up that subject and uttered quite unpleasant things like my real actions and what I portray to be were two different things. What I’m trying to explain here is that if you do not agree with my beliefs or if you are unable to incorporate the teachings of Islam in your own life, you should leave alone in peace the one who is working to becoming a better Muslim.
Once an acquaintance suggested reciting Surah Yaseen everyday was crazy. Surah Yaseen and Surah Muzammil are part of my daily routine so, imagine what I must have felt when she made me look a little less with her opinion that was clearly based on ignorance and had nothing to do with Islam.
A number of times I have found myself in trouble with friends who think I’m either pretending to be someone I am not or probably possess less knowledge about Islam. Once a friend of mine was shocked to know that I pray Tahajjud. I was not showing off my deeds. We just happened to touch that subject. He looked at me like I was not someone who was qualified to offer Tahajjud.
Such small incidents are part of my everyday life and it is not easy to deal with them. When you talk about Islam, people shut you up, thinking that you are pretending to be pious and making them feel bad about themselves. But that is not true. When you practice Islam, when it becomes your lifestyle, you look at the world in a different way and you experience an ongoing guilt within you that pricks you non-stop, making you feel like a sinner all the time. Everything you do reminds you of Allah and you become your own constant critic.
I do not like imposing my religious beliefs on anyone because I myself despise people who push me to do something or believe something that I do not want to do or believe. But sometimes when you love people too much, you forget that they are not on the same page as you are. So, it’s obvious they do not understand and that leaves you frustrated, heart-broken and even furious sometimes.
I have friends who are fascinated by the tears I shed in front of Allah Almighty. They say that they want to weep before the Lord but that their tears won’t come out. I have people who feel that I have influenced their life in a positive way. But I also feel sad when my Muslim identity is knocked or dismissed by people who simply do not agree with my frame of mind and find it hard to convince me to adapt to their way of life.
I am very active on Facebook. I come across posts that laugh off women wearing Hijab. Those who post such views clearly do not take Islam very seriously but they have no right to make fun of something that could be so dear to someone else.
When I say I am a practicing Muslim, in no way do I mean that I am holy. I am not! I am a sinner and every time I compare myself to other people in terms of deeds, I find myself miserable. Because I am a sinner, seeking forgiveness from my Lord. People should understand that going shopping alone, loving my job, spending money on clothes, enjoying a rainy day with a friend are just small things that make me happy and that they are not against Islam.
If you perceive Islam as backward or orthodox or the person following it as someone who should be deprived of happiness, then you are at fault and you must take some time out to study this wonderful religion instead of wasting your time in judging me. I am a sinner in distress. I have done horrible things that have violated my soul. I have this excruciatingly painful guilt that kills me every day but I expect good from Allah Almighty. I seek His forgiveness and I know He is all forgiving and merciful. But I also expect people around me to leave me alone and not make it difficult for me. I ask Allah to make it easy for me, for all of us. I am on a journey of self-discovery. I am walking on a road to recovery and I hope you can join me too. Insha Allah. 🙂
Written By Shumila Malik