TRIGGER WARNING: MENTION OF ABUSE, SUICIDE

faith is a complicated thing.

for some of us, faith and religion are two things we grew up with, not exactly out of choice, but because of the family we were born into. they taught it to us and so it became all we knew.

i guess you could say it was religious indoctrination, considering we weren’t given options of whether we wanted to believe or not believe.

i was born into a muslim family and spent my childhood going to lessons where i’d learn to read the Qurān, although i never learnt Arabic. i knew how to pray, and though i was able to read the Qurān, i was never taught the meaning behind what i was reciting.

it was weird.

what was the point of learning or reading something i couldn’t even understand? they were just meaningless words.

in spite of not knowing half of the meanings of the verses in the Qurān, i knew, obviously, that the shahada was the proclamation that made one Muslim, undoubtedly believing in God.

la ilaha ill-Allāh, Muhammadur rasul-ullah

there is no deity/God but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God.

for years, i never questioned this.

i didn’t question my religion or my beliefs. i accepted it completely. i had no doubts.

but this changed in 2016. this was the year i began to question why i had to wear hijab, a thing i was forced into wearing at 10 years old. i’d started my period at 9, so in the eyes of my family and my religion, i had to start covering up.

i was still a child, regardless of having started to go through puberty at such a young age.

in 2016, i took off the hijab in public for the first time since i was 10 years old. Shajjy and i went to Richmond.

for the first time since i could remember, i felt the wind in my hair.

it was a nice feeling. i loved feeling it blowing my hair back, i loved not feeling as if people were looking at me like i had a goddamn bomb in my bag. i loved not being called a terrorist. because that’s what a white man called me when i was 12 years old.

for once, i felt comfortable and confident in myself.

thus began the questioning and the doubting. and me no longer praying the 5 daily salahs. i did, however, still believe in God — i just wasn’t sure if i believed in Islam.

there are issues i have with the religion, even to this day. yes the religion has given women their rights long before the western world ever did, but we are told to cover up to hide our beauty. for what? so men don’t attack us?

women in Saudi Arabia wear full niqab and are still abused.

clothing changes nothing. men will be monsters because they want to.

God created us all the way He wanted, knows us better than we know ourselves and love is not a sin. but lgbt+ people are not allowed to act on their feelings, otherwise they will be condemned to hellfire. but it is God that created this and them. being gay isn’t a choice, yet they have to choose between being themselves and going to hell or pretending to be someone they’re not for the rest of their life because “this world is a test” and go to heaven. they’ll be rewarded for their struggle.

what the fuck kind of bullshit is this?

why do we have to believe in religion in order to go to heaven? surely being a good and kind person should be enough?

the condemnation to hell for such minor things, like swearing or not covering up or saying no to your parents once, or things like drinking and having sex, is just extreme. these things pale in comparison to the sins and crimes committed by abusers, molesters, pedophiles, murderers. but no, God will send us to hell because we said fuck. or we decided to take control of our body and autonomy and have sex with someone we really like.

*gasp*.

throughout 2016-2017, my relationship with God was practically nonexistent. i just didn’t care. i felt free not believing and more myself than ever, but my mental health at this time was atrocious.

in 2017, i tried to kill myself twice. obviously that didn’t work.

after my breakup with my ex, i was a complete and utter mess. i felt broken. and i had nobody to turn to at this time. there was no one i could confide in.

so i decided to turn to God.

truth be told, i found peace in prayer.

for months, i prayed every single prayer on time and without fail. i read Surah Yasin every single morning. i prayed extra (nafl: optional) salahs.

i was still empty and sad and wanted it to stop hurting so much. but i felt at peace in those minutes i prayed.

then i started my period and boom.

after that, i sank back into my old habits of not praying. i couldn’t escape the sadness, and i kept using coursework and books as a distraction. and then alcohol.

i stopped believing in Islam again. this time, it was the same reasons but also because i felt like what was the point?

for a while in 2018, i didn’t believe in religion anymore. and then i did. it was fluctuating. what i noticed was that when i did stop believing, and i turned away from God, my mental health was a hell of a lot worse than usual, or maybe i’m thinking that because of constantly being told i have depression because i “don’t pray enough”.

a little more than halfway through 2018, i tried to kill myself again. this was a few months before i went back to therapy after three years of not having it.

i always felt a pull to Islam, no matter how far i strayed or walked away from the deen. something about it always called out to me.

2019 was another year of believing and not believing. ultimately it was also the year of making a lot of shitty choices and also getting back a best friend i thought i’d lost, because of my own shitty behaviour.

even with all the distance i put between me and God, i still found myself making small prayers here and there. i turned to Him in moments of loneliness and emptiness.

majority of 2019 was spent not entirely believing or practicing, although i had faith in Allah as the one God. however my stance in Islam was complicated and complex; i felt like a fraud when people asked me if i believed in a religion and i’d still say yes, Islam.

this lack of belief in the religion itself was like a shameful secret, as if a part of me knew it wasn’t right. i still had my problems with Islam, i still questioned aspects of it, but i felt myself longing for it.

on the 12th january 2020, my dad was hospitalised. he is still in hospital. i’m currently writing this while sitting beside him. throughout the past (almost) two weeks, i’ve found myself praying more than i ever have before.

i restated my shahada. i started praying again. i begged and pleaded with God to heal my dad and let him recover.

last wednesday, i thought my dad was going to die. his chest was hurting, he had fluids in his lungs. he was on a massive oxygen mask because he wasn’t able to breathe. the doctors were talking about a DNR.

whilst in pain, my dad was reciting his shahada. i played the Qurān for him to help ease the fear and panic, trying not to cry.

the next day, he was a little better.

today, alhamdulillāh, he is doing so much better than before, but still not 100%. but this entire ordeal made me realise that we are nothing without God. that i am nothing without God.

yes it was the doctors who gave my father the medication to help treat him. but it is God who decides who lives and who dies. the power of healing belongs to God. He is The Healer, The Sustainer, The Bestower of Mercy, The All Mighty, The Restorer.

my relationship with God is a flawed one and i struggle with my faith. and yes, those same issues i had with it before are still relevant. i’m still not ready to fully commit to wearing the hijab. there are small steps to be taken, day by day.

being forced to believe in something because your family do means nothing. most of our families teach us about the religion through fear and anger. “if you don’t pray you’ll go to hell”, “if you swear you’ll go to hell”, “cover up or you’ll go to hell”, etc. this only pushes people further away from it. having to unlearn and relearn so many of the things and the ways i was raised with Islam was an exhaustive journey, but it’s helped me to know what part of it is actually religion and what got blurred with the awful sexist and misogynistic Bangladeshi culture.

but if i’ve learnt anything over the past few years, and especially the past two weeks, it’s that i need to hold onto that faith and belief in religion and in God.

having faith in something, whether it is God or a Higher Power, or anything or anyone that helps, keeps us strong in times of fear and worry. it gets us through.

it’s getting me through.

Sumaiya, x

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

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