[this article was first written for and published on FGRLS CLUB, in August 2020]
When I was little, Eid went like this: wanting to stay up the night before so I didn’t miss anything, the women in the family preparing a feast that could feed an entire village, waking up early in the morning if I happened to fall asleep (which I always did) to have a shower since it was Sunnah, before wearing a new outfit my dad bought me a few months before for the occasion. Breakfast on Eid mornings meant samosas, handesh, shemai and a refreshing glass of water, followed by a visit to my aunt’s house. Every Eid, this was the tradition we upheld, and one we still maintain.
The only difference now, however, is there is less food, less excitement, less effort and hardly any samosas laid out on china plates only brought out from storage on special occasions or when there are guests. I don’t know when the buzz surrounding the two most special celebrations in Islam began to fade, but one day, years ago, I woke up, not caring, not bothering, feeling disgruntled and annoyed by everything. Perhaps this feeling came with me questioning Islam in 2016, or maybe when everyone drifted off into their own families, not making much of an effort even when we all came together on what should be a joyous event, but whatever it was—my feelings surrounding the Islamic celebrations were tainted with an uncaring attitude and the opposing views I had when it came to the religion itself.
The complexities of faith and constantly shifting beliefs in the face of the 21st century are rarely spoken about. We’re always expected to be completely devout and wholeheartedly devoted to Islam, because apparently being Muslim means accepting and embracing the religion fully, without questions or doubts or disagreements when it comes to the rules, laws and guidelines to adhere to. Disagreeing with so many aspects of Islam makes me feel hesitant, anxious and like a hypocrite to even say yes, I am Muslim, even though I do believe in the Oneness of God and His words being divine wisdom. But with God’s words being divine wisdom, there are strict, almost ‘extreme’ Muslims saying I can’t question them, to the point that by going against said words or said rules, I am ‘stepping out of the folds of Islam’.
At one point, I actually did leave the religion, but I had a calling to come back, always feeling the urge to turn back to God, despite hating the sexist, misogynistic laws written in scripture, like how women can’t travel without a mahram—a male member of the family with whom marriage is forbidden (such as father, brother, maternal/paternal uncles, grandfather, sons, people who were nursed [breastfed] by the same woman), or marry a non-Muslim man, whereas Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women. Not to mention the number of punishments for minor sins, as well as subjecting those who act on their feelings within the LGBT+ community to hell. Of course, this isn’t just an issue with Islam; it’s the same in pretty much every religion, mainly Abrahamic religions. In no way am I bashing any religion here, before anyone gets offended — I am simply stating my concerns about believing wholeheartedly when it contradicts who I am: a bisexual, non-hijab wearing, fornicating, Muslim (ish) woman dating a non-Muslim man.
I am simply stating my concerns about believing wholeheartedly when it contradicts who I am: a bisexual, non-hijab wearing, fornicating, Muslim (ish) woman dating a non-Muslim man.
The thing with Islam is that it so often is blurred with culture, making it hard to see the difference. It could be said that Islam gives women their rights, but it is denied by men—though when the religion itself demands women to wear hijab for modesty reasons and to deter abuse, giving women only half their inheritance, forbidding them from travelling without a male guardian, then it’s time to ask, does it really?
I don’t hate Islam. As a matter of fact, I love it. The religion brings me a sense of peace and comfort that nothing else ever will, it filled a void in me that felt empty when I didn’t believe, it calls to me in the midst of doubtful moments when I question God and faith and prayer. Nobody ever talks about being on the fence with your feet planted on two opposite roads, wondering which way to go; about deciding which path feels more like home and belonging.
Nobody ever talks about being on the fence, with your feet planted on two opposite roads
This lingering feeling of unease swirls like an untameable tornado, always creeping up, always in the back of my mind, affecting my behaviour and mindset in the practice of Islam, in Ramadan and the celebrations following: Eid-Ul-Fitr and Eid-Ul-Adha. Even holy nights like Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power (when the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad [Peace Be Upon Him] — the most important and special night for prayer and seeking forgiveness), is uninteresting to me because I’m so far from praying consistently and talking to God. In my mind, if I’m going to be punished for the things I do, despite trying my best to be a good and kind person, giving money to charity whenever I can and actually have more than 23p in my account, then what is the point in trying to commit to a religion that will, at the end of everything, condemn me to Jahannam?
I will always defend Islam; that protectiveness will always remain a part of me. I didn’t get called ‘terrorist’ just to turn my back on the religion completely and I didn’t feel a burning rush of anger at Boris Johnson calling my fellow sisters in Islam ‘letterboxes’ for nothing. Whilst I have my own issues and doubts and questions that may never be answered to my satisfaction when it comes to my religion, I love the protection from the prayer (Ayatul Kursi) that I recite every time I’m scared, and the calmness from prayers I say before sleeping every night; the inner peace Islam surrounds me with is one I can never deny. Though I feel like a fraud every time I say “I am Muslim” whenever someone asks me what religion I follow, or ticking Islam on forms when asked about my religious background, I am Muslim.
Even in the moments when I doubt it, I am Muslim.
Things I’ve written lately:
The cost of fast fashion and the power of (small business) lingerie
Revenge of the Sluts: on slut shaming, double standards and patriarchy
A night away at Sunborn Hotel
It’s the little moments
In Conversation with Tashie Bhuiyan
It’s the little moments
Emily in Paris: where’s the loyalty?