It’s not always easy, this being Muslim thing. Never a day goes past where I doubt my faith in God…just look around – each and every single molecule of our being, of the world around us and the sky above, all of it wondrously complex, out of our realm. There is only one God, and Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) was his messenger, the last prophet; of this I’m sure. But rarely a day passes when I don’t find it hard to put into practise the life by which I choose to live.
My husband says when you make a choice, it’s not so much you’re making a choice to do something, rather you’re rejecting the other options on the table. Each and every time I reevaluate my faith, I remember these words and I find them so true. Taking the Shahada, my vow to follow the word and guidance of Allah (swt) from that day forward, meant I made a promise to God, to myself, to live a certain way and I rejected anything outside of that.
In our faith, we believe that when you convert -revert*- to Islam all past sins are forgiven, you obtain a new clean slate. Alhamduillah, I pray that’s true, but while in Allah’s eyes the things you did no longer exist, it doesn’t mean your years before Islam didn’t happen and you didn’t do those things. It almost feels that as converts we need to split our life – B.I, A.I – life before, life after. Almost always, that’s hard to do.
As a new muslim it’s hard to find the balance. I eased my way in gradually, and still find/found the changes hard; I admire and worry for in equal parts my sisters in faith who dive straight on in. It began with getting rid of the wine, and I still – 4 years since a drop – still miss unwinding with a red. Always will? Then came the clothes, slowly but surely the sleeves lengthened and the hems stretched closer to my feet. My perfume bills reduced while Clinique and I mourned my scarlet lip days away. I didn’t notice how far I’d travelled to the place I was going ’til I realised where I wanted to go, and I was almost there already. I prayed as and when I felt the need, and the more I prayed, the more that need. As a Brit, praying in public was – is – odd. It was easy to pray when at home or at work, another thing when out, at the mall or with friends; “it’s time for me to pray,” seemed a weird thing to say. Now, I’ve realised it’s not that weird, well, here at least. And even when it’s weird -in the UK, mostly- it’s not so much weird as odd, an eccentricity in which I indulge. Before I’d ask to stop for a smoke, now I stop to pray – one addiction for another, perhaps! Now I pray and I cover and I am. So I eased my way in…that doesn’t make it easy, doesn’t stop it being hard.
Last week I went away with friends. One of them asked for support in a prohibition campaign, to prevent the sale of addictive substances in the area in which she lived. I refused to sign. As a convert, it’s hard to draw the line. What’s ok and what’s not? Where do my limits lie? Given a choice, I’d choose to live in a society without alcohol around (and not just because I miss a glass of red!); I don’t have the choice to avoid it in entirety so I choose to live in a society, in a neighbourhood, where the focus is not on alcohol, not on socialising over a drink. I chose Turkey over the UK to raise our son and this was a factor in it – I don’t want him growing up around pubs and clubs- hypocritical though that may be. Yet despite that, I refused to sign. Because I do have that choice and everyone has that choice. We have the choice to spend time around drink and those drunk, and we have the choice to avoid. Our choice; our test.
Allah swt said, in his Book to us, that certain things are forbidden to us. The emphasis being on ‘us’ – the believers. What makes Islam, what makes each religion special, is the clause to opt in or opt out. Opt in and these are the rules; opt out and there are no rules for you herein. Allah swt separates us from the non-believers through the choices that we make with our own free will, not in the rules forced upon us by others. I choose -my husband and I choose- to live in a neighbourhood where shops don’t sell alcohol and it’s not around our son. but that’s our choice. This friend, her intentions are good – better than good. She is trying to be the best person she can be, trying to be devout, set an example to her children. And I admire her for her efforts, for the strength of her conviction in faith. But I can’t follow her that far. Prohibition’s not ok, is not the way to encourage a strengthening of faith in Islam and is against all democratic rights.
That balance I strive to find, each and every day, is the balance between being a hypocrite who tries to ignore and re-write her past and a woman who’s trying to re-write her course. And it’s not easy. It’s not easy to wear a scarf, takes an effort to make the time to pray. It’s not easy to abstain from food, or rise at 4am. It’s not easy to avoid idle talk and that bacon butty still sounds good. But it’s not meant to be easy, and it wouldn’t be precious if it were. Had Allah meant it to be easy, it would be easy. There’d have been no temptation, no apple on the tree. And I know that it’s all part of my test, the not being easy part. It’s part of the test and it pushes me to learn, pushes me to be learning, to evaluate, to seek answers for my doubt. It tests me to test myself and who knows where that will lead, how far I will go? I know that it’s hard now because it has to be – someday in the not so far future, M is going to ask why I, his British Mum chose this life not that, why we do this and not that, why I believe Islam to be the true word of God. It’s hard now so I’ve got the answers to those questions then: I wonder though, will it be easier too?
When temptation claims your reason, know that misfortune is about to strike. Fall down prostrate and begin to pray. With flowing tears implore the Lord that He may deliver you from the throes of doubt. Rumi