When it comes to Islam, everything inside me halts and freezes, with feelings of both peace and uncomfortable alienation spearing through me like a jagged knife. Growing up in a strict, traditional, and religious family meant observing the five daily prayers, learning, and reading the Quran, despite not knowing what any of it even meant but memorizing surahs anyway and being forced to wear hijab everywhere in public from the age of ten or eleven. The surahs I learned provided protection, security, and a sense of comfort, even when I was ignorant of their deeper meanings, and the hijab I wore provided a false safety net of invisibility in the eyes of monstrous men.
As I got older, my faith in Islam was shaky; it felt as thin as the description of As-Sirāt. The foundations of Islam, to me, were rooted in misogyny and men being deemed superior in every way possible, in terms of being allowed to marry non-Muslims because “men are the leaders of the household” and inheritance, divorce, travel, and so much more. This list of twelve issues regarding Islam is everything that bothers me about the religion. While I read the response to it too, it’s still something that grates on my nerves the answers don’t even, in my opinion, answer anything. It justifies the problems, or rather, issues I (we?) have with Islam. I’m not saying that I don’t love the religion, but my relationship with it is definitely complicated.
For a while, I walked away from the deen, and my mental health severely deteriorated to the point where I contemplated and attempted suicide. After coming back to the deen and throwing myself into re-reading the Quran and turning to Allah, I found peace in prayer. But like all things, this didn’t last until my dad was hospitalized for three weeks. In those weeks, when I thought I’d lose him, I lost myself in salah and duas, pleading with God to restore my dad’s health in the best possible way. During his moments in the ICU, and when, on a Wednesday morning in January this year, I thought I’d lose him and was frantically calling my mum to get to the hospital, he was reciting his shahadah and praying.
Seeing this, when he was in pain and possible death, was so close, brought tears to my eyes. Aside from the thought and fear of seeing him leave this world, what got to me was my dad’s immense faith and strength in his Imaan. In ways, it made me feel ashamed of everything I’d become and for even questioning Islam.
Weeks later, months later, now, I am still questioning the deen. While maybe Islam does give women rights, which are withheld by culture and men, and even women with internalized misogyny, it still, in a lot of ways, favors men. Even hijab being fardh is for men, as a way to protect them from falling into temptation or sin by seeing beauty—a hijab is a symbol of faith, of being a Muslimah, so for some, it deters them from committing gross and vile acts. But not all the time.
Not all the time.
Because sexual harassment is rife in Mecca, the holiest city for us Muslims.
It is pointless asking why the hijab is fardh, especially as the response is always: because God says so. This is not a sufficient answer whatsoever. Why does God say? What does modesty have to do with who we are as people, as individuals?
The Quran states:
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allāh Forgiving and Merciful.”
However, while God’s word is divine and no human logic can see beyond or even remotely come to understand the reasoning behind said word, it isn’t true. Yes, hijab is an obvious and explicit claim to faith and identity as a Muslim woman, but it does not stop abuse. It has never stopped abuse. Men abuse because men want to abuse, clothing does not get in the way of that. Why should we have to be modest in order to be respected?
I often wonder why the punishments for going against Islam are so severe, not necessarily stepping out of the folds of Islam, but for sinning. Minor things like swearing result in such extreme punishments in the hereafter. Even having sex before marriage is a major sin, something punishable by lashes and banishment as stated in Hadiths and Shariah Law. Why? Why does wanting autonomy over their own body and taking charge of our sexuality result in burning in hell? It’s unfair. If God is so merciful, why are the punishments so horrific?
I understand life is a test and this dunya is a journey to our final destination, where we will reside in for eternity. But shouldn’t we be judged on who we are as people and the way we treat others, rather than our religious beliefs and ‘sins’ we commit? I am asking these questions because I want answers. I won’t lie and say I don’t miss properly practicing and don’t feel a pull to Islam, because I do. Saying “I am Muslim” makes me feel like a hypocrite, and I feel like, no matter what I’ll do in the future and whether I pray perfectly with khushu in my salah and relearning how to read the Quran and learn tajweed, it will never be enough. Because my partner is a non-Muslim, and we all know that Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men. However, Muslim men are.
Because of course, men are the kings of our households, and everything they say goes. They give commands, and we obey, like the good, dutiful wives we’re meant to be. Because we won’t be able to get into heaven without pleasing our husbands, right? That’s what I’ve always been told. Sometimes, culture and religion get blurred. I say sometimes, but really, I mean all the time.
The complexity of faith is so dire. In this day and age, with Islamophobia rampant in our streets, it’s harder to hold onto Imaan and wear the hijab because of fear of being pushed into train tracks or spat at or called a terrorist. I claim the word Muslim; wear it proudly when people ask my faith, but feel like a fraud for doing so. Despite my conceptions on Islam and my back-and-forth journey with it, finding it so submerged in men laying claim to the rulings and laws passed and having control over everything, I find peace in listening to recitations of the Quran and fasting during Ramadan.
In faith and love, my relationship is complicated when it comes to Islam, blurring with discomfort and peace, two polar opposites pulling me in each direction. I am at a crossroads with my religion, born and raised Muslim, growing up in a predominantly white country with belief systems varying from agnostic to atheist. I believe in the Oneness of Allah SWT but I don’t like aspects of my religion. Does that make me a hypocrite? Am I allowed to say I am still Muslim?