I could never be Muslim because…

“I can’t give up eating pork”

“I could never wear ‘that thing’ on my head”

“I couldn’t imagine fasting for the month of Ramadan”

“I like to go clubbing”

“Carnival is my life”

“I don’t think I could pray 5 times a day”

“I love women too much”

“I have to drink a glass of wine every now and then”

etc. etc. How many times has someone uttered the aforementioned phrases to me? And how many times have I thought to yourself, Is this person really serious? Believe me, I’ve heard a thousand and one reasons why family members and friends “could never be Muslim.” None of them have been about the actual belief system in Islam- for instance Tawhid (the oneness of God) or disbelieving that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the last and final messenger sent to human beings. Instead, people, without my insistence or urgency, list off a bunch of real (or imagined) Islamic practices that do not gel well with their current lifestyle.

The way I see it, when you combine faith and dedication, you can give up or do anything (even the things you previously said you could not do or give up.) I cannot imagine standing before Allah on judgment day and saying, “Well, I couldn’t at least make the effort to submit to you because I enjoy carnival too much.” I realize that trying to be a religious person, a person who lives a God-centered life, means that I will have to give up some of the things I used to love. I realize that I will have to make small changes in my life or even drastic ones. After all, how is there growth or improvement if my lifestyle and my behavior stays exactly the same as it did before I committed myself to God?  One of the things I’ve had to accept is that I won’t be able to partake in everything that goes on in the world. And thank God for that! 

However, that is not to say that a person will not have struggles. I have been Muslim, alhamdulillah, for 16 years and I still have things I struggle with. I think that is the nature of a faith. In some matters we will struggle and then succeed. In others matters we will find ourselves succeeding one moment and then right back where we started. As frustrating as it is, I believe that Allah recognizes the effort and judges us by the intention to improve and not just by the success itself.

The other issue I have is when non-religious people say to me, “well, you’re practicing your religion, you’re serving God but you still have problems like me.” Before my faith had matured to where it is now, I, too, believed that a person who committed themselves to God 100% would suddenly be carefree. They wouldn’t struggle in life (financially or otherwise). They would always be happy and their devotion to God would be rewarded by a lifestyle of ease. Now I know better. Now I know that there are tests and trials that we go through which (hopefully) teach us lessons, help us to grow and bring us closer to Allah. I think the difference between me before and me now is that I know I am never alone. I know that I can always turn to Allah no matter the circumstance. I know that Allah does not give me more than I can handle. Furthermore, my faith prevents me from feeling hopelessness and despair. There are boundaries which I do not cross. However, there are people (I cannot count myself as one) who live in a constant or frequent state of contentment. Yes, there may be problems or struggles in their lives but they are not devastated by them. They just take them in stride.  Faith can do that for you. (May Allah help me to reach that level. Ameen).

Though hijab was not as much of a struggle for me as it is for some women, I’m going to be honest with you and say that I NEVER thought I could give up clubbing. As I mentioned way back, in some respects clubbing was my deen, my way of life. Thursday through Sunday found me in the dancehall, at Soca night, going to stage shows and to see live Reggae bands. Not only was it a part of my lifestyle but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that “clubbing” is a part of Caribbean culture. It’s what many people do for enjoyment. And trust me, I loved nothing more than putting on the latest clothing and going with my girls to “wine it” or “wuk it up.” So it was very surprising to others and even to myself  that I could give all of that up for the sake of Allah. But alhmadulillahI did!  Do I miss it sometimes? Yes!!! Have I completely, 100%, cut myself off from all things related to Reggae, Soca and Dancehall? NO. The progress is evident however…

As Muslims, interacting with non-Muslims, I think we sometimes share in the blame for people feeling like they couldn’t be Muslim because of certain practices or rituals. How so you ask? Let me give you an example. My sister’s boyfriend attended a class at a local masjid in order to learn about Islam. (This was prior to meeting me, btw). The brother who was teaching the class told him that he had to pray in Arabic because that was the only way that Allah could hear him. (Sigh). Naturally, my sister’s boyfriend was turned off because the idea that God, the master of the universe, the all-knowing, could only hear a specific language sounded preposterous. Secondly, could you imagine being told you had to learn Arabic (which to many people who are not familiar with it- including myself at one point- looks like a bunch of manic scribblings) off the bat? I can clearly remember feeling intimidated by the Arabic language as a new Muslim. (And I still don’t know any Arabic apart from what I say in the fard salaat and a few Islamic phrases and terms).

The point here (and I hope you’re getting it) is that it’s important for Muslims to start with people where they are. Don’t overwhelm them with talk of hijab, celibacy, learning Arabic, fasting from sunrise to sunset  etc.  Can we discuss the basics, the foundation of the Islamic belief system? There is a reason why the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) spent the early part of his prophecy laying the foundations of tawhid instead of going around and telling the people of that time “put this hijab on”, “hey you, put down that liquor”,  and “stop chasing women.” We can do better…

In the end, I suppose the question people must pose to themselves is this: Which do I love more, God or my own desires? And if the answer is God then it’s time to embark on a journey of exploration and self-reflection. God willing, the questioning will lead you to the appropriate place.

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10 responses to “I could never be Muslim because…

  1. Salaam Alaikum,

    Masha Allah, you word things so well! I’ve had these conversations many times with others.

  2. One could never be Muslim while “disbelieving that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the last and final messenger sent to human beings”

    Question: Can one hope (pray) that this is not true because this world today surely needs a messenger and still be considered a muslim? i.e One believes Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) was the last Prophet sent but hopes for one more. Can Allah change course? (never mind last question as anything with Allah is possible).

  3. Assalaamualaikum:

    This is an excellent post, sis. It is often difficult to face the fact that certain things cannot reconcile with a spiritual path. At the same time we must be careful as to not make being a Muslim like a crazy boot camp that no one will ever fit into.

    I often hear people say things like “I was a Muslim but it was just too strict.” Maybe they found basic things like prayer and fasting strict but I also wonder about the crowd they ran with while they were practicing.

    I am a sister who struggled/struggles with hijab. I have gone through a process of covering and I continue to negotiate my professional life with being covered. At the same time I feel that I am glad I started with my little knotted bun in the back rather than jump straight in without knowledge or the correct intentions.

    I’ve seen too many women wearing hijab/abaya on
    Tuesday and a weave/mini-skirt on Wednesday because they were not ready or felt forced into “looking Muslim.” Allahu Alam.

  4. I didn’t want to post this here because it’s rather long, but I couldn’t find your email adress on here to email it to you. But I’m taking the liberty of posting it here anyway, because I think it’s an article of great wisdom and I’m quite sure that you will think it’s worth reading. And I think that both muslims, and non-muslims can benefit from the wisdom expressed in this article. I know it’s a long post but the minutes you spend on reading it will be worth it.

    Peace and love!

  5. ASA, thanks for the comment Safiya.

    Zeesmom, I guess you answered your own question. But you know what, isn’t there a difference between a Prophet and a messenger?

    Samira, WS. I think the problem is that Muslims have become so obsessed with outward appearances and rituals to the point where it’s spiritually and intellectually stifling. Because there is so much emphasis on the external you have bros and sisters being forced to do things before they’re ready- or worse, they’re doing things and don’t know why they’re doing them. When I first took shahadah I was around Muslims who were very strict. I was wearing hijab but I didn’t even know why I was doing it. I just knew about punishments and of course, the social pressures. Needless to say, I took it off and on for many years before I finally understood its purpose. Sadly, I know plenty of people who left Islam because of the tremendous amount of pressure other Muslims placed on them.

    blue, thanks for the post. Don’t think your eyes are deceiving you. I cut and pasted the article into a word document then removed it from your comment. I’m going to read it soon insha’allah.

  6. Wonderful post!!

  7. Mary Ann a .k.a. Sister Seeking

    @ Jemerican Muslimah

    None of them have been about the actual belief system in Islam- for instance Tawhid (the oneness of God) or disbelieving that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the last and final messenger sent to human beings. Instead, people

    SS: Alright! Big mouth Sister Seeking has some comments for this one! lol : )
    Jemerican, girl, I have been shouting about this issue in the North American ummah for a minute. When ever I explain to other Muslims and non-Muslims that I did not convert to get married nor did I convert for “racial” reasons I’m accused of everything underneath the sun. I’m surprised no one has come on your blog and shot you down for this. Ma’sha’Allah. This is a HUGE problem as much as folks would like to sweep it underneath the carpet it rears it ugly head in the court system (real ugly divorces I could tell you horror stories from my job honey as well these people projecting their anger onto me because I am Muslim). I personally believe that the Muslim community should adopt the practice of requiring a period of study, and mentorship like the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish community. It’s easy to weed out people who are converting for the wrong reasons: and yes I do believe that if some one converts to ANY religion other than for the pure devotion and worship of God according to that specific belief system, they are converting for the wrong reasons.

    , without my insistence or urgency, list off a bunch of real (or imagined) Islamic practices that do not gel well with their current lifestyle.

    SS: Call me a hard liner sis, but this is pure laziness. It’s also an abuse of the belief of “grace” according to Protestant Christendom. People who say this are not classically literate of their own religious teachings that are canonical and spiritual. They don’t know who their own religious scholars and leaders are. Islam is not the only tradition that adheres to a sacred law and a spiritual psychology. The truth my dear sister, is that these people, would have an issue with ANY Abrahamic tradition if they were literate of their respective faith tradition.

    As frustrating as it is, I believe that Allah recognizes the effort and judges us by the intention to improve and not just by the success itself.

    SS: Allah Akbar, La huwa wa la quta ilah bilah

    The other issue I have is when non-religious people say to me, “well, you’re practicing your religion, you’re serving God but you still have problems like me.” Before my faith had matured to where it is now, I, too, believed that a person who committed themselves to God 100% would suddenly be carefree. They wouldn’t struggle in life (financially or otherwise). They would always be happy and their devotion to God would be rewarded by a lifestyle of ease.

    SS: lol : ) Allah is not St. Nicholas! That’s my response sister! lol : ) This mentality is a direct manifestation of Kufr. It also stems from the belief that we are made in God’s image, that some how, we are just like God, thus he must be just like us. Alhamdilal, for the nimat of Allah…

    The point here (and I hope you’re getting it) is that it’s important for Muslims to start with people where they are. Don’t overwhelm them with talk of hijab, celibacy, learning Arabic, fasting from sunrise to sunset etc. Can we discuss the basics, the foundation of the Islamic belief system?

    SS: Absolutely. I agree with you 110%

  8. Mary Ann a .k.a. Sister Seeking

    @ Samira

    You are so not alone sister…

    I’m personally fed up with the whole hijabi versus the non-hijab crap. I really am.

    First off, wearing hijab is NOT a pillar of Islam or Eman per se.

    Second off, Islam like the two other major faith traditions does allow for cultural contextualization which is why you see our sisters in West Africa covering one way, our sisters in the Middle East covering another and again our sisters in Eastern Europe covering another way.

    Thirdly, I refuse to wear hijab to “safeguard” the chastity of men or ward off perverted freaks that are supposal hiding behind corners waiting to devour me. Give me a freaking break people. Can we even given this thought process the honor of being called poor logic? I think not. I personally have chosen to wear hijab as an act of worship for God and God alone.

    Samira, I really hope and pray that Muslims, can learn to respect the choices of how some one else practices Islam. We need to learn to respect where people are at in their life and not expect them to jump on our self righteous treadmill or time table of where we think they should be. It infuriates me to see us just pizzing on each other over hijab.

    Finally, I am a working Muslimah and I do hijab. I have never seen a discussion in real life in our masjids or on the blogsphere of quality about the various challenges associated with wearing hijab in the workforce. Many women preaching the “wear hijab it will solve all your problems” are un-educated, un-skilled, and have NEVER worked outside the home. Can you tell me what in the heck a woman who speaks broken English and stays at home eating samosas can teach me about being a professional? I’m not attacking SAHM’s I used to be one and am working toward becoming a WAHM but for real though?

    Than, you have deranged and delusion BAM and WAM sisters who will try to fit you into a box—if you have EVER experienced discrimination over hijab the problem is your character and not hijab—never mind the EEOC has an online archive about hijab discrimination, never mind that hunh?

    Nuff my big mouth, Samira, I feel ya

    Salaam

  9. Salaam sis,

    Keepin it funky……cant get mad atcha!….this was a good post…..
    not much more I can add…i think its been all said and then some….

  10. Here is the link to the article I was talking about in my last post: http://www.jannah.org/morearticles/40.html

    Love!

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