Today I was thinking about how shy I used to be to carry out certain Islamic practices in public. Like many Muslims today, I was so concerned about how non-Muslims would perceive my behavior. Would they think I’m weird? Strange? Crazy? Now that I’m older and more comfortable in my deen I don’t even care. I just do my thing. Here’s a list of concerns or worries I’ve got over, alhamdulillah.
- I used to worry what people would think if they saw me performing wudu in a public restroom. Nowadays I just go in without a care and start performing wudu. If people are curious or bold enough to ask me what I’m doing I’ll tell them. Otherwise they can walk away thinking whatever it is they think.
- I used to hide my istinja bottle as if it was something I stole from someone, lol. It’s not like I go around flashing it or anything now but I no longer “smuggle it” into the bathroom. Again, if someone is curious enough to ask what it’s for I’ll tell them. At my previous job my co-workers were used to me carrying it into the bathroom. It got to the point where if I forgot it in there they’d bring it back to me, LOL. The funny thing is that they never asked me what it was for. (After 3 years of working there). They must’ve sensed it was something private so they felt hesitant to ask.
- If I went to someone’s house or to a work-related event I used to feel shy about asking for a space to pray. Now? I’m bold about it. I once went to a fund-raising event held at some incredibly wealthy person’s house mansion. When Mahgrib came in I had no problem tapping the hostess on the shoulder and asking for a space to pray. The incredible thing about it is that Allah ALWAYS makes a way for me no matter what the situation is. I just have to show the initiative. Another time I went to a conference and the whole time I was stressing about how I was going to slip out of the workshop to pray Zhur. Silly me! Not only did Allah make it easy for me to find a space but another Muslim sister was there and were able to pray together. Takbir!
- I used to be shy about my hijab. I was uncomfortable talking about it, wearing it, and was constantly worried about how people would perceive me in it. (Especially when I went to work or a social event that was predominately non-Muslim). Alhamdulillah, I’ve gotten over that. Though I may have ups and downs and bad hijab days, I can pretty much walk in any gathering (with confidence) as if I naturally belong there. And you know what? I DO belong in most of the gatherings I attend. I have every right to be there. No longer do I shrink or remain quiet so as to go unnoticed. I ask questions, speak up or give feedback when the situation calls for it. Other times I have been the one speaking or providing trainings. Again, I don’t concern myself with how people are looking at me in the hijab. I just concern myself with my presentation…I’ve come a long ways. ALLAHU AKBAR!
- When talking to non-Muslim friends and acquaintances I used to feel uncomfortable discussing my Islamic standpoint on certain subjects. I also felt uncomfortable when I had to let them know something was against my belief system. For example, I was speaking with a woman about dating and marriage. She wanted to know if my husband had seen my hair and body shape before we got married. I told her no. She seemed confused. Later in the conversation I realized she was confused because she assumed we had dated for several years and lived together before we got married. I explained the Islamic perspective on dating, premarital sex, and cohabitating (yes, I’m using that old school word, lol.) In the past I would’ve felt very uncomfortable. I would’ve worried about her thinking I was strange or outdated.
- I used to speak on behalf of Muslims who had committed some wrong action as if I was personally responsible for their behavior. I was worried that their actions would shatter the picture perfect image I so freely painted of Muslims. Now I know better. Nowadays I have no problem letting non-Muslims know that not all Muslims practice their religion or even desire to. There are Muslims who mistreat other people, behave badly, curse, drink, fornicate etc. At the same time, there are practicing Muslims who make mistakes and do things that are unIslamic. We are human beings complete with all the character flaws. However, that does not mean Islamic principles are suddenly invalid. I certainly don’t paint the picture perfect image of Muslims anymore. (And how could I in the face of so much violence committed on behalf of Muslims?) Not only is there good and bad in every bunch but many of us fall somewhere in between…
- I used to feel uncomfortable discussing my western upbringing and culture when interacting with immigrant Muslims. Being a new, inexperienced Muslim I bought “The Evil West” paradigm wholesale. As difficult as it is for me to admit, I really felt immigrant Muslims’ “Islamic culture” was superior to my own. I felt ashamed of the family, community, and cultures I came from. I had no idea that the picture they were painting was more fantasy than reality. (How many immigrants imagine home to be a lot better than it actually is?) After all, if [insert country of origin] was so great and so very Islamic then why were they here? I don’t think I need to say anymore about where I stand now. If you’ve been reading my blog you already know. *waves*
*Note: Muslim veteran in this context means someone who has been Muslim for a while. I am not referring to Muslims who were once in the military.