Originally published in 2017
Over the years Christmas for me had been filled with so many feelings, expectations, joys, but mostly disappointments. I never understood exactly why it hadn’t felt ‘quite’ right. I didn’t hold that innocent excitement in the palm of my hand like other kids did. There was always a pressure on spending time, spending money, spending energy on making ‘it’ perfect. I always questioned what exactly “it” was that required this obsession with seeking perfection? The wrapping, the decorations, the dinner, the forced family time. It never seemed quite right.
I’ll never forget the year that my ‘main’ present from my mother was a big cushion for my bed. I shamefully remember thinking ‘is this it?’….and she didn’t EVEN bother to wrap it. When school started back, kids would relay their endless lists of extravagant gifts and then it got to me, some years I would lie or pretend I couldn’t remember. Even as a child I questioned, is this what Christmas is really about?
Needless to say, as I got older, I realised the truth of this festive time…. Christmas Eve out on the town with all of my friends. A fun-filled party with outrageous outfit’s, alcohol a-plenty, and dance floors filled with funky moves. It almost always ended tragically with a phone call home to my mum in the early hours to come and collect me. I felt surrounded by people who wanted to forget, escape and block out any unwanted feelings that came along at this time of year.
Despite all this, I did actually find the time to go to church most years. Yes, each Christmas I would don my best outfit (my mum had a rather incredible white fluffy jacket that came out annually as a special treat), we would sing along to the carols and enjoy the company of fellow Christians. Christmas dinner was the usual Turkey feast and someone, if not all of us, would fall asleep during the Queen’s speech. It was a time of togetherness but mostly it was a time of waiting to see what would happen on the Eastenders Christmas special.
When I entered Islam I knew that my past sins would be forgiven and how I had spent those many years really did not matter. However, I think every revert has moments of complete shame at the colourful lives they once lived. It is during these times that I feel overwhelmed by the bounty, grace and mercy of Allah (SWT). Despite all that we were then and all that we are now, He still accepts us, forgives us and guides us forward.
The feelings that I had during my first Christmas as a Muslim, away from my family and the festivities as I once knew them, return every year. Its a time of reflection for me, a time of immense gratitude that He, Allah SWT chose me, guided me and brought me to peace Alhumdulilah.
Now, as a wife and mother, the Christmas holidays serve as a chance to escape the rapid pace of life. It is a time to switch off, unwind and be at home. It’s also a time for me to reaffirm my belief and to strengthen my confidence as a British Muslim so that I can ‘be’ who I am in a way that is comfortable for me. I do feel an element of sadness that I no longer share any particular festivities with my non-Muslim family but I have never looked back. It can also be a struggle to be the ‘odd one out’ but I pray that in time, we will establish ways to honour each other’s beliefs, celebrating the commonalities rather than being distanced by the differences.
Every Christmas Eve I hear the drunken people as they leave the local pub and I am thankful that I am not one of them.
I am grateful that now I only need to lose myself with Allah in order to truly find myself.
This can be a difficult time of year for reverts as we shake off what we once were and create new meanings.
Let’s not judge what one another decide to do, let’s instead be grateful that we have Islam.
If you know a revert that is alone during the holidays, invite them over, break bread with them, listen to them if they need to talk, but please, do not let them be alone.
I ask for Allah (SWT) to shower his mercy, blessings and peace over all of us. May He keep us steadfast and in the best of Imaan and may he guide our families so we can strive toward Jannah together.