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Can Muslim Women Have It All? What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid…

by in Identity on 13th March, 2018

Source: Maaria Lohiya @MuslimWomenC

Source: Maaria Lohiya @MuslimWomenC

Muslim Women – Can we Have it all?

I’ve been battling my own insecurities lately.

I fear that I am not enough, and then… at times, I fear that I am way too much, that I want too much. I veer between fear of failure… and a more overwhelming fear of success.

Restricted by my upbringing and the sometimes religious and cultural constraints we all have as Muslim women, the question keeps rearing its incessantly annoying head … if I make it, if I succeed at what I want to achieve in my own life, what will I have to give up?

If I’m too happy, too successful on my own, will I be judged? Will I automatically forfeit other aspects of the life I desire?

I am more than aware that I am now a single woman in my mid 30s. I feel profoundly that I am at a crossroads; a choice between the pursuit of my own independent and personal fulfilment and the idealised white picket fence life.

Despite how much things may have progressed, for any Muslim woman trying to break the mould of what is the norm, we question, is it still an either or? And why are we still preoccupied with looking over our shoulder to see who is watching?

I have found that with many of the women that I meet and coach, whether it’s from a personal or a business perspective, we all have the same fears. My lens is focused from within and from without.

“Having it all” is not just the question of pursuing a career when you came from a conservative background or the dilemma of maintaining the duality of a traditional family and work life.

I’ve been there and done that. And with most of the women I work with, they are not looking for help in achieving the best year-end review at work and getting dinner ready on time.

Our fears come from a habit of having to dumb down. Feeling that we have to check our intellect and voice (as if these are somehow facets of our “modesty”) when we enter certain doors. Or when we do rise above these fears and shine, there’s uncomfortable feeling that someone is sitting on the side lines with a red flag.


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Society, and certainly our Muslim societies, are still uncomfortable with Muslim women who want to rewrite their own mores, that are too vocal or too present, or those struggling to break free from their imposed cultural restraints.

In our communities, the injunction against a woman truly winning at life, or having it all, is subtle but strong.

It comes from the pseudo-religious patriarchal hierarchy of our collective conscious, and when we are close to breaking the shackles that this patriarchy has imposed… we discover that it comes from within our own sex.

Often, those who should encourage our achievements and our God given right to shine gloriously… as evidence that they too can shine… are often our greatest detractors; many holding on to an insidious and bitter belief that the success of one detracts from any success of the other.

Have you ever noticed that we never receive the same criticism for our failures as we do for our success?

We have allowed there to be written into our accepted culture an unwritten rule that we are not allowed to experience heaven on earth, to have it all. The rejection of this imposed idea, is breaking through the ultimate glass ceiling.

I have spent years playing it safe, especially since the moment that it occurred to me that I wanted a different sort of life. Instead of focusing and feeding that which I truly want for myself, I have allowed myself to be caught up in other people’s endeavours. Expending my own energy and depleting myself, as many empathic characters do, in supporting and nurturing the dreams of others.

But in the last few months, I’ve created a great deal of space in my life to focus just on myself and my own dreams. I’ve asked myself over and over again… what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

I’ve stopped giving away my energy in directions where I just don’t want to. I’ve stopped pursuing a career that someone else wanted for me but never made me happy. I’ve stopped saying yes to opportunities and invitations just because they are there or because they may, on paper, seem perfect… for someone else.

I’ve had those courageous conversations with my supportive but conservative parents that my life and reality will not follow the typical norm. That settling for a job, a locality, a home or man that is just suitably sufficient, will just not do. That my life has to be one lived in technicolour. Passionately full, adventurous, loving, at times painful, but always real.

For each of us, we have no option but to shine our own light and to claim our own version of “all”. The brighter we each shine and the more we write our own rule books, the more we can light the way for other women, Muslim and otherwise, still lost and trying to find their own way.

Along the way… maybe you will be judged. Maybe certain people will fall away. Maybe doors will close. Let them judge. Let them fall away. Let the doors close.

There is always an elevator around the corner…