Dear younger self,
I know you often look in the mirror and wonder who you are.
I know you spend countless hours online, searching for ways to fold your headscarf in a way that feels more comfortable, more fashionable. A way which makes your cheeks bulge less. A way which makes you stand out less when you walk through town. You are searching, desperately, for a way to make your religion from birth make sense to you.
I know you don’t understand why your religion is made to smother you, quieten you down, and make you feel like you must conform. The shouting voices at home and the preaching voices at Sunday Circles don’t add up. You wonder often why there is such a stark difference between the way you and your brothers are treated. It doesn’t make sense that Islam is used as the reason. You spend countless hours at night wondering who you will be when you grow older, or rather, who you will be allowed to be.
You turn then, to an angry self-defiance. You read a few articles online, you listen to a few intros at the start of hip hop videos, and suddenly, you feel you understand something in life. You have opinions, and you are not afraid to voice them. It gives you a renewed sense of confidence, this bolstered world view. Now, you are political. You are a feminist. Your religion is your political standpoint too, and you have never been more proud of it. You dismiss all else, and all others. On the outside, you think you are confident. On the inside, you are still finding your way. You feel you have to compensate for the internal conflict by always having something to say. You try to make up for the turmoil within the four walls by trying too hard to be different.
When asked what your religion means to you, you don’t really know the answer. And yet, you speak with the arrogance of youth. You use your religion as a tool to deflect from your lack of self-awareness. You speak with peers and pass off religious commentary like you are learned beyond your years.
Yet, behind closed doors, your spirituality is almost non-existent. You can’t remember the last time you prayed. Religion on a personal level has only ever been about ritual to you. You are not really sure when you lost your true faith, and yet being told to pray fills you with rage. You cannot separate the hypocrisy of the person preaching from the truth of their words. This toxic environment within the four walls has tainted your faith, and you have reacted by moulding your religion into your rebellion and conflict. Yet on a public level, it is your identity, and you will shout it from the rooftops.
You don’t understand this now, but religion is about spirituality first and foremost. Over time, you will come to understand that nothing will matter more than your prayers. You can be a champion of social justice and reach thousands on Twitter with your witty political commentary, but your religious identity is null to void if you do not understand your relationship with your Creator. Worshipping Allah does not have to be all ritual and conformity and Sunday circles. Your spirituality must first be built upon foundations of steel for your rituals to make sense. Talking to the One who blessed you with life is worship in itself. Remember this.
It will be a long time until you realise that you were still finding your way, and that was completely okay. You do not need to exuberate self-confidence and have an opinion on everything. You do not need to conflate your religion with your politics if you don’t yet understand it. People will understand if you are still forming opinions on matters. Your toxic home life may never improve, or it may, but neither should be enough to push you away from God. Because you will come to realise over time, that you are stronger, and you are bigger than your circumstances. Not everyone will understand you. Most, when you are honest, will find you too pensive, too critical. That is okay. As long as you are honest, and live by the Islamic principle of honesty. You will find a way to achieve your true calling, even if you spend almost your whole life doing it.
This piece was written by a member of the Amaliah community. If you would like to contribute anonymously, drop us an email us on firstname.lastname@example.org