Change

I was thinking the other day of a story my friend shared with me when I was in Cairo a few months ago.  She was in a taxi and they were driving past a mosque during Taraweeh prayers. Just as they drove past, two girls were leaving the mosque.  They were removing their abayas and underneath they were wearing skinny jeans and tight tops.  The taxi driver then made a comment about how they were dressed and why they were even at the mosque.  I found myself agreeing.

Then my friend said something that really blew me away. She was like who gives the taxi driver the right to judge these girls? At the end of the day, they were at the mosque praying Taraweeh, which are extra prayers – something he wasn’t doing – and besides, who knew anything about them anyway?

Her point blew me away because I realized how often I also make judgements about other Muslims, even though I constantly complain about it happening to me.  For the past year I’ve been surrounded by conservative and traditionalist Muslims (mainly) since those are mostly the types here in Holland.  That isn’t an excuse but it certainly is part of the explanation. Now that I’ve started m new masters and am surrounded by different people, my outlook has completely changed. I’ve met so many different types of Muslims and have again begun to realize and appreciate the diversity within Islam. I’ve met Muslims who pray, and those who don’t; Muslims who drink and those who don’t; Muslims who veil and those who don’t.  More importantly, I’ve met other liberal Muslims like me!

I can’t explain how liberating and amazing this has been for me! I didn’t realize that before I was stuck in this bubble with Muslims who were always talking about halal/haram or fiqh (law) or the different schools ow law! I WAS GOING CRAZY! I began to think of Islam in those terms! Even worse, I didn’t realize I was doing that!

Now, I feel much more relaxed and more importantly, more confident. My connection to God has grown much stronger, and I’ve become so much more self-assured about my beliefs and my Islam. I no longer find myself rationalizing and justifying things to myself. I no longer find myself questioning God/Islam. I did those things before because I was constantly confronted with traditionalist ideas of Islam that I just did not agree with.  Yet I saw them as the only way to understand Islam and so I found myself constantly trying to change my ideas to fit them. I knew all along that this was just one way of interpreting Islam, but since the majority of Muslims around me believed in it, I began to waver in my own beliefs and my own interpretations.

So yeah…I feel so different now, masha’Allah. My confidence is back! Yesterday evening I went to watch some whirling dervishes (Sufi dancers) and it was such an intense experience. Listening to Rumi and watching the dervishes just made it even clearer: this is what Islam is all about: loving God, being happy, becoming a better person.  There isn’t one way of understanding Islam, there are millions. I guess I just needed to see again that there are many different types of Muslims for me to remember that there are many different types of Islam.

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13 thoughts on “Change

  1. wow, you think it’s a good thing to be surrounded by muslims who don’t pray ,muslims that are lost , muslims who have taken the wrong path!! That liberates you????

  2. I think I might print out this post & reread it whenever I need to…
    I’m an American from an agnostic Christian background, and blogs like this one make me feel like I really could be Muslim without losing my identity or giving up my progressive political beliefs. Thank you!

    • Welcome to the blog!
      Wow, what a sweet comment 🙂 Thank you so much!
      You can definitely be Muslim without losing your identity or giving up your progressive beliefs!

  3. very interesting post Sara 🙂
    I wish all muslims come to this point that their way of practicing Islam is not superior to other muslims.
    mariam-Iran

  4. Glad things are becoming clear for you. Thank God you are becoming happier and more settled in your religion. May it continue to be easy for you from here on out 🙂

    I so want to watch whirling dervishes. I Think it would be an amazing experience.

  5. Sarah….living in a so called Muslim country (Saudi, Bahrain, Egypt etc) where culture rules and oppression is rampant…cant be any worse then living somewhere else where Muslims may be weak in prayer or struggling with personal aspects of their faith. We all have our personal burdens…but in Muslim countries Muslims make sure personal burdens are made public…with horrible consequences. Not to mention, make culture the biggest burden of all and highest barrier to get over to some semblance of REAL Islam.

  6. I think there are differend ways to reach god, but we should not make the mistake and think that reaching Allah goes by us breaking his rules.
    Isnt it hypocritical to pray and then go out drink?
    I myself see at it like this: I know what is right even when i do wrong. I know what way the road to paradise goes, but i choose myself to break the rules.

    I think we all go through changes, i have some friends who were wahabis and now are more sunni, some who were sunni and became wahabis, i myself have gone from fanatic to less fanatic to more fanatic. Even left islam at 2 times.

  7. Sara! I missed your blog so much!

    Browsed through some posts and as usual, I’m impressed and would love to read all these books (but damn it your list if growing WAY too long to encourage a serious will!!!)

    Anyways, I think this one post is of prime interest, and I was always argh bout Muslims who flaunt their Islam and are very critical.

    Very glad you’re at a better environment to practice being YOURSELF without judgment.

  8. The way I see it is that there are many small roads that lead us to the one highway to Allah’s Mercy. We are unique individuals and each of us treads a different road, but to be Muslim means to find that highway and keep on going straight. Don’t take a turn at someone else’s road just because it seems a little more appealing to our own ‘nafs’ (ego). It’s tempting to take that easy exit and skid off, but it’s hard to keep going straight until you finally reach God.

    It takes patience, and strong faith.

    So there is one way and one Islam, there are just many ways to get there.

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