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.