It’s been a long week for me, hence the 9-day blog hiatus.Yesterday was Eid al Fitr, a festival marking the end of Ramadan. During Ramadan, a month-long religious observance meant to purify the body and mind, Muslims are expected to abstain from food, drink and other pleasures from dawn to dusk.Removing these comforts from daily routine is intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality and charity. And every year around this time I get especially introspective.
At yesterday’s Eid prayers, I was swept away by the beauty of the moment; hundreds of people of different races and ethnicities gathered at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. to pray and thank God for guiding them through the month. Taking part in Eid festivities makes me proud of my rich cultural heritage. But it also wells up feelings of shame that I have been holding onto for a long time.
For years, I felt uncomfortable going to mosque. I didn’t like feeling like other people could tell that I was acting. I was convinced that others would only accept me as a Muslim if I performed “up to standard”. I would have to wear hijab, attend Arabic school, pray 5 times a day, abstain from sex until I was married, and avoid drinking or drug use in order to pass The Test. I made up a story that the world expected me to be polite, subdued, submissive, prude,chaste, quiet,serious, domestic, and BORING. My internal response system would say “Leave that alone–It’s haram!”and I would crawl back into my no-fun cave and judge myself for almost giving in to temptation. I spent years trying to be the Golden Child, at my own expense. My perfectionism was so self-centered; I burnt myself out chasing a dream that no one else actually cared about. I was so sure that everyone else was focused on me, that I forgot to focus on me. Foolishness.
Over the years, I have broken a lot of my religion’s “rules”. I don’t cover up–in fact, I rather enjoy a good Freakum Dress/peek-a-boo back/cleavage surprise. I pray formally when I can, and practice charity, gratitude, and mindfulness when I can’t. I go to mosque maybe twice a year. I curse like a sailor (but not in front of my parents–I’m grown but not that grown!))And i loooove me some whiskey. But I consider myself a card-carrying Muslim nonetheless, because I believe that my religion is for God’s consumption alone. My relationship with God and my level of piety are not up for evaluation. In other words, what others think about how I practice my spirituality is none of my business. It’s a lesson that has taken me a loooong time to learn. But knowing that I could enjoy a life of adventure and ratchetry (not a real word, but y’all know what I mean) and still feel complete serenity sweep over me at yesterday’s Eid prayers reminds me that God has not forgotten me. He knows who I am and what I stand for, and that’s what matters most, right? I’ll take your silence as agreement…
As I type this out, I question whether or not I should even publish this post. The last thing I want is to become a target for fundamentalist trolls. But if I want to help people pleasers release their need for others’ approval, I need to stand firm and release mine. Years of personal development work have taught me to recognize my Gremlin when he rears his ugly head and tries to stop me from going after what I want. I say “GET FROM BEHIND ME,GREMLIN, AND LET ME BE GREAT!”Shit.
I have invented the possibility of being fierce, free, fearless, and powerful. And today, I reclaim my power by refusing to be silenced. I am yelling from the mountaintops that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to practice or not practice religion, and it’s okay to build your own unique relationship with whatever keeps you morally grounded and living on purpose. So, for all my Muslimah queens out there–hijabi, niqaabi, or unveiled–keep doing what works for you as far as your religious practice. Stand in solidarity with Muslims everywhere, even if their style is a bit different than yours. Not everyone is gonna drink the Kool-Aid, but that shouldn’t stop you from going about life the way you want to. In order to #livedeliciously, you need to decide how you want to stay grounded. The beauty of religion is that it’s up to you. So, Eid Mubarak, congratulations on getting through the fast, and turn up for taraweeh! PEACE