For a long time spirituality has been black and white for me. I didn’t feel a connection to it, I felt resentment towards it, so I denounced it and belittled it. I didn’t value what it does for some many others because I did not benefit from it myself. Over the last couple of years I have revisited this strange relationship I have with spirituality to try to understand and relearn these concepts as an adult.
When I was a child I never completely bought into the religion I was raised with. If we are right what about everyone else? Being raised Muslim in America also has its stigma. I didn’t want to stand out as a foreigner. My mother was American and my father was Arab. I always had one foot in one world and one foot in another. I didn’t completely fit in anywhere. All my white girl friends viewed me as the other, while a lack in fluent Arabic prevented me from really being immersed into the Muslim Arab community. My father tried to teach us, and we went to Arabic school, but we never spoke it at home and my mother never learned Arabic either. I always say I could probably manage if I needed to but its not second nature to me.
Growing up I used to want to be Indian. I always thought their beautiful colorful saris were such a contrast to the black abayas I was accustomed to. I could still be my ethnic self without being viewed as a terrorist. America is not very fond of Muslims. My own American side of my family was not even fully accepting. They think they did well by “putting up” with our “differences” but it was more of a pious pat on the back mixed with derogatory comments and ignorant statements. It was clear as a child and even more heartbreaking as an adult. When your own relatives other you, its ground for some serious identity problems. In college I took a class called comparative religion. I loved the Hindu idea that Vishnu is everyone’s God. God is the top of a mountain and we humans are all at the bottom. We all have different perspectives and interpretations but we are all looking at the same thing.
In Islam there is only one God, but God is not a human or a tangible object of this earth. From this I feel that God is a force and a feeling that is everywhere. Its a higher power. Similar to energy it cannot be created or destroyed. It just is.
In college I also took astronomy. Wrapping your head around the concept of space is a great way to question everything you believe. How could I be even remotely significant. I am a speck of dust floating on a rock spinning through space.
As a child I used to have dreams about the devil, three consecutive ones as a matter of fact. My mother said prayers over me and they went away. I started to disbelieve then. Believing the devil was real was much to scary for me, and one cannot exist without the other. Good and bad, right and wrong, black and white. When my family and way of life fell apart I denounced God. I decided that there was no purpose to any of this. Why should I suffer by someone else’s hand. I became very atheist, feeding into the rise of Islamophobia. I was in survival mode. I was just trying to live, I was poor, homeless at times, and had enough baggage that I didn’t want to carry the stigma of a Muslim girl too.
In my early twenties I became even more atheist, Twenties are the age of arrogance. I looked down on anyone who was religious viewing the idea as stupid, ignorant, and desperate. I thought of myself as an evolved thinker, not needing fairy tales to comfort me. I had picked myself up off the streets and survived despite my situation. I was confident in myself and took all the credit.
After my second child I look back now and think I may have been suffering some postpartum depression. My second child was colicky and more sensitive to foods. I was constantly worried and frustrated. I began to feel helpless and decided to revisit my spirituality and Islamic upbringing. Islamophobia was on the rise again and I started to feel guilty contributing to it on some level. I wanted to revisit religion as an adult, learning on my own terms and not being told what to think, as so many children are. I found comfort in relearning and accepting my culturally Islamic background. I felt accomplished in learning how to pray, I didn’t really forget much. I felt stronger for standing on my own and being my true self instead of tirelessly trying to blend in as I have done more than I realized.
So am I a changed soul? Do I feel like I truly believe? Now that I feel settled into reclaiming my identity and feeling comfortable with my mixed self, no. I am still a skeptic at heart. I don’t fear god and I don’t feel obligated to revolve my life around religion. I do now value the concept and importance of religion and what it does for so many people. I don’t feel religion should be abolished or that it is the cause of all the wrongdoings in this world. Shitty corrupt and greedy individuals who can in some cases can create a following of similarly shitty people are the causes of war, death, genocide, and terror.
I wish this feeling of belonging to a community and religion did something for me but I know myself and I have always been a lone wolf. I never wanted to be a part of anything in the first place. It looks nice on the outside but its just not for me. I still pray sometimes for comfort and meditation, but I don’t feel guilty anymore for having one foot in a secular world and one foot in a religious world. Spirituality is not a black and white issue anymore. It is a feeling in constant motion and I accept that.