Yes, I am a born Muslim. Both my parents are Muslim, grandparents, aunts, uncles, everyone in my family is Muslim. No, I never explored any other faith. I never dabbled in Christianity nor have a tried the spiritual practices of Buddhism. I’ve never read any other Holy book, nor have I ever imagined I would be a member of any other faith group. The extent of my learning about other faiths is for knowledge sake. Now you’re wondering why did I have to CHOOSE Islam? What does it mean to CHOOSE a faith you are already a part of. It’s like choosing to be a Canadian, when you were born in Canada. Strange concept I know.
On my long journey to being the Muslimah I am today, I faced a few experiences that made me reevaluate my life. These experiences made me look at myself, who I was, who I had become and who I wanted to be. I realized that who I was and who I wanted to be were totally different people. I came across people that brought out the absolute worst in me. Other’s shone a light on my best qualities.
Through careful reassessment of myself I began to realize something was missing from my life. I was 22 and I thought of a number of things that could have caused that void in my life. Perhaps it was the fact that I had moved away from my parents to attend University at the age of 18 and longed for their closeness and the safety of my parents’ home. Perhaps it was the fact that I was sick of being in University. I had finished my first degree, was planning to do my after-degree and I longed to move forward, to achieve something big, and to go out in the world. Perhaps it was because I was single and I longed for the love and affection of an amazing man. It was actually none of those.
The only thing that could fill that void was something that felt so far out of reach yet still felt so close to my heart. Something that I felt unworthy of, yet I knew I deserved. Something I felt would be a burden with high expectations yet I envied others for having it. It was, a relationship with Allah (swt).
I grew up in your typical Muslim home. We prayed, fasted Ramadan, we learned about Islam, read Qur’an, mom wore hijab. Etc. I always had a basic relationship with Allah (swt), the same any born Muslim would have but I wanted so much more. That’s when I decided to BE a Muslim. Truly BE a Muslim.
What did it mean for ME to CHOOSE Islam?
I identify as a Muslim before anything else. I may identify as so many different things. I am apart of many intersections. I am a Canadian, Egyptian, a Woman, a Mother, a Daughter, an educator, etc. BUT I am first and foremost a Muslim. I wear my faith on my sleeve (on my head to be more accurate). Islam is who I am and who I always want to be.
I have relearned and continue to learn about Islam. Knowledge is power. The only way to choose something is to truly understand it. You don’t buy an insurance plan before you study it closely to ensure it is a perfect fit for your life. Why would you live by words, rules, etc of something you didn’t understand?
I surround myself with likeminded people. I am not saying I wouldn’t befriend someone who isn’t a Muslim. Oh no! We are blessed to have many non-Muslim friends and I wouldn’t give them up for the world. But at the same time, “birds of a feather fly together”. If you’re into clean eating and a healthy lifestyle, you’ll likely have similar minded friends. If you are an athlete, you’ll have friends who do the same. We can enjoy the diversity that other people bring to our lives but still need similar people to keep us on track with our beliefs and goals.
I strive to be a better Muslim every day. If I don’t pray today, I will strive to pray tomorrow. If I fast Ramadan, I will strive to fast the 6 extra days of Shawwal. I will speak more kindly to people today than I did yesterday. By being better every day, I will in turn present Islam and my Muslim Ummah in a better way each and every day.
I am an ambassador of my Deen. When someone sees me, the first thing they know about me is actually the most private thing about me. It is my faith and my beliefs. Before knowing my name they know that I believe in Allah (swt). They know I fast Ramadan, pray 5 times a day, don’t eat pork, am likely related to a “Mohamed”, read Qur’an, and they can make many ASSUMPTIONS about me. How dangerous can those assumptions be? It is my job to let people see there is more behind a Muslim or Muslimah than what they think they know. I will show them that Islam is a faith of peace and understanding. Islam is about caring, charity, acceptance, respect and so much more.
I believe in Islam with my whole heart, mind and soul.
The way we each CHOOSE to be Muslim is up to us. This was what it meant to me, but for you it may mean something totally different. This does not only apply to Muslims either. If you are a Christian, CHOOSE to be a Christian. The same goes for those of the Jewish faith, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindu. Whatever you are, may you find what fills your heart, calms your mind and brings your soul eternal peace.