Thursday, September 2, 2010

History of the Invisible Muslimah

As salaam alaikum,

So in searching the files on my old computer, I also found my first computer journal, which I began when I was 14 and continued, I think, until I was 16, after 9/11. I considered that to be a major turning point in my identity and my very being, I guessed, so I continued with a new computer journal which I called "Freestyle," in which I developed a more stream-of-consciousness style of writing that I think is apparent today.

[This whole exercise reminds me that my personality falls within the cluster B traits of personality disorders - borderline, histrionic and narcissistic...this, of course, falling on the narcissistic side...but then again, what else is one's own journal?]

I realized in reading a few things, however, that I'm the same person, over and over again. I'm more mature now, yes, I've experienced a handful of things, mostly school related, traveled a couple of places, but at base, I'm the same person with the same values. Take a look at this that I wrote 10 years ago:

"It was so hard finding a solid identity during my preteen years because my mother is Muslim and my father is Christian. During my preteen years especially, I began to consider which religion I wanted to be part of. Instead of taking into account the various principles of each religion I began to see which one would afford for an easier life here on earth, not which one would give me an easier ticket to heaven. Not only will my husband and I share the same religion, but also we will have to have somewhat the same moral beliefs. This way, our children will be sure which path both parents prefer the children to take, instead of having to go one path or the other. I want to make sure I have my children praying and depending on God for their needs at an early age, because I was twelve before such a relationship was established. I know this will help them tremendously. " - July, 2000

Hahahahaha! Same themes predominate. The interesting thing here is that I didn't say that I was Muslim, although I allude a couple of times in my journal to preferring a Muslim. At this point, I was aware that I was evaluating which religion would be easier based on society, which was probably Christianity at that point, and I was not calling myself either or, since I wasn't really practicing either. I was Muslim inasmuch as I didn't eat pork and I tended to dress more modestly...I didn't show my legs in public, at least, and short sleeved shirts with dipping necklines seemed daring to me, though I had, like, minimal boobage. I believed in God and I did not believe in Jesus (as) as son of God...but I didn't know of very many Muslims outside of my family, so I grasped hold onto every example of a Muslim that I could in making this decision.

And little over a year later, November 2001, look at the following...parse through the craziness, like, having six children between my late 20s and mid 30s...

"When I turned sixteen, I wanted to be a renaissance woman, and I wanted to do everything when I was in my prime—when I was young. I wanted to go to school and become a doctor right after graduating from high school. During the summers and stuff I wanted to travel around the world and see all of the things that I had learned about in Western Civ and English and History and Spanish class. And then, if I had time in between classes, I would maybe act in a movie, and after all that I would get another of my ideas published. And hopefully by my early twenties I will have found my true love and married. I want to keep the Igbo running in my part of the family, but I also want to keep a uniform religion, Islam, to keep it easier for my kids not to be divided between two different religions. Oh yeah, and I wanted to have six kids and have my first before I hit my thirties and my last before I am in my mid thirties, or at least not into the late thirties so I won’t still have young children when I am old and so I won’t have to risk any adverse health affects of having children at my old age. My time was limited, and I have to start early, and get this all over with so at the latter end of my life I could relax and do the things I wanted to do." - November 2001
Just two months after September 11, and I'm identifying as Muslim...just because, I think, that event made Muslims more visible than they had been before and it forced me to examine myself and my religious identity and come to a conclusion, a conclusion that I guess many other Muslims and non-Muslims came to as well. I think it would be another year before I finally tell my best friend, who is Muslim, that I am Muslim...and another year or two after that before I tell a Muslim outside of my group of friends, the infamous MQ, that I am Muslim...

Haha, I could totally make a timeline in my personal Muslim history...

1988-1991: At intervals when my mother had a conference for work, I would attend my aunt's Islamic School in Flint, MI. I remember the young boys leading salat and thinking that the men who came to pray Jummah in our building (because it also doubled as a masjid) were scary because they were so big and tall.
1996: Celebrated Eid with my grandparents and aunt. Decided that I was Muslim.
1996-1998: Identified as Muslim; found it painful to be the only one in my school, the only black kid who didn't attend church.
1998-2001: New school district; was not sure that I actually wanted to identify as Muslim, and therefore avoided conversations about religion altogether. Most people assumed I was Christian.
2001-2002: Realized, again, that Islam was my religion...the only religion it made sense to fill out on college applications, the only one I saw fit to raise my children, and I kind of just went from there.
2002: I think sometime after Ramadan that year, I told my best friend I was Muslim. She didn't believe me at first, a fact that she will probably still deny to this day, but it was fair enough for her to doubt.
2003: By Ramadan (my first practiced mother had been fasting Ramadan since I was little at this point...I don't even remember her observing Ramadan when I wasn't, but it was true all the while I was at home), all of my close friends knew I was Muslim, and I gradually let other people, my roommates in college, etc.
2004: I told the first Muslim outside of the Rahmans (Ayesha and her sisters) that I was Muslim. This was MQ, therefore, my first brother-crush...predictable, but it's not so chicken-and-eggy because I liked him before I knew he was Muslim. Joined the MSA and was no longer uncomfortable revealing to people I was Muslim (thus I've been like this for only 6 years).
2005: I told my father that I was Muslim (or rather, "will never be Christian.") Worst moment in our lives to that point, so yes, we are a blessed family. But it was bad at the time.
2006: Began wearing hijab early this year. Traveled abroad with it and did my med school interviews with no problems.
2007: Paused hijab by graduation, went off to medical school. Actually have a group of Muslim friends to hang out with and attend Eid prayers with, which in all this time, I never had. It was pretty awesome.


Yeah, nothing that earth-shaking has happened since then. Not that I haven't been moving forward in my faith and practice...but I was a little bit more stagnant than I was in college, as my goal upon entering college was to become "more practicing" now that I wasn't in the house with my parents anymore. And so it was.

I've come a long way...haha, and maybe in another 10 years, I'll have gone another long way...maybe.


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