It isn’t about right or wrong, haraam or halaal, per se. I mean, it boils down to it. But that’s not it. It’s the journey leading up to it that makes or breaks one. I realized, after 9 years of practicing – hardcore may I add- that my journey led me away from what I was initially seeking. I got lost in the intricacies of it all. I lost sight of Allaah. Well, I didn’t lose sight because I never got one to begin with. I started practicing on February 2nd, 2006. I literally changed overnight. I don’t remember much. I had a conversation with a friend on MSN that made my head spin. I came home, this was in Kenya ( I had been,what,4 months in the country at that point) and opened up the translation of the Qur’aan. I think I had some kind of spiritual death. You know, where the old me fell apart. I don’t remember much, but I can never forget the ecstasy I was in. It was so pure. Of course it didn’t last long. I didn’t know much about Islam except from what I saw people around me doing. It was more like a cultural thing and if you ask most people why they do what they do, they couldn’t give you an answer besides ‘ because I’m a Muslim’.
Anyway, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started worshipping the people by acting on their praise and censoring what would be blameworthy with them. Meanwhile, when I was alone, I was someone else. I led a double life. I tried to fight this for years, but the truth was I was more scared of what people would say about me. I was preoccupied with this and as long as this was in my mind, how could I think about anything else?
I applied perfectionism to my deen, as I was wont to do in other realms of my life. Come to think about it, I sleepwalked into Islaam. The only thing that was different were the clothes I wore, and the 5 daily prayers. Inside I was the same, only I denied this part of me. I thought if I closed my eyes, that it would all vanish. It wasn’t out of love of Allaah, the way it was in the beginning. No. In fact, in retrospect, I hardly thought about Allaah. It was more about the motions and rules and appearances. I joined cliques where people played charades – trying to fool one another by fooling themselves. Maybe we thought that if we believed that we had a mask-transplant, that our old faces would just– disappear? I don’t know. But in between the halaqaat, and salaams, and ukhtis, the reality seeped through subtly. It’s inevitable that one messes up. You can’t keep on an act that your heart knows no part of. You can memorize a lie in your brain, but you can’t convince your heart of it.
Soon it became a show. Everything became so false; the supposed eemaan boosters, the long jalaabeeb, the lectures, the mutoon we’d pledge to memorize to become students of knowledge. The Qur’aan became nothing but pages and safahaat and verses to memorize. We’d fret over homework from the madrasah, and last-minute cramming sessions became the norm.
I knew something was wrong. Very wrong. My heart dried out. I felt so fake. But it was all spinning so fast, like a merry-go-round that was going so fast you didn’t know how to jump out of.
Until I’d crash. Hard. It took me countless times of hitting rock bottom for me to start asking myself what was happening. And when I did- when I could afford to open my eyes to reality, I started the journey out of the hole I’d fall into.
It traumatized me, the covert peer pressure and people pleasing. My deen became associated with inauthenticity and unethical behaviour. I felt myself unable to ferret out what was true, so I threw out the baby with bath water so to speak.
Until when I realized; I sacrificed my deen out of fear of what people would say if they saw me fluctuate? If they saw my authentic self, my sinning self? Because somehow the people called the shots with their all-or-nothing thinking where you have to remain static in your religion, or else you’re a fake. Ha! The irony!
Allaah would never judge me that way, even though He is the only one who matters in this matter. Allaah is far more merciful than this. Perfection is not required of me, and sins are failed attempts that teach us about consequences. Realizing this, that my journey was no one’s business. This is a private affair between me and my Lord. Only Allaah knows what lies in the depths of my heart- of good and of bad. I owe nobody to keep up appearances, or apologize. My accountability is to the One who commanded me to begin with. The One owed complete Tawheed. That’s it. Tawheed.
It’s up to me what choices I make, and it is only I who has to face the consequences thereof.
This is my journey.