I wrote a post last week called 5 Things it was Hard to Give Up When I Converted, so this week I am following it up with the 5 things that Islam has given me. Looking at the two different posts, the things that I gave up are rather superficial, but I hope in reading this list you will find that the things Islam has brought into my life are much, much deeper. So, let’s get started!
When some people look at Islam they see rules, rules, rules. And it is true, the fact that Islam is an entire way of life does mean that there are rules to follow. But if you go deeper, to the reasons behind the rules, you can begin to understand the wisdom behind them. For me, one of the amazing results of these rules is that I have ready-made boundaries in my life.
I tend to have a “devil may care, throw caution to the wind” spontaneous streak, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead me into issues of not taking others in my life into consideration and having a distinct lack of structure to my time.
Because of the rules implemented in Islam, however, that has changed.
Because I know exactly what time I have to stop and pray, five times a day every day, I can structure my day around that. Because I dress a certain way, there are immediate and obvious boundaries in the way that I interact with men. Because there are rules as to what I can and cannot eat, I have to pay close attention to what I put in my body.
And these are just some examples of how Islam has helped me set boundaries that ultimately give me more freedom to be and enjoy myself within them (like the metaphor of a playground next to a busy street: if you put up a big fence you can rest easy knowing that the kids can enjoy themselves to the fullest, but if you don’t you are going to be constantly stressed and shouting at them because they are running too close to the dangerous street).
2. A Direction
Much in the same vein as boundaries, Islam has given me a definite direction in my life, kind of like a big master-plan.
Before Islam, I had very short-term (in the cosmic scale of things, that is) goals and plans. I planned to go to university, graduate with good grades, get a certain type of job, and that would be that.
What was I going to do when I got bored at that job, or somehow ended up needing to change direction? Who knows.
But now I have an ultimate goal: attaining God’s pleasure and therefore eternity in the gardens of heaven. Whatever I do in this world, whether it has to do with my job, family, free time, etc., it is now connected with a much higher goal.
I can now work with purpose and direction in whatever I am doing, and change direction as needed, because everything ultimately comes back to the master-plan.
This relates back again to the first two concepts, in that I am working within these boundaries towards and ultimate goal, but I also know that whatever I am doing in the world, the success or failure is in God’s hands. Sometimes, things are just not meant to be, and sometimes they happen against all odds.
And that is such a relief.
If you haven’t seen it, check out my post on tying the camel. It talks all about trusting God with the outcome of your efforts, but emphasises the fact that you do have to put in effort.
I do the work, and I leave the rest to God. If something other that what I had planned happens, I know that God’s plan is better than mine. And if something seemingly bad happens to me, I can have trust that there is something good that will come of it if I can just wait it out.
At any rate, wearing the hijab, and in doing so becoming a walking representation of my religion, has given me such feelings of not only dignity but confidence as well.
Because now I know, I don’t have to have a 20 inch waist and a 40 inch bust anymore; that isn’t what is important. If I gain a little or lose a little it isn’t the focus of everyone’s attention. I am not expected to be dolled and done up every day because that is not my only function as a female.
I get to be seen for not only who I am, but what I stand for. People now understand that I expect certain things of them in the context of our interactions. And they know exactly what I stand for in life when they see how I am dressed.
And because I am free from all that societal pressure to look and act a certain way in order to impress certain people, I have even more confidence to just be who I am, all day, every day!
This one was somewhat unexpected, but it popped into my head as I was trying to decide what the fifth thing was that I wanted to write about.
I have always loved certain things: school, learning, languages, reading, tea, needle crafts, pretty things, etc. But I have come to realise lately that none of these things has given me the feeling that Islam does.
When someone makes a horrifically ignorant statement about Islam, it drives me insane. When I see people turning away from Islam because of what Fox News tells them, I get so upset. When I see converts struggling because no one in the community will give them any of their time besides the few seconds it takes to say “oooooh mashaa Allah!” I know that I have to do something.
It is like a constant need, like I have to share this amazing thing that I have found with others or I might go crazy bananas.
And that is the passion that Islam has given me. I have finally found the one thing in my life that can really make me excited or get me down, and the one thing I can’t even imagine ever quitting on.
I would love to hear from all of you: what keeps you going despite the hard things that you have had to give up or change? What has Islam given to you in your life?