Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Ok, before you even read this post, you have to go read this love letter from a Muslimah, and this post on the sisterhood of Islam (unfortunately the sister has recently taken this site down, go check out her new blog here!).
“Allah will ask on Day of Judgement: “Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, on a day when there is no shade but Mine, I will shade them with My shade.”
Hadith Qudsi narrated in Muslim
This whole “love for the sake of Allah” thing was not something I really understood or experienced, up until very, very recently. Now that I do know how beautiful it is, however, I am a little obsessed with how much I love my fellow Muslimahs and our community, just for the fact that we are supposed to love each other as sisters in religion. Which is why, when I read those two posts above, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Especially that love letter, made me smile all day long!
The whole notion of sisterhood and community was one of the things that actually really attracted me to Islam, once I started studying a little more in-depth. I think it was The Ideal Muslimah that really clued me in to what a beautiful community the Muslims must have, always treating each other so kindly, giving gifts just for the joy of it, lending a helping hand to any sister in need. Upon citing these things to my house-mate, who was not much of a fan of the transition I was going through, as reasons that I was seriously considering Islam, she promptly told me that I should just join a book club or a knitting group, and I could find community that way; I didn’t have to make such a drastic change.
The thing is, I can talk about books or knitting or kittens to someone for a while, but at the end of the day, that is where our friendship is going to end. Maybe we will have a few other things in common, but I was in need of something much deeper: Islam isn’t a club that you get to join, it is an entire way of life. The bond you naturally have with someone who shares the same fundamental beliefs as you is very different from the bond you have with the girl who also happens to appreciate Dostoevsky. Because whether you prefer knitting or crochet or you don’t like needle-crafts at all, if you are a fellow Muslimah it doesn’t matter. We all have wildly varying personalities, interests, and cultures, and that is OK. We still love each other because at the core we are all on the same path, and we all have the same goal: to please Allah swt.
One thing that I missed, however, when I read The Ideal Muslimah and other books that expounded on the wonders of the sisterhood of Islam was the ideal part. Which is why I was left feeling a little jaded and bitter about the whole idea of sisterhood until just a few months ago.
For some reason, before I converted I expected every single Muslim sister I met to be wonderful and lovely and my best friend. I expected everyone to just love me for the sake of Allah swt, and I would love them back, and we would all get on fantastically. Obviously, that’s not how it works.
There are rude Muslim women, just like there were rude girls at my high school. Some women form cliques that I don’t get to be a part of because I am not an Arab, I don’t have kids, I don’t speak Urdu, or whatever their relationships are based on, just like outside of Islam you stick with people who have similar mindsets as you. And yes, there are plenty of mean and judgemental women in the mosques who just want everyone to practice exactly how they say it should be done, just like there is that one lady in the front pew of the church who is going to tell you off for running in the sanctuary as a kid and will for sure tell your mom whenever she sees you outside of your house (anyone else here from a small town?!).
Ideally, we Muslimahs should love each other for no other reason than the fact that we love and strive to please Allah swt. But we are all humans, and we are flawed.
So, since I converted, I have had a couple of really close Muslim friends, and learned to kind of avoid the community at large (at least in the U.K.).
When I started blogging though, I found “my people.” I have met plenty of sisters through blogging and WhatsApp groups that don’t necessarily share the same interests (and some that do) or even the same culture, but we are all kind and patient with each other because we have a deeper connection. I am even friends with sisters who I thoroughly disagree with on some topics within Islam itself, and I love them all the more for it because at the end of the day we are not here to judge and hate each other, but lift each other up and help each other along the way.
The basis of these relationships is the love of Allah swt, and I find that when I talk to these sisters I am constantly learning new things, striving to be a better person, and increasing in my remembrance of God. When I have a problem, I know I can turn to these sisters for advice without judgement, and when I have good news I know I can share it without jealousy.
And through experiencing this supportive, uplifting love and sisterhood, I have learned to love those women who put me through hell in the mosques, despite their flaws. I know now that in their hearts, they probably think they are doing their best to guide me. And I have found that even if they are rude and judgemental and not even a decent person, I should still remember them in my prayers because at the end of the day they are my sisters in Islam, and even if they don’t have any good will towards me, I should still be wishing the best for them.
That, I am learning, is the true nature of sisterhood; once you find them, it is easy to love someone for the sake of Allah swt who loves you for the same reason. It is easy to forgive faults in friends whose good sides you see more of than the bad. It is easy to “agree to disagree” with a sister who is kind and respectful to you despite your differing opinions.
It is hard to wish well for someone who has shown no kindness to you. Though it is a very emphasised sunnah of relationships, it is hard to forgive and cover the faults of a sister who has missed no opportunity to give your faults a public airing. It is hard to spare a smile for the sister always following you with her eyes, and a kind greeting for the sister who would never condescend to speak to you.
But that is the nature of our religion: we aren’t supposed to treat others as they treat us, we are supposed to treat others with kindness and respect, and show them the best of Islam in the hopes that one day, they can see the beauty of this religion too.