Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
I wrote a post ages and ages ago with the exact same title as this one, and reading it back over a few days ago I found out it looked almost exactly like my recent post on finding my truth. I remembered writing that more for converts specifically, but was surprised to see the actual content of it. I had thought it actually focused on being yourself and listening to your own heart in the face of different societal/cultural pressures, but as it turns out it actually focused a lot on my own journey of finding my voice and learning to ignore the niggling, external “shoulds” in the back of my mind, in favor of following my own beliefs and goals.
Funny how cyclical life tends to be isn’t it? SubhanAllah.
I had been reading that post with the intent to find some old pieces to rejuvenate and reuse in the upcoming months, but since I already have a brand new post out that is so similar in content, I decided to start from scratch with this theme and see what it brings up for me now.
On being yourself: so often these days we are scared of anything less than conformity. Social pressure is at all time highs not only amongst the youth, but adults as well. It takes on different forms as you progress through life, but in the age of information, news, and glimpses into the lives of everyone around the globe right at our finger tips, 24/7, the pressure to feel like a part of the in-group is always present. We are acutely aware that we are the have-nots in a social media world of haves.
These thoughts are nothing new. Well, for me they are a little new. I have always been a march-to-the-beat-of-your-own-drummer (except in high school marching band where I marched to the beat of the actual drummer), even as I progressed through teenager-hood and my early 20s. But, very recently, a comment of my friend’s struck a bit of a chord with me where this is concerned.
We were talking about my blog, and she was telling me how awesome it would be if I started a YouTube channel to share my thoughts face à face, so to speak. And then she said, “well actually, you probably wouldn’t get any views on YouTube. You don’t wear makeup or turbans and are probably too conservative.”
That, in and of itself, doesn’t much bother me. What I began to think about, however, is the fact that I am not actually too conservative. Nor am I what people would call liberal. No indeed, I do not wear makeup in public nor do I think a turban style wrap with all your jewellery and boobage outside should be advertised “Islamic” hijab (though it is a step in the modesty journey for sure). But I also don’t fall on the other extreme of the spectrum that people would consider properly conservative; I do not wear only black, nor do I practice a whole lot of strictness for strictness’ sake alone.
What started to bother me a bit, is the fact that I don’t really fit anywhere. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of company in the middle of the spectrum and I find that even sisters I know with opinions and beliefs similar to mine don’t often speak out about them, for this same uneasiness that they will either be chided as too conservative by the more liberal or too loose by the more conservative.
I know, I am wandering a bit. I think what I am really trying to tell you is best summed up in the words of our Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhi wa salam:
“Religion is sincerity.”
Narrated by Muslim.
This hadith is most commonly explained with the meaning of sincerity to Allah swt, His messenger, and His book, the Qur’an. I think that to be sincere with in all three of these aspects of deen, you first have to be sincere with yourself in your own heart.
I have found that, while the notion of standing alone here in the middle is bothersome to my Western-programmed brain that just wants to fit in, my heart is entirely at rest. Because I know, deep down, that I am following my true beliefs and convictions and I am writing about what I am passionate about on this blog. I know that whatever comes out on these pages is from the most honest part of my heart, and therefore I feel no qualms about it.
So, to anyone out there struggling with your sincerity either in deen or, first and foremost, with yourself, I want to tell you to keep going. Keep working through whatever you are working through, and keep striving every day to become the best version of yourself (and no one else) that you can be. Remember to be gentle with yourself in the process.
We live in a world where everybody has an opinion and a platform to broadcast it loudly, and it is so, so easy to get lost in that; lost in all the “shoulds,” the “mustn’ts,” lost in all the “buy this” and “you need that,” and especially lost in all of the “be like this” and “certainly don’t be like that.”
But know that even when you feel alone or out of place, you aren’t. When you are being true to your beliefs and sincere with Allah swt, even if all the rest of the world is against you (which they probably won’t be because I think a lot more people are interested in sincerity and authenticity these days), He is on your side. And I think I would take that over all the fashion YouTubers or all the flocks of aunties in the mosques any day.
Also, I just want to take a second to ask you to please, sign up for the newsletter! You’ll get each weekly blog post that way, but also a lot more of my writing, thoughts, and ideas that way. Plus you will be still be around if I ever do make a new website, which you won’t be if you are only subscribed on WordPress. And if you need even more motivation, I am like this close to announcing my collaboration with another sister and giving you all the details on that, and it will be done through the newsletter! HERE is the link one last time, so get to it =)