Islam is Not a Religion of Don’t

My husband and I recently took a short vacation, our first time away from the kids together in almost fourteen years of marriage. He’s gone overseas several times and I’ve been away from the kids from time to time while birthing siblings, but we’ve never had the chance to unplug, turn off the Mommy and Daddy radar, and just enjoy ourselves. We don’t trust our kids with many people, but his sister was down for a visit and we knew she could keep the house in one piece and take care of them, so with no worries we set off north for the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

We left on Thursday morning and stayed away until early evening Saturday. During that time, we enjoyed not being on a schedule. We ate, went to a movie, visited the National Aquarium, stepped aboard a restored naval sloop that sailed the seas in the 1800s, ate some more, drank free room service coffee, visited local thrift stores (yes, it is an addiction), and prayed the Friday prayer. We were very busy, and had a lot of fun.

Why should I even remark on this? Well, sometimes I hear non-Muslims and Muslims complaining that Islam is a religion full of strictures. A huge list of thou shalt nots to put the Ten Commandments to shame. “Man, I can’t party anymore? I can’t drink, I can’t smoke, I can’t go dancing, I can’t hang out at the club, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t”. People get told that every single thing they did before they were Muslim is haraam, forbidden, and in a sincere effort to be pious, they wrap themselves in a cloak of “can’t” and soon enough are strangling in the fabric.

Listen, there are don’ts in Islam. There are things which are completely forbidden, and if you’ve lived a “normal” American or western lifestyle, sure, there will be some adjustments to be made. But Islam is not a religion where people are supposed to wag fingers at you and tell you everything outside of prayer and fasting is “nasty awful dunya worldy stuff”. People who do that are what I like to call dingleberries. And wrong.

When we give up something for the sake of Allah, we don’t end up with nothing to do, but we do have to find permissible pleasures to substitute for the old stuff. No pork, but there’s tofu (yeah, bleh, but still), turkey bacon, beef bacon, beef sausage, halaal marshmallows. It’s easy to avoid pork so if you are sad that you can’t have that half-pound Baconator sandwich at your local fast food joint, you can go home make one for yourself.

No, you can’t drink alcohol, but there’s juice, milk, water, soymilk. Okay, juice doesn’t give you a buzz, but warm milk can relax you and you won’t have to worry about getting drunk after a long night of milkshakes or smoothies.

No, you can’t shack up with every girl or guy who winks, but you can develop a – gasp! -meaningful relationship and get married. Oh, yeah, I can write a whole raft of articles about marriage in Islam, but we’ll save that for another day.

You see, Islam is as full of “Yes You Can” as an Obama re-election rally. You just have to adjust your attitude and develop a wider perception of what fun is. Clubbing gets old fast, and if you do a lot of clubbing, so do you! How about renting a boat and going fishing on a local lake or river? Going on a picnic in the park? Checking out local historical sights? My state, Virginia, is lousy with historical sights. Visit a museum, go to a soccer game, invite people over for a barbecue, read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle. Need something more extreme? Take up martial arts, race cars, skydive, get into extreme unicycling. There is so much you can do as a Muslim that I defy you to be bored. If you wall yourself up with can’t, it is because someone told you the wrong thing about Islam or you just haven’t discovered what your permissible passion is.

Being Muslim doesn’t mean being a dour serious sort who never has any fun. I sure wouldn’t have made it twenty years without killing someone if I had listened to all the “haraam alaikers” in my midst. I’ve managed to have a rich life that does not include one-night stands, booze-filled nights, smoky nightclubs, or reality TV. I am not bored, I am not oppressed, and anyone who knows me knows I am not dour. I live a full life and do it wthin the bounds of Islam, and I know you can too. There is a whole world of halaal out there if you know where to look.

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