When Khaled and I were dating, the subject of children inevitably came up. We discussed how many and what names we would like, and what religion we would raise them. From the very beginning, I was set on them being raised with his religion. Did I have a clear idea of what that religion encompassed? No. Did I know any more than the 5 pillars? – in all honesty, I only knew 1 or 2. What I did know, is that my husband grew up in a formally religious environment, where every day was met with meaningful ritual, and when the sh*it hit the fan, Khaled would buckle down and pray, and come back to the issue more centered, calm and confidant.
As I mentioned in the last post, growing up we went to church sporadically. But from the time I can remember, we were taught to pray before we went to sleep, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” And at dinner time we would always say this blessing that my Grandmother wrote, “Father thanks to Thee we give, for this world in which we live, for Blessings past and those to be, Father thanks we give to Thee.” I also remember that when going to my maternal Grandmother’s house, she would always cross herself before eating, because my mother’s family is Catholic.
We went to church for spurts of time, becoming somewhat active members and then drifting away. Usually it centered on one of us performing some sort of religious milestone, like First Communion or being Confirmed. It always seemed to me that there was a struggle to maintain a religious presence in our home. In my memory, I have always attributed it to my mother converting from Catholicism to the Lutheran Church when she and my father married. It seemed to me that she missed the church and religion that was a comfort to her. Now, I realize that it was entirely possible that this gut feeling that I had was just one of the many reasons, or maybe it had nothing to do with anything at all.
When I was in high school, I had 2 friends that I was quite close with that would attend church regularly and I would spend the night as often as I could so that I would be able to go with them. They were in the youth group and they often invited me to go to events with them. My teen years were filled with rebellion and angst, as almost all teenagers. My friends were the youngest in their families so they pushed and rebelled more extremely than I did (being the oldest, the ‘Mommy’ of the group) and even when they were in the most trouble, they fell back to center. They came back to that place where they would pray, and take comfort from their internal struggle and the struggle against their parents and just be at peace. I so wanted that.My spiritual journey began. It was a quest of sorts. One that I am still on, searching for that way to come back to center.
I want that for my children. I want them to have that structure, that safe harbor, the framework to be engrained in them. I want them to have the ritual to take comfort in, so that when they are rebelling and lashing out at the world they will have peace somewhere inside of their soul. I want them to know and feel that they are part of something bigger than the daily struggles that challenge them. I want them to have a strong religious foundation.
So, I signed on to raising my children Muslim before I even knew what being Muslim meant. I trusted my husband because even without him telling me, I felt that inner peace that he has deep in his core and I wanted that for my children. I have tried to perform the Salah with my children at various times throughout the last eleven years and it always feels wrong to me. It doesn’t speak to my soul, and I cannot hear God. I watch my children pray with Khaled and it brings me to tears because I know that they hear God when they pray.
My daughter asked me the other day, “Mommy, Do you Pray?” and I answered her honestly, of course I pray. But what I left unspoken is that I pray in the mismatched way that I’ve pieced together bits from one religion and words from another. I pray in a way that works for me. I talk to God, I say the Lords Prayer, I recite the Fatihah, I give thanks and praise for everything I have and for what is to come. I ask for guidance and wisdom. The closest way that I can answer my baby without overburdening her with the baggage that comes with my quest with God is that I make Dua’a. To my children, that makes sense.