And covering. Wearing abaya and hijab. I've been doing it almost since I became Muslim. Is it hard? No, not really. I'm no fashionista and most of the time I love the abaya because I can toss it on, throw on a scarf, and I'm dressed for any occasion, no muss, no fuss. No one has to see the sweats underneath. But boy, some days I feel like I just want to rip off the scarf and feel the wind in my hair, the sun baking down on top of my bare head. I want to wear jeans and a t-shirt when I'm playing with the kids in the yard. I want to not trip over the stairs every single time I bring up the groceries. I want to not have to rush to throw something on, fumbling with snaps and wraps, when the UPS guy drops off a package or someone who turns out to be a little kid knocks on my door. I want to go swimming in a normal one-piece suit instead of a burkini.
I want to go out of the house and look like everyone else. I want to be invisible at Walmart so that the mean-looking lady doesn't give me the evil eye. I want to not have to worry about what's going on in someone's head when they see me. I'm not super self-conscious about it, but somewhere in the back of my mind is just the tiniest bit of awareness that someday, somewhere, some idiot might confront me or, worse, try to physically assault me, simply because of what I represent with my clothing. It'd be nice to not have to worry about that.
The Muslims. Sigh. Sometimes I want to disassociate myself from Islam just because there are stupid, idiot, ignorant, jackass people who call themselves Muslim who say and do the most idiotic things. Afghans growing opium, honor killings, acid attacks, subjugation of women, female genital mutilation, corrupt governments, bribery, cheating in business, hypocrisy. Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, is famously quoted as saying "Thank God I learned about Islam before I met Muslims." Frankly, sometimes it's just embarrassing to be identified as Muslim. It's like someone finding out you're related to one of the Kardashians or a serial killer. It's kind of hard to live down. I don't like having to give the "all Muslims are not terrorists" speech all the time.
I think the hardest thing about being Muslim, at least for me, is being aware of being Muslim all the time. I have a highly refined guilt complex, so I am immediately aware if something I am doing is haraam, or forbidden. I keep the radio on the news station. From time to time I'll check out the local pop music station and listen to a few songs. Wow, they sound gooooood . . . and then I'll immediately feel guilty.
Why am I not listening to Quran or at least nasheeds? But don't listen to too many nasheeds or that will be haraam too, because you should be listening to Quran. Well, maybe I'll listen to some classical music and that will be less haram . . . Oh, and TV. I watch the news and food shows and football. Should I be watching football? All those hunky guys in tight uniforms. Well, maybe if I only look at the offensive linemen, who are over 300 pounds and not really hunky at all. I'll just listen and not focus on the screen. But here comes a beer commercial. Haraaaaaam!
Ugh, there I go again. Islam is so hard. Islam requires that we be conscious human beings, aware of our surroundings, aware of wasting food, aware of how we deal with the opposite sex, aware of how we behave in business, aware of what we expose our kids to, aware of our environment, aware of how the less fortunate are abused, aware of ourselves, aware of our duty to Allah, aware of the fact that life is short and there's this big huge thing called Judgment Day.
And sometimes it gets to be overwhelming and I feel like I'll never measure up and I can't do this and I'm failing and why the hell should I keep trying because I'm tired and I just want to be an unconscious not-thinking-about-the-afterlife-all-the-time normal person. And dammit I just want to go to Burger King and order a bacon cheeseburger and eat it and enjoy it.
So, yeah, I've wondered what it would be like to not be Muslim anymore.
So what stops me?
"Ash hadu an la ilaha il Allah, wa ash hadu anna Muhammadur Rasool Allah."
I believe in One God, without partners. I believe that Allah sent messengers and prophets to teach us what was in the Books He revealed. I believe in angels, and I believe in a Day of Judgment, and I believe in Allah's Divine Decree. Logically, in my unromantic linear little German heart, I believe in Tauheed. I believe that we fragile, short-sighted human beings need rules and regulations to keep us from royally screwing up our lives. I see the proof of that all around me in society. I believe that Islam is true, that when I look at it honestly with the knowledge of my own frailties, all the do's and don'ts are really necessary.
We like to think we are strong and moral and self-regulating, but we're lying to ourselves. If we had no fear of Allah, most of us would be cheating on our spouses, smoking pot, drinking whiskey, cheating our bosses, or doing something else that is bad for us or for others, all the while smugly saying "I can do it because I am strong and I won't let it get the better of me." I believe in Islam.