Hard Truth Tuesday is where readers submit questions or seek advice from our MissMuslim relationship blogger – Faiza Rammuny. To submit your questions – email Faiza at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For years I have been struggling with my faith. I am half Egyptian and half Bengali – and Muslim, and I have always struggled to not only find a balance between my two cultures, but also understanding my faith. My westernized parents who are detached from their culture, do not help me in this process. My mother left Islam twenty years ago, while my dad considers himself a “modern Muslim.” My extended family members, however, are very religious.
The trouble I’m having now is defining what modesty is in Islam. My grandmother is an old-school Egyptian woman, who doesn’t always agree with my lifestyle choices. My uncle and aunt, the two people who practically raised me, interpret modesty as wearing loose clothing and showing minimal skin. They don’t think modesty necessarily equates to wearing the hijab but I still don’t understand the rules involved with modesty.
Before I met my Albanian Muslim boyfriend, I used to go out and drink my life away every weekend. My parents thought I should enjoy my college years and did not rebuke me for my actions, instead telling me I should not be too hard on myself. My boyfriend really helped me realize how faith can change your life. I go to the mosque every Friday now and try to learn as much as I can. All my family members witnessed how I’ve turned my life around, though I cannot help the lingering feeling that they assume I am just like my parents. When I see my cousins and aunts talk about other Muslim girls not being “proper” and how they feel bad for the parents, I wonder what they think about me. Do they think I’m immodest? Do they talk about me behind my back? I like my crop tops and shorts; I don’t feel like I’m being outlandish and promiscuous by wearing clothes that make me feel comfortable.
I feel like I can never be a part of the Muslim community and do not belong to the community. I honestly feel like my extended family members, and also the Middle Eastern and South Asian communities, will always see me as the white washed hybrid.
Now the question I ask myself is whether I should mold myself into a proper Muslim woman or stay true to who I am?
Dear Modest Muslim,
The path to discovering who we are and then sticking to that image is both physically and emotionally exhausting. It almost feels like a never ending journey some days. But that’s simply because it is. It all comes down to being happy with the person that you decide to be. When that happens, it’s like magic. The awesome kind of magic not the Severus Snape kind. It sounds though, like you haven’t quite gotten there yet.
Here’s the hard truth: Everyone is going to have an opinion of you. Let me repeat that. Everyone and their mother and father and cousin and brother and sister and long lost child is going to have an opinion about you. Some of these opinions will be good. Others will be bad. Others will be soul crushing. As hard as you try you will never be able to control these opinions. Think of it this way. You could make the world’s most delicious apple pie and there will still be people who don’t like apple pie. It’s not your fault they don’t like apple pie. This is what we call a personal problem. It’s not your job to fix people’s personal problems. It’s not your duty to make someone like apple pie.
I’ve been in your position before. Everyone felt the need to give their two cents on whether I was a good Muslim or a bad Muslim. The fear I had over the perception of others became of the utmost importance to me. I was trapped in a bubble of opinions but none of them were my own. Eventually all this pulling and prodding led me to have an emotional breakdown.
This breakdown brought me to a crossroads. I could either continue trying to please everyone around me or I can try to please myself. I chose the most important person: me.
In your life, you are the most important person. You are the one who has to live with yourself everyday and look yourself in the mirror and justify your decisions. So why are you putting the opinions of others before your own?
As far as modesty in Islam, that is also something you must discover on your own. Allah sees all and knows the intention of your heart, that is what matters. Make your intentions clear and act within them. Pray and seek guidance from the only One Who Guides. Your family members are pushing their personal interpretations of Islam onto you. So ask yourself, what is my interpretation?
I want you to know that it is VERY possible to find a happy and healthy balance between who you are and your religious/cultural background. It will not be easy. But then again, is anything ever easy?
I hope I was able to help in some small way.
Remember, keep praying, keep finding yourself and keep being FABULOUS!