I’m not the best Muslim— I neither pretend to be nor care about what anyone on Earth has to say about it (except maybe my parents but I’m working on that). My deen is mine and mine alone. Some days, I hate religion and all the hurt and anger it seems that it’s brought about… other days, I realize it’s not faith that has destroyed humanity but rather mankind who has complicated and destroyed religion. I constantly struggle to keep my faith intact, but this struggle is made more difficult when those who are supposed to love me, cast their judgment over what I do and more specifically, who I love, letting it negatively affect our relationship and how they treat me.
I want to make one thing clear — I would never in a million years ask or expect my boyfriend to convert. It might be what it takes for our relationship to be considered halal in the eyes of the haram police and critics, but it does not make it morally right. Faith is a personal and spiritual choice, one that no one can ever tell you to make—regardless of what word of God they passionately believe is right. In fact, if there is one conviction that I firmly believe (and wish the rest of the world would memorize as well) it is this: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.”
Faith is a personal and spiritual choice…
If by some chance my boyfriend decided he fell in love with Islam and truly wanted to convert, I would welcome him in and be there every step of the way… but I would do the same if he decided he wanted to become Buddhist, Christian, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As his girlfriend, I am there only to support and love him— not to make his decisions for him or tell him what to do. Besides, the Quran literally says it’s wrong to force our religion onto others. And so does my own conviction.
Despite multicultural/interfaith relationships being difficult and challenging — I wouldn’t ask my boyfriend to convert when a good chunk of my family hasn’t exactly rolled out the red carpet and shown him the warmest welcome. When your only picture of Islam, besides what your girlfriend shares with you, is what the media tells you as well as indifferent, cold, isolation from supposed Muslims simply because you were born into another religion and her parents don’t approve of you dating their daughter; conversion is the last thing on your mind. In fact, I’m honestly surprised and beyond thankful that my boyfriend hasn’t headed for the hills (shout out to my brother, sister, cousin and Muslim friends who believe in and support us though — you’re the real MVPs).
We look at the same verses in the Quran and interpret them just a bit differently because of the culture and environment that influenced our thinking.
While I don’t have their support at this moment, my parents aren’t cold, heartless people who don’t love their child. They’ve made so many sacrifices by uprooting themselves from their successful and comfortable lives to another country where the culture is so different from the one they grew up in just so their children would be exposed to better opportunities — so I am forever indebted to them. After all, if it wasn’t for them and their decision to move to America, I wouldn’t be here writing about my challenging but so-worth-it love story.
The issue with my parents is that they were born and raised in a different country right when said country gained its independence from its European oppressor and thus began developing its nationalistic, Muslim identity. The Islam that they were exposed to and grew up with is not the one that I’ve come to know and love personally and on my own through a lot of soul-searching and questioning. We look at the same verses in the Quran and interpret them just a bit differently because of the culture and environment that influenced our thinking.
The Quran states, clear as day, “Verily, for those who believed [in the prophets who were sent before you], as well as for those Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans who believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment and do pious deeds, there are rewards at their Lord.“ To me, that tells me everything that I need to know to conclude that there is nothing wrong with my relationship. My parents’ version of Islam, however, acknowledges this verse as platonic love and respect for our non-Muslim, monotheistic brothers and sisters. They believe that despite this excerpt, only men can be romantically involved with non-Muslim, monotheistic women since the Quran only explicitly states, “And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you.”
But nowhere in the book does it say whether Muslim women can or cannot be romantically involved with a Jew or Christian– it is the heavily outdated and patriarchal interpreters of the religion that have deemed it haram. In my heart of hearts, however, I strongly believe that this was just the result of scholars with their own biases who thought that they knew best what God’s intentions are. I often find myself struggling to keep my faith because of the judgment and close-minded interpretations from many that plague the ummah but at the same time, they lead me to do my own research and form my own personal relationship with spirituality.
It’s because of people like that, who push me away and make me resentful, that I decided to get involved with such a necessary platform in which many women like myself can finally get our voices back. It is because of them that I did more research into the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and the text that was revealed to him. It is thanks to them that I truly understand that man and woman are equal in Islam– despite what the media and actions of certain regimes would have us believe. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Women are the twin-halves of men.” Islam gave women rights and made them equal to their male counterparts. Logically, that should apply to love as well.
Despite the roadblocks I face or the awful things I see in the news, I know that my Islam isn’t one in which people are snubbed for not being born into what some may deem to be the “chosen” religion. It is one in which everyone is accepted, regardless of whether they are black or white, Muslim or Jewish, gay or straight, etc. I’m sure there are, and always will be, the naysayers who will condemn me — those who have fallen victim to the patriarchal interpretation of Islam that has hooked its claws tightly around a good majority of this world. But if being a compassionate, loving, genuine human being — like Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), as well as Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both) — makes me a bad Muslim in their eyes, well then I’m more than okay with it.