23 Nov Gloria’s Story
When you’re starting to read this, you’re probably here for a reason. If you’re looking for reassurance, for a sign, for anything to make you feel like you’re on the right path – I don’t know if that is it. But I’ll try to be honest here. I’m a girl that somehow ended up reverting to islam and this might be the most bizarre decision I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve never really cared about religion since no one around me has – people go by the name of orthodox christians in my country but I know most of them haven’t opened a bible in their lives. That doesn’t mean that christianity isn’t culturally connected to my country and reverting left me feeling as if I’m betraying my national identity to some extent. It’s been almost two years since I’ve done it and frankly, there are still moments throughout the day when I forget about it. Saying that I’m muslim, especially in my native language feels weird, misplaced, but it’s true. Yes, I did take my shahada on 17th December 2017. Yes, I do pray my salah 5 times a day in a country where I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. Yes, I fasted on Ramadan even though I couldn’t do the entire month. Yes, it feels right to talk to God. Does that mean I understand the wisdom behind all the shariah say- definitely not. It’s a constant clash in my head and heart. My personal views about equality, when it comes to sexuality, gender or any other level of human expression aren’t the ones who orthodox sharia would approve of. Why did I revert then? I tried to look at the bigger picture, simplify things and ask myself, do you believe there is one God? One, who is the Creator, Sustainer, Provider of all things, Who holds the keys to all knowledge, Who was there before everything else and would be there after it. Who knows my struggles, my progress, who is aware of everything. If I’m outside in nature, look at a beautiful sight, pet a cat, observe how harmoniously and well-functioning is everything around me, from my own body to the planets revolving around the sun, all these cells working in darkness in synchrony, I need reassurance that this is not a random mix of atoms, just floating around without purpose. A human heart in fact feels empty without a steady purpose. We can try to distract ourselves, pretend to make many things our main purpose, as lots of people would just go after having kids, chasing after money and all sorts of material things and thinking it would fill up that quiet void inside. But we are all terrified of death to a point where it’s taboo subject and we are acting as if it’s never going to happen to us. Because what about after it? We wish to be eternal, we suffer after the loss of loved ones, we are never satisfied, we want more and more, looking for perfection and being constantly left frustrated because there is nothing, no one and no feeling on earth who or what would be completely perfect. I guess I needed to know that there is something, a force driving all those things around me for a reason, guiding all the hearts and events through all the various states we observe around us, progressing them and pushing them forward to some final state. The idea that I don’t matter, that no one around me in fact doesn’t matter is certainly too hard to bear. I needed the idea of God that is merciful and just, and I’m not sure why exactly islam clicked with me. Some signs around me back then interested me in reading the Quran in translation, and finishing it left me feeling like – so what now? I saw a girl my age praying salah in a Norwegian tv show, called skam (thanks Sana, I still can recall the first time I saw you making wudu and falling into sujud) and I thought I needed to know what is she doing, what does it mean to her. So I started researching, against all odds, in full secrecy from everyone around me, what does islam believe in, is it in fact so violent and bad as media portrays it. And after all that research, I decided to try to pray, first with my words, then learn al-Fatiha in translation, then in arabic. Then wrote down the parts of salah in the back of my diary. At this point I felt terribly conflicted because I liked doing this, it felt good but I felt so lonely not being able to talk about it to anyone. My mom eventually figured out that I’m doing something and asked me if I’m praying and I am incredibly grateful that she is accepting and eventually after some time, gradually I was able to tell her what I’m doing. Of course she was shocked but she was never aggressive alhamdulillah. My dad, on other hand, I wouldn’t want to know and still he doesn’t know, all that time later. He adores me to death, it’s scary how much he loves me and it saddens me deeply that this is something I can’t share with him. But I know he would never accept this decision I’ve made.
I thought people would have problem with me praying around them, I thought my friends would react badly – none of that happened. As long as you’re respectful and just do your thing as privately as the situation allows, people usually don’t care, might even be curious. You’ll find some people (even if it’s just online) who are in the same position as you. One tip – take things slowly. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t manage to do all things right in the beginning. It was terribly hard for me to grow out of that perfectionism and I’m still struggling with it. To my fellow perfectionists out there – remember, only Allah is perfect and Most Forgiving. Also, don’t think you’re not strong enough for this. Remember, Allah will ease you on this path, as impossible as this might sound to you right now. Things that seem absolutely hard now, like establishing prayer, like leaving behind some habits that have been with you your whole life, are possible. With time, you start trusting and relying on Him (or Them, if you prefer, sometimes I prefer it) more. You can start on new page everyday and be better version of yourself tomorrow, but wallah it takes effort and no one won’t do it for you. This stands not just for religion, it’s for every part of your life that you want to improve on. I like to connect my idea of islam to bettering myself – to be more conscious of divine presence, to be more thankful for all the blessings I am showered with everyday, to try to improve myself because that’s what human beings are made for in my head – to grow and recognize their responsibility and importance in the world. It might seem to me I’ve made barely any progress since that winter night almost two years ago but I know I’ve grown closer to Him. And that’s all that matters.