For most of my life, I hated my parents’ faith and everything associated with it. From the first time I walked into a mosque and looked up at bearded Bengali men eager to put me in my place, I was determined to escape every trace of Islam.
When I arrived at Queen’s, things got complicated. I couldn’t tear myself away from being a Muslim no matter how hard I tried. People who looked like those bad guys in the mosque – but didn’t act like them – became my best allies.
This will be the first year that I will observe Ramadan alone.
After living my degree in a place that rewards anything far removed from my parents’ version of Islam – drinking, dating, the pursuit of individual happiness – and spending a summer being called a terrorist, I’m faced with what it’s like to be a shitty muslim away from home.
Am I gonna force a date in my mouth to iftar even when my mother doesn’t raise an eyebrow expectantly? will i pray Tarawih without my father’s radiant smile to the daughter who redeems her son? Am I going to wear skimpy dresses in the Kingston heat while fasting from a caffeine headache?
It seems that only books can help me make sense of my perpetual identity crisis.
Of course, the Muslim women around me will always inspire me. The problem is Muslims can’t show weakness in a place like Queen’s and in a place like the one I grew up in, no sign of deviation or vulnerability – something as simple as a girl smiling too much at herself long in a so-called ‘bad place’ – comes with the threat of losing the only community you’ve ever known.
So I turned to the authors. They taught me that I can be any type of Muslim I want to be, and that will never make me less of who I am.
Hadia at Fatima Farheen Mirza A place for us taught me that the Quran holds the space to love someone from any tribe. Hadia’s faith does not waver when she asks for water from a cask or when she announces her devotion to a man of another sect.
In Laugh until the mosque, in no uncertain terms, Zarqa Nawaz told me that a devout Muslim woman does not need to be still. She can be the loudest and funniest person in a room. She can watch her mother’s conferences, from afar, with humor and nostalgia.
The main character of Ayisha Malik in Sofia Khan doesn’t have to reminded me that even the ideal hijabi girl spends as much time as anyone thinking about sex and all its awkward logistics.
These authors are the reason why, this Ramadan, I will fast without feeling guilty for the joints I have smoked and the impure thoughts I have had during the other eleven months of the year. The honesty of these Muslim authors helps me be everything I am, even in a world that wants women to be anything but honest.
More importantly, they teach me if there’s a God up there – my parents’ or someone else’s – they’re probably okay with my streak of failed boyfriends and my love of rosé as long as I mostly try to be good.
Ramadan Mubarak to all who celebrate it. For every date you eat alone, know that I am in my kitchen, wrinkling my nose at the taste, proud of the Muslims we are becoming.