I was born a Muslim
But I fell in love with Islam just a few short years ago.
I was born a Muslim.
But I fell in love with Islam just a few short years ago.
For as long as I can remember, things like 'prayer & faith in Allah' were always a part of my life – reinforced through the words of my grandparents, parents and older siblings.
My awareness of Islam was there. My mum would take me along to the local Saturday school to attend classes where the basics of my deen were taught to me.
Though – something was a little different with my childhood.
Most children grow up in a household where their levels of religiosity and personal views of Islam were dictated by one character in the house (a father/ older sibling/ grandparent).
Whichever way that particular figure chose to portray Islam is usually how the kids ended up understanding it.
For example, a child who'd see their parent have an active role in the mosque would grow this love for the Masjid in their own lives – and so on.
This wasn't the case for me.
I knew from a young age that I was given a lot of free rein when it came to understanding Islam and figuring out what it all meant to me.
See, the thing is – you can be born a Muslim, yet still find Islam a lot later on down the line.
It's the summer of 16' (a core memory for many), thick eyebrows were back in, Pokemon Go took over people's social lives, and I was about to enter college. ⏰
Being just one of a handful of South Asian girls in my high school, you can imagine that the entirety of my cultural and religious identity has been suppressed up until this point.
The area in which I grew up never posed much opportunity for me to express my Muslim self, let alone any seek knowledge on it.
- I had friends that I wasn't certain of
- Anything that was 'cool' was never in line with my morals
- I was too white for the brown kids, and too brown for the white ones
Essentially, I was a wounded soldier on the battlefield of adolescence.
While I enjoyed my teenage years, I always knew I didn't belong. After many surface-level friendships and appearance complexities, this empty hole inside rapidly grew.
Here's what I did know:
Islam was there for me, waiting.
Even when my world felt fake, over-bearing, and suffocating.
I had something that no-one else around me had.
It was this burning desire to tap into and learn my deen, which would soon save me from the emptiness I had been feeling for years.
Isn't it crazy how something can be there that whole time but you don't see it's beauty until you dare to look at it?
18 & Going Back to Basics
By 18, I felt completely lost.
High school 'friends' were nowhere to be seen, my siblings were all officially hitched, and my world was becoming a little quieter.
I took a gap year so I could get my first 'real world' job to help pay my phone bill (yup – the only bill I had back then!).
But, I still craved that connection to my faith.
I'll always tell people that it was my older brother who encouraged me to take my deen more seriously. We always joke about how similar we are, but I really am convinced our brains are wired the same way.
It was February of 2019, and he signed me up to the same class that he'd been attending for quite some time.
The class covered everything from Arabic reading and writing, to deeper knowledge of Islam itself.
He told me that he'd spoken to the teachers and they were 'so happy have me on board' – though I was clueless as to what I was about to enter.
My trust in his decision is what got me through the door on my first day.
I walked in apprehensively, only to be greeted by the warmest of smiles from a dozen Muslim women draped in modesty and elegance.
Little did I know that these women were about to become beloved friends of mine.
For the first time in 18 years – I felt like I was somewhere I was meant to be.
This wasn't an ordinary class to me, it was the beginning of my journey to finally filling the void I had experienced for so long, and finding the kind of sisterhood that I never knew could exist.
Relearning Islam Meant Unlearning my False Perceptions
I've never been afraid of new situations, nor did I deal with anxiety as a teen– so why did I walk into that class so nervously in the first place?
The truth is, I was petrified of being a beginner in something I felt I should have known since I was a young girl – my Islam.
But to really make the most of this new journey, I had to unlearn my negative perceptions of it, such as:
- I'm too old to start now
- My life will only get busier from this point and the knowledge will get lost
- I don't want these people knowing how poor my Arabic or knowledge is
- My life isn't perfect so learning my religion feels out of place
These are real thoughts I had.
But if I didn't let go of them, I'd fall into this downward trajectory of self-doubt and demotivation.
Here's the truth:
✍🏼 You're never to old to get to know your deen (in 10 years time, you're still going to grow older – but the difference is you can be older with a deeper understanding of Islam instead)
🤲🏼 I can (and have been able to) make my life work around my classes
💓 Everyone has to start somewhere (who cares what others think?!)
🤷🏽♀️ No-one's life is perfect. We're human and the very basis of our existence is built upon this thing called 'flaws'.
👇Benefits of Starting Again as an Adult
Whilst it would have been great to grow up with the knowledge and skills I now have, starting afresh as an adult has had so many benefits.
The older we get, the more connected we are to the decisions we make for ourselves. Naturally, there's more motivation, determination and strength behind our actions because we want to take that step.
We pose more confidence in our adult life than as a teenager because there's less fear of judgement or loss
We can easily apply our knowledge to everyday life, work settings, career paths, family life and other relationships
Continued learning as an adult is scientifically proven to be good for our mental health and happiness
Anything that makes us feel like a beginner can be overwhelming – my 14 year old younger self will tell you that for free!
But sometimes we have to remind ourselves that studying is a lifetime process.
If you're thinking about becoming a beginner again – take that leap of faith, keep feeding the curious mind, and never cease to learn more.