Muslim and...proud?

>> Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is it a bad thing that a lot of my friends do not know that I am Muslim. I never really mention it.

Assalam-o-alaykum wa rahmatullah hee wa barakatahu sister! :)

Your question, unfortunately, is a reflection of many a youth's dilemma today-that of an identity crisis. We've all at some stage gone through it, in one form or another. Sadly, the Muslim youth today is being targeted at so many levels through the media, social networks and many other things that is not balanced by a thorough knowledge of Islam.
Before I answer your question specifically, let me just quote a very well-known hadith:
It is narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu'minin, Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu 'anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, say:
"Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated."[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Keeping this in mind, let's tackle issue number 1-not mentioning that you're Muslim and if that's a bad thing, or not. Let me first ask you, is there a specific reason for you to not mention to your friends that you're Muslim? Are you ashamed of being a Muslim in light of all the anti-Muslim media coverage? Are you unsure of whether it's a good thing to be Muslim? Are you afraid of how your friends might react to the news? Are you afraid of being shunned by everyone or even bullied?

You see the answer to your question lies in the hadith. If you refrain from mentioning it because you live in a place with high anti-Muslim sentiments (more than normal) and might be target of not only mental but physical bullying then in my humble opinion, it’s okay, and the answer for you finishes here.
However, if nothing like that is going to happen, and you're just afraid of getting 'weird looks' or being 'looked down upon for being backward' then I am afraid you need to read on.

*puts on serious people glasses*
(^Sorry for that, but being 'in the mode' helps me answer better :D )

I am just going to say one thing, straight and simple (and really, there is no other way to say this)-be proud of who you are and be thankful and grateful for it. You could've been born a non-Muslim and then where would you be? By not being proud of Islam, you're being ungrateful instead of thankful for the HUGE favour conferred upon you by Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala).

Allah(subhanahu wa ta'ala) mentions in Surah Maidah:
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.

Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) tells us in the Quran that not only is Islam perfect, but it is His favour upon us and He Himself approved (or chosen according to some translations) Islam for us. Should we not be prouder than proud of something given to us by Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) when we are so proud of worldly achievements? He gave us a way of life, all gift wrapped in shiny wrapping paper, we didn't even have to wander blindly for ages or to search for it and then spent time learning it, unlike people who revert so we should be even more grateful!

Now you might ask, how exactly is one proud of Islam? One might feel proud about something in their heart. After all, it’s what's in the heart that counts, right? Welll...yes. And no. (Oops, veering off of topic here-more about this later in a more relevant post). For now, suffice it to say that when something is inside you, is present within every beat of your heart, is a strong strong emotion, it generally shows itself in some way or another. Hands up all people who've been embarrassed (a tiny bit, during teenage) by their parents who were 'bursting due to pride' when you aced a test, or won a race, or came first in class-small achievements but very big for the parents. *raises hand* They go around telling people about it. They walk around with a proud smile. They thump your back a dozen times a day. Trust me, it shows. Thus if we are proud of Islam, it shows in our every action. It shows in our following of Sunnah of the Prophet (salallahu alayhee wasallam). It shows in our character, when we refrain from things like lying and backbiting because Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) has forbidden them for us. It shows when we stay away from activities which might be the norm, just because it's not the way of the Salaf. It shows when we leave whatever we're doing, and rush towards salah when the Muezzin makes adhaan. It shows when we tell our friends that we're Muslims, and tell them about this special religion.

Not only this, but Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) has also mandated certain guidelines in dress for women, just so they could be recognized as Muslim women:
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

Therefore, Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) wants us to be recognized as Muslim women (and men). And if Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) wants that for us, then it must be a good thing and we should want it for ourselves too!

Before I finish, let me highlight some benefits of telling your friends you're Muslim:

1) Peace of mind- you're obviously disturbed/uneasy about the fact that most of your friends don't know that you're Muslim. Well, once you tell them, that unease shall be gone forever! *poof*

2) You'll find out who your true friends are. If this hesitation stems from the fact that you feel that these people won't be your friends anymore or distance themselves once they know you're Muslim, then so be it! The ones that stick by will be the ones who are your real friends. Really, your friends can't be real friends until they know your basic structure and for a Muslim, Islam IS the basic structure. It's our identity. It defines our choices in life. It is our Deen-our way of life. So if someone isn't comfortable with your way of life-would you really want to be friends with them? I know I can only be good friends with people I'm entirely comfortable and at ease with, people around whom I can be myself.

3) It's an opportunity for dawah! Might be that some of the people in your friends circle are looking to 
know more about Islam but want to turn towards a Muslim rather than the media, which many people are now realizing can be misleading. Or can be that someone's curiosity gets sparked and they get interested in Islam once they find out you're Muslim. Or could be that someone is depressed or sad-as research tells us most people are unless they have a purpose in life (and what greater purpose than the purpose we were made for?!)-and they hear you tell something about Islam and they come towards it and finally find peace! The opportunities are endless!

So here's what I need you to do. Think hard about why you don't mention it (be truthful!), once you've realized the root cause, work towards eradicating it. Listen to lectures where speakers talk about the beauty of Islam, about Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), about the Prophet (sallalahu alayhee wasallam) and how he (sallalahu alayhee wasallam) used to cry and make dua for his Ummah (yes that's you and me!), about the Sahaba and the Muslims of the past who went through trials for Islam (we consider people who accepted the faith of the past Prophet's (alayhee salaam) as Muslims too!), who walked proud on earth as Muslims, even when they were humiliated and tortured. Listen to conversion stories, a lot of reverts speak about how they used to know some Muslims and they never told them about the beauty of Islam and they went through a lot of struggle to eventually discover it. Let it all sink in. Take a deep breath. Smile. And let the change begin!

I make dua that Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) makes it easy for you and others in a similar situation, and that others benefit from you and us. Ameen! 

Love and hugs,


Tired of Being the Odd One Out

>> Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"I live in area we live in-there's basically no other muslims around. I'm the only Muslimah in my grade of around five hundred kids, and one out of five in the entire school. I don't want to judge, but the other ones don't really seen to be practicing. I have a good amount of friends, but that was only through several years of forcing myself to talk, because I used to be really shy. Anyways, whenever I'm with them, I just end up feeling horrible afterwards. I hate their constant swearing and super vulgar language, topped with the fact that they are boy crazy and find it odd that I'm not. I really fed up with it, because it's preventing me from becoming a better Muslimah- if anything it's slowing chipping away at my faith. On top of all this, I have gym class starting next week, which means thigh exposing shorts and super short, v-necked tshirts. I really, really don't want to be the odd one out anymore, wearing baggy pants and a long sleeved shirt in ninety degree weather, having to deal with comments like "oh aren't you hot in that?" Or "is your religion the one which forces women to cover up like that?" I get that one a lot, about a variety of things. It's tiring being the odd one out. I just want some help..."

Sister, I hope you are in the best of health and Eman.:)

This is a great question you have brought up. As humans, we are social beings. It’s healthy to want to have friends.

HAVING said that, it can be challenging to go to a school where you’re one of the few Muslims. I had a similar situation growing up where my sister and I were the only Muslim/Hijabis in elementary and among very few Muslim/Hijabis in junior high and high school. I was shy in school, too. I remember at times feeling awkward and out-of-place. Feeling like there was something wrong with me. WHy couldn’t I relate to others? I thought it was because I was shy and I thought I was the only one... Now, however, I realize that my older sister went through similar things. And it definitely helped a lot to talk to her and feel like I was o.k. :) So it definitely helps to talk to someone else going through similar things. Maybe you might find there’s another sister who also feels uncomfortable just like you in the group. Often times, we become so focused on how we feel that we assume it’s unique to us. However, we may not realize that there are other people going through similar feelings and experiences.

Let me tell some of the other things that helped me through school.

REMINDING yourself that (High) School is temporary. High school is only four years. And if that still doesn't make you feel better, how about reminding yourself that high school is not your whole day! It helps to put it into perspective. Don't let Shaitan make you feel like high school is forever. It is definitely NOT a permanent or absolute situation. Which brings me to another important tip.

SEEKING other environments where you would find better friends, i.e. masjid, religious gatherings, volunteering, etc. Try to find different avenues to make better friends. Yes, school may be for 6-7 hours 5 days a week, but you still have the rest of the day. It made a huge difference for me going to weekend islamic school. I got a chance to hang out with other Muslim girls and it was fun. Whereas in High school I would feel weird at times, on Sundays I felt more comfortable with myself, and I realized that I could still be social and feel right. So even if you’re unable to find good friends at school, it really helps to seek other avenues. You don’t have to limit yourself to your school only.

MAKING yourself busy at school with extracurricular activities. I don’t know about you but I enjoyed taking challenging classes in High school like AP courses. It just made high school more interesting, alhamdulilah. This worked for me but you could find other ways to busy yourself, maybe joining a club at school. These would still give you that social aspect and a better environment. ?You would be talking about meaningful things and ideas (hopefully). You would also get to meet other girls with similar values. They don’t have to be Muslim. Yes, they don't have to be your close friends with whom you spend all your time with, but finding girls who also don’t like swearing, vulgar language, and aren’t constantly talking about boys would still benefit you. Plus you could still discuss religion with them. That way, you would be doing dawah as well.

Ok, so you brought up how you feel horrible and don’t feel right hanging out with your current friends. It’s a blessing that you feel this discomfort and realize they may not be right for you. It’s a blessing from AllahSWT. I can see you already realize that they are affecting your deen negatively. I’m glad that you feel that way and aren’t instead justifying hanging out with them by making excuses like they won’t change you or you don’t have a choice, etc, mashaallah. Because the reality is, who we hang out with really does affect us, whether we choose to be aware or not.

the Prophet ﷺ said: “A person is on the religion of his companions. Therefore let every one of you carefully consider the company he keeps.” [Tirmidhi]

Also in this hadith:

The Prophet ﷺ reminds us of the importance of good company in this hadith (record of the Prophet ﷺ): “A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

So both of these are reminders of how important making good friends is.

So then, what should we be look for in a true friend?

The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked: “Which of our companions are best?” He replied: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.

If we find someone with these three qualities, then we are truly blessed. So look for these three qualities in a friend. Again, it's ok if you can't find that kind of person in school. There are other places...

OK, so now let’s tackle your worry about gym class. Sister, let me ask you a question? Would you feel comfortable wearing thigh exposing shorts and super short, v-necked tshirts? Or would you feel horrible afterwards? I know it can seem like it would be easier to just wear that so you’re not the odd one out anymore. But would that really solve your problem? Is it really as simple as looking the same on the outside? I mean, aren’t there other things that differentiate you from others, as well?

AND is it such a bad thing to be different?

 I mean, if you get to be who you want to be, isn't that better? I know it's easier said than done, but truly we are happier that way. Plus, it's IMPOSSIBLE to please everybody. You'll just compromise your beliefs and values and still you will have people not accept you. Imagine how horrible that would feel. In contrast, if you are yourself, then yes you will have people who might not like you for choosing to think differently, act differently, and be different. BUT you will also be surrounded by people who actually like you for who you are. And confidence goes a long way. Trust me, everybody has that pressure of conforming to what's considered "normal". But, the right people will respect you for sticking to your own ideals .

A secret about wearing clothes, as I said confidence goes a long way. Have you ever noticed someone who was wearing something way outrageous but they looked comfortable in it? How about someone who was wearing something that may look "normal" but they didn’t look comfortable in it. Who do you notice more? My answer would be the latter one. Yeah, maybe the outrageous outfit would catch my eye first. But after a while I wouldn’t be so shocked anymore. I would associate their outfit with who they are. It wouldn’t mean I would be agreeing with their outfit choice, just accepting that that’s part of them. On the other hand, we can often sense someone who's not uncomfortable in what they are wearing. And despite how mainstream their attire is, it wouldn’t really help their case because they would still look “odd in it.”.

Also, you are more than what you wear. So just by wearing what everyone else is wearing is not really going to be enough to feel like a part of the group or to be “accepted by them”.

Ok, so I know you’ll still get comments like  “Aren’t you oppressed for covering up” etc. So how to combat those comments that make you feel odd or annoyed?

WELL sister, you could use them as dawah opportunities. Meaning explaining to them why we really wear it. That it’s important to you and just because it may be a struggle doesn’t mean you’ll forsake it. Try to explain it to them with an analogy that they may understand. For example, someone who's vegan doesn't stop being vegan just because it's difficult at times to find good vegan-friendly food. They're vegan not because it's easy but because they have bigger reasons for their choice (e.g. animal cruelty). Btw, I hope you don't think I'm trying to convince you to become vegan. :) Alhamdulilah we can have halaal meat.

OK, so how about the "Aren't you hot in that?" comments, you ask? Yes, those can become tiring after a while. It may help to have a short response ready for those comments beforehand. Or you could go the humor route... 

Hehe. :) Just something to make you smile. I saw this a while back and it made me laugh.

Lastly, make DUA to Allah Subhanaho wa ta’aala. Even though AllahSWT knows how you feel, share with him your fears and your struggles in school. Inshallah this can be an oopportunity for good deeds and personal growth. :)

Ok, that’s all of my advice. Here's also a previous response for more advice on the matter with friends. And this is a bit of advice on being 'different', too:

P.S. Sister, I have to thank you for sending this question in. I feel it came at a right time for me. As I was trying to frame my answer, I had a chance to reflect on friendship and Islam. Finding good company has also been a struggle for me as well as many other sisters. So you're not alone.

Take care!


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