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!

4 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Huda February 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM  

Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah!!

SubhanAllah, I can relate to the sister exactly... But Alhamdullilah I've now finished high school and been able to get back on track : )
At least you don't actually "join in" with your friends, and Wallahi I'm happy for because unfortunately I got into a really bad state in only three years. It's seriously hard but what completely let me fall was the fact that my relationship with Allah Subhanhu wa tala was failing by the day. I hardly picked up the Quran and praying was just the movements, even though Alhamdulilah Allah has blessed me with knowledge (I felt like a complete hypocrite). Keep in constant contact with the Quran because it is like a letter from Allah talking to you directly. And don't forget, Allah is the best of Friends, so even if you start losing your friends or they're not "true friends" anymore because of your Deen, remember that Allah is always there for you.
Here's a beautiful lecture about Identity that really helped flip my life around: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoniG_LC5yM

And don't forget the hadith of the Prophet (SAW):
“Islam initiated as something strange, and it will revert to its (old position) of being strange. So, Tooba (glad tidings/ a tree in paradise) to the stranger!”

Just some advice from a sister who was also in your position, (I feel you habibti <3)
: D

May Allah protect us and make us patient and steadfast, Ameeeeen

Anonymous,  February 23, 2014 at 5:33 AM  

lol, love the cartoon. I needed this post. Thank you!

Anonymous,  February 23, 2014 at 8:22 AM  

Salaam Alikum,
I was the one who asked this question, and I'm very glad I did. I'm so happy that other sisters could benefit from the question. Thank you so so much Sister Seeking Patience, your advice was amazing. It's just really nice to know that there's other Muslimahs going through the same thing, and can relate to how I'm feeling. Everyone is tested by Allah subhanawattalla so that they can become better people. Inshallah, these four years that I have in high school will go by quickly and I'll come out a better Muslimah-I'm sure that this is a test from Allah subhanawattalla that all Muslimahs share . Your advice about gym class was also very helpful and true. Forty minutes of "fitting in" is not worth the guilt and sins that follow it. Mabye, by being the "odd one out", I can spread Islam to those who might otherwise not know about it. I also loved the cartoon too, I should try that next time somebody asks :P
I also appreciate Sister Huda's advice, and I feel exactly how she described she felt in high school. I also love the hadith that she included, it is definitely one of my favorites out of all the other beautiful hadiths. I think the scariest part of all is losing who you are, deep down inside-Inshallah, I'll watch the video about identity as soon as I finish writing this.
Jazakallah Khair <3

Anonymous,  March 12, 2014 at 12:06 AM  

Assalamu alaikum!

I remember having similar frustrations about school, and feeling a lack of friendships. DEFINITELY expand your life to outside of 'just school' - go volunteer, find your interests, enroll in classes, take up hobbies, and find people who are in your 'niches' or interests as well. ;)

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Asalamu aialkum!
Well, what do you think? You know, you're part of the team, as well. Please help a sister out and share your own advice/experiences/etc. One for all and all for one =)
P.S. I reserve the right to remove any disrespectful comment ;)

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