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The Fast

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fasting
Obviously you don’t need to be a Muslim for a month to learn about Islam, anyone can buy a Quran, download one, get the app, and read it at their pleasure. Fasting however is something I don’t think any book can really tell you about. It would just be pointless words on a page, which will have most people thinking Ramadan is crazy.
I didn’t get it. I have seen my husband fast for that last few years and I just couldn’t grasp the point. Oh sure it was explained to me- time to be closer to God, time to appreciate what you have, time to remember those who go without etc etc, but going without food and drink? Really?
Well yes, really! At the end of the month I probably still won’t understand much about Islam, but I can now say I do understand why people fast, why they look forward to it, why they are not all leaving the religion after the first day. This is something you really need to feel to truly *get* it.
I honestly didn’t think I could do it, I never in a million years thought I would enjoy it. But I am and I do. Every morning it feels like an impossible task, than every day at 9pm I get to feel such a sense of achievement, and I get to share it with my husband. Meals are appreciated, I can’t say when the last time was that I truly appreciated a meal before this month, they are a celebration. I love the discipline needed, the focus required. And on the spiritual sense, fasting means you will never forget that you are in a special month, that you are doing something. For the religious every time they feel weak, they feel the pangs of hunger, they have a reminder as to why they are doing it, who they are doing it for, and to be thankful.
Don’t get me wrong, not all Muslims enjoy Ramadan. Out loud they feel they most proclaim a love for the Islamic holiday, but quietly they whisper their true feelings. People can become moodier, lack of food and exhaustion, thanks to the very early wake up to eat, is not a great combination. Apparently breaths can be worse too, something I’ve not noticed (another thing for me to be thankful for!), and someone even said BO increases too, oh my. Too many women also complain how they have to spend half the day in the kitchen cooking, making food more a part of their daily lives than when they could eat. There are feelings of guilt when some think all they are doing is fasting and they don’t have time to also read Quran, perform longer prayers etc.
Having the wrong attitude about Ramadan also doesn’t help. Some spend the whole month counting down to Eid (three days of feasts after Ramadan), or they spend the whole day thinking about their evening meal, and eating more than a days worth of food in the one sitting. Some people spend the day sleeping, completing voiding the whole point of the fast.
I can’t eat or drink between 3am to 9pm, but I’m not going to sit around thinking “oh woe is me”. I’m not going to wish this month away either, in fact when my husband said earlier that we were half way, I felt a pang of sadness. When I had five days where I couldn’t fast, I felt as if I was missing out.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a walk in the park- in fact it was walking in the park on one of England’s hottest days of the years that proved one of the hardest days fasting- there are moments I am just staring at food, smelling it, fantasising about eating it. Then there are the small but more enticing temptations such as wishing I could taste food as I cook it, just to check it is ok. Feeding a child during the day has also had me nearly slipping up from old habits. Before this month I don’t thing my son even knew ice lollies came without a bite taking out of them first!

Now, I have a slight fasting problem- on Wednesday I’m due to be put under general anaesthetic to have my wisdom teeth removed. I haven’t had my consultation so don’t know if you are supposed to eat beforehand, however I’m pretty sure afterwards I’ll be wanting pain killers, which breaks the fast.

religion data

What am I?


Another issue my minor operation is causing is the form I have to fill out. It asks for my religion. I will still be wearing hijab (though taking it off for the actual operation), so ticking nonreligious or N/A seems a bit of an eyebrow raiser. But I don’t want to lie either. I’m guessing I should leave it blank, after all as far as I’m aware legally I’m not obliged to answer.
Hmm, I don’t really like being a blank.
I guess a devout Muslim would put of the op until after Ramadan, the problem is it turns out I have a massive fear of GA (never been put to sleep before) and if I put it off now I doubt I will ever do it. Oh well, I guess it is impracticalities such as this that make some people hate this month.

Right, now I really must sleep, I have to get up in two and a half hours to eat before my fasting day starts again. Alhamdulillah.

The personalities of the pious

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I have been wondering if it takes a certain personality to be able to be a Muslim (and other religions). It doesn’t come naturally to me, I tend to find I disagree with more than I agree with in terms of what I can and cannot do. People tell me Islam is meant to be easy, well for me it doesn’t seem to “fit” (yet).
It isn’t just about believing God, and Mohammed being his prophet, I think I would need a total personality overhaul.
For example yesterday I was out in a maxi dress, cardigan and hijab. Perfectly acceptable by most Muslim standards, until that is I rolled my sleeves up. It was an automatic thing, I felt hot, I do it all the time. When I realised I put them back down, but not because of any horror that people saw my arms, I couldn’t have cared less, they are just arms in my mind, but because of this “experiment”. Will I ever feel any shame for showing strangers that part of me? Do I think for a second women should feel such shame? No, it seems such a strange concept for me. I just don’t get it.

musims view on magic mike

If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right

Days before I started this month I saw Magic Mike, a film about male strippers. I also read 50 Shades of Grey, and I want to see Ted, a film about a vulgar teddy, I love Family Guy. I’m not a PG type person. Is a good Muslim girl allowed to see/read such things? Ok, 50 Shades was awful, but that’s not the point, do you have to change who you are when you become religious, or will only certain people ever follow “restricting” religions, because they already believe in the principles?
I’m not a bad girl by English standards. I’ve never been in trouble with the law, never done drugs, don’t smoke, never been in a fight. I’m not Mother Teresa, I’m not evil spawned either, I’m an average 26 year old woman. Up to this point I’m pretty much OK with my interests and humour, but if I converted to Islam, would I suddenly not be allowed to laugh at certain jokes? Not allowed to see certain films and TV programmes? Will I really be “me”?
I wonder if this is why many converts change their name, despite not needing to, to represent a complete new them. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that, I’m not even sure if it’s possible.

Rubbish book, but is it sinful?


At work I will often have a break in the staff room with just one or more male co-workers. Probably not allowed for the pious. Also working with people aged mainly 18-23, I hear the crudest of the crude things, and laugh. It is an involuntary action that I don’t believe I would ever be able to change. I also had a baby outside wedlock, my parents had grandchildren before they married, and my brother’s girlfriend is due their first in Sept, are we supposed to feel like sinners?
So I ask converts to Islam- did your morals, values and personality fit Islam before learning about it, did it change as you learnt about it, or is it a constant struggle to keep having to remind yourself the things that are now not acceptable to you? Or maybe you have a different view on what is required in Islam and you proudly saw Magic Mike in hijab, couldn’t put 50 Shades down between prayers, and you know more crude jokes than Jimmy Carr.
Can a very left wing liberal,15 certificate rated westerner ever fit Islam?

The half arsed Muslim

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I realised something yesterday, I’m doing this all wrong. I’m still spending more time playing my virtual fish tank than reading the Quran, my prayers are all over the place, I haven’t really learnt any of the words, I’m not conducting myself appropriately- I’m not a Muslim, I’m a woman with a scarf on her head and strange diet!
This won’t do at all. Yes in outward appearance I “fit the role” but this is meant to be a spiritual journey, not just a new dress sense. Have I given anything to charity yet? No. Have I tried to avoid swearing? No. Have I cut down on TV, well actually yes, but that’s only because there is no time in the evening, however I haven’t cut down on facebook or, as mentioned above, my fish tank app.
I’m on my seventh day now as so disappointed with myself. It became all about the fast. All I was thinking about was not eating or drinking, and that making it to the end of the day was enough.
Well that’s about to change, I WILL be a Muslim for the month of Ramadan in all the ways I can be. I will step up my Quran reading and other Islamic studies, I will find a charity, I will watch my language and my rather x-rated sense of humour. And maybe I will master the courage to visit a mosque.
And yes, I will even put away my virtual fish, but don’t worry, they won’t die without being fed.

Sadly I’m not alone in my poor Muslim attempt, so many actual Muslims are no better. They focus on their outward appearance and forget about the most important thing is what you feel in the heart, not what the world sees.
For example I have met some “delightful” well covered women. They hold their heads high and think what great little Muslims they are as they wouldn’t dream of going out with their hair uncovered, but on the inside they are hypocrites. One, a favourite of mine who I’ve clashed with a couple of times online, will preach about the importance of tolerance towards hijabis, but then say the most downright degrading things about uncovered women (apparently they are merely pieces of meat). She will happily insult and backbite, but she looks “right”, so in her mind she done no wrong. And she isn’t alone in such thinking.
Men who go and pray at the mosque and then go meet their friends for a shisha (smoke pipe)- hypocrites.
Men who demand women wear a hijab, whilst they are on the beach in just swimming shorts- hypocrites.
People who have never given to charity and cannot remember the last time they prayed, but will happily judge another for marrying outside the religion- hypocrites.
Those who act however they want during most of the year but fast and ask for forgiveness in Ramadan are no better than the Catholics who confess their sins only to do them all again, and again, and again.
Well it is time I really got serious about this on a deeper level, it is time I feel Islam instead of just look like I do. Maybe some Muslims will take heed.

Religious ramblings of an atheist

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Yesterday was the first day I didn’t post here since I started this blog, I knew if I did it would just be whiney ramblings. Yes, yesterday was not a good day- I now refer to it as “day three blues”.
Was it the fast? Not really, surprisingly. I coped with the lack of food and water as well as other days. When my tummy rumbled at 9am I assumed I was in for a tough ride, but it soon settled and I wasn’t left a crumbling mess hugging the fridge.
It was everything else.
Lack of sleep meant when my toddler was having a tantrum first thing in the morning I was short tempered and ended up bursting into tears (my husband then immediately sent me up to bed). When I woke however I didn’t feel much better. Things just managed to wind me up easily.
When my mum came back with the shopping, I had to stick a scarf on my head and put a cardigan on just to pop to her car to help with the bags. I live in a quiet cul-de-sac, the only people likely to see me are my neighbours. They have seen me and my hair for years, have I ever had any issues with the men here? No, not at all. None of them have so much as looked at me the wrong way. And now suddenly I need to cover myself up to protect myself from them?
This concept that a head scarf provides any more modesty or protection from men is still completely lost on me. Will it protect someone from rape? Of course not. Does it protect at least from sexual harassment? Not in my experience. In Egypt where most women are covered sexual harassment is shockingly high, even when I’m in an abaya (certain type of long wide dress) and hijab I’m practically guaranteed to get some sort of pestering. In England where most are uncovered, I can walk the street in a t-shirt and jeans and men couldn’t care less.
So many times I hear (mainly from men who don’t wear it) how fabulous it is, how Allah has blessed us women with it for protection, aren’t we lucky! Protect us from what? Men? Here is an idea, instead of making a claim that material on your head will stop anything, why don’t you (men) protect us by not causing us issues in the first place? This does sadly go more to middle eastern men who seem to think they have the right to look at women like a piece of meat and then blame the woman (obviously I’m generalising a bit here).
Now saying all that, I do understand totally the concept of wearing to show the world you are Muslim. I have a Darwin fish on my car, an outward symbol of what I personally believe, so if I was religious I’m sure I’d want something so that all knew my religious convictions.

Well that was rant one. Rant two:
The Quran. I know I have to tread carefully here, obviously people don’t like to hear criticisms of their holy book, but I have to be honest, this blog is a truthful documentation of the whole journey after all.
I’ve not read much yet, it did have quite a long prologue, what I have read however hardly feels me with spiritual joy. If you are a Christian reading it then yes, I can understand why people convert, after all it isn’t bad towards them. But an atheist, Hindu, Pagan etc? Can the book hate us any more? I get it I get it, harsh punishment, hells fire, wrath of God, we are fools, etc. If it was saying all that about Christians, I wonder how many would have converted. And even if it wasn’t bad towards atheists, I still couldn’t turn a blind eye to how I think it is unjust to other religious groups.
It reminds me of the quote: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out as I was not a communist” etc. When the bad isn’t directly related to you, so many people can skim it. Well it is directly related to me, and the millions of other disbelieves (be they atheists or polytheists).
I don’t believe my converted friends are cold and uncompassionate, but I don’t understand how they can read those words and be ok with it either.
I guess you have the responsibility excuse though. They don’t blame God for wanting to torture, they blame us for not seeing the light. Doesn’t that scream a bit of arrogance though? A Muslim believes as strongly as a Hindu, as strongly as a scientologist, as strongly as those who used to believe in Ra, Odin, Zeus, Mithra. I think that shows the right answer really isn’t obvious, as you all (atheists included) think you ARE following the right answer. None of us picked our religious paths to spite the other, we didn’t purposely turn a blind eye to what we secretly knew was the right way. You have no power on what you believe in, you just believe what you believe.
God would know that, so why would he then think infinite torture was fitting, using a fear tactic sounds more human than divine.
I don’t think one size fits all when it comes to religion. There has never been a time where there was just one universal belief, and I don’t believe there ever will be. I don’t think everyone will be happy as an atheist, in the same way I don’t think everyone could be happy as a Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and so on. It doesn’t make anyone a bad person, a bad person will be a bad person whatever their religion, and a good person will be a good person whatever their religion too.
God would know that.

Ok, I didn’t want this to end up as the moan I tried to avoid yesterday so I will end on a positive note- the fast. I honestly think this will have long term health benefits. I now know I can go without constantly snacking, I don’t need to be always be rummaging the cupboards.
Tonight however will bring an interesting experience: working the evening shift. This will mean I have to wait an extra hour before I can eat, that might well be an hour too much!

Hijabi in the workplace

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Salam alaikum

Second day of Ramadan and first day at work as a Muslim.
Most already knew what I was doing, perhaps if they hadn’t had the warning I would have had a totally different reaction. However when I first walked in with my hijab on (matching the uniform naturally) people hardly bat an eyelid.
The genuine curious questions did come eventually. The health fanatic guys were more interested about the fast, and the women asked general questions about me covering. Mostly however, in fact as much as 99% of the time, it wasn’t mentioned.
Customers too couldn’t care less… Well apart from one. When the middle aged man came to my till his opening line was: “I bet you’re hot in all that gear”. Admittedly harmless enough, it wasn’t until I got him his water and he saw the price that he went into one.
“You know you’re not going to heaven, that’s theft”. He then went on to rant about how it was a 300% profit, and that I was going to burn in hell. All the while I tried to tell him that 1) I don’t decide the prices, and 2) we do allow customers to bring their own drinks. His daughter eventually told him to stop.
Now of course maybe my headscarf had nothing to do with his rant and it really was just the price that angered. I don’t doubt that it was the price, however I do believe his choice of words were directly related to him assuming I was religious. The way he was telling me I was going to go to hell was as if he wanted to hurt me.
It didn’t, I was in a bit of wide eyed shock and on the brink of laughter. My mind naturally thought of atheistic comebacks- “I don’t believe in hell so couldn’t care less what you think, now pay for your drink and get the hell away from my face” was the first to come to me. But no, I stayed patient, I stayed polite. I waited until he walked away until announcing what an arse he was (probably not how a Muslim in Ramadan should speak).
All other customers however acted with me like always. I got the same smiles, the occasional ‘hi love”‘, questions etc. Why would I expect different? I just assumed some, mainly the elderly, would be slightly “off” with me. I served an old schooled friend and many regulars who had no idea about the exoeriment, and they took seeing me covered in their stride. A single day however is hardly enough to say England in general is fine with Muslims. Does any Muslims reading this living in the west have any stories?
My usual work uniform is trousers and t-shirt, all I had to do was put a long sleeved top under and wear a head scarf. Was it comfortable? Well it wasn’t bad. My under scarf bonnet on my ears all day gave them a bruised feel, and I didn’t feel very “free”. Taking it all off when I got home was a comfortable release. But I can’t really blame the clothes, the under top was tight and stiff, and I had layered my hijab instead off wearing a light weight singular one (it did look better than the bright blue cap I usually have to wear though). It looks like summer is finally arriving in England, so I will have to change it up a bit.

So fasting whilst at work, in a job that means I’m surrounded by food most of the time? Not too bad actually. Now and then my stomach would rumble and tighten to remind me of its existence. Thirst started creeping in from 3pm. I kept needing to lick my lips and my throat was noticeably dry. However it is hardly unliveable.
I can’t even begin to say how shocked I am by the ease the fast has come to me. Yes it is now two hours to go untilmimvsn eat, and my tummy is becoming more frequently angry, but I don’t feel weak.
I LOVE to eat, I constantly do which is why I am obese. I couldn’t go more than an hour having another snack attack before the fast. I assumed my body suddenly going without the constant stream of food would render me a light headed mess. A religious person might wonder if Allah is easing Ramadan for me as encouragement, I however would say I have a lot of fat for my body to use up, holding off hunger.

Now this is when time drags. My husband is cooking leaving me with nothing to do but think about dinner, and the lovely smells coming from the kitchen aren’t helping.

This is my first attempt at blogging from an iPad, sorry for the even larger amount of typos and spelling erros than usual- or maybe I can blame exhaustion and hunger? Pregnant women have “baby brain” as an excuse for slip ups, I have “fast brain”.
I’m off to distract myself for an hour.
Ma salama

My last day as an atheist

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(Figuratively speaking that is).

What do you do the day before you change your life? Well, shop and eat, oh and run around like a headless chicken seems to be the answer.
Now a frantic Ramadan eve rush appears to be the norm if the sudden boom of hijabi’s (women who wear the headscarf) that were up the town are anything to go by. Not only did I have to make sure my meal plans were ready and food bought- which had to be gathered in four different locations across my town- but I also wanted to fully indulge in what I would be leaving.
Eating during the day was number one. I met up with a friend who I have regular “luncheons” with and fully enjoyed my bacon and sausage sandwich. Then it was off to have my last Wispa mcflurry, Mcdonalds would have moved on to the next limited edition by the time I can eat during the day again, and boy do I love Wispa. And then I took my son swimming. I felt no shame having my body revealed in a swimming costume in front of men, I wonder if I would have a different view on things once this month is up?
I know I shouldn’t be focusing on the things I am giving up, I also know that I need to remember not eating during the day isn’t the typical Islamic thing- it is Ramadan, I picked that month so I only have myself to blame, not the religion, I cannot use it against Islam.

I almost expect that I should wake up tomorrow and just *feel* different, that I shouldn’t be just sitting around, I should be doing “Muslim” stuff. Ha! Of course a Muslim has to get her children up, dressed and fed just like an atheist does. A Muslim has brush her teeth, get herself dressed, tidy up, just like an atheist. I’m not becoming a different species, so why do I feel like I’m holding my breath before something big happens?

So far I have had nothing but positive reactions (to my face). People are curious, they are asking questions and I am getting first hand experience of how naïve so many still are about Islam. Would I have been any different if I had never met my husband? No, I too would ask the same confused questions in their position. The first thing I get asked 9 times out of ten (amazingly it isn’t “WHY?!”) is: “So are you going to cover your face?”
I have only ever seen one person ever wear a niqab/burka in my town. I see half a dozen wearing hijab every time I go to the shopping centre, so why o why is it the “burka” that is seen to represent Islam here? A part of me is curious as to what it would be like wearing one, but then the thought of stripping myself from all outward identity makes me shudder. I have become friends with a couple of naqabis on the internet, where personality is known before clothes worn, I am making baby steps to becoming more open minded and tolerant to the garment.

This is more than just a fast- Islam has to be in my thoughts with all the actions that I do. I will have to ask myself “this the Islamic way?”. My studies have only just begun as tomorrow I open the Quran and read, and try to understand exactly what it is I am reading. I don’t have my personal Imam to go to, but I do have some Muslim friends who have earned my respect time and time again with their knowledge and perception. Hopefully they don’t mind me pestering them, and of course I will write down any questions I have here.

Will I miss pork? No.
Will I miss showing my hair? I doubt it.
Will I miss being able to do things on my own moral compass instead of one that I have been told I should have? Absolutely.
I guess that is the biggest problem. Muslims have the morality that the Quran gives them, it is a fit. I however feel as if I’m trying to fit a square into a circle. I can act like a Muslim, thinking like one however might just not come. What if I get nothing from this month? Will I just be an atheist in a colour coordinated head scarf?
I will dedicate all that I have control over to this, my biggest fear though isn’t that I find nothing, it’s if I really dislike what it is I do find. And what if my husband likes the “new”, albeit fake, me? What if we become closer than ever before, how will I then feel on the last day?
I promised I would not write a hypothesis as I didn’t want to steer this to a premeditated conclusion, instead however I am constantly thinking of all the different scenarios- the good, the bad, the boring.
I guess there is only one way to find out, and what will be, will be. “It is in God’s hand”, as my husband says, “Who knows” as I say.

Good bye Atheism- forgive me Dawkins!
Ma’a salama

How did I get here?

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A western liberal atheist girl with a Middle Eastern conservative Muslim man was bound to be a bit of a roller coaster. When we met in May 2008 people told me he will want me to wear a burka within a year, that obviously never happened (in fact he isn’t a fan of them), but he did encourage me to learn about Islam, which I wanted to do anyway just to help me understand him.
I purchased a Dummies Guide and an English Quran and set to work. I never did finish the Quran and the Dummies Guide just left me with more questions. My Islamic studies were shelved and I decided that I had little need to know how a Muslim should be, all what was important was how my Muslim is.
Not exactly genius thinking on my part.
Islam was just a quiet voice in the background of our relationship, but that voice became a screaming importance when less than a year since we started our relationship, I fell pregnant. At times pregnancy felt like a negotiation as we worked out exactly how we will be raising our son.
In Islam children born of Muslim men are automatically considered Muslim, it is also believed all babies are born Muslim. So despite our eventual agreements that our son will not be raised specifically as Muslim but instead taught about Islam as well as other religions and my own disbelief, I know in my husband’s heart he is one.
At that point we still weren’t officially married. As our wedding day in England approached, there was another major Islamic problem: Muslims are NOT allowed to marry atheists:
“Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe. A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though if she attracts you. And not marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though if he attracts you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the fire but Allah beckons by His grace to the garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His signs clear to mankind; that they may receive admonition.- (al-Baqarah, 221)”
Boy did we desperately search for some sort of loophole for this. We never found one. My husband was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He chose me.
There is no perfect Muslim and yet when people hear of a Muslim marrying an atheist they act as if he had just broken the number one rule in Islam. Tell a Muslim that you haven’t prayed for a couple of days however and they shrug it off as unimportant, and that is one of the pillars in Islam!
So yes, my husband sinned, but so many seem happy to sin just for a glass of alcohol, he sinned to be with the woman he loved, mother of his child. If you are not going to be perfect, be imperfect in the things that will bring the most good and happiness I say.

So in this time together has Islam “rubbed” off on me at all? Possibly, ok not the belief, but some of the principles. Before meeting my husband if someone told me they didn’t drink alcohol I would actively encourage them to do so. I no longer drink myself (not due to being morally against it, I just realised that I wasn’t a “good” drunk, and made some very bad decisions). This decision has granted me some delightful “digs”, as apparently despite the fact even one of my closest friends doesn’t drink until intoxicated, my situation simply *has* to be because my husband wont allow me. Funnily enough, if I was a smoker and quit people would be rejoicing, quit alcohol and they act as if you have announced you have decided to amputate a limb.
Do I dress more modestly now than four years ago? Yes, but then when I met my husband I was a 21 year old university student, I’m now a mother and certain parts of my body are not where they used to be. Ok I’ve always been a big girl so not one for mini skirts, but I still don’t have any issue for those who do have it to flaunt it (within accordance to “time and place”). I’ve come across some of the most judgemental, nasty hijabis, and some of the sweetest, kindest uncovered women. Clothes in my mind are irrelevant to character.
The biggest difference having Islam enter my life via third party had to be on my view on religion and religious people. As I mentioned on my opening page, I was very anti religions and had many generalised view on those who followed religions. Now I have met many people, husband included, who do not fit my previous narrow and insulting view, I am far more tolerant. In that sense Islam as already help me become a better person, or at least certain Muslims have.
I never did really resume my Islamic studies though, at least not until my current cramming. Islam has just been a constant trickle in my life for four years, I now feel it is time to face the flood.

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