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My last day as a Muslim

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Has it really been a month? I woke up on my last day as a Muslim thinking how anticlimactic it seemed, but what did I expect? I just wanted to do something, a final push perhaps, but when I have to spend my day with a toddler, my options are limited. I knew where I needed to go, I knew what I needed to do, and after begging my manager, I was given my evening shift off to be able too do it.
I needed to focus on Islam, not the show of being a Muslim. I probably should have done more of that in this time, but then, there are a lot of things I probably would have done differently if I could redo this month. I was going to go to mosque for maghrib prayer (around 8pm) and stay reading the Quran until ishaa prayer (around 10pm).
Not much perhaps, but I truly felt that is where I had to end this, that is what I should be doing.
With my evening plans sorted, the day time was uneventful and insignificant. I discovered a new hijab wrap, and felt a pang of sadness that my hijab days were about to be behind me. I quite liked having something different about me, standing out from the norm, and of course there is the community that goes with it. At the same time, I do miss my hair, and having my ears free from material.
It felt too surreal to honestly think exactly how I felt about it being my last day. In some ways I don’t feel ready for it to end just yet, in others ways I do. It very much feels like what it is- I have been playing a character for a month, and that can get exhausting. It didn’t come naturally to me, I didn’t feel like me as a Muslim, not just due to the beliefs, but the clothes, the attitude, the actions. But I also feel like I need more time, that it has only been in the last few days that I felt any true connection, and the desire to learn openly and honestly.
When I asked for the sign during my first time in a mosque, and when during the day there were moments I genuinely thought it was going to happen, I cannot shake that feeling. Excitement, nerves, fear, joy, and then the feeling when the day ended and the sign was never shown. Empty, betrayed, surprised and yet nonchalant… disappointed? I still haven’t made up my mind exactly what I feel about God even if He were real. I morally disagree with many of His actions and ideals that the holy books (Bible and Quran) accredit to Him. And yet, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? That comfort, feeling part of something bigger than yourself, having a purpose.
The evening came and I got ready for my second trip to mosque, I went armed with my quran and note pad, but when I arrived it wasn’t like what I had experienced just two days previously. It was empty!
What a difference there is between the first day of Eid to the last. I stood in the woman section feeling a bit lost. Although I had prayed many times, I also needed some visual guide, be it my husband or YouTube video. Thankfully my husband saw my lost expression and decided to pray with me behind the barrier. Afterwards he disappeared back to the men’s section and I sat to read Quran. I got through about five suras (chapters), reflecting at the end of each one. I half smiled as I read small parts here and there about the signs God has given us, and frowned as I read more promises of afterlife torture.
If I was looking for *something* to put it all in place, I didn’t find it. I was just left frustrated. There was no connection, I didn’t even feel spiritual. I wished they had dimmed the lights, lit candles, burned incense, have the Arabic Quran playing, just something! Bright red carpet, dull walls and cheap lighting, it just didn’t feel like the type of environment that a religious awakening can take place. But surroundings aside, I had hoped that something in the text would feel personal to me, that would strike a chord. I’m still a way off truly understanding why so many have converted, I want to understand and so making it a continuous mission to do so.
I haven’t finished the Quran, but I will, and it doesn’t stop there. I do believe the most important thing to do when learning a religion is to go to the holy book first. Use your own brain and see what it says before having people tell you what it says. They easily manipulate words to make it come across as more positive or more negative, they are bias one way or the other. However, I also believe that with a book that can be so complex and difficult to read, it is great to seek other sources to help you reflect. I’ve a growing list of other books I want to read, and speakers I want to hear. Clearly a lot of people gain something positive from Islam, they see it as the absolute truth and beautiful, I might never believe but I want to continue learning and understanding why others do.
I prayed the final prayer alone, wanting to test my own ability. Well I messed up, twice. I assumed I enjoyed praying alone more, but I missed the feeling I had when I prayed with a room full of women during Eid prayers and really hope to be able to do it again. Is that wrong of me? Not doing the shehada (affirmation of faith) but wanting to go to mosque and pray?

By the time I went home and to bed, the day felt as anticlimactic as it did at the start. I feel like I’m missing something, although I am no longer going to “play Muslim”, I know this isn’t over yet, I don’t want it to be. Yes I am still an atheist, but there is a thirst for knowledge I don’t feel quenched. This is supposed to lead to something and I want to know what. God? Perhaps, or maybe it is nothing to do with religion specifically, but the learning. I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads in my life lately, my toddler is getting older and at twenty-six I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I always said I wanted to go back to education, maybe a religion/theology class is the way to go?
I will give an in detail overview of my thoughts, feelings and perhaps changes to myself during the month in another blog post, I just need to work out what they are first.

What type of Muslim would you be?

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I’m starting to realise something, if I didn’t know any Muslims, if I wasn’t told anything about Islam from websites and information pamphlets, if all I had as my source of information was the Quran, I would practice the religion completely differently to how it usually is now.

Ok so I still haven’t finished it (I know I know tick tock) so I can only base this blog entry on what I have read so far. I also cannot read Arabic so basing it on an English translation (M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, oxford classic, to be precise). But the Quran doesn’t seem to make Islam as ritualistic, OCD, complicated and nitpicking as Muslims would have you believe.

First things first: Hadith. Now these are the stories/sayings of the prophet Muhammed, they are not part of the Quran. For the most part they are considered pretty essential to a Muslim to tell them how to practise their religion and to expand on what the Quran says.
I have noticed in the last few years that all too often Muslim’s seem to put hadith equal to what is meant to be the word of God, the Quran, in fact in some cases they put it above.
I’ve thought that strange before truly knowing the religion, now I am learning the religion I find it wrong/haram.
Hadith’s were not written by the prophet, they were collected after he had died. The prophet was also just a man, he isn’t the son of god, or divine, a human with the faults that humans have. So why are people using his alleged teachings and sayings as an essential part of their religion?

niqab

God’s wish, or mans?


The Quran states that it is the completed word of god, it has perfected the religion, you need nothing else. It gives the rules, it tells you who god loves, it tells you who will be punished, it tells you the sins, it even tells you heritage laws. It also tells you time and time again that Muhammed’s ONLY duty is to deliever the Quran

“We did not leave anything out of this book, then all will be gathered before their Lord (for judgment). Those who do not believe our verses are deaf and dumb; in total darkness. God sends astray whomever He wills, and directs whomever He wills in the right path.” (6:38-39)
“Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He revealed THIS BOOK FULLY DETAILED? (6:114)
“The word of your Lord is COMPLETE in truth & justice.” (6:115)
“You (Muhammad) cannot guide even the ones you love. God is the one who guides whomever He wills, for He knows best those who deserve the guidance.” (28:56)
“You have NO duty EXCEPT delivering (Quran)” (42:48)
“Your ONLY duty is delivering (Quran), while we will call them to account.” (13:40)
But how is it that they come to you for judgment while they have the Torah, in which is the judgment of Allah? Then they turn away, [even] after that; but those are not [in fact] believers (5:43)

These are just SOME quotes from the Quran to show my point, there are more. Things such as stoning are not mentioned anywhere in the Quran, that comes from hadith, the burka/niqab too. People tell me the hadith helps them know how to be a muslim, but surely if it isn’t in the Quran, then there is a reason why God didn’t put it there? He doesn’t strike me as the forgetful type.

Wudu. This is the specific way to clean before you pray. To me it seems very OCD. I was told to perform wudu as follows:

1. Wash hands 3 times
Use left hand to wash right hand, up to and including the wrist, 3 times. Then, use right hand to wash left hand, up to and including the wrist, 3 times.
2. Rinse water in mouth 3 times
Cup right hand with water and put in mouth, then spit it out, 3 times.
3. Snuff water in nose 3 times
4. Wash face 3 times
5. Wash forearms 3 times
Wipe right forearm with left hand, all the way up to and including the elbow, 3 times. Wipe left forearm with right hand, all the way up to and including the elbow, 3 times.
6. Wipe water over head/hair 1 times
7. Wipe the inside and back of ears 1 time
Wash both ears at the same time
8. Wash feet
Wash right foot, including the ankle, with left hand, 3 times. Wipe between each toe on right foot, with left hand pinky, 1 time.
Wash left foot, including the ankle, with right hand, 3 times. Wipe between each toe on left foot, with right hand pinky, 1 time.
So can you imagine how much my jaw dropped when I read wudu in the quran (5:6) as: “When you intend to offer prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles”.
Where is the awful sniffing water in my nose bit? Where is the obsession with the number three? Where is the specific right/left hand order? I can guess where… I feel lied to!

God doesn’t beat around the bush, he is pretty happy to say exactly who is going to hell and who isn’t. He also states that he can forgive anything other than disbelief and putting another god equal to him. There are certain obligations in Islam that are repeated again and again: regular prayers, giving to charity, being just to orphans, believe in Allah and the last day. These people will receive great reward, and considering how often this message is repeated, it is safe to assume that it reflects on the importance of them. If I only got my Islamic information from Muslims and never read the Quran I would think: “women put a scarf on your head” was written on page one in bold.
So much focus is put on that and many other little details, things that have only been given a blip of a mention, or perhaps no mention at all. So many arguments, so many threats. God is probably highly confused why so many are happy to harass uncovered women whilst orphans are being neglected.
halal butchers
Halal: Muslim’s have to eat food that is slaughtered in a certain way, with God’s name said over it. Oh and of course, they can’t eat pork.
Ok, halal, now this is something I thought was very black and white. It is a pain in the west, especially when you don’t live in a high Muslim populated area, your food options are limited. But wait, once again the quran shocks me:
“He only prohibits for you the eating of animals that die of themselves (without human interference), blood, the Meat of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. If one is forced (to eat these), without being malicious or deliberate, he incurs no sin. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” (2:173)
“Prohibited for you are animals that die of themselves, blood, the MEAT of pigs, and animals dedicated to other than GOD. (Animals that die of themselves include those) strangled, struck with an object, fallen from a height, gored, attacked by a wild animal – unless you save your animal before it dies – and animals sacrificed on altars.” (5:3)
“I do not find in the revelations given to me any food that is prohibited for any eater except: (1) carrion, (2) running blood, (3) the meat of pigs, for it is contaminated, and (4) the meat of animals blasphemously dedicated to other than GOD.” If one is forced (to eat these), without being deliberate or malicious, then your Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful. (6:145)
Hang on, where is the mention of slitting the throat? What in those passages say I can’t go buy chicken from my local Tesco? All those times my husband has looked longingly at steak on the menu but opted for the fish, for what? Maybe this is where I need the hadith, maybe the details are there, but God also says:
“Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture (Jews & Christians) is lawful (halal) for you” (5:5)
“Why should you NOT eat from that upon which God’s name has been mentioned ? He has detailed for you what is prohibited for you, unless you are forced. Indeed, many people mislead others with their personal opinions, without knowledge. Your Lord is fully aware of the transgressors.” (6:119)
So he even states that he has detailed what you can and cannot eat, I guess that means we don’t need any more information, it is all there. So I can’t eat pigs, I can’t eat a bit of road kill, no running blood, I can’t strangle the animal, nor can I go steal meat from a pagans alter, or push a cow off a building to eat it, or beat it to death. Ok, I understand all that, so why can’t I go buy my chicken from Tesco?!
This halal business is, well, just that, a money making business. What I’m reading seems to be pretty clear that unless specifically stated in the quran, ALL other food is lawful, ALL other ways of slaughtering is lawful. Over 90% of halal meat in England is stunned before slaughter, some countries state that all meat must be stunned, therefore exactly what is different between halal and normal supermarket? The price for one (halal is often more experience). Maybe it’s the fact that supposedly a halal butcher is saying the name of God over the animal? Well my husband does that before he eats anyway. So it is the specific way of cutting the throat. Our butchers slit throats too, however that is neither here nor there because the Quran doesn’t say it has to be killed in that way, just not in the ways given.
Using common sense, when they hunted in the time of the prophet they likely killed their game with a bow and arrow etc, not chased after it with a dagger to slit it’s throat. A nice clean kill from a distance is far more humane than wounding until you get close enough to finish it off too.

Ok I’m going on and on now. I just feel like I’m reading a completely different book to the Muslims I have met. People often ask me if my husband and I have lots of problems due to having different religions, but I actually believe we would have far more disagreements if I was Muslim: I would be a Quranist, I wouldn’t put much emphasis on hair covering, I wouldn’t only eat halal, my wudu would be short and simple. To some it might look like I would be a half arsed Muslim, but I actually think they are the ones making it harder than it was meant to be.
I cannot wait to read more of the Quran, it is truly fascinating to see what the Quran actually says compared to what I have been lead to believe it says.

Comfort in the Quran?

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islam hell

So far in this blog I’ve hardly spoken about the Quran. It is a touchy subject. But that can’t continue, it is the very essence of the religion, it is the most important thing to learn. Forget about the prayers, the head scarf, the fast, saying alhamduallah and inshallah, they all came about due to the message, the book… the word of God?

On Wednesday I was at hospital waiting to go under general anaesthetic to have my wisdom teeth removed. I was scared. No, not about the teeth, it was being put to sleep that concerned me. The night before my fears drove me to a point that I made my final wishes known to my husband, right down to which songs I want at my funeral. On the actual day there was a lot of waiting on my alone, allowing me to over think such thoughts. A perfect time to read a holy book, this time not just to learn, but perhaps to seek comfort and to sooth.
Well that was the hope.
Although England is pretty secular, it is still a Christian country and must grow up knowing an idea about the religion, and the concept that Jesus loves us. Jesus hates the sin but not the sinner. Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Whatever we do, whoever we are, we are loved by Jesus- in fact, God IS love.
That is quite comforting stuff. I could have done with a bit of that from the Quran. But I didn’t get it.
Reading the sura’s (chapters) of the Quran I didn’t feel like God was trying to coax me to him with a bear hug, I felt like he was trying to make me run to him because there was an angry mob with torches behind me.
Again and again and again the Quran reminds us that if you don’t believe you will have agonising torment, you will be fuel to the fire, you will have humiliating punishment. My mouth actually dropped open when I read: “We shall send those who reject our revelations to the fire. When their skins have been burnt away, we shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to feel the pain” (4:56).
I wasn’t comforted, I wasn’t soothed. Where was the love?
People shouldn’t be scared into belief, it doesn’t work, and why would God want people to believe in him simply because they were too afraid not to? It is Pascal’s Wager: it is better to believe in God as if you are wrong you lose nothing, but if you disbelieve and are wrong you are punished.
I could write a lot about the errors in the wager, but most people don’t need to know religious debate 101 to see the flaws in such an argument.
You cannot scare someone who doesn’t believe into believing, it isn’t a switch. I have said it before and I will say it again: Atheists do not deny God, we haven’t turned away from him, we have no control over our disbelief just as a believer has no control over their belief.
And apparently because of this, God doesn’t love us. He will torture us, forever.
No, I wasn’t comforted, I wasn’t soothed.
Maybe a believer finds soothing words in the book (I should add I still have a way to go before I finish it, so can only talk about what I have so far read). But with all that negativity in there, do they just skim by it? Do they just not see it as it doesn’t apply to them? And what parts of it do believers find comforting? I decided it might help if I read it from a believers point of view, but even then I wasn’t filled with much uplifting joy.
Heaven, a place of gardens and flowing streams according to the Quran. Doesn’t that seem like the type of heaven those in the desert would picture? I can get that by going to the Lake District! Ok, yes believers I hear you scream “it will be a hundred times more beautiful”. But, well, I don’t *need* more beautiful. The idea that heaven is perfection for ever and ever and ever doesn’t really appeal to me, especially not when people are being tortured, loved ones, good people whose only crime was being atheists or polytheists. And let’s just say when in heaven I lose that human compassion and do not care about them, the idea of eternity of bliss actually sounds quite boring. Anything I want I can have? So what is the point? Everything becomes meaningless.
No, I didn’t feel comforted, I didn’t feel soothed. I felt disconnected.

Well obviously I came through the operation alive and well. The post op tablets I have to take mean I cannot fast for five days as they have to be taken with food. There are no slaves nearby that I can free to make up for these lose of days, but I can make them up after the month, or feed the hungry. Freeing slaves and feeding the hungry, admirable. The Quran is also very focused on being just to orphans. There is good in there I know there is, I just wish it would ease off the fire and brimstone talk.

Did I rush into this?

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I thought knowing the basics of Islam meant I could easily fit in to the role of Muslim, it would be easy, right? Boy was I wrong, I was so unprepared and now paying the price. I’m not getting as much out of this month that I know I could had I waited, turns out little more than a week isn’t enough time to prepare to completely change yourself for a month, who’d have thunk it?
I needed a game plan, some structure. I knew I wanted to fast, I knew the clothes and I knew I wanted to read the Quran, but there are so many other things I should have added to help with the learning. I should have looked into mosque timeables to see when there are classes, I should have got in contact with an Imam to say what I’m doing and if they can help me along the way, I should have found some Islamic sisters nearby who would meet- I should have used at least some of my journalism skills that I spent twenty grand acquiring!
And most importantly, I should have made sure those around me were ready.
I should have made sure my husband was.
He is fine with what I’m doing, there is no issue there, but I don’t think he understands what I needed from him, being the only Muslim in my day to day life. I didn’t just need to act as a Muslim, I needed people to treat me as one, otherwise it feels like a losing battle.
I needed a teacher, a pushy one. What would have been better than someone with me every day who was born into a Muslim family and raised in an Islamic country? Well that actually proved the problem. My husband’s religion is such a habit that so many things he does, such as thank god when he finishes a meal, he doesn’t even notice. And because he doesn’t notice that he is doing it, he doesn’t notice that I am not.
Come the end of the day when it is time to break fast, he mumbles away in Arabic the specific words needed, whilst I just immediately down my water and eat my dates. I’m not Muslim, so it is so easy to forget what I’m doing and just be, well, an atheist. I need reminding, guided, and taught.
I need someone to take the remote control out of my hand and stick the Quran in it! Surely the Biggest Loser should pale in significance when I’m searching for religious enlightenment?
I didn’t make sure before I done this that my husband knew what I needed from him. To be honest, at that time I didn’t know what I needed from him either. I assumed this was a solo act, but actually I should have gathered a team of support.

And time! I’m really glad doing this meant I was able to experience Ramadan, but doing it in Ramadan means my time is very restricted. All day I have my toddler to run after, then as soon as he goes to bed it is time to prepare the meal and eat it. By then it is nearing 10pm and we have to go to bed so that we can get up at 2:30am. Doesn’t really leave much room for reading and studying the Quran!
My social life has taken a nose dive too (shocking how many social activities revolve round food), so I’m not really getting a feel for what those who convert to Islam go through mixing their old life with their new.

I should have organised this better so at the end of the month I’m not looking back and just thinking, “well, I rocked the head scarf and lost a couple of lbs” (oh ok, the latter isn’t true, boy you should see the size of the iftar meals!).
There is still time though, time to organise and come up with a schedule. Tomorrow however I won’t be doing the one thing I feel as if I perfected: The fast.
Tomorrow morning I go to hospital to be put under general anaesthetic to have my wisdom teeth removed. Apparently you have to eat and drink before being discharged with a lot of pain killers to take. So much for not eating.
On the plus side however, all the waiting around the hospital I have to do tomorrow gives me plenty of alone time to do what should be seen as the most important thing this month, reading the Quran!

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.

Muslims in the west

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Is it impossible?

Muslims in the west

Being a Muslim in a nonmuslim country obviously brings up issues that you don’t get in Egypt et el. Considering Islam is meant to be more than just a belief in a certain god, but a complete way of life, living in a country where that isn’t the way of life makes me imagine Muslims here are often faced with tricky situations and choices.
Praying for example. As far as I’m aware employers don’t legally have to give Muslim’s more time on their break to make sure they can pray, nor do they need to allow them to split their break and have it at the set times of prayer. Muslim men on Fridays have a much bigger problem as praying jumuah at the mosque is compulsory for them (women don’t need to go to mosque to pray), so unless you have a very lenient boss, it is either not going to happen, or you have to quit.
And it isn’t just that where problems rise up about work for Muslims in the west. I work in a cinema, the cinema has a bar, selling alcohol is haram (forbidden). I asked my managers if they could avoid putting me on it this month and they were fine with that. However, I am working kiosk, the main part of the job. There we sell popcorn, coke, nachos and, oh dear, hotdogs. Pork hotdogs. Like with alcohol, a Muslim cannot consume or sell pork. Those two things alone limit you greatly from what jobs you can go for, especially if you are unskilled or need something more flexible, such as supermarkets, restaurants, bars.
And what about when it comes to eating out? Unless you live in one of the high Muslim populated areas or want a kebab, you are stuck with vegetarian or fish as you are supposed to eat only “halal”. Now as it is Ramadan and we cannot eat until after nine, we haven’t eaten out so I haven’t had to deal with the limitation. I don’t really care for fish and kebabs should come with a three drink minimum.
Another thing I haven’t yet had to deal with is having a man (such as postman) knock on my door unexpectantly, so I haven’t had to deal with the rush and inconvenience of throwing something over my head and making sure my arms and legs are fully covered too.
And that leads me to clothes. Now this is only a problem if you are particularly conservative and just wear abayas as even the ones on eBay are double or more the price as those abroad. Other than that however I have found there are so many options in normal highstreet shops that can give you perfectly acceptable modest covering. Maxi dresses, waterfall cardigans, wide leg jeans, linen trousers, boat neck t shirts, etc etc. Mixing and matching such options mean no shop is off limits. I can’t even look at clothes now without thinking whether it is appropriate, and if not what can I add to it to make it so! I love looking at Muslim fashion blogs such as this one for inspiration: http://luffisallyouneed.blogspot.co.uk/p/about-me.html. Women such as her certainly don’t seem oppressed to me.
As for hijabs, once again you are not limited to specialist online stores or a trip to Edgware road, as pretty scarves can be found anywhere (in fact the newest member to my hijab collection comes from New Look).
I’ve personally not had to deal with discrimination going out and about in a hijab, but I’m sure for some it is a persistent issue they face. It is one of the things those in a minority will likely always have to deal with sadly. Reading about this subject online meant I came across both the extremes. Some islamaphobes telling Muslims to bugger off where they came from (a common misconception that Islam is a region not a religion), and some Muslims calling to force their beliefs on Christian countries. Sadly the first group believe all Muslims think like the second group, and the second group believe we all think like the first. The majority of people don’t think like either alhamduallah, both are hateful and, well, idiotic to be honest. I don’t believe England will erupt into a religious war like some OTT people on the sites have predicted, I have faith in my county and its people, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist etc. I truly believe we are one of the more diverse and tolerant countries in the world and will continue to be so.
Sadly these negative attitudes cause be extremists and bigots means the normal Muslim has to deal with the backlash. Being in a minority means you might not have anyone/ or very few to turn to who can emphasise though, especially if you don’t have a local mosque where you can meet other members of your faith.
And that brings me to a problem I have faced. In a Muslim country there are mosques on every corner, and between those corners there are speakers doing the call to prayer (also known as the adhan). This lets people know, wherever they are, whatever they are doing, that it is time to perform wudu and pray, which also means you know exactly when to break and start the fast. Every day the time changes slightly so it is something you have to keep checking up on when you don’t have the announcement. Also, people differ sometimes greatly on what the actual times are, and when you are waiting to eat after a whole day of sustaining, every minute counts.

I know if I was being a Muslim for a month in Egypt, I’d have all the resources, I wouldn’t feel concerned about going out in hijab, hell even if I went out in a burka people wouldn’t care. My prayers would be on time, and I would have muslim sisters all around me to help and guide. I guess that is the true benefit of the Muslim for a Month holiday which started this whole idea, it is just so easy. But it is also unrealistic, why would a British person wanting to really know what it would be like to be Muslim, do it in a way that has little reflection on how he/she would actually live as a Muslim?
There is one benefit to being a Muslim in the west compared to the Middle East- you don’t have the issue of confusing Islam and culture. The two have become so mingled there that many Muslims are not quite sure where the line is. In fact whether here or there the only way to truly know what Islam is, is to read the Quran. That way you get the true message, you don’t get a bias (be it positive or negative) interpretation, you don’t get it mixed with the Arab culture, you get Islam.
You can be a Muslim anywhere in the world, after all the word simply means: “one who submits to God”. Yes there are parts of the finer details that can be more difficult, perhaps impossible to follow in a Christian country, but you don’t need to turn to some bearded fellow for the answer, as the Quran says God knows what is in your heart and knows your intention, that is what is important.

One step forward, two steps back

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prayers not allowedA mere couple of hours ago I was ready, I was pumped up, I was determined and dedicated. I was going to do it all, read the Quran at every opportunity, pray with the truest intention and fast without complaint, but then Mother Nature happened. I shouldn’t be surprised, I was kind of asking for it wearing a white dress so close to being due on.
All this week I was looking forward to it, thinking what a welcomed break it would be, no more fasting, no need to feel bad for my lack of Quran reading, nor will I have to do any prayers. But now “she” is here, I feel so deflated.
In a bit of a daze I poured myself a glass of water and drunk it, just yesterday I would have killed to be able to do the same, but now, now that I can and did? It seemed so bittersweet. I could have made myself a feast, but I have no appetite. I don’t *want* to eat, and not because I have developed some sort of eating disorder, I’m happily planning my iftar meal, it just feels wrong.
All those promises I made in my earlier blog, was it just this morning I said all that? And now, I wait, five days of setback. Five less days to read the Quran. 25 less prayers. Can I still practise the words, or is it forbidden merely uttering them?
I’ve already made my thoughts clear on what I think about the whole “women are unclean during their period” situation, so I’ll not repeat it, after all it wouldn’t be very Islamic of me.
I know I shouldn’t feel discourage, just because there are certain things I can’t do doesn’t mean the whole experiment is shelved, this is just something us women have to deal with. It isn’t the end.
But still… sigh…

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