I never thought I would have a mental-breakdown within my faith. Over the last few months, I have experienced some of the darkest moments in my life, religiously. In many ways, I felt alone and very much isolated in my struggle. One of the many things I do is withdraw from people, intentionally. I completely shutdown and recline in my darkness. Sometimes this isolation from people is healthy, but sometimes it isn’t. For the people that know me well they see how I completely stop doing the things that I love. I love attending the weekly congregational-prayer and service on Fridays, along with attending various Islamic events. However, I had stopped completely in my isolation. Not only had I stopped attending religious-functions, but I stopped writing. The last entry I had written on this blog before I started back again was in late November. I had denied myself my blog. My blog hold such sentimental value because it serves as therapy and medicine to the various wounds I have internally. The moment we deny ourselves something good and healthy is the moment that we are truly causing ourselves to go backwards.
During my month away from the blog, I found myself frustrated with emotions that I had hidden within my soul. I had stopped reading Qur’an, stopped listening to lectures, stopped attending the mosque and refrained from many of my friends. It wasn’t healthy, at all. However, I found myself facing the person in the mirror. I had chosen Islam as my religion and way of life over six years ago. I made a conscious decision to live out Islam. It was my conviction to ‘La Ilaha Ilallah Muhammadur Rasulullah’ that has kept me going this whole time. My belief in ‘There is no god, but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet and Messenger’ had stuck with me for this entire duration of my conversion process. The process isn’t over. I’m a convert to this beautiful way of life, but I am a Muslim too. I am apart of a family of a billion-individuals from various cultures, ethnic-grounds, backgrounds and languages. I am. However, this didn’t stop me from going through a long dark-period of loneliness and isolation from the people I loved and adored. I had completely turned away from hearing Qur’an or lectures. My heart had hardened. Tears no longer ran down my face. My mouth rarely spoke words of dhikr, or remembrance of Allah. I was simply wearing the garment of a Muslim; my hijab and outergarment.
In my deep desire to figure out the life I was beginning to live, I turned to philosophy, various spiritual paths, friends and the internet. I was deeply aware of the choice I had made in refraining from being around other Muslims and Islamic-oriented events. I believe it was a natural-progression because my heart was slowly turning away from dhikr. My life was confusing. I felt as if I was in free-fall. I was just falling, but without a destination. I wasn’t sure where I would land and what would happen next to me. In many ways, I missed my firm conviction because I understood the peace and beauty that Islam created for me. I embraced Islam wholeheartedly and never regretted one moment. However, I became inquisitive about big issues. I struggled with: gender-equality, marriage, sex and predestination. So, I was dealing with major-issues that weren’t and isn’t easy to grasp. And I could always hear my close friends say in the back of my head that I should simply submit, as a Muslim should. I shouldn’t question, but simply take Islam as what it is. However, this statement didn’t satisfy me in Christianity and it doesn’t satisfy me now. Nonetheless, I have other close friends that will tell me to reflect, to think, to question, and to make a decision once everything pans out. Islam doesn’t call the Muslim to simply blindly follow, but to think. It can be read over and over again in the Qur’an that a person should think and reflect. We should look around us, marvel about the creation, recognize the signs and evidences of Allah and his magnificence. So, I did just that. I started to reflect on my own conviction and what I truly believed in. Furthermore, I have met some of the most amazing people and have gained a new appreciation for life. I’ve never felt so confused, but enlightened in my life. I remembered my old Philosophy professor telling me that ignorance and fear should never be honored. So, I had to run with this statement. This statement was and still is true. We should never fear what we find at the end of the tunnel because Allah decrees and wills for everything to happen. There are no surprises in life. Everything happens by the will of the Creator. So, my period of darkness was already planned and set into play by the Creator. Now, I know many people will email me or comment about this. However, be honest with yourself about the life you choose to live. Yes, I know some people will deem me as being this or that for being brutally honest, but what do I have to lose? No person can save me or punish me but the Creator. He is the controller of hearts, not you or me. We are simply here to serve. Now, in the process of serving we may run into a pit-stop that I had to get through, sort-of. This thing, called life, is a process. We will find ourselves in the most unpredictable circumstances. We may find ourselves in the midst of a religious-breakdown, like me. I definitely didn’t have a plan for this. It definitely wasn’t on my bucket-list. So, just be warned that stuff happens. It is life. So, I had to get moving in my journey. I wasn’t going to stay in one place. I had to get up and seek out answers. So, I turned to friends.
Now, this is one of the most interesting parts of my journey. I had found myself paranoid in trying to seek out help from the highly-religious, so I settled for the ‘unorthodox’. I found myself talking to an interesting combination of people. I found myself going to some unorthodox Muslims…maybe that isn’t the most appropriate word. I would just say that these Muslims were rather…chill. They made a lot of sense to me because they told me that I needed to understand that Islam is easy. I needed to simply understand that Islam is beautiful and that the Creator is merciful. In hearing these things, I was comforted. I would be told to turn back and simply rest my affairs with the All-Knowing. Now, I would soon find myself in the company of a reformed-Jew. I found much wisdom in the company of my friend, even though she had come from a different faith than me. We discussed various aspects of our faiths and found such beauty in both. It was this deep-awakening about the nature of our religions and the beauty that it brings to the follower of it. She, a convert herself, had to undergo a personal journey within her faith. So, I found myself really happy with our brief time together. So, the next part of my journey was with a Roman-Catholic. For some people, this may be just impossible to even fathom, but I will continue in my story. I found myself becoming great friends with a Roman-Catholic during this process. It was interesting because we both have similar questions and struggles. We both have found ourselves just talking about big questions. Big questions, for most people, is a scary thing. In many ways, it has been a very moving experience for me. In being able to connect to people from various faiths have taught me to reflect deeply about life. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (49:13)
Islam is not a burden upon anyone and it should be. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said;
“This religion is easy. No one becomes harsh and strict in the religion without it overwhelming him. So fulfill your duties as best you can and rejoice. Rely upon the efforts of the morning and the evening and a little at night and you will reach your goal.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî]
So, I have reflected on the various gems I have acquired along my path of life. I do believe I can mend the various aspects of my identity: Black, American, Feminist, Marxist, Muslim, and writer all together. I think I sometimes make life a lot harder than what it is. Everyday is a learning experience. We should look at the lessons that we learn and enjoy the process. We may not find the answers to all of our questions, but it is definitely worth a shot to just seek out the answers. I’m not done in my journey, but I am content.
And sometimes we should just:
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
In the midst of the struggle, we should just let things happen. We should let the cards fall as they will. We should find freedom in the struggle. One thing that I have learned recently in meditation is that we can control our emotions. We can control our own outlook on life. It is us that own the very emotions that often take over us. During the entire process, I was really upset at myself. I felt as if I was losing control of my life. I felt out of sync. I wasn’t really at one with myself. I was truly experiencing darkness at the core. So, I knew I had to find peace somehow. I had to unfold myself from the bubble I had created for myself, so I had to branch out for help. I was losing myself day by day in this war I was in. However, I knew I was the one allowing for the suffering to exist. So, I accepted the reality of the situation and just knew I had to keep going.
In many ways, I was afraid of finding out the end result of my journey. However, I understand that my journey is not over. Our lives will forever be a process and never a product. We are always evolving as individuals. We will forever change and change is constant. So, I’m living life. I’m taking it easy now. Every single day is a blessing. So, why not enjoy it? In the words of a beloved author:
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
Just let the cards fall as they will. Life will happen. Things will occur. Just never give up. Just never be okay with honoring fear and ignorance. Forever reflect and think. Enlightenment only comes to those that seek truth.