Excerpt: “How I Became a Muslim Reformer”
There are only so many times something is a coincidence before it’s a synchronicity. Life itself has been one big synchronicity. And there have been dreams with very clear messages, some that wouldn’t make sense in words, others that haunt me. And there have been experiences that connect you to things that are unseen but can still be experienced. This is deeply personal but it’s part of the story. It first started when I was five years old. It stopped for a while, and then it started again in my mid-twenties. It comes and goes.
When you’re younger, it can be difficult to make sense what’s happening to you. You can try to force your way through the marshes of life, and it doesn’t always work out how you plan. Everyone knows that. I’m at a point now where I can look back at the labyrinth from a different perspective – not just in it, but above it as well. I see how walls and obstacles led me to be where I am today. And I see His guiding hand.
When I was 4, I thought God was a pirate. My understanding of God was nebulous and as my experiences grew, so did my understanding of Him. I see divinity as an intelligence, as the highest consciousness. And we’re nowhere near understanding God’s true form yet. We’re collectively still apes staring at a monolith in awe. But we’re getting there. And as I move forward, I have total faith and complete trust. I know I’m on the path I was born to be on. And I know that path will always challenge me to become a more skilled spiritual warrior.
The question is what came first, the path or the person? Or do they form each other in union, the path paved through the person and the person forged by the path?
I’ve moved from country to country to a very young age – it might as well have been from Mars to Earth. I’ve been bullied for it enough times. I’ve been shown incredible friendship and kindness as well. And from it, I’m able to understand people.
I’ve been raised by a very traditional Muslim family who supported academics but didn’t know the first thing about teaching me to know myself. I was encouraged to speak up but never encouraged to have a voice. It took ages and probably too many mistakes to figure out how to have a voice. And I wouldn’t change that either. I can now connect with other women who still need to be lifted up. And I don’t mean the stroppy, leading with blind attitude, over-confident sense of self that’s become common; the sort of pseudo feminism that lacks grace, patience, and silence enough to listen as well as speak. I mean something far deeper and grounded, that something that helps you see reality as a kaleidoscope.
I’d also thrown myself into a poorly suited marriage with someone who still really has no idea who I am. Despite being a secular South Asian girl blessed with a mom who didn’t force marriage, it was I who forced my own hand.
Culture has deep roots, very deep roots and it’s more powerful than religion. My marriage experiment stemmed from a culmination of prior experiences resulting from deep cultural indoctrination, paired with still having a lot of lessons left to learn. And so I spent five years in a mausoleum with a stone-hearted effigy while suffocating into a slow death myself. I lost myself and I felt destroyed. And then eventually that forged me too. It killed off any lingering romanticism that was holding me back from being stronger, and totally emotionally independent, free of any need for validation or recognition.
It was another death. The fifth one in the 35 years of life so far.
Category: LETTERS TO MY SON