18-year-old Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim was recently under the limelight on account of her decision to quit acting and embrace Islam instead. It caused quite a stir and received a lot of backlash and criticism even though some people applauded it. While this matter remains an issue being debated, again and again, I found myself having a conversation in my head about a little thought which has been dwelling in my mind for a long time now. About being a young, brown Muslim girl.
Stories of people reconnecting with their faith have at all times inspired me but I’ve never been able to do the same. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my religion. I think a lot of Muslim girls can relate to this. From a young age, religion is forced on us. I never understood why I had to do things in a certain way. Seeking answers or explanations don’t go well for most of us. Asking questions or daring to go with your own opinion gets you labeled as being rebellious.
We are taught to cover our hair, contain our thoughts, and sacrifice our dreams. Already living in a society with patriarchal values, it’s quite a struggle when religion is dumped on top of it. Growing up, I hated my religion with all my heart. How could I not? Everything I wanted to do was forbidden in the name of religion.
Being young and naive, we tend to give in to pressure and dutifully obey whatever we’re told. In time we begin to allow other people’s morals to be our truth. We believe there isn’t any other choice. And we try our best to live up to it.
But the thing is, at many times in life, we outgrow ourselves. We no longer become the person we used to be. Our perceptions change. Our habits change. Our ideas change. We see the world for what it is, rather than what we’ve been taught about it. The books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, everything comes together to show us the ultimate truth. Every bit of exposure we have to the truth significantly alters our thought process.
That is when progression occurs. We now know we have a choice. We realize that if we don’t take a stand for ourselves, no one else will. We stop settling for less and start asking for what we deserve
And so, I rebelled. I questioned every aspect of why I had to do things in the routine I had been taught. I disobeyed anything I found was against my newly found morals and beliefs. Little by little, I found myself becoming a completely different person.
But sooner or later, I grew tired of being rebellious. I grew tired of always asking questions, but never getting the answers. I grew tired of the strained relationship I had with my parents because of them forcing their beliefs on me. I was desperately searching for the truth, but somehow I gave up on finding it.
I knew I couldn’t go against my values. I knew I didn’t have to give in to my religion’s or parent’s views and settle for the prevalent truth. But the truth is, like all phases, I had outgrown this one too. Suddenly, all I wanted was to end this war with myself.
And in doing so, I found my peace.
I never thought I’d do it, but somewhere along the way, I made peace with my religion. I haven’t reconnected with my faith entirely. And I haven’t given up on finding the truth. I’m still half war and half peace.
Maybe I’ll outgrow this phase too. But that’s for another time.
(The title for this article was inspired from a poem by Noor Unnahar)