‘You are black, you are white, you are male, you are female. They are just a few of the ways you may have identified prior to taking your shahada.‘
Todays blog on the layers of you is by Khadija (follow becomingkhadija on Instagram)
One thing that tends to happen once we become Muslim is that we forget that these identities still pertain to us in our efforts to add the new layer of identity that comes with being a muslim.
Its all to often that the declaration of faith is presented to new Muslims from a cultural view point and the deen (path of Islam) and the culture are so intertwined its hard to make heads nor tails of the two.
At the beginning stages for a lot of Muslimahs for example, it is how they are told they should wear the hijab inclusive of the types of clothes that should be worn. For some this can then make it difficult for those who may not physically “present” as Muslim to be identified by other Muslims and likewise they may now be seen as the ‘other’ by members of the community to which they already belonged.
Going deeper still there is a incorrect ideology that your name has to be changed (it doesn’t if there is no Islamic contradictory meaning to it) so you have already “lost” the style of dress you may have had and now you’re loosing your name too.
Should we keep going down the rabbit hole? For those who may have been in the game a little bit longer now you may even notice that which school of thought you do (or do not) follow also further impacts on the identity that you may now be so desperately trying to hold on to.
Its all alot to take in really and when you’re being asked to or made to feel like ridding yourself of your old identities is a mandatory action; it can push some people to question everthing they ever thought they knew about themselves.
Often people are referred to as layered like an onion and whilst I agree with it in part I feel we are more Akin to cabbages. Neither are glamorous but hear me out. With an onion each of the layers although connected to the other do not overlap much at all. A cabbage on the other hand. If you were to peel off one layer you would interfere with another layer and said layer does not necessarily cover the layers below it. In human term, our layers, our identities are not separate from each other. They are not necessarily hidden by each other and when peeling back one layer of self you automatically impact the layers underneath.
Bringing this back to what happenes with our identities post shahada. We cannot remove layers of our old self, our current self or and any other self without interfering with the other layers. In everyday terms this may be referred to as ‘loosing yourself.’
OK enough of the analogies it’s probably useless me explaining all this without offering some ways of not loosing yourself or in some cases how to re-find yourself.
1) Embrace parts of your culture that do not oppose the deen.
There are admittedly complications to this but remember everything is permissible unless proven other wise.
2) Find alternatives.
For those things that are impermissible in the deen maybe take a look at small switches that are accessible to you. For example if Sundays are roast days where your family get together but it’s usually accompanied with alcohol how about alcohol free celebratory beverages and keeping the Sunday family tradition.
Visit the barbers or hairdressers, use a face mask. Buy clothes etc that you enjoy wearing. Being a muslim doesn’t mean letting go of yourself. It takes time but you’ll get there.
4) keep an open mind and renew your intentions.
Its easy to get sucked into the vortex of other peoples opinions of how you should identify. But keep making duaa that you are guided and do not feel as though one person’s opinion is what you should base everything off.
5) Find others who share similar identities to you
Whether that be at groups in the mosque forums online (practice Internet safety) or by work or academic associations.
At this point my disclaimer is that I firmly believe we have our seperate identities for a reason as gifts from Allah swt. It speaks to a level of ingratitude to be made to feel we should dismiss this. Despite what anyone says you are ‘Muslim enough’ as you are with ALL of your layers. They are what help you towards better character and connection to Allah exhaluted is he.