I usually write about my life as a Muslim woman in glowing terms. And for the most part that is 100% true. However, recently I’ve been asked to talk about the down side. It helps give a different perspective, especially to women audiences who are ultimately so very sensitive and compassionate. I hope it’s edifying and another way to open doors and build bridges of understanding.
While I wouldn’t trade a minute of any experience I’ve encountered, there is a sadness and frustration that never leaves me. I pride myself on being an ambassador for my faith; but with that title comes responsibility and a burden at times. Because I cover and am immediately identified as a Muslim, I must be on my best behavior the minute I leave my home each day. Unlike others, my faith will come under scrutiny according to my behavior and attitude. So how much do I cringe when I see another covered woman with an unruly child in the check-out line? How hard do I have to compensate for an I-got up-on-the-wrong-side-of -the-bed morning? No matter where I go or what I do, I know there will be others who are judging the entire religion according to me and others like me. Fortunately my smile is usually my umbrella.
I love my faith. I left a career in musical performance and a lifestyle that was all about creating peace and harmony, making consonance out of dissonance, and ensemble taking precedence over individual. So for me it’s a no brainer that someone steeped in all things creative and beautiful would surely never opt for something violent, evil; choosing terror and havoc over peace. I often wonder why that doesn’t strike others as an ‘ah-ha’ moment! At least it should prompt questions borne of curiosity. Obviously there must be something more to Islam than what the media and pundits tell us. Yet we don’t make this connection. So I point it out to you, dear readers, here.
Islam, the Qur’an and the sunnah or ways and manners of Muhammad, offer a complete lifestyle. The one who submits to God and His guidance do indeed find more peace internally and spread it to those around them. My first passion upon embracing Islam was to share what I found with others. I found complete guidance for my life, its purpose and comforting knowledge about the afterlife. The things with which mankind struggles most. Yet I cannot ever share these pearls of wisdom. Muslims are forever on the defensive, called on to explain or justify what Islam is NOT and never what it actually IS. It is incredibly frustrating, especially when I see others struggling with questions that Islam may answer, or hear misinformed individuals ranting on about Muslim beliefs and reinventing history to suit their agendas.
But along with problems from without there come problems from within. Most converts or those who openly and willingly embrace a different path, come to their religious choice as adults. Therefore, there is a conscious decision and logic behind these changes. Converts tend to come in through the original sources rather than by birthright: heritage is often very watered down with culture and not necessarily Islamic. Just like many Americans, Muslims born into the religion take their ‘gift’ for granted and practice minimally or according to cultural dictates. The poor convert is often left in a no man’s land, between ones fellow Americans and those born Muslims who immigrated to our shores. We don’t fit in either category. We can be seen as a traitor by our countrymen and never quite Muslim enough by those born into the faith.
It’s also painful to see the state of the Muslim world today. The glorious Golden Age of Islam ruled Spain for over 800 years. Where once the zeal for knowledge spurred incredible strides in medicine, science and technology and paved the way for the Renaissance and today’s high tech world, is today replaced by poverty, illiteracy, and rampant infighting. While Spain and other cities dubbed with such titles as ‘The Ornament of the World’ (Cordoba), they have now become as the Dark Ages of Europe once were. While I know that what goes around comes around, it’s still disheartening especially knowing what Muslims are capable of when they are connected to their religion and not disconnected. The downfall today is not due to a backward and violent religion, but rather the lack of a true connection and commitment to its practice.
It will always give me great joy to talk about my faith. And I hope that my joy in expressing its values will continue to shine through, causing others to pause and consider.
So though I remain the only Yoga Ninja in the pool, happy in my hijab, I hope to change a few hearts and minds as I go.
Photographs: Aqua Yoga Diva Sandi Tindal (https://www.anchoredvesselyoga.com/ and http://www.aquafitplano.com/dynamicdata/default.asp)