Approaching Ramadan as a sh—y Muslim

If it wasn’t for bold women authors, I’d still be running from my Muslimhood

Mirza, Nawaz, and Malik have helped me love myself.

For most of my life, I’ve hated my parent’s faith and everything associated with it. From the first time I stepped into a mosque and looked up at bearded Bengali men eager to put me in my place, I was determined to escape all traces of Islam.

When I got to Queen’s, things got more complicated. There was no detaching myself from being Muslim, no matter how hard I tried. People who looked like those mean men in the mosque—but acted nothing like them—became my strongest allies.

This will be the first year I observe Ramadan alone.

After living out my degree in a place that rewards everything far removed from my parent’s version of Islam—binge drinking, hook-ups, the pursuit of individual happiness—and spending a summer being called a terrorist, I’m confronting what it’s like to be a shitty Muslim away from home.

Will I force a date into my mouth at iftar even when my mom isn’t raising an eyebrow expectantly? Will I pray Taraweeh without my dad’s beaming smile at the daughter who makes up for his son? Will I wear skimpy dresses in the Kingston heat while fasting through a caffeine headache?

It seems only books can help me make sense of my perpetual identity crisis.

Of course, the Muslim women around me will always inspire me. The issue is that Muslims can’t show weakness in a place like Queen’s and in a place like where I grew up, any sign of deviation or vulnerability—something as simple as a girl smiling to herself for too long in a so-called ‘wrong’ place—comes with the threat of losing the only community you’ve ever known.

So, I’ve turned to authors. They’ve taught me I can be any kind of Muslim I want to be, and that’ll never make me any less of the things I am.

Hadia in Fatima Farheen Mirza’s A Place for Us taught me the Qur’an holds the space to love someone from any tribe. Hadia’s faith doesn’t waver when she asks for water at a kegger or when she announces her devotion to a man from a different sect.

In Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, in no uncertain terms, Zarqa Nawaz told me a devout Muslim woman doesn’t have to be still. She can be the loudest and funniest person in a room. She can look at her mom’s lectures, from a distance, with humour and nostalgia.

Ayisha Malik’s title character in Sofia Khan is not Obliged reminded me even the ideal hijabi daughter spends just as much time as anyone thinking about sex and all its awkward logistics.

These authors are the reason why, this Ramadan, I’ll be fasting without feeling guilty about the joints I’ve smoked and the impure thoughts I’ve held over the year’s eleven other months. The honesty of these Muslim authors is helping me be everything I am, even in a world that wants women to be anything but honest.

More importantly, they’re teaching me if there is some God up there—my parent’s or anyone else’s—they’re probably okay with my string of failed boyfriends and love of rosé as long as I’m mostly trying to be good.

Ramadan Mubarak to anyone celebrating. For every date you eat alone, please know I’m in my kitchen scrunching my nose up at the taste, proud of the Muslims we’re becoming.

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