The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

Depending on what type of guy my mother was married to dictated how religious she was going to be. Which trickled down to how religious us kids were going to be. Or pretended to be.

I can remember a time where Mom was married to this dude that I hadn’t cared for. He just gave me a bad vibe and even as I grew older, I still hadn’t liked him. But it was Mom’s second marriage and fourth serious relationship and as children living in the 90’s, we had no voice or say so.

To the community, he was so Islamic. People looked up to him because he was knowledgeable and knew ayahs (verses) from the Quran like the back of his hand. He traveled in the name of Allah (SWT) and never missed Jum’ah (congregational prayer on Fridays). He fasted and didn’t listen to music. He wore traditional garb and had a huge sunnah beard. During Ramadan, he fasted and went to make the nightly prayers.

To the community, he was so Islamic. tweet

In the home, he told us that TV was forbidden and because Mom wanted to play the religious role for her new hubby, she agreed. Mom already limited the amount of TV time we had in the first place. Now, they packed both black-and-white TVs and the color one that was in the living room and placed them in the basement. We were mortified. No “Xena the Warrior Princess”. No “Hercules,” “SailorMoon,” “Bobby’s World” or “Power Rangers.”

I hated him even more.

A few months later, I’d come home to see the color TV back upstairs in the small family room. He sat in front of it, cross-legged, dipping incense that he sold into fragrant oils.

I ran to Mom. “We can watch TV again?”

She side-eyed me, then said, “Yes, but not all day. Same rules apply.”

I heard him croaking with laughter in the background. And although I was happy to reclaim my TV rights, I couldn’t help but wonder why the TV was now un-forbidden…

Hypocrite.

A few months later, I’d come home to see the color TV back upstairs in the small family room. He sat in front of it, cross-legged, dipping incense that he sold into fragrant oils. tweet

Mom used to read us the Qur’an twice a day. Once before homeschooling and then again before bed.

“What’s hypocrite?” My little brother asked during our nightly session.

Mom thought about it. “It’s kinda like when someone says don’t do something and then they do it themselves.”

“Like stepdad,” I said. “With the TV?”

She shot me the evil, “Mama eye” and I shrank into my seat.

 

Mom was crying. In front of her sat a hard, gray box where she kept all her credit cards and money for bills. She shook her head. “He took my money,” she said. “He took all of it!”

She hadn’t had to say who because I already knew.

She shook her head. “He took my money,” she said. “He took all of it!” tweet


 

Not only had he taken Mom’s money. Our money. But he cheated on Mom as well. Then ended up marrying the lady. Mom divorced him shortly after.

How could a man who was such an outwardly devout Muslim be so scandalous?


 

I’m not going to even lie to you, I’ve had very traumatizing experiences with the Muslims in my community. And, although, I’ve met some really amazing and beautiful Muslims, I’m still weary. And my guard stays up. I believe I shared in a past post about why I’ve been traumatized and the highs and lows of my iman (faith).

And, before I get into my sort of analysis, I’m not a mufti or a scholar on the issue. This is all clearly an opinion based on my own personal life experiences. I’m quite sure some of you have amazing and welcoming communities that never have any issues. Thumbs up.

How could a man who was such an outwardly devout Muslim be so scandalous? tweet

At one point, I tried very, very hard to fit in with the “good” Muslims. I was doing stuff for other Muslims to deem me a “good” Muslim and not doing it for my Creator. The community had pumped into our heads that we must always look the part but failed to add that we are all humans and we were created to make mistakes and repent. And that we should try to please our Lord and not so much one another. On the flipside, if you are pleasing Allah (SWT) then others will see it, feel it and that would/should also please them.

 

What I got (and many others) from the community was if you pretend to be good and holy then you should be okay. If a sister performs prayers five times a day (but in her head, she’s humming tunes to Rihanna’s foulest song) at least she’s doing the movements. If a brother goes to the club and its shots, shots, shots, shots, shots with Lil John, at least he never misses Jum’ah prayer. Oh, and this one is my favorite. He’s an Imam (or religious leader) whose gives talks, panel discussions and marital advice, but he’s in the mosque chasing around girls waaaay younger than he is or sliding into those DMs. Things that make you go, hmmmm.

And, by no means am I saying that being an oxymoron Muslim is a bad thing, an unforgivable thing–the question I’m posing is where does spirituality come into play?

The community had pumped into our heads that we must always look the part but failed to add that we are all humans and we were created to make mistakes and repent.  tweet

A lot of my friends are non-Muslim, atheist or just floating around certain beliefs.

I had a deep conversation with an atheist. He’s a good buddy of mine. He told me why he hadn’t ascribed to an organized religion. And he had some valid points, which I totally agreed with: people use religion to control others and evil people hide behind religion.

We have women in Islamic countries being raped then married off to their rapists in the name of religion.

Slaves were controlled by white men (and women) by introducing Christianity.

Young boys are being forced into being sex slaves in the name of religion.

Female genital mutilation. Cults. Honor killings. Modern day slave trades. The list goes on and on.

We both agreed that the real meanings behind modern day religions can be a bad thing. Especially when the wrong person controls it.

And he had some valid points, which I totally agreed with: people use religion to control others and evil people hide behind religion. tweet

 

Being a visible Muslim woman, here was my response to him: Islam is a perfect religion. With all the rules and intentions set out to make our lives easier. Better. Unfortunately, the people are not perfect, and if we were created perfect then we’d be angels. I’m Muslim. I believe in my practice wholeheartedly. And, insha’allah (if Allah wills), I’ll never be anything other than a believing Muslim. Although, I wouldn’t say that I’m religious (meaning that I don’t do all the things it takes to be a devout or practicing Muslim) I’m very much so a spiritual person.

I’m more spiritual in my late 20’s than I’ve even been in my entire life, pretending to pray five times a day or agreeing with what a sexist imam said during a khutbah (Islamic sermon). I actually do less physically and have more of a spiritual connection to my Creator. And, in the last two years, I’ve had to heavily rely on Allah’s guidance and mercy.

I knew that I’d become more spiritual when the outer mattered much less to me. When I’d cry and pray in my bed that Allah (SWT) would lessen my burdens. When I’d look at the sky and say SubhanAllah (glory be to God). When I stopped judging others for not being what I thought they should be.

Being a visible Muslim woman, here was my response to him: Islam is a perfect religion. With all the rules and intentions set out to make our lives easier.  tweet

With that said, I want you, the reader, to really reflect on your own personal religious and spiritual journey and beliefs. Are you wearing hijab for your husband? Are you praying, doing the movement only to appease others? Or are you really praying to Allah (SWT) with conviction in your heart? Are you giving charity so that others can see it and praise you? Are you saying certain things on the internet so people can think you are holier than thou?

 

XOXO,

 

Leah V

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