Author’s note: This personal essay is based on my own experiences. This is not me preaching from a soapbox. Instead, this is my attempt to muddle through some incredibly complex feelings and experiences. Perhaps along the way, I’ll be able to offer a relatable moment to anyone who may share my experiences.
Three days ago, I prayed for the first time in almost two years, and I felt like I had come home.
The thing is, I had always found peace in my prayers. And then a few years ago, something happened. I wed a man who had pretended to be more connected to Islam than he actually was, and I eventually found myself in a marriage that was completely devoid of faith and trust. This may seem miniscule, but these were two things that formed the very core of my being. I get now that it probably wasn’t his fault. Faith is so dynamic, not static, and he was probably dealing with his own crisis of faith for longer than I. I was just an unwitting and unwilling passenger in his personal roller coaster of emotions. Of course, this wasn’t the only experience shaking my faith. I won’t go into details, but at the time, it seemed that I was facing hardship after hardship on every front — personal and professional — and I, a relatively resilient person, was finding it harder to bear. It was unrelenting, and my 24-year-old self just didn’t know how to deal.
Things progressed, and while I won’t go into the details, something eventually snapped within me. I stopped praying. I stopped looking forward to Ramadan. I stopped being a practicing Muslim. I gave up on my faith. I got angrier at the state of my affairs. I became more confused, and as a result, my frustration with my situation grew exponentially. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not making excuses for the choices I made. But more often than not, I’d wonder where I, a formerly more practicing Muslim, went wrong. I questioned what I had done to deserve these overwhelming feelings of abandonment and fury at turn my life had taken, despite my best efforts. I had done my best to be good, so what gives? Like I said, I’m not proud of my thinking, but that was the reality of my mental space at the time. I had always defined myself as a Muslim. Now that I no longer seemed to be a practicing Muslim (according to hallmarks I had set for myself), how was I to define myself? Who was I?
It was a weird feeling, not praying. I always felt like a little part of me was squirming in discomfort, as if I was in the cusp of missing something. Still, I was too stubborn and perplexed to take the time out to make ablution and sink my feet into the soft fabric of my prayer mat. I had tried so hard to be a good person, a practicing Muslim, and all I wanted was the madness that surrounded me to stop. If throwing myself into my faith couldn’t protect me, then what would? Like I said, I’m not proud of my thinking, but as a culmination of my experiences, it was what it was.
I don’t exactly know what I’m trying to get at here. All I know is, I had faith. I lost faith. And perhaps I’m coming back around now. I hope with every fiber of my being that this time around, I’ll stick to my salah, but who knows? It seems that faith is dynamic, no matter how static and steady we want it to be. We are imperfect beings, created as such by the Almighty, and so maybe it’s okay that our faith waivers sometimes? Perhaps we need to stop shaming that, and trust that our Creator has assured us that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps we need to maintain faith that He will bring us back to Him eventually. All I know for sure is, three days ago, I prayed for the first time in almost two years, and although I thought I would feel minimal connection, I felt like I was coming home to the warm embrace of someone special.
And so, I’m filled with hope for the rest of my Ramadan, and the rest of my existence. Maybe that’s all any of us can do.