I live as a Muslimah since I was born, but I just realized that Muslim is not only a title which sticks on me as a person. It’s an identity; which I’ve ever tried to forget before.
I was born as a Muslim because my parents were Muslims. Thus my religion is Islam. Every time people ask, “what is your religion?” “Islam” I answered. Yes, it’s a narrative which I got from my parents and their ancestors.
I was raised within the Islamic environment. My parents were not a very religious person, but my environment was. The narrative of my family background pushed me to perform myself as a Muslim not because I wanted, but because I had to. I was often wondered how if I were not a Muslim. I was questioning myself, “did I really love this religion?” because sometimes, I was asking myself how it feels when I could do everything with my own sake (not following the Islamic rules.) I couldn’t eat pork, alcohol, and so on. That’s made me sad somehow, “why can’t I?.” Furthermore, my Christian friends seemed so free to do anything like there’s no ‘oppression’ and obligation as strict as Islam. Yes, I once called it as oppression because I felt like I can’t do anything for my own sake of happiness.
“Why I have to pray 5 times a day? have to wake up in the early morning to pray while other people might have their beautiful dreams… “
“why I have to wear Hijab? I like to see my hair to be free without anything to cover it…”
“why I have to cover my all my body? I can’t wear short pants? don’t they know how hot summer is?”
and many other things popped up in my mind every day.
And the answer I got was only one, “Because you’re a Muslim.”
My parents brought me to a Qur’anic Learning Center since I was 4 which I have to attend every day. I also went to Islamic kindergarten at the same time. Then they enrolled me in Islamic Elementary School before I had to move to another city but they couldn’t find any Islamic school as good as before, so I went to the public school; but they’re remained to bring me to Qur’anic learning center near the house.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I was love to attend the class. The only thing I love is to play with many friends there, and my parents were praising my achievement in that activity. Hence I was triggered to do more and achieve more to win my parents heart, then I followed all the Ustadh/Ustadzah (teachers) had taught me. I recited Qur’an better than the other students until they selected me to be the leader for years. I become more and more skillful in Qur’anic reciting, I memorized many Qur’anic verses much more than the other students and I got lots of compliments from many people, including my whole family, my friends’ parents, my neighbors and the Muslim scholars in the town. They all were so proud of me.
In the meantime, I didn’t wear hijab until I graduated from Senior High School. However, I wore hijab since I entered Islamic Kindergarten but I decided to take it off when I went to the public school. Since then, I only wear hijab on Friday, because it was the rules for every Muslim student in my school. When the school was over, I took off the hijab even before I arrived at home. I didn’t know at all what it’s used for. Moreover, the hot weather in the city got me burned out and sweated like hell. So I took it off, put it inside my bag and I walked home. What a relief when my hair finally feels the wind.
After Senior High School graduation I don’t have any friends. We were busy with ourselves to prepare to go to University. Furthermore, I live a little bit far from them and it made a little difficult for us to catch up. At the time, I finally get a lot of free time to be alone. Schooling had gotten me so busy until I couldn’t find a time to think, reflecting about anything (including my mental health) other than school. I didn’t know what happened, but I felt so empty at that time — which I never felt like that before.
I was questioning myself, “who am I?” “what is my purpose in this life?” “to whom I live for? is it for my parents? my country? myself? or who?”
“who am I? I am a Muslim. But am I Muslim enough?”
I triggered to find my purpose as a human being. As a Muslim who had Islam as my religion, and Allah as my God, then what Allah wants from me? what is my role in this life? what I’m supposed to do as His worshipper?
Thus I opened again the Qur’an. I read the meaning and I finally understand why I was created in this life. I was here to worship The Creator, Allah.
“ And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me [Allah]…” (Quran, 51:56–58)
and when I questioning about who is Allah, I got the answer from this verse.
“Say (O Muhammad): He is Allah [Who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Quran, 112)
Okay, I was here to worship Him and now I know who Allah is; I had known that since I was a kid — but I felt like that was the first time I hear and read by myself about it without anyone taught me to. It’s different when someone taught you and you took the knowledge as a narrative which you had to get and hold within yourself, and when you searched the knowledge based on your own intuition in your conscious state that you really wanted to know what it actually was, and the result was completely different.
I’ve recited Qur’an fluently without understand the meaning, then I felt that I lacked something which is an understanding about what I’ve recited; what it’s all about, what I actually did and what is my purpose in life. And then I understand that I was a Muslim by narrative and circumstance before I have my own consciousness to learn and understand better. Thus I decided to read the meaning of every verse in Qur’an. Not all of them, though, but even only reading some verses already got me a thousand impression at how they could be so real when I thinking about everything I’ve read.
“By the Earth and its (wide) expanse: By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and it’s right;- Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it!” (Asy-syams:7–10)
“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah. for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (Ar-Ra’d:28)
In Islam, we have a ritual called Dhikr, it’s when we call the name of Allah (He got 99 names as attributes of Him) for about hundreds or even a million times a day. The key is only about remembering Allah in our heart and mind. Thus I practiced it for days since I found the verse. The result was thrilled me more than anything. I felt so relaxed, soothed and it amazed me because I never felt so relieved as I’ve felt after I’ve done that (Dhikr) it made me wanted to know more about Islam. The religion which I’ve got since my birth but I’ve only known the beauty of it when I was a teenager.
You know how it feels right? as a teenager, we are in search of our identity. Where there will always many questions about “who am I?” “what I want to be?” “what should I have to do as a human being?” and so on. We are identifying ourselves and our lives. Because we don’t know who we are and we seek the meaning and purpose of our life. That’s what I did though. I was confused enough to be what I really wanted to be because I don’t really know what I was supposed to be. That’s where my journey to find my identity began.
I bought many Islamic books to read and contemplate with. The more I read, the more I feel so grateful to be a Muslimah. The first time in my life, I finally found who I am. I was feeling like finding a priceless treasury which had been buried within my own ignorance. One by one, step by step, I found the answer for every “why” which I’ve been asking for years in my life. When I found the answer to ‘why I live in this world and to whom I suppose to worship’ the question of the identity of a human being, I continued the journey to find ‘why I was born as a female and what is the purpose of a female in this world’, I found the most amazing thing I ever have in my life. The day which I’d never forgot how happy I was as a female.
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31)
If we translate that meaning in a state of ‘freedom of women’ which had been campaigned all the times. The statement that women must be free to define, wear or do anything she wants; the verse above might seem like Islam dictated its women believer to do everything in Islamic way with its set of rules. But what I found was Islam was not dictate, but Islam is warn the women to protect themselves, because they are too precious.
Let’s think a little bit more detail here, if I were a man, I don’t want to have a wife who is like to shows her beauty to another man. As we see that many wives out there who look so bad in the house when they have their husband next to them, but they look so gorgeous and very beautiful when they go outside and meet another people (or another man who might be their relatives, coworker, friends and so on.) And I would be jealous when I find my wife doing such a thing. “You look so dull in front of me but why you show your beauty in front of those people?” I might say that. As a Man, I would be so happy when it was only me who can enjoy the beauty of my wife, every day. When she can protect herself for me and not make another man to get attracted to her, I would feel such a relief when I have to leave her at home for work for the family.
If I were a wife, the biggest fear I have might be about when my husband has an affair with another woman. As we see nowadays, there’re many women who look so attractive in front of the men, they don’t even think either the man has married or single. Furthermore, if the women look more beautiful, more attractive than me as his wife, I would be so upset to know that. The worst thing is when my husband is not satisfied with me, or he thinks that I’m not as great as those women, of course, that thing would be damaging my marriage and my children’s future.
If we think deeper, as I am right now who is a single woman. I don’t want to attract a man by showing my physical beauty, not because I don’t have that beauty, but because I don’t want to be chosen by a man just because of my physical beauty. Every woman gets older by days, the physical beauty which a man loved within a woman will eventually get faded except she has to pay lots of bucks to look younger than her age.
I’ve got many stories from many married women who felt stressful because their husbands having affair with a prettier girl, then they got divorced and their children have terrible days since then. If every woman could protect themselves, having high self-esteem and not showing her beauty for every man, but save theirs just for the beloved husbands who have rights to enjoy. There might be a great life for every couple in this world. And Islam set the rules to protect every man and women from having such a painful tragedy in their life.
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “The world is provision and the best provision in the world is a righteous woman.” (Sahih Muslim 1467)
A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim)
There is a high place for women in Islam. And the purpose for them to wear hijab and to cover their bodies is because they are precious. Like a pearl which must have to be placed in a good place, so does Muslim women (Muslimah.) Allah wants them to be protected, Thus the command for Muslimah to wear hijab and covering their bodies is not an act of oppression, many people are misunderstanding it, including myself in the past when I didn’t know why I have to do it.
When I wear hijab, I feel protected, respected and I feel very comfortable with the new look. In the past, where I have to wear it because of the rules and command from school or parents because of my religion, and I felt so awful. But eventually, I felt so happy when I could wear the same thing with my full of consciousness and willingness. The fact is, I’m no longer feeling awful or want to take off the hijab from my head even though the weather is extremely hot. I don’t know why but I just feel cold, comfort and safe.
The sincerity differentiates everything; the knowledge I got helped me to understand myself. Not as a human being which has the responsibility to bring a narrative from my parents or family, but I chose the religion by myself after an in-depth contemplation and reflection of Islam.
My purpose is no longer about chasing the world and its content, but I choose to follow the right path of my religion. I try to learn more and more about Islam, and it never fails to impress me all the time.
There are some people who have been asking me “You are an activist, you’re doing good things to many people without wanting something in return. Why you don’t put it in your profile or take it as your identity?” To be honest, I never felt that I have to put it as my identity even though I’ve been spending almost all of my years spreading kindness, helping people and so on through my participation in some local NGOs. What I’ve understood is that spreading kindness to people is the core of my religion. We are never out of verse in Qur’an which tells its believer to conduct good things among the people no matter what their religion is.
Same as with another deed such as forgiving people whom I’ve helped but then they hurt me at the end, another people who witnessed might couldn’t believe how could I easily forgave those people like nothing had happened between us. And about how I could give my whole time and prioritized the people who needed help rather than thought about my own happiness, and they told me that I was too kind to people until I didn’t think about myself. No, they were wrong about me, I was not as kind as what they’ve thought, but I just followed what Islam had taught me to be and to do in this life. That’s what I love to do in my life, and in fact, I got tons of happiness when I could help people in needs; the feeling was beyond anything.
I never tired to tell to anyone who gives their praise, that what they have seen on me it’s all attributed to Allah and Islam if it was a good thing. But if it was a bad thing, it must came from my own ignorance and failures.
I regretted to let my 17 years of my life went like that; as I was a Muslimah but I didn’t know what’s inside of that identity and Islam for those many years. If I had realized since I was a little kid, I might always maximize myself to digging every knowledge and embrace every beauty of this religion.
I once heard from a Nigerian speaker in Ted Talk. She was telling about the power of story. When we reading about a story from a novel, for example, the novel was about a story of how bad Nigerian people is, we will eventually get a new perspective that Nigerian is always bad. And when the Nigerians also reading a story about how bad American is, of course, they will have a picture in mind that all American is bad. But the reality, there always exists bad people and good people in a country or everywhere. The problem is, sometimes, we are only reading one story and we generalized the rest of the people based on that story. We have to read many stories, we have to dig the information deeper than the story which actually not always based on reality. The wise are always understanding first before saying, the ignorant judging first before understanding.