Assalamu’alaikum dear readers and fellow bloggers,
I had taken a long break from blogging, probably more than year; I got busy with life, work and kids but inshAllah I want to re-start blogging or at least blog from time to time about issues which I think should be discussed.
My topic will touch a number of subjects, in particular, racism in Islam but I will also look at other things, such as single motherhood since this actionmum blogspot!
Firstly, I want to give bit of background about my upbringing which will probably explain why I failed or still cannot get around certain issues I found that majority of muslims prioritise. I was born in a practising family, with very limited cultural input; obviously we dressed according to our tradition, ate our type of food etc, but there was not any mixing of Islam with cultural beliefs or tradition. It has not always been the case for my family, before my birth ; my parents were pretty much cultural muslims, they did things because their parents were doing it without any understanding of why it was required and if it was required at all. Alhumdulillah, they both wanted to learn and Allah guided them. By the time, I came along, I never got to see the traditional/cultural side of them. My parents did not attend family gatherings where certain unislamic things were practised or things which they considered bid’ah (innovation) or where shirk was practised although good ties were maintained with family and friends; so I was pretty much ignorant about cultural muslims.
Growing up, I pretty much had a very simplistic approach to Islam, which was all based on Qur’an and sunnah. Obviously being a teenager and myself, I was not a perfect or an almost perfect practising muslim, and had and still do have my shortcomings which is from my nafs. May Allah reward both my parents for their guidance. Ameen.
I grew up in a multicultural society, we were the only muslim family in our area, and honestly we loved it. I hated the idea of living in a muslim only area. I was lucky enough Alhumdulillah to have friends from all shades and colours, from different nationalities and backgrounds. I even went on to study at a catholic secondary school, as my parents wanted me to be in a school where discipline was at the heart of it, and faith schools are known for being strong on discipline. During my years at secondary school, I mainly had non-muslim friends, and the very few muslims that did attend the school were not much practising or belonged to more cultural families. Till date, I am still in touch with my secondary school friends, muslims and non-muslims and so many have had such a beautiful journey, some of them, their lives have taken a u-turn and it’s amazing to see how they have all become stronger and better in different ways.
My point is, growing up, I never thought I had to choose my friends based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, sect, caste, social status etc. I had no clue how important this is actually among muslims, please bear in mind I said Muslims and not Islam. My parents never discouraged me in anyway or talked down about people who were ‘different’ to us. For me, if you accept someone, you accept them fully as they are.
I then moved to a European country for further studies. This was my first contact with the muslim world without my parents involvement. When I came to the UK, I knew things were going to be different, I was to live by myself but I was also to make the right choices and uphold the trust my parents have put in me. Again, I was not always on top of everything but I tried my best. The city I chose to live in and study was mainly a ‘white English’ city; so finding common grounds was going to be hard. The university was chosen by many students for it’s wild nightlife. Let’s just say, it was famous across UK for getting drunk and clubbing. I didn’t struggle to make friends,; everyone on my course was ‘white’, my flatmates were all ‘white’ and they were all non-muslim. I just did not have much in common with them. Their favourite hobby was to go clubbing obviously and get pissed. By that time, I had made friends with 2 practising Christians, who were not against the idea of sometimes going out for a meal. So, basically that was my social life.
I then came across, some people who were originally form my country but soon realised, I was better off keeping my distant from most of them, and basically I only got along with 1 Hindu girl and she didn't drink, she didn’t date and we had much more in common than the rest of the people I had met so far.
After a while, I came to know, there was a uni mosque; so I started going to the mosque to pray and also in the hope of making friends. Never did it cross my mind how hard it was going to be to make muslim friends. My first year at uni was miserable in terms of making muslim friends. I realised that most people tend to hang around with people from their country of origin or belonging to the same ethnicity group as them. I mean people would say hello to you and be friendly with you when they see you, but that was about it, nobody was interested in becoming your friend for real. I almost gave up on making muslim friends then, I had managed to only make 1 muslim guy friend and that was pretty much about it. Now, I know it might be like omg, it was a guy etc. I was a tomboy, so having guy friends was never an issue to me, I pretty much thought of myself as a guy, and I’m sure, my friends who knew me back in the days would certainly agree with this statement.
So, after attempting to break through different ethnic groups at uni, I decided it was not gonna happen.
My second year at uni, was much better, there was a lot of young girls who joined uni, they were my juniors but they also wanted to practise the deen, so they used to come to the mosque , as we used to call it, the den. Those girls had something similar with me as they did not belong to any group, basically we used to call ourselves, the rejects. We used to laugh about it, but nevertheless, it was also stating an important fact. Some were mixed-raced and thus did not belong to a group, others were asians born and bred in Arab countries, so the didn't have anything in common with the Arabs or asians, some like me, did not have anyone form their country of origin, or their parents country of origin, some were reverts, in a nutshell, we did not belong to a majority group.
Uni was basically, my first exposure to racism among muslims and how you can become an outcast in the muslim community.
‘You are good enough to be an acquaintance, and I’ll call you my friend but you are not good enough to be part of my circle.’- Moi, I believe that was really the motto.
Following uni, there was talk about marriage and all, and obviously at that point in my life, I was not sure what I was going to do next, it was hard to find a proper job due to recession , I was considering studying further, but i was not completely against the idea of getting married if I met the right person. By that time, I felt so strongly about the whole racism in Islam thing, cos I would interact with people and realised how narrow-minded they were - they had to marry a person from a particular country of origin, of a particular shade, of a particular ethnicity, of a particular caste, of a particular nationality, of a particular sect, of a particular social status, of a particular educational level, of a particular profession etc etc. I realised that people have missed the whole point about marriage; people should be married for 4 reasons, and we agree on that, but there was one reason that topped all the others: that was virtue and deen!
I remember I was so annoyed, I even started a group about interracial marriage on Facebook to change people’s mentality- I was crazy maybe, but I thought through discussion about the religion and through hadith and Qur’an, I could change people’s mindset. I started to see the stigma attached to non-white reverts ( I am sorry but white reverts, you do have it easier than the rest cos of your skin colour), to people of darker skin colour, to people who were not arabs or asian- yes! I mean black people. There was so much fuss over such petty things, when we were only meant to be striving for akhirah. I remember discussions with friends, and they put it down to personal preference or just pleasing their parents. I still believe it is not personal preference, it’s all this bullshit people have been fed through colonialism and their own belief that the fairer skin is better, or that we have better hair than them etc. I never had any issue with someone’s skin color, educational level, social status, caste, nationality etc; my parents taught me from early on, if someone is good enough to be your friend, then he/she is good enough to be part of your family. I knew my family won’t have any issues if I decided to marry someone ‘different’ as long as that person is a muslim. So I purposely looked for people who were ‘different’, as a single woman ( never been married before) and a virgin, I considered people from all backgrounds: white reverts, black reverts, asian reverts, divorcees, single parents, people form African origin, people from Asian origin etc, born muslims who have committed zina but repented, people with a disability. I did not see why I should look down upon someone who had a past, who has a particular skin color, who has kids; for me the only way they would excelled themselves was in the deen.
I got rejected by many, and I rejected others for reason of compatibility and ended up marrying a white revert. My ex- husband was not as educated as me, he had a past, he didn’t have a high paid job or career,he was younger than me, he didn’t have children (though if he did, it would not have been an issue); but at that time I saw his love for the deen and that was all that mattered. I am not saying that look only for the deen, but that should be our priority. My marriage did fail, for different reasons. But, I have no regrets as such, I did istikhara before I got married and I believe it was Allah’s will, and I had my 2 beautiful children out of it. My point is, my marriage didn't go down the drain because of any of those superficial ideas that people look for when getting married, it was more to do with our personalities.
Now, as a divorcee and a single mother, I still have friends who don't belong. I have made new friends and we still fit in the ‘rejects’ category. This now leads me to understand better the stigma attached to divorcees and single mums. Recently, things have been thrown more in my face. I have been going to the mosque regularly during Ramadan, so met a lot of other people,who would tell me how much they like me etc. And I have had discussions with my friends who are also single mums and divorcees. We had become so frustrated with Muslims; not Islam, but majority of muslims in this country follow their culture rather than the religion. I had been approached by aunties in the mosque to marry their son, until they realised I’m a divorcee with kids, my other friends have also been rejected for the same reason. Being divorcee, already gives you minus point, but being a single mum, double, triple etc your minus point depending on the number children you have. I’ve had people telling me they want to leave an abusive marriage but they are too scared to be on their own with or with our kids. How appalling is that! A person is ready to stay in an abusive relationship for fear of rejection by the ‘Ummah’.
We forget that Bilal, the person with the most beautiful voice, was black, that Khadija (r.a) the first and only wife of the prophet (peace be upon him) until her death was higher in status than the prophet, was more educated, was more than 15 years older than him, was a widow with kids from her previous marriage, that the majority of the wives of the prophet, except for one were all divorcees and single mums and definitely not virgins ( as people seem to confuse chastity with virginity).
I just want people to reflect deeply. I am a mother of 2 mixed-race daughters, I wonder what the future will hold for my children. They have been raised by a single mum, come from a ‘broken’ family, they do not belong to any community in particular and one is fairer than the other. One day, InshaAllah I hope they find someone who will accept them for who they are. I hope I do not have to explain why certain people are ok with being ‘friends’ with us, but wouldn’t consider them as daughter-in law/ sister-in-law. I hope I don’t have to explain to my darker child, why her sister, being fairer gets more marriage proposals than her.
Recently one of my friend told me she is suffering from a ‘disability’, she had been engaged for a year, when she found out about it. The groom to be and his family called off the wedding as they didn’t want a disabled wife/daughter-in law. My concern is, what would they have done, if she found out about it after the wedding, would they have just dumped her at her parents house? What if the situation was different and the guy was the one with the ‘illness’, would she have done the same? We look down on people because we think we are superior but all comes from Allah. Nobody chooses an illness or when they will fall sick, does that mean we have to consider those people as inferior to us?
Quite recently, I went through a phase where being fed up with the mentality of muslims, I was ready to give up on the religion itself, Alhumdulillah it didn't get that far. I have now decided to restrict my circle to people who accept us for who we are fully and not just as ‘friends’ but as family, who will one day consider to marry their sons to my daughters and will rise above those cultural barriers they have put up or their parents have put up.
There is nothing more annoying than seeing people of knowledge or preaching knowledge, telling you all at the wonderful things about Islam, then realising, this is the same person that would never consider my daughter for her son or her brother because she wouldn’t tick her ridiculous boxes.
I hope that one day, the majority of muslims will release we are all equal in front of Allah, except in one thing and that is our good deeds.
Nobody choses any of the stuff that people give so much importance to, it was all given by Allah, except for our choice to follow the religion properly.
If you really think of people who are different from you as friends, then your actions should reflect that, and it should not be something that only comes out of your mouth to temporary please someone or to give you the false illusion that you are not a racist.
Face it you are a racist! No need for sugarcoating.