Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Birthday Girl and her Cake

As-Salaam-Alaikum (Peace be on to you) to everyone out there even vaguely interested in this blog. :) I am a relatively new Muslim who has been on the crazy interesting journey of reverting. I like to think of it as engaging in the navigation of my new Halal identity. It is out of sheer necessity that I have decided to begin this blog. Other than wanting an emotional outlet I sincerely hope that this blog can reach the heart of anyone who needs to hear what I have to say and that reading my experiences will make them feel even a little less alone in this wild wide world.

So here's a little bit about myself. I come from a Christian family and so far I'm the only Muslim revert. I've been Muslim for a little over two years now and I've recently turned the big 2-5. I spent the better part of the day in a humble get together with my family. I know that celebrating birthdays isn't supposed to be a big deal to Muslims so this year I kept things pretty simple and battled my urge to feel bad about doing that. By any standard I had a pretty decent birthday though. There was a nice mix of Facebook posts, messages and calls. I got gifts and hugs. So why..whyy is it then that when anyone asked me how my day was I replied..'well I'm making the best of a weekday.' Sigh. I know the way I celebrated my day was sweet and humble and (I hope) pleasing to Allah (God). So then why is it that as a practicing Muslim do I feel the need to cover that up? Is it that at a quarter century old the human instinct still wants to fit in with the crowd so badly? Why am I...why are we trying to excuse our religion and beliefs?

Truth be told, the best part of my day was taking a drive with someone very dear to me while we listened to Islamic lectures. To complete the day my mom, and two of my five sisters had a cake and lasagna party at the family home. Now we're getting to the dicey part people, I'm going to talk about my family. Like many other reverts out there, I've had to deal with some pretty nasty reactions from the family unit..and yes..I'm putting that politely. I'm torn up about telling you guys about my family because I don't want to be disrespectful to them. The thing is, what is the actual point of this blog if I don't share my authentic experience? How else are we supposed to reach out and help each other if we cherish our silence so much that we are made to feel alone in this. So here goes, I am literally the least liked member of my family for a number of reasons ranging from the relationship they share with my biological father, to the colour of my skin, to my quiet temperament and (I'm just going to say this frankly) the fact that I just don't enjoy looking down on others the way they do. Sadly, they've gotten a scapegoat to pin all their negativity too and that's me and my Islam.

I live with my mother and almost everyday I go to battle for what I believe. The most popular of our confrontations revolve around pork and alcohol. My mum loves to put some pork in her cooking and if its not in her cooking its in the fridge..right next to eggs and cheese I was so looking forward to having for breakfast. Alcohol is another story. My mother is an excellent cook and knows the ins and outs of making and using alcohol in food. Luckily for me she cares enough to make fish/halal chicken most days. So I was naturally expecting the best halal considerations for my birthday...and that's exactly what I got. Mum made beef lasagna with halal products and bought my favourite halal icecream and let me pick the cake I wanted. What I wasn't expecting was to screw my own self over.

There it was..a yummy beautiful chocolate cake covered in semi sweet chocolate chips and chocolate syrup..my dream cake. I cut into it slowly, pleasuring every moment. Finally I was sure I got my way. Here's a meal I don't have to worry about..here's a cake that I'm not likely going to share much of. I dished out four slices, one piece for each person at the table and I took my seat, proud and excited to taste this monstrosity. I licked my fingers because some of the goowy chocolate syrup was smeared on them. It made my taste buds beg for more. As a response, I stuck my fork in the chocolaty mess and took a bite. Then there it was, my first let down of my 25th year on this earth. The cake had alcohol. I panicked and swallowed hard. I smiled and pretended not to notice. The next few minutes were a blur of thoughts in my mind as I tried to convince myself that it was my imagination. I was being paranoid. I took another bite. It tasted like black forest. I inspected the contents. I was almost angry enough to let it show, to let my smile crack and allow my mum to think that her efforts were in vein, she did not get it right, it was wrong, and her efforts were in vein. She had done her part. She gave me a halal birthday and I was the one who messed up but if I dare refused to act like I enjoyed that cake all she would see is another disappointment. In her eyes it would be just another way that Islam is putting me at a disadvantage, taking away my fun, making her look like the unsupportive mother who bought me a haram cake. So I swallowed. I thought about Allah and I swallowed and asked for forgiveness with every bite. I looked at the faces of my sisters and I could tell they knew what happened and they knew I dare not complain after such a big effort was made. I was relived when someone remembered the ice cream. I left my slice of cake unfinished and attended to my ice cream. I labeled the cake as having too much sugar and evaded the shame of having to eat the rest of it.

It's occasions like these I yearn for my family to accept Islam. I would not have had to take a second bite if only they would understand. So I guess I'm pretty much still in the stage of wanting acceptance but above all I want people to see Islam as something that isn't out to cause hurt. I wanted my family to have this one. I wanted them to see that just like everyone else I can eat cake. I didn't want them to know how much I have changed...cause its still me.. I'm just Muslim now. But being Muslim in itself is everything. Its our way of life and the fact that I compromised that for my family's comfort is understandable but its also wrong. For the rest of the night my guilt begged to be felt and it was only in my quiet time that I let my emotions have its way. I was angry and confused. Although, this was not the first time I've faced this situation. I had a test and failed but I know that makes me human and I'm not any less Muslim today than I was the day before. I take comfort in that and hope that all the perfectly imperfect people reading this can relate.

Allah Swt is oft forgiving Most merciful so sometimes forgiving ourselves is the hardest part.
May we all learn to forgive ourselves and be guided on the straight path. Ameen.