My Reasons for Feeling Uncomfortable with my Religion


Photo by Ryan Holloway 
Ramadan. It's the ninth month of the Hijri Calendar (Islamic Calendar) where Muslims around the world observe the practice of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It was believed that it was during this month that the Holy book, Qur'an was revealed to the final Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). A form of charity, compassion, empathy is doubled more so if acted upon this month because it is also believed to be one of the holiest months of the year.

It's the last week of Ramadan this week and I — am just going to say it without judgement — have only fasted once in my 24 years on this earth. That's right. I'm one of those "Chicken Nugget" Muslims who don't fast. And the reasons why? Well, let me break it down for you.

Disclaimer: This is my own honest truth, so it doesn't mean that it's the same for those who don't practice. Their reasons could be completely different. These reasons are my own. If at any point you feel anger or uncomfortable with this post, you're most welcome to close this page. No judgement from my end. 

Where it all started

When I was growing up, I was taught the Islamic religion. As a child, I used to pray at least weekly when my cousins would come over for some bonding, and we would pray together. It was a sort of bonding that is a distant memory that I only remember through flashing scenes and photographs from the past. But I think it was just a month or a few months in, and I stopped praying altogether.

At the age of around 11 years old, I decided to fast for the first time. I was going to a Philippine School and everyone already assumes that I'm fasting, so, one day I thought, might as well do it. I lasted the whole day successfully without a drop of water. I remember the exact time I broke it for the first time, I was at an ice skating rink, and I took a sip of coke to mark the end of my fast for the day. I remember feeling proud of myself. But preteen life got in the way and I didn't complete the whole Ramadan. 

Around that time, my mom came to me after school and asked me to pray with her. Dragging my feet to wash up and do Wudu, I pulled myself together, partly read the prayers from a piece of paper, bowed my head to the stone, and prayed. At the time I remember feeling nervous and awkward, but I was grateful that it was just my mom and me in the room. I prayed I think twice more after that, and then never again for another 12 years. 

As a child, I was taught the religion, but it wasn't forced upon me. My Dad would come up to me and ask if I wanted to pray and I would suddenly get nervous and mumble something that sounds like a "No, no thank you." The only practising Muslims in our family is my Dad and my little brother. And during Ramadan or Prayer time, it can get awkward because I'm not doing it when I felt like I should but I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do. Confusing ha? 

My aunts and uncles would ask me why I don't pray, why I don't fast, and they would remind me that it's a must to be on the right end during Judgment Day. I felt demeaned, uncomfortable, judged, and shamed. I'm not a very knowledgeable Muslim and often times, I even get judged for my lack of knowledge. "You're a Muslim, and you don't know this?" It's sad, but I wasn't forced into the religion. And I'm so grateful that my family didn't push like others do to their kids. I'm grateful that their priority for their offspring is happiness. 

So why? Why don't I just do all of these things I won't feel nervous and judged?

Where I am now


Religion as a whole is comforting yet overwhelmingly uncomfortable.  Ironic isn't it? And, at some point, I accept it because it brings me nervous peace, and on the other, it confuses me.

Last Ramadan I felt pushed by a force to pray—pushed by a force as in I felt compelled to do it. I don't know how but my heart felt heavy and weird and the only thought that kept coming was to pray. — But I didn't know how to because it had been 12 years since I did it. And praying in Islam is more than just kneeling, there's a whole routine to it. Since I didn't know how I asked my Dad to teach me. I puckered up the courage to ask him, and it was... well, my heart felt a little lighter. 

That night, my mom gave me the old paper I used to read out from that last time I prayed, and later on, my brother laid out his mat (I, my scarf because I didn't have a mat), did the routine, and then when it was all over, my chest felt like it was going to fall. The next thing I knew, I was crying. I didn't know why. But I could only assume that it was a release of pressure I was feeling in my chest that needed to be let go. 

Since then, I stopped my practice once again.

This brings me here. At the age of 24 and still not comfortable practising Islam, why?

Nervous Peace

I mentioned just up there that I felt a nervous peace when I accept Islam. I feel nervous and anxious, yet at peace with the teachings. I accept it, and I say a few words from the Qur'an that makes me feel good and loved. But there are times when it feels like I'm doing it just to please others when I should've been doing it to feel at peace wholly for myself and for God. There are times when I want to practice and feel the same peace that my Dad feels when he prays, but I just can't. My chest grows heavy and I find myself backing away slowly in fear. Why? That's a bonus reason I have yet to uncover. 

Judgment


Honestly, I know I shouldn't feel this way but, I can't help but feel judged if I practice it. From over 12 years of not even praying or fasting, I have this fear of society giving me the stink eye. "Oh, now she's doing it. After all these years. " And that I might be doing the whole practice wrong and embarrass myself, so I hide. (Fear of embarrassment 101). It's all in my head but my pride and fear are overwhelming and the tensions I feel isn't a welcoming one. 

My Own Peace

During those 12 years, I found a place where my spirit can run free. New Age Spirituality (also known as, agnostic zone). It's a place that I found through yoga and meditation. No not Buddhism or Hinduism, although they're both I find peaceful at times. Though in this kind of spirituality, I felt no judgement when I thought I was doing things wrong, I felt no nervous peace, and I felt no pressure to practice it. I would sit on my meditation pillow and let my monkey mind wander around for a while. There were no boundaries or walls. I feel welcomed and open to this spirituality and energy. I feel at home. 


So those are my few reasons why. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading a part of my story all the way. I hope this opens your eyes a little bit to find your own peace with The All Mighty / The Universe / The Divine / God or however you refer to the Higher Power. 

I wrote this mostly for myself to find my own peace during this last week of Ramadan and the feeling of judgement from my family and friends (that is mostly just in my head). There are a lot of pride and my own kind of judgement that I need to let go of to fully release that nervous peace I feel from Islam at times and I wanted you all to know that if you're feeling this way too, you're not alone. We're in this together! 

I found a part of my peace tonight, I hope you did too! 

Give love, 
Always,

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