In a fast-paced world, I was stagnant.
Gone are the days where men are the breadwinners of their families. We now observe more women assuming leadership roles across the globe, more Muslim fashion designers leaving their marks across fashion runways, more influential individuals advocating women rights. What a time to be alive.
In a practicing Muslim household, I was brought up to abide by Islamic teachings – in the most primitive way one can think of. I grew up believing that women must be domestic goddesses to appear desirable to men, that there is a certain glass ceiling women cannot break, that women who are highly opinionated are often shunned as this quality is not very.. Islamic. Such were among the few things I was led to believe as the dogma. I held so strongly to this belief that anything that seemed out of the ordinary I deemed as not normal, intolerable and incomprehensible.
I grew up believing these were all true – how could I not? I was surrounded by people who grew up in a similar environment. How could I not? I was raised to not question and accept everything as is. How could I have known better? I was trained to view Western influence in a negative light. Any Western ideologies were not welcomed. Not at home, not in the schools I went to, and certainly not in the whole Muslim community I was born into.
I grew up in a patriarchal society, where men are dominant
Do not speak up when not asked. Be careful what you say in the presence of a man. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Act in a well-behaved manner when in public, act in your family’s best interests.
For a person who holds the key to her own mind and soul, I viewed myself no differently than how an outsider would. In a sea of people of similar upbringing, what made me… me?
Everything to me was black or white – never grey. Right or wrong – never uncertain. Everything was set in stone; my life was a puppet show directed by others. For someone with a high-pitched voice, it lacked personality. It lacked power. It lacked individuality.
It was not until I was put in an unfamiliar situation. I found myself in a place filled to the brim with people of different beliefs. There were no rules to follow or break, no one dictating every move I make. Some people call it freedom, I called it the bane of my existence. It felt as though I had lost my sense of direction – an obedient person like me had 0% chance of surviving a place with no system. I wanted out. I was the little girl who lost her mum at the supermarket while busy looking for her favourite snack.
In my desperate attempt to escape what my mind had perceived as a predicament, I found myself exploring my options. I couldn’t just stay in the same place I got lost, I would be waiting for forever to be found. Why couldn’t I just wander around a bit? Who knows what new candies I might find?
I embarked on this journey of self-discovery with no external influences but my own
I began to question everything I stood for. Which I then quickly came to realise – I did not have anything that I stood firmly for. I was standing on ground that I had not built for myself – a shaky one at that. Questions and doubts began circling in my head – like a tornado of thoughts so strong it caused an avalanche. The walls built around me began to crumble, I was seeing things from a fresh pair of eyes. It felt liberating.
I felt like a kite high up in the sky, with a perfect view of the bigger picture. Like a kite, one can only go so high. In spite of my eagerness to explore, as far as being a Muslim woman goes, I can only wander to a certain extent.
In my quest to find the true meaning of what it takes to strive as a Muslim in this 21st century, I find myself questioning: can Millennial and Muslim coexist as one? How does a practicing Muslim adapt to this modern world while still upholding their identity at the same time?
More importantly, How does one maintain their faith while still discovering the world?