Editor’s note: This piece was inspired by a writing exposition on what it means to be a Muslim woman.
I still remember my mother’s words. She said, “We must send our daughter to the mullah at the mosque to learn the holy Quran.” But my father with a serious voice said, “No, she doesn’t need to learn the Quran from a mullah at the mosque.”
As long as I remember things from my childhood I remember that there was always fighting in our house, because my mother thought she was closer to God for praying five times a day. Others had to respect her for this reason and trust her even when she was wrong in many of her life styles and thoughts. My father began his day doing gymnastics and my mother in the early morning in winter days broke the ice and got ready for her morning prayers.
My mother believed that it was God who gave us health and removed sickness from the human body, while my father missed going to parties and picnics but not his gym.
Dad worked according to a timetable and a plan. He never missed or failed in anything, but Mom was against having future plans. She believed it was already written in our faith and that things would come by themselves—if we worshiped God.
My mother was my first love. I loved my father after God. I didn’t know who I was. What could I do to be a daughter to both my father and my mom? I felt hurt when my mom’s relatives visited our house and they laughed at my father because he didn’t pray. “Shame on him,” they said, whispering with each other. “We don’t like to eat in his house. The food doesn’t taste good because he is not praying.”
It was a big pain in my heart and I couldn’t talk about it with anyone. Every night I had a hundred unanswered questions and thought a lot about myself and my relationship with God. I asked myself, “Who is God? Who is right in our house—my mom or my father?”
One day I asked Dad, “Do you believe in God?” I instantly regretted daring to ask this question, but my father smiled and pointed for me to sit closer to him. I sat right in front of him and he answered me. “I do believe in God, but not the God of the mullahs,” he laughed. “And not the God of your mother!”
He told me stories of Buddha, the way people worship God in India, Zoroastrians, Baha’i believers, Christians, and nonbelievers in God. He told me that there is one God, but all human beings have different ways to find God and find peace in their hearts and in their lives.
I began to read and study about Islam in the last years of my high school, after the wild period of the Taliban, but at school my teachers had the same ideas as my mom. They thought that as a girl I should not eat at a restaurant. I must not talk with foreign non-Muslim women and if I shake hands with a man God will send me directly to hell when I die and my grave will burn from inside forever! At the same time that I was reading about religions I was trying to be against all these beliefs. I did eat in restaurants. I worked with non-Muslim women and warmly shook hands with men.
I worked with an American lady and she was very strict about doing office work in a timely manner. However, when I was praying she respected me and gave me an hour to finish my prayers. When I was fasting she told me to go home early and make my favorite food for Iftar.
I always receive the first Eid wishes and congratulations from my non-Muslim friends. One day, I talked with a Christian friend about God and she turned to tears after she understood my thoughts about God and I understood there is so much that we have in common.
Being a Muslim woman doesn’t mean to hide myself under a black tent, and walk after my husband outside home because he is ashamed to walk with me in public. According to my beliefs it is only God who is powerful, not men. A man can never decide for me what to do or not to do. According to the words of God I must know myself, educate myself, and stand on my own feet. I believe that God created the universe for me to enjoy life through a love of God and that he is kind and merciful toward me. He created me to love him and myself. I don’t like to have taboo religious beliefs. I am not interested in the Taliban’s paradise and I will never enter there.
As a Muslim woman I fight to remove tears from the eyes and my Qibla is a smile on the lips of all human beings. When everybody is happy I can pray and thank my Almighty Allah.
Dear N: Thank you for this piece. I feel blessed by you because there is a special place in my heart and consciousness for stories of your father and your mother. Beautiful words, powerful memories. Stacy
Salaam alaikum dear N.,
It was not only helpful, but an honor to read your story. Honesty is the lens through which we all see the truth more clearly. There is so much to think about here. When you help your readers think, you have done the greatest thing you can do as a writer. Thank you.
With much respect, Jeannie
dear ….. your father is amazing loved reading your writing 🙂 god bless you … 🙂
wonderful!god bless you
N., thank you for the insight. Both your mother and father seem as though they both are wise people in their own rights. What you say of your father and religious tolerance mends what is wrong with this world. God is meant to be a healer and yet so many use Him as a means to their own selfish materialistic ends. Your words make the day just that much brighter and for that I thank you.