16 years ago, I was born to a Muslim family in a Muslim country. Before I could even open my eyes, my faith was decided for me, and my ears were filled with the words of God.
As I grew up, Islamic values were embedded upon me. It was nothing violent at all, they didn’t teach me to hate other religious groups, they just taught me the 5 daily prayers and how to read the Quran and other similar things. I grew up believing that if I didn’t pray 5 times a day, God would be very upset with me and would put me in Hell.
Ever since I was little, I had always believed that men and women were equal. No one told me that. No one instilled that in me. I just always knew, and rebelled against the patriarchy since day one. It was for small issues, like, “Girls can be [physically] strong too!” “Boys can like the color pink as well!” But I had always fought against sexism. And as I grew into a teenager and became more aware about the severity of sexism in the world, I fought it more. And I never saw anything wrong with it, it’s common sense, right?
As I started voicing my opinion in my classes when teachers displayed sexism, I got dirty looks. And more often than not, I was lectured about it on the basis of Islam. “Islam says men are superior to women.” I was always told. And that, I guess, played the first role in the flickering of my faith.
The second role was the sense of superiority Muslims felt to other religions. “We are better than them.” They would say, “They follow the wrong religion, we are blessed to have been born in a Muslim family.” I will not lie, almost every follower of any religion given has a sense of superiority and believes their religion is the right one. However, they try to hide it. Or they are nice about it. Muslims? It’s very, very blatant.
I started studying Islam more, and I don’t know what happened but one night I saw an Islamic picture and I just burst into tears and started asking God for forgiveness. The very next day, I became the most Islamic I had ever been. It was my most evangelical point. I left so many things precious to me, because Islam said they were bad. Music, my crush, my guy friends…I gave it all up, because God said to. That point lasted for a few months until I eventually relapsed back into listening to music, followed by talking to my guy friends again, and flirting with my crush once more. I was back on square one. I stopped wearing the hijab I had don on during the past few months, I swore more and I just became a more ‘me’ version of myself.
Last year, I started studying Islam in school. It’s a mandatory subject. Prior to me studying it in school, I disagreed with a lot of what Islam had to say but I thought it was because I didn’t understand it. However as we studied it in school and I was given the explanations, I started disagreeing more and more. I had become agnostic but I was afraid to admit it to myself and convinced myself that my teacher wasn’t a scholar and therefore not very good at explaining what the religion meant, since all my life I’d heard that unbelievers would go to hell. At one point I became very agnostic and my close friends knew about it. I absolutely hated everything that Islam had to say. I hated the Muslim community [and I still do], I hated how everyone tried to force me to live in Islamic ways. I couldn’t tell anyone else I was agnostic though, because that is punishable by death, so I just suffered in silence. Then one day, I read a nicely detailed and positive interpretation of one of the parts of the Quran I always had a problem with, and it brought a flicker of doubt in me. Did I really disagree with Islam, or did I just not understand Islam?
I started reading more like interpretations of other verses I had problems with, ones that made a whole lot more sense and were more positive, and that flicker of doubt changed into a fire of doubt. It turns out men aren’t created superior to women after all.
I became more and more confused to what I believed in, and I started reading the Quran on my own, although I doubt that I will be able to interpret its true meaning. The Quran is a book in which every single placement of every small thing matters. Change one letter, and you’ll change the whole meaning. The Quran requires deep study and Islamic knowledge in order to unlock it’s true meaning, and most people just don’t read the book that way. The very few who do are not able to express the art behind each verse. People just interpret it however they want, and that version gets popular and people end up believing false information. But since it gets perpetuated for so long, no one even questions it. As for the agnosticism, Islam usually gives reasons for the doings of God [e.g.: “When a person finds himself constantly surrounded by problems, God really loves them.”] but agnosticism does not. I am bitter towards God for some personal reasons, and the way Islam gave me answers to some questions just wasn’t satisfactory. How could He love me if He threw so many problems upon me? With agnosticism, I can believe that God works in mysterious, unknown ways that I cannot comprehend, therefore I cannot be bitter.
So here I am now, too Muslim for the agnostic community and too Muslim for the atheist community. I am still absolutely confused to what I believe in. If you asked me if I was a Muslim, I would say yes. But at the same time, if you asked me if I was agnostic, I would say yes. Islam is a religion of peace and gender equity, not the horrible religion you see being used as a basis for terrorism. Take it from an ex-Muslim (sort of), Islam is not violent. If there were any parts of Islam that I found morally wrong, I would tell you. Like that one nation God destroyed because they were homosexuals. But that arises questions in me, too–did God really destroy them just because they were homosexuals, or because they were practicing idol worshiping and adultery among other bad things, too?
I have yet to figure out my faith, and I hope I figure it out soon so I can gain some peace of mind.