miteypen

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Acceptance and Rejection

In Family, Friends, Writing on October 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm

From the statistics I’ve been able to access, no one is reading this blog and my readership on my other primary blog, Femagination, is down by 30% from last month. I don’t know quite how to take this. It’s true that I stopped writing here almost completely, so that can’t have helped. And I cut way down on my posts on Femagination over the past month because I was so preoccupied with the aftermath of my decision to convert to Islam.

But at the same time, I had a piece published in my local daily newspaper about my learning Arabic. It was based on the posts I wrote here about learning Arabic and what it has done for me. Because I wrote it pre-conversion, it doesn’t mention the role my learning Arabic had in my decision to convert. Actually, it was the other way around: I realized recently that the main reason I wanted to learn Arabic was because I wanted to get to know the Muslim students better, because I was interested in what made them tick. In other words, I wanted to know what part their religion had to play in their character formation and I thought I’d get closer to them if I learned Arabic.

I was right, but even I was surprised by the reaction I got to my overtures. And when I became a Muslim, the news spread like wildfire through the Muslim community. I had planned to keep it quiet for awhile, while I got used to the idea myself. But I didn’t get that chance. Once one of them knew, they all knew. I found that I didn’t really mind after all. I still haven’t told the people I work with, but I imagine they have some idea, since the Libyans have been quite vocal coming up to me with their congratulations.

So things have a way of balancing out. And if I were to be honest, I have experienced much more acceptance than rejection in my life over the last month. In my last post, I mentioned how my husband, children and close friends have accepted my announcement that I am converting. So what if my readership has declined? It will come back, God willing. Relationships are more important anyway. I should be praying that I develop relationships through my blogs instead of just getting visitors to bop in for a peek every once in a while.

One thing I fear is that I’m being rejected because of my conversion to Islam. But if that’s going to bother me, I better toughen up. I will undoubtedly experience a lot more rejection in the course of my life because of this decision. But God will also bless me, I believe, as He does us all, in ways that we often fail to notice. And as long as I have His love, how can any rejection on earth retain its sting? (I’m not going to lie and say that it won’t ever sting.)

I pray every day that God will use me and the gifts He gave me as He sees fit. Acceptance and rejection aren’t up to me. Being faithful is.

Returning to Active Status

In Culture, Religion, Self Improvement on October 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I wrote in an earlier post that I was going through an existential crisis and I implied that the reason I haven’t been writing here is because I needed to resolve the crisis first. That is mainly true. I’ve also been having trouble writing posts in general, for any of my blogs, because I’ve been preoccupied with other activities.

I didn’t think that I’d be ready to announce what my crisis was for a while, because I thought it would take some time before I resolved it. As it turned out, though, things went pretty quickly and I’m now ready to reveal what has been keeping me from writing: I have become a Muslim.

There have been two parts to my struggle: one was deciding for myself what I believed and the other was telling others what I’ve decided. And obviously I had to tell family and close friends before I could blurt it out in one of my blogs.

I discussed it with my husband before I took the step. I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been supportive, but I needn’t have worried: he’s been great. Then I told my daughters who were also accepting (if surprised). At that time I decided to say my profession of belief, or the Shahada, which is all you need to do to become a Muslim. I said it in the privacy of my own home, in front of a close Muslim friend and then finally in the mosque on the last day of Ramadan.

I had been observing Ramadan in my own way, which was to give up smoking. I haven’t smoked since August 22nd, and I don’t feel the urge to. I hadn’t had the nerve to fast, and didn’t feel that I had the right to anyway, since I wasn’t Muslim. After I made my Shahada the first time, which was about ten days before the end of Ramadan, I did attempt to fast, but I wasn’t very good at it. The Ramadan fast is a total fast (not even water) from dawn to dusk and I couldn’t do without some coffee in the morning to get me going. I wasn’t praying at that point, except for my own little baby prayers, but I still got up before dawn so that I could eat some breakfast before the fast officially started.

After I said my Shahada, it was explained to me that 1) all my sins from before were washed away; and 2) that Ramadan was a most auspicious time to make my decision. However, I recognize that celebrating Ramadan, in my feeble way, had a lot to do with my being ready to embrace Islam. The excitement level was so high and there was this hyper-awareness of the Islamic religion in the air, it was hard for me to not think about Islam. I tried to keep what I was feeling to the pages of my journal, but I finally had to talk it over with some of my Muslim friends. They answered a lot of my questions but didn’t try to push me one way or another.

I still have a lot of questions–I know nothing but the basics about the religion–and there’s a lot I have to get used to. Like praying five times a day. Deciding what to do about the headscarf  (I do wear it when I pray and at the mosque). Learning where to shop and how to cook halal (permitted) food. But those are all externals. What really matters is what’s going on in my heart.

And at least there I feel at peace.