“My sister is having a halaqa tonight,” my friend said. “You should come.”
I was going through the divorce and I hadn’t wanted to be around any judgmental Muslims. “I’m straight,” I told her.
“It’s gonna be free food there.”
I sighed. I was pretty hungry and my funds were low. “Fine!”
I came super late. My plan was to swoop in, get a plate, then slip away.
When my friend saw my face, she said, “Glad you can make it.” I’d been spotted.
I rolled my eyes.
The sisters were pleasant. They gave me greetings and kisses on my cheek. Wasn’t so bad, I thought. I sat on the couch and her sister turned on a lecture about being Muslim. It was a short but hard-hitting lecture. Afterwards, the sister talked about community and uplifting each other. She asked if anyone had any questions. There was a silence. A lump formed in my throat as I clutched my plate, trying to hold back tears.
“My ex called me a kafir, so I don’t think I can be Muslim anymore. I just can’t do anything right,” I told the group. “I can’t dress like a Muslim. I can’t eat like one. I can’t pray like one. And, if I can’t be a good Muslim then I can’t be one at all.”
The sister grimaced. “That’s not how this works. You ARE a Muslim. You are NOT a kafir and how dare he say that you. A Muslim should NEVER, ever say that to another Muslim. When you take shahada, you are a Muslim, dear. I don’t care what you do or have done or will do in the future. Every day we are given on earth is a day to get closer to Allah (swt). Everyone, I mean everyone, even the Muslims who appear to have it all together have their weaknesses—whether they show it or not. But, don’t ever believe that. You are Muslim.”
That was last year.
I’ve said it before, I’m not the poster child for Islam. I’m one of the many, many Muslims on this planet just trying to make it somewhere on this earth and in the hereafter. I have lots of work to do. And, I’m okay with that.
So, when I am hit with the question: are you even Muslim?
I say: I am. Proudly.