Genesis 11:5

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. Genesis 11:5

To be honest

Good news, friends. If you haven't already heard, there's been a small victory in my life. A new leaf has turned over, a new chapter has begun. I got a job. I don't know why it feels and seems like this is my first real job, considering I have been working since I was 15 years old, but that is how it feels. Maybe it's because the position is actually related to my MA in Refugee Care, and therefore, I am one of a handful of the world's Humanities graduates that is actually earning money with their degree. I interviewed on Friday morning at the Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture, and within a couple of hours, they called and told me that they would love for me to work with them. Surreal. I was riding on a London double-decker, and my phone started ringing and vibrating in my hand; I just stared at the number, in complete disbelief. They told me on my way out the door that they would only call me if I got the job. Still when I answered, I expected that they were making an exception to the rule, so that I would save my time - I told them that I would stay out of the underground all day, so as not to miss their call.

I took this photo over a year ago, as the daughter as a dear friend of mine from Saudi Arabia poured Arabic coffee.

As for Friday evening, I was invited to a 'Sisters' Circle,' a.k.a. the Islamic Society's women's weekly social gathering. For weeks I've been declining, excusing myself for travel to London. Of course, let me just get this out in the open, I'm not really telling them what I'm doing in London. Sometimes I can mention something about the British Red Cross, but otherwise, I just lie via omission. Once in a while a friend asks me what I'm doing, and I say ambiguously, yet over-confidently that "I'm seeing a friend." Now, you know me - I've never been one to lie, nor to have a thing to hide. Truly, this behaviour is contrary to my personality and habitual transparency. Nevertheless, in this case these women will most likely not understand my situation, and most likely, they will not approve.

There are two close friends of mine from Saudi who I've been able to breathe a small word of this to, one a bit more than the other. Neither of them condemned or judged me. But the others couldn't handle this, and I couldn't handle them knowing. Unfortunately, I cannot consider these women to be  genuine friends, based on the reality that I'm hiding an enormously significant dimension of my life from them.  I must admit that it's partially my fault for not giving them the chance to know me well, so I should not hold this against them - they only know what I tell them.

Not to mention, on some level, perhaps I am hiding something from myself. If I were honestly allowing Islam to inform my behaviour and overall spiritual commitment, then I would completely alter the pattern of this relationship. But it doesn't take long for me to dismiss the thought. To be honest, I feel quite hypocritical. Yes, I may be incorporating aspects of Islam into my life, but Islam doesn't work that way. Islam is like antibiotic - you have to take the entire course of medication. Picking and choosing is not an option, which is why I can't seem to embrace Islam in its entirety.

The grace of Islam is that the religion does not expect perfection prior to conversion. At the Essex Islamic Conference (2011) Jalal Ibn Sayeed taught us that a man came to the Prophet Muhammad ( صـلى الله علـيه و سـلم ), and told the Prophet that he wanted to convert to Islam, but he had too many issues. The Prophet simply asked, "Do you believe in one God? Do you believe that Muhammad is his messenger?" This is the beginning. Islam offers forgiveness and mercy. Belief in the oneness of God is the most crucial part of Islam. Islam does outline which behaviours are permissible and which are sinful. But the greatest 'sin' is considered to be the denial of Islam. In other words, it would be worse to reject the religion because of the 'sin' in one's life, rather than accept the religion and address the imperfections in time. Sayeed taught that the things in life, which lead the heart towards bad should not be deterrents from the good of Islam itself. "Islam is a guide, designed to help you find only things that are better for you."

This is why the women ask me so often why I am taking so much time to think about Islam before conversion. If I am comfortable with the basic foundation of Islam, namely monotheism and the Prophet Muhammad ( صـلى الله علـيه و سـلم ), then I should not hesitate. But I guess I realise my main offense against Islam, and I want to resolve it beforehand. I also feel that religious conversion should be taken very seriously, just as marriage should not be thought of casually. I don't want to make a commitment, only to fall out of love and divorce a year later. I want to know what I'm getting into. The women are only concerned that I am intimidated by Islam, and that I don't realise how accessible the faith is.

The irony of it all is that I think that the very person who compromises my relationship with Islam, has unknowingly inspired me to pursue the faith. By simply living and praying and letting me do and believe and decide whatever I want, he has nurtured my respect and admiration for Islam.

My God, please make my life easier.
ربي سهل لي امري

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