I am finally coming out.
It’s a closet of sorts, but not the one you would think of. Many of you would see this as impossible, even a heresy. Those who won’t understand will see me as a traitor. It doesn’t matter because this is me. It’s as intangible as my journey.
I am Jewish and Muslim. I am Muslish.
It all started when I was in my first two years of my undergrad.
I was studying abroad in Morocco, making new friends and learning Arabic. There, I was learning about Islam and its community. Morocco introduced me to an old and diverse society that had encompassed Muslims, Jews, Christians and others for centuries. Among my Moroccan colleagues, my local Moroccan neighbors, memorable experiences, and academia, I felt I was almost ready to convert.
Given pressure as well from my ex, Mohammed, I really thought I was ready.
We fostered the idea of marriage (which ended up falling through), giving more of a push to convert soon. But I decided to give myself more time to learn about Islam and what it meant to be a Muslim woman. I also didn’t want my family to disown me. It was a rough time in our lives and I didn’t want to open another can of worms.
I threw myself into learning as much as I could about my new path. Reading the Quran, literature from past and modern scholars of Islam, asking more questions, writing papers extensively comparing and contrasting the three religions, delving into the Mizrahi, or Arab-Jewish, histories, and cultures, attending events, and promoting interfaith relations gave me more insight on what I wished for my future.
But it also left me confused: Who am I? What am I practicing?
As a Hillel board member already being ostracized for my “different” thinking, I could never dare bring up this issue. I definitely couldn’t talk to my family about it. Only a few select friends knew what my heart and soul uttered.
It wasn’t until this past month that I myself fully realized what I am.
I feel both spiritually Jewish and Muslim. I celebrate most of the Jewish holidays and partake in some Islamic celebrations. I pray both in Hebrew and Arabic. I believe that Jesus was a prophet and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was the last of them. I believe in the Oneness of G-d and the 613 Mitzvot all Jews are obliged to fulfill.
In fact, I’m convinced both Islam and Judaism share those commandments.
It’s no news that Islam shares many of the values that are the heart and core of the Jewish soul. So it doesn’t seem wrong to me that I feel both a part of the Jewish people and Muslim Ummah. If this is part of the so-called quarter-life crisis many millennials stumble upon, then my soul is on board for the ride.
[bctt tweet=”While Jews fast and pray, Muslims feast and pray. It’s a beautiful synchronicity.”]
This month is truly a holy month. Eid Al-Adha and Yom Kippur, the “Jewish Ramadan,” both fall on the same day. While Jews fast and pray, Muslims feast and pray. It’s truly a beautiful synchronicity.
A few days before that is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I’ll be sporting henna on one hand as I create my favorite Moroccan veggie couscous with lamb.
On Yom Kippur, as I sit in the synagogue with my family, fasting and asking for forgiveness, my soul will be with each and every one of my Muslim brothers and sisters, praying and eating the delicacies your souls sing to praise Allah/Hashem.
This day, by retelling the stories of Abraham/Ibrahim, not sacrificing Isaac/Ismail to G-d, it directly points out the sacred covenant that we share.
Why should we let politics and slight differences create animosity when in fact we can share each other’s ways or learn that the similarities outweigh the differences?
The late Dr. Daniel Smith, lah yar hamuhu, one of my professors who helped shaped my spiritual and academic career, once explained to me that the basis of all world religions is a simple, twofold message: “love G-d, love your neighbor.”
And he’s right.