Love, Life Stories

My Islam is more than those arguments about “halal” nail polish – and that’s totally okay

A woman began to question me about Islam. It wasn't in a curious and friendly way. It was in more of a "Doesn't the Quran talk about killing all non-believers?"

I drove myself crazy trying to figure out the Truth, but realized something important along the way.

As far as I can remember, I have always been a curious person. I want to know the answers to deep and complex things.

For instance, why do bad things happen to good people? Why are we here on Earth? What is the purpose of our existence? 

My mind is blown when I think about the universe and all the miracles it contains. Contemplating how I can transfer what’s going on in my brain to this computer can leave me dumbfounded for hours on end. While I enjoy pondering different issues, it also causes a lot of stress and fear of the unknown.

I was born as a Muslim and I connect with my faith very well. 

However, it really bothers me that there are so many divisions within my religion. There are so many shades of Islam that I can’t even comprehend, so how can I even begin to learn about and understand the nuances in other faiths? It can get pretty overwhelming trying to find out what rings true for you. 

Just because I find understanding and peace in Islam doesn’t mean I believe that that’s the only way to the Truth. I’m uncomfortable when I meet people who only hang out with people from their own faith, think that only their group is going to heaven, and judge others based on superficial things. 

I was on Facebook and saw Muslims having long debates on a woman’s photo saying that her nail polish was haram. Seriously? Give the woman a break! Aren’t there bigger issues to tackle which can actually make our community a better place? If all that energy was diverted towards something more worthy, who knows what our world would look like? 

Once, I was finishing up a therapy session with one of my clients, when her older sister began to question me about Islam. It wasn’t in a curious and friendly way.

It was in more of a “Doesn’t the Quran talk about killing all non-believers?”

She began to tell me how Jesus was the son of God and began to interrogate me on Islam. I felt this pressure to represent all Muslims in my answers so I politely told her that I would get her a copy of the English translation of the Quran. I did not want to cross professional boundaries, but I felt that I had to do this so that perhaps there could be one less person who had this fearful perception of my religion.

Another time, I was sitting on an airplane chatting with a young Tibetan woman and an older Indian man. He looked over and noticed that my seat pocket had a book by Deepak Chopra in it. “Your parents wouldn’t want you to be reading that book because it’s by a Hindu,” he told me.

I got defensive and gave him a mini lecture on how just because I’m a Muslim Pakistani does not mean my parents are close-minded. I tried to stay calm and collected, but it was hard because I felt like this is why there is so much hate in the world; a lack of knowledge and understanding of what different faiths stand for. 

I find inspiration from Joel Osteen, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and tons of other people who have different beliefs than me. Because I truly believe that the main messages are the same; we have way more in common than we do in differences.

We all came from the same place and we will be returning to the same place, wherever that may be.

At the end of the day, who am I to judge someone else? It’s not possible for me to look inside someone’s heart and evaluate their intentions. I am just as imperfect as the next Jew, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Muslim, or whoever!

A few months ago, I was walking in a neighborhood in Newport Beach with my aunt. We were talking about the mysteries of life and I told her how I feel so much anxiety at times when I can not figure out what the Truth is. A couple of minutes later, we came across this statue of a Bible which had this message engraved on it: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

This felt like a sign from the universe that I could just chill out and not take life so seriously.

In that moment, I felt like I was granted permission to not have all the answers and to remember that just having trust itself would guide me the right way.