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Faith

A Personal Experience: The Growing Pains of Deen

By simply taking myself out of the stagnant trance I was in for years through researching other religions I faced the punch of doubt, the kick of confusion, the rush of misunderstanding. Am I Muslim because my parents are? Am I Muslim because that scholar who seems pretty smart is? Am I Muslim because it’s the only thing I have ever known? 

By simply taking myself out of the stagnant trance I was in for years through researching other religions I faced the punch of doubt, the kick of confusion, the rush of misunderstanding. Am I Muslim because my parents are? Am I Muslim because that scholar who seems pretty smart is? Am I Muslim because it’s the only thing I have ever known? 

The ebbs and flows of Imaan is a deeply personal experience. An experience so unique to an individual that sometimes the growing pains of heightening one’s faith can feel isolating and impossible. 

From praying salah to attending evening madressah to completing my Hifz, many elements of Islam held no resistance in my heart. I came to value Salah, even when my actions were robotic, I came to love the Quran, even when my mind dwindled elsewhere, I came to fast in Ramadan, even as I dreamt of donuts, and I came to donate. While dating was natural to my peers and friends at school, I was never remotely inclined. I did not care for music much. I never really wanted to drink or smoke. My closest friends held similar values and I felt content knowing I had “evaded” some of the “biggest” trials of being a Muslim teen in the West. 

For many years after I completed my Hifz, the Islamic duties I committed to robotically compensated for good Imaan in my mind. I prayed my Salahs, I read and taught the Quran, I volunteered, I wore my Hijab, I watched lectures that showed up on YouTube. While my relationship with God bloomed with these actions, I failed to recognize those growing pains that helped my faith reach this consistency in my adolescence no longer occurred. In essence, in a faith constantly demanding we grow and learn, I reached a ceiling. I was stagnant. 

In this period, whether it lasted months or years, whether it began with the pandemic or only worsened because of it, I was conflicted. In hindsight, of course, I recognize this. On one hand, I felt I was doing everything right; I was committing to those Islamic pillars, trying to be an honest and helpful person, and every once in a while, I would read a new Islamic book or watch a lecture.

Deen was scattered throughout portions of my day; time for that salah, time for that part of dour, time for that lecture, and time for helping that person. In the same way, time for watching that show, time for calling that friend, time for scrolling through that app. Being Muslim was in my identity but among the many hats I held; daughter, student, reader etc. Islam is not exclusive to these things but I treated it as it was, never allowing it to permeate my life. 

Is your belief and faith natural to you?

The only way to test the strength of a fortress is to place it against the forces of nature. Anything, whether it be a tooth-picked home or an iron-pillared mansion, can withstand an empty room but a gust of wind, a flood, or a hurricane thrown in the path, and only true strength pervades. For so long, the home of my Imaan existed in one of these empty rooms. I had cleared the winds of boys, music, and alcohol and evaded the floods of negligence to salah and Quran. As I spent more time at home, God sent questions to my heart about choices I never once saw as choices but only second nature.

Should you really be watching that movie? Is this book the best thing for you? I found that pattering in my heart to be irritating at first but as I submitted to this, to better filter out what is good for my Imaan and what is not, I felt those growing pains ever so slightly. They were irritating truthfully; I did not want to stop reading some of my favorite authors or having to hyper analyze my every move but the relief of doing it anyway, the lack of remorse once I followed through with this conviction, was so very worth it.

By simply taking myself out of the stagnant trance I was in for years through researching other religions I faced the punch of doubt, the kick of confusion, the rush of misunderstanding. As I watched a documentary about Christianity here or Judaism there, I never once believed they had the truth but I did wonder if I did. Am I Muslim because my parents are? Am I Muslim because that scholar who seems pretty smart is? Am I Muslim because it’s the only thing I have ever known? 

The ingredients to why Islam exists is everywhere. Yet by baking a recipe with a few of these tools every now and then, never really understanding how they tasted in mouth and never reading the label of some of the jars, I mindlessly did Muslim things. 

God sends trials our way to test the strength of our fortress, the fortitude of our Imaan. Through beginning to question why I did these “Muslim things”, for what purpose I abstained from other deeds, I felt my own Imaan solidify in something stronger; not the foundation my parents had laid being born in a Muslim family nor the madressah lessons of my childhood. My own conviction that I had the truth and everything in existence confirmed it.

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