Alhamudlilah yet another excellent female blogger has come into my life! Thank you so much to Miss Tasnia for reaching out to me regarding being part of this feature. As always, I encourage all those featured to be as honest as they like. I hope that you will enjoy this interesting perspective from a UK born Muslim of Bengali heritage who has had her own doubts and struggles with her faith and culture. Follow her experiences on her blog and see how she overcomes these trials.
1) As a born Muslim what is the thing you like most about your faith and what is the thing you struggle most with?
As a born Muslim what I enjoyed the most is knowing my purpose in life. From a young age I was taught the reason for being on this earth and what my duties are as a Muslim. The big influence in my Deen is my family. I am lucky to have family members who are passionate about Islam and they advised me to always go out and seek knowledge about our religion. I have always been blessed with an amazing family Alhamdullilah!
The aspect I struggled most with my faith is the difference between culture and religion. Such habits as touching the feet of elders, or being prohibited from marrying anyone who is non-Bengali were ingrained in me from a young age.When I questioned this I was always given a vague answer. At times it was so hard for me to find out which were the truly Islamic traditions, or simply Bengali (man-made) customs.
2) Have you ever had doubts about certain aspects of your religion and how did you deal with this?
I think nearly all people of faith have that moment in their life where they stop and think “Am I following the right religion?”. Being born into a religion you feel you cannot “choose” to follow it. You know its impossible to say “I don’t want to follow Islam because I feel like its not for me or “I don’t believe in anything Islam provides” especially to a traditional Bengali family. Therefore, I knew growing up that this was my religion and I would follow it even if it didn’t make sense to me or I disliked it. I ended up questioning if Islam really was the “true religion” because I didn’t really have a chance to explore any other faith in order to come to a solid reason to follow Islam.
How I overcame that doubt was by making sure I was learning from the authentic sources – ‘The Quran’ and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. I made sure I didn’t read any fabricated materials or materials which weren’t written by qualified scholars. I knew by learning from the right books it would lead me to the right path of Islam. This confirmed for me that Islam is definitely the religion I was made to follow.
3) What advice do you have for new Muslims or those considering reverting to Islam?
I always tell new Muslims or those considering reverting not to believe with certainty everything they are told. What I mean by this is that we humans are imperfect, therefore the Islamic teaching or knowledge that our Muslim brothers and sisters give will not always be perfect. They might make a mistake or they might teach you something not from authentic sources which gives you a completely different teaching of Islam. I have friends who are thinking of reverting and they have often come to me with questions on things that are not pure Islamic; they were either cultural or just mere observations from other Muslim’s teachings and practices. My advice is to always refer to The Quran and the Sunnah.
Another piece of advice is to try to make as many Muslim friends as you can. Reverting or being a new Muslim is a very difficult thing to do which can be lonely. The key to solving that issue is to meet Muslims and make friends with them in order for you to increase your knowledge of Islam. You will also get emotional support from them. You can go to Islamic talks together, have coffee and spend time together. We learn better by other peoples behavior.
4) As a women, what do you feel about the discrimination that still goes on in so many part of the world?
This is a hot topic for me. Its something that hits the core of my nerves which is why I’m passionate in that area. I have always felt angry with the ill treatment towards women around the world. This is because of the traditional and cultural attitudes that people have. I have seen the discriminating mentality in my family and sometimes this mentality has nearly been towards me (my parents only have 2 daughters, including me and I’m the eldest grandchild). As per tradition I should have been married at 16 and not have gone to University because of the mentality that women don’t need to; they are only made to cook.
These sorts of discrimination are not the teaching of Islam, which actually gave women the rights they are entitled to. Sometimes, its like the Ummah have erased a whole section of ‘Surat An-Nisa “. They have forgotten Heaven lies beneath a mother’s feet; they have forgotten a daughter opens the gate to paradise; they have forgotten Khadija (RA) was a single, independent entrepreneur before she married Muhammad PBUH. Its just a simple act of giving equal rights to all humans, despite their colour, gender, age and religion.
5) Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your cultural background?
I can gratefully say I have never been discriminated against due to my Bengali culture. Alhamdullilah!
6) What are your aims as a modern Muslimah?
I guess my aim would be learning Arabic fully so I can read and understand what I am saying from Quran and actually be able to have a full conversation in Arabic. This has always been an accomplishment I wanted to achieve. I can finally be able to get a full sense of what The Quran is saying or the word of Allah SWT. My second aim is to devoted to Allah SWT so that I can reach the best result in Jannah. I also want to do aid work in third world countries because I have always had the passion to travel and do some charity work. Unfortunately, this will have to wait until I am married as my parents wont allow me to go alone, only with a Mahram. My sisters and I have an aspiration to build a school in a third world country because we love teaching and we believe highly in the importance of education.
7) What would you like to see changing within our Ummah?
One aspect that has always made me concerned is how our Ummah is segregated into cultural groups such as Bengalis, Pakistanis, Arabs, Turkish etc. Ummah is meant to be the whole Muslim community together as brothers and sisters. In England you definitely have that present. You have people labeling mosques as “Shia Mosques” or “Wahabbi mosques”. For us to be united we must take these barriers down and support each other.
8) What are your views on marriage (arranged or not) and what would you like for your future?
During my teenage years I considered ‘arranged marriage’ as a sham; something that was silly and “old fashioned”. I found it unfair. This was because of stories I heard from other people about how badly arranged marriages turned. I didn’t understand the right meaning of “arranged marriage”. Now I understand the idea and I realise that this is s not “forced marriage” although many people interpret them as the same thing. I would really like to have an arranged marriage because I believe it’s the best way to find the right life partner in an Islamic way. You still get your own choice on who to marry and you get the blessing from your parents. At the end of the day, parents want the best for you.
9) Which part of your life has impacted you the most – being Bengali, being British, being Muslim, or being a women?
That is a tough question. I have to say being a female Muslim is what impacted my life the most. If I hadn’t learned about Islam then I would have not had any guidance in life. I found internal peace through Islam and nothing else gives me more tranquility than being a Muslim. If it was not for being a born Muslim I would have been lost in this world looking for light. At the same time being a women has impacted me a lot because I had to really understand the importance of being a woman in Islam. Being a women is a big responsibility and a tough job to have. I find myself being an important part of my family life, and will do so forever.
See the links to Tasnia’s social networking platforms – hope you enjoyed this! Comments below please.
And you can find the first three FCG interviews here with Lulu Bag, with Aisha from Aisha’s Oasis and with the Muslimah Mommy