Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conversation with my aunt

Note: My family doesn't know I'm Muslim. They just know my husband is.

It's funny that I commented on Kimdonesia's blog post today about her having someone tell her to read the book "Not Without My Daughter" because I had to add my own similar story. My aunt, this same aunt, is the one who told me to read the book when she found out I was chatting a lot with (and getting serious about) my now-husband. I actually read it and then explained to her how low the risk was of me getting kidnapped if I went to Egypt to meet him (which I was planning on at the time) and how cultural this all was -- not religious. I think she ended up learning something. She was just worried about me and ignorant about Islam. It's out of caring...

I saw her just this evening and it came up that it was the month of Ramadan and she and my dad obviously had very negative feelings about it. My dad made a comment about how Islam doesn't move with the times and my aunt made a comment about how extreme it was to not eat. I felt the need, obviously, to put in my thoughts.

So I started by addressing my dad's comment. I wanted to keep it a light but informative conversation. I didn't want to go into it about "things changing" in religion. That's too much of a big topic. I just casually said there was nothing to change about the tradition of fasting. They weren't going to make it half-days just for fun, they weren't going to decide to eliminate it just for fun. It was part of Islam and would continue to be. There was no "ruler of Islam" that would make the decision that fasting wasn't part of the religion because there was no "ruler of Islam".

My aunt was surprised. She said that yes there was. I said that no, there were just people educated in Islam that people went to for advice, but that it was not one person. The reason it felt like it was one person was because of how much they all agree on what is the truth in Islam. There is so little disagreement on so many things, especially big ones like fasting Ramadan, which is pretty much unanimous, that people who didn't know would think it's only because one person was responsable for the rulings.

I also felt the need to explain Ramadan and what it means to Muslims. I told her how much Muslims love this month. For them, it's like the holidays for us. It's a month where people are just happy and celebrate, where people try to be more giving. It's not a time when they feel they are forced to fast and suffer in hunger and thirst. I explained that first, they do it for God. But that the reason for that is to feel how it is for people who are less fortunate. I went on with a personal story of when I fasted (this was my first day, but I left it general and said I'd fasted one day before) and told her how yes, I was hungry and a bit weaker, but that it helped us be able to control ourselves and our desires. It made us realize how much time we have in a day and how much we can do. And about feeling what the less fortunate feel, it was a small taste of what they might go through, and that it was only after you broke the fast that you could really realize how blessed you are to have a delicious meal ready in front of you to break that fast. I told her that from my personal experience, it really was something worth going through.

I went on with the last big part of Ramadan, which is the renewal of a person's faith. I told her that Ramadan is a time when Muslims try to be better. During the year, they might have gone down, stayed stable in their faith, but that this was a time to do more and "revitalize" your faith. It was a reminder every year to try harder and be better.

She seemed to have accepted my answer and actually think about what I said.

But she told me what bothered her. She felt that Muslims were too forced to do things and that there were too many rules (or something to that effect). She talked about her mom (my grand-mother) who she says was a devout Catholic, but who never pushed her kids into the religion. They got baptized and they went to Church, but once they got older and stopped wanting to go, it was fine. When they got boyfriends or went out, it was fine too. I said it was great she'd given them that freedom, but that if my grand-ma really thought that Catholicism was the truth from God and that it needed to be followed, she would have pushed more for them to do it probably. If she thought for example that they'd get a punishment like Hell for not being good Christians, she'd have made sure they were, from caring about them and wanting the best for them. It might have been more cultural for her, as much as she believed it.

When I was talking, I didn't think about how my grand-mother probably thought they were "safe" since they were baptized and Jesus died for their sins. I just don't know much about this stuff so it didn't really spring to mind.

I hope she's closer to understanding Islam. Just like I saw Catholisicm in the way I saw Islam when I talked to her (forgetting the baptism and dying for sins parts) she sees Islam like Catholicism was for us decades ago in how it rules every aspect of a person's life. But I'm sure it was a step in the right direction in her understanding!

6 Comentários:

LK said...

You are probably right about the "they were baptized and Jesus died for their sins" part. Thats what my mother said when I told her I was interested in Islam. She said I'd still be "safe" because part of me would always be Christian because I was baptized.

I don't get it, never have. But everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

I hope your aunt learned something. :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

I love the way you explained everything. This is how Muslims should approach non-Muslims who are skeptical or negative. Instead of yelling and telling them they're going to hell, we should be logically trying to explain why we believe what we do. And like you said, your aunt seems to have taken it all in.

Anisah said...

masha'Allah.. u did well sis. *applauds*

Candice said...

LK: Thanks for reading! I guess it makes it easier for a parent to accept a child's conversion when they thing they're "safe". Whether they're converting to Islam or to some sort of non-belief or non-practicing type of thing like my aunt.

CLA: There are some people who just want to bash Islam and that's it. I wouldn't bother with them. But there are people who just don't know and who got influenced by the media. It's not that they *want* to know, but they are at least a bit open. I like to talk to these people. They disagree, but they let me say what I have to say and maybe even think about what was said. I respect that!

Anisah: Thanks!

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

Its weird to me how people react so negatively to the idea of fasting. I think its caused in part by people having so much now, and never having to go hungry, so they think fasting for even one day will permanently damage your body.

Sarah said...

I think that she will be closer to understanding Islam when she discovers that you are a Muslim and were a Muslim when you were having this discussion with her but are too ashamed(?)to admit it? Do you seriously think that this will not adversely affect your relationships? How does it feel to walk and act as a fake to the people that have loved you all your life? It certainly does not reflect well on Islam if you can not, or are encouraged not to (yes, I know that some Islamic websites advise you not to) speak out about it proudly.

And, I'm willing to bet that your grandmother didn't PUSH her beliefs was because she knew that, to quote Q'ran, 'there can be no compulsion in religion'. When you are forced to do something the meaning/purpose tends to get lost. Look at the percentage of Muslims in the world. The majority are Muslims in name only or outwardly only because they are 'forced'. What is the point in that really? You attend prayers with these people and you CHOOSE to be around these people because you think that they are the best of people because they call themselves Muslim but you can't trust them. If you think you can you had better think again. Why should your aunt or your father ever trust you when you couldn't even admit to them that you are Muslim? Go ahead, make all the excuses that you want (or have been told) but the fact is you are a Muslim who is a liar that should not be trusted. Either that or you are an immature,ignorant who has a LOT to of learning and growing up to do. Yes, I know. Sounds harsh but the facts are facts and there is no benefit to being soft when truth is what is needed.

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