Be yourself

Many new Muslims — be they converts or those rediscovering their inherited faith anew — mangle their own identities in the early years along the road. In their pursuit of authenticity, they feel that they have to throw out all that they are, and assume the identity of whoever they now find themselves amongst.

Naturally, this causes an incoherent tension which is mostly unhealthy for the individual. In time, some may mellow and allow themselves to rediscover who they are. But others, who have never given themselves that space to manoeuvre, simply drop off, disenchanted, rebelling in anger against what they feel they were forced to become. That friction can be intense.

My advice to the new faithful is to be yourself. To bring who you are to the faith you have entered. Just because, online, you encounter great crowds of far-right Muslims, buzzing with self-righteous certitude, it doesn’t mean that is what you must become too. Perhaps you were guided to take up the role of check and balance. Perhaps your Lord has a different plan for you. And God guides whom He wills.

It is your Creator and Sustainer who moulded you through the experiences of your life to date. All that made you what you are was by design. All that you are required to do when you take up the path is to remove those things which cause you harm and to strive to purify your heart. You’re not required to bend yourself to the politics of those you move amongst. You don’t need to align yourself with unholy causes. You don’t need to throw yourself into culture wars.

The path is all about struggle, but not as you might imagine it. To struggle to be truthful, yes. To struggle against the lowest calls of your self, certainly. To struggle against your natural anger. To struggle against laziness and arrogant pride. But if you’re a loving, charitable and tolerant person: don’t break this. Your only task is to ensure your intentions are pure, and to increase in love, beneficence and tolerance all the more.

As you jump aboard the caravan, take it slowly: be patient, and kind to yourself. Don’t go throwing yourself into something you have not fully understood, becoming something you were never required to become. If you find yourself becoming less merciful, then stop and step back. If you find yourself becoming self-righteous, thinking yourself better than others, pause: this path is supposed to make you humble.

Most of all, remember who you are and who created you as you are. Perhaps you will bring to the community of faithful something they are lacking. Perhaps you will see things they cannot see, with an outsider’s eyes, capable of recognising what we are truly called to. Perhaps your expression of faith will enable you to challenge injustice, or unfounded traditions, or local parochialism.

What a blessing it is that God made you just the way you are!

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