Celebrating three LGBT+ projects from our network
22 / 02 / 19
07 / 02 / 19
Samera Iqbal, Schools & Education Intern
My faith has always been a significant part of my life. As for loving it…well, that took some time.
I’m a Muslim woman. I’ve worn the headscarf since I was eleven, I pray five times a day and I fast during Ramadan. My parents were also brought up as Muslims. However, their traditional Pakistani families gave them a strong sense of cultural identity. That changed after I was born. They saw the importance of religion and sent me to madrasahs (weekend Islamic school) so I could learn more about it.
The most prominent thing I remember learning about is the concept of heaven and hell. At a young age, I remember it being drilled into my religious upbringing:
If you do good things, you’re a good person and you go to heaven. But if you do bad things, then you’re a bad person and you go to hell.
This concept had a knock-on effect as I grew older. I read less of the Qur’an (Islamic holy book) and developed habits that were considered sinful. I still prayed, wore the headscarf and fasted. Nothing else. I remember thinking, if I had already done this, then I was already classified as a ‘bad person’, as someone who would end up in hell. If that was the case, then what point was there in trying to be ‘good’?
It’s only recently that I’ve found out otherwise.
With the rise of terror attacks and Islamophobia, I’ve seen some harsh comments. There are people in the world that condemn my religion because of a few individuals. They tell us Muslims to go back to where we came from, pull of headscarves and throw acid in our faces, as if we’re all the same. It made me feel compelled to defend my religion. But I couldn’t without exploring it further.
The thing about self-education is that it gives you freedom to choose what to learn. Rather than learning how to pray and memorise the Qur’an, I realised the importance of intentions. I found the story of a man who killed a hundred people but was still destined for heaven after repenting. It turned out that the concept of heaven and hell wasn’t as black and white as I had been taught.
Sometimes, I wonder why these topics weren’t a major part of madrasahs and faith schools. Yes, the basics are important. But what use do the basics have if there’s no reason to use them? What use is memorisation without understanding what it means? If I had learnt about forgiveness and repentance as a child, then I would have loved my religion sooner.
Everyone has a reason for their faith and belief. I think it’s interesting to hear what brought a person to where they are now, and to see how those ideas change in the future. As for me, I hope I’ll continue to love my faith and beliefs as I do now.