Life seems so different now. Indeed, when I look back at how things were this time last year, it’s as if I’m on a different planet. My existence as a Muslim woman now seems so alien. I recall how much Islam controlled my life. I planned every day around salat. If something on my schedule would cause me to miss or significantly delay prayer, I would switch up my itinerary. In 80+degree weather, I coiled my hair into two thick ponytails, wrapped yards of fabric around my head and covered every part of my body but my face and hands.
There is one day in particular that stands out in my mind. I met a fellow convert downtown that day. As we walked down the street, I could feel streams of sweat pouring down my back. I watched the non-Muslim women around me, noticing how much cooler and comfortable they seemed to be in their attire. I thought to myself,What would be the harm in dressing like that? Even a t-shirt and slacks would feel so much better-I couldn’t allow myself to complete the thought and immediately chastised myself for seeking to look like non-believers. Sure, I was quite hot and uncomfortable as a hijabi. But as I’d heard in khutbahs that I listened to online, “hell is hotter”. Better to endure and sacrifice now, fisibillah, than to suffer eternally in the fires of Jahannam for disobeying Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. So when I discussed the weather with the sister that day, I didn’t share my inner thoughts with her. Instead I announced that it was okay, we could brave the temperature together. Months later, after both apostatized, we discussed that day. Come to find out she’d had the same thoughts that I’d had. We deceived each other, pretending to really be fine living like that though we were both questioning it.
By the time I left Islam, I’d become much more of a recluse than I had been as a non-Muslim. Due to all of the restrictions between the “mingling” of the sexes, going out of the house was no longer that exciting to me. If I was invited to a gathering at anyone’s home, I first needed to know if any men would be there before confirming my attendance. For if men were going to be there, that meant I would have to be on my guard. I’d have to make sure no one tried to shake my hand and make sure that I was “properly covered” at all times. I’d have to make sure that there was always a set number of people around and that I was never alone with a male. Having to constantly worry about such things made me feel like trying to have a social life was a hassle. It was just easier to stay home.
In spite of some of my experiences, I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to convert to and practice Islam. One often hears converts-especially female ones-say that Islam liberated them. This is one thing I agree with them on wholeheartedly. Islam broke my shackles and freed me-but not in the way you are probably thinking. Islam didn’t liberate me from a life of emptiness, alcohol/drug abuse, confusion or promoscuity, as female converts love to claim. No, what Islam liberated me from is organized religion itself.
It took converting to the youngest Abrahamic faith for me to realize how ridiculous all three of them are for me. As a Muslim I sought to mold my life to the Sunnah, but it didn’t take long for me to see that I my attempt to serve God was just being a slave to ignorance and superstition. When I realized that, I knew I had to leave. Sure, people would laugh at and mock me. Sure, fellow Muslims may be disappointed and hostile. But I knew I was not going to lie to myself. I could not outwardly profess Islam, knowing how I really felt about it. So I stopped practicing.
I suppose I could have gone back to Christianity. It certainly would have pleased people around me, and I could’ve jumped on the “ex-Muslim comes to Christ” bandwagon. That too would have been a lie. For when I look at the faith I was raised in, I don’t view it as an option. Christianity and Islam come from the same toxic well: the rantings of backwards and ignorant tribes of the Near East. If there is a God-and I still tend to believe that there is-I find it hard to believe that either one of these religions is the best they could come up with.