When you start to make visible changes to your life, you will learn that people will start attacking you for your smallest faults. It’s their way of saying “see, you did this wrong, you’re not actually a good person or that religious”. One of my experiences with this was when I was at a predominantly Muslim bbq held by a close friend. I was really hungry and did not even think to ask if the meat was halal(naturally due to my assumption that a Muslim hosted event would only serve halal food). As soon as I took my first bite(Astagfirullah), a ‘friend’ stated “I thought you only eat halal meat, what happened?’, I just calmly replied that I forgot that it wasn’t. Later that night, another attendant at the bbq called me and asked why was it that I only stopped eating the meat when someone pointed it out, to which of course I replied that I forgot it was not halal. The conversation then turned to this accusation that I only “pretend to be halal only” which is why I didn’t notice till it was pointed out. The fact that a simple case of my stomach taking control over my brain turned into me being called a hypocrite is very sad but is something that can happen often when people feel like you’re ‘being too' religious. I can list numerous examples of situations where I’ve made mistakes and people have taken those opportunities to capitalize on their belief that it is impossible to fully adhere to Islam.
Another majour scenario that can erupt from you making visible changes or sharing knowledge with others is that people assume you think you know everything. I know for a fact that I do not know everything about Islam, for example, my knowledge of fiqh or stories of the sahaba are seriously lacking, therefore I do not portray myself to know these things, though I am always trying to learn. Some individuals though, upon discovering that you don’t know a certain thing will capitalize on it. In one instant I received laughter as well as(in front of an entire class by the way) “see just because she might look religious doesn’t mean she really knows anything”. At the time, it was embarrassing and upsetting but later all I could think was that if this person wanted to point out how unreligious I was, he should have demonstrated proper adab and simply moved on with the class(he was the teacher).
While some of these negative reactions might come from a lack of knowledge and proper adab from those dishing it, many times, especially when they are coming from other Muslims, it’s a sign of discontent within themselves. If you all of a sudden stop engaging in haram things and become more adherent, they begin to perceive it as if you are telling them that they are practicing incorrectly or not good enough. If you all of a sudden go from wearing just the scarf to full hijab, there will be those who only wear the scarf or who observe hijab inappropriately who will perceive this is as if you’re trying to be better than them. I personally do not like to make people feel this way so there have been times where for instance, if I was with a Muslim friend or family member and it was time to perform salah, instead of pausing our activity to pray, I would just continue. I did not want to come across as if I was reminding them that they had yet to pray or as if I was trying to “outdo their Muslimness”. Alhamdulilah, I rarely ever do this anymore and have come to the decision that my submission to Allah ultimately outweighs having to make someone feel better about themselves and quite possibly, my reminder might be what is needed to get the person back on track Islamically.
As I stated previously, I generally prefer to not be in the spotlight. I do not like being labeled the ‘religious’ one, I do not like to be singled out and I do not like having every mistake or flaw that I have being broadcast. Not because I want people to think that I am perfect or all-knowing but because their reactions and comments are just uncomfortable and are derived from ill intentions.
Personally, remarks such as these made me want to exclude people. Being that most of these comments were coming from two groups, one being my ‘native’ community and the second being a group of former close friends, I completely withdrew myself from them. I just didn’t want to deal with the negativity or allow myself to become angry or hostile. When dealing with some of these upsetting interactions, the important thing to remember is that the changes you are making is mainly for the sake of Allah and to benefit yourself. Try to weather some of the negative comments that are made to you and do not harbour ill feelings towards anyone. Also, don’t feel as if you have to compromise your submission to Allah in order to please anyone, especially when it comes to things that are fard and related to ibadah. This can be especially hard when the negativity is coming from close friends or family. Regardless of how much your parents like to remind you that you’re supposed to obey them, keep in mind that Allah says “there is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the creator”. This does not mean that you should act rude but just that that your first and main allegiance is to your Lord.
At the end of the day, the comments will most likely never stop, you just learn to deal with it better. Believe it or not, I still get asked by friends and family “if I’m still doing the zabiha(halal) thing” or “if I’m still not wearing normal clothes” as if my new found submission is synonymous to a new fashion craze or diet fad that I’ve decided to take up.
May Almighty Allah give us all the strength to submit to Him regardless of our circumstances and may He guide those who turn away from him unto the straight path. Always remember to renew your intentions and that your goal is to lead a peaceful life in this dunya in order to have a blessed akhira.
How do you deal with negative reactions to changes in your life? Do you think it is ok to to stop doing something that is fard because of negative feedback from loved ones?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
The "Muslimah Worries" section of Striving Clarity is dedicated to discussing the things that Muslimahs often worry about from hijab to marriage to how to remain spiritual when you're unable to pray. Join us!