Being different is hard, this I know is an acceptable opinion throughout the world. Otherwise we wouldn’t have campaigns trying to promote equality among people of different gender, race, color, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and the like. And yet for peace of mind, we must embrace our identities, which is why, many times we join these campaigns, even just by tweeting something from their pages. I’ve always looked at albinos, or people with vitiligo, or women with beards, generally people with abnormalities, and I stop for a moment after I praise Allah for making me somewhat perfect, I stop for a moment and wonder about their story. How do they do it? Is it hard for them? Did they get used to it? How did they? And then I realize maybe that they must be getting uncomfortable from my sad stares, I look away, sometimes brushing away a tear. It must be hard, because I cannot imagine myself dealing with such kinds of situations but then again,

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an,  2:286).

So in those moments when am overcome by fear, I take a deep breath and will myself to believe that whatever Allah may have planned for me in the future, I will be able to handle it as these people are handling their situations, however in this moment Alhamdulillah for the fact that I am not in the position they are in, may Allah however make it easy on them. So what is my point exactly? My point is that being different is hard, and everybody agrees. The sad part is we know as the human race and yet we don’t try to make it easy. Which is why words like stigma, outcast, odd, queer and weird exist. This is why we still have people attending therapy just to learn to love themselves and find their place in this world, this is why we have people committing suicide still, we have people that hide behind masks to hide their weaknesses from the abusive world. I am led to believe that a percentage of crime rate in this world is as a result of inferiority, people being unable to accept who they are, people wishing they could be different, people growing tired of the stigma. I know that this is unjustifiable but not everyone is strong enough to hold their heads up high against all adversity. It is for this reason that we need guidance, we need therapy.

Being Muslim in a world so western, in a world that doesn’t understand different is very hard, so we need guidance, because Muslims don’t exactly believe in therapy, I mean we have the Quran, that’s all the therapy anyone needs. But as the famous saying goes; “If you want to hide the secret to eternal life, write it in a book”. It’s unfortunate that many of us do not read the Quran and when we do, we don’t read it as we should. So the world is full of Muslims who have issues with their identity as Muslims, Muslims trying to convince the world that it isn’t a must for us to wear the hijab, Muslims trying to convince the world that our lifestyle is a choice, Muslims doing everything they can just so the world will not see us as “weird” or “different”, so the world will accept us. We must see to it that we can find ways to support each other, so we can learn to cope and learn to accept our identity. We do not have to defend our identity, we simply must embrace it. The world accepts you only after you accept yourself.

One of my favorite hadiths is reported by Abu Huraira: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers.

The word strange can be defined as; unusual or surprising; difficult to understand or explain. Synonyms include; odd, weird, queer. Something is defined as strange when it stands out, and no religion stands out like Islam does. We’re the only religion that wears veils or caps on our heads, we pray five times a day, we get wudhu and take our shoes off before we pray, we carry jerry cans to the toilet, and many other things that make the world see us as queer. The fact that its quoted in a hadith means this situation is not going to change, we shall forever be looked at as strangers of this dunya because our religion seeks to change the status quo. So it saddens my heart when I listen to speeches out there by Muslims whose voices are heard, and they are telling the world that our hijab is a choice, just so we seem normal and okay and not oppressed. We aren’t oppressed, we are a religion that follows rules, much like any other. The world doesn’t need to understand our rules, they are ours to follow.

“For you is your religion, and for me is mine.” Quran 109:6

But the world doesn’t work like that, we humans are created in a way that we question the things that we do not understand. Things that appear different from the norm. So unfortunately I cannot sit here and tell you that there’s a solution to this stigma, or that there’s something we can do as a religion so the world won’t look at us as odd beings. What I can tell you though is that you can change the way you look at yourself, you can learn to accept yourself and then the world’s opinion of you will not matter one bit. This dunya is like a mirror, it is a reflection of your feelings, therefore we cannot afford to be insecure about our religion, we cannot afford to let the world make us feel inferior when we aren’t. Yes, Islam is strange, but it’s also very beautiful and can survive in a world where the albinos, the LGBTQ, the crippled, the blind survive.

Allah says in the Quran; “You are the best Ummah raised up for people: you enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.” (3:110)

It is for this reason that we cannot afford to be lost within ourselves.