My Perspective Counts: Part I
In this series of My Perspective Counts, we will be exploring the unique and inspiring lives of Muslims from all backgrounds, faith practices, age ranges and all other variables. Through interviews, we will learn about their struggles, perspectives, passions and wisdom. The following questions were specifically tailored to this young Muslim woman.
Tell us a little about yourself: Your name, grade, personality/interests, a little background on where you grew up and your family.
My name is Ramsha. Even though I’ll be 13 in about 3 months, I’m a rising 8th grader. I’m a “girly girl” who loves nail polish and clothes. My little sister is also my little model! I also have a younger brother and a loving mom and dad. I was born in the United States but I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. I lived there for about 12 years.
As a young person, you seem interested in Islam. How did that start and what role does Islam play in your life?
Islam is my way of life. But it wasn’t always like that. About 3 years ago my parents went for Hajj. When they came back, I saw that they were more practicing. We started to put more deen (religion) into our lives. I started to wear the hijab (head covering) not too long ago. I got my first job delivering newspapers last year. My mom didn’t tell me to wear the hijab or not. She just said, “It’s your choice, but I’m telling you, it’s better to start from day one rather than from the middle.” I decided to start wearing it from that day. It was actually the day before my 12th birthday. As I started wearing the hijab, I felt myself getting stronger and stronger in my faith. It was just like lip balm. It contains an ingredient that makes it addictive, so the more you put on, the more you need. All it took was for my mom to give my wagon a little push.
What are some of the challenges you face as a young Muslim woman?
People at school come up to me with many questions. Some I didn’t know how to answer at that time. For example, this girl once asked me, “If you have Jesus, Moses, and Noah in your religion, why aren’t you Christian?” Of course I don’t answer every question I get, because we are all still learning. Others can have really long answers. I once posted a picture saying, “Smile! It’s sunnah!” The following day, everyone was asking me what sunnah was. Others are just plain silly. Along with the usual “Do you have hair/ears?”, the weirdest question I have ever gotten was, “Do you have Voldemort hidden in the back of your head?”
Another thing I face is stereotypes. I have had people at school dare each other to tell me racist jokes and ask me racist questions like, “Your mom is so stupid she thought the twin towers were runways,” and, “Have your parents ever belonged to a terrorist organization?” Of course they did get caught, but I felt sad that this is what they think of Muslims.
Please share a story of a time where you explained Islam to someone else. What did they ask, what did you say and how was your experience?
I was once going out on the field after lunch when a girl came and asked me, “What are you?” I decided that because she was my age I could joke around with her. So I said, “Oh, I’m a human,” and our conversation continued:
Her: Yeah, I can see that but like what part of India are you from?
Me: It may seem surprising but I am not Indian. I am from Canada. I am just Muslim. It’s a religion, not an ethnicity.
Her: So, why do you wear that on your head?
Me: I’m obeying God’s orders. And it’s not just in Islam. For example, even in your church, you never see a picture of Virgin Mary with her head uncovered.
Her: I understand. But aren’t you hot?
Me: Honestly, yes. I can get a bit sweaty, but the human body’s an amazing machine. It can get used to anything. And besides, it’s just like a hat protecting me from the sun.
Her: I wish I was you. It gets really hot here in South Carolina.
I felt really excited and gave a smile.
Her: Hey, do you know that guy Osama bin Laden?
Me: I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I don’t look up to him. Even though he was Muslim, he was also misguided, got lost, went astray.
Her: Oh ok. Hey, my sister told me you guys pray 500 times a day. Is that true?
Me: [giggles] No, it’s only five. One at the break of dawn, one after midday, one when the sun is at eye level, one when it sets, and one when the sky is completely dark.
Her: Oh, so do you pray at school?
Me: Before the time change, I used to go behind the curtain to pray at lunch. When the clocks moved forward, I could pray my noon prayer as soon as I got home, if my bus was on time.
Just then, a boy tapped me on the shoulder.
Me: Could you please not touch me?
Her: Oh, you don’t like being touched?
I quoted directly from the seminar: In Islam, there is no touchy-feely, no try-it-before-you-buy-it, and such. I am the one in control of who touches me.
Her: So are you allowed to have, like, a boyfriend?
Me: No, but-
Her: Then how do you get married?
Me: If I like someone, then I tell my parents. It’s their job to invite his family over and find out from who’s in their family history, all the way to what do they post on instagram. So basically the parents do the dating for you.
Her: I thought that the parents choose for you?
Me: That is an option though.
That girl and I ended up becoming good friends.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to tell every Muslim girl: remind yourself that it’s all temporary. Don’t get attached. Look in the mirror and say, “I am a Muslimah; I am strong, and I am beautiful.”
I would also like to share a few good books (other than the Qur’an, of course) that I have come across. There is “Reclaim Your Heart” by Yasmin Mogahed and “The Prophet’s Methods of Correcting People’s Mistakes” by Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid. I also follow @islamicquotes on Instagram and would like to give them a shoutout.