I believe in the arc of divine justice, that good acts are rewarded and bad deeds punished. If not to me, then to someone I love. I wrote previously of how I had bullied my partner into converting and believing in a faith he did not believe in. I thought I was saving him, but I was not. In this act of divine justice, the same traumatic experience was done unto me.
It was because of Max, and the other relationships that followed, that I began to question the religion I was born into. Not if there was a god, but if the ideology I was taught aligned with social realities and my own principles. Perhaps it was because my partners and I tried to compromise and held regular debates on religion that it broadened my narrow vision of Islam. Even after rigorous debates and the failed relationships, I still loved and stayed steadfast to my spiritual self. I cherished my private moments of submission to my god. And I gave remembrance to my god, in my own personal ways.
Then I met Azim, we shared similar interests, intellect, humour, and values. Plus: we were both Muslims! Perfect, I thought. I did not have to go through the awkwardness of telling him about my religion, or have a discussion on conversion. Azim and I lay on different ends of the spectrum; this would not matter to me but it did to him. He was a conservative, ritualistic Muslim, and I was not. I constantly questioned the religion I was born into. As a woman, there is not much equality in terms of gender and spiritual spaces that was afforded to me.
However, this difference soon grew from a concern into an obsession. He scrutinized the number of times I prayed, he reminded me of the times when I would question the religion. Within a span of a month, he asked to take a break at least 3 times, because he could not reconcile the fact that I was a Muslim that wasn’t doing the rituals that was expected of me. He made unfair assumptions about me and my “lifestyle”. He would mischaracterize my friends and call them “people I surround (myself) with” and think they are all equally as much of a ‘wildchild’ because they weren’t Muslims or weren’t orthodox, conservative Muslims.
Through all of these terrifying and traumatic situations, I would calmly and patiently abide and change my ways to become the ideal partner that he had always wanted and wished for. I would listen to his irrational meltdowns and inane demands, and calmly give him the space he asked for, meltdown after meltdown. When he accused me of not knowing the basic fundamentals of the religion, I signed up for a religious class. When he said I didn’t pray enough, I would attend a mosque and go to pray with him or without him. But with each step I took, the more impatient he got. The obsession with the way I practiced my faith and why I questioned faith consumed him to no end.
During this time, I often thought back to how badly I treated Max into converting into Islam. I was slowly realizing how my past futile efforts to convert Max into Islam felt like. It is the most horrible feeling. I felt the same feeling of unworthiness and inadequacy that I had inflicted upon Max. Because you are never doing enough to please god and to please your partner. I got a taste of how I treated Max – divine justice. I now knew, first hand, how it feels to have been bullied into religion.
Throughout my relationship with Azim, my faith was measured, tested, questioned and paraded as if I was the posterchild for the non-practicing muslim. My image amongst his friends, who held the same and equally dogmatic idea of what a Muslim should be, was ruined. It seemed like whatever I did would never be enough for the Muslim community to accept me as “Muslim enough” because I loudly challenged the traditions that was practiced and longstanding teachings that I disagreed with. The experience is demeaning, and many times, I felt bullied out of the religion because it felt like I was not “muslim enough”. It was mentally exhausting to constantly prove my Muslim-ness to the community. Through my words, my thoughts, my rituals and my actions. The experience was living hell on earth as I suffered through feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy to the pulpit, to the community and to god. Slowly, my mental health deteriorated.
After weeks of hoping that I find clarity and patience to deal with his demands of me and my faith, I was provided an answer. The arc of divine justice, started to work in my favour.
He had forgotten to log out of his chat on my desktop, and as I wanted to log in to mine, I saw his chats with a girl named Aniyah. All the incriminating evidence, the flirtations, and the discussion of physical intimacy lay before my eyes. I sat down and read the conversations between him and her. I read the conversations between him and his friends. I was painted as the faithless, godless, agnostic, and a 2 dimensional character. I scrolled and scrolled and read and read till the words no longer held any meaning. Till the words no longer hurt me. Azim was cheating on me emotionally and physically. My breathing started to become stunted. My fingers trembled, my vision narrowed.
How am I the lesser Muslim here? How does he meet me in the day, and head off for dinner with his side chick? God, help me breathe! Ya Allah! This pious, conservative Muslim boy, is a fuckboy.
Me, the one he accused to be godless and faithless was ultimately the faithful.