It was an irony heaped upon an irony in the span of a couple of hours. I was on a long-distance call and this friend was telling me about how he heard a respected academician tell him that I could have become a 'serious intellectual'. I laughed a short laugh; prolonging it would be melodramatic.
I needn't have bothered. I was on test.
While S was quite thrilled with what he saw as a compliment, he said, "You know, I have been aware of this for years. You are the example of a real Indian Muslim woman. And I know you will not let us down."
This man is an agnostic. He knows I am worse. Yet, it was getting to be a strange problem.
Later that evening, the tables turned. I was told, "You don't pray. You don't fast. You don't feel any affiliation towards your religion. You have drifted away - how can you be a Muslim?"
Technically, this was the right analysis. I had done nothing. But I felt it necessary to say those few words that might sound so hollow; I said, "I live by the spirit of my conscience. I know the difference between right and wrong. I try to be honest to myself and to others. And I know that in so many ways I am blessed. If I were a really bad person, then should not I be forsaken?"
He, who has done terrible things in life -- lied, cheated, caused untold harm to people around him -- told me this was not Islam, this was just me.
So Islam could not even encompass me -- little me with my small ideas, my tiny demands, my tinier dreams?
"Will you go on Haj? he asked.
“No,” I stated blandly. “Not now. Not until some major thing changes within me and I genuinely want to.”
"Ok, you are at least frank. But, why do you not pray?"
I said I would when I felt like it, when the consuming feeling came over me. My religion could not be a robot that could be switched on and off. I do not interfere in how others practise their beliefs. I need to be overwhelmed; I need to feel that fine madness of being 'taken', that power over me and for me. There are times when the human can do so...
If people can sweep you off your feet, or enter your heart and mind gently, or make you believe that you can trust them with your life, then that is a faith. I guess fairytales work best as religion for me.
There are times when I would want to go down on my knees and kiss the soil for having let me stand and walk on it.
Would I dare to say that my god can lie beneath my feet?