Of all the struggles I imagined I’d have as a 26-year-old, religion was not one of them. If you’re born in a relatively practicing Muslim family, where parent(s) occasionally even tell you to pray, you don’t think that one day they themselves are going to stop. The religious/ideological affiliation your parent(s)/family has is a fundamental element of your upbringing, and suddenly making it all a lie moves the earth beneath your feet.

She wasn’t always like this… that’s my problem. She has changed. If she had been like this from when I was a kid, I would’ve been used to it and know how to work my way around it. But abandoning faith at her age is so strange. Usually people go the other way around; they approach faith at old age.

I think about people who convert to Islam, to the horror of their families. But what do you do when you were brought up in a Muslim family, then [significant] parts of that family violently decides to rip all that away? The fact that we eat with our right hand, how we deal with matters of hygiene, the phrase we use to greet people, heck even the fact that mom once told me to change when a t-shirt I wore had arms too short – where did all of that come from if not Islam? But ask her and she’ll justify them in arguments that don’t hold. They’re crumbles from the beginning, but her obstinacy glues those unfit pieces together.

My biggest problem has always been with non-practicing Muslims questioning Islam, never with non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are generally more respectable, and they ask you out of genuine curiosity and not because they’re out to poke holes in your argument or because they want to confirm all the bad things they’ve heard about Islam. Why is that? Why are non-practicing Muslims always so violent in their questioning, always so accusatory? Why are they so afraid of actually learning? Instead of that, what they do is they ask laymen like me the meaning behind this or that. How would I know? I’m not a scholar. And I don’t question everything because I don’t feel the need to, hence my answer will either be “because God says so” or “that’s a matter of scholarly interpretation”. In terms of hadiths I’m even less knowledgeable, because to understand them you have to study them under a scholar. If you just take Sahih al-Bukhari and point at this or that hadith, you’re no different from the extremists.

But she never once mentioned the words “Qu’ran” or “Islam” She just kept referring to “religion”. Maybe then, somewhere deep within, resides a drop of guilt. I should give myself the benefit of the doubt. Because I refuse to let the foundations of my upbringing be ripped away  from me.