Forgive me Allah for I have Sinned

Perhaps it is absurd of me to think that Ramadan will ever be a time of peace and refection. From the moment I converted, my patience, my love for Islam and my faith have been constantly tested. Beyond the struggle of belonging to a non-Muslim family, the reconciliation of new acquired identities and the challenges of trying to fit in mainstream Muslim communities, this year I started Ramadan off surrounded by death. As the month of Ramadan approached, and I prepared to fast, I lost my life partner in a sudden accident. He was planning to travel from Saudi Arabia to Canada and visit me this summer after Ramadan; but just a few days ago he was in a car accident. The news came as a shock to all who knew him…he was young, full of life and had many dreams.

Such an unexpected event brings about a sudden awareness of the fragility of earthly life, and it also show us the best and worst of the Muslim communities that surround us. Saad’s death is something I had to think and rethink in order to rationalize completely. I can’t say that the process is over yet. But his death has also made me question my own place among Muslims as a convert, as an Indigenous woman from Mexico and as a “sinner.” I grew up in a conservative Catholic environment where the idea of the Original Sin continues to be preached as baptisms are recommended. Even though many Muslims reject the idea of sin from birth, I have found striking resemblances between ideas of sin and the “guilt” treatment perpetrated against those that “do not fit.” You have the sin of pre-marital relationships, the sin of LGBTQ love, the sin of not wearing certain garments, and the sin of being a woman of colour who questions and critiques mainstream interpretations, among others.

Saad’s passing was a constant reminder of my “sins” and the status that I have failed to acquire among mainstream Muslim communities in Canada and abroad. The hours following the accident were extremely stressful, I not only had to come to terms with the loss of Saad but the only contact I had with the events far in Saudi Arabia were through a friend. No contact from the family, no further details. After seven years of companionship our relationship is tainted by the lack of a proper marriage ceremony and the family’s lack of acceptance. I was never good enough for them or even Saad’s friends and acquaintances because of my nationality, my colour and my background. For many of them my worse sin was “tempting” a perfectly raised conservative Saudi man.

The loss of my partner was experienced from a distance. I had no right to the rituals, and I am still not entitled to the communal healing experience. Nonetheless, I have been blessed with a family, who despite the differences and religious disagreements, has been able to put all that aside to support me and honour the life of a Muslim who considered himself “a moderate practicing Sunni.” Following the tradition of my mother’s land in southern Mexico, Saad’s picture stands in the living room along with flowers and candles that are lit every day. My family has attempted to guide his next “trip” with sweetgrass inspired by the tradition of some First Nations in the land where we are visitors. Nonetheless, they understood that Saad would want to be honoured in a “Muslim” way.

Saad's Remembrance Offering in my Family's House.

Saad’s Remembrance Offering in my Family’s House.

The few days preceding Ramadan were filled with anger and tears. Not only was my family denied any kind of “closure” ceremony by mainstream Muslim leaders because they are not Muslim, because there was no marriage contract or because that’s simply “not the way we do it,” but I was reminded that I am one more number in the Dawah books who will continue to be poorly supported by institutional Islam. You know, institutional Islam prides itself in saying that “X” number of women are converting to Islam, something I have discussed before, but little support is provided to us convert women.

After several years as a convert I find my self wondering, why am I being punished? Because I am considered a fornicator? Because I am suspected to be less of a Muslim? Or because I do not believe that mainstream understandings of death and mourning help those of us who continue on? As I went through the process of trying to honour Saad in a way meaningful to him, I discovered that many Muslims have a troubled relationship with death. Many fear it, neglect it and ignore it. Some believe that the responsibility to the dead ends with the burial of a body and the funeral rituals that often lack women and non-Muslims. Such an understanding of death clashes with mainstream Mexican understandings of loss and grief and certainly violate Indigenous views on the cycles of life and death.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of Muslim leaders in my community my reasons for wanting to honour Saad were not good enough. I was constantly told that this is bid’a, that this is not Islam and that I was engaging in a dangerous behaviour that could lead to a major sin. The options I was offered instead were to leave the issue alone and “move on.” A friend’s family member even told me, “you are still young and there are many men out there. Find another one.” But among all the darkness of the past days, I was blessed with the help of a broader network of Muslims who, above all, believe that Islam should be about love, support and healing. I was not only offered support by El-Tawhid Juma Circle but also by Muslims for Progressive Values in Ottawa and Edmonton. My family was hosted by a United Church in Edmonton in a Muslim ceremony that honoured Saad’s memory and sought to ease the family’s healing process. Of course, very few Muslims attended fearing being labelled as “sinners.”

After days of being treated with skepticism and being categorized as a “sinner,” I stand in the middle of the month of Ramadan not questioning my faith, or the tragic events that led to Saad’s passing, but instead questioning the purpose of my own shahadah. What does it mean to be a Muslim convert when every time I have needed support I have had to scramble for it? What does it mean to “be part” of a community who questions my ethnic and racial background and doubts my knowledge and faith? What does it mean to be a “good” Muslim vs. a “sinner” like me? Thus, as the Catholic creed taught me, I guess I should start every interaction by saying: Forgive me Allah for I have sinned…Forgive me Muslims for I am a sinner.

6 thoughts on “Forgive me Allah for I have Sinned

  1. kmichelle says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I hate to read its like this but I hope you fi d comfort in the memories of his embrace, his smile, his words and all the other memories you have.

  2. Shahla Khan Salter says:

    Eren my sister – we are your community. That is what a community does – comes together when one is in need and encountering crisis. All members of a community must not necessarily be all of the same faith. We can be of a variety of faiths as long as we share the same values, care for one another and this includes Muslims – particularly the Muslims who care about you and what happens to you. Your universalist Muslim family will always be there for you. So is Allah swt -The Most Merciful, The Most Kind. May S/He have mercy upon those who turned you away. May S/He forgive us for not doing more for him and for you. May Saad rest in peace. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un

  3. Shaista says:

    Eren. I don’t know you, other than having read your posts, but I am so sorry for what you are going through and have been through. May Allah give you strength at this time and grant Saad Jannah.

    My mother converted to Islam when she married my father and when she experienced death in her family also went through many additional pains due to the lack of community support- down to her sister-in-laws not finding it necessary to attend her mothers funeral or even visit and sympathise in the way they did for each other because my grandmother was not muslim. Its not at all the same but gives me insight into how painful it is for you As the isolation and feelings of rejection she felt were so apparent to me even as a child. It’s a disturbing side of the community and one that I hope changes in time. But you should know that people’s prejudice, bad behaviour and lack of compassion are their own failings and the lack of support reflects on the community and not on you. May Allah grant you strength. Lots of love and duaas from a sister far away that you have never met…

  4. violetmidnight says:

    Dear Eren ,
    I begin with deepest condolences. To Allah we belong and to Him we return. May He fill your heart with peace and replace your sorrow with contentment, acceptance, and in time, happiness, Ameen.
    I am sorry that you have not been allowed to find a place to “fit in” with your grieving. Prophet Mohammed PBUH would weep at your rejection in this manner, but then he would weep at so much that is broken in our Ummah today, so on behalf of the damaged Ummah I apologise to you, that you have been ignored by those who should have embraced you.
    I also want to say that you will find all your answers in the Quran. You really will. I do not say this to simply make you feel better, or to tidily “do my part” and walk away. I say it because I have found in Allah’s eternal words the answers that no one else has, if only I reflect, as Allah Himself repeatedly tells me to do.
    For example, of course you are allowed to grieve. Prophet Yaqoub grieved for Yusuf ‘ s disappearance for decades, and while some may argue that he knew from Allah what others did not, there was no clear cut evidence that his son had not perished. Only what he felt in his heart from his Lord, but even that did not prevent him from grieving until he went blind.
    Where is Sa’ad? With all due respect to all the scholars (and I don’t belittle their much needed efforts jazahom Allah kheir), but my Allah tells me
    O reassured soul, return to your Lord well – pleased and pleasing to Him, and enter among My righteous and enter My paradise.
    That’s all I need to know.
    Eren, we are all tested, and yours has been a hard one, for some reason you and I do not know yet. Allah wishes to draw you closer, and perhaps bring about some great change in you that will make you insha Allah more noble in His eyes. We are all more connected than we realise, as the story of your friend’s dying mother shows. Perhaps this happened to you to help someone else realise something about themselves or their faith or about grieve and loved ones.
    Remember to keep Allah close and to work hard on accepting that there is wisdom in His choices. You cannot see it now because it hasn’t arrived yet, but it is coming, a bit like a slowing-moving train you await on a platform. It might be a long wait, so nurture patience. And pray. He will open doors to you that you didn’t know existed.
    I keep you in my duaa, and would love to communicate with you more if you ever need me.
    And finally, because it is an amana I must deliver to you: a dear friend of mine who is a Chilean convert sends you love and support and feels your anguish.
    Fatima {Violetmidnight}

  5. Carina says:

    I am sorry to hear this and I am sorry about Your loss. An I am sorry that You and Your family was excluded from greef-ceremoni . I am too an convert and I live in Sweden. If You want to You can contact me as a friend . Sister in Islam

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