By Taimoor Qureshi
My religion gives me guidance and inner peace. Islam has always been a source of wisdom and comfort to rely on regardless of how dire my situation’s circumstances are. However, I frequently find contradictions between how I practice my faith vs. how others practice. While most of my family strictly eats halal meat, I find myself to have an awful addiction to the number seven at Chick-fil-a. But what I have come to realize is that my way of practicing my faith does not make me any less Muslim than them. As a second-generation Pakistani-American, the environment I have grown in has forced me to adapt my religion around my life priorities.
My experiences are similar to those of my father’s. As a Pakistani immigrant, my father’s circumstances led him to develop a reformed practice of his faith which he continues to abide by to this day. My Baba gradually came to realize that he did not have the capacity to pray five times a day while committing to a full time job. “America was very tough for Muslims back then…mosques were so far away from the city, [Los Angeles], and there weren’t any halal stores,” Baba said. “I was working all day like a robot to support family back home— like everyone—so I guess I started to practice my religion according to my convenience.”
My father’s story is representative of what many immigrants experience: having to leave their home country in search of an opportunity to provide for their family. Although Baba maintained his strong connection to his faith after immigrating, he had to prioritize providing for his family over his religion. He simply didn’t have either the resources or the time available to practice Islam the way he did back home. It would be difficult to pray five times a day while committing to a full time job, but Islam meant much more to him than the number of times he prayed in one day. His faith was a source of comfort and peace for him at a time when he was on his own, and burdened by the responsibility to be the sole supporter of his family here and in Pakistan. My father’s way of practicing Islam is definitely not the only way.
Some may think my father isn’t necessarily a devout Muslim because he misses his namaz, or prayer, once a day. But ultimately, both Baba and I have endless love and passion for our religion. We simply practice our faith in different ways.
About four years ago, I asked my friends from my local mosque if they wanted to grab something to eat after our typical Friday prayer. And because it wasn’t too far away, I suggested Chick-fil-a. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would soon feel embarrassed by asking such a simple question. However, since the chain offers non-zabiha meat, my own friends began to question my faith. They were quick to assume that I wasn’t a devout Muslim.
This experience, and many similar ones, have made me feel as if I was unfaithful to not only my religion, but also to myself. I often felt that people judged me as less of a Muslim for minor infractions rather than my actual spirituality. It was because of Baba, however, that I felt like Islam was an essential aspect in my life that directs me to having willpower to keep pushing through any time where I feel defeated. From whenever Baba’s business wasn’t doing well all the way to whenever he would have a slight cold, Baba would pray, make dua, and feel as if he is unstoppable. And I wanted to follow Islam exactly the way he did as it seemed to always bring immense inner peace and guidance.
I may not relate to my father’s story of being displaced, but we share a struggle for authenticity. I’ve realized that it’s unfair to not only Muslims who were born in or who migrated to the US, but also people of the diaspora to feel like they aren’t as deeply connected to God despite being separated from homeland communities that would offer that validity. Religion offers displaced immigrants like my father a way to feel like they’re still at home. To feel like they will always belong to a greater good no matter where they go.
“Allah has given me everything,” Baba said.