Early in the summer, I reached an all time low in my iman and aqeedah. I lived a privately tortured existence as I tried to sort out my thoughts and emotions regarding Islam and my place in it. In utter disbelief and shock, I found myself whispering the shahaddah on a number occasions as I often found myself outside of the fold and into kufr.
Perhaps I was suffering from a drawn out and insidous condition called Salafi burnout. The term is believed to have originated from Shaik Abdal Hakeem Murad in his essay Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution (READ THIS!!). Indeed, my burnout has been a slow process taking place over a number of years as I realized that I somehow lost myself in this charade to be a “good Muslim”.
I’ve lost myself before, well over a decade ago, as I found myself in a cloud of addiction and emptiness. I fought my way out of it and really this experience has been no different. To lose your very personality, at your own doing, is a bleak and depressive condition indeed.
So I’ve found that I can still be a Muslim and maintain that which is integral to my happiness and mental health: intellectualism and spirituality. In fact, I found that our history is rich with these two concepts although presently most Muslims and the ummah as a whole are bankrupt of the wealth that lies therein. This does not concern me in the slightest, as I have found that my relationship with God is not dependent or exclusive to our collectively miserable and loathsome condition. Nor does the fact that many will shun me and shake their heads in disgust when I say that I now belong to the group that, if you had to put a label on it, would be called “progressive” or “reformist” Muslims. I do fear real life reprisals and social outcasting, but will gladly face that fear in exchange for my own integrity and dignity.
So that leads me to the hijab. I’m seriously considering taking it off. I feel that it is somehow a remnant of a more conservative me, a me that no longer exists. I’m on the fence about whether or not it is truly obligatory, but that doesn’t even matter in the end. Somehow I feel the need to strip down, down to my bare bones, and start this thing over, starting at the foundation and working my way up.
And yet, this piece of cloth has such a hold on me. It’s a powerful symbol. One that’s politicized by non-Muslims and even more so by Muslims. Somehow my self worth is all tied up in it, as silly as I know this is. Somehow to take it off would be closing a door to a part of my being that has been a good part of my identity for the better part of the last seven and a half years.
And so I continue to mull and struggle, when really I just want to be free of it.