About a year after I became Muslim, one of my best friends had come to visit me. We had become very close in university, and I hadn’t seen her since I moved to a different city. We sat down for breakfast at a local cafe, selecting our favourite items from the menu. I was so excited to see her, but I have never forgotten what she said to me that day. After catching up about the major details we had missed out on by being apart for the last year, she said to me,
“I feel like you are a chameleon, always changing your colour to fit into the environment you are in…”
The comment took me by surprise. This was one of my dearest friends, and one of my few friends who had really stuck by me when I became Muslim. She continued to love me and accept me despite so many significant changes in my life… or had she? Did she think that I was insincere in my choice to become Muslim?
I didn’t respond when she said it. Since then I have thought about it off and on for 14 years. In the four years we had got to know each other at university, I had certainly done my share of “personal exploration”. I was indeed good at fitting-in with most crowds. I would: play sports with the jocks, hang out with the laidback nature-loving organic eating yoga practicing crowd, visit new age spiritual retreats, volunteer in the feminist student group on campus and yet at the end of those four years, I was a hijab-wearing Muslim.
So many youth at that age experiment and want to “discover” who they really are. What was unique about my case? In truth, I see why she felt like I was changing to blend in with a “different crowd”. When she looked at me now, so much seemed so unfamiliar. I wore hijab and covered my body in more modest clothing, didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t go to pubs and parties, didn’t eat pork, we had to stop what we were doing even in public places so I could pray… To her, it felt very strange, but here’s the thing, in many ways it was! The Prophet Muhammed said “Islam began as something strange and will return to being strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers…” (Sahih Muslim 145) The choice I had made… the choice we as Muslims make every single day, when we practice our faith even though it seems strange, or difficult, or unusual is in fact a decision to CHOOSE Allah. We are all born with the nature to worship Allah, the thing is we have to choose it. There are many distractions. There are many of things that seem appealing, easier, or more fun, but as someone who has experienced most of them, I can tell you, nothing will fill the void the way Allah does. In the end we all come back to Allah, and it is with Him that our hearts will find ease.
In my university years, I wasn’t a chameleon trying to “change the skin I was in”. I was lost and I was searching for who I really was… who I was made to be. I was lost and I desperately wanted to be found, I just didn’t know where home was.
“And He found you lost and guided you.” Quran 93:7