April - June 2003, Islam

Now or Later?

By D. Garcia

I was in denial about my own identity although society, namely my peers, were a constant reminder of that reality. I walked through the long hallways looking for a friendly face, some sign of a kind life form. There was none. Crowds of people lined the hallways talking about things that most certainly were of no importance to me. Yet, I envied them, longed to be part of any of the cliques’ that wandered, chitchatting throughout the hall. I stopped at the end of the long row of gray lockers, in front of my own, glad that the day was over. The day was over, but tomorrow I would return and have to face the cold stars once more. In fact, it would be a long while yet until I overcame the feelings of alienation, of the frustration caused by the duality of my existence:

Looking back, one realizes that everything occurs for a reason. One pebble in the road we stumble upon, as absurd as it might sound, may have a critical effect upon our lives. That night as the car sped on, blurring the street lights together in the darkness like a continuous ray of light, I was hit by a pang of guilt. I converted at a very young age, I reasoned with myself, I haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy myself. This guilt had been incited by a reminder of my own identity.

Among all the other people crammed like sardines in the darkness, one of them had succeeded in catching my eye. Omar, a gorgeous, Arab, Muslim. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and even in the darkness, I managed to see his perfectly shaped mouth and huge brown eyes that were hiding under thick eyelashes. Some force pushed me towards him, and the crowd parted before me like a planned out scenario. I was directly in front of him before I realized what I was doing. I took hold of his hand and saw the slight look of surprise and amusement that came over his beautiful face as I started dancing in front of him. As our bodies moved together, he reached out and moved his hand through my hair. We both danced, and for a while it seemed as though we were the only ones there.

Before we knew it, it was closing time. We both gathered our friends and met at a restaurant, trying to hold on to the night as long as we possibly could. Everything that had happened before seemed to be a dream, but sitting there in a booth with bright red cushions somehow told me it wasn’t. It was a warning. “What are you doing?” the little voice inside me –my conscience– said. “This definitely isn’t right, these guys are Muslims; you’re Muslim!” In hindsight, this guilt was the beginning of an internal struggle. I didn’t realize the brevity of the situation while I sat there, but from this guilt sprang the desire to reform.

A few weeks later, I sat cross-legged in the dark at the mosque discussing the supreme being. “You must realize that every action has repercussions, either now or in the hereafter,” Fatima said calmly, her face cover falling, revealing her exquisite face. She had come to be my rolemodel throughout the summer. How could a woman so young have so much fear and awareness of God? So much love and conviction? The more time I spent with her, the more I realized that there was something I was lacking. High on the mosque’s white walls, a solitary window let in a ray of light which fell upon her petite figure. She was like an angel in my mind, no matter how blasphemous the thought is.

My only response to her question was a slight nod and a tear that almost reluctantly fell down my face. Inside me the response was greater. It was as if someone had suddenly struck me on the face. How could I be so blind? All these years I had professed my belief in this faith and my longing to be increasingly spiritual. Yet, what was holding me back? As if on cue some miraculous play by God, an indescribable feeling of inner peace filled me. It continued to gush forth until my body couldn’t take it anymore. I began to cry. As Fatima hugged me, I realized that this moment was of great importance, a turning point in my life. I have always claimed to ‘pride myself in my uniqueness’, but I had been afraid to be identified as a Muslim mainly because of other people’s reactions,

Looking up at the sky, I decided to take full advantage of the ‘strange’ state of mind I was in. I didn’t want to let the opportunity slip me by this time. I had to do something about my spiritual condition -or the lack thereof- while I was determined to do so. Instinctively, I thanked God as I felt a breeze gently touch my face and brush my hair against my back. I became increasingly aware that not wearing my scarf was a sign of my love for this world and my vanity. I dreaded to think that these artificial sentiments outweighed the only TRUE love: devotion to God. So there, in the heat of the middle of the day, I decided to wear it. I spread out in the grass and closed my eyes. I was completely conscious of the fact that that moment was one of the last my hair would ever be seen in public.

The next time Omar saw me he had almost the same look of surprise on his face as he had the first time I met him. Although this time, I can say I was proud of the reason behind his surprise. The scarf I wear is not only a symbol of my modesty. It has been an aid in the source of my pride. It is a sign of my new conviction and dedication to my beliefs. It became a question of “Do you choose now or later?” I could choose the gratification of NOW or I could choose to strive to indulge in activities that will enable me to stand behind the shaded doors of paradise LATER. I made the choice to be proud of who I am.