We were sitting at the dining table right now, she eating her breakfast, me finishing a piece for a magazine, when her little devil eyes looked up at me and said,"are you hungry?" Simple question really, but I knew why she was asking it. Everyone is fasting today and so little devil spawn was trying to tease me.
"No, not at all," I replied.
She pets her sandwich (who in the world pets a sandwich???) and says, "Even if you were, you can't eat."
"Oh yes I can".
"No, you have to wait for maghrib. If you're a good Muslim, you can't eat before maghrib".
Why the hell do they put these ideas in this girl's head???
"H," I said with a voice a little louder than it should have been, "being a good Muslim has nothing to do with whether you fast today or not. Don't let anyone convince you of that."
My family has never been one to force faith down anyone's throat. We grew up knowing we had to pray, fast during Ramadan, the works. But no one ever tried to force you to do something or intimidate you into doing it. But recently, every single member of my family (save for my father who still believes that people should have a choice in personal matters) has been on a mission. We're all forced to get up and pray at the same time, fast at the same time, read the Koran at the same time. It's one of the reasons I don't enjoy big family gatherings anymore. All they've become are events where everyone waits for the moment to say, "Yalla, let's go pray".
I see it as harassment. The other day my mother and my uncle were practically riding my cousin's back because he didn't get up to pray when they told him to. "Yalla ya H!! OOOM SALI!!!" The kid is 18 years old. He'll get up when he gets up. Or if he wants to get up.
They don't just do it to the young either. They'll do it to each other. My mother will constantly nag my uncle to get up and pray, who'll nag his wife, who'll end up nagging someone else.
Sometimes it even turns into a contest to see who'll pray first. My mom will sneak off to the bedroom and upon returning to the living room will say, "ana salet!" (I prayed!), but in a na-na-na-na sort of way. I swear, as adults get older, their minds regress to kindergarden.
Last night, my uncle asked me if I was going to wake up to have sohour with them. Before I was even able to answer he said, "But you aren't fasting? You have that anemia." Before I was able to utter a word again he said, "But that's nothing. You can fast."
How infuriariting is that? What kind of satisfaction can you ever get from forcing someone to do something?
I've found that this harassment doesn't confine itself to my family or Muslims. The past two holiday gatherings at the boyfriend's house were rampant with this. After dinner, one of his sisters would usually announce that they're about to pray the rosary for his late mother (God rest her soul). No one was given a choice whether they wanted to pray or not. They had to sit and pray. I noticed some people attempt to sneak off, only to be intercepted by someone and brought back to the living room.
I told my uncle that I would not be fasting. He gave me a hard stare and asked why. I replied by saying that I just won't do it. He tried to convince me that I HAVE to and I ended the conversation by telling him that I have my period and watched his face turn beet red. Did I really have to go that route to shut him up? Couldn't he just have accepted the fact that I was not going to fast?
I doubt I would've fasted even if I didn't have my period. Does this make me a bad Muslim? According to the devil's spawn, yes. In the eyes of the rest of my family, I've crossed the line to bad Muslim a long time ago when I declined going on the pilgrimage because I didn't think I was ready. In others' eyes, I'm a bad Muslim for the fact that I'm very close to marrying outside my faith.
How nice would the world be if people just minded their own business and lived their spiritual lives in private.