Obviously I can’t tell you what decision you should make, but I can offer you some guidance.
Life experience shapes who you are:
Most people assume given my name and parental heritage, I’m a Muslim. Truth is, I was born and brought up in a rural village as the only ethnic minority family, apart from my parents & brothers, everyone else was Caucasian. There were no mosques.
My father survived the partition as a young child; his witnessing of death, including that of his childhood Sikh friend by the hands of Muslims changed his perspective on religion. He saw the ugly side of all religions (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all fighting). He still retained his faith, for him the thought of Allah existed very much in his heart, but he didn’t believe it was necessary to have to follow the daily traditions and pray/go to mosque. Instead he spent his life doing charitable things. When his younger cousin came to the UK to study, my father was a young graduate in his first job, but every month he would give him money to help him out. Never once did he ask for his cousin to repay his debt. He also went on to buy computers for the school in the Pakistani village he was brought up in, and sent money to a widowed woman who needed Hepatitis medication.
As a parent, his philosophy was that his children were to integrate and respect the religious faith of the country they were to be brought up in. We celebrated Christmas, Easter, I would sing in the choir. Then one day, I was to make my father very angry. He found out that I’d stopped going to morning assembly for prayers. He asked me to go to my room and come out when I realised what I’d done wrong. I was at a difficult age intellectually and emotionally. My passion was Science, my understanding was that there no valid evidence proving the existence of God; so there was no reason to believe. However, I realised after sitting in complete silence for over an hour, regardless of what I believed, what I was lacking in was humility. I was able to figure out his anger, it wasn’t my lack of belief, it was my arrogance to not want to understand & learn why religion is important to others.
The first time I stepped into a mosque was for my dad’s funeral. It was one of the hardest days of my life thus far. I couldn’t read the Quran, my brothers were in a separate room, and as a woman I couldn’t be present for his burial. An elderly woman who was a complete stranger was sat next to me in the mosque. She assumed I couldn’t understand Punjabi, but she made a rather crass comment about my sister-in law (White/English) that a White woman shouldn’t be allowed in a mosque. If someone had said that about me in a Church, you could imagine the outrage, how was this any different to being racist? That’s when I realised that being religious doesn’t make you a better person or give you the right to judge others. My sister in-law was wearing a head scarf paying her respects and mourning the loss of her father-in law. I too witnessed the ugly side of religion, where’s the humanity, tolerance for other human beings?
Religion and spirituality is a very personal thing. I’m not going to suddenly start believing in God/Gods, just because my partner does. I’ll certainly respect their faith, and I’d be fine with altering my diet or lifestyle to make them more comfortable, but my beliefs won’t be changing. Isn’t it illogical to expect someone to believe in something they don’t? Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of giving any man an ultimatum of “it’s either a life with me or a life with your faith, you can’t have both.” Who the hell do I think I am telling someone how they should think?
One of the people I love most in this world is my best friend; in fact, I’d go as far as saying she’s my sister. She’s a devout Hindu. If there was a choice between her and me living, I would sacrifice my life. I’d give up eating beef, and I’d be happy to celebrate religious festivals with her, but I wouldn’t convert for her.
To me being in a relationship doesn’t mean abandoning your sense of individuality. To be a genuine Muslim must come from the heart (exactly in the same way you feel as a Hindu), true conversion can only be done out of love for Allah. I know the difference between when someone loves you unconditionally, and when someone loves you only when you’re the way they want you to be.
My favourite quote from Gandhi: “Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take a different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?”
Make what you will of my answer…
Thank you for the thought provoking A2A.
Note: despite my lack of faith, I’m currently practicing Ramadan with my Chinese colleague. Both of us are agnostic, but we like the thought behind it – showing compassion & empathy for the poor. If only we could see the world from other’s eyes, surely it would be a better place…