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I have never been religious, and I was not brought up in a strict family where I was forced to pray or put on the hijab. Since my parents were not religious too, they made up for it by sending me to weekly Madrasah and that was when I started to have questions and doubts. I was told not to ask too much as it would lead to me questioning the existence of God and that itself is apparently blasphemous. I was told God would be angry at my questions and that would make me a disbeliever. I found it hard to make sense of this and other teachings of Islam and I would Google for accounts of people who have left Islam to know what it’s like for them but I would feel bad and guilty and fear God would be angry at me. I was also scared after reading about the plight of apostates. So I stopped questioning, and just let it be. On and off, I would pray and fast but I stopped feeling guilty about it as I thought, if God really was All Merciful, he would understand my struggles.

Then when I was 9 and 10 years old, while still attending Madrasah, my cousin molested me. I sought for help and asked to go home but my aunt ignored me and did not believe me. My mom also dismissed my plea for help so my cousin got away with it and it continued, but this time he also molested 3 of my other cousins. I wondered, where was God when all that happened? Isn’t he supposed to be good? Why didn’t he save my cousins and I from this sexual assault? I am not sure how traumatized they were but I sure was. I can’t even be in the same room with him now without feeling that I want to kill him. I couldn’t make sense of how bad things happen to us as a punishment for our sins. I was only a child! What sins could I have??? Why is God this sadistic to allow a child to go through such ordeals and not intervene? Where is the compassion and goodness of this divine being? Needless to say, I hate my cousin for what he did until now since he got away scot-free. God, if he exists, is not fair.

Through all the life’s unpleasantries that threw me deep in the rut, I had the same question, over and over again. Again, I thought it was my sins that resulted in this so I tried to be pious, on and off, because I could not keep up. It was a vicious cycle throughout the years, until 2014.

I was preparing for my wedding in 2014, and I thought maybe this would be a good chance for me to start anew and repent. I thought it would be a great idea to start my marriage on a good note and that Allah would bless me bountifully for it! So I put on the hijab a few months before my wedding after the support and encouragement from fellow hijabis. I felt good because I received a lot of compliments for my new look and for this decision of mine! Everyone told me God is pleased with me and that is the most important thing!

3 months later… I wanted to take it off. Yes, I HATED IT. I could not deal with the lifestyle change and that I had to always be wary of non-mahram seeing my hair. It was exhausting to be that cautious! It didn’t help that Singapore is SO humid. Each time I was out, I just wanted to rip off my hijab and feel the wind in my hair. But, I was scared. I was told that there’s no turning back to this and how would I deal with the questions and the judgments? How could I put it on one minute, and take it off the next? That’s against the rules! So I kept it on…and time to time I would rant on my social media about this and the hijabis would comment “every drop of sweat is a brownie point for you” and “you’re doing this for God, you’re in the right path” and I got more annoyed so I stopped expressing my unhappiness.

I cried each time I had to go out and put on the hijab, thinking I had no choice to take it off and go back to how I was. My husband would tell me to take it off if it’s really so hard but I was scared and kept thinking this phase would pass… I was so depressed and kept praying this would get better. Whenever I’ve reached home, I’d just rip off the hijab and breakdown because I hated that I had no courage to make a choice to take it off for good. Somebody even told me that it was supposed to be THIS hard because the rewards for this in the Hereafter were waiting for me. I struggled to find comfort in that.

Then in 2016, as I was still reeling from the emotions of having my first baby, I tried to go back to the pious path again so I could lead by example to my son. After all, it is every Muslim mother’s dream to see her children be good Muslims right! But I couldn’t do it, as always. I’d pray and I’d feel nothing. I didn’t feel the connection to any divine being neither did I feel I was doing the right thing. It also didn’t help that I have gained more knowledge about Islam now and I find it hard to accept this religion claiming to be a religion of peace is not that peaceful after all. I could not come to terms with everything I was taught and learned and I do not wish for my son to be indoctrinated by this religion at such a young age. He can decide on his own when he’s older. So I finally made the decision to stop believing and be free of the shackles of religion, and to bring my son up secular.

In March 2017, after 3 years of wearing the hijab, I decided I want to take it off since the struggles still didn’t get any better and I have stopped believing for a year anyway. My resentment towards this grew and grew and I’d get angry with myself when I had to go out and put the hijab on so I decided to muster the courage to make a change for myself. I don’t know how I got that courage from, I just knew I wanted this misery to stop. I now believe that I have this freedom of choice. I started to take small steps. I’d go out to nearby places around my house without the hijab and it felt SO LIBERATING. However, I still put on the hijab when I feel I am not ready to deal with people who might ask questions (i.e relatives) but 90% of the time, I do not wear it.

My husband and I are both agnostic now and we’re so much happier, but no one in our family knows about it. Only a few of my friends do cos I know these few are the ones who will still accept me as their friend.

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