Have you ever felt like a Muslim going through life without purpose? Have you ever felt like you are lacking connection with Allah? Have you ever felt like you are just going through the motions of Islam without meaning behind them? I found that there is a huge difference between being a Muslim and being a Believer. Juz 18 from Surah 23 Al- Mu’minum ( the believers) to the beginning of Surah 25 Al -Furqan ( the standard) sums it up beautifully and has the answers for us.
My family moved here from Senegal when I was in elementary school. In Senegal, we lived next to a masjid and hearing the adhan was the norm. I have a few religious memories like sneaking food during Ramadan and Eid celebrations. Once we came to America, I went to a private school where I met a few Muslims but never connected through our deen.
Years later, I went to public school and really struggled with my identity. I developed self-esteem issues from comparing myself to others. In public school, however, I also encountered my first African American Muslim – Dr. Clark, my history teacher. Dr. Clark was a great teacher, who used to start the morning reflecting on a quote. I hated those quotes but they eventually grew on me. We laugh about it to this day, as we’re still in touch 22 years later.
I remember he would advise me when I would get bad grades, have detention or hang out with certain people. Unfortunately, I did not listen, because once again here I was, the girl fresh off the boat, wanting to just fit in. That year I made friends, but looking back, I can see that most of them (but not all) were friendships I made out of desperation to not be the weird new girl.
Why didn’t I die? Why was God keeping me alive?
Around the age of 20 I was involved in a major car accident. I was ejected out of the vehicle while driving on the highway. I would always hear how my survival was a miracle! This completely shook me! Why didn’t I die? Why was God keeping me alive? I began to feel like I needed to do right by God because there was a reason he kept me on this earth. An ongoing question I asked was, “For what purpose?”
After that, I made an effort to start praying regularly. I was still stuck in my unhealthy ways but this was my attempt to be a Muslim. I learned Surah al-Fatiha, and for a long time, it was the only surah I recited during all my prayers. My mother encouraged me by letting me know that it was a good place to start, and she did her best to help me during this chapter. My recovery from the accident went on for years, taking me on this huge rollercoaster that brought so much confusion and anxiety in every aspect of my life.
My story connects with Juz’ 18 through my confusion and self-doubt, which in my opinion, came from not relying on God as a believer. In the Qur’an, we are reminded over and over again of the characteristics of the believers.
Although I did not have most of those characteristics in my young years, I always knew that Allah is the only God. That was sufficient for me to desire and pursue the acts of the believers. Another shift was with our holy book; the Qur’an is also known as the standard. There’s this clear memory of a Ramadan in my mid-twenties, I sat at the dining room table and made the decision to start reading an English copy of the Qur’an. It was as if the words were in Chinese. I didn’t understand anything!
For a long time after that, I did not touch it, telling myself that I was not smart enough to read the Qur’an. By God’s grace, that story fell away, and today the Qur’an is the only book that I read consistently. None of this would have been possible if I did not allow myself to be in my innate state.
An-Nur has been described as Allah, the heart of the believer, guidance, etc. Letting this inner light shine and not dim it is our “power”. This nur is the best version of ourselves and our true authentic selves. To show up this way is our duty to ourselves, others and the world. This understanding has brought me back to my Lord, helped me know and love myself. There’s nothing perfect about me but I’m no longer that confused insecure girl with no self-value. My heart is filled with joy, gratitude and living an intentional and purposeful life. In closing, I will share one of my biggest inspirations in the Qur’an: “In the remembrance of God, do hearts find rest” (13:28).
May Allah (SWT) accept all of our efforts on this magical month, make us amongst those that he is most pleased in this world and in the hereafter, Ameen!
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Yaye Diallo founded Noor Within to guide people to a peaceful and purposeful life with optimal health from inside out. She helps people struggling with chronic illness regain a good quality of life through working on their physical, spiritual and psychological well-being. She incorporates her knowledge of nutrition to create fun and tasty meals that heal the body.
Yaye has a background in nursing and teaching, which, along with her light-hearted spirit, means that getting healthy with Yaye is an entertaining, educating and easy process.
Yaye understands the challenges people experience when faced with a chronic illness that affects all aspects of life from her own personal journey from fibromyalgia to living life with pain freedom.
She is a busy mom of 2 boys, enjoys strolling in nature, hanging with loved ones, volunteering and date nights with her husband.