I remember the precise moment my long bout with Post-Traumatic Sheikh Disorder ended. It was at Friday prayers in 2013—nearly three years after the whole episode had started. I was supposed to go to a university near my workplace for the congregational prayer, but circumstances ended up bringing me to a mosque. It was a mosque I was only starting to become familiar with, and the imam was someone I had never met before. The topic of the speech (khutbah) wasn’t even about non-Muslim friends; it was about hygiene and cleanliness. I listened keenly, and then he posed a rhetorical question:
“What if your non-Muslim friends come over and see that your house is a mess?” the imam asked. “What would they think of Islam then?”
That was it.
I don’t know why, but that was it. It’s like a switch just went off in my mind and heart. It was one of those bizarre emotional u-turns, like where you suddenly just want to cry, or when you feel indescribably happy for almost no reason at all. For some reason, that sentence was like the cap of a culmination of three years of searching and battling depression and obsession and anxiety—capped and bottled and placed on a shelf. I can’t explain it. I really can’t. But I felt like I was where God meant for me to be, hearing what was He meant for me to hear.
I look back on that time now, those long three years, and thank God for all of it. I also came out of it with a greater understanding of my faith than I did when it started. I grew a deeper respect for the intricacies of Islam. Gradually, I eased into the world of Islamic scholars—both local and international, in-person and on YouTube. I learned so much during that time, and part of that is because I forced myself to continue learning—even allowing myself to go down the rabbit hole of tangent issues.
I learned that one sheikh’s word isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of religious matters.
I learned to spot hardline speakers or websites, and where to go for reliable sources of information and answers.
Most importantly, I learned to never give up. I learned that you need to push yourself to search for answers, even if the road there is littered with broken glass.
While there may be dissenters or people who disagree with me, I don’t care. I believe I suffered enough to reach the opinion I stand on.
There were times when I wondered if I would ever heal. There were times when that road seemed to stretch on forever. But I made it through, with God’s help. There’s a verse in the Qur’an that states: “…and remind them of the Days of God!” (14:5). One commentary I heard of that verse is that it’s telling us to remember the days when there seemed to be no hope, when we were at our lowest and nothing seemed to be working out, but God was there, and made a way out for us. And so I’m reminded, whenever I face a difficulty, that ease will inevitably come from it (94:5-6). I’m reminded that in all situations in life, the road to healing can be long and painful.
But if I had to walk it again, I wouldn’t change a single step.