Is my religion really my choice?

I was born into a Muslim family, so naturally for most of my life I’ve identified as being Muslim. But because of this I wonder if the only reason I’m a Muslim now is because it’s what my parents brought me up to believe is ‘right’. If I’d been brought up with parents with different sets of beliefs would I still identify as a Muslim? Are we just expected to believe everything our parents have taught us?

As we grow older we start to gain our own experiences and we begin make our own choices and as a result, other views that our parents might have passed down onto us begin to change and evolve, so why is it less common for our religious views to change as opposed to our general opinions? Is it because it’s something so deep rooted within us we’re too scared to question them? Or is it because we grow up with so much confidence in them that there’s no need to question them at all? The fact that my religion now has been massively influenced by my upbringing makes me question;

if I’d been born into a family of a different faith or one of no faith at all, would I then identify with the set of beliefs I’d have been brought up with otherwise?

If so, are the religious views I hold really my choice? Or are they a result of experiences and ideas that have been taught to me since birth? I don’t want the fact that I happened to be born into a Muslim family to be the main reason I am Muslim. I want to be able to choose it for myself.

My parents didn’t let me have social media until I was 14. Most other kids had had it since they were 11 so I didn’t understand why I had to wait so long. But when I think about it now and I realise why they didn’t allow me to have it. At an age when I was so young and impressionable it probably wouldn’t have been the best thing for me to be spending excessive amounts of time on. My parents did what they thought was best for me, and it just so happens to be that I think they made the right decision about this case in particular.

But is it then ok for them to make a decision for us regarding something as important or personal as our beliefs? Is it ok for our parents to reinforce their own beliefs onto us? Or does that limit our own freedom? I think in many cases it’s only inevitable that they do because they’re only trying to do what they believe is right? They want to give you the best chance in living what they believe to be a good and fulfilling life. But should we be allowed to decide for ourselves as what a ‘good’ or ‘fulfilling’ life means?

Is it fair that we’re brought up with our minds already made up? You could argue that we do make our own minds up as we grow older because we either strengthen in our childhood faith or we become weaker in it. But would it actually be a choice? Or would it be something that has been influenced by what we were told to believe when we were younger? Are we seeing those beliefs for what they really are or looking at them with an unconscious bias that has stemmed from what we’ve been taught since birth? That’s what makes me question whether or not our beliefs are a choice or instead a result of information we’ve been fed since we were young.

But where do we draw the line? Because right from when we are born we look towards our parents for guidance and for them to help us when we need it. They teach us what is right from wrong, how to handle situations we otherwise might not know how to, how to treat others and ourselves – the list goes on.

Again, I think it’s only inevitable that religion comes into it because a lot of what they pass on to us they’ve learnt from the teachings own their own religions. We need that direction and support from a young age but when does it become too much? When do they start to steer us too much towards the left? Are our parents teaching us how to live our lives before we’re even able to think for ourselves?

Right now I don’t know what or who I identify as.

I’m not saying I’m not a Muslim but I’m scared to say I am because I don’t know if I believe in Islam because I think it to be true or because it’s something I’ve identified with for so long and has been present in every day of my life since I was born.

I have so many questions but I don’t know where to begin. The very idea of the religion I’d been brought up with to be untrue scares the hell out of me. For the past 16 years of my life, I’ve been brought up as a Muslim, with a Muslim family in Muslim community with Muslim friends and lived my life according to Islamic morals and beliefs.

But I don’t know if I’m a Muslim because I genuinely believe in Islam or because of the influence I’ve felt from the people closest to me. I don’t know what or who I identify as. I’m not saying I’m not a Muslim but I’m scared to say I am because I don’t know if I believe Islam to be true or if it’s just something I’ve practised and identified with for so long that I can’t accept the fact it may not be true. I want to make sure it’s my choice and that I’m not just following one religion because it’s what I’ve been told to do by the people or society around me purely because it was the one I was born into.

4 thoughts on “Is my religion really my choice?

  1. Islam encourages learning about our faith because otherwise you’re blindly following, even blindly reciting Surah’s for prayer. The more you learn, the more you’ll know where you stand with your faith. And the more I’ve learned, the more I read Hadith, the Qur’an, the stories, the more I fell in love with Islam. Whenever I read or hear a story about the Prophet (SAWS), I am in awe of his goodness and kindness, and the more I learned about Allah (SWT), the more I am humbled by His Mercy and Benevolence, and I see how Allah (SWT) Helps us in so many ways. Truly the happiest I ever felt when I submitted to Allah (SWT), because Islam provides strong foundations that we find content and steadiness in. Keep learning, keep asking questions, Insha’Allah, Allah (SWT) will Help you.

  2. I definitely agree with you! Born into a Muslim family and was surrounded in a Muslim bubble, so I went through a phase my first couple of years in college, and even some now just researching different religions. Also relearning Islam for myself.

  3. I am glad you opened up about this, as it sometimes feels like a taboo topic. I honestly had to reevaluate my beliefs, especially in undergraduate university when I was studying Evolutionary Biology and Genetics. Alhamdulillah, my beliefs stand where they are today, but it wasn’t without a good amount of thinking and meta-thinking on my part.
    While our parents’ influence on our beliefs is strong and completely out of our control as children, I think that everyone, at some point, is able to decide what they believe in on their own. Their beliefs are based off of their own experiences and knowledge. The Prophet (SAWS) encouraged the pursuit of knowledge, but it is important to remember that the first step in learning and discovery is to question what we already know or believe.
    It helps that my mother used to be Catholic, so she raised my siblings and I with a more flexible approach on ideology. We are able to discuss where we stand as far as our beliefs go, and why. We respect and consider each other’s beliefs as well, whether they agree or not. I don’t believe all non-Muslims are doomed to the HereAfter, and my interpretations of Islamic rulings are very flexible (some would say heretic). But I still believe practicing Islam leads us on the right path, and that Allah (SWT) sent us His messages because man would be lost without them.
    All in all, I can confidently say that my beliefs are mine, and not someone else’s. It took courage and uncomfortable questions to get there, though. Stepping out of beliefs we have accepted for so long without knowing why is scary. But it was and is possible.

  4. I’m glad you opened up on this topic. I think more people go through a re-evaluation of their beliefs than you think. My take is that at some point, we as adults must choose what we believe in based on everything we’ve learned about the world.
    I’ve thought the same about Islam, especially when I started taking classes about Evolutionary Biology and Genetics in undergraduate college. For a long time, I questioned what I believed in. Eventually, I spoke to my mother about it, and she and I have our own agreed, unique views of the world based on what we’ve personally seen and know. It does help that my mother used to be Catholic, and her side of the family still is. Neither my mother or I can believe that they are automatically doomed in the Hereafter, and the feeling is mutual on her family’s part. I also don’t think other good people, especially, from the People of the Book, are cursed either. My opinions about Islamic rulings are flexible to say the least. I take these interpretations and acceptance to the point where people would believe it heretic. But I still believe God sent us His message, because we would be lost without it. I believe practicing Islam leads us down the right path.
    While what our parents taught us what to believe in and it has large influence on our own ideology, I think what we believe in as adults is decided by ourselves. It is an unspoken part of life that everyone, at some point in their adult life, honestly considers what they believe in for themselves. It is normal to wonder why we do things, and to not want to follow something blindly. It is human nature to question, because questioning is the first step towards discovery and learning.

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