I arrived at a really interesting insight today. It was an aha-moment that really made me feel comfortable with the complexities of my identity and faith.
Today, a student asked me “what is your faith?” Feeling hesitant to discuss religion with a student, I answered with “I am Jewish, I am Christian, and I am Muslim.” At first, we both laughed. The answer was meant to confuse the student and redirect conversation. Instead, he was interested in my response and asked me how that was possible. What was meant to be a silly response, was the most honest response I’ve given in a long time. I explained, “I am Jewish because my ancestors are Jewish. I also believe that Abraham is the father of my faith. I am Christian culturally. I was raised Catholic and it’s a culture that will always be a part of who I am. I am Muslim by belief. I believe in the Oneness of God and I accept Muhammed as His messenger.” The student was Muslim and said, “I never thought of that. In that case, I am also Jewish and Christian because Muslims come from the same Abrahamic tradition.”
This moment was extremely important for me. Situations are not always black and white. In my case, I cannot ignore that I come from a Christian upbringing—school, family, and culture. On the same token, as a Muslim, I also understand that Jewish and Christian tradition have never been a stranger to Islamic thoughts. In fact, I am floored when I learn that Muslims who have been raised in “Muslim” countries have never read the Bible or the Torah. These books are the foundation for the Islamic faith and comprehensive knowledge is absolutely necessary in order to have smart conversations about one’s Islamic faith.
What was meant to be a confusing response, ended up being the most clear thing I’ve said in a long time. It just takes a little bit of reflection to understand that our identities (no matter how “pure” we believe they are) are often very complex and beautiful.