Welcome to the last part of this offering! If you’ve been reading The Signs In Ourselves in sequence, I imagine you must have literally been through so much. So we close this workbook with a very different kind of section. First, you’ll read a few letters we received when asking queer Muslims to write to their younger selves. You’re invited to write one too in Exercise 10.
- Gratitude and praise
- On love and opening up
- Reminders and acceptance
- No letter sent
Write a message to your past self.
Reflect on what you know now, and imagine you could send a message back in time to your younger self. How old were you? What would you have liked that past self to know? You can write different messages for different past versions of yourself.
GRATITUDE AND PRAISE
To my younger self,
Thank you! I wish I could hug you. You have done very brave and passionate work. I could not imagine if you did not leave your home and community. I'm grateful that you made mistakes and made people upset, that you were lost and went where you had no permission from your parents to go. Maybe people will say to them "you have a failed daughter", but I thank you for making mistakes and for being a failure. If not, I could not be myself today. (33, Indonesia, she/her)
You have done really, really well.
Be proud every day, because it is not easy to walk in your shoes. I accept you and love you deeply. So does Allah. But I also miss you and your innocence. I will always try to keep the best of you in myself. (trans, Pakistan, he/him)
Dear past self,
Your journey brings me to realise how wonderful I am now. Your journey makes me realise there's nothing to be afraid of. Whatever obstacles we went through, we went through together. We will always have each other's backs. (55, masculine cis woman, she/her)
ON LOVE AND OPENING UP
I love you in your entirety.
I know younger me has not heard that from anyone yet. It's not that she won't, but there was a point in my life where I didn't think I deserved it. Since I was wrong, I would say: I love you in your entirety. Bear witness to your truth. It is the bravest and most beautiful thing you could do. (18, pansexual, she/her)
To my younger self,
Stop wishing for death— there is much joy and adventure awaiting you. You will have a more fulfilling and interesting life than those who hurt you. (38, bisexual, she/her)
Don’t hate yourself.
The One who created you? You are Her reflection. (nonbinary, Pakistan, they/them)
Hello younger self,
Trust Allah and allow yourself to feel, to be soft and vulnerable. Don't harden your heart. It's all going to be okay inshaAllah. It's a process, but you're both strong and soft and you will get through it. (30, Egypt, she/her)
Dear past me,
Be gentle with your wounds, for they are the openings that allow the Light to enter your heart. And your illuminated heart will help to illuminate the hearts of others. Light upon light (24:35). So don't be so hard on yourself. When you learn to forgive yourself, you will learn to forgive others. When you learn to truly love yourself, you will truly love others and Allah. (41, gay, he/him)
You will be loved.
You will not have to sacrifice being who you really are to find love. Also, there is a good reason why you liked the Sailor Scouts more than Tuxedo Mask when you were watching Sailor Moon at age 6. (29, bisexual, she/her)
Your dreams were right too. The world as we knew it died with us and when we came back, the world began rebirthing itself in the name of Love. Everything we knew kept changing. Again and again. Our life, this life, becomes a ceaseless wonder. We fall in love with it, deeply. Again and again. Many extraordinary things happen, like coming home to the heart, like reciting Ad-Dhuha during sunrise, like being called Beloved by another human being, like lightning beacons of hope through the things you make with your hands. These are all miracles. You’re right. If it isn’t done for Love, it’s not worth doing. I thank you with every day of my life for teaching me that every day is a new prayer, a renewed commitment to the self as an expression of love. (30, pansexual, she/they)
REMINDERS AND ACCEPTANCE
Don’t think you know everything yet.
Stay humble and continue to learn, because there is so much for you to learn. This applies to all my younger selves. When I was an angry atheist, I knew for certain that all religious people were delusional. I even thought I knew myself, that I would be this and that forever. But no, in both cases I did not know! I needed to sit the f*** down. The world is bigger than you know, so keep learning. (25, gay, he/him)
Hi my love,
You are so hecking mean to yourself! My God, so what if you get happy watching athletes do their splits? You did not need to cry in front of your classmates and slap yourself 3 times for thinking it would be nice to date your hot school senior. Do not be scared of Allah, do not think everything you do will put you in hell. Do not lose hope that Allah is close to you. Your family will never be your safe space, but they are your relief and happy space, so hold on to them dearly despite it. Savor your favourite sweets because soon you will rarely get them. You will never forgive your abuser but that's your right. Empathy is such a good trait to have my love, and whatever you do not want for yourself, do not do it to anyone else. (27, bisexual, she/her)
Dear younger self,
Before you date someone please ask them: Do you hate being a Muslim? Do you hate being lesbian? Ask frankly: Do you hate yourself? Will you marry someone if your parents force you to? If they say yes, don't date them! You will save yourself time and 6 exes. I'm only saying this because I know you won't listen if I say: Wait until your 30s to date, when everyone's insecurities have settled down a bit. (45, housewife, she/her)
Hello younger me,
Be patient, and keep fighting for a better life for yourself. Loneliness is a normal thing. We need to learn to be alone, being lonely in our childhood is just part of being human. We do not have to fight our loneliness, but accept it. Maybe God is lonely and They created us as Themselves, diverse and lonely. If you don't try to be happy just to find the 'right' person to be with forever, life will be so much easier. (31, Kyrgyzstan, she/her)
Be patient with yourself.
Whatever you are experiencing today is temporary. You will learn new things, enter different situations, meet different people, and get new perspectives. Unfortunately this takes time. But wisdom takes time, and you must ask yourself to be open to new things always. (39, Malaysia, she/her)
God is not scary, God is your friend.
There is no substitute for effort, and God helps those who help themselves. Some hard years are to come, but when you accept your true self, you will be really happy. God is not scary, God is your friend. (bisexual, India, she/her)
Dear younger me,
Learn, seek, find. Then practice to serve humanity and help others. That’s all Islam says. (trans woman, Pakistan, she/her)
NO LETTER SENT
"Honestly, I would say nothing to her. She needed to figure s*** out on her own." (35, queer, she/her)
"I wouldn't say anything to my younger self, but I would hug the s*** out of her. That's what I would do, just be there. There are things words cannot express, and I wish someone had just been there and witnessed me, saw me, and be present." (38, Malaysia, she/her)
from the workbook The Signs In Ourselves
Your Turn: Personal Reflection
Write a message to your past self. Reflect on what you know now, and imagine you could send a message back in time to your younger self. How old were you? What would you have liked that past self to know? You can write different messages for different past versions of yourself.
Collective Discussion: Self-Talk
How do we talk to ourselves? Discuss which letters stuck with you and why. For more points of discussion:
- Comfort or motivation? What would you have liked to hear at different points in your journey? How does it differ from how you talked to yourself at the time?
- Hello from the future: What would you say in a letter to your past ancestors? Would you address diverse marginalised Muslims, or another audience?
This post is adapted from The Signs In Ourselves (pp. 78-85), a queer spiritual wellbeing workbook inspired by Qur'an verses 41:53, 51:20-21, and interviews with Southeast Asian Muslims. Written by Liy Yusof and illustrated by Dhiyanah Hassan, it was made available online in 2020 by the Coalition for Sexual & Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies. May Allahﷻ accept this offering and bring it to those who need it. Letters and inquiries: qmcourage [at] gmail [dot] com.