As-Salam ‘Alaikum S,
Let’s separate the issue of “isolation” from worries about what other people think about us when we choose to practice our faith regardless of what faith that happens to be. If you are integrated into an Islamic family and you are actively practicing Islam, then I would also like to know whether you are integrated into a large family that includes living with or being close to many extended family members with several family traditions and events throughout the year. Or do you live in what is often referred to as a “nuclear” family with few relatives around?
Often, people who live in small “nuclear” families do find it difficult to satisfy a natural human social need of engaging with community. One healthy solution to this, if available, is to work on developing community within the local community mosque. I am not sure what part of India you are living in. If you are in an area where you have local mosques, often the community brings families together so that the feeling of extended family is created in this way. After all, at the end of the day, we all truly belong to one human family. In this way, people with shared beliefs and practices can enjoy each other’s companionship and also be a source of support and comfort in times of need. If you achieve these connections, you will not feel isolated.
If, however, you are a small family in an area where there is not much support for an “Islamic” or “Muslim” community, it might become more difficult to form relationships and support systems for yourself which would create an increased sense of isolation. If you are facing this type of isolation, though difficult, you can still work on developing connections that will help you increase your sense of well-being and relatedness. Becoming part of a safe Islamic online community is one way to do this.
Now, let’s talk about the worries that we can sometimes have about what other people think about us when we choose to follow our spiritual path and to avoid that which is haram. Memorize this popular saying from the “Recovery Community” which is the following: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
If you say this to yourself every time you worry about what other people think about you, you will significantly reduce your feelings of anxiety, in sha’ Allah. You will also need to make a choice. Every human being needs to feel a sense of belonging. If you are not in an area where you can find Muslim friends or social gatherings, and you have a small family system, you might feel lonely and/or worry about being accepted into the larger community.
However, there is a way to integrate into the secular community if you need to so that you can take care of your daily business without participating in activities that are not healthy for you. Simply let your secular friends know that you are on a spiritual path that is dear to your heart, and that your practice of purity is very important to you. Tell them that due to your personal desire to adhere to your practice, you will decline the invitation. But also let them know that you are touched by their generous invitation and that you truly appreciate their willingness to include you. Do not judge your cohorts (people who are in your age groups and share your current culture).
By acknowledging that connection you have with them and appreciating it, you are less likely to alienate them. Find alternate activities that you can share together and invite them to enjoy some healthy activities with you which are congruent with your spiritual practice and beliefs. You might be surprised because you might even make some real friends who respect you and even admire you for having the strength to continue your own practice while also making friends. If you can gently shape your relationships with a few friends in this manner, you might find yourself enjoying a relationship where you are both sharing many things and leaning a lot about each other differences. I perceive this as very good, especially in a world that will by necessity require people from different cultural and religious backgrounds to cooperate on a global level. The more we share with each other and learn to honor each other’s being, the closer we come to a safer world overall.
So, do let your friends know that you are interested in spending quality time with them while also making it clear that your boundaries regarding what activities you are willing to engage in are part of your personal spiritual path, and that you want to honor them as you hope they will honor you in this as well. If you have done this, let it go and give the results up to Allah (swt). You will know who your true friends are, and who are not. In honoring your own being, you would not want to be with those who cannot honor your choices anyway. If you follow these steps, you will go to bed at night knowing that you have been kind, open hearted, genuine, authentic, and honest. You will know that you did your part in reaching out and inviting friendship into your life.
Allah (swt) will take care of the rest. Remember, all good things take time. So, it might take a little bit of time to find the kind of friendship that you want and that will be good for you.
Be patient, do your part, and leave the rest to ALLAH (swt).
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