Finding Myself In Faith And Fitness

I talk a lot, I get excited, fall in love quickly, I go from 0 to 100mph within seconds, I can be bold and at times I can be timid. I am able to like certain things excessively, and then get bored way too fast for my liking. I am also the type of person who needs to be constantly doing something to feel satisfied or fulfilled or I get agitated and my mind takes me to dark places. Like a child I have major tantrums and after a few days of victimized sobbing I am ok.

That was me growing up.

Trying to find meaning to my life and at times over analyzing everything

I was born into a Muslim, Bangladeshi family. Naturally we are taught how to pray, how to read the Quran and follow Islamic rules. My parents also ensured we learnt our mother tongue in speaking and writing. I could speak and understand Bengali with no hesitation. However, understanding Arabic was something which I could not grasp but I knew that it was compulsory for us to learn the Quran and pray.

By the time I was 16 I had read the Quran at least 8 times but after that as my own personality took its place I was questioning things. Culture and religion easily gets mixed up in the duality of ones ethnicity and religion. Trying to find my own identity proved difficult as I was battling what I was supposed to be with what I wanted to be and naturally a realm of anger overtook my personality and character.

I quickly found myself rebelling in a lot of things as a teenager. I had parents and a culture who were constantly telling me what is right and what isn’t. This thing called sinning and another called guilt lived hand in hand. As I developed eating disorders and became anally self conscious I somehow found myself on a path of self destruction.

I never recall to praying five times a day growing up, it was only the morning Fajr prayer that I did without fail. When it came to fasting I somehow excused myself and skipped a few here and there in my 20’s. At a point faith meant very little to me and I did not feel bad about it too.

With all the anger and frustration infused in me I decided to take up boxing. This is where I really lost myself deeper. I lost my self trying to find meaning to my life and make sense of what was going on around me. The pressure of fitting into society, the pressure of fitting into this ideal version of what my parents wanted me to be, the pressure of being a perfect role model to my younger siblings. I became none of that. Thus became a battle field in trying to be this so called “me” without even really knowing “me”. I was beginning to become a pleaser for everyone around me.

I questioned myself time after time what was wrong with me. When I look back it, Boxing was the only release I had from anxiety and tension in my life, it gave me a great purpose but hand in hand I found very little pleasure to my sanity of being peaceful. Peace is the word I had been seeking for most of my life.

My thoughts and my mind were carrying a million things and the only way out was to train and train and train. I would train till I was exhausted so I can sleep without any thing troubling me.

I spent almost 9 years of my life just searching for something unknown to me. I soon became a Body Transformation Coach to help others achieve goals in fitness. I realized that I help people with what I needed most help with when growing up.

Within those years of being a trainer I still found myself very hyper, not so focused and with the media out lash on Islamaphobia it made me question my faith deeper. One thing I used to always ask was, people like Muhammad Ali, Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Steven’s) Malcolm X (who did later revert to Islam and his name before he died was Shabaz Al Aziz ) and likes of Mike Tyson — “What was so magnificent about this religion that made iconic people turn to it? What was it about me that couldn’t resonate with this religion yet I was gifted with it and born into it?”.

There was a lot of emptiness within my heart yet I could never find anything to make me content. For years I searched until I performed my Umrah in Saudia Arabia in 2014. I was very reluctant to go with the family but I made the journey and the connection I felt cannot be described.

If I am honest I had totally forgot about my duties as a human to our creator, and I knew why too. I hated it being thrown down my throat; I hated this notion of how cultures created their own rules and regulations to excuse certain things. For 10 full days I followed the journey of our Prophet (PBUH) and the footsteps of some of the greatest women in Islam and it made me realize some of the questions I had been asking were not the proper questions I should have been asking. Looking back I was most probably questioning more of the people around me and not the religion itself.

As I came back to the UK I felt so lost, so consumed, so rushed and that peaceful feeling left me. My prayers were not as connected as it was when I was in Saudia Arabia and soon I found myself not taking prayers as seriously as I should have.

I prayed when I needed God and that was when I was in trouble. In my happiest moments I forgot God. As the years went by I felt a silent death within me. By this time I almost felt like my heart was dying inside of me. For three months I felt pure sadness in my body and mind and it did not matter what I did I could not get rid of it. I called it a spiritual death. As the winter fall came I enrolled into a workshop by Yasmin Mogahed. I loved her seminar as it was psychology mixed with Islam. It was perfect for me and she was talking my language. It was also a time I felt I needed rescuing , to elevate this heaviness from my heart. The one thing I still remember till this day is her following statement:

“When we are ill we seek the doctor , the doctor gives us medicine. So when we are troubled and feel restless always remember the medicine for the heart is PRAYER”

And there it was, the missing element from my life. So I challenged myself to pray for that week.

I set a time for each prayer and gave myself time to meditate. Normally when making dua I would always ask for things. Now when making dua I show gratitude for what I have and by doing so there has been a shift in my mindset.

I prayed and stuck to my challenge, first for a week, then another week and then another until it became a habit to pray. It became fun too and before I knew it, my soul was being called to prayer. If I had clients I would take 10 mins out and ensure that specific prayer was completed. I am not perfect all the time but by adding prayer and meditation into my life I feel so much calmer. That peace somehow came by magic. I started to attract more, I was able to think more rationally but most importantly I felt myself become stronger. My workouts are so much more exciting and I can carry on knowing who I am inside. My trip to Al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine also made me aware of so many things about myself so I came home to work on the small habits that no longer were serving me and I found myself loving myself a little bit more and express my emotions.

In conclusion to this, I realized that culture messes elements of religion up. It cannot be forced on anyone and everyone has their own way of dealing with religion and the purpose they use it for. One should never feel guilty and I believe the guidance is important and the meaning behind what people learn needs to be explained too, in everything. I feel so many of us are so lost in this society and we are always constantly looking for a fix. We find solace in so many things, for now mine is a beautiful religion called ISLAM, though the world may see this religion as a threat I see it filling my vessel for that feeling of contentment and peace.I use it to serve me the way I want it with a fine line of balance giving me levels of discipline and also organizing myself around each call to prayer. It has also taught me to accept myself as a Body Transformation Coach and excel in what I am giving to my clients. So many times we miss what is already in front of us and closer to home than we think.

My name is Nazia Khatun and I find a little peace in Islam.

“What you seek is seeking you” Rumi

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