May 25, 2023

I can almost remember the moment when I stopped believing in religion. I was standing outside of a Best Western, where religious ceremonies were being held for students in one of the boardrooms, at the corner of Peel and Sherbrooke in downtown Montreal. Before going in, I wanted to smoke a cigarette in an effort to steady my resolve.

When I was younger, I believed in the faith. I went to religious classes on Saturday mornings and paid attention. I learned what I was being asked to and I believed what I was being told. In mosque, I would participate, even though I didn’t understand all that was happening. I volunteered my time to help. One summer, I went on to a two-week long camp centred on solidifying our faith.

I still have the box we made and put all our keepsakes in. Looking back, I’m glad that it all fit inside the box, without any of it spilling over. It’s packed away in a box in my parents’ basement.

Believing in God and the power of religion worked for me up until I was about 18. I could see how much my parents believed. To this day, I’m amazed at how much good their belief has brought into their lives.

What has never worked for me is the community aspect of the religion. I could never maintain friendships with the other Ismaili kids. I don’t remember ever being comfortable when in a room with them. I do have friends who have, like me, forgone the religion.

Actually, I can only really think of one. He and I used to talk about finding the perfect whitewashed Ismaili girl. About a year ago, he told me that he had gone on a date with a woman who got close to that ideal. 

I went to mosque tonight to participate in a prayer ceremony for my aunt who passed away two weeks ago. When I walked in, I had to asked where to find the washroom after taking off my shoes. My dad instilled in me the habit of washing my hands before entering the prayer hall. The last time I was in that mosque was for a funeral, as was the time before that.

While sitting in the prayer hall, everything was familiar but only superficially. I knew the words but they didn’t resonate. I remembered most of the motions, but still looked for cues from the people around me. I had to ask my uncle what to do when I was asked to carry a tray of fruit out of the prayer hall. He thought it was a blessing that I was asked. I didn’t.

What felt most comfortable to me tonight was the distance I keep from the religion. It’s not a part of my life outside of my commitments to and respect for my family. I do believe in the power of religion and belief for them because they do. I still go to mosque on the anniversary of my friend’s death to put in a prayer for him. He believed, and he may still do.





Leave a Reply