I was born to a Muslim-Somali family. Naturally, at the time I had no choice but to inherit my parents' religion. Contrary to what Trump might lead the rest of the world to believe, the majority of Muslims, as the word 'Islam' suggests, are peaceful people.
As a child, my weekend mornings were spent in a hot, stuffy room, learning to recite the Quran along with teachings of the tenets and values of Islam, through 'Hadith' (stories) and the 'Suna' (practices) of the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.
I spent my childhood years in Kenya and Tanzania, both secular African countries, before moving to Canada to attend university. In Canada I was exposed to a diversity of ideas and people of all faiths and walks of life. I was mostly treated with kindness and humanity and it was an enlightening experience. I found it refreshing that nobody cared to ask about my religion. I could have been a member of a cult that sacrificed rats during a full moon, and nobody would have cared. In fact they would likely have thought it was interesting and been curious to know more.
Things started getting interesting or even complicated (depending on how one looks at it) when I started getting into serious relationships. I was recently in what seemed to be a marriage-track relationship with a non-Muslim. While we were dating, life was easy. The only choices we had to contend with were where to have dinner or what movies to watch. But before long the tough questions started to emerge. Like, whose religion would the children take? Would I take his last name? Would either of us have to convert? Etc.
And for some odd reason, the one recurring thought for me was, what would happen to me when I died? Crazy eh!
At this point in my life, maintaining the faith I was born with is a personal choice, and when I die I want to be given the Islamic last rights. It is important to remember that in some African cultures, a woman becomes the property of her husband after marriage. So knowing what you are getting yourself into and choosing someone that will respect your last wishes is a priority.
The relationship taught me that it is important to have those difficult and uncomfortable conversations with your potential partner early on; so neither of you spend your time in a relationship that doesn't serve you. Both parties need to assess early on, whether the other person is a match, based on their character and values.
We are human and relationships are vital to our happiness, but it is important to get into one knowing full well what we are signing up for. To enter into the relationship for the right reasons, and not because we are afraid of being alone, or because we are seeking financial or emotional security is key. Our time is one of the most important and limited resources we have, yet we give it away to strangers like Skittles.
Sooner or later, we are all going to die. What matters is how and with whom we choose to spend what precious little time we have.