Considering the Prophet SWS was in essence fostered by his Aunt, we forget how beautiful the concept is for us as Muslims.I was fostered as a child following an array of issues which led to social services taking me away from my birth family. Now, don’t all gasp at once, its not all doom and gloom. I have a wonderful relationship with my foster father who I address and identify as Dad. Nothing more or less than that. As I have no recollection of my biological father, having been separated from him when I was brought over to the UK from Pakistan, I always struggled with the identity of being a daughter to a father. I have had many foster fathers, but not a Dad. Atheists, Christians, Agnostics, Muslims; I had lived with a mixture of foster families up until I was 15 years old when my Dad took me in. Yes, we have a wonderful relationship and yes, I love him as though he were my biological father, but let me tell you, being a Muslim child and teenager in the care system came with its own sets of challenges.
The multi-faceted layers of being Pakistani, Muslim, Female and in foster care meant I was always on the fence with my identity in all areas of my life.
The multi-faceted layers of being Pakistani, Muslim, Female and in foster care meant I was always on the fence with my identity in all areas of my life. I wasn’t so sure whether I belonged anywhere. Culturally, I was shunned from pockets of the Pakistani community in Birmingham for being ‘a runaway child’ or ‘daughter of a fazool (useless) family background’ and more often than not, mothers of my friends would specifically request that they stay away from me at school. In fact, the first ever foster family I lived with, the only other Muslim and Pakistani family to the one I have now, would secretly tell their birth children to leave me alone as I was a ‘bad influence’. I was only a child and I needed saving.
Islam teaches us to accept and acknowledge that children do not live in sin. They require positive role models who practice what they preach, and that they require patience and guidance. I can’t claim I never experienced this, because I did. I had some wonderful foster parents over the years, Muslim or not. I went away from Islam and back again more times than I can count. The world of promiscuity, drugs, rubbing shoulders with unfavourable people and getting caught up in the desires of the Dunya were always knocking on my door. I guess you could say I was looking for validation in places I thought I fitted in but didn’t.
During Ramadan and Eid, I would force myself to get ready knowing I was not really celebrating a conventional family gathering as a lot of Muslims in the UK would be. Ironically, I had many family members (5 birth siblings, 6 foster siblings, a foster parent and a birth parent), but always felt so isolated and alone. Its only now when I reflect back on my life, I realise I was lost in the labels that society gave me my whole life. Nothing I did, or said, or was, belonged to or came from me. So, I was about 18 when I turned to Allah with my whole heart. After many traumatic and painful years of searching for my true Self, I found Allah Azzawajel and I started my relationship with Peace.I married shortly after I began practising Islam, as a teenager, as I was so in love with its teachings. No teacher or parent I was hoping to rescue me, would ever do so without doing it in vain. Islam however, does not discriminate if you really practice it from your core. Islam also does not spread hatred and Allah Azzawajel’s love is not selfish. Needless to say, I was divorced in my early 20’s (we were way too young) and I embarked on a journey or re-branding my identity to suit Him and to suit the unmet needs of my Inner Child. I was not perfect before, during or after I started this journey and I sure am not anywhere near perfect now, but I am working on it.
There are not enough words to describe how grateful I am to have been fostered, with all of its trials and tribulations.
There are not enough words to describe how grateful I am to have been fostered, with all of its trials and tribulations. The way I see it, I could have had a far worse life had I remained at home with my birth family. Foster care allowed me to explore the Dunya in a way which a lot of people don’t. I was privileged. I have acquired a unique perspective and knowledge about the world and had life changing opportunities that wouldn’t have happened if living with my birth family. In fact, I have had the space to form amicable relationships with my birth mother and siblings over the years, another important principle of Islam. Although, boundaries are key to these relationships.
Take it from me, if an illiterate immigrant village girl with no father and an unavailable mother was able to navigate her way around this world in the pursuit of happiness, so can you!
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