The Ramadan Imposter

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By Fatna, London

Imposter syndrome: somebody who is unable to feel joy at their achievements as they are always fearing the exposure of their (imagined) inadequacy and inauthenticity.

Although when the psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first introduced the idea of Imposter Syndrome it was exclusively referring to an academic setting, this blog will explore the idea that reverts during the month of Ramadan can also fall victim to this psychological phenomenon regarding their religiosity. 

It’s no secret that Ramadan is hailed as the month for Muslims to attain success, by the mercy of Allah, through our persistent efforts. The notion of Ramadan as a once-in-a-year chance for the Ummah to enrich our book of deeds engenders a collective morale boost that overtakes Muslims globally as they strive to reap the Holy Month’s innumerable blessings.

However, whilst Ramadan’s tropes of ‘success’ and ‘achievements’ may be a source of motivation for so many, for reverts it may be these very tropes that allow the fear that such pious achievements are either beyond their reach or if ever obtained, will inevitably lack the same value of sincerity as their Muslim peers.

Such self-doubts are of course baseless, as for Allah all sincere good deeds done by Muslims are valuable regardless of whether or not His servant is a revert or born Muslim. Nonetheless, it’s understandable why a revert could feel like an imposter and outsider when they’re constantly surrounded by believers who have 20 years or more of Islam over them whilst they may not even have 5. 

This blog works to shine light on the internal battle that many reverts face alone during Ramadan regarding their intentions and sincerity as well as exploring practical steps reverts can take to reduce their harmful self-doubt.      

But before that, let’s clear up a famed misconception. 

We mustn’t conflate ‘Imposter Syndrome’ with humility; humility is an indispensable quality of your Islam whilst the doubts engendered by imposter syndrome are destructive. This false equivalence had likely stemmed from the very logical question: if Imposter Syndrome forbids you from feeling self-satisfaction at your successes isn’t this inspiring humility? These two characteristics, although often paralleled, are harshly contrasting. 

Humility is the conscious recognition of our own limitations, thereby purifying us from pride and an ungovernable ego, whereas Imposter Syndrome encourages self-hatred and forces the victim to live in constant fear of being discovered as a fraud. So whilst humbleness incentivises self-improvement, Imposter Syndrome prohibits it as the sufferer is too lost in the treacherous world of self-doubt and contempt to think themselves worthy of self-improvement. In essence, humility will be your deen’s sustenance whereas Imposter Syndrome will be its demise 

So what’s the solution? What’s the key to freeing ourselves from this detrimental mindset to finally being able to experience the joys of peace and serenity that everybody else can during Ramadan? 

Understand that guidance is from Allah and is a gift He only gives to His deserving believers. 

Allah drew you to Islam, guided you to take the testimony and to live your life as a Muslim amongst hundreds of millions of others.

 You are part of a living and breathing Ummah made up of 2 billion of your brothers and sisters who are all on a journey of vulnerability, struggle and self-discipline just like you. Imposter Syndrome sneaks an irrational sense of inferiority into us until the feeling of being ‘less than’ becomes a permanent tenant in our mind. Now to clarify, this blog discourages putting oneself down but this doesn’t mean that we’re calling to pride and an inflated self-worth instead. As mentioned before, humility is an essential arm of our faith and an instrumental part of humility is recognising that we’ll always be ‘less than’ perfect, ‘less than’ 100%. Islamically we must acknowledge this, and at the same time we can learn to be okay with this and use this as our motivation to keep striving every day. Freedom from Imposter Syndrome is learning to be content with your weaknesses not to pridefully deny them.

Another detrimental trait of Imposter Syndrome in religion is that it leads you to believe that every act of worship is tainted by fraudulence and insincerity and thus will never be accepted. Now let’s be clear, the believer should never carry out ibadah (worship) with haughty certainty that their reward is guaranteed, and at the same time, we should also never entertain the thought that our reward has been denied (Imposter Syndrome); rather, we should be hopeful and optimistic, not certain nor deflated.

After all, Allah is the One Who guided you to do the good deed in the first place, do you really think The Most Merciful and The Most Loving would decree for you to worship Him because you’re unworthy? How many of Mankind will live their entire lives and die never once uttering the words: La ilaaha illa Allah. But not you.

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56)

Being a Muslim is your ultimate cause, so when you worship Allah don’t paint yourself as an imposter trying to fit a mould not made for you, because in actuality worship is you fulfilling your purpose. Ibadah isn’t your mask of deception nor is it you trying to portray yourself as something that you’re not; ‘ibadah is your mighty catalyst propelling you towards Allah’s pleasure and eternal abode.  

To conclude, allow me to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from The Quran:

“Whoever comes with a good deed will be rewarded tenfold.” (6:160) 

Efforts and pious submission hold so much more value in Islam than you’re allowing yourself to believe. Just one simple good deed could equal 10 times the reward – that’s the mercy and appreciation of Allah who most certainly does not wish to overburden you with overthinking and self-doubt.

“Ever is Allah Appreciative” (4:147)

“Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favour upon you” (5:6)

As a closing point, let me emphasize that dua’ is a powerful weapon for believers to fight against any negative force that tries to weaken their faith. Always turn to Allah and ask Him to open your heart to fully embrace your role in this Ummah and to eagerly await the reward and mercy that you should be hopeful of receiving for your ‘ibadah.

“Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (40:60)

The Imposter Syndrome wants you to feel like a failure, but the light of Islam encourages your personal growth. One seeks to bring you down, while the other desires goodness and mercy for you. This Ramadan, let’s banish the negative thoughts and embrace the positive ones. Let’s open ourselves up to peace and a deeper connection with Allah during this Holy month

About the author:

Fatna is a sister from London who has always held the love for literature close to her heart. Hoping to give practical Islamic support through writing, Fatna is one of our blog writers here at SolaceUK. 

Many revert women struggle on their own after embracing Islam.

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