Why is fitting in so important?
We as humans always desire a feeling of belonging, that we are a part of something and that we belong or our existence is important in some way.
Allah explains this in Surah al Hujurat, verse 13:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
“O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes, that you may know one another [not that on account of this you may boast of being superior to others]. Certainly, the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the most God-fearing among you”
In Islam we understand that we have a lot of duties; towards worshiping Allah directly and through fulfilling the rights of others. This gives us a purpose, a need and makes us feel like our existence on this earth is important.
We have a duty towards our friends, and family and likewise they have duty towards us but it’s not all just about who’s doing what for who, we are taught to build love upon these relationships, there are ample examples from the friendships between Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his loyal companions, such as Abu Bakr.
That said, we should remember that although having a support group is vital for our wellbeing, our friends must be of good character and be reminders/ forces for good. In the end, our friends and social spheres are part of who we are as well as our faith, The Prophet (saw) said: “A man is upon the religion of his friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” [Sunan Abu Dawud], we are reflections of our friends and we can tend to pick up their habits (good or bad) and behave just like them.
Where we belong, fit in depends on who we actually are – so, who are we? Who decides? What defines us; where we were born or where we live? We often hear talk about “values”, but as Muslims we know that we get our values from our faith. A large part of our identity revolves purely around our values, wouldn’t you agree?
Identifying ourselves as Muslims, we may often find ourselves in a dilemma that conflicts our values that surround our identity, e.g going out for work drinks may not fit our identity, but it can prevent us from looking unsociable and somewhat “extreme”. However, why is being accepted and feeling like we belong so important for our mental health? If we don’t feel like we belong anywhere or with anyone it can lead to isolation (not being involved, or withdrawing from social settings), depression (due to the isolation), low self esteem, confusion and deviation from Islam due to wanting to fit in.
However, we cannot solely rely upon others to give us the feeling of company and belonging, sometimes we may not realise that when we are feeling lonely and alienated, rather than missing human company and acceptance we are yearning for Allah’s company and remembrance of Him. There is a balance that we need to achieve, as with everything in life – and our identity is a huge part of that life.
Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah said: “Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him.”