Aanya Hudda, National Cathedral School
Photography by Mauro Tandoi

Aanya Hudda explores how two different religions contribute to her one identity. (Published: 2019)

When my Indian parents got engaged there were objections flying from both sides of the family. My father, an Ismaili Muslim, was marrying my mother, a Hindu. The marriage of Hindus and Muslims was unacceptable, given the divide of 1947.

Some quick history: 1947 was the Partition of India into Muslim majority Pakistan and Hindu majority India. After such a serious religious divide between the two religions and the violent conflicts that followed, the idea of marriage across the religions was not normal.

When I was born, my parents were not sure whether I should identify as a Hindu or a Muslim. The two religions differ in many ways, the most significant of which is that Hindus believe in multiple gods while Islam has a monotheistic foundation.

Eventually, my parents decided to raise me as a Muslim but immerse me in the Hindu culture as well. Every other week on Friday I go to Jamatkhana, a prayer hall for Ismaili Muslims, with my father. I learned the Arabic prayer recited in Jamatkhana and occasionally at tend REC and STEP classes on Saturdays that educate children and teenagers in the Islamic history and culture (the Ismaili Muslim version of Sunday School). On special holidays that occur two or three times a year, I fast for a day with my father.

While I attend Jamatkhana, I still learn some Hindu traditions and practices from my mother and her side of the family. My grandmother tells me stories from the Hindu tradition and belief, such as the Ramayana and the Story of Diwali. Most months, on the day of the new moon, I sit down with my mother for a prayer (called a Pooja) before leaving with my father to go to Jamatkhana. Occasionally I accompany my mother to the Gurdwara, a Sikh temple. We celebrate some Hindu holidays, specifically Diwali.

Growing up in a home with two very different religious beliefs used to be confusing for me. I had a hard time explaining how exactly I could identify as both Muslim and Hindu, yet more strongly as a Muslim. Over time I learned that the easiest way to describe how I identify myself is by my values. While parts of each religion are very different, the fundamental basis of behavior and expectations are almost exactly the same. Personally, being both Hindu and Muslim has opened my mind and allowed me to challenge and solidify my own beliefs as I learn more about each set of beliefs and values.