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When it comes to faith, it's not always easy to hold on to. Religious struggles are a constant thing pushed towards a follower to test their strength and willpower. 17-year-old Mahmoud, a devout Muslim is faced with the challenge of homosexuality. Homosexuality in Islam is a very controversial topic which leads many LGBT followers of Islam left on their own and outcasted from other heterosexual Muslims, afraid of the backlash they would receive. Follow along Mahmoud's journey through his perspective growing up as a homosexual Muslim; facing challenges along the way that would conflict him with his own faith. Read through how despite his sexuality, he'll find the hope for himself, the acceptance he needs through his losses and mourning; but despite all that, live a life as a devout Muslim.

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Chapter 1

“What’s on your mind, Mahmoud?” I could hear the creaking of the swings as they sway back and forth, children around me having the time of their lives going high in the air and then back down, almost like a sideways pendulum. I was the only one sitting idle on the swing, lost in thought while everyone else around me moved back and forth and up and down. It was evident something was up. I gripped the rusty, tarnished metal chains against my tan, South Asian skin. My black hair was blowing against the added wind from a boy swinging a foot away from me. It didn’t bother me that my lengthy hair was getting in my face. I finally turned to my age-old best friend, Idris, a fellow Muslim I’ve grown dear to, and he eventually became a best friend at the Islamic School we go to. “Nothing, I was just thinking about something.” It wasn’t much of a lie since I really was thinking. “What about?” Another large creak of the swings was caused as I heard his shoes roughly contact the mulch below to slow him down to a complete stop. The scraping of the mulch by his shoes that was being thrown aside died down and I turned to him. “I can’t say exactly, it doesn’t make much sense.” What even was I thinking to begin with? Why did I seem so lost in thought? “Are you sure? It really looked like you were frozen there.” I nodded, chewing on my bottom lip as I decided there wasn’t any point to dwell on my mind further if I myself couldn’t get an idea towards what exactly it was. I turned my attention back to the front, looking around and watching as the kids played around the playground, some standing and chatting, while others racing around in a game of tag. I turned back to Idris; a small grin laced on my face as I decided on a little game. “Wanna see who can jump the highest from the swings?” He mirrored a grin and nodded. “You’re on!”


“Okay let’s not do that again…” I mumbled, feeling the harsh, stinging pain against my bottom from landing on the ground too hard and failing the jump by standing on my two feet. Thankfully Idris wasn’t as successful either as we both let out a laugh. I tried my best to ignore the hard, stinging pain on my bottom and ignoring the stares of everyone around me, wondering if we were okay (mentally and physically that is). “Agreed,” Idris grunted, squinting his eyes in pain as he somehow still managed to laugh at the hilarious (and painful) incident. A teacher rushed over. “Are you boys alright? I saw you guys fall off the swings. You know there’s a rule not to do that on school property? Even if you were to successfully land on your feet it’s still a dangerous thing to do.” The both of us looked at each other, trying hard not to laugh again since we had a weak tendency to cut ourselves from laughing in situations that had abruptly changed from silliness to seriousness in a flash. Thankfully Idris spoke up. “We’re sorry Sister Aisha, we weren’t thinking.” He let out his usual charming smile towards her, knowing she had a soft spot for the students. The both of us ended up breaking off into another fit of laughter, sister Aisha joining in as well as it appeared even she was trying to hold in her laughter over what she had saw us fall victim to. Knowing we were alright with what happened to us and were laughing our pain away, she found it safe for her to break loose too.

“Just be careful next time,” she grinned and walked off back to her chair that was sitting under the shade. Idris and I turned to look at each other again. “Race you to the swings again?” I grinned, not wanting to give up the fight as we turned to look back, seeing that our spot on the swings had been taken by others. I let out a groan. “Why do the slides have to be the most popular out of anything in this playground?” I slowly tried to get back up on my two feet, wanting to brush the dirt from my pants since I could feel my bottom swell or go numb either from sitting on it for too long or because of the impact or even both. I began to laugh, realizing how difficult something so easy was actually turning out to be due to the pain. “Here lemme help,” Idris offered, reaching up to grab my arms to help add some support. He realized, however, as he was getting up, he too was struggling which resulted in the both of us from collapsing. “Okay okay, maybe we should crawl a little and take it easy?” I suggested, the boy nodded to my plan as the both of us crawled a foot away on all fours, me being careful not to scrape any dirt on my jeans. Thankfully it was a warm day, and the ground wasn’t wet since it hadn’t rained. After sometime, the both of us gathered the strength to pull ourselves off the ground. “Oh god my butt,” Idris stated, placing both his hands on his backside to massage his flattened cheeks. I laughed at his response, knowing well enough I was sharing the same pain as him but could easily ignore it despite the pins and needles I was slowly beginning to feel. As we made our way to our seats, however, we could hear sister Aisha call out for everyone to line up. Groaning a little knowing we would have to spent a few moments having to stay standing, the two of us reluctantly followed. “Idris, Mahmoud, do you both want to stop at the nurse’s office?” We turned to look at each other. Expecting Idris to say yes since this would give us a moment to rest our bottoms, I confidently stated a “okay, sure” while at the same time I overhead Idris say, “no thanks.” Looking at each other in shock, I now knew I had to take the trip to the nurse’s office alone. Maybe one of us should’ve answered for each other…

As I walked through the hallway, taking in the pictures the younger classes drew of their pets, families, toys they had hung on the walls beside me, I smiled a little, recalling a time when I was younger and felt proud to have a picture of mine hung on the outside for everyone to stop and see. Then came Sister Akbar’s class, the popular mathematics teacher for the middle schoolers. I passed by the “star students’ board she had hung on the outside which had the test scores of all her students who had scored an ‘A-A+’ on her tests. I miss having her class. At times, she would always spend majority of her class telling us about how life used to be in the 90’s. She would also make fun jokes while at times also giving us some informative Islamic advice whenever we needed it. After some walking, I was nearing the school Mosque, the sound of Sheikh Muhammad reciting Quran aloud with his students echoing through the walls in harmony. Sheikh Muhammad is also another popular teacher amongst the students. He migrated to the US from Egypt a couple years back and since then made a great addition to the school from its early stages to its present state. I nearly missed the nurse’s office somehow when I got distracted by my thoughts again. I stood standing, frozen in place for a moment as I tried to recall what exactly was on my mind lately but couldn’t pinpoint the reason. After somehow snapping out of it, I turned to the office across from the Mosque and stepped inside the nurse’s office to get my, well, butt iced or something.

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