Monday, 16 April 2012

Finding Islam: A Sister's Story

Assalamalaikom wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh,

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the most Merciful.

I can still recall those nights spent staring blankly at the ceiling contemplating about religion. I laid in the darkness, snuggled underneath the sheets with my heart thumping wildly inside my chest, unable to shut my eyes.The dark did not scare me but the questions in my head did. Is Islam the right religion? Or was it Christianity? I needed to choose one soon, I thought. I couldn't live this life without a direction and purpose.

When I was 13 years old, I came across an anti-Islamic website. It contained nothing but lies and deception aimed at confusing others about Islam. The false claims on the website seemed valid for those who had little knowledge about Islam. I was young and still trying to understand the Deen and coming across such a website had a great impact on me. Is this really the religion that I was born into? All the woman-beating, honor killings, Muslim women being oppressed started to create doubts about the validity of Islam. I said to myself that if this is Islam, then I don’t want to be part of it.

I visited more of such sites as my curiosity grew. Slowly, I began to question the authenticity of Islam. No one knew about my doubts because in my family,these questions would be taboo to ask. Strangely enough, I did not grow up in a household that was devoid of Islam. Instead my parents ensured that we attended religious classes, understood our basics and were strict with our daily prayers. I even started wearing hijaab when I was 12.

Over the years, I still did my prayers but I did it out of habit and also feared that my parents would find out that I was neglecting the salaah. Hijaab became a burden and I was always trying to find excuses to not wear it. I knew my parents would have prevented me from removing hijaab because it would raise questions amongst my nosey relatives so I kept it just to avoid confrontation with them.

When I was in pre-university, I had a close group of friends who were all staunch Christians. In the first year of school, only a handful of them were Christians but a year later, almost everyone became Christians due to their strong influence. The way they preached Christianity was through their actions and not merely by words and that impressed me tremendously. I started to wonder if Christianity might be the true religion. My friends were constantly trying to drag me to Christian concerts cum worship sessions and despite turning them down, questions still lingered if Christianity was the one for me.

During those nights when I was contemplating about religion, my heart did a see-saw between Islam and Christianity. Sometimes, Christianity felt ‘right’ for me and I wondered how I was going to live my life as one. How was I going to tell my parents about this ‘conversion’? I devised ways I could attend church events and even considered wearing a cross underneath the hijab! Astarghfirullah!

Other times, I would try to reason things out. I felt that Islam makes more sense than Christianity. If I could not even accept the fundamentals of Christianity (i.e. concept of Trinity), how then can I be a Christian? But, Islam has flaws itself, I said. Women beating? Suicide bombing? Oppression of women? Those are the flaws I found hard to discern.

By Allah’s mercy, I became friends with a group of sisters in University. Initally, I did not like the idea of being friends with these sisters because I felt suffocated by their frequent invitations to sisters’ events, halaqas and Islamic lectures. I had non-Muslim friends through out my schooling years and to have Muslim friends who actually practice Islam felt very foreign to me.

Since I was studying in Australia, I thought that being away from my family, I would not have to put up a façade anymore. I learnt to live with them – tried to be a good ‘Muslim’, wore hijaab despite detesting it and performed my obligations even though my heart was not convinced by it. Since I was hundreds of miles away, I had all that freedom to live the life I wanted to especially living in a country where munkar is everywhere. I knew that I fitted in perfectly well in that environment.

I lived with another sister who was the Muslim Students Association (MSA) president that year and she was always persuading me to attend Islamic events at our University. Although I attended them as I felt obliged to do so, I found myself learning more about Islam. Slowly, there were answers to some misconceptions that I had. It was towards the end of Ramadhan 2008 when things became to unravel for me.

This sister and I became close and we would have all sorts of discussions. One night during Ramadhan, we were having one of our discussions again when she mentioned about watching reverts of Islam on youtube. I simply said, ok and that I will check it out but with no intention to do so.

Somehow,when I was on youtube that night, I found myself searching for reverts of Islam and the first video I came across was by a revert sister, Nicole Queen. Her story was nothing more than just describing her past life, her quest to findthe truth and eventually, she found Islam.

Something about her story affected me instantly. I sat there, tears burning in my eyes and by the end of it, I was crying buckets. Despite all that crying, something inside me felt light – like a heavy burden underneath was being lifted and I still cannot comprehend why I was feeling that way. The past years all I could remember was the void which dwelled inside me. Ironically, that emptiness was a source of pain and to some extent I had thoughts of harming myself. However that night, it was as though that emptiness was being replaced with sakeenah;feeling of tranquillity which there are no words to describe.

There was something about her life that was parallel to mine; something that I could relate to. As compared to me, she was fortunate to have found the truth whilst I was still grappling with religion. She felt that same emptiness inside but when she found Islam, she has not felt that way since. I spent the whole night watching more videos about new Muslims and each story was an eye opener for me.

That night, I felt compelled to learn about Islam again. I needed a fresh start,free from the doubts that I had for many years. I opened the Qur’an with translations, the book which I had stowed away on my shelf and was collecting dust over time. The truth began unfolding as I turned each page and I learnt that the notions I had were all false. The answers that I had been looking for were in the Qur’an all along but I was too ignorant and perhaps even arrogant to believe that.

If it was not for Allah’s guidance, I would still be in that state of confusion; the state of disbelief. Allah swt pulled me out to the light when I was in darkness. My life has changed so much since that night and insha’Allah continuously trying to improve myself. There had been challenges faced after I started practising but I have no regrets. I may have lost friends and being ridiculed for wanting to practise Islam but al-Hamdulillah I gained something so precious and that is my Deen and the gift of Eemaan. I have never felt more at peace in my life and of course, I never had those sleepless nights contemplating religion anymore. Al-hamdulillah!

A Sister

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