I met Aafika* when I was at a very down point in my life. A mutual friend had introduced us after I had told her about my challenges with my family, and after listening to me, she told me about her own story. Just sharing and talking to each other about it helped tremendously. Jazakallahu khayrun sister, for reminding me to always turn to Him. Here’s her story.
Before Islam came along,
I was a dance instructor and a performer. I taught classes and gave performances at night. I loved and had passion for what I did. I did not believe in religion. Though I did believe there was a God out there, none of the religions made any sense to me. I knew nothing about Islam, but I had not wanted to go anywhere near it. I saw Islam as restrictive and oppressive to women.
My first real exposure to Islam
occurred during my first visit to my husband’s (then boyfriend’s) parents’ place. They were having a Qur’an reading session.
It was there that I listened to the Quran for the first time. I was fascinated by how everyone knew and read the same things.
Peeking at my neighbour’s book, I tried to follow the transliteration. Despite the session being 2 hours long, I sat through it without feeling any boredom or numbness in my leg. After it ended, I told my husband that I would like to learn more about the religion.
I began my journey in Islam
by taking classes at Darul Arqam with the sole intention of learning about the religion. As time went by, I began understanding the concepts and reasons behind many Islamic practices. Previously I had thought that Islam would restrict my freedom, but now, it all made logical sense. I was able to question everything, and receive satisfactory answers.
In addition, I saw and felt inspired by my husband’s passion to become closer to Allah. I remembered a time when he came to class after Maghrib prayers, saying he had teared during the imam’s recitation of Surah Al-Fatiha, and how he felt closer to Allah while praying. Upon hearing that, deep down I yearned to be close to God too, and to have my moment with Him as well.
Thus, I decided to continue on with Solat (Prayer) classes. I started small, practicing Fajr and Maghrib prayers daily. About halfway through my classes, I felt the sudden urge to embrace Islam. I had initially planned to wait till it was closer to our marriage date before converting. However, something in me felt off.
I felt guilty for not being a Muslim after what I learnt about Islam. That was when I realised I had fallen in love with Islam and truly believed in it.
I embraced Islam
the day I turned 21, and never looked back. I jumped straight into fulfilling my 5 daily prayers instead of 2 and donned my hijab.
I left the dance industry. It was not an easy decision as I still am trying to find work that I have as much passion for. Nevertheless, I often remind myself that Allah s.w.t knows what’s best for me.
Food was a gradual change as I had to adapt together with my family. Initially, I tried not to impose on my family by having my own meals. It was tough during gatherings, where food was mostly not halal. I would sometimes not be informed of family events.
My perspectives on life and the world changed.
Back then, I saw Islam as oppressive due to the donning the hijab and other obligatory practices. I thought freedom was being able to dress as we like and flaunt what we want. Now, I realize that oppression can be perceived both ways. Any behaviour, thinking or dressing that is out of the norm of society is deemed as ‘wrong’ by the masses. Isn’t this also a form of oppression on people- to dress according to what the society thinks is right?
Back then, I used to view academic, career and financial success as the purpose of life. I thought I was not doing very well since I did not have a degree or a ‘good’ career. I felt out of place among people my age. Now, I’ve come to realise that material gains does not equate to success in life. I have stopped comparing myself with what everyone else is doing and feeling down for not being ‘up there’ with everyone else. Everyone’s life is decreed differently by Allah. Islam has made me realise I should be contented with what I have and focus on doing good for myself.
Prior to Islam, life was all about this world only. Now, I am living life thinking about the Hereafter and making decisions to be a better person.
Some difficulties which I faced were
my parents’ disappointment. I had to face other people questioning my selfishness for hurting my parents by embracing Islam. It took some time for me to talk to my mum and show her through my actions that I am pretty much the same daughter she had. My father went through a stage of denial and avoided talking about it.
For some time, we pretended I was not a Muslim to ease my parents’ minds.
I started wearing hijab from the day I became Muslim and it was one of the tests that I faced. I would leave the house and wear the hijab at a staircase landing, and remove it at the same staircase landing before returning home. In front of relatives, I did not wear the hijab.
Meeting my prayers was not easy especially when family events were involved. As I was a new Muslim then, I did not know where and how I was able to make my prayers. Sometimes I had to rush my prayers right before leaving for dinner, and my mum would walk in on me doing my prayers.
The most difficult test for me was to have my marriage accepted. A lot of drama and police were involved during my nikah. For 1.5 years following my marriage, I had to pretend I was not married during Chinese New Year and family gatherings. I had to compromise on not wearing the hijab at family gatherings (despite my wish to be able to cover up), in order to slowly mend the ties. It took 1.5 years after my marriage for my father to finally come to terms and meet my husband for the very first time.
To cope with the tests, I constantly remind myself that Allah will help me through it. Nothing is too difficult and I had to be patient in facing everything.
True enough, things are much better now than they were 3 years ago. My parents know more about Islam, halal food and things that I can or cannot do, and accommodate to my prayers and practices.
One thing I love about Islam
is that Islam brings everyone together and reminds us we are all the same.
No matter the mosque or madzhab, everyone reads from the same Qur’an and practices the same obligations. When the call for prayer comes, everyone stands together, prays together, recites the same words, does the same movements and faces the same direction. Qur’ans all around the world have the same words in them. We are comfortable offering prayers in any mosque we go to and we meet sisters in Islam who love us all the same.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.