By NAZEEHA BINT RENARD
You can ask me what I had for dinner yesterday, and I will stop and think. But ask me at any time, on any day, when I reverted to Islam… and the answer comes quickly to the surface of my mind.
Before I tell you “when,” I will answer the question of “why?” I was waiting to die. No, there was no illness of the body. My heart and soul were dead. My body felt like it existed without purpose.
It was not a morbid feeling; I just didn’t connect spiritually, in my mind, to any faith. My family (who will remain private) and I were raised under the religion of Catholicism. I was that girl in the plaid school girl uniform for 12 long years! I was finally free when I attended college.
Believing in God and knowing God, I believe, are very separate concepts. I attended church on the obligatory holidays. I would drop my coins in the faded gold box that was firmly welded to the candle offerings table. Kneeling down, I closed my eyes and prayed to any and all saints to help me.
College life, married life and divorce – all were basically lived without a firm grasp on faith. I was always spiritual (or so I thought), but did not claim any one religion as my own. It was only after having my son that I contemplated something more, a desire to be better and to find something greater in this world.
I was a stay-at-home mom doing my best to raise a “good person.” To give my son unconditional love, and provide him the opportunity to give back to this world. The strange thing for me was I could teach my son how to pray, however, I was unable to teach him about faith.
One day while I was doing my routine housework, I started watching a documentary about the fastest growing religions in the world. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism were the featured religions. When the history of Islam was featured, I thought, “This is it!” My heart literally changed its rhythm. I can’t explain it… it can only be experienced. My eyes cried over the sound of the Adhan (the call for prayer) until I could barely see the screen. I remember going to the PC and searching frantically for this “music” I had heard. It was not music, but a call to worship Allah.
The year was 2007 and I said my Shahadah and became a Muslim. I have a faith that is more important to me than anyone and anything in my life! Life for me revolves around Islam, not the other way around. I have lost some friendships, but I will not compromise my beliefs for anyone.
My family is very small, and is not what I would call practising Catholics. My announcement that I was a Muslim came over dinner and was greeted with complete silence. I mean, crickets chirping… But as time passed and my mother and son (who is 21) saw that I was very serious, they still said nothing. My son is accepting and my mother feels I am “sad and unhappy” or going through a phase. You have got to love her. Well, at least I have to love her.
That is all I will say about them for now. I love them deeply and will always make supplication for my mom and son to accept Islam, Insha’Allah. Each day, I love more, and learn more. Does Islam assure me happiness? No, but it does give me the freedom to be a stronger woman.
I started wearing the hijab in stages. Six months after taking my Shahadah, I felt the desire to cover yet, I was still nervous of public reaction. The wearing of a bandanna became my introduction to my new life as a Muslim. The first time I went outside a sense of calm overwhelmed me… even though my neck was still visible a transformation of spirit was occurring.
Within two months I was wearing the hijab full time! I still tear up thinking about seeing myself for the first time in the mirror. No longer was I seeing myself. Subhan’Allah, the reflection looking back at me was of a woman who was grateful. For the very first time I saw an outward appearance, that matched my feelings inside. I saw a Muslimah at peace with herself.
I wear my hijab only to please Allah. There are no Muslims in my family, and I am not married. So the answer to if I am being forced to cover is a happy and sincere “No.”
My beauty and femininity are not displayed for the public, or defined by what the fashion magazines say is beautiful. In fact, my makeup routine consists of a clean moisturised face and vanilla scented lip balm.
My hijab is not worn as a political symbol. The way I tie it, or the pins which may adorn it are not the issue. More recently increasing government pressure is mounting to ban the wearing of the hijab and veil. It is beyond comprehension how a group of non-Muslim elected government officials can speak for the choices made by Muslim women!
They say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Maybe someone should tell these government leaders and their supporters… “Don’t judge the Muslimah for her cover!”