, by FIRDOUSE RAO
By the Grace of Almighty Allah I embraced Islam at the age of 18 years, along with my elder brother Mohammad Umar Rao. We were born and brought up in a strict Brahmin family. We are three children, my brother Nagaraj, is the eldest, my sister Veena and I am [Asha] the youngest in the family. Being the youngest, I was pampered by my parents, especially my mother.
Before sharing experience of my journey to Islam, I would like to share this strange incident which happened with me when I was in 8th standard. One evening I was playing and there was a mosque near my house, I think it was Asr time and I heard Adhaan. I started listening to it carefully and when I heard “Ashhadu Allah ilaah illalah, Ash hadhu anna Muhammad ur rasulullah”, I started repeating it with intention of imitating it. Little did I know at that time that Almighty Allah would accept my Shahadah and would make me a Muslim when I grow up. Allah hu Akbar.
My brother was very strict in doing pooja every morning and evening; he used to visit all the temples in our area. He was rude and used to beat us sometimes. Once he started going to Syed Kalim’s garment firm, he stopped doing pooja and everyday there used to be a big fight between my mother and my brother regarding this. My brother used to argue that he would not bow before an idol, which cannot see, or talk and is not beneficial. His behaviour also changed and he started being more responsible and soft spoken. During that time I was in 10th standard and I was shocked about his sudden change.
Every day he used to debate with my mother about why Eshwara needs a wife. Why God, who is so powerful, needs a son and family? When God is so powerful enough to create us from nothing, then why Eshwara was not able to get Ganesha’s head back? I was shocked to hear all these questions from him.
I started observing my brother’s actions closely; every day he used to lock himself in a room for a few minutes and I was curious to know what he was doing inside. One fine day, after he left the house I went inside the room to search what he has hidden there. Allah made me to search and in the cupboard I found a black diary, when I opened it I couldn’t understand anything in that diary. Last chapters of the Qur’ān and the procedure to do Namaz were written in the diary. The only word I could understand was Namaz. I thought of asking my brother about this that evening. My mother and my sister had gone to my grandmother’s house; only myself and my brother were left at home. I started asking my brother about that diary and what has gone wrong with him that he has stopped doing pooja. My brother explained to me the story from the Qur’ān about how Allah created Adam and Eve, Allah asked all angels to prostrate, everybody did except Iblees who disobeyed Allah’s command. Iblees was thrown out of the heaven and he owed to Allah that he would lead mankind astray, and this idol worship is Satan’s handiwork to lead man astray from the straight path.
I started analysing within myself about how man can imagine God’s picture. My brother gave an example saying that, for example, if you consider a shirt, and put some life into it, it will start thinking that its creator is also a shirt but much more special like with 3 to 4 extra hands and more heads, etc. Similarly, man has imagined these pictures, which do not exist.
Also, I analysed that our eyes can only see up to the sky; we can’t see with our naked eyes what is beyond the sky; similarly, our mind has a limitation and we can’t imagine God.
During Ganesha festival, I used to observe that man himself makes that idol out of clay and I further started thinking how can we sell god at footpath. Is it that, our so-called god Ganesha is so cheap that we buy his idol at footpath? Then I came to the conclusion that these are idols which man has created and they are not god.
One day I happened to go to that firm and I saw Syed Kalim’s brother reading the Qur’ān. I went near the Qur’ān and tried to read. It was English translation of the Qur’ān by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. First verse which I read was from Surah Al-Kahf which says, “If you take ocean as ink and all trees on earth as pen to write Allah’s praises, the ocean will end but not the word of Allah,” Allah hu Akbar. I started thinking: is Allah’s praise so much that the ocean will also end? This verse made me think about Allah’s creation, I started reflecting on how human beings and trees, birds, the earth and all which exist are created. I got convinced that this verse is true. I decided to follow Islam but I did not tell this to anybody in my family.
Meanwhile my brother was in the process of convincing my mother and my sister about Islam. I used to just listen to his discussions and got answers for many of my questions. My mother used to teach us some shloka to recite while sleeping so that we don’t get scared at night. I thought, Allah hu Akbar means ‘Allah is the Greatest’, so I will tell this only and I used to say Allah hu Akbar while sleeping. I was in my 2nd year diploma when I decided to lead my life as a Muslim. I used to escape from doing pooja by going out to play and my parents ignored it.
I started thinking how I will leave my house being a girl. Then, I used to get thoughts like, “me being a girl should not stop from accepting and following the truth”. My sister was also convinced with Islam. One day on Ganesha festival all three of us opposed whatever wrong was happening at home. My mother did not agree with us and asked us to leave home after a lot of argument. My brother went to make arrangements for accommodation. One person named Khurshid, who works as manager in Syed Kalim’s shop, agreed to give us his storeroom for a few days. My sister stepped back telling she’ll not join us. Alhamdulillah, I was firm with my resolution to follow Islam and started packing to get out of home. My mother was trying to convince me telling that, she’ll give gold and get me married to a nice guy, etc. I told her I did not need all these.
The same evening my brother and I left our home, loaded all our clothes in hand covers. My brother had just 100 rupees. Alhamdulillah, Allah gave us that courage to leave for His sake.
I was in my final year diploma when we left our home. My mother met me in my college and asked me to meet my grandmother at home. I went home. My grandmother started questioning me saying, “Have you become Muslim?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “You become a Christian or anything else but don’t become a Muslim; they are the worst people.” I replied, “You don’t know about Islam, that is why you are talking like this.”
They tried to lock me in a room but I ran away from there saying that, I don’t want to live with you people.
Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me the courage and strength to face that day. My mother threatened us by telling that she’ll file a complaint to the police and my principal but Alhamdulillah, we were firm regardless of consequences.
As we left our home, my brother quit his job because he had to work in shifts and he was unable to perform Friday prayers. We started living in a small home. We did not have anything except one small stove, one mat to sleep and some vessels to cook. I still remember, I used to keep our clothes on floor, we slept for a few days by making our books as pillow and my dupatta as bed sheet, and we used to comb our hair by looking at steel plate in which we used to eat. Alhamdulillah, those were most beautiful days in our lives. I am grateful to Allah that he honoured us with such tests.
My mother used to come near my college with lunch box to convince me to return home. Even though I was hungry, I did not accept her offer.
For 8-12 months, my brother did not have a job. Sometimes, we used to live on bananas and bread with water because we were unable to afford a good meal. I used to come back from college and drink a glass of water and sleep so that I do not feel hungry. Alhamdulillah, it is Allah who gave us the strength to be firm on the straight path.
Today if we look back, we feel that if it had not been Allah’s mercy we cannot even imagine to leave family and to face such hardships in life.
Alhamdulillah, I’m blessed with an engineering degree in Telecom and Allah has blessed my brother who is working as software engineer in a very good company.
I remember an incident in every prayer, which happened when I was in 7th standard. I used to stick pictures of idols in my pencil box and I used to tease my Muslim friends telling them, “See, we have a god whom we can see but you people only worship a wall and nothing else.”
Today Allah made me to stand before Him and bow before Him five times a day. It brings tears of joy to know that Allah has trained us and purified us with so many tests till today and we both feel happier to face tests in life when we remember this hadith. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, “Allah tests only those people whom he loves the most” Allah has blessed us with Islam. Alhamdulillah!