No fake tan?
No Saturday nights out?
Cover my hair?
Are you crazy?!
A Friday afternoon at school full of excitement and chatter about what to do at the weekend, what clothes to wear, will I pass for 18 to get into the coolest club?
My ambitions in this stage of my life were to a) have fun b) impress boys and c) to look gorgeous.
But was I fulfilled? Did I respect myself?
Moving on a stage to college, my new start to be confident and have lots of friends after all I was 16 now I wasn’t a child! During this time my parents were happy with me, I was “growing up so fast” being the typical teenager.
Amongst the many friends I had one stood out, someone who was different to the others and quickly became my best friend.
The frequent bus journeys to and from college were made enjoyable by my new best friend we would share jokes and talk about our plans for the weekend. But as well as this he would confide in me and ask me my opinions about a problem occupying his mind – a “mystery girl”.
The “Mystery Girl”
The “mystery girl” would be the topic of conversation on every journey, no matter how many times I asked about the identity of the girl he would never enlighten me.
A few months later on a cold January evening on his 18th. birthday he asked to speak to me outside away from our friends and the loud and crowded venue.
I noticed his shaking hands and nervous smile, while he stood in front of me. He then placed his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes and said “it’s you, you’re the mystery girl”.
I could no longer feel the cold night air I could only smile and adore his big brown eyes and his face so eager. From that moment on we became a couple; we were inseparable and shared our days together and our phone conversations at night would last for hours.
However, our relationship was a secret, only our friends and my family knew. It was not possible for his family to find out. I was to be a secret.
College exams started and the decisions about the future to be made. During this time I noticed a change in my partner, his attitude was different, he was distant and his lifestyle was being challenged by something I knew nothing about. Eventually after many arguments, he confided in me and told me his feelings about God, religion, and how he was confused.
The word God had never been part of my vocabulary and I had never been brought up in a religions family. Eventually after many long conversations and questions both answered and unanswered, my partner wanted to become faithful to God, Allah, as well as me.
Trying to Learn about Islam
At first I was upset because I thought this would mean the end of us but then I found out I was able to become Muslim, you didn’t have to be born Muslim!
From this moment things changed, and there was a new dimension to our relationship; it didn’t mean things became perfect in fact they became harder as he was struggling a battle between halal and haram [unlawful, prohibited] and I was needing knowledge.
I was introduced to a 13 year old girl who was to be my source of knowledge. In a taxi on my way to her house I felt an array of emotions: scared, stupid, embarrassed.
What would she think of me? Was I wearing clothes that would offend her? Should I have scrubbed off the fake tan and the makeup? Should I be wearing jewellery?
However, the fears diminished when she opened the door with a smiling face full of happiness and genuine care greeted me. It may seem strange that a 13 year old girl should be teaching someone about religion, what can they possibly know? However, this is the beauty of Islam, age, color rich or poor it does not matter, everyone is equal by Allah.
For the first time I saw a Muslim pray, it looked so difficult all those up and down movements and as for the Arabic that was never going to be possible! However, by Allah’s guidance it did happen, through visits to the mosque with other sisters it begun to fit in.
Stumbling over the words of the Shahadah [testimony of faith] in front of around 20 people I converted to Islam in August 2004.
A few months later after visiting my friends and gaining yet more advice I took a taxi home that evening with the plan to tell my parents I had converted to Islam. There were no words of anger or tears of upset, just the glances between my mum and dad thinking I had become a “weird religious person” and the order that I do not tell my sister or the rest of the family.
They didn’t want my sister asking questions, my parents didn’t want to know anything about the religion their daughter had converted to. Despite this, my relationship with my parents stayed the same.
Throughout this was the additional worry of what was happening to me and my partner. It was haram for us to be together, but we were in love. What about his family?
On May 17th 2005 we took the decision to be married, with 2 walis, one of my closest friends and her mum who had quickly become like a family to me and an Imam we were married.
My partner’s family was unaware but what was important was the fact that we were no longer haram for each other; Allah had made it possible for us to be married.
On July 8th. 2005 I became part of the gang: the hijabis. I had set the date in mind the previous weekend and had told my managers at work what I was going to be doing the following week.
Then came July 7th., the disaster which Muslims are still being tormented for today. However, it never changed my mind, I had set the date in my mind and nothing was going to stop me.
Still image conscious I made sure I had an array of colored hijabs to match my clothes and my work uniform for the big day! Walking into work that day was so hard, I was so tempted to take it off but I had set the date in my mind, I couldn’t let myself down, with a final dua’ I entered into the workplace.
It was made easy for me, curiosity and questions were abundant but no one made it difficult for me. A colleague commented that I was a “strong and gutsy girl”. However this was to be put to the test.
The visibility of my religion was too much for my parents, and caused them anger. My dad said he would never admit to anyone his daughter was a Muslim… he couldn’t walk in the street with me wearing the headscarf. It was an embarrassment to him and shameful.
To this day he will not talk with me when wearing the hijab. He says “you have nice hair why would you want to cover it up?” But no explanation could make him or my mum understand.
Finally I Took the Right Decision
Following this, my grandma saw me wearing hijab and commented I looked “so old”. A few days later I received a letter in the post telling me she would prefer it if I didn’t visit her if I was wearing my scarf.
Despite this upset, it didn’t deter me, I wanted to please Allah and do what He has asked of me.
The relationship has got better with my parents, but it is still not accepted. Religion is a taboo subject in our house and is never mentioned.
With patience and dua’ things have been made much easier for me. My partner’s family has accepted me into their home, I have become part of family functions and plans but the news about our marriage of two years is yet to be revealed.
However, I have firm belief it will be accepted, just remembering and appreciating the immense changes that has happened over the past 3 years of my life, I know anything is possible.
I have had the support and comfort from my friends who have become like a family to me, true sisters who when in need are there with open minds and hearts.
Their sincerity and genuine kindness has made my journey so much easier than it could have been and I pray that other converts to Islam can experience the same comfort and support that I have had which will only help their iman [faith] grow.
But as well as my friends, my husband has played a vital role. He has become my sole provider, my family, my source of advice and strength. He has had a difficult time trying to beat the shaytan and stay on the straight path but alhumdulilah[praise be to Allah] we are both turning a corner and can see a good future.
My story to Islam is simple and not as amazing as some of the stories out there however, I believe my story shows that patience and determination pays off.
Learning not to despair when things don’t happen the way you plan, and being determined when faced with a difficult situation is not easy.
But Allah tests those of whom he loves.