Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Call me, Jennifer.


Khadijah:What did you know about religion prior to Islam?

Jennifer:  Initially, when I was in my teens I had misunderstood the role of the Prophet (pbuh). Since I had been raised Catholic with Jesus (as) as a figure who was revered and worshipped, I had thought that the Prophet (pbuh) was also looked at in the same way by Muslims.
I had also been under the impression that women were oppressed, especially those wearing the niqab and all dressed in black which I had grown up seeing as "those rich Arab women who shop at Marks & Spencer" - terrible I know! This was all purely down to a lack of education. Even when I briefly studied Islam at GCSE level it seemed so far removed from Christianity with all those pillars, when it actually follows from it, as we know. I knew that God was called Allah, which made me feel as though it were a "different god" to the One I had known growing up.
It was only once I met a now ex-boyfriend who was Muslim at the age of 20 that I started to research a little online and the misconceptions began to clear up.



Khadijah: How did you find out about Islam and what were your first impressions on the religion? How did you take your shahadah? 

Jennifer:  Well, as I mentioned above I was initially introduced to it via an ex-boyfriend but it unfortunately left a very bitter taste. I came to realise that his negative behaviour towards me was nothing to do with Islam but was a combination of his own personal issues and the culture he had grown up in. Unfortunately, it is these very same problems that cause people to have a bad opinion of Islam.

I only came to be "re-exposed" to Islam very recently a the age of 31 via a friend of mine who is very humble with the way he conducts himself and doesn't shout about the fact that he's been Muslim for ten years. Around June or so of this year I felt inspired by him to start reading books and online articles until one day I "happened" to come across an introductory day course on Islam at London Central Mosque run by the New Muslims organisation advertised online.
From there I attended talks on different Islamic topics and actually went on to take a course in how to pray which amusingly I was able to do and had started practising without taking the final plunge of the Shahadah! It was purely fear of committing to something that was so much bigger than me. Then on the afternoon of 8th August as I was sat in the mosque having finished making dua and the feeling suddenly hit me that the time was right to take my Shahadah. Amazingly, when I went to see the Imam there was a couple who queued behind me waiting to speak to him about getting married. Guess who my two witnesses were? :)
 
Khadijah: Tell me something interesting about yourself that you noticed after you became Muslim

Jennifer: Actually it happened before I officially became Muslim but I consciously stopped swearing, even in my head it's quite rare now, alhamdulillah, and trust me, I swore like a trooper! I've also found that I don't really want to hang out with the people I used to as I have changed internally, thanks once again to God.

 
Khadijah: If you could tell a Non-Muslim about Islam what key things would you want them to know?

Jennifer: No.1: Don't judge 2 billion odd people from a variety of backgrounds on a bunch of bad eggs. We're not all terrorists!!

No.2: Although the hijab is actually obligatory as stated in the Quran it is still a woman's choice to wear it for the sake of Allah rather than some big burly hairy men ordering us about to wear it!!
No.3: Muslims worship One God and One God Alone, the same God as the Jews and Christians. They do not worship Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) but instead believe he was the final messenger from God and the best example to follow when it comes to good character.
 
Khadijah: Why do you think it's necessary for women to wear the hijab (head covering)?


Jennifer: Ah, well I'm going to totally sound like a bit of a hypocrite here as I am not yet wearing it but one day insha Allah I will. It is important solely because it was commanded by God to do so and as Muslims we should submit completely to His Will. Unfortunately due to societal pressures, personal insecurities, etc. many women shy away from it. When I have worn the hijab, specifically during a Muslim retreat quite recently where I wore it all day for four days straight, I often felt more protected and treated with respect by men. It also, almost kind of oddly, subdued me as in I felt that I needed to behave more calmly and quietly because it would be inappropriate to be in hijab and be as loud as I was before Islam. This is going to sound a bit sexist perhaps but I think that the hijab actually makes a woman that bit more feminine.

 
Khadijah: Quote your favourite verse from the Qur'an

Jennifer: I am not yet familiar with a lot of the Quran but Ayat al Kursi (the Throne Verse) came to mind purely for the imagery (although of course we can't really imagine it). However, I think Ayat an-Nur is truly beautiful:

"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things." (24:35)
 
I also really love this verse, such a beautiful description of marriage as God intended it to be for us:
"...They [your wives] are a garment for you and you are a garment for them..." (2:187)
 
 

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