Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm from Australia and Anonymous

Khadijah: Assalamualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu sissy! Thank you for taking the time to participate in PROJECT INVITATION! May Allah grant this project a success Ameen! Please tell me a bit about yourself (where you are from, your cultural background, likes and dislikes -doesnt have to be Islam related) 

W’alaykum salam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu. Thank you for giving me a chance to tell my story and inshaAllah give some insight into why so many young women of various unlikely backgrounds are accepting Islam.

I am a 22 year old Australian woman residing within a small town south of Sydney. I am currently studying Communications part time at university whilst working full time. 

First and foremost I love Islam, as well as reading, writing, travelling, languages, cooking and a million other things. I write a blog named the Camel and the Kangaroo (www.thecamelandthekangaroo.wordpress.com) about the complexities of being married to a Saudi man, specifically dealing with the ‘marriage permission’ process necessitated by the Saudi government. 

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

My mum is a lapsed Catholic and my dad is a staunch atheist so I was not raised in any religion. The only exposure I ever had to religion growing up was through the Christian scripture lessons we had to take in primary school but they had very little impact on me. Generally, I was raised in an environment ambivalent to religion at best and hostile to it at worst. 

However, once in my teens I took a casual interest in Buddhism and later Judaism, Eastern Orthodox strains of Christianity and of course Islam.

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

I think my first real introduction to Islam was through events such as 9/11. Before that, I had never even heard of Islam. I remember not long after 9/11, crying the night before flying out for a family holiday because I was convinced Muslims would blow our plane up. Later, as an arts student at university, Islam was at the centre of the discussions taking place in fields such as history and politics and I became interested in what sort of people could commit such atrocities. I found it very difficult to believe that a major world religion could really be as barbaric and hateful as popular opinion seemed to suggest. So, being an avid reader, I decided to do my own research. 

I was an agnostic and a passionate and somewhat radical feminist at the time, very much influenced by my environment so at first some Islamic beliefs were difficult for me to accept. I resisted the existence of God for quite a while as I had always been told that people who believe in God did so out of ignorance or weakness. However, once I examined the beliefs I held, I found that they weren’t truly my own but rather what I had been told to believe by others or what, out of lack of options, I had previously thought was the best solution available for issues such as those pertaining to women’s rights. I didn’t have much knowledge of Islam at that time as I didn’t know any Muslims and I had yet to discover the wealth of literature by Muslim authors, but I knew instinctively that accepting Islam was the right thing to do. In March 2009, I said shahada by myself in my bedroom. I didn’t even know that I had to perform ghusl (full body ritual cleansing). 


Khadijah: Tell me something interesting about yourself that you noticed after you became Muslim.

I struggled with clinical depression throughout my teenage years. I was put on anti-depressant medication and made to see a counsellor but nothing worked. I knew a lot of other people like me. Most of them were also atheists or agnostics who could not find a cure for their depression. So many of them were highly intelligent individuals with a lot of potential but their illness crippled them. Many ended up on suicide watch and/or self-medicating with drugs. 

I now see that none of the doctor’s prescriptions were effective because they didn’t address the root cause of the depression which was the fact that I didn’t believe there was any point to my existence. If you do not believe there is any meaning to life, you have no reason to persevere through life’s many trials. 

Since accepting Islam I have undergone some decidedly unpleasant trials but the difference is that I now have strength of purpose, which I feel, with the help of God, will allow me to bear almost anything that befalls me. 

Popular Western opinion has gotten it tragically wrong – Islam is not the problem, it is in fact the long sought after solution to the problems we face on both the global and individual levels. 

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

A lot of people are confused about what exactly we worship and who Allah is. Allah is simply the Arabic word for God – we believe in God. We do not believe Jesus (peace be upon him) or anybody or anything else is God or contains God in any way. We do not worship the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him). We also do not worship Makkah or the ka’aba. We worship God alone and in fact this is part of the shahada which we say in our prayers as well as in the proclamation required to become Muslim.

We honour and respect many of the figures present in the other Abrahamic religions such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham etc (peace be upon them all). The difference is that we believe they are prophets. We believe the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final messenger and prophet.

Muslim women are not oppressed by Islamic teachings, if they are oppressed by anything it is cultural and political practices which are mistakenly associated with, but are actually foreign to Islam. Muslim women have their own minds, bodies, and souls and are capable of making their own decisions in life – including the choice to practice their religion by wearing abaya, hijab and/or niqab. 

Islam is not a religion which advocates violence, except in circumstances where it is absolutely necessary. The actions of Muslims are unfortunately not always reflective of Islam and its teachings. Islam is perfect – Muslims, as human beings, are not.

Khadijah: Why do you think it's necessary for women to wear the hijab (head covering)?

It is necessary because Allah stated that it is obligatory for all Muslim women to wear it in the Qur’an. It is also heavily supported in the sunnah of our Prophet (peace be upon him). The definition of a Muslim is one who submits to the will of God so that is what we must do when He makes something obligatory upon us. Having said that, it is not always easy – although I cover the rest of my body correctly with abaya, I do not yet wear hijab ‘full time’ due to issues with my family. 

In general though, I find that wearing hijab and covering your body in front of unrelated men is liberating. This was one part of Islam which I immediately understood as a feminist. I found, and continue to find it humiliating, when men openly look at women’s bodies. Some women like this attention but in reality they are enjoying their own sexual objectification. 

The fact of the matter is that men are visual beings and they are more sexually oriented than females. There is no shame in this - it is simply reality. If you are wearing something which emphasises the shape of your body, men are going to have a lot of trouble appreciating any part of you other than that. However, if you are wearing hijab and covering your body in such a way that it does not show your shape, it sends a strong message that you are a woman to be respected and your sexuality is not public property.

Khadijah: Quote your favourite verse from the Qur'an 

This is my favourite at the moment:

“And whosoever is conscious of Allah, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. (65:2-3)

I find it to be an inspiring reminder of how God grants us an escape from our problems even when we believe there is no way out. 

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