Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A lovely Sister.


Khadijah: Assalamualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu dear sister! 
Please tell me about yourself (where are you from, what is your cultural background, what are you doing now, dislikes and likes? It doesnt have to be about Islam)

Wa Alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu :) 

Ameen to your dua and may Allah subhanahu wa ta'aala put barakah in this little da'wah project of yours! :)

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my little story, though I doubt whether it's all that interesting! :P 

I'm from the Maldives, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean (the little dots at the tip of India if you look at the world map) and our islands are world-famous tourist destinations. One of the unique things about Maldives is that though it's quite isolated from the Middle East, it's an Islamic country and the state does not allow any other religion to be practiced within the country. Yep, to be a Maldivian citizen, you have to be a Sunni Muslim (nice huh? :))

So this means that for me, Islam has always been a fact of life as it is what I grew up with and I was rarely exposed to other faiths (aside from the TV you know?). The Maldivian culture is a blend of Islam and our ancient traditions, and to be honest, I really didn't know the difference between the two growing up.

I'm currently living in Sri Lanka, which is a little country neighboring to the Maldives. I moved here about five years ago to do some studies and at the moment, have no plans to go back, but Allah knows best :) 

Hmmm, likes and dislikes? That's a broad one, how do I answer that? As for likes - I love the ocean, babies laughter, reading, and oh yes, chocolate cake! I think chocolate cakes are little slices of warm and gooey happiness!  As for dislikes - I don't find slapstick funny, hate icky creepy crawlies and have never liked the taste of the meat of four legged creatures.

Khadijah: What does Islam mean to you? Were you always religious? 

 No, I wouldn't say that I was always religious. Mainly because I never really knew what it was, what it signified for most of my life. Islam was something in the background. Like the sky. We know it's there, a constant in our lives, but we're barely aware of it and rarely takes the time to actually look up and see it. Really see it.

Growing up, religion or Islam meant happily parroting back the words of the Qur'an teacher, mumbling incomprehensible Arabic while standing with my mother in Salah and the magnificent feasts of Ramadan. Beyond that, I knew little and had even little interest in my religion.

Khadijah : How did you enter into Islam? Was it a hard transition for you?

It was through a sister actually. It was a girl I knew since first grade, but we weren't technically friends. Being in the same grade, we saw each other around school, but didn't interact more than that.

In our tenth year, our whole school saw her go through some drastic changes, she quit the school music band, started wearing hijab, etc... At the time I was as shell-shocked as the others because hijab was considered to be something "old" people wore, "religious stuff" were things old people did and it was a very alien concept for us.

During our eleventh year, one night after school, I accompanied a mutual friend of ours to her house because my friend wanted to get some books. While there, the sister asked me if I too would like a book and I thought they were talking about Mills n Boons or some kind of romance novels (because that's what everybody read as far as I knew and which I was majorly obsessed with).

I said yes and she handed me Kitab At-Tawheed, by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (rahimahullah).

I remember standing on her doorstep and just staring at the book, thinking "Ohmigod, she did NOT just hand me a religious text! What kind of person read books about Islam?"

I felt totally weird and since it would be rude to say I didn't want to read it, I took the book home and stuck it in a drawer. After several days, I began to get curious about this "religious" book and wanted to see what was in it. At the time, I'd never even heard of Tawheed!

Subhan Allah! That book was my salvation! I was one of those who cringed whenever religion came up in conversations, I would turn away whenever Qur'an came on the TV or Radio because it irritated me and rejected all my mother's efforts to get me to wear hijab. To this day, it amazes me the complete and utter turnabout which took place inside of me.

When Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala chooses to guide someone, He does it in the most unexpected and amazing of ways, doesn't He? Mine is very simple compared to some others, but profound nonetheless. I'm eternally grateful that when He showed me the path, He started from the very beginning i.e. Tawheed! 

After the book, I tagged behind that sister like a shadow and she was the one who encouraged me, loaned me more books and helped me in the renewal of my Deen. I thought I was a Muslim, but that was when I truly discovered Islam, al-hamdulillahi!

And yes, it wasn't an easy transition. My family was appalled and they feared I was becoming too radicalized. My mom once even threw me out of the house for daring to interact with niqabi sisters, who were deemed extremist and almost heretical at that time in the Maldives. Orthodox Islam was alien to the westernized and "moderate" Islamic society I grew up in.

And though my convictions had altered fundamentally, changing my habits, my words, my actions, etc… and keeping myself from slipping back into the conformity of society was a struggle. A frustrating struggle. And it still is, but al-hamdulillahi I have come a long way from the beginning :)

Khadijah: Why do you think women are the most valued people in Islam?

Well, I'm sure other people can give a more eloquent answer to this one, but for me, it's somewhat like the famous quote says "You educate a man, you educate one person. You educate a woman, you educate a nation." (I don't know who said this, do you? :S)

Women are the cornerstone of the Ummah. Yes, it is the men who features center-stage in Islam, but behind the screen, it is the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who shapes the men who go on to bring glory to Islam bi'ithnillahi.

Khadijah: What is the Qur'an? What is special about it?

How to describe the Qur'an in a few sentences? The Qur'an is the Final Revelation, the last message sent to mankind from the Creator, and the culmination of all the previous messages.

The Qur'an is the Speech of Allah and hence, an Attribute of Him سبحانه و تعالى. It was revealed in the year 610 CE to the Prophet Muhammed (sallalaahu alayhi wasallam) and completed over a period of 23 years. 

These 23 years of revelation resulted in a book which comprised of 114 chapters and 6,666 verses. All of this was to become the primary source of law for the whole of mankind to live and die by. The impact of this book is such that Allah says that had it been revealed upon a mountain, it would crumble out of fear of Allah (Surah Al-Hashr 59:21).

Before the Qur'an, none of the previous revelations sent were given the divine assurance of preservation, to remain unchanged till the end of time (Surah Al-Hijr 15:9). The language, the history, the science, the knowledge... all of which contained in the Divine Speech is truly amazing for those who reflect upon it. 

You have to read, listen and ponder over it to find the miracle insha Allah :)

Khadijah: Describe 5 things about Islam that you think every non-Muslim should know

  1. Just like how you wouldn't take the measure of a perfectly crafted musical instrument by the one who plays it, or the measure of a perfectly horned sword by the one who wields it, do not take the measure of Islam by those who adhere to it. They are flawed, while Islam is not. Look at the authentic sources of Islam to know Islam.

  1. Islam is not a new religion founded by Prophet Muhammad (sallalaahu alayhi wasallam), rather Islam is the same truth that God Almighty revealed through all His Prophets to mankind in every time and place, from Adam to Noah, to Moses to Jesus and finally to Muhammad (sallalaahu alayhi wasallam), that is to worship Allah alone without any partners.

  1. Islam is not just a 'religion', in the sense that it is not merely about worshiping God as most other religions are about. Islam is a complete way of life, meaning it governs every aspect of life; moral, spiritual, social, economical, political, intellectual etc…

  1. The women in Islam are not oppressed just because you see them covering themselves. The Qur’an commands women to wear clothes that are different from those worn by men, because of the differences in the ways each sex is tempted by the other. It is a source of empowerment and precaution to the women. When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them. Besides, if nuns are not considered to be oppressed, why aren't Muslim women accorded the same justification?

  1. Jihad is a term that is often misunderstood and associated with violent radical militants. However, the word jihad means to "strive, struggle and exert effort." It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle by military forces in the battlefield for self-defense or fighting against tyranny or oppression.

Khadijah: What is your favourite verse from the Qur'an?

There are many and picking a favorite is kind of hard. But a verse that always uplifts me and makes me feel better is:

Say: "O 'Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: verily, Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." 

[Surah az-Zumar - 39:53]

Khadijah: What does Islam say about other religions? 

The deen with Allah is Islam, and He does not accept any other religion from His slaves. Islam is the original message that has been repeatedly delivered to mankind throughout the history of humanity.  All the Prophets and Messengers that Allah sent came to revive this message and bring humanity back on track.

Of course over time, this message has been corrupted and distorted by various factions, such as the Jews and the Christians. This is why you see similarities along with glaring differences between the two and Islam. Then there are those who simply refused to accept this message and insisted on venerating their idols and mosquitoes. 

In Islam, some exceptions are made for Christianity and Judaism in some areas (both being People of the Book i.e. the original Torah and Gospel being divinely inspired before they ruined it), but all other polytheistic and pagan religions are staunchly rejected.

This does not mean Islam is intolerant. While  Islam does not give any importance to other religions and severely warns against them, Allah subhanahu wa ta'aala does admonish us not insult or mock what other people worship. Because then they in their ignorance will revile Allah subhanahu wa ta'aal in return. 

One of the fundamental rules of Islam is that there is no compulsion in religion. We can only give advice and information, but it is Allah who guides whom He wills. This is why if you look into Islamic history, you will see that minority faiths were actually treated with dignity and respect under the Islamic state.

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