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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A nigerian sister, back to Islam.

Assalaam alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh!
My Journey back to the Deen.
My name is --- (As nice as it would be to disclose my name, it’s best and safest to stay anonymous).  All I can say is I am a twenty-two years old Nigerian (southern part) born-Muslim (but not from practicing family). My journey in Islam has been a long one.
My U-turn back to the Deen was in 2011 (1432 AH). I remember it was the beginning of my final year in the University. Subhan’Allah that year has been the biggest year of my life. Alhamdulillah!
Prior to that time, I was a caged little girl. I had been caging myself really badly over a very long time – locked in the cage of my own inhibitions, afraid to come out. I was caged and struggling to be free, yet no way out. I felt helpless. Sounds like riddles, right? Let me unbridle!
I was typically like the average next-door girl around you. A pretty normal childhood! My teenage days held the most knots.
I attended an Islamic/Muslim secondary school (or high school as some call it), and Islamic University too (MashaaAllah). My was basically where I got most of the knowledge of Islam that survived me through the University. Being a Muslim University, one could expect that my knowledge of the Deen will grow, but amazingly opposite was the case. So you  can imagine the little knowledge I had of the Deen even though I was around ‘Muslims’.
In both institutions (secondary and University), I was given the title  of “Ameerah” meaning “leader of the Muslimahs’ or rather “female religious leader” of all the ladies. It wasn’t because I was outstanding in Deen, but because w’Allah I consider it the Qadar of Allah, as I wasn’t in anyway ideal or deserving.. My University was newly established and private-owned too. So my set was the pioneer set of the Uni. The Amanah of being an Ameerah was tough as I had weak emaan because of my weak knowledge. Little did I know of the challenge ahead of me when I accepted for the sake of Allah to be the Ameerah. And also because, although physically on the Deen, my heart was seriously attracted to the dunya. I was around 15-16 years old as at then. I dreamed  and yearned for the glitters of dunya. It was tough to combine the sincerity & commitment to the Deen, with the heart’s attachment to the dunya. Both cannot reside in one heart, one would have to expel the other.
I loved Islam. And I knew Islam was the Truth. I wanted to meet Allah with a pure heart. I craved for Him to love me and be pleased with me. I craved to die, being happy to meet my Lord. I just wanted Allah to love and be proud of me.
But my heart had its many loyalties!
Other than Allah….
Or was it ‘alongside with Allah’?
Basically I desired two things from the dunya: Beauty and Attention. I was drawn to the attractive beautiful ladies. I was envious of the attention they got from the boys and girls. I was basically an average girl socially and I just never fit in among the popular ones. Yet I admired the attention they got. They could get whatever they wanted anytime, and they could speak in any manner that they pleased, without anyone unnecessarily questioning them. On the other hand, I was rather the much quiet, shy, passive girl.
I remember anytime I was walking on the road along with my sister or any of my friends. It was surprising yet EXCRUCIATINGLY painful and annoying to find a bunch of guys chasing after the girl beside me, calling her aside to talk to her, while leaving me all alone standing and waiting. It’s crazy, I know! But it’s true! This happened so many times. I wondered what was wrong with me. I felt deficient – unbeautiful! Yet I knew I wasn’t ugly (lool). So what was wrong? It deflated my self-esteem I won’t lie.
Something else complicated my problem! TELEVISION! The movies, music, ads, etc. It enslaved my heart to love….searching for someone great to love me, celebrity adulation (subtle form of worship), slavery to fashion and beauty, singing, looking glamorous, and every other crazy teenage obsession, subhanAllah! How on earth could I have discharged my duties as Ameerah successfully with all of these evils in my heart??? IMPOSSIBLE you say? I concur! It was absolutely impossible!

As much as I craved and loved Allah, I couldn’t say for sure that I loved Islam. How can you love something that you have no true knowledge about? So I couldn’t really say I loved Islam, though I BELIEVED! Everything I personally loved was Haraam. This haraam! That haraam! Gosh why couldn’t we be free? So many restrictions! Why?” That was how I felt anyway. I seriously wondered why most of my desires were forbidden by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). What was wrong with singing and music? Why couldn’t I attach false hair to my hair (coz I love long hair and Nigerians mostly have short hairs lool), why must we wear the hijaab? Why so many haraams? So many rules! I felt claustrophobic (astaghfirullah!)
I had so many questions concerning my Deen. I needed to explore. To ask. Yet my position as the Ameerah kept demanding excellence and perfection from me. No one was there to teach me what I truly needed. The people were expecting much from me. And I had nothing but little to offer. I’m sure you’d be wondering why I didn’t quit the post. Well I tried so many times.  But Allah didn’t permit it. What was I to do when my heart wasn’t religious? I only knew that I craved Allah that’s all. All my secondary school knowledge of Islam was fast diminishing due to no replacement. I observed the ‘hijab’ as a duty only and not as an act of love and devotion to my Lord.
This went on for a very long time until the semester before my final year. I began to think this is sheer hypocrisy. I never wore hijab at home. And mind you, my ‘hijaab’ was a scarf covering my head, neck and a tiny lil’bit of my chest. I still wore short skirts and tops. Yet at home, I never even put on this ‘hijaab’. ‘cause I didn’t like it. I was a complete regular girl at home. I felt like a hypocrite. Well I guess I was! I wondered how the people of the University would react if they saw my lifestyle at home. I was tired of the façade. Discharging my amanah of being Ameerah felt like a huge burden day after day. I suppressed the real me. Like I locked my real self up in a compartment, in order to meet up with the responsibilities of Amirahood. It was tough. I was deficient. Yet they didn’t remove me from the position, despite so many other better sisters around who could perform way more effectively than me. Allah really wanted me to remain the Amirah . I felt drained and exhausted. I became depressed. It showed in my actions. I was so psychologically depressed for months. People began to see me as a sadist. This had to stop. Who was I living for???
I realized I was leading double lives – conflict of interests….switching between love for Allah and love for dunya….playing Amirah at school and acting non-practising ignoramus western girl at home. With my knowledge of Islam sapping away, and desires creeping in, until it overcame my heart. I’d had enough. I was tired of pretending. I was fed up of my hypocrisy. I had no idea who I really was anymore. Who am I? I didn’t know!
I needed to search. To find my true self! My purpose! My distinct individuality and identity! My Deen! I needed to explore, to learn, to find, to discover. ANSWERS!!!!!!! KNOWLEDGE!!!! So many rules in Islam, WHY? Does Allah expect us to be perfect? So many questions!
I wasn’t turning back on Allah. In fact, I was taking the other way to reach HIM….to find Him, to find myself! To know the secrets of this dunya – secrets or reasons behind some of the prohibitions in Islam. I was tired of dogmatic blind-following. I needed knowledge. The Truth! I knew Islam was the Truth, but “That’s clichéd already! Tell me something else!”. I was tired of the clichéd ready-made answers of people (Muslims) around me. My questions were deep, so I needed deep answers. No one was ready to go deep. Perhaps they didn’t really know!
I wasn’t questioning Allah’s Authority for His Rules. I just wanted to know ‘why’! What’s the secret? There has to be reasons why Allah prohibited Muslims from so many western norms. There has to be answers. And I wanted to know. I genuinely wanted to. I was ready to learn. But this time, not classroom teachings. I wanted Allah to teach me Himself, as nobody could make me know except Him. I wanted to be more devoted to Him. I wanted to KNOW!
So I prayed!!!
I prayed for Him to teach me and show me the Truth, reveal to me some of the secrets/wisdom….the evils behind western norms and practices…why does Islam negate 99percent of it? I prayed that He please make me not die until He showed me those realities, guide me to the Straight correct Path, and He becomes really pleased with me. I prayed for a happy Ending (Death). I prayed to be happy and bright, rather than the melancholy and gloom I was feeling. I prayed for a truthful constructive final year in the University. I prayed! I prayed!! I prayed!!!!
And I tell you, my duas were answered – each and everyone of them, and even more! Allah showed me the filthiness and darkness of this dunya. He taught me!!!
But at what expense?
After I decided to break free from hypocrisy, I stopped pretending to be the ‘good Amirah’.
My dressing changed. I wore my jeans and uncovered my neck and chest in school. I just wanted to see what was there in the western fashion that obsessed many of us. I wanted to know. I stopped doing most of my Amirah-duties. I committed lots of sins (astaghfirullah ). I broke free from hypocrisy into open sinfulness. Of course I was nervous of people’s judgments, yet I needed to let them see how weak and sinful I really was. I needed to show them that my heart was no different from theirs. I desperately wanted to resign from the Ameerah position. I asked people to call me by my name rather than the perfect title “Ameerah”. I always felt terribly guilty everytime I was addressed by that name “Amirah” I wanted to be relieved of the burdensome expectations of leadership, and switch into a role of simple humble membership. By Allah’s Will, Allah said NO! They didn’t take me off this position, nor relieve me of this title. FRUSTRATING!!!!!
All the while as I broke ‘free’ exposing myself to sins upon sins, I was growing, I was learning. I was embracing the ME that I’d imprisoned inside me for years. I was embracing my weakness and imperfection. At the same time, I was learning. I was growing. I felt happy yet sad. I felt so free (letting out myself), yet lonely. I felt close to Allah (for my truthfulness), yet extremely FAR from Him. It was all mixed feeling. But I was proud of it. It was the biggest achievement in my life. Because it was a decision I consciously made. Not to please anyone. But to know myself more, and discover Truths. I was changing! ALLAHU AKBAR!!!
I began to realize…..when I wore short tops, I always took along a long scarf to tie around my neck, to cover my chest and bosom (but not hijaab style lool). Later on, I felt uncomfortable with opening my arms. Then the jeans….it felt suddenly disgusting and ugly to me, seeing every girl in their thin-legged jeans, tight ugly clothings. Did they actually think they looked beautiful that way? That was how I realized the ugliness of my ‘current’ dressing then. I began to get drawn to hijaab. Celebrity pictures that occupied my phone suddenly became hijaab pictures. Over time I felt the urgency to cover. And believe me, the next time I wore the hijaab (after my long break from it), I felt like the most beautiful and honorable girl on earth . I was changing!
As for music and its likes, Allah showed me the filth and deadly evils that lies in it. I realized music, movies, media all contributed immensely to my hypocrisy, corrupting my heart and instilling doubts in it concerning Allah and the realities of Islam. I found them to be so deadly and wicked that I got scared, SubhanAllah.
All that I prayed for, Allah showed me. All my endless questions, Allah gave the answers. I discovered the reality of dunya. He showed me the hidden attributes of dunya and I saw nothing great except abyss of darkness, deception, blindness, ugliness, slavery, loneliness, etc. The dunya is a small piece of hell. Subhanallah!
All along!
That was how I got to realize that Allah had been protecting me all along. Allahu Akbar! By turning ‘useless’ boys away from me! Not because I wasn’t beautiful or good enough, but because He wanted to protect and preserve me. He ‘tied’ me down with the Amirah position to protect me as well. Because without it, only Allah knows how astray I would have gone! Alhamdulillah. He indeed has been my Rabb – nurturing me with great love and care, slowly towards higher stage of emaan with time. Alhamdulillah!
My final year was the best and most productive year of my University days. I radiated smiles, peace, happiness from within. I found what I was searching for (true path of/to Allah). I found myself. I found Allah. I found my Deen. ALHAMDULILLAH!
After graduating from the university, as soon as I got home came Ramadan 1432 (2011). My connection with Allah was strong, my wounds were fresh. I felt sinful and ugly. I hated myself for all I’d done. I was full of Tawbah. I was always fearful. And I used that Ramadhan to cure many of my heart’s ailments (most of which is classified under hypocrisy). I restrained myself from many desires. And Allah showed me many more truths, which made me feel so blessed and humbled. Restraining desires was tough. But I feared Allah calling me hypocrite and not believer. I felt Allah so close to me. He scolded me, soothed me, gave me hope, threatened me (to abstained from sins and desires). All of these through the Qur’an. He spoke to me through the Qur’an, and several signs around me. I felt Him so near. He became the closest friend to my heart such that no one else mattered to me anymore. All those I’d loved were all departed from me anyway. I was all alone with my Rabb. It was more than enough! I felt Sakinah (Tranquility) that Ramadhan!

That was 1432AH (2011). Up till today, I still struggle on this journey. Emaan goes up and down, Allahu a’alam! But practice of the Deen keeps getting stronger, alhamadulillah! Today I find myself struggling on the Path of Sunnah, may Allah help us all. And for each level of my emaan, Subhanallah wa bihamdihi, Allah keeps blessing me with the much needed resources to keep my emaan going to the next level, such as knowledge equivalent to my emaan, righteous companionship, etc. these blessings are awe-striking. Alhamdulillah!  But the journey isn’t over!
My heart has settled upon TRUE ISLAM. Surrendering to Allah is my goal! I am pleased with Allah as my Rabb, Islam as my Deen, and Muhammad (salla’Allahu alayhi wa sallam) as my Prophet. I realized that the reason why many of us born-but-not-practicing-Muslims (here in Nigeria) are like that is simply because of the (weak) foundation we were given (a vast majority of us suffer seriously from lack of knowledge), our corrupt environment and companionship, and our so-called (astaghfirullah) Imams and preachers who call to Islam in a way that overwhelms & avert the heart to Islam. Rather than calling to Allah with adequate correct knowledge of the Deen and focusing on correction of aqeedah, tawheed, describing emphatically the beauty of the Sunnah and the Salaf, and all other foundations of emaan (faith), they simply preach mixing Islamic beliefs with the tribal & cultural beliefs&practices, such that the truth is not clearly distinguished from falsehood. Only few preachers actually teach and call to Tawheed. You then wonder why so many people are ignorant of the True islam, running away from it, simply because they just cannot find any inspiration or peaceful beauty in the cultural corrupt ‘Íslam’ that the Muslims are practicing. I’m pretty sure (bi idhnillah), if all of these are corrected, Muslims will find their tranquility in practicing their Deen and serving Allah the right way, except whom Allah wants to misguide.
As to my question back then….
I can now confidently (bi idhnillah) tell anyone who I really am. If you ask me who I am, I’ll simply say:
“I am the struggling and sinful slave of Allah who has
No honour/dignity, except the honour/dignity of Islam
No voice or willpower, except the voice and willpower of Emaan
No confidence at all, except the trust in Allah
I know nothing, except what He teaches me.
I own nothing, except His blessings.
And I am contemptible, insignificant and not deserving of love,
Except the love that Allah (by His infinite Mercies) places in the hearts of His creations towards me.
This is who I really am!”
ALHAMDULILLAH FOR ISLAM! It is a blessing that a million of this dunya cannot weigh against!

Islam has been a tremendous healing for me, Subhan’Allah! All that I sought from dunya such as Beauty, Attention have automatically faded away and replaced. Islam said my beauty lies in my Emaan. The disease of craving the people’s attention (such as love, fame, respect, praise) has now been replaced by the light of haya (modesty- which is an embodiment of genuine humility and Ikhlas to Allah). Emaan (faith-Tawheed), knowledge, haya (modesty), akhlaq (manners), and so many other virtues is what have blended together within me, to detach my interests from anything of this dunya. I have learnt about Tawheed (I’m still learning though). Slowly, Allah guided me to the beautiful virtuous Sunnah of His Rasul (SallaAllahu alayhi wa sallam). All of this makes me feel so beautiful to the soul , though iknow I have to STRIVE to earn that (lool). All that I hated with regards to Islam, has become most beloved to me Allahu Akbar!
With Islam, I am not that cowering girl I used to be. But everytime I take Islaam (surrender to Allah) away from my heart, the cowering timid girl returns. Islam is really my dignity. It gives me that firm resolution, that respectable identity, being that strong-willed woman of substance and virtues and purity, who would never settle for anything less than pleasing her Rabb, her Creator, no matter how vile/sweet the creations may be. It’s such an honour! It’s beyond words But every single time I seek other than Allah, directly or indirectly, I end up becoming more humiliated than earth . The Aqeedah of Tawheed (singling Allah out in all forms of worship, reverence) is deep-rooted, so strong you can never reach its end, Allahu Akbar! It reaches the depth of the tiniest minutest matter of the heart. Allah is Al-Lateef-ul-Khabeer (The Subtle, the All-Aware of the most hidden inconspicuous things). Allahu Akbar! We really cannot hide from His Majesty. May Allah not expose our shame in this life and Hereafter, Ameen!
To all my sisters out there (born-Muslims especially), who are struggling really hard to find their place in the Deen, being overwhelmed by the endless lists of haraams, I can only say one thing: if you are sincere, truly sincere in your search for Allah, then you will find Him (bi idhnillah). Just one thing: Don’t ever condescend the Truth or those who follow it. When you genuinely love those who love and obey Allah, it’s only a matter of time before you become like them (bi idhnillah). Watch out for those you regard as companions, or those you love (because they can either help you to Jannah or push you to the Pits of Hell). Love is enslaving. So the most honorable love is love for the Sake of Allah. That way you’ll love them because you love Allah, and hate them also because you love Allah.
As for sins, don’t ever stop weeping and repenting. Don’t ever stop asking your dear Lord for eternal cure. The dunya false desires? Deception of dunya? Be inquisitive for the truth! Have a searching heart! Always be ready to know what lies in the indepth (hidden beyond the surface). You need knowledge of your Deen, be friends with knowledgeable smart righteous people. No righteous companions? Remain secluded from the evils/corruption of the people, think of Allah, and PONDER over His Signs, REFLECT! Be Truthful! Stay away from anything that takes you away from Allah – anything that makes you forget Him or forget yourself. In’shaa’Allah, you’ll find your way!
And one more thing! If you are really sincere in seeking Allah’s Love, then you must be extremely humble to the earth. You must see yourself as the worst person on earth such that you see everyone as better than you. You must think constantly of your ugly sins and faults, and feel very ashamed and lowly. You have to hate and reproach yourself always, even when you seem to be doing good. Fearing and thinking of Allah all the time in humility. You’ll observe that those who love Allah and whom He loves back are like this! And much more!
Learn about Tawheed (worshipping Allah in oneness), correct Aqeedah! It is the foundation of Emaan, without which all other acts of worship and good deeds will crumble and tumble into dust. You cannot escape it if you truly seek Allah (The Exalted).
So ma shaa Allah this is my story! Everyday is a huge struggle. Just one mistake or negligence or deed can push one on his face into the HellFire (na’udhubillah), so the war against myself and struggling isn’t over. In fact, it is just the beginning. Please keep me in your duas and others like me, and the entire Ummah.  Jazakumullah khair for reading to the end despite its length #sigh#. I hope you benefited from it even if little. May Allah bless you, and unite us all smiling under His Shade on that Day, and honouring us with His Jannah al-Firdaus. And may He make it easy for us to practice what we say. Ameen! I love you all fii’Allah!  Assalaam alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh!


kk said...

Ma sha Allaah ukhtii. May Allaah bless you and keep you firm. I had the same feeling when i was appointed as the MCAN Ameerah. May Allaah continue to guide us and keep the Shaytan away from us. Aameen

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