A Canadian Muslima's Story

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Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem
April 25, 1996

As-Salamu  Alaikum  wa  Rahmahtullahi  wa  Barakatu  (May  the peace, the mercy, and the blessings of Allah be upon you). I am Canadian-born of Scandinavian and other ancestry, and I was raised in Canada. I have been a Muslima since February 1993 when I was 23. While growing up, I was never affiliated with any religion nor was I an atheist. When I was in my mid-teens I started to think somewhat about religion and at that time I did believe in the Oneness of God (Tawheed). Christianity never interested me.

My first contact with Muslims occurred when I was introduced to  some  Muslim  international  students  in  1988.  Through them  I learned a bit about Islam, such as Ramadan fasting. But it was really not until 1992 that I became interested in Islam. In the summer of that  year  a  Canadian  newspaper  published  a  series  of articles attacking Islam by using examples of anti-Islamic behaviour of some Muslims  in  an  attempt  to  vilify  Islam  itself.  Non-Muslims  tend  to judge Islam on the basis of the behaviour (which is not necessarily Islamic) of Muslims. I was not yet a Muslima but the articles were so outrageous that I sent a letter to the editor in defence of Islam. Now I was curious about Islam. I re-read some articles I had picked up several months earlier from the MSA Islam Awareness Week display at  my  university.  One  was  about 'Isa  (Alaihe  Salam) [Jesus]  as  a Prophet  of  Islam.  Also,  I  asked  a  Muslim  to  get  me  some  books about Islam; they were about the overall ideology of Islam and were written by two famous Muslim authors. Impressed, I thought, "This is Islam? It seems so right." Over the next few months in my free time while attending university I continued to learn about Islam from authentic  Islamic  books,  for  example  The  Life  of  Muhammad

Salallahu  Alaihe  wa  Salam). One certainly does not learn the truth about  Islam  from  the  mass  media!  Also,  newcomers  to Islam especially  must  be  careful  to  avoid  the  writings  of  deviant  groups which claim ties to Islam so as not to be misled. And just because the author has an Arabic name does not necessarily mean that he or she is  a  knowledgeable  Muslim  or  even  Muslim  at  all.  Also,  I  learned about Islam from some kind, knowledgeable Muslims andMuslimaswho did not pressure me. Meanwhile, I had begun to Islamize my behaviour  which  did  not  require  huge  change.  I  already avoided consuming  alcohol  and  pig  meat. Also, I always preferred to dress conservatively/modestly and not wear makeup, perfume, or jewellery outside my home. I started to eat only Islamically slaughtered meat. Also during this time I visited a masjid (mosque) in my city for the first time.

Until I discovered Islam, I knew almost nothing about it. I say discovered  because  the  "Islam"  that  I  had  always  heard  about through the mass media is not true Islam. I had always assumed that Islam is just another man-made religion, not knowing that it is the Truth. I had also assumed that a person had to be raised as a Muslim to  be  one.  I  was  not  aware  of  the  fact  that  all  humans  are  born Muslim (in a state of Islam - submitted to the Creator). Like many "Westerners" I associated Islam with the "East" and did not know that Islam is universal in both time and place. However, I never had negative  feelings  about  Islam, al-Hamdulillah.  The  more  knowledge that I acquired about Islam, the more I felt that I too can actually be Muslim as I found that many of the beliefs that I already had were actually Islamic not merely "common sense."

So after familiarizing myself with what Islam is basically about and what are the duties and proper conduct of a Muslim person, as well as thinking and reflecting, I felt ready to accept Islam and live as a Muslima. One day while at home I said the Shahada(declaration of faith)  and  began  to  perform  the  five  daily salawat (prayers), al-Hamdulillah.  That  was  in  February  1993,  several  days  before  thefasting month of Ramadan began. I did not want to miss the fasting this  time!  I  found  the  fasting  to  be  much  easier  than  I  had anticipated; before I fasted I had worried that I might faint. At first there  was  a  bit  of  an  adjustment  period  getting  used to  the  new routine of performing salah and fasting, and I made some mistakes, but  it  was  exciting  and  not  difficult.  I  started  to  read  the  Qur'an (Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation) when I was given one soon after accepting Islam. Before that I had read only excerpts of it in other books. Also in the beginning, I found The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam by Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be a useful guide.

In January 1996 (during Ramadan) I started to wear the Islamic headscarf  (Hijab).  I  realized  that  I  could  not  fully  submit  to  Allah (SWT),  which  is  what  being  Muslim  is  about,  without  wearing  it. Islam  must  be  accepted  and  practised  in  its  entirety;  it  is  not  an "alter-to-suit-yourself"  religion.  Since  becoming  a Muslima I  was aware  that  the  headscarf  is  required  of  Muslim  women  and  I  had intended  to  wear  it  eventually.  I  should  have  worn  it immediately upon  accepting  Islam  but  for  many Muslimas (even  some  from Muslim families) it is not easy to take that step and put it on in a non-Muslim society. It is silly how so many persons get upset over a piece of fabric! Also, it is interesting to note that Christian nuns are never criticized  for  covering  their  heads.  Never  in  my  life  did  I  have negative feelings toward muhajjabas (women who wear Hijab) when I saw them. What made me hesitate to put it on was fearing receiving bad treatment from others, especially family. But we must fear Allah (SWT) only, not others. In the few months before I permanently put on Hijab I started "practising" wearing it. I wore it when I travelled between  my  home  and  the  local masjid on  Fridays  when  I  started attending the jum'a salah (Friday congregational prayer). (Of course, since  becoming  Muslim  I  always  wore  it  during  every  salah).  A couple of weeks prior, in du'a I began asking Allah (SWT) to make it easy for me to wear it.

The day I finally put it on permanently I had reached the point where I felt that I could no longer go out with a bare head, and I thought "tough bananas" if others do not like me wearing it since I alone am accountable for my actions and am required to perform my Islamic duties, and I could never please everyone anyway. Sometimes opposition to Hijab is a control issue: some persons just plainly do not like those who are determined and independent especially if it is their child.

Upon wearing it I immediately felt protected and was finally able to go out and not be the target of stares/leers from men. At first I felt a bit self-conscious but after several weeks I felt completely used to wearing Hijab. Sometimes other persons look puzzled/confused, I think  because  they  are  not  used  to  seeing  pale-faced, blue-eyed Muslimas! By the way, wearing Hijab is da'wah in a way as it draws attention to Islam.

Since  accepting  Islam  I  continue  to  seek  knowledge  about  the Deen (religion)  which  is  a  lifelong  duty  for  all  Muslims--male  and female. Currently, I am learning Arabic and hope to be able to read the  Qur'an  in  Arabic  soon, insha'Allah.  Reading,  discussing  Islam with other Muslims, and the Friday jum'a khutba are all educational. Striving to be as pious as one can be and fighting against one's own evil  traits (jihad  al-nafs) takes  effort  and  is  continuous  and  never ending for Muslims. I find Islam ever-more fascinating, and I enjoy living as a Muslima.



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