Monday, 17 December 2012

Short Convert Stories




Bismillah,
Here are some interesting recounts of some Perth convert sisters' journey's to Islam.

Sister Sonia -

Islam was the last thing that I expected to find at 18 years of age. These were suppose to be the"good years" spent having a "good time". My room mate introduced me to Islam and just the statement that Jesus was not the son of God but rather a prophet...had me sold. I went overnight from total darkness to belief, alhamdulillah.

Islam was immediately my everything, nothing else really mattered not my family, friends nor any of the previous aspirations i had before. Somehow it was an immediate fit...I know that many converts struggle at first, but for me the rest of the world didn't matter I just wanted to implement Islam in every area of my life because i knew wholeheartedly that if I could achieve that my life would undoubtedly be as perfect as it could be...Allah is the best of planners.

I met so many different people from different countries and I think that enhanced my first exposure to Islam...it was such a blessing, Allah replaced anything I had lost/given up from my" previous life" with so many new people etc that I could not complain at all...I always look back fondly at the first few years being Muslim as they were the "good years" and i had so many "good times"..ALHAMDULILLAH

P.S..there were times of hardship for sure especially with my mother...but mashaAllah....after hardship comes ease...tomorrow I am the daughter of the bride (my mum is getting married) so even the hardships I appreciate, because they have made the journey all the more memorable."

Sister Kate -

I'm not a new revert but I'm not an older revert either. I don't have the knowledge I should have (in my eyes). The first 18 months after I became Muslim I still worked in the hospitality industry 40+ hours a week, I had hardly any time to think about what I had done!!!

Then when I went to Egypt I thought it would make me a better Muslim, I don't know why. Because it didn't!! Not Egypt's fault, it was all my fault.

I guess I know now that it doesn't matter where I am, I have to work hard at being a better Muslim.'


Sister Sandy -

I reverted to Islam 9 years ago at the ago of 17 alhamdulilah. Like most Muslims, I had read a lot about it and was in such a hype, I wanted to do everything perfectly, I wore hijab, prayed and then took hijab off only to wear it for good 6 years later.

I have had ups and downs in my convert life and at the end of the day, it has a lot do to with who you hang out/keep in contact with. There weren't many reverts when I reverted and I couldn't (still cant) relate to the North African people who taught me about Islam and helped me through my journey.

I really felt like my Islam had meaning when I got married. What I mean is, I understood how important it was and brought me back to the hype I had when I converted when I decided I was going to be a wife and eventually a Mum and role model to someone.

There have been some lonely and miserable moments when I first arrived in Perth, until I met the Sisters at the Convert Group and felt like I really belonged somewhere. I am proud to say this group has kept me on track and motivates me to want to be a better person and seek knowledge. Also, I truly believe no-one can understand what a convert lady has been through except for another convert.




Sister Emily -

I reverted years ago after learning about Islam through my then boyfriend (now husband) we got married and I too outwardly did all things appropriate including wearing the hijab but for some reason (Allah swt knows best) I didn't actually actively try to learn more about islam.

I then fell off the wagon you could say. Took off the scarf and just lived life (not in a terrible way) but just not properly practicing. I felt like an outsider in both realms. My western friends I couldn't relate to that well anymore and any Arab community members (hubby is Lebanese) I felt judged and intimidated by (not their fault my own insecurities).

It's only recently since I realised that my son is at such a good age to be soaking up information that I have started reading and praying and actually practicing and a positive step was joining a covnert support group and feeling surrounded by like minded people. Also seeing positive role models has been helpful for me as well.



Sister Tania -

After reverting mid 2006 I copied a lot of the outward things Muslims did & it felt good but I think it was more a "belonging" feeling. I went up & down with a lot of outward actions but was void of a lot of necessary knowledge like praying in Arabic oppose to English. As time went on & I came to really understand the importance of prayer I felt ashamed to admit I'd been "Muslim" for so long but didn't know some of the fundamentals.

So basically after a realization of "what If one of my babies died & I wouldn't know how to pray for them at the Janazah" I started my journey to really understanding & learning about Islam. It's been a long & slow journey for me that's gone up & down but Alhumdulillah thanks to some very supportive, PATIENT, beautiful people I feel firm on my revert journey!!!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Rethinking Education

Bismillah



This documentary is one of my very favourites about Education and I highly encourage you to watch it and challenge your current thoughts about the current education system.

It's time we started to rethink our approach and the world's approach towards the education of the next generation.

This documentary raises many interesting questions and also shows the benefits and successes provided by schools that take an 'alternative' approach to education.

"We Are the People We've Been Waiting For"
http://vimeo.com/8311189
Enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Youth and Religion



Subhanallah, it's great to see such a young Muslim so educated and convinced about the truth of Islam and belief in Allah! Mashallah Tabarakallah!


By Hadiyah Stephens
The 16 year old author of The Written Word Blog


~ Why do you believe what you believe? ~

How could I not? I’ve read about other religions in depth and I’ve studied Islam extensively. Through my research I’ve always found myself drawn to Islam. It’s ‘right’ for me. Any issue or question or problem I face I can be sure to find the answer in Islam; whether it is in the Qur’an or in the Hadith and Sunnah. I’m confident in my beliefs and I know that they will continue to serve me in my everyday life.

~ Who has influenced your beliefs? ~

My parents have played a huge part in developing my belief in Islam. They started me in the path of Islam and have also encouraged and cultivated a deep love of reading, researching and exploring not only Islam, but other religions such as Christianity. Because of this I would say that I’m stronger in my faith than I ever would have been on my own. I’m thankful for this every day.

~ Have you always believed this or were you ‘converted’? ~

All children are born innocent and as a Muslim. They grow up yearning for a chance to learn about God. It’s their parents, guardians and role models that shape them into any particular religion. My parents converted shortly after I was born and as a result they were particularly dedicated in my siblings and my religious education. As far as I’m concerned I’ve always practiced Islam, I’ve always been a Muslim and I’ve always believed in my religion.

~ Why do you think young people are losing interest in religion? ~

I think the reason that the youth are losing interest in religion because there has been less of a focus in teaching religion in children than there was say 40 years ago. During that time religion was taught in school, practicing religion was allowed freely and most of all it was respected. Religion was a socially accepted life choice.
     Now strict laws have been passed in order ‘to protect children’s rights and prevent indoctrination’. These laws inhibit the practice of religion, the discovery of faiths and their cultures and almost shun away the idea of a religion and a god. Perhaps even more devastating is the loss of self-awareness. Children and youth these days don’t have an idea for how they are, and what their purpose is. You can see repercussions of this in the youth of today. There is no interest in religion, no knowledge of respect and no desire to learn. Because of this the discipline and world knowledge that comes with religion has fallen away. I do believe the problems with the youth today stems from the lack of religion and the sense that every action has a consequence that will affect them.

~ Is there more that religions can do to increase Gen Y (youth) involvement? ~

To attract the younger generation’s religion could take itself out of the church or the temple or the mosque and specifically target the youth. Although these buildings are extremely important I believe their place is in the second stage of someone’s religious journey. Firstly they need to feel like this religion has something for them. In order to get the youth interested in religion it needs to appeal to them, it needs to speak to them in their ‘language’ as such.
     Some examples would be interactive workshops, tours of religious youth centres, meetings with some age-relevant people from different faiths and through mediums that specifically target them as the youth. I really feel that to attract the younger generations religious establishments need to speak to the youth’s interests and likes, not just the wider community as a whole.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Back to Basics Reflection



An inspiring reflection from a 15 year old member of the Back to Basics Islamic Studies Class 2012.





My Journey

This class is amazing, astonishing, astounding, stunning, awesome, awe-inspiring, sensational, remarkable, stupendous, phenomenal, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, wondrous and I could just keep going on and on about it but my thesaurus ran out of words

Well you see I had nothing better to do on Friday night so I was like what the paradise!
Ok. Thats not true, Im sorry I lied

The real reason is that I find it so sad that so many converts are more interested or knowledgeable about Islam than actual born Muslims. I didnt want to become one of them. I wanted to seek more knowledge about my religion and understand it.

This class has truly opened my eyes and ruined my life. Let me correct your thoughts, I mean that last sentence in a good way. Reality has struck me, my virtual bubble has disappeared. Reality is staring me right in the face beckoning me to make a wrong move. And to be honest its freakier than I expected.

It made me realize that you must face reality head on and that Islam is the only right way to do it.
It has taught me things that are completely beyond me, things that are so related to our society now that it astounds me.
One thing that had a profound impact on me was the statement, You are whom you hang out with. The class also made me aware that my Ibadah isnt up to scratch

At the end of the day we all want the same thing out of life, which is Inshallah to enter Jannah. 

Jazakillah sisters

Amira


Social Justice & Faith


Bismillah

The importance of social justice in Islam cannot be underestimated or overlooked. Please take some time to listen and learn from one of my favourite speakers!





Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ramadhan at Parliament House!

Bismillah

This speech was written by Semra Candemir, who as a representative of her school and the Muslim community, presented it to some of Perth's most well known politicians at Parliament House during the month of Ramadhan. Seventeen year old Semra is a talented young writer and speaker and is currently completing her Year 12 studies.

What Ramadan means to me…

Growing up in a culturally Islamic family, Ramadan is something we did once a year for the duration of one month. I had no idea why we fasted, for what purpose or meaning, it was just something we had to do.

As I grew up I started to question why we fasted and why was it necessary to starve ourselves throughout the day, to give up something so delicious and something I did so often!! Eat.
               
Day after day wake up when it’s dark, eat, starve wait for sunset and eat! It just didn’t make sense.  As I got older I started to understand my religion more and why the actions we performed and the things we sacrificed, was for a purpose. A purpose that seemed maybe difficult to fathom at first, but when you really start to grasp the meaning of our religion then everything made perfect sense.

I have later learnt that starving ourselves was not the purpose of Ramadan, rather it was sacrifice. Sacrifice is something everyone does. Sacrifice for your family, sacrifice for your community, friends or partner, and even your job.  It is implemented into our lives day in and day out. There is always a purpose for sacrifice whether it is for a spiritual, material, emotional or physical matter.

So for me and many Muslims like me, Ramadan is a sacrifice for my spiritual well being, for me to re-connect with why we truly are here on this earth. To search for the true meaning of life. Ramadan allows me to push my day-to-day issues aside for one month and truly allow myself to achieve the goals that I’ve always wanted to. This month allows me to open up and strengthen my faith, to clean my slates and refresh my mind, heart and soul.  It’s a month for me to dwell in its blessings and reap the rewards. To give as much as possible and eventually lighten my burden. To submit to god and strive for his sake, to sacrifice for his sake, to give up what we love for his sake, and for his sake only.  Not because we should feel forced to by society or family or friends, but from deep within our hearts we should want to sacrifice because of the love we feel for our creator.

Ramadan is also a month to strengthen community ties, a month for everyone, a month where old friendships are strengthened and new ones are made. Not only are we enjoying the delicious food but we are able to sit side by side and enjoy our company or share our life experiences and unite in universal values with family, friends, neighbours or workmates. When there are many common bridges between us, it is mistaken to stress a few differences. It is coming together along with our common values and references, while acknowledging the variety of belief and practice, giving priority to understanding, compassion, empathy, dialogue and respect for others’ rights.

Ramadan is a month of unity, fellowship, which brings people from all races, all cultures and of all ages together united as one, to serve for one purpose. Ramadan is the month for me to focus. To stop useless worldly matters and to sacrifice bad habits, to give up time wasters, and allow me to turn to god and worship him like he ought to be worshiped. It’s a time for me to increase my faith and improve on my character, it is a month for me to earn rewards and socialize with people who are like minded, striving for the same goal and that is to hopefully one day live a worthy life. Ramadan is not a month for me to starve myself because I have to, or because its what everyone else is doing, it has a lot more meaning to me now, and I realize how blessed I really am to be able to live through Ramadan, year after year.

Thankyou.




Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Guided BACK to Islam!


Bismillah

This short documentary and lecture by sister Roya Shokatford shares her experience of finding Islam despite being a born Muslim who was living the life of riches, beauty and material success. It is followed by a discussion on the challenges for women who choose to juggle both motherhood AND a career.

It is a very inspiring journey that reminds us of the power of the Quran followed by wise words of advice for the working mothers Mashallah.

If I find the clearer full version of her documentary I will post it Inshallah. Likewise, if you find it first, please let me know!




About Raya:
"Former mini skirt wearing model, real estate mogul, and now Islam activist, Raya Shokatfard is many things. Judgmental and assuming, she is not. With a warm smile, she recounted the successes and deterrences of her life to a group of American students.
“If I had to do it all again, I would do it a million times,” Raya said.
What Raya is referring to is her life–a life of searching for her personal belief, shifting from one religion to another, finding her way through two divorces and accepting a strict muslim lifestyle, outlined by her second husband. In her words,  though she was obeying her husband, covering herself with the hijab (veil), and completely switching to a conservative lifestyle despite her secular upbringing, she was doing it all to ultimately please Allah.
This is a woman who has achieved an Associates of Arts degree (California), a Bachelors of Science in communication and journalsim (Oregon), a Master’s degree in journalism from American University of Cairo, and from the same university a Master’s diploma in TV journalism. Despite her avid academic accomplishments, it is her personal story that is the most riveting aspect of her personhood, and the amount of experiences she has had in her 62 years.
Taking a hiatus from Islam, Raya found that although she had everything she could ever want (money, career, connections) she somehow still felt lacking in something, empty though the world was literally at her fingertips. This is something we hear people say so often. This “emptiness” is frequently expressed, but just dealt with, and many people never go deep enough, or never search themselves fully to discover what exactly is happening.
Raya is the first person I have ever encountered who has felt the pull of emptiness and actually broke away from her comfort and security to find out what could satisfy her.
First, Raya dappled in Hinduism. “I couldn’t do reincarnation, there were too many gods too,” she said of the religion.
Next, Raya turned to Buddhism, identifying with the Zen aspect of the religion, but again, having certain reservations about worshiping Buddha among others.
Christianity was something of a resting spot for Raya. She immersed herself in Christianity for about seven years where she joined a Seventh Day Adventist church and even studied theology. Yet again, she encountered problems, not only understanding the Trinity, but trying to make sense of three supposed gods that acted as one. Complexity seemed to be the name of the game, no matter what.
Raya ended up coming full circle back to Islam. She read the Qur’an.
“It was so plain and clear, I felt I found God here,” she said.
Allah is the only god and the rest of the religion felt clarified and accessible to Raya. Her second husband was an accomplished Suni scholar and guided her in texts and spiritual understanding. For that she is forever grateful.
“If I did not marry him, I would have none of this,” Raya said. “I believe he was sent to me by Allah.”
Raya is not an overzealous muslim. She is not preachy and has no intention to push what she has found on anyone else. She has found a peace that is evident in her countenance and the manner in which she speaks. She is gentle and understanding, a brilliant speaker with an even more brilliant mind. You cannot help but gravitate toward her.
Recounting her choice to obey her Egyptian husband in his desire for her to wear the hijab, she admits it was very difficult, but worth every moment.
“It was a test, to please God,” she said. “There are many layers [to the veil] and you can’t breathe. But, these women will never complain because they are doing it for God.”
Similarly, another sort of test for Raya and other muslim women is the practice of polygamy.

Raya’s second husband had two other wives living in different countries when she was married to him. She never felt jealousy or anxiety, knowing that her husband was the best man for these other women, that he would help and guide them no matter what.
“Polygamy is jihad for women–we give up rights for Allah,” she said trying to paint a picture of her sacrifice so that our Westernized minds could better understand. In brief, jihad is designated informally as the six th obligation of Islam, in addition to the five pillars of Islam that are expected to be carried out in the lifetime of each muslim. Loosely translated it means “struggle.” Jihad includes a struggle against the self or of an enemy. In Western media, the word has grown to solely infer an act of war with a strong connotation of violence.

This is not the meaning that Raya intends to use.
Raya sees polygamy as a struggle of her self. “It’s like fighting the desire to have a husband all for yourself,” she said. But, you can see no fight, no struggle, no internal conflict present when you speak with Raya.
And, to be clear, I am not epitomizing or glorifying Raya. This is who she is and what she believes. It is as simple as that.
On Tuesday (May 19th) she starts her position as editor of the “Reading Islam” section of Islam Online. She has materialized her years of public speaking and outreach through this position with the one goal of allowing people (muslim and non) to fully grasp and understand the religion. She is not biased and comes with no soap box for her opinion. She professes the truth about Islam and only wishes for eyes to be opened.
Raya is a unique figure. Within Islam she is an open book, hindered by nothing and open to everything. Aside from religion, she is a mother, an advocate, and a resource with arms extended and a willingness that surpasses my understanding."





Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Beauty of Difference is....

Bismillah

This is a poem I wrote as a guest post on the wonderful Reflections From a Redhead blog.

Enjoy.

The Beauty of Difference is......

The beauty of difference is that we were not all created the same,
We are different in our looks, cultures, personality and name.
If we were all alike, what a boring world it would be,
I would be like you and you would be just like me.
When we are all different, we can learn many things about each other,
And with the insight gained we can respect one another.
God made us all unique, we are original on our own,
Our individual beauty is found within us alone.
From the specks of colour in our eyes,
to the curves of our nose,
to our one and only fingerprint
And shape and size of our toes.
We all have may differences, but it really shouldn’t matter,
We should be protecting each other’s hearts rather than causing them to shatter.
God made us into many nations, races and tribes*
So that we’d get to know each other all throughout our lives.
Not one human being in existence ever chose their looks or race,
What we have was decreed by God, who is indeed so full of Grace.
You see everything we are and were born to be is all with thanks to Him,
We’ve got to resist pressures from society and dissatisfaction from within.
The same thing goes for anyone you know who might be different from you,
Whilst they may look, act or speak very foreign, remember they are human beings too.
God doesn’t judge your outer appearances, rather He judges what’s in your heart.**
Don’t worry about looks, focus on character and you’re off to a great start.
The truest of beauty is the goodness that resides within us all,
And if we put aside all of our differences, this goodness will unite us all.
When you next look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What do you see?”
Say, “Indeed I see someone truly beautiful, I can see goodness residing in me.”


You can also read another guest post by brother Abdul Mateen on the same topic here.