Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Guided BACK to Islam!


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."

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