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Face to faith - Getting spiritual in syria

Face to faith - Getting spiritual in syria

Issue 8 Nov / Dec 2004

First Published on November/December 2004

To access the issue page, click here 


I am the youngest of three children. My parents are agnostic, my brother is more of a socialist and an atheist, and my sister is into feminism. I went to a Church of England Comprehensive School where I was made to think about religion through RE Lessons. I discovered Islam when I was sixteen. Whilst I was in my mid teens, I found myself, as you do living in London, exposed to various influences such as the music scene, drugs and alcohol. A couple of my friends had abortions which they seemed not to care about. Like many young people, I felt a terrible emptiness and had many insecurities. These were not helped by the pressures of having to conform to media moulds. In magazines, images of women are paint brushed and digitally re-mastered but you don’t think about that when you’re a teenager. I had seen what my friends had been through and I didn’t want to go down that road. I began to ask: What am I doing here? What is the point of my life?

I withdrew into myself. I frequented the library and read voraciously about various religions. At the time, Tom Cruise and other celebrities had made Buddhism fashionable. I was vastly influenced by feminism and the attitude of ‘Women are oppressed’. When I converted, the first thing my sister said was that Islam is oppressive to women. We argued a great deal. There are so many general misconceptions about Islam. My family did not know any Muslims and never knew any different. At the time I was unable to back up my beliefs and that encouraged me to study. Now, four and a half years later, my sister is the first to defend Islamic beliefs, even at family gatherings!

It was not until I became Muslim and went to Syria that I familiarised myself with the Qu’ran, Tajweed and hadith. Having a religious book and following the teachings of a Prophet was alien to me because I had been brought up to believe anyone can have a relationship with God. They can be sleeping around, doing drugs, injecting themselves with heroin but can believe there is a God. I asked myself, is that it? Is that as far as I take it? I have a relationship with my creator; can I take it a step further and ask what he wants from me in return? People who are sincere in wanting to better themselves, that’s a step to be taken - whether that means that they follow Christianity, Buddhism or Humanism.

When I first came to Islam I thought you had to be a certain way. I thought I used to be like this and this is Islam so I can’t be like that. I didn’t realise that there is no problem with being white, English, a Londoner, a girl and Muslim. There is so much in the newspapers at the moment about Islam and the West and whether the two mix. They can and they do for me as I am comfortable with who I am.

There was a huge uproar when I told my family that I was about to take my Shahada. I already felt that I was a Muslim but I knew that the Shahada was something I had to do to make it official.

 My dad is very laid back. He was the first per- son to see me in the hijab. We met for coffee and we spent the first ten minutes in silence. Eventu- ally, I said,

 “Dad, I’m wearing something on my head.”

“I know that.”

“Don’t you have a problem with it?”

“No it’s like football, you support whatever team you want.”

 My parents have been extremely understanding. In the beginning, my mother once asked, “Do you have to make it so apparent that you are a Muslim?” But I explained to her that that was the point. I am proud to be a Muslim and wear- ing the hijab is part of Islam. Islam opened up a thirst for travel and knowledge. I was inspired by Syria which I visited by divine accident. I joined a close friend of mine who went there to study. The other reason was that I had memorised Du’wah in transliteration but never understood what they meant. I wanted to understand the mean- ing. I eventually enrolled into the University of Damascus to study Arabic. Syria changed eve- rything. Syria is not perfect but to me it is what Islam should be. The men and women interact with dignity. Syrians are so in touch with the spiritual side of Islam whereas people here are always debating spirituality. If your religion is not based on spirituality then what is it based on? It’s not based on laws. Laws come after the spir- itual side. One of the greater problems we have and why we find ourselves in the situation that we are in is because we don’t have good morals and behaviour with each other. A Muslim should be hayan layan, which means soft and laid back in Arabic. I gave up music but I don’t miss it! I discovered dhikrs which I love being part of. The whole atmosphere of the mosque is so charged that you feel the intensity. You leave the mosque changed. Other dhikrs are based on pure joy. When you come from those dhikrs you leave on a rush because you experience such an uplifting sensation that your feet might leave the floor! Sometimes I can do that in my bedroom and completely let myself go. Some say this is forbid- den but if you can be so happy from remember- ing Allah to the point that you are overwhelmed, surely that is something beautiful.


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1 Comment



29 Nov 10, 03:46

well I am happy you found the beautiful heart of Islam Alhamdoulillh

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