“Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge? And He found you lost and guided [you], And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.” (Ad-Duha: 6-8)
How many of us can say that Allah saved us? How many of us can admit to being lost before Allah guided us? How many of us can say that we went from having nothing to having everything? I can! Allah (SWT) blessed me in ways I could not have even imagined, alhamdulillah.
I still remember sitting on my bed, with my head stuffed into a pillow, crying like a baby for my mother. I cried so much and begged for ease, I longed for the presence of my creator. I remember saying “I just want to be with you”. I have sadness in my heart thinking about it now. I felt so alone, so heart broken, so fed up with my way of life! You see my role models were not Khadija (RA) or Aisha (RA) – as a matter of fact I did not have a role model, neither female or male. I was grieving for a loved one, but also grieving for those I never had and it all just consumed me.
At the age of 18 I had moved out into my own flat. I stepped out into the big world, and this was not the first time either. I had to do it but it certainly felt very different, very scary because I was no longer a child – I was now an adult with no support. I spent most of my days chasing after dunya; I was working and studying 3 courses, fitting them all around each other and when I was not working I was busy wasting my money and having fun. I chased dunya so much that it ruined me, but I didn’t know any different, this is what I was told that life was about.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows (respectively). So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
If only I had been told about this hadith earlier, it would have saved me a lot of hardship, Allahualim. I had a lot of blacksmiths in my life who dragged me down and always landed me in worse situations. When you grow up without your elders you tend to hold on to your companions, following them up or down, and that is exactly what I did.
When I was 15 or 16 years old I was sitting outside my friend’s home on the doorstep along with two other friends and an old Asian man with a white beard was walking towards us. I figured he had just come out of the mosque as the mosque was on the same road. We were all sitting there smoking, drinking alcoholic pop drinks, and listening to music loudly. The man went into his home and then came back out and without a word he held out a Qur’an to us. He didn’t even look at us, but we certainly looked at him and at each other, as if to say: “Who will take it from him?” Finally my Muslim friend took the Qur’an. She, let’s call her May, was not a bad Muslim, just not on the path she was needing to be on just yet. The old man walked away, still without a word.
We all looked at my friend, each saying we didn’t want it, so May said she would take it home. In the evening she left without the Qur’an. Look at the decree of Allah. The owner of the house, being a Christian, said she didn’t want it and that I should just take it. I did not think anything of it, so I took that Qur’an home and put it at the back of my wardrobe. I never attempted to read the book, but I also could not throw it away. When I moved house, it moved with me but went straight back into the wardrobe.
Fast forward a few years. There I was in despair at 19 years old, going through so much hardship. I had left my job and dropped out of college. I was lost. I thought to myself there has got to be more to life than this and that is when my search for God began.
I tried to fill that emptiness inside me with anything I could cling to. I started looking into Jehovah’s Witness as I had attended a congregation before, but after a while it just didn’t feel right. I spent most of my time there learning how to convert people instead of connecting with my Creator. I then started attending a Christian church in which there were mainly Europeans attending. I continued attending this gathering for quite a while, I even started their classes during the week for bible study but then again it was all about how to convert people. My last push away from this group was when the priest decided to exorcise me in Sunday congregation. He pressed so hard on my head that I was left with a headache and that was my last visit there!
My neighbour also invited me down to his church, which I did attend but again, I felt nothing. This church was all about singing and dancing. The women would dress up and the men would watch. It was so much about socialising and nothing about connecting with God for my taste. I remember thinking, ‘How can you possibly concentrate with all this music and dancing?’ it didn’t feel respectful towards God; it didn’t feel like worship. My cousin also had her attempt at me. She sat me down and tried to teach me about the Bible, only to fall asleep in front of me, while I was reading out loud to her. This Christianity journey was becoming a dead end to me.
I was getting fed up and was soon back to clubbing again, slowly getting back to my old routine. I got myself another job and started studying again. Things felt a bit calmer, but I still felt incomplete. It was all about the dunya again.
I remember coming home late from a job and my neighbours’ son came over to say hello. He was younger than me and was always hanging around the estate. He asked me how it was going at the church. Feeling embarrassed, I didn’t even want to mention how horribly wrong it was going, especially as he was Muslim, so I stayed quiet. He asked me what I knew about Islam, which was nothing!
Amazingly, in a space of ten minutes this young boy gave me more information about God and Jannah than anyone else did in my whole journey. He intrigued me, and made me want to know more. He said that in Jannah there are rivers of milk and honey, and how there is no pain in paradise. He explained the oneness of God and I was in total agreement with this. Growing up as a Catholic, I never understood the concept of Jesus being God, and was never able to accept it either. He also told me about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
I needed to know more! I began looking into Islam and that is when that Qur’an came out of my wardrobe. My journey with Allah finally began, alhamdulillah. I began visiting my neighbours’ home. A Muslim sister started teaching me about Islam. Eventually I took my shahadah and continued learning more. It felt right, the oneness of God made sense and I had always believed in this, so it completed me.
I had found what I was looking for, but now putting it into practice was the hard bit. I learned how to make wudhu, learned how to pray, and I was reading a lot. Dhikr was my best act. I had come to know it gives you energy, so I was constantly praising Allah throughout the day. I would literally sit down, regardless of what I was doing, and just do five minutes of dhikr. The Fortress of The Muslim was my best friend. I would read all my du’as every day, and I learned a lot from that book. My beautiful Qur’an was my reading companion for both day and night.
I began wearing hijab and then Jilbab, but my friends were still dragging me down, constantly asking me to come out clubbing even with my hijab on! I was getting even more attention with hijab on than without, both good and bad. Things had become increasingly difficult for me to continue practising, it was coming from all directions: family, friends, neighbours and even strangers. I removed my hijab and did not touch the Qur’an for a long time while my old friends were slowly moving back in.
“And Allah invites to the Home of Peace and guides whom He wills to a straight path” (Hud: 25)
Allah knows me better than anyone else, and the only thing that would turn my heart back would be a hardship, a reality check of how horrid life can become if I continued down this path without Islam. One night as I sat in my bed studying for my course unit, my home was silent and everything was so calm. I got up to get some water and as I stepped into my kitchen a gun was shot straight through my window, barely missing my head, whizzing by to hit the wall. I knelt down and curled into a ball, my heart beating so fast. I could not help but panic, I could have been dead! I would have died as a non-believer!
This was my wake-up call. I made a big decision to move out of London in order to start fresh and I did just that. I got away from my old life. I packed up and moved fisabilillah. It was the best decision I had ever made. I put on hijab, jilbab, and niqab, and began gaining knowledge and implementing it. When I first reverted, all I wanted to do was read, do salah and make du’a.
Istighfaar and tahajjud became my favourite acts of worship. I loved talking to my Al-Malik.
I was as an orphan – I grew up without my parents – but Allah has returned them to me after reverting to Islam, alhamdulillah. I had given up my job and a luxury flat that had I spent thousands of pounds on decorating it. Now I had no money, not even a cooker to make my food, but I had chosen to give it up for the sake of Allah and He gave me more in return for my sacrifice. I was so content with the little I had, that it actually felt like I had too much. I was lost and in hardship and Allah guided me, then inspired me to guide others by delivering the beautiful message of Islam through my non-profit IFAM.
Yes, my life changed dramatically. I have everything, but only everything that I need and what Allah has decreed for me, which I am content with. I wouldn’t have any of it if it was not for Islam. Islam changed me not just from the outside but from the inside too. It became my way of life, my strength, my everything. Islam gave me life and a direct link to my Creator. How can I deny the favours of my lord!?
Never despair of the help of your Lord, surely those who seek guidance will find it. Remain patient with yourself, always choose Allah, for surely choosing anything other than Allah will only be a destruction for you.
Take heed from my story and turn to your Lord before time runs out. Nothing in this world is worth losing your connection with your Rabb, without your creator you have nothing.
“By time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Al-’Asr: 1-3)
L.S Rodrigues is born of mixed heritage Portuguese and Angolan. Born in Madeira, she relocated to England in 1994. She is an author with a passion for poetry. She now resides in Wales with her three children and uses her surroundings as a source of inspiration. Visit her at her website:http://www.lsrodrigues.co.uk/
Tahira Naeem shares her story of how Islam brought her the acceptance and self-esteem she was searching for.