“Aminata, wouldn’t it be easier to leave your house in something you can always be comfortable praying in?” Sister Zaynab, who I had met at the masajid at the beginning of my journey, would say. It was a subtle reminder that I should wear hijab and adhere to its conditions that I didn’t know existed.
As I stood on the balcony enjoying the fresh breeze and silence that accompanies post-Fajr prayer, looking up at the sky and seeing the sun seeping through confirming dawn gave me chills. Is this really the same sun that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) thought was his creator? Is it the same sun which is still serving its purpose by ‘going down’ at dusk and ‘coming up’ at dawn?
As started reflecting on my own existence with a smile on my face, I caught myself uttering the word “Alhamdulillah” multiple times.
I took a trip down memory lane revisiting two years ago when I often questioned religion. I needed to understand why I was a Muslim. Simply saying “…because I was born one”, stopped being satisfactory to me and it became important that I dug deeper. Growing up practicing Islam didn’t mean I understood the fundamentals of the religion. Having read about the existence of an afterlife, I however, concluded that my purpose in this life was to avoid going to hell. But was there a prerequisite for entering Paradise? Have I met those requirements?
As I continued upon this path, more questions began to arise. As humans, especially young children, it is natural to question why living things die, if there is an afterlife, what our purpose in life is, who created us and how the world came into being. The creation to me was sufficient proof that a creator does exist. Therefore, it made sense to conclude and accept that there indeed must be a Supreme Being somewhere, controlling the universe. Calling out to a Supreme Being when in danger or need and the revelations which the Prophets received, all seemed quite intriguing. Therefore, I decided it was time to read the Qur’an and books of commentary to understand the teachings of Allah (SWT).
Reading one of the shortest surahs in the Qur’an, Surah Al-Ikhlas, gave me almost all the answers I needed. The revelation of the surah occurred when the people of Makkah approached Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and asked him who Allah (SWT) is. Allah (SWT) forcefully and eloquently proclaimed His absolute oneness, which is the foremost and fundamental doctrine of Islam in four brief sentences. Muhammad (SAW) rejected all beliefs associating Allah (SWT) with helpers and confirmed His existence, which is the central belief of all other revealed religions. He narrated His absolute oneness. He had neither parents, nor children, nor partners. Subhan Allah! The affirmation and negation expressed above proving the uniqueness of Allah (SWT), is not however limited to just this surah, it has also been narrated in many other ayahs in the Qur’an.
Being certain of the words in the Qur’an, which I have accepted open heartedly, opened my heart to the teachings of Islam and the mercifulness of Allah (SWT). I steadily began to notice signs of Allah’s (SWT) existence. These signs ranged from things as little as the beauty of flowers, to the birth of man and how we started off as a drop of semen and a microscopic egg. Below is a couple of ayahs from the Qur’an which made me ponder on His existence so that we may all share my experience and reap its blessings Insha Allah.
“If you are not subjugated, then return if you are truthful.” (Al-Waqi’ah :86-87)
Which basically means ‘if you think you are not under the submission or control of anyone, then bring back life if you are truthful’.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens as rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for people who use reason.” (Al-Baqarah :164)
It finally added up and I felt my life now had a purpose! “There is no deity to be worshipped, except Allah (SWT)”. He is the sole creator of everything, from the insects to the mountains. Allahu Akbar! For He is indeed, the Creator of the creation. Worshipping Allah (SWT) as a primary goal or aim in life will provide one with everything they need to succeed both in this life and the next.
“Islam” in the Arabic language means “total submission and obedience to the will of Allah” (SWT). The status quo (Muslim) is retained as long as the person continues to adhere to divine injunctions with willingness and consistency. This submission, through the declaration of the shahada, required me to leave acts Allah (SWT) strictly forbade and hold firmly to those acts He loved. An act of worship as a Muslim, is not limited to performing all five daily prayers but, includes helping the needy, feeding the poor, giving thanks and praise to Allah (SWT), being kind to our parents, neighbours, animals and the list goes on. To be honest, it was quite daunting at first as it felt like a lot to do in the beginning, but alhamdulillah, I found it manageable which just proves that if one takes the first steps towards pleasing Allah (SWT), He will make it easy without them even realising.
Adding testification that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the final messenger, prompted me to read his Seerah and the stories of the great women that were around him. A key attribute I picked up was shyness/modesty (haya) as it plays a vital role in the lives of Muslims and is also a very important part of our iman for as stated in the following hadith:
Narrated by Abu Huraira (RA): The Prophet (SAW) said, “Faith (belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts) and Haya is a part of faith.” (Bukhari) My character started improving and my mode of dressing began to change gradually.
“Aminata, wouldn’t it be easier to leave your house in something you can always be comfortable praying in?” Sister Zaynab, who I met at the masajid at the beginning of my journey,would say. It was a subtle reminder that I should wear hijab and adhere to its conditions that I hadn’t known existed. I did not grow up wearing the hijab. In fact, I did not know of its importance before reading the Qur’an. For some reason, I always thought it was part of the Arabian culture but now I am able to distinguish culture from religion. However, I admired every Muslim girl in a long black flowy abaya made of nidha fabric, which I consider to have ‘a nice finish’. In my opinion, every Muslim girl needs a simple basic black abaya. It is comfortable and meets conditions of a woman’s dress code according to the sunnah, so why not?
Hearing the peaceful greeting of “Assalamu ‘alaikum” whenever I walk past people wearing hijab which made me identifiable as a Muslim, it brought so much joy and comfort to my heart. It however, had its ups and downs. I initially started off with adding a head tie/ turban to my attire, to now wearing long flowy attires trying to meet the conditions of hijab according to the Qur’an and sunnah whenever I am out or when in the presence of a non-mahram. The temptation I faced at this stage, led me to live a more private life although this is not a requirement. The ayah of the Qur’an, “But as for he who feared the standing before his Lord and restrained the soul from [his] desire, then indeed, Paradise will be his refuge.” (An-Nazi’at :40-41) was enough motivation to look for ways to control the passion of my desires, which is the biggest battle anyone can testify to. Amazingly, I did not, for once, feel oppressed. The love for my Creator and clinging onto the sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was all what my heart desired. Although I haven’t reached my goal, it is paramount to know that as humans, we are not perfect and slow progress is better than no progress. Departing from my old lifestyle to now being modest is something I just couldn’t have fathomed happening. Indeed Allah (SWT) guides whom He pleases. Alhamdulillah!
‘’Yamooqalib al quloob thabbit qalbi ala deenik’’ is a supplication taught by our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as a believer should never feel safe but always ask for guidance. It translates, “Oh turner of hearts, keep my heart firm upon your religion”. After all, Shaytan also has a goal, which is to try and deviate us from the right path.
I ask Allah (SWT) to guide us all and our families till the end of time. Ameen!
Aminata Salla is a Gambian-born Muslim and a legal advisor living in the UK. She discovered the beauty of Islam in her adult years and hopes to share her experience to inspire other Muslims. She blogs at www.minasmemoir.com.