Umm Ayyoub was born into a Muslim family but woke up to her religion when she entered university. Prior to that, she thoughtlessly went through the motions of being a Muslim. She had attended Qur’an memorisation lessons, yet she found herself struggling to even read Surah An-Nas properly. Refusing to accept her situation, Umm Ayyoub decided she wanted to turn her life around. She began to study about Islam in detail, though her family didn’t see why. When her father passed away, it was a turning point. They needed her knowledge to cope.
She continually made du’a to Allah to open her doors for learning perhaps travelling abroad and studying at Um Al Qura University in Mecca. After years of du’a, Allah (SWT) was about to deliver His plan.
A young man came to her family interested in marriage. Umm Ayyoub by this time had finished teacher training and was doing on-the-job training. She had clear cut goals: “I had certain boxes that had to be ticked,” said Umm Ayyoub “and they were almost all Islamic-based.” The young man sat quietly while Umm Ayyoub outlined her plans for studying. At that point she wanted to study everything: Qur’an, fiqh, aqeedah. After she finished her presentation, he didn’t ask any questions and left. She wondered if that was good sign.
She prayed Salat Al-Istikharah, asking Allah (SWT) for whatever was best. The young man later told Umm Ayyoub that he didn’t ask questions because he liked everything he had heard. After she accepted his proposal, he was offered jobs abroad and asked her to choose from them. She chose Saudi Arabia. To this day he continues his unwavering support. May Allah (SWT) reward him for each and every letter she learns and teaches.
Prior to marriage, Umm Ayyoub had never been away from her close-knit family. In Jeddah she was alone without friends. Everything was strange. She didn’t know her way around, and Saudi was not the Islamic Utopia she was expecting. She cried a lot at first.
Her biggest mistakes were not finding a support group straight away or investigating options for studying in Jeddah. Um Al Qura in Makkah proved to be too far away. “The first year was experimental,” she says. Eventually she found Dar El Huda, an excellent tajweed school with a section for non-Arab women. She went from two nights a week to intensive daytime studies the following year. It changed her life. She will be attending level 4 next year.
Learning tajweed is hard work but her recitation has completely improved. She has also completed a course in Qaa’idah an-Nooraaniyyah (an Arabic reading proficiency technique) and due to her high marks, will join their training program for teachers. She aspires to get her ijaza for the memorisation of the Jazariyyah (a lengthy Arabic poem containing all of the tajweed rules) and memorising the entire Qur’an.
Focusing on Qur’an instead of several different areas of study was what she did right. “Qur’an is our main source of guidance, focusing on it has been one of the best things I have ever done,” says Umm Ayyoub. Also, she discovered that studying while single was easier than after marriage. But it was also easier with a new baby rather than being pregnant and constantly feeling sick. “You never get more time you only get less,” says Um Ayoub, “so don’t delay!”
Allah (SWT) answered her du’a beyond her dreams. She has a supportive husband and like-minded supportive friends. Umm Ayyoub feels that she has a responsibility to return to England and spread the knowledge to her community. “It wouldn’t be right if I just stayed home and kept this all to myself. Allah would ask me why I hadn’t shared my gift.”
Ann (Umameer) Stock reverted to Islam 27 years ago and lives back and forth between Cairo and Jeddah with her Egyptian husband. The Middle East has been home for over 24 years. She has seven children and eight grandchildren – Alhamdulillah.