For a revert, there are certain moments of pain and panic when you realise that to come closer to Allah (SWT) you must give up another thing that has stayed with you from your days of ignorance. There is a quote that says, ‘sacrifice is never loss’ and, though this is certainly true, sometimes when what you’re sacrificing is so dear to you, you can’t help but feel like you are losing. For me, this sacrifice was not giving up eyebrow tweezers, bacon or listening to the radio; it was something far more personal.
I started practising in July 2012, and it is no coincidence that my deen began to develop as my final year of university came to an end. I graduated in this month, began practising in this month, and it was in this month that I started to realise that sometimes there is no practical way of keeping certain people in your life without jeopardising your religion. It was also in this month that my parents and I visited my old university residence once more to collect the last of my belongings. On entering the house, it was evident that my four housemates had partied the night before we arrived and were recovering from hangovers. Looking tired and sickly, they slouched on the sofas with junk food wrappers littering the floor around them.
Though they greeted me with warmth, I could not help but feel a coolness towards them. A sense of shame came over me – shame that my kind, pious parents had offered to help me but now had to see my friends looking this way. Even today, I can vividly remember this feeling of deep discomfort and how I was itching to grab my things and leave that house behind me.
Recently, I decided to meet up with them. After the picture I have illustrated, this probably seems like a strange and foolish decision, but I suppose I just missed my friends. Perhaps, in some naive way, I thought that seeing them after so long would be a chance for me to give some subtle daw’ah; the meeting would also act as a “coming out”, explaining my new found faith to them in a mature and level-headed way.
My heart leapt when I saw them, we embraced and laughed and gushed excitedly about finally seeing each other after six months, though it felt as if no time had passed since then. But, sadly, just as quickly as it had leapt up in my chest on seeing them, my heart dropped into my stomach when they ordered their drinks. I was stuck. Wedged in at the booth with my friends drinking wine around me, I laughed nervously at the crude jokes that earlier in the year I would have found hysterically funny.
This was the one last push I needed, the signal that I had changed, that although I had slipped so easily back into the clothes and make-up that I used to wear (and so easily out of the hijab that I had slowly become accustomed to), I was not the same person that once fit so easily into this group.
There is a hadith in which our Prophet (SAW) said: ‘When a good deed becomes a source of pleasure for you and an evil deed becomes a source of disgust for you, then you are a believer.’ (Tirmidhi)
With this in mind, Alhamdullilah, I guess that would make me a believer; it took me this experience to realise this.
I looked around at my friends, the people that I had taken on as my family for three years whilst living away from my real home, and I was both pained and relieved to find that being with them did, as the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘prick my conscience’ (Tirmidhi), and therefore it would have to be time to let them go. How to do that, on the other hand, will be another test entirely.
I am sorry if my anecdotes come across as blunt or sad, but truths are not always happy, and I believe that allowing others to see our struggles may perhaps shed a new, positive light on their own. In this case, my personal struggle and the task I have ahead of me has made me thankful that these friends that threaten my Aakhirah are all that I have to give up; I am not giving up something far more difficult to let go of, such as family or a fatal addiction.
It is also important to note that the portrait I have painted of these people is an unpleasant one, but I should make it clear that these hungover students were my friends. Though I dislike what they do now, I liked them as people – sweet, funny and intelligent girls that I had chosen to spend time (and even live) with. There is always a reason as to why we choose to be friends with the people we do. I was in a certain place when I met them, and now I am in a different one.
Unfortunately, we cannot always take those that are close to us on the journeys we embark upon; you fill your luggage with the things you need and, sometimes, the things you want must be left behind.
Oh Allah (SWT), lighten this journey for us and make its distance easy …
Meltem Baykaner graduated from the University of East Anglia in July 2012 with a degree in English Literature. On moving back home to London after three years of studying in Norwich, she began practising Islam, and until recently, worked as a Teachers Assistant at an Islamic primary school in South East London. Her interests include fitness, reading classic novels and writing articles; her true aspiration is to be a writer.