I am a Muslim and I have been one for the last 26 years of my life, However, for the first 20+ years of my life I had lived my life quite far from the Tauhid concept of Islam that I know today. I failed to see Allah in every step that I had taken; I failed to see His love when I look at the sky, the trees, oceans, mountains and animals that I see (including the lizards which I once hated). I had had enemies- people whom I hated, people I backstabbed, backbit, and laughed at for I felt that they looked or sounded funny. I failed to see that we are all one and we are all brothers and sisters who must not hurt each other for the sake of Allah, for we share the same soul, we share something amazing that is we breathe the same name that is Allah Almighty in each of our breath.
Throughout those years I also failed to see that everything which happened to me had no other reasons except for Allah wanted it to happen that way. I had grown accustomed to the belief that we get something because we work for it. I was in fact brought up in a situation which it made me believe that life worked that way. I became a person who strived hard for what I wanted in life. I was lucky most of the time because what I planned was similar to what Allah had planned for me. But you see, when I was too often fed with what I wanted, I really thought I had it all in my hand. Do not get me wrong here, brothers and sisters, in this life, we have to work hard to achieve what we want but the most important thing we have to remember is that, it is not our action or hard work which causes something to be achieved or happen, but it is Allah’s will.
I became one of those Muslims who mixed up the cultures and customs of my race that is Malay with the teachings of Islam. But when I think about it now, I could say that I was a Muslim with a disjointed faith. I prayed and I read the Holy Quran without really knowing what I was doing for real. Sadly until now, I think most of us are still stuck in such era. I lack the core and the foundation of Islamic teaching which was supposed to enable me to learn more about the religion which I embraced from babyhood.
In school, the Islamic Studies which is a compulsory subject to be learnt in order to teach us, Muslim students also did not teach such thing. The syllabus discussed Islam on surface level and focused more on displaying the pillars of Islam and pillars of Iman without really making us digest the whole concept. We were told about the restrictions and to do’s and don’ts in Islam like why we have to cover ourselves and why we have to pay attention to how we communicate and act around non-muhrim (people whom you can marry) people however we were not explained in details the reasons behind it to the fact that we could see how perfect and beautiful Islam is.
In fact, the religion was taught as a distant subject or concept which does not blend or mix with other areas in life like Science, Maths, History etc when the truth is that it is the foundation of the life that we live in. Without religion as a compass to guide in all our steps in life, we would lose balance and go astray for we have no vision and idea of what we live for and where we are heading towards. Any human being with a clear mind and heart can see this clearly. What is a life without goal and why are we created if death is the end. Humans are not created for fun. Therefore school years passed by without having Islam leaving a big impact in my life though I love my religion, and I would like to know more about it but it was just….a religion.
When I was in college I became a person with a confused and distinct personality. I would join the religious activities as I was curious and thank God because He has soften my heart to feel very at ease with such activities; I would go to musolla (‘surau’) on Thursdays and Tuesday for they would have tazkirah (reminding one another) session with Ustaz or some other brothers and sisters to talk about Islam. Then, I would make sure to join and listen attentively if they had any talk about Islam in college too…but my biggest problem was that part from praying 5 times a day and attending those activities, I still kept my wild side and fancy lifestyle as a city girl as usual. The connection was still unseen or maybe I did not have the strength to practice what I heard but as far as I remember, though I did not really live my life according to Sunnah and teachings of Islam, it never crossed my mind that I was doing the right thing. I always knew that, there’s a better way to live life and to be calm but did not know how to start for I had lived as a Convent girl for too long that to look good, cool, spend extravagantly and to flourish myself with the world and its filling had become my middle name.
Some of my friends found my behavior to be bizarre and very unexpected but to be honest I found theirs to be even more bizarre as from the outside they look like they would be interested with such activities but they showed no interest and some did not even try and make their effort to attend. At that time, I had a hard time rationalizing what I see with reality. There, I leant that, what you see does not necessarily what you get and that many people out there practice Islam based on what they inherit from their parents too that is taqlid. And I do not know if there was anyone really adopt Islam as full lifestyle, as in every step you take is a step of zikr, your silence is zikr and you words are zikr too.anyone? Most people practice it in chunks; the chunks of teachings which they love, or they benefited from doing them.
When I was in overseas, Allah had helped to continually soften my parched heart by having a community of friends conducting tazkirah session each week. We would pray in congregation, recite Yaasin together and one of us would deliver a tazkirah. It was a friendly tazkirah which aimed to spread the love among us Muslim sisters as much as to remind each other and spread the teachings of Islam brought through Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Though it looked very simple, I could say that the tazkirah session really made my days in Australia a memorable one. I realized that in the tazkirah, the sisters did not use any harsh language or target certain people whom they feel did not do certain things which may qualify them as good Muslims but they were very sincere in delivering the content of Islam itself. This somehow reminds me of our beloved Prophet who used the best way to promote and spread Islam towards other that is by his own ‘akhlak’ (behaviour).
Being in overseas also enabled me to see my religion from a different lens. I love the sisterhood which we built in the university circles with friends we met in University musolla and each day I could not wait to spread ‘salam’(peace greeting) whenever I saw another Muslim with recognizable Muslim traits just to remind each other that we are sisters. We would sometimes get mysterious ‘salam’ from someone in crowd, usually Muslim brothers. Although, when we turned around it was hard to guess which one said the ‘salam’, it showed that that particular Muslim brother too wanted us to acknowledge that we share the same faith and so the greetings of peace goes to you. It was such a wonderful condition living there.
As compared to in Malaysia, some would put a terror looking face as if it was an act of courting upon hearing someone offering ‘salam’ to an unknown person when it is actually a Sunnah. And in a more comprehensive discussion, ‘salam’ is actually more than just peace greeting but some kind of a pledge of the person who offered it that the deliverer is safe from any harm be it physical or emotional caused by the Muslim who offered the ‘salam’. Isn’t it beautiful? But look how far we’ve stretched the meaning of this greeting to be something very plain and almost imply nothing special as compared to ‘Good morning’.
In 2006 when I was travelling in New Zealand with some friends, after involving with series of near-death escape and involving in an unforgettable accident, I finally arrived at a turning point in my life to really change myself. I could not thank Allah enough as He had saved my life and let me continue living and breathing His precious air though I had not really played my life by His rules. There were many things drastic things which I decided to change and later changed although not all were purely parallel with Islamic teaching, but I was moving. I was finally moving somewhere instead of saying that I had changed but keeping it in my heart. I was making small steps (not really small, at that time I felt like it was quite big but now, okay maybe small). I received various responses upon my drastic change; most of them were very positive although some failed to dig into my purpose of changing as they thought it was just a matter of time-you know, people gradually change to be better-kind of idea, but it was nothing close to that, because i was really brought to this by Him.
The changes continued when I came back to Malaysia but the progress was a bit slow. But throughout this supposedly easy process I have lost a few friends, I have broken some hearts and turned good friends into strangers just because they felt different about me. But I had no choice because there were some activities which i liked doing, does not interest me anymore and there some stuff i was really passionate in, I do not want to be related to it anymore. It was hard and sad but I want Allah. I want Him and I believed that He would help me lead my new life though it hurt to let go of something I had grown accustomed to and it hurt a lot to disappear and vanish from some people's lives just because you know that being around them would slow down the process and might lead you to take a step backward and stop changing. But good things kept coming so I felt like the change was worthwhile. Little did I know that the easy route was about to change its direction into an unknown, a-completely-lost-case direction. Life is really full with surprises.
To be continued...insha Allah.