Monday, November 29, 2010

Proudly Muslim

I reverted to Islam at a very young age. I knew a fair amount about the religion at the time, I just wasn’t prepared for the people that went with it. I grew up in a really small populated town, so apart from being Muslims many were very cultural. I didn’t know how they would react to me as a convert and although many were very tolerant there were others who looked down upon you. I then moved to Cape Town. It was a fresh slate, no one knew me as “Jenean” who became “Suhaifa” or the “Hindu” who became “Muslim”; they knew me as a person, a Muslim. I didn’t know what reaction to expect if they knew I was a revert. They were so normal and accepting of me that I felt almost embarrassed to say that I reverted. In my old town I knew reverts were sometimes looked down upon and seen as charity cases, if you can call it that, so I kind of placed that stigma upon myself, the stigma that I was below others.

When I moved to Cape Town I didn’t want to tell people I was a revert, I wanted to fit in, to be one of them. It’s only after 5 years that I realise I was always “one of them.” I shied away from personal topics such as what is your father’s name or what is your surname. I tried my best to not let conversations get that far. I felt embarrassed to speak about my parents or family. When people asked what my dad’s name was I would say “Ghalied” (Who is my Muslim step dad), it used to kill me saying that because I love my dad dearly and truly am proud of him. My mum has a very similar sounding Muslim name, so I got away with that all the time. I thought omission would be better, I never realised that I was actually lying to myself. I succumbed to that stigma and started losing myself. But it’s different now. I finally realise how special being a revert actually is. I wasn’t born Muslim and practiced Islam because that was what was expected of me. I CHOSE Islam; I practice Islam because I want to practice Islam. I don’t have Muslim family who coerce me into praying and fasting, I do it because I choose to. So if that’s a justifiable reason who society to look down upon me so be it. I still know many people who would never let their children or daughters marry reverts and I think it’s actually disgusting. Are we not all Muslims?

When I now meet people, I speak about my reversion to Islam openly. I tell them my surname is Naidoo because I’m from a South Indian descent and that I’m not Surti, Kokni or Memon. I speak to them about my father, Morgan, who is a school teacher and about my mother, Roshnee, who owns her own businesses. I tell those people about my Hindu sister, Kelisha, and grandparents whom I love dearly. Maybe I was afraid to open up all those years was because I was afraid of not being accepted however I was rather young at the time. I am so proud of myself for finding Islam and I am so proud of all those people who have reverted to Islam. What if I was not born Muslim? It doesn’t make me less of a person than a born Muslim. I’m stronger now because I am finding myself and a big part of who you has been shaped by your family. If I deny my family, I deny myself.

8 comments:

  1. I think that reverts are generally stronger than born Muslims - because you've seen the other side - another religion. You've lived it, and you made the choice to come to Islam.

    For many of us born Muslims - there was no such thing. Islam is something we inherit from our parents and families - and so it becomes so easy to just be ritualistic and not actually even want to understand it more deeply. And the secular, and sometimes downright devilish, influences around us makes it so much easier to just not even want to pursue the deen.

    But, for many as well, they experience a revival - where a born muslim eventually 'wakes up' to the deen; and kind of becomes like a new muslim - in that we now live the deen by choice.

    It's great that you now have the confidence to open up and talk like that; and talk about your roots. It's even a form of da'wah; and i think it helps break the misconception that in South Africa, Islam is an 'Indian' (or Malay) religion.

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  2. For what its worth, I would rather marry a revert (one who became Muslim out of his own free will) than someone who was born into the religion and the reason being is that I want a partner that CHOOSES Allah SWT... to know that he made the *conscious* choice out of his own free will.

    Most born Muslims take so much for granted and they feel entitled and it makes them arrogant. A revert is almost always humbler and more connected spiritually in many ways.

    You have been blessed, moreso than most... know that. And yes the culture of many of SA's Muslims have made them a reprehensible bunch, but don't let that bother you. After all Hidayah only comes from God.

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  3. I think it was Yusuf Islam that said that if he'd been with Muslims (i.e. the PEOPLE) before learning about Islam; he might not have reverted. But he encountered the religion FIRST, which is what got him - meaning that we, the PEOPLE, are imperfect and often bring a bad image onto Islam by our own actions - which do not reflect the actual religion.

    ANyway - that last bit of my comment about 'miconception...' - ignore that please. I wasn't thinking right - it doesn't make sense (since you are Indian already). I probably meant the idea of Hindus becoming Muslim - which, for some reason, I thought was rare (though i have no idea how true that is).

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  4. You are very lucky! Never forget that!

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  5. Stumbled here through twitter's "who to follow". What an interesting blog post. We all struggle to be true to ourselves and to be truly ourselves. I think at some point in our lives we realise what a pain (and waste) it is to live according to society's narrow perceptions of you. I think that's why I love Cape Town! Only ever been there for holidays, but I noticed instantly most people's open-mindedness and easy acceptance.

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  6. Assalaam Allaykum, I read your story, and I myself am a revert.
    Embrassed Islam in 2006 after being exposed to it for over a year..
    At first it was hard and very difficult for me to cope, Alhamdullilah with the help of people I managed to get through the difficulty.
    My life long friends and family dont feel happy about me becoming a muslim. But me being muslim does not change me as a person.
    I feel closer to Allah than what I was before,life a good lifestyle in terms of not doing things that is forbidden.
    I am not sorry for the choice I made in life, I love Islam and In-Sha-Allah I will live my life out as a proud and pious Muslim.

    May Allah reward you, keep you safe and grant you plenty of Barakah.
    All the best
    Assalam Allaykum
    Aqeel

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  7. Wasalaam Aqeel

    Jazakallah for sharing your story with me and everyone else.

    May you continue to grow from strength to strength. Ameen

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  8. lovely story..as a muslim I am inspired and the love for my deen grows...

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