Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.
“My aunts call me an extremist. Because I wear the hijāb and support Palestine.”*
ز [an Arabic letter. ‘Z’] lives in South-East London. Born to a white British mother and an Egyptian (Muslim, but not practising) father, 17-year-old she accepted Islam earlier this year, in January. She would watch Islamic YouTube videos, and her eyes – indicative of a pure and sincere heart, Masha Allah – would start welling up with tears. The change had come as a little bit of a shock to her family members.
ز had attended a secondary school at which the majority of the populace is of Irish/traveller origin; there are also many students there who are EDL-supporters. Apparently, many of the traveller students have themselves become EDL-supporters: it is, unfortunately, frequently the case that minority groups ‘turn’ on other minority groups, if it means gaining acceptance, and having a scapegoat outside of themselves to debase.
These days, she often visits the London Central Masjid (Regent’s Park) in order to worship, talk to people, and to peruse the little bookshop on the ground floor there. She has connected with other revert sisters (via social media) and finds a lot of love and comfort at her paternal auntie (Hana)’s home; her auntie’s husband, she says, treats her as though he is her real uncle too.
ز visited Egypt once, at a young age, but has not returned since. An auntie from the Masjid (who is of Moroccan origin) has also approached her to see if she would be interested in marrying her (the auntie’s) son… ز has, however, politely declined this proposal.
To get her questions answered, ز sees the mosque’s Shaykh. She has a strong belief in the importance of compassion in Islam [after all, this is the Muhammadan way] and also believes in taking Deen seriously. For example, although her friends may casually talk to boys, she does not. She loves to pray Salāh; I think she finds much peace and joy in it.
What inspires me about ز is her (gentle-but-determined) determination, Masha Allah, and her keen generosity of spirit. She, this seventeen-year-old woman, found Islam ― or, rather, Allah had chosen her specifically. At home, for example, it must be hard: ز’s parents do not live together, and she lives with her (non-Muslim) mother, and with her mother’s partner, and with her (ز’s) sister, who is also not Muslim. In front of her mother’s partner, ز wears her headscarf. She takes Islam seriously; she is finding her place in it, Alhamdulillah.
We visited an Islamic charity shop together, and she had picked out a book of Islamic names and their meanings to buy. She also found some very nice headscarves to get, from good old Whitechapel Market. We had eaten lunch together at a Halal Korean (at least, I think it had been Korean) restaurant, and then ز had insisted on getting me some headscarves, in return for the food [a cultural thing I seem to have inherited: if you invite someone somewhere, you pay. Little battles to pay the bill tend to ensue]. I mean, she insisted-insisted on getting me those scarves. I wore one of them (blue in colour) on my mountain hike this month. I make Du’a that ز is, and becomes, one of the best of us Muslims.
In the future, ز would like to work at an Islamic Montessori school, Insha Allah. I reckon children would love her, Masha Allah. Like her little cousin Ibrahim: the clever little four-year-old (Allahummabārik) who watches shows like Catchphrase, at this age, and who seems to like… astutely questioning things (rather like the Prophet Ibrahim AS, who had a tendency to intelligently question things, even from a very young age, Masha Allah).
Recently, ز attended an event on the specific topic of ‘Prophetic and Productive’ mornings, where she learnt about how Muhammad (SAW) would spend his mornings, and about Salat ud-Duha.
• ز’s current status on WhatsApp: “Say Alhamdulillah <3″
*Quotations may be slightly paraphrased and not 100% verbatim, since I am writing them from memory.
“Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is Most Knowing of the [rightly] guided.” — Qur’an (28:56)
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.