Let there be noor

I have been thinking about the concept of noor —- light, and what it means for people to have noor. My understanding is that it is a certain light that emanates from a person when they have a close connection to Allah (swt).

I am not sure I have seen exactly that, but certainly the person who introduced me to Islam has a certain presence. That something that makes you know there is something more to that person than meets the eye – and it is different from simply charisma.

I would never presume to say I emanate light, especially as I am struggling with so many things just now, but I had a very strange experience the other day. I had an all day work meeting with a colleague in London, visiting various customers. I had never met this person and would not normally work with him. I was having the meeting in order to learn more about this particular part of the business.

My colleague was clearly a Sikh. Not an uncommon sight in London. What was strange is that he almost immediately began speaking to me about more spiritual matters rather than work.

As a reminder, I do not wear hijab at work. I am covered otherwise, but no hijab. I look like any other Western career woman and am quite senior in my organisation.

Though I was a bit surprised, I had no problem talking to him about such things. I learned about the personal crisis he went through that made him realise the importance of God in his life and his decision to become an orthodox Sikh. I learned how that led to meeting his wife and getting this job. It was a wonderful story.

At the end of it he stopped suddenly to say that he had not really told anybody else in the company that story, and did not tell that many people about the personal crisis he went through. He did not understand why he decided to tell me, other than I seemed to him like a woman of faith. And then he asked me if that was true… was I a woman of faith.

I told him that I was a Muslim.

He was thrilled and began to tell me about the similarities between Sikhs and Muslims. (I must admit, for all the reading I do on religion, I do not know much about Sikhism.)

It was a very enjoyable day.

But I wondered, what made him begin that conversation with me?

Has that ever happened to you? Has someone simply known you were a person of faith without any external signal? Do you think he would have told anyone that story that day and I just happened to be there?

Do you do think a relationship with Allah (swt) can visibly transform a person? (Beyond simply a change in personal style.)

If so, what does that mean?

The Beautiful Qur’an

And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a Surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful (Qur’an 2:23)

All I can say is that anybody who listens to and recites the Qur’an cannot believe this was anything that came from man. It is beautiful, soothing….. transcendent. Amazing.

When I first reverted, however, I did not think I needed to or would ever be able to read the Qur’an in Arabic. There were English interpretations available and I did not grow up reciting the Qur’an. So how – at my age and with my busy schedule – could I ever learn how to read the Qur’an.

However, as I learned a few prayers in Arabic and downloaded an electronic version of the Qur’an where I could listen to people reciting it, I knew I had to learn.

At first I tried to teach myself using apps but I was completely lost. I did not even know where to begin. Then I found an Arabic alphabet app.  But even as I learned the symbols for the letters, when I saw a word, I did not recognise anything! I finally found an app that showed me how the letters alone differed from letters in word. (Alhamdulilah! I was not crazy!)

But the turning point was when I moved to London. A close friend helped me find a place where I could study the Qur’an. I completed the introductory course where I learned the alphabet and the basics of recitation. I passed the class! And now I am taking the next level.

If I am honest, I have to admit that my recitation is complete rubbish. But as with everything….I keep trying.

My goal after recitation classes is to begin to learn the meaning of the words and perhaps some of the subtleties  of the linguistics. I realise this may be a bit too ambitious, but the beauty of the Qur’an compels me. I want to learn everything I can. In Sha Allah. It may take quite some time and perhaps I will not get as far as I would like… but who knows. 🙂

Reflections

The responses to my last two posts (To Hijab and Family Matters) have been wonderful and encouraging. I love reading about everyone else’s experience with hijab, and about their telling friends and family about their choice to follow Islam.

And while I still am glowing at having told my siblings and am relieved that they have by and large accepted it, it has really made think about the rest of the people in my life.

I still have not told most of the other people in my life. I am sure this must sound odd. How can I have been a Muslim for more than a year and my friends and family have not noticed?

Well, as someone who lives in a largely ex-pat environment, my family and many of my friends live elsewhere – either because I have moved or because they have moved. When I do see them or talk to them, we just don’t talk about religion or faith.

My job for the past two years when all this happened was extremely consuming so friends who I work with simply think I have been too busy. They view certain behaviours and the way I dress as a bit odd but that is it. (They have not seen my in hijab… yet.) They are simply waiting for me to “get back to normal”.

If you asked me why I have not told them I would tell you that I am afraid of their reaction. Afraid that they will not accept me. Worried that I will lose them in my life.

But really, because of not telling them and not including them in my life as I used to, I am already losing them.

One the one hand, if they really are my friends, they will accept it. They will see that I am the same person as always. Perhaps even a better person, in sha Allah. And if they don’t accept it… well, why am I trying to hold onto people who won’t love and accept me for who I am. What good does that do me?

I think telling my siblings is just a baby step on the way. (A wonderful and liberating step – but only the beginning.)

I have no question that Islam is the right choice for me. And I feel so amazingly blessed that Allah (swt) chose to guide me to the straight path.

So why am I holding onto the image of who I was for people who might not love me enough to accept me for who I am?

Family Matters

I did it. I told my family – at least some of them – that I am Muslim.

I can’t tell you how scary it was. I did it because some of my family were coming to visit me at Christmas, and I thought that even if I don’t wear hijab or pray in front of them they will likely see the books in my house and the prayer rugs kept under my bed. (My apartment is not that big.) As well as the fact I don’t drink alcohol anymore, which would be quite noticeable by them on New Year’s Eve.

But mostly I just wanted them to know. I have felt so detached from them for so long. I am very close to them and I hated them not knowing about such a big thing in my life. And at the same time I really feared that by telling them I could lose them.

It really impacted the rest of my life and relationships too. I mean, if I could not tell my sisters – my best friends – who could I tell?

So — what happened? I decided to call my sisters first prior to my brother and his family arriving here to visit.

My first sister was shocked and upset, but was careful to stay calm and assure me that she loved me and would accept my choice. She became more upset as time went on, but mostly because she was afraid for me based on everything she sees in the news. She was open that it was her hang up and prejudice, but it did not stop her from being upset. But the key here is that she accepted it.

My second sister was a bit surprised, but seemed fine with it. She was quite funny in fact. She has a work friend who is Muslim so knows that Ramadan is right in the middle of summer for the next few years, and she told me I better not cheat during Ramadan. She was even fine with the fact she might one day see me wearing hijab.

Finally, I told my brother when he was here. I waited until after Christmas in case things went badly. However, while he said he did not understand it, he also said that he did not care as it was my decision. I think it upset him more than he said as he was a bit distant for the rest of the day and he did not want to talk about. But things seemed to go back to normal after a day or two.

A few days later I told my sister-in-law. She was actually happy for me. She said she was glad I found something. There are many things she does not understand about Islam or my choice, but was ultimately very accepting.

Interestingly, all of them were adamant that I should not tell my parents, noting that they think my parents would never accept it or ever get over it.

Even though I had the same thought, it was a very tough message to hear. I certainly won’t tell them anytime in the near future. But can I really not ever tell them? On the one hand if it will upset them so, I should be careful not to hurt them as they are my parents. On the other hand, shouldn’t they know who I am? What if there was a circumstance such that it would be inevitable that they know. Wouldn’t they be more upset that I waited to tell them?

Ultimately, now that my siblings know, I am sure my parents will find out. And knowing I won’t lose my brother and sisters – and that they will support me even – I am okay with whatever happens.

It is really life-changing that they know. I know not all of my old friends will be as understanding as my family. And I know that my family will not understand everything. But having faced this fear it gives me more courage to continue this journey.

And I feel even closer to those in my life who already know and who have been supportive all this time. I feel incredibly blessed. Alhamdulilah.

What was your experience telling your family and friends?

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