A Tale of Two Worlds

As a little bit of background on me, prior to moving to London I worked in a global role in a large company, which means that I worked at the company’s headquarters where I interacted with teams around the world and worked with people who were also far from home like myself. I now work in our London office on a local level. Though the job is still demanding, it does allow me more time than I had in my previous position to focus on my personal life.

Being in a local office is different also in how people interact with each other – friendly at work but as most of the people have lived here their whole lives, they have a very separate existence outside of work. This is good as I have been trying to dig into my studies and trying to meet other Muslims and reverts.

A few weeks ago I went to a work meeting where I ran into so many friends and colleagues that I have lost touch with since I converted or since I moved to London. And while I absolutely do not want to go back to my old job or my old life (that is a whole other story), it was great to catch up my old friends. I have to say I felt like myself again.

I miss my friends a lot, but they primarily socialise around alcohol and everything that goes with that. And they don’t quite understand why I am not dating a nice single banker that I met at my local pub or some bar now that I am in London.

I don’t really have any friends here in London yet, but I really love my Tajweed classes and plan to start taking Arabic in the Autumn. And I am starting to meet people.

Bottom line, it feels very strange to have these two worlds that don’t really connect with each other.

I understand why many Muslims spend most or all of their time in their Muslim community. But I don’t really have that community yet, and with my family, work life and most of my friends being non-Muslim, I have to (and want to) be in this other world too, though following the straight path. And I will keep striving to find my own Muslim community.

It just feels a little schizophrenic to be honest. Do any of you ever feel the same way? How do you manage it?

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 rise and fall of the revert

In my reading, I often come across the statistic that within three years of converting to Islam, about 75% leave the faith. I may not have the statistic exactly right – but it is along these lines. I am also not sure where this statistic comes from or how it is calculated.

But I do wonder…. even if number is only approximate, why do so many people leave? And do they really stop believing or is it that they go back into the ‘Islamic closet’ permanently.

From time to time I ask myself if this will this happen to me?

There are definitely times when I feel frustrated, sad and alone. I wonder, who would know if I changed my mind? Stopped praying. Stopped learning. Stopped searching. Called a friend to go out for a glass of wine and a plate of prosciutto.

No one would know.

But me.

And Allah (SWT).

So, what do I do when these times hit me?

I think about what I truly believe: La ilaha illa Allah wa Muhammad rasul Allah.

Then I do salah, make dua and perhaps read a bit of the Qur’an.

And I know – simply – that this is who I am. Really……its who I have always been, it just took me a while to figure it out.

So, two years and two months from now will I feel the same? In 10 years and 10 months? Insha Allah.

Why do you think some reverts stay committed for the rest of their lives and some leave after a few years?

And what can we do to change this statistic of 75% who leave within three years?

To Hijab or not to Hijab

To hijab or not to hijab. That is the question.

Confession – despite the title of my blog, I do not wear hijab.

But I am absolutely fascinated by it. I know in the west that women wearing hijab receive a lot a looks and glances but I am extreme. I am sure there must be several restraining orders against me as I stare at these women all the time.

I look to see what kind of scarf they are wearing, how they wear it, how they pin it, and how it works with their clothes. And it took me a while to figure out why some women looked a bit StarTrek-ish with an elongated head underneath their hijab. This not a criticism! I wish I had that much hair – I can barely make a pony tail with mine. 🙂

I think the hijab is absolutely beautiful, though I still struggle with the notion of whether it is really required or if it is cultural. Do I have to wear hijab to be Muslim?

A fellow blogger gave me some great advice about making sure I stay who I am as I continue this journey – which was a huge comfort… and a relief. But there is a part of me would like to start wearing a hijab tomorrow whether it is required or not, simply as a visible statement that I am a proud Muslimah!

So what is stopping me?

Well, there is the fact that I am still in the Islamic closet. And wearing hijab is a pretty ‘out’ statement.

But even when I am ready to be out, my other concern is that as beautiful as I view the hijab and the women who wear it, I am fairly certain I will look like an old woman named Olga. There is no need to tell me that modesty is more important than vanity, and that it is what is inside that counts.

So, how to tackle this?

I have read enough to know that just like finding the right haircut, I need to find the right style of wearing the hijab that suits my features. I have a very long face and a high forehead. I’ve researched this on-line, including YouTube videos, but I have not quite figured out what I am doing yet.

My experiment will be when I vacation in Dubai this summer. I plan to wear hijab everyday no matter what I look like – just to see how it feels – to explore if wearing hijab feels right. And I am hoping I can find some women in the shops who can help me figure out the best way to wear it. But if you have suggestions or tips, please let me know!

For those who do wear hijab, why did you choose to wear it? For those who don’t, why not?

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