MashAllah I have been so blessed over the past few months because I have been able to connect with many sisters from all walks of life – my latest “blogger buddy” is Sister Aisha from “Aisha’s Oasis”. Her blog details her amazing journey from the all-American housewife, stuck in a very unhappy marriage and finally a bitter divorce; all the way to Islam, online matchmaking and ultimately to Egypt 15 years ago. At times, when I was reading her story I was shocked, amazed and in awe of the challenges she has been through; and how with the love of her husband, who she married after only 50 days, she has managed to build a new life for her family.
Her style of writing is honest and open. Her experience of how she embraced Islam while going through the break up of her first marriage is truly inspiring. InshAllah this will help anyone reading this who is experiencing issues in their marriage, as her advice is pure and basic in an Islamic sense. I feel that sometimes as modern women we get wrapped up in the 21st century notion of how a marriage should be – lets not forget the true examples of perfect marriages on our Islamic history, and try to emulate them instead of the many self-help book, talk shows, and forums out there! As someone who also married a born Muslim, her words in particular about the strength of her relationship, have further motivated me to work on my own spirituality.
Lastly, her long-term experience as a revert and how she embraced her new religion are a true attestation to the strength of this religion – her words below on how a new Muslim should feel are powerful and beautiful and I can only hope that within time I will gain as much strength, comfort and confidence as she has. MashAllah, Allah knows best.
Aisha’s details: Aisha has so many creative outlets so I have simply linked her blog below where you can view her story, updates and a list of the current blogs, magazines etc that she writes for. InshAllah you will enjoy the interview!
Q1. As a Muslim from a western society, what are the common misconceptions about Islam that you face?
I chose Islam voluntarily at age 40, after learning from internet websites. I didn’t take any classes at my local mosque after declaring my shahada, due to work and family time constraints. So I was pretty naive about Muslim countries, thinking they were filled with wonderful, observant Muslims and that life would be so much better in a Muslim country than in a western country. I learned so much about Islam on my own, studying the Qur’an, reading Hadith, etc., and I imagined that’s how all Muslims spend their free time. That’s probably a very common misconception that many new western Muslims face when they move to a Muslim country.
I didn’t understand this situation at all, until a dear American revert sister pointed out that the problem is exactly the same as, for example, a new Christian coming from Korea to America and figuring out that Christianity in America is not exactly the same Christianity as in the Bible! It all became clear after that! But it still saddens me deeply to see this poverty of faith in a Muslim country. I pray that Allah will guide us all to the straight path, enlighten us regarding our failings, correct our steps and strengthen our iman, ya Rabb il alameen, Ameen!
Q2. Within the Muslim community, what are the issues that you see and what would you like to see changing/progressing.
It is pretty depressing to tell you that I live in a rural area where women are not allowed to pray in the mosques. To be honest, the problem is deeper than that, because most of the adult women here have received little religious training, so entering a mosque is more of an opportunity to socialize than to pray. On the other hand the young girls here are receiving mandatory public education that includes religious training, so there is some hope that this situation may change. However, it’s going to be an uphill battle since the women’s section of the mosques are kept locked and a woman must ask for someone to fetch the reluctant man with the key to open the door for her if she wants to pray on Fridays.
I know all this firsthand, because when we first moved back here, I used to accompany my husband on Fridays to the nearest mosque. I prayed alone the first few weeks, and then a few women joined me, but they really only wanted to chat, and it was embarrassing to cut them off in order to pray. After it became obvious that they were not happy to unlock the sister’s door for me, my husband and I went to a different mosque and found it locked, too. When my husband complained on my behalf, he was quoted the hadith that a woman needs to pray in her closet. The amazing thing is that the mosques in the cities are filled with sisters praying on Fridays. How is it that the villages have such completely different policies? The Imams are all educated Islamically, so it’s not a lack of training on the part of the Imam, but the cultural practices in the villages supersede the teachings of Islam and I truly believe this is a problem with a very deep root that needs to be addressed and corrected.
Q3. As a mother, how do you balance your home/working/blogging life so that all aspects are satisfied?
Alhamdulillah, my children are grown and my responsibilities are lighter because they no longer live with us. But as a wife, balancing home responsibilities with the rest of my life, including blogging and my new job writing for edenkeeper.org, I try to make sure my that husband is happy. That’s the key to balance in my home! I try to always follow the routine that satisfies him best, and in return he is very supportive of my interests in my spare time. Alhamdulillah, my husband is very fair and puts Allah and Islam first in our home, and I admire and respect him very much for this. Masha’Allah, it is so wonderful to have a devout Muslim husband!
Q4 Culturally, how does your heritage affect your day to day life or outlook?
Honestly, I dumped all my cultural heritage in the trash can when I adopted Islam. Islam offered me a complete lifestyle with rights and obligations for everybody, and this gave me exactly what I was wanting – I needed a guide to peace and happiness, and I found it in Islam. I feel like I climbed a mountain to become Muslim, and left my past life on the other side of that mountain. There’s no way I would go back for any of it, I don’t miss a thing!
Q5. What are your views on those sisters who choose to wear niqab or full burka and do you feel this is something you would ever do?
Personally, niqab and full burka are problematic for me. They are unacceptable for prayer, and unacceptable in the Hajj. That right there tells me they are not obligatory in Islam. I understand the cultural pressures on women, however, and I respect any woman who feels compelled to comply with cultural norms rather than rebel. Patience and acceptance of our fate is far better Islamic behavior than rebellion. A proper Islamic dress, a headscarf and a good pair of dark sunglasses will give you just as much privacy as a full burka, and more than niqab. Our eyes can lead us to sin so easily, but lowering our gaze is the best privacy of all, and we all know this is the best protection to guard our modesty, and protect us from the evil of jealousy. A woman has the right to wear niqab or full burka, as she wishes, of course, but making these choices into religious obligations is not very different from obliging a woman to pray in her closet when it is clear she has a right to pray in a mosque if she wishes. Allah forgive me if I am ignorant of any teaching to the contrary, and guide us all in greater understanding and compassion for each other’s differences, ya Rabb il Alameen, ameen!
Q6. What is the aspect of your faith that you struggle the most with?
All of my family is Christian. At last count there’s 42 of us on my side, we are spread out all over the world, and my family likes to travel around the world to have family reunions. I don’t share the interests that they have, and my husband and I are not travelers. I am very sensitive to my husband’s dislike of western style travel, hotels, and conspicuous spending, and yet I feel it’s important to not cut my family relations completely. I can’t divorce my family, and I can’t neglect my Islamic duties – Alhamdulillah, thank God for Facebook!
Q7. How do you handle stressful situations or situations which may lead you to test your faith i.e bursts of anger, racism or religious intolerance.
My husband and I have always made it a practice to speak to each other with the greatest respect and kindness. Honestly, I learned this from him, and I love it. I believe paying attention to each other with the best manners is the best way to avoid most stressful situations. Hurt feelings are usually the root of every argument, so good manners can usually help to avoid hurt feelings. Having a strong custom of using good manners also protects us from ripping each other apart verbally when we do get angry, too! You know you really love someone if you really hate to hurt their feelings, even when you’re angry! And if you live like this in your home every day, this practice joins you when you’re outside, too. Good manners should never be underestimated, they are very powerful tools to protect your inner peace, Alhamdulillah.
Q8. What message or advice do you have for any sisters who are considering reverting to Islam?
Choosing Islam is an act of submission. It is a surrender, like a tired aching person falling into a downy soft feather mattress, surrendering to the comforting arms of sleep. Allah’s protection and peace will wipe your past life away from you like a cool cloth on a fevered face, if you submit to Islam with your heart, soul and conscious attention. Open your mind to communicate with your Creator, open your heart to receive His love, open your wounds to receive His healing, learn His teachings in the Holy Qur’an, follow the guidance of our Prophet Muhammad, (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) and join the ummah, the nation of true believers, your true family, and do your part to be a true believer. You will be blessed more than you can imagine, if you will truly submit. Allah will make it easy for you. This is His promise:
”Whoso fears God, God will appoint for him, of His command, easiness”( Qur’an 65:4)