This was my third time in a mosque and my second time in this particular one. Well, it wasn’t actually a mosque as such, more of a school with a musallah attached, but it was a meeting place every weekend for Muslims to come and catch up with each other’s lives, to learn something about their religion and have their Iman boosted in the process, to learn Qur’an from native Arabic speakers from different parts of the Arab world, and it was a place where us converts could be ourselves in all our Muslim entirety without being stared at, or talked about – it was home. But I didn’t know that it was all of that on that particular night. I was not a Muslim and the previous time that I had been there, the only sisters there were Arabic and there was a talk for them and I came away having spoken to nobody and learnt nothing. This time there were a lot of English speaking sisters and they were friendly and welcoming.
One of them sat down beside me on the floor and started firing questions at me as to what were the problems I had with being a Muslim, and if I had read the Qur’an. I explained that I had always an emotional attachment to Jesus which I was finding hard to shake, but it was becoming easier the more I read on Islam, and I found the Qur’an a difficult book to read as it wasn’t like other books where you just started at the beginning, there was a story and you read it to the end. She exclaimed, “Of course it’s not like any other book, it’s the Word of Allah!” As she walked away I wondered what I was doing there, feeling as if my back was up against the wall, when I had come voluntarily, of my own free will. Then Aisha walked over and sat down beside me and I braced myself. She started to talk about herself, her own journey to Islam and I felt like a flower that opened up after the rain. I felt so relaxed and was able to ask her questions, and talk freely of my own feelings.
I saw her many times after that, at Muslim friends’ houses and in the mosque. When I finally did say my shahada and accepted Islam I asked my husband not to tell anyone for a while as I really wanted to be sure that I was doing this for myself and not to impress these lovely Muslim sisters I had come to know and love. When word finally did get out, I remember Aisha walked up to me, and whispered in my ear “You were always a Muslim to me!” She and another sister used to say to me “I forgot you weren’t a Muslim!” and maybe that’s the trick to good dawah (inviting people to Islam) – accepting people as they are and not keeping them at a distance because they’re not Muslim, because non-Muslims are not stupid – they know when they’re not being trusted.
There were a few of them who walked that lonely road to Islam with me, and who were there for me during the first bewildering days of being a Muslim. And Allah sent me others and we had such good times together full of happy memories alhamdulilah. We visited at each other’s homes, and met up at the mosque, at weddings, aqueekas, and went on picnics to the parks. I remember Aisha feeling so bad because she didn’t wear her khimar at work, and I remember well the day she decided to take the plunge and just go in wearing it. Alhamdulilah Allah rewarded her by making it so easy for her and she got such a nice reaction that she never took it off outside her home again.
Sometimes we sisters would spend the evening in one of our houses and the men would go and stay at one of the other’s, and often they would ring up and say they were staying overnight and would pick up their wives and children in the morning. The first time that Aisha ever spent a night away from her husband was one such night, and it was in my home and the next day, she made sure that she looked her best before he came to collect her. Another time we stayed at another sister’s house and she went off to put a home-made face pack on and came out of the bathroom looking like…. nothing on earth as my Dad would say. Once she said to me ‘will you do me a favour?; and when I told her that I needed to know what it was first before agreeing, she bamboozled me into agreeing before telling me…. that she wanted me to trim her hair, before her husband returned from a trip. I got the last laugh and it was the last time she asked a favour of me…. I made it so uneven (not on purpose….it just came naturally to me!) that when she finally evened it up herself it was much shorter than what she wanted. Another time I remember her having a coloured thumb for a while where she had decided to dye a garment and hadn’t realised that there was a hole in her washing gloves until it was too late.