Hold on to rope of Allah and do not disunite …

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SHAFAQNA – And of those whom We have created are a people who guide with the truth and thereby they do justice. (Surah Araf 7:181)

It is often I’ve been asked to tell my conversion story … or reversion, depending on which term you are more comfortable with. As far as I’m concerned my coming to Islam had more to do with an awakening to a reality I did not know existed and yet could still perceive.

… I will ask you to bear with me and more importantly to forgive me for whatever offence my words may bring. I was told too many times that my faith and my conviction cannot possibly measure up to that of born-Muslims to be under any illusion my write-up will not be dissected to be then rebuked. Islam I have learnt is no easy road to walk on … but then again there is no other place  I’d rather be.

I’d rather suffer an eternity of heartache and slander than return to the darkness I was lost into.

I’d rather see my soul torn against the thorns of malice than abandon that station our Imams carved so that Guidance could be ours only if we’d submit.

It is on bended knee and my head to the ground that I was taught Freedom and Dignity. I would gladly remain in perpetual prostration if only to glimpse at Islam – for then maybe  I will see the very face who gave our prophet most comfort: Imam Ali.

What community can say to have been given the perfected Word of God through the most perfect of vessel: the Last Messenger of God, only to see the Quran reflected and enacted in the actions and characters of a soul carved in the first Light of God? How many communities can claim allegiance to the First Imam and held in their hands the words he consecrated into acts of perpetual worship?

If Islam was spoken to life on the lips of the Prophet Muhammad, it was Imam Ali who breathed strengthened piety into those ayats, and henceforth became the most brilliant and perfected sign of all.

Shia Islam was never a choice … it was always Islam for me. I do not known any other way to be. I do not know any other allegiance or loyalty. I do not want to be anything else but a Shia of Ali – however treacherous that walk maybe I will follow it until there is no more breath left in me.

Over-dramatic you may say … maybe! And yet … yet I cannot escape Qom and how upon entering her resting place her hand was on my heart never to let go. No more than I can deny the brightness of the sun can I escape that burning in my chest as I recall how we fail our imams and allow for their burden to weigh heavy on their hands.

Righteousness is not a birthright. Belief is offered in compassion – who are we to invoke entitlement when so many communities, maybe better than ours were denied that we claim for ourselves. Have we not learnt from our Islamic History that Guidance sits on the edge of a sword, and that indeed it can be tipped to forever live in the dirt of ambition.

A few names … maybe three most of all come to mind. How many held true only to falter when stealth was most needed? How many were saved at the eve of battle so that their last station would be that of a truly free man? Have we forgotten how Hur came to Imam Hussain when martyrdom was but a certainty?

Can we deny those lessons set before us and forget that the wisdom they each hold sits outside Time itself to be forever valid.

I do not claim ownership of my faith … it was given to me as a mercy and my only hope is not to squander it.

I know nothing of worth! How can we call ourselves worthy when fallibility defines us? If it is worth you yearn for then I would urge you to turn your faces towards the Prophet Muhammad and his progeny for there is worth in their teachings. There is honour, beauty and safety under their banner … even when  such a station is made in hardship.

Truth is a burden we must bear … Truth is THE burden our prophets and our imams carried so that we would learn of humility. How can we ever claim to any station when the sons of Zahra were not given theirs?

But I strayed from the task …

How did I come to Islam? It’s not so much the manner in which I came to Islam that I would like to share but rather the fact that I had no choice in the matter. My conversion/reversion was never thought-out or even weighed – Belief clutched at my heart until certainty was mine to hold.

I sat with the Quran on my lap knowing that I was owned – but then again we never really belong to ourselves anyway. Maybe our worse arrogance is to believe ourselves free when Freedom can only be found in willing submission.

As for Shia Islam … well like I said before there was never a question in my mind as to whom I should follow.

Only hearts of reinforced steel would not give out to the mention of our imams.

How can you not find Islam in the sacrifice of Imam Hussain and recognise in his martyrdom the consecration of Islam through absolute abandonment to the Word. If not for Imam Hussain Islam would have died in the plain of Karbala for we proved unworthy of his grandfather’s command in Ghadeer.

Before we argue sectarianism, ownership or entitlement maybe we ought to remember that none of us are ever worthy of Guidance. Obedience is the only right we may claim. I pray I’m allowed to hold on for there is no other place I’d rather be than where our imams commanded we stand.

A minority within a minority I’ll stay.

From where I’m sitting there’s a great deal of beauty …

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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