Rahyafte team (related to Edoardo Agnelli Islamic Association) invites you on a special journey into the life of our sister Ashleigh:
Please give us a biography of yourself.
My name is Ashleigh and I currently reside in rural Minnesota, USA with my family. I was born on July, 31st, 1981.
What was your religion before converting? And how did you get familiar with Islam?
I didn’t really practice a religion before converting however, my parents attempted to raise me Lutheran (Christian). I happened to marry into a Muslim family. Prior to this, I was ignorant of Islamic views, values, and the beauty of Islam. When I married my husband he did not really practice his religion, and whenever I would ask him something he would tell me “just read the Quran, it’s all there.” I had this view that all Muslims were terrorists and that it was something I would never accept.
What drove you to convert to Islam?
I kept watching my in-laws, my little sister-in-law and how she was so peaceful and kind. I wondered, how could she be Muslim and be like this? By that time I had been married for 3 years, and living in Mauritius for 3 and a half years, hearing the adhan 5 times a day, being around so many Muslims and never having a negative experience. I decided one day, to just start reading the Quran, so then I would know what this religion was about.
What was your family’s reaction after you became a Muslim? Did you have any problem with people who knew you?
I didn’t tell my family right away, I just told them I was a monotheist. I eventually told them, maybe after a year or so. It took a long time for them to process it and I still have some problems with them, because they do not understand.
How do you see the spread of Islam in your country?
I feel like in America, Islam is misinterpreted. However, I do see a trend of young people converting because it is something that makes sense. Everything is clearly laid out, and it is very personal just between you and Allah (swt).
What is the most beautiful Ayah of the Quran in your opinion? And why?
I think Surah Qaf, ayah 16 is the most beautiful one where Allah says, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein“ I read this before I converted, and it resonated with me very much. Knowing that Allah is always near to me and knows all.” (50:16)
What’s your opinion about hijab? Did wearing hijab have any effect on your private life? Do you think it is only dedicated to women?
I started wearing hijab a year before I converted, I had been living abroad for a couple of years already and was now a mother. I didn’t like to show off my body anymore, so I started covering. I’ve now been wearing hijab for 7 years (Alhamdulillah) and it’s not just a scarf on your head, or long tunics; it’s much more than that and it doesn’t apply just to women. My husband and I politely encourage each other to dress and behave modestly. My former family was very opposed to it, and sometimes they still are; I see that as a test from Allah(swt) only.
How do you analyze the family institution according to Christianity and Islam?
My understanding is that in Christianity the man is the head of the household and the wife is to obey. Generally speaking, we should respect our spouse; but as a woman in Islam certain rights are given to me. I have the right to be taken care of by my husband, and I have the right to work and earn my own money.
What was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day?
I was nervous, I didn’t know if I was doing it right or saying words properly. When living abroad it was easy because you would hear the adhan 5 times a day. Here in America it can be harder because you don’t hear the adhan in public, it’s an app on the phone, or a print-out of the times is on the desk. Sometimes I struggle with my prayer, my mind races and wanders; it is something I am still working on.
If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion what do you say?
I would say I’m not always calm and peaceful! I find that when I do spend more time in prayer and study the Quran I am more peaceful, therefore my lack of calm would be a reminder to myself.
Thank you very much for your attention. May Allah bless you and keep you strong and firm on this true path.