Date :Monday, December 31st, 2018 | Time : 23:10 |ID: 82152 | Print

The Thing That Attracted Me to Islam Eventually, Was The Hijab

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SHAFAQNA-

An Exclusive Interview with a Revert to Islam, Safia, from the Netherlands, by Bentolhoda Mofakhami

Safia, 19 years old, was born in the Netherlands in an atheist household. She didn’t even know what religion was until she was 14. She got to know about Islam through media (news). She says the thing that attracted her to Islam was the hijab. After one year of studying Islam, she said her Shahadah and converted to Islam on the 28th of August in 2016.

Sister Safia! Rahyafte Team (related to Edoardo Agnelli Islamic Association) appreciates you for agreeing to hold an interview and also for the time you allocated to us.


First of all, please tell us about yourself.

My name is Safia, but I was born Helena Brigitte. I changed my name legally approximately 1 year after converting. I’m originally from the Netherlands, I’ve have lived in Norway for 10,5 years, and I am now currently living in Italy. I’m a housewife, I didn’t go to college, so my education stopped after high school. My mother’s side is Finnish, and my father’s side is Norwegian and Irish, so I’m a mix of four nationalities. I turned 19 just two months ago in August. I was partly raised in Ijmuiden, the Netherlands, and partly in Ålesund, Norway. I was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands and was raised in Ijmuiden until I turned 8. In December of 2007, my parents decided to move to Norway, so from my 8th until my 18th, I lived in Norway.


How many brothers and sisters do you have? And how do you stand in your family?

I don’t have any sisters, but I have 4 brothers. One older, three younger. I don’t have a good relationship with my oldest brother, never have. I’m very close to all my younger brothers though. I have a very big family, but I haven’t met 99% of them due to living in another country, death and not being interested in keeping in touch with us.


Please tell us about your previous religion, before converting to Islam!

I don’t have a “previous religion”. I was an atheist before I converted, which means I didn’t believe in anything like God. I honestly didn’t even know what religion was until I was 14. I wasn’t raised with religion at all, because my parents felt like we didn’t need to be raised that way. My parents and both sides of the family have a Jewish/ Christian background, they went to a Christian school, etc, but they never believed.


How Islam changed your way of living?

As you can imagine, being an atheist and then converting to Islam, it’s a whole other world. Everything is the opposite of each other. I used to dress the way I wanted, usually never really covered – now I wear the hijab. I used to eat what I wanted – now there are certain rules that apply. And I’m ok with that! But obviously it was a 180 turn, nothing is the same and it was a lot to take in at first.


How did you become familiar with Islam? What specifically attracted you to Islam?

I got to know about Islam through the media (news), so it wasn’t the best way to get to know about Islam since there were only headlines related to terror. The thing that attracted me to Islam eventually, was the hijab. I was fascinated how a piece of cloth could prevent sexual harassment.


When and how did you convert to Islam? (Please also talk about your last second before converting.)

I converted to Islam on the 28th of August in 2016. It was a sunny, warm, beautiful day. I called my best friend who was a Muslimah from Yemen. I told her it was extremely important and that she had to come. I was so nervous. How was I going to tell her that I wanted to embrace her religion? I wrote down an Ayah in my notes on my phone. I met her at the bus station and we walked to the park and sat down. We talked about normal things like we used to, but I didn’t listen, because all that was on my mind, was how I was going to tell her. So after a while, I got the courage and showed her the Ayah on my phone. When she finished reading, I asked her if she understood what I was trying to say. She said no, and it took her about a minute or two to realize that I wanted to convert. The Ayah was from chapter 2, verse 256. “There is no compulsion in religion.” When she realized, I started crying, and then she started crying. I repeated after her as she said the shahada.


When did your journey to Islam begin?

My journey to Islam began when I started hating Islam because of the media, because if I had never come in touch with Islam through the news, then I don’t think I would’ve been Muslim today, honestly.


Did you ever hesitate to say Shahadah?

After 1 year of studying Islam, I remember walking down the streets of Ijmuiden, the Netherlands, and hearing a voice saying, “You need to convert now. It’s now or never.” When I arrived home, I started learning the prayer. It took me two weeks to learn the prayer, and one week after I had learned the prayer, is when I finally said shahada. So I did hesitate a little bit. I thought it wasn’t the right time when I heard that voice, so I waited for a few more weeks.


How do you feel when you work for your Akhira (the Hereafter)?

I feel very good when I work for my Akhira. It’s good to plug out from this world, and just focus on doing good things for a good life in the Hereafter. Praying, giving in charity, fasting, reading the Quran. The feeling I get from knowing I did something good that expiates my sins and can be a means of forgiveness from Allah, is great. There’s nothing I love more.


Did you have any problem with your family members when you accepted Islam? How did you come up with and control the clashes with your family members?

There was no problems with my family when I converted to Islam. I called my mother the same day, she accepted and was very respectful. My father found out the next day, unfortunately before I could tell him myself. He said he was disappointed that I didn’t tell him myself, but he also accepted. It’s taboo to talk about it with him though. My brothers found out through my parents. They had some questions, but other than that they don’t care (as in they don’t view me differently). My grandparents on my father’s side didn’t accept, in fact they really hate Muslims. But it’s ok, because they’re not good people. I talked to my auntie about it through WhatsApp, she also accepted. Overall it was positive, Alhamdulillah.


Did they try to convince you not to revert to Islam?

Nobody tried to convince me not to convert, because I lived on my own since my 16th, so nobody really knew that I was on this path – except my mom, but she never said anything.


Did the people around you cut the relationship with you after converting to Islam?

Alhamdulillah, nobody cut the relationship with me after I converted. Some non­-Muslim friends were surprised, but they accepted and didn’t care. I actually got many more friends after I converted.


What were your family members’ reactions when you were practicing Islam or doing your prayers?

My family and friends have been very supportive in me practicing Islam. Whenever I will fast, or need to pray, they will buy me certain foods, or even cook for me, and give me room and time to pray. Except for a few times that my father has asked me to take off the hijab.


What was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day?

To be honest, I can’t remember the first time I prayed after converting. As for praying 5 times a day, it wasn’t difficult for me at first, then it became a little difficult, and then it became easy again. It was a roller coaster, but Alhamdulillah.


Did you think that Islam was a religion just for Arabs? (Before converting to Islam)

Before converting to Islam, I didn’t think it was a religion just for Arabs, I didn’t even know that south­east Asia and south­east Europe was Muslim. I just thought that it was Saudi Arabia and north ­Africa. Obviously everyone can embrace any religion they like.


How do you see the spread of Islam in your country?

So, in the Netherlands, I don’t really know how the situation is, as I haven’t lived there for a long time. I’ve spoken to other Dutch converts, who say that the situation isn’t good. In Norway, there are a lot of Dawah movements. There are quite a few people from Norway who have converted, but as most other European countries, there’s hatred towards Islam, from individuals to politics. In Italy, I’d say it’s the worst from the three countries mentioned. Never have I felt more scared to walk outside with hijab. I’m always scared someone will attack me out of their hatred towards Islam. There’s a lot of racism in Italy. I have met good people though.


Many people think that religions are the main cause of problems in the world today, did you believe that too?

I think that we can’t deny that religion has caused a lot of problems in the world, but let’s not forget culture. It’s simply because people use religion/culture as an excuse to do horrible things. I think people misinterpret holy books and act upon what they think the holy books say you should do. It’s often used to justify political issues.


How did you adapt yourself with the new ethics of Islam?

To me, the ethics I had weren’t that different from Islamic ethics. There are some things I disagree with, but I’ve accepted them as part of my religion. Even before I converted, I just knew that I would never be intimate with anyone out of wedlock. Also, I never liked alcohol, so I wouldn’t spend a penny on it even if I wouldn’t be Muslim. Most of it was easy to adapt, Alhamdulillah.


How was the effect of reading the Holy Quran for you? How did the Holy Quran influence you?

Reading the Quran reassured me, that I had chosen the right religion for me, the right path, and it calmed me. I’m always amazed whenever I read the Quran and think, this can’t be from anyone other than God. Knowing that God loves me, and that this world isn’t all there is. I absolutely love reading the Quran, even more so listening to it. It makes me tear up most of the time. I also cry quite often when I recite Surah Alfatiha in prayer. It changed me for the better. I do things I thought I’d never do, like spending money on charities.


What is the most beautiful Ayah in the Holy Quran? (In your opinion)

To me, the most beautiful Ayah in the Quran is, “Call upon Me, I will respond” (40:60). It’s just so beautiful. No matter where we are, who we are, what we do, how many sins we’ve committed, if we call upon Allah, He will respond no matter what. Maybe not the way we want, but He will respond. Subhan Allah.


Why do most of the media attack Islam? Why are most media against Islam?

I think most media condemn Islam basically because it sells. People want to read such things. Unfortunately, most of them are fooled to think that the terrorists represent Islam. It hurts my heart. The media have misunderstood Islam because they don’t understand that the terror attacks are political, not religious. When a terrorist wants to kill as many as possible with a car in a crowded place in the west, he doesn’t swing to the left because he sees a Muslim. He doesn’t avoid the Muslims. He kills the Muslims as well. How is that religious? They don’t educate themselves, they stay with their prejudices and then it’s very easy to misunderstand Islam.


What’s your opinion about hijab? Has wearing hijab had any negative effects on your private life? Do you think it is only dedicated to women?

I love the hijab so much. I actually started wearing it before I converted to Islam to avoid sexual harassment. I later learned that that is one of the reasons why Muslim women wear it, subhan Allah! I love that you can style it in so many ways. I usually stick to 3­4 styles though. I’ve been rejected some jobs that I was interviewed for because I was asked to take it off, but I said that’s not an option. I’ve also been mistreated by some people, at school, at the mall, just outside in general. It’s definitely not for women only. Men are commanded to lower their gaze before women are commanded to cover up. Hijab isn’t just a scarf on the head. It’s the way you talk, walk, behave, dress. Hijab is for everyone.


Has wearing hijab limited any activities of your normal life?

The hijab hasn’t limited my daily activities. I can still work out, go to school, get a job, do whatever I want. It’s just more difficult. You really have to prove that you’re not “one of them”.


How do you analyze women’s right in Islam compared to what the West has propagated?

Muslim women got their rights hundreds of years before western women got their rights. I think the west shouldn’t ever talk about women’s rights in Islam because of this. Again, I think that religion/culture is being used as an excuse also in this matter of women’s rights. Saudi women are being refused help from their abusive husbands. The Quran explicitly says, “What is wrong with you? Why do you not help each other?” (37:25) Subhan Allah. It’s an insult to Islam to do anyone injustice. I think that western women have their rights which fit to their culture, and Muslim women have their rights which fit to their religion. But when men take advantage of different interpretations to abuse the women, they yeah, I understand why the west thinks Muslim women don’t have any rights. But they do!


As a convert, what way of inviting to Islam do you believe is more effective on non- ­Muslims?

I think the way you behave is the best way to invite non-­Muslims to Islam. Not to brag, but there was once, I saw a man sitting outside begging for money when I was with my non­-Muslim friend. So I told her that I needed to go to the grocery store. I didn’t even have so much money, but I still bought the begging man some food. She kept telling me how kind I was for doing that. She will remember that, just like she will remember something bad I did. That is why it’s so important to invite to Islam by showing true Islamic character. Of course telling facts about Islam, correcting prejudices is also important, but character comes first.


How is Muslims’ behavior?

I haven’t met all Muslims in the world, so I can’t say much about how all Muslims behave. There are good and bad people in every religion, country, whatever have you. I have met both good and bad Muslims. Character is so important, yet so many don’t seem to care about that. I’ve met Muslim women who never back­-bited, never missed prayer, were super kind, never said bad words, etc. I’ve also met Muslim women who were back­biting each other, spreading rumors, not wearing hijab properly, partying and free ­mixing, wearing nail polish so that they couldn’t pray on purpose. Whenever Muslim women did something horrible to me, they never ever apologized, not even when Ramadan came. Muslims need to do a much better job when it comes to character.


If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, what do you say?

Islam truly is the most beautiful religion out there. It always gives me a feeling of peace. I love everything about it. The calmness in prayer, the purifying rituals. I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I haven’t been happier than now.

May Allah help all the Muslims in the world and May Allah hasten the reappearance of Imam Zaman (atfs) to help bring peace and justice to the world. And May we use our potential to help Islam and promote the true beauty of our religion.

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