I studied in a missionary school where the day started with a Christian prayer and ended with a Christian one, where Islam was confined to the Islamiyat class, where covering your hair was unthinkable and unheard of (except with the nuns of course). It went without saying that putting a dupatta on the head was “paindoo” and backward.
In Kinnaird college, it was the same except there was this girl who had come from the United States, spoke with an American accent and wore a big ‘chadar.’ She used to speak vociferously about faith and code of conduct vs culture and norms. She had a convincing style and my inclination towards religion became stronger.
Born Muslims want to shed the shackles of religion; reverts want to embrace it with a devotion and enthusiasm that would seem puzzling to most of us. We do not want to change our lifestyle for it. They are willing to sacrifice everything they own for the sake of Allah (swt).
Whenever I read accounts of reverts, one thing that always struck me was how they used to praise and eulogize the Book of God. They held it in such awe and declared it to be THE most wondrous thing on earth. I was secretly surprised by this as I thought we too read the Quran but it didn’t have this impact on us. It was then that I made a sincere Dua to Allah (swt) to make His Beautiful Word accessible to me. I should be able to understand it without the aid of any translation.
And miracle of miracles, within a very short period of time, with just a minimal understanding of the Arabic Grammar that I gained on my own, the joy of the Revelation began unfolding. Night after night, I simply could not put the Holy Scripture down because it was so fascinating. It had to be of course because these are the exact words of the Originator of the Heavens and the Earth.
A short while later, my brother came back from Umrah and gave me a cassette of Imam Shuraim’s 30th Juz. I was absolutely hooked to this recitation. I played it over and over, over and over again, mesmerized like never before. My children would be building blocks, or painting or cycling and this heavenly voice would be washing over them, reverberating through the house. It didn’t even seem like they were paying attention to the recitation but in no time they had memorized almost the whole of the last chapter just by subconsciously listening to it.
When Jumuah came, I played Surah Kahf loudly on the deck so that it reached every corner of the house. It was just out of this world kind of recording by Saud Shuraim. My son no. 2 who is 19 now was just 4 at the time. But amazingly, to this day he knows the entire Surah by heart, without ever having sat down to learn it. (Masha’Allah la quwwata illa billah). Allahu Akbar! That is the miracle of the most Powerful Book on Earth.
Another factor that brought me closer to the Deen was the incredibly dynamic personality of Dr. Israr Ahmed. My father used to take us (my siblings and my cousins) to Quran Academy to spend the Ramadan nights in worship. Even though I didn’t quite understand the Tafseer back then, since I was a school girl, nevertheless I did feel the fervour and the tingling excitement of those glorious hours. Standing in Taraweeh prayer, staying awake till Suhoor with the other devotees, the long drive back home in the dead of the night was stimulating indeed. Good companionship does rub off Alhumdulillah.
When I was twenty, I started listening to Dr. Israr Ahmed in earnest.The very first lecture entailing the distinction between a living, burning, dynamic faith and a mere dogma was electrifying. It just shook me inside out and I was compelled to evaluate our lives in the light of this doctrine. His passionate speech propelled me to learn more and more from this great scholar whom I still think is by far the best speaker in the Urdu language. Things after that started rolling and gathering momentum as promise after promise of the Lord Most High materialized as when He says, “ take one step towards me, I’ll take ten; walk towards me, I’ll run towards you” or when He assures us of his succor when we strive in His Path or when he guarantees ease with every difficulty.
Soon after, I started reading Maulana Maudoodi’s “Tafheem ul Quran” and found it so captivating that even listening to somebody talking about trivial, mundane matters seemed such a bore. Around that time, the radio aired Quranic recitation with translation. I was drawn to it like a magnet and couldn’t keep away from it for long. Then my sister’s friend who had come from Canada gave her some Hamza Yusuf cassettes and we were completely taken in by this American revert scholar who spoke with such a passion about this Deen. Born Muslims want to shed the shackles of religion; reverts want to embrace it with a devotion and enthusiasm that would seem puzzling to most of us. We do not want to change our lifestyle for it. They are willing to sacrifice everything they own for the sake of Allah (swt).
Tears swim in my eyes as I recall my father telling me that he prays in the pre-dawn time for me in prostration and that he had named me Ayesha after Ummul Momineen (rta) so I would lead the righteous women and be a beacon of light like her. If I now see what I was blind to aforetime, it is Allah’s (swt) Grace upon me through the supplications of my parents.
”Oh my Lord! Show mercy to them as they nurtured me with tender care when I was a child.” (Isra 17:24)