I took my Shahadah in a small student apartment of my university friends Lamya from Yemen and Amal from Iran, during my doctoral studies in Minneapolis, USA. Lamya explained to me the basics of Islam, and Amal guided me word by word through the Arabic phrase of the testimony. Very modest and simple, because Islam is not difficult – it is a religion of ease.
No doubt, myriads of inner changes lead a person to conversion and the transformation continues after the Shahadah. By learning about Islam and aligning one’s thinking and actions to its principles, a convert grows in the new faith. However, I experienced that for me the changes did not happen just within – surprisingly, it was as if the entire world around me changed as well and I came to see it with new eyes.
In public, the hallmark of a Muslim woman is her Hijab. Who could have thought that just by putting on this one simple piece of cloth I will discover an entirely new Minneapolis than I used to live in before? As a major university city, Minneapolis buzzed with thousands of students just like me – I was part of the busy crowd riding the busses, walking the streets, cycling with backpack over my shoulders. Before Hijab, I blended in so smoothly, so easily. Even though I converted back in pre-9/11 world, I was naturally anxious that, as a public announcement of faith, my Hijab would set me apart. How will people look at me on the street? Will my professors react to this change? What will my fellow students say? How will I stand as a teacher in front of my own students in this new attire?
This is an excerpt from the print issue.
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