I was rushing back to my workplace on one bright sunny afternoon when a middle-aged woman accosted me. I had just had lunch, eager to return to the comfort of my air-conditioned office before the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun dampened my headscarf.
“Good afternoon,” she greeted, walking alongside me. I replied to her greeting as I walked swiftly along.
“Are you a Muslim?” she asked, despite seeing that I was putting on a hijab.
“Yes, I am,” I responded.
This woman asked if I chose to become a Muslim or merely practice my faith because I was born into it. She gave instances of people who convert to different religions after leaving their family homes and enrolling in tertiary institutions.
I explained to her that I am a Muslim, not because I was born into this religion, but because I chose Islam as my religion. I revealed how I had grown up in an environment surrounded by non-Muslims. My teachers, classmates, and friends were non-Muslims. I was, in fact, the only Muslim girl in my class. People made awful comments about my religion. Friends deserted me because I was Muslim. I vividly remember when a friend brought a book, which portrayed Islam in a bad light, to school. I cried bitterly that day, wondering why I was Muslim…why I couldn’t be like everyone else, why I couldn’t live without the risk of being judged or ridiculed on the basis of my faith.
This fear prompted me to learn about Islam. I decided that I needed to understand why I was a Muslim; why I didn’t worship God like people of other faiths and why I had to wear the headscarf. I was eager to know why I had to pray five times daily…why I was different. I knew that the only way to remain steadfast in my faith was to learn.
So, I read and asked questions. My father loved to seek knowledge about Islam and encouraged me to do the same. He would buy new sets of Islamic books every week and stock the bookshelf with them. I read these books and fell deeper in love with Islam. I also attended madrasah and pondered over Quranic verses and the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).
“People often convert to other religions either because they have found what appears to them to be the true faith.” I said to her “Or because they have not taken the time to understand why they were on the previous path and what the end result would be. I chose Islam because of my knowledge and love for Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). And I am striving to become one of the successful.” I smiled at her.
Realising that she couldn’t convince me to accept her faith. She gave up and said to me, “Have a nice day. It was nice talking to you.” My meeting with this woman left me deep in my thoughts. Imagine if I didn’t know why I chose Islam. Sweet talks could have easily swayed me. I remembered several colleagues at the university who converted to other religions. Chances are they never took their time to study the faith from the right sources.
Maryam AbdulWahab is a Nigerian creative writer and lifestyle blogger. She is also a graduate of Economics from Al-Hikmah University. She lives and breathes literature. When she isn’t writing prose or blog posts, she is reading a book on fantasy or studying events around her. Maryam writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can find more of her work on her website.