A Different Childhood

By Anisa Kissoon

Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.
I am a 26-year-old woman from a British -Caribbean background. I was brought up in the UK and currently live there. My journey started at the ripe old age of five. One day I ran away from Sunday school because the teacher was trying to convince me that God was really one but was also three at the same time. I didn’t believe him. I was not old enough to question and debate so I just rebelled and ran away. That was the end of Sunday school for me.
Throughout my early teenage years I visited many churches including the Catholic Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Mormons, and the Jehovah witnesses. I found that what they all had in common was that they professed monotheism but actually believed in more than one God. I found it strange that grown up people could think so illogically. At that time Islam was not on my mind because I had come to think it was an Asian religion. When I was a young teenager I didn’t know anything about Islam. As West Indians we always looked at Asians as having strange religions—idol worship and so on. So I ended up putting Islam into that category. At that time I felt Islam was not an option for me.
When I was eleven, my brother was learning about Islam. I found out in later years that he had actually embraced the religion but kept it somewhat secret. He always told me not to drink alcohol, date, or take drugs and so on. I listened to him and so was kept away from many dangers. The fact that he instilled these moral values in me was the beginning of a foundation of Islam in my heart. I had already stopped eating pork and in my heart I always believed there was only One God.
I was a person who spoke out and fought for what I believed. I had a positive view of life—taking care of the environment, speaking out against racism, and so on, and this led me to understand Islamic principles and later to recognize them when I read the Qur’an. Then one day my friend told me I should go to Hyde Park where they have a place for people to speak freely on any subject. The Muslims were a common sight there talking to the public about Islam. On that particular day Abdul Raheem Green, from London Central Mosque, was speaking and my heart was touched. He spoke about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in such a beautiful, simple, and attractive way that he had all my attention. I already believed in the other prophets. I knew they never sought the world and he explained that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was like them but the difference was that he was the final prophet in the long chain of prophethood that had begun with Adam, the first man (peace be upon him). Therefore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) concluded the divine message to mankind.
I already had belief in One God and I understood the importance of morality, so learning about the significance of the Qur’an and the role of Muhammad (peace be upon him) sealed my understanding. It was simple and understandable to me. That night I decided that I didn’t want to die in a state of hesitation, so I determined to make the Shahadah. My friend’s brother had become a Muslim at 17 years of age, so I went to her house to see her brother and make Shahadah. In my own little world I did not realize that I had already become a Muslim in my heart so my Shahadah simply confirmed what I already was.
I started attending lessons held by Abdul Raheem Green. I learnt more about the basic beliefs in Islam and the importance of Tawhid and the significance of these beliefs in everyday life. The lessons were very spiritual and motivated us to learn more and do more. From there I started to talk about Islam to my family and in my school. At school I started a prayer room and there we used to have discussions at lunchtime. From this many students were attracted to Islam. A lot of the influence came from the seeds my brother had planted in my heart long ago. The advice he gave us to keep away from harmful immoral actions and behavior held me in good stead until I came to understand Islam more fully. When he was just 12 years old my brother was already praying and reading Qur’an even though no one else in the family was Muslims. He influenced me so much.
The main obstacles I faced were peer pressure from the West Indian community particularly when it came to hijab. Even though I wasn’t wearing a full hijab the male teachers in my school would pressure me and belittle me in an attempt to take it off. Most of the kids at school that turned to Islam through the prayer room and study circle were born Muslims who had lost their identity, as well as some who reverted.
I used to attend a performing arts school but when I accepted Islam I stopped performing in front of men and this was a big sacrifice for me and caused a lot of pressure as teachers tried to coax me to continue because I was good at this. My faith was strong so I trusted in Allah and became determined to follow the rules regardless of what people might say, think, or do.
The thing that attracted me to Islam was that it coincided with my instinctive belief in One God; I always thought it was an insult to put partners with Him.
At one point my family took me to Jamaica to visit my extended family there who were Christians. They built churches and were very active in their community, so when I told them about my conversion to Islam, they told me: their prayers are ritualistic; their clothes are a costume; their women are oppressed, and basically they were determined to put Christ back into my heart. They didn’t understand that Christ was already in my heart but he is loved my me as a prophet and messenger of Allah; not in the way they loved him.
I was 15 years old, but I refused to attend church and I didn’t go swimming with them or attend functions when men and women mixed socially. I was determined to have the right to swim in a women’s area. They thought I was just going through a phase and that I’d change. So far, five members of my family have accepted Islam as a way of life. All Praise and Thanks be to Allah.

Source: http://www.islamonline.net/english/journey/2005/03/jour01.shtml

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