Georg completed her Asr prayer, hearing her phone ping as she said the final salaams.
Emma: See you [email protected], Duck&Carrot, Simon asking if u coming ;>)
She smiled, then caught her reflection in the mirrored, pale skin contrasting with the black hijab she used for her prayers which were becoming ever more infrequent. She stared back at her grey eyes, shame contracting her heart as she acknowledged the hypocrisy of her life, far from what she intended 5 years ago when she took her Shahada.
She grew up in a small town where there weren’t many people of different ethnicities, and loved meeting people from all different backgrounds at University. She was drawn to the quiet, friendly Hafsa, a Malaysian student in plimsolls and hijab. Over many croissants and coffees, she questioned her about her faith, her hijab, and her polite refusal of nights out. She attended an iftar in the student’s union, and was impressed by these confident, modest young women, but most of all she felt she might have finally found the answer to the yearning that had always been inside her. Slowly she began to find answers in Islam to questions buried deep inside her heart.
She took her Shahada surrounded by smiling friends and strangers, and felt she had found not only her faith but her people. With Hafsa by her side she donned her hijab without difficulty. Visits home were harder, but she spoke to her family and her old friends honestly and openly, and she was confident that with Allah’s help, things would settle down.
She was a long way now from those hopeful days. After Uni, things had started to become more difficult. Hafsa had gone home to Malaysia, and her other Muslim friends dispersed too. The support structure wasn’t there anymore, and while the sisters at the masjid helped her in the beginning, over time it became clear that they were busy with their families.
Friends back home were starting to get married and settle down. Hafsa had married a childhood friend, and they looked so happy in their Facebook photos. Georg wanted that for herself – but how to find someone with no support from a Muslim family? As friendly as the ladies in the mosque were, she knew they didn’t see her as a suitable wife for their brothers and sons. She put a profile on a Muslim marriage site, and got plenty of responses, but it was quantity over quality. She met with one brother in a café in a town between their homes. He was handsome, educated, and said he was active in the Muslim community where he lived. He sounded perfect. He had described himself as divorced. However, it soon became apparent that he was looking for a second wife, and was having problems with the first one due to his violence.
After that, she took her profile down. She still believed in Islam just as much as she did when she took her Shahada, but her loneliness was increasing, and with no way to find a good husband to share her life with, she could see this loneliness stretching out in front of her.
So, it seemed like a good idea to take a job back home. She could be near her family and school friends and would just have to practice Islam by herself. It felt good to reconnect to her old friends and family, but problems soon started to show. She no longer wanted to do the same things, and go to the same places, so she found it hard to have any sort of social life. She found the address of a masjid in the nearest town, but arriving for Juma prayer one Friday, she was told they didn’t have a space for women. She prayed next to her car in the car park and drove home.
Slowly, she started to make compromises. A turning point was her Dad’s 50th birthday party in a local pub. She didn’t feel like she could say no, but it was in a pub. She couldn’t go in her hijab.
The night of the party, she told herself hijab was just the cherry on top, modesty was more than that. She wore a high necked, long sleeved maxi dress. She sat with some cousins she’d not seen for years. The table was set for dinner with wine glasses, and they filled hers up. She glanced and glanced away. Perhaps just one would be OK? It might help her to relax a bit, and it wasn’t like she was going to get drunk or anything.
After that night, it all became easier. The hijab never quite made its way back on, the necklines got lower, long skirts were replaced with jeans. Without the hijab, other people’s expectations changed.
One drink turned to two, and it became normal. Then one night, she met Simon, Emma’s work colleague. Lovely smile. Bright blue eyes. Not a creep. She made an excuse when he asked for her number – she knew it couldn’t go anywhere. As much of a hypocrite as she had become, she still believed, and wanted to be with a Muslim.
But she would see him again tonight. Her stomach skipped when he walked in, and he smiled that lovely smile. At the end of the evening, he invited her back to his. She excused herself and stepped outside into the cool night. She could fall into the arms of this lovely man, but where would she end up? She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the words that would save her:
La illaha illallah, muhammadan rasulullah.
If she knew nothing else, she knew that. She walked away without looking back. She didn’t go home to her flat, she walked and walked, tears rolling down her cheeks. She thought about all she hoped for when she became a Muslim, and how far away that seemed now. She had failed in her promise, failed Allah and his messenger. Surely it would be better, and more respectful to leave Islam? Leave it to those who had the strength that she clearly didn’t have.
She found herself in the park, with the sky lightening around her, exhausted. The words came to her of one of the surah’s she had learnt:
“By the light of daybreak and by the still of night,
Your Lord has not left you nor is he angry,
Your future is brighter than your present time,
Because your Lord will soon grant you what you really want and you will be happy”
The words soothed her heart, and she knew she had to give this one last try. She went home and googled ‘help for reverts’. There on the list was ‘Solace – for revert sisters in difficulty’. Maybe this was for people who were in real difficulty, like financial or being abused? Not just for someone like her who was too weak to be a Muslim. But she’d reached a cross roads. She filled out a form, giving sketchy details – loneliness might be easy enough to understand, but drinking? She couldn’t imagine any Muslim giving her much sympathy for that.
A sister called her the next day. She seemed so kind that Georg in the end told her everything, both how she was feeling, and how far away she’d gone from Islam in her life – even her thoughts that it would be better if she wasn’t Muslim anymore.
‘Allah’s forgiveness in greater than your sins’, the sister said. They assigned her a support worker, who was a revert, like her. The weekly sessions were a way back, and helped her move away from her other coping strategies, like drinking. Her support worker helped her to identify how, early on in her Islam, she had relied a lot on the support system around her, but maybe not concentrated enough on developing her own faith and practice. Being isolated from other Muslims was hard, but an opportunity to develop this. It was a long way back – but she had made a start, and as she felt her faith re-growing she found it easier to set boundaries with her family and friends, and reach out to the Muslim community further afield.
How do you feel when you meet a revert sister? Do you think about how hard it must be to practice Islam when your family love you, but don’t understand? About how vulnerable a revert sister is when looking for a husband with no family to back her up? Do you judge her for what she can’t do, while overlooking the sacrifices she has made?
In this blessed month, we ask for your duas for revert sisters, who may be breaking the fast every night alone. And if you are able to contribute financially, you would be helping people like Georg to stay on the right track.
Be their solace this Ramadan. Support revert sisters in difficulty: givesolace.uk/behersolace
The Revert Stories are in aid of Solace UK’s “Be Her Solace” campaign, which are 4 simple ways you can give our revert sisters solace in Ramadan.
Disclaimer: These stories are derived from multiple real stories to depict real-life events and circumstances experienced by revert sisters. While the stories are based on real-life events, none of the stories belong or refer to one particular person. Full anonymity and confidentiality has been upheld in the writing of Revert Stories. Solace takes the privacy of its service users seriously. All names, characters, locations and events have been changed.
This Revert Story was written by Kate.