Insult to injury: Christian adoptive-mom says – “They should be thankful.”
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Her conversion from Ibiza party girl to hijab-wearing Muslim in barely three months may well raise a few eyebrows – and she admits that her friends probably think it’s another one of her fads.
But trainee teacher Heather Matthews, 27, says Islam has brought her ‘love and happiness’ that she never found in her old ‘shallow’ lifestyle.
Mrs Matthews, a mother of two, converted to the faith four weeks ago – two months after returning from a holiday in Ibiza. And she says that the photographs of the ‘old her’ taken on that trip show all that is wrong with Western images of beauty.
She said: ‘I thought I needed to act and dress in a certain way to feel good about myself. I see girls now and think about what image they are portraying to other people, especially men.
‘It is about self-respect. If you dress and act in a certain way, rightly or wrongly, you’ll be treated in a certain way.
‘Islam has taught me about real love, not false passion and lust. I can even see the logic in arranged marriage.’
A study by multi-faith group Faith Matters found the number of Muslim converts in Britain has now passed 100,000, doubling in ten years.
The report estimated nearly two-thirds of the new converts were women, with an average age of 27 – like Mrs Matthews.
Her path to conversion began when she tried to convince her ex-husband Jerrome, himself a Muslim convert, that the religion was wrong. She was ‘very suspicious’ of the faith, and began reading up on it to support her arguments.
Although they separated last year, she continued to learn about Islam – and identified with it more and more. Then, four weeks ago, she completed the ‘revert’ process. She said: ‘I underwent the ‘Shahadah’ ceremony of conversion to Islam by repeating a declaration of faith in front of the Imam at my local multi-faith centre.
‘I had several Muslim sisters with me and they bought me a hijab and Islamic books to celebrate. It was wonderful.’
But she admits that her friends have been shocked at her conversion to a religion which is often seen as being oppressive towards women.
‘People are probably thinking “Oh, it is just another one of Heather’s fads”. It isn’t. It is what I’ve been searching for during the times I’ve been filling my life with instant gratification,’ she said.
Mrs Matthews, from Preston, has also had a cautious reaction from her family. But it is the response from passers-by that surprised her the most – especially the effect of her headscarf.
‘No men try to chat me up. When I’m wearing the headscarf I can smile at people without them thinking it is a sexual advance,’ she said.
‘I definitely agree with Islam’s principles of not having sex with someone you’re not married to and to save your beauty for your husband. So I think my next partner would need to be a practising Muslim to understand.
‘It is easy for me to say this now, with hindsight, having made the mistakes, but I think I would have been better off with partners who my parents thought were suitable, learning to love them through friendship first.’ Mrs Matthews has given up alcohol, sticks to a halal diet and plans to fast during Ramadan. She has an English-language Koran which she reads daily, and wants to learn Arabic so that she can recite prayers five times a day.
But she will not be forcing Islam on to her daughters – Ellah, five, and two-year-old Halle – from her marriage to Jerrome.
‘People think I must be oppressed but I’m a strong, confident and free woman,’ she said. ‘I know I’m one of the most unlikely people to revert to Islam.
‘It astounds me. But I’ve done it for love and happiness and it has completely changed my life.’
UPDATED: 23:02 GMT, 26 October 2012 on daily mail.
If They Knew Him, They Would Have Loved Him
By Sadaf Farooqi
There are many aspects of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) personality that are not just admirable in and of themselves, but also exemplary because they highlight his great humility and approachability as a person, despite his high-ranking status as the last messenger of God, and as the indisputable leader of the Muslims.
Prophet Muhammad had an enormous mission in life since he received the first Divine revelation from Gabriel: that of conveying God’s message to mankind. As a result, he must have undoubtedly had a full daily schedule comprising of meetings with important people, in addition to the burden of other crucial tasks, such as planning strategies, delegating assignments and executing objectives for the Muslim ummah, especially in the latter part of his life, which he spent in Madinah, when Islam was being established as a state religion, social system, and economic order.
Despite these time-consuming commitments, he was actually not a workaholic, and he spent considerable time with his family. He also amicably dealt with people from all walks of life in an unruffled, reasonable and appropriate manner, whenever they approached him – a manner which always left them fulfilled and satisfied, even those who came to complain to him. He clearly proved through his interactions with everyone how human and down-to-earth he was, despite being chosen by God to receive Divine revelation as the final messenger towards mankind.
An Easygoing and Loving Family Man
|He would help in the housework, and he used to fix his clothes and personal belongings himself|
In some cultures across the world, it is considered derogatory for the “man of the house” to help out in his family by doing household work. Most men hardly pick up after themselves, expecting their mothers, sisters, wives or daughters to do the needful, let alone help these ladies out by making their task easier.
Prophet Muhammad was not like that. Instead of lounging around being served by ladies at his beck and call like a king on a throne while he was at home, he would help in the housework, and he used to fix his clothes and personal belongings himself.
Narrated Al-Aswad ibn Yazid:
“I asked Aisha: “What did the Prophet use to do at home?” She said: He used to work for his family, and when he heard the Adhan (call for the prayer), he would go out.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet also did not shy away from expressing love for his wife and daughter. He would get up to greet his daughter Fatima when she came to visit him, and would drink from a vessel by placing his lips on its rim exactly where his wife Aisha’s lips touched it when she drank from it before him.
A Kind and Concerned Senior Figure
Nowadays it is common for someone who occupies any kind of leadership position to fall into the trap of arrogance, by letting their authority over others ‘get to their head’, so to speak.
Whether it is a person in a corporate office, a chauffeur, doorman, personal assistant, or any other kind of subordinate who works for us and makes our life easier, if they do not do the work that we give them to do on time, and exactly the way we want them to, it is not unheard of for some fussy employers to retaliate unjustly. They can fire the errant employee on the spot in a fit of anger, or humiliate them by shouting at them disrespectfully, and even going so far as calling them demeaning names in front of others. This leaves often permanent scars on the subordinates’ sense of self-worth and self-esteem, not to mention sully the work environment and the general aura around employer-subordinate relationships.
Imagine having a superior who never did any of the above, because he knew how to motivate his employees in a gentle manner, and could extract the best performance from them using methods of positive reinforcement and other psychological behavioral methodologies, which built up their self-esteem, and so automatically brought out their innate talents and optimum results, without needing to exert his authority over them?This is exactly the way Prophet Muhammad treated his employees, personal assistants and other people younger than him, who came to serve him, learn from him, or benefit in any way from his training and mentorship, whether they were Muslim or non-Muslim.
“A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet and he became sick. So the Prophet went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him to obey Abul-Qasim (i.e. Prophet Muhammad) and the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet came out saying: Praises be to Allah Who saved the boy from the Hell-fire.” (Al-Bukhari)
|The Prophet was indeed the most kind and caring of superior authority figures, unlike any “boss” you will find in the modern world|
There are several key points to note in the above narration: First, the young age of the Jewish boy and the fact that the Prophet, even when he was no longer being served by this boy, went to visit him when he was on his deathbed. How many modern-day employers of young valets visit the latter when they fall ill?
Not just that, but the Prophet did the utmost benevolence to him at that crucial point when his life was in danger: extended an invitation towards him to accept Islam. Lastly, even after the boy accepted Islam, the Prophet did not think that this was because of his own efforts, but attributed this good outcome to God, and like a humble slave of God, thanked Him for saving the boy from the Hell-Fire.
The Prophet was indeed the most kind and caring of superior authority figures, unlike any “boss” you will find in the modern world! He never even reprimanded those who worked for his service if they forgot to do something, or did something that he did not like, despite their being young minors/children:
“When Allah’s messenger came to Madinah, he did not have any servant. Abu Talhah (Anas’ step-father) took me to Allah’s messenger and said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Anas is a wise boy, so let him serve you.” So, I served him at home and on journeys. If I did anything, he never asked me why I did it, and if I refrained from doing anything, he never asked me why I refrained from doing it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
We all know how quick we are to scold, reprimand and correct young children, whether they are our own biological children, students/pupils, or servants. Just because they are much younger than us, we assume that we can get away with scowling, snapping and even shouting at them unnecessarily, whenever they become negligent or make a mistake, because they do not possess the means to retaliate, and because they are subjugated by us due to their lower age and socioeconomic status.However, Prophet Muhammad never reprimanded Anas even once throughout the many years that he served him! This was because he was extremely compassionate with younger ones, and because he had empathy: he understood their human needs and desires.
“We came to the Prophet and stayed with him for twenty days and nights. We were all young and of about the same age. The Prophet was very kind and merciful. When he realized our longing for our families, he asked about our homes and the people there and we told him. Then he asked us to go back to our families and stay with them and teach them (the religion) and to order them to do good things.” (Al-Bukhari)
Affectionate with Children
The older someone is, and the greater authority and leadership he enjoys in society, the less time he usually has to play with and talk to children. Not so Prophet Muhammad. He would not just find time to joke and play with children, but would remember their interests and hobbies when he encountered them later on as well.
“The Prophet was the best of all the people in character. I had a brother called Abu Umar, who, I think, had been newly weaned. Whenever he (that child) was brought to the Prophet the Prophet used to say: O Abu Umayr! What did al-nughair (nightingale) do? It was a nightingale with which he used to play with. Sometimes the time of the prayer became due while he (the Prophet) was in our house. He would order that the carpet underneath him be swept and sprayed with water, and then he would stand up (for the prayer) and we would line up behind him, and he would lead us in prayer.” (Al-Bukhari)
As is evident from the previous narrations quoted above, Anas was sent to serve the Prophet as a young lad by his step-father Abu Talhah. Anas had younger brothers. The fact that the Prophet not only talked to little boys who had just been weaned, i.e. who were between 2-3 years old, about their pets with which they played, but also gathered these children together to lead them in prayer in his home (thus facilitating their moral training through love and play), shows his true humility and kindness as an adult, despite occupying the highest position of leadership among the Muslims.
Truly, if everyone in this world strove to educate themselves about Prophet Muhammad and saw him through the eyes of his companions, in particular, the little children, young men, and downtrodden women of his time, by reading the words about him penned by these scribes themselves, they would know what he was really like.
And if they knew him, they would surely have loved him!
By: Trenton Daniel, The Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – School teacher Darlene Derosier lost her home in the 2010 earthquake that devastated her country. Her husband died a month later after suffering what she said was emotional trauma from the quake. She and her two daughters now live in tents outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, surrounded by thousands of others made homeless and desperate by the disaster.
What’s helped pull her through all the grief, she said, has been her faith, but not of the Catholic, Protestant or even Voodoo variety that have predominated in this island country. Instead, she’s converted to a new religion here, Islam, and built a small neighbourhood mosque out of cinderblocks and plywood, where some 60 Muslims pray daily.
Islam has won a growing number of followers in this impoverished country, especially after the catastrophe two years ago that killed some 300,000 people and left millions more homeless. A capital where church attendance is so prevalent that the streets echo with Christian hymns on Sundays now has at least five mosques, a Muslim parliament member and a nightly local television program devoted to Islam.
The disaster drew in aid groups from around the world, including Islamic Relief USA, which built 200 shelters and a secondary school with 20 classrooms.
“After the earthquake we had a lot of people join,” said Robert Dupuy, an imam or Islamic spiritual leader in the capital. “We were organized. We had space in the mosques to receive people and food to feed them.”
Derosier said she was drawn to the religion’s preaching of self-discipline, emphasis on education and attention to cleanliness. The constant washing, she said, helps her and other Muslims avoid cholera, the waterborne illness that health officials say has sickened nearly 600,000 people and killed more than 7,500 others since surfacing after the quake.
“This is a victory for me,” the 43-year-old woman said about her post-quake conversion. The former Protestant spoke in the tent-filled courtyard of her home, her face framed by a clean, black head scarf. “It’s a victory that I received peace and found guidance.”
In part, the Muslim community’s growth can be attributed to the return of expatriates who adopted the faith in the U.S., said Kishner Billy, owner of the island’s Telemax TV station and host of the nightly program “Haiti Islam.”
Billy and some others believe that Islam’s Haitian past goes back before the country’s independence in 1804, and that a Jamaican slave and Voodoo priest named Boukman who led the slave revolt that ousted French colonizers was actually a Muslim.
“Islam is coming back to Haiti to stay,” said Billy, who says he converted from Christianity 20 years ago. “Future generations, my sons and daughters, will speak about Islam.”
There are no firm statistics on the number of Muslims in Haiti, just as there are no reliable figures for many things in the country, including Port-au-Prince’s exact population.
A 2009 study by the Pew Research Center on the world’s Muslim population estimated that Haiti had about 2,000 devotees. Islamic leaders in the country insist the figure is much higher and growing.
Islam is hardly unknown in the Caribbean; countries such as Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Guyana have significant Muslim populations. Many of those nations have strong roots in countries such as India and Indonesia where Islam is widespread.
The ancestors of Haitians, by contrast, were brought largely from non-Muslim areas of Africa. Haiti’s French colonial rulers also imported their Christian beliefs.
The recent growth of Islam, as well as other new religions, shows Haiti is modernizing and becoming more pluralistic, said Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a professor of Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“Inroads made by Islam (and by extension, by Mormonism and Rastafarianism) tell me that Haiti is very much a product of this century, subject to all winds, ill-winds and otherwise, that blow over the Caribbean nation-states,” Bellegarde-Smith wrote in an email.
Rosedany Bazille, a 39-year-old teacher who converted several months after the earthquake, said she had felt rudderless before embracing the religion and was looking for a way forward.
“Islam can put people on the right path and show them who’s God,” she said.
Some Haitian Muslims belong to the Nation of Islam, a U.S.-based branch of the religion that preaches black self-determination. Some local members converted while serving time in U.S. prisons before being deported back to Haiti. The group’s leader, Louis Farrakhan, visited the country for the first time last year.
The decision to convert has made some targets of discrimination.
The Haitian government doesn’t recognize Islam as an official religion, nor does it honour Muslim marriages. Wearing the skullcaps or flowing head scarves typical of the religion can draw stares and finger-pointing. Derosier said her neighbours gossip that she’s evil.
Voodoo, a blend of West African religions created by slaves during the colonial period, has long been a popular faith in the country, with elements followed even by some of the 85 per cent of the population who claim Christian beliefs. Voodoo was once so commonly embraced that the notorious dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier used it to terrify and control the masses.
Most Christian Haitians identify themselves as Roman Catholics. A priest, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected president in 1990 by opposing the hereditary dictatorship that continued with Francois’ son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
With so much still wrong in Haiti, the need for Islam couldn’t be greater, said Billy. Two months ago, he launched his live talk show to educate his compatriots about his adopted faith.
“Haiti has gone astray. It can’t produce anything,” said Billy. “Right now Haitians just want a visa to go the United States, to Canada. They don’t want to stay in Haiti.”
With a tapestry of Mecca and praying crowds as a backdrop to his TV show one recent evening, Billy and his co-host Ruben Caries invited watchers to send questions about Islam via text messages.
Billy’s BlackBerry buzzed with missives, including this one in Creole: “M vle vini Muslim” — “I want to be a Muslim.”
Mélanie Georgiades, known as Diam’s, has gone through what onlookers have described as a “complete transformation” from an image she had prior to 2009.