When I left off last week, I had just gotten back to university and began to exercise my freedom by joining the Muslim Students’ Association.
I met some very interesting people, a couple of whom are still good friends to this day. I began attending Friday prayers and learning to pray…first once a day, then adding in another, and another until I was praying five times a day.
Around October I began to also fast on Mondays and Thursdays, and pray extra prayers throughout the day.
By November, I was pretty much a full-on practising Muslim. All that was missing was an official testimony of faith.
For some reason I kept putting it off-I kept telling myself I would wait until the next time I could visit my husband and do it with him. I don’t know what I was so scared of; I fully believed in what Islam teaches, and I pretty much fully practised everything except the hijab at this point. But still, what would my mom think? My friends?
Then, a good friend offered to take me along with her to a class on prayer. It was a three day conference-style thing, and it was absolutely amazing. There was so much information on prayer, which I was still trying to learn at this point, and this was the first time I had ever heard the call to prayer multiple times a day and prayed in large congregation.
All weekend, I felt so connected to the community, and I learned so much in those short couple of days.
On the second day, my friend took me to say salaam to the teacher, who she studies with often. When he heard that I hadn’t done an official testimony of faith, he told me to just give him the word and he would call me up to do it in front of everyone. I said, thank you, but I wanted to wait. He gave me a knowing look and let me be.
The next day, the last day of the class, after getting very emotional hearing the call to prayer and praying in the lush carpeted prayer hall, I went up to the teacher on a whim and told him I was ready.
Before the next segment of class was due to start, he called me up on stage and gave me the testimony of faith. He began by giving me the advice to get to know Islam before I get to know Muslims, and then he began to recite the words. First in Arabic and then in translation, I repeated after him. I know it only took a total of four minutes, but it felt like I was up on that stage for a lifetime.
After lots of tears and hugs from all of the sisters in the room (and some amazing gifts from some wonderful ladies), it was all over. I felt relieved and so happy that I had finally done it. But also still terrified about what everyone was going to think when the word got out.
And with all of this doing laps inside of my head, the teacher finished the testimony by telling me “mabrook!” (Arabic for congratulations). I unthinkingly repeated this back to him, thinking there was more of the testimony to be said, much to the amusement of my good friend standing next to me. To this day I don’t show people the video of my testimony unless I have to, because I am so mortified by this.
Back to the point though, I don’t think words can really explain the experience very well, and I can only hope I have given you at least a small glimpse of the huge range of emotion I felt during this weekend. I really hope this story can provide some small amount of inspiration, or comfort, or resonance with you.
Next week, God willing, in the close to this three part story, I will tell you all about what happened after the official testimony of faith, and how I came to be wearing the hijab full-time.