When are you at your happiest?
When I’m with the kids, with the family, when we do fun things, when we’re on holidays is a fun thing. Just when people are happy that makes me happy, you kinda live on everybody elses energy, so that’s pretty much where I’m happiest.
What’s something that you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about kids education, and the health and well being of kids. Especially because I have my own, I think that’s where it stems from. To ensure they’re always happy, they’re all safe, passionate about trying to live in a more tolerant and happy world. Sometimes I guess we still live in a little bubble where everything is happy and is good, hopefully that extends to the greater community and greater world.
What is a significant achievement of yours?
Definitely the kids and my family, that’s a big achievement, probably my biggest, and probably my only achievement thus far in life!
What do you hope to achieve in 2016?
To get through it, to make sure the kids are happy, that they reach their potential. Maybe also to maybe buy a house! That’s a goal. Just to stay on top of life I guess and to enjoy it, and maybe go on some holidays.
Who is your role model?
Women in the community are role models. One of my mentors she is quite a big role model. Her name is Doctor Nora Amath. She’s a quite a big role model in that she’s an advocate of peace in the community, bridging between Muslims and the wider community. I’m not quite there yet in the whole community peace building, but definitely her passion for her family, that’s a big thing for me.
My husband is a role model, he’s very patient, very loving, great with the family, great with the kids, that’s a big thing for me also.
How did your Husband Mahomed first gain your attention? What was your initial impression?
I had known my husband Mahomed for awhile through mutual friends! And my initial thought was, HE IS SO CUTE! But he was very shy!
We didn’t connect for many years but because we had similar circles of friends, we ran into each here and there. I was always trying to find out if he had a girlfriend but he was very elusive. However, I eventually got him to go for coffee and we discovered we have a lot in common! One of the first things we talked about was that Islam and family are a big part of his life. So for me, if I wanted anything more to do with him, I had to look into this religion of Islam as I had the family thing down packed! I knew very early on, hanging out with him, he was the one. He was very sceptical and held back but I wore him down.
I was lucky to have found Dr Nora Amath and her husband to Dr Halim Rane to be mentors on my discovery journey. They were sceptical I was serious and thought I was just doing everything for a guy! To be honest, Mahomed was the reason why I looked into Islam but it came to a point that it was no longer about him. It was the point where I was, if I don’t end up being with him, it was ok. I’ve found God out of it and whatever happens will happen! I also had a dream about converting to Islam and that was when I knew I am meant to be Muslim. Dr Amath and Dr Rane are two people I look up to and aspire to become. To be so generous with their time, to open up their home and to be such great role models for myself and many others, I am blessed and grateful they are in our lives. They along with Sheik Ahmad, Mahomed and my siblings, were present when I embraced Islam.
What was the biggest risk you’ve taken?
I wouldn’t say, I can’t really think of biggest risk. Maybe abseiling is a big risk? What else is a big risk. For me I don’t think marriage was a big risk, I don’t think embracing Islam was a big risk. I don’t know… Probably can’t think of one off the top of my head. More about conquering fears than taking risks for me.
What’s something that has changed your life?
Embracing Islam, coming from a Buddhist background, which was a big change in my life. Islam took nearly a year and a half before I converted. It started off getting interest in Islam through my husband. It took a year and a half of learning about the religion and then embracing it. Because it got to the point where it was no longer about him in a way. Because obviously he was the spark of the interest, but I got to the point where I was like well if I don’t end up with him that’s fine, I found another higher power of god. So that’s where it got to the point where I had to convert and that’s when I became Muslim.
What were the main challenges in converting to Islam for you?
The stereotype was a hard thing to overcome! I had always grown up with this perception that all Muslims were terrorists, that they were abusive to their wives, disrespectful to kids and elders and so on. But once I got into learning about the religion it was a very satisfying and an easy religion to follow and believe. It made sense! It was simple! My husband was very cautious in not being too involved in my learning as he wanted to make sure I was wanting to discover the religion for me. That I wasn’t doing it just for him. Of course he was the spark, the reason but it didn’t end with him.
I am fortunate to have a few close mentors in my life and one is a sheik named Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh. He is my go to man! It is important to have someone like him in your corner when starting out to ask questions and to get proper advice. He is still a part of my life and still the person I go to if I need advice with our kids and any religious questions. He makes things simple. He makes it all in a normal persons language and concepts. For example, there were some difficulties in preparing for our wedding, as there were some Islamic traditions, but these were entwined with cultural traditions and influences that I didn’t understand. Sheik Ahmad made sense and enabled me understand from an outside point of view. So discovering the difference between ‘Islam Islam’ and cultural Islam was a difficulty which is always a learning curve! I am very fortunate, very grateful and blessed my husband and his family are very open minded and very encouraging in my learning journey to discover Islam as a religion rather than the cultural side taking over.
How did your family feel about you embracing Islam, coming from a Buddhist background?
My family have been supportive and open minded with a few bumps in the road. The first thought they had was that I was going through a phase and that it will pass. But when I converted they were like whoa! I was serious! For them it was also getting over the stereotype, the perception of what Islam is all about, that it was all to do with terrorists.
They were not sure what to expect and were a little sad but at the end of the day, they wanted me to be happy. They realised I as a person had not changed, that I was still their daughter, their sibling but with a different internal belief. The lifestyle change was not too crazy as I was pretty conservative before I converted.
Being Muslim has had its challenges especially when it came to celebrations and family traditions, but I feel at the end of the day, as long as your intention is to do right by Allah, everything is possible and negotiable. For example, when my grandmother passed away (she was a staunch Buddhist), there were many religious elements that had to be adhered to. I am a part of the family so Mahomed and the kids took part in all we could without crossing the religious lines. My family and extended family, Alhamdulilah [Praise be to God] are also understanding and were sensitive to our limitations.
What role do your beliefs play in your life?
So being Muslim, belief is an everyday lifestyle, it’s your way of being, it’s everything that you do, everything that you are. Obviously we’re not perfect and you try to do the best you can with what you have, to the best of your capabilities. You try and teach your kids as much as you can and just make sure you try to be a good person, everyday, try to be a good person and just be thankful and grateful for what you have.
What’s your best advice for others?
Be happy, to be yourself, just to take whatever comes your way in your stride. Nothing is as bad as it seems. God never gives you anything that you can’t overcome, no matter what it is, it’s always going to get better. It’s always going to make you a stronger person. It’s going to make you move forward. And just be happy, be grateful for what you have, don’t always try and go for material things that can just disappear in the blink of an eye, and just live life. Don’t be crazy in trying to aspire to be materialistically more than what you need.