I was born in a Muslim family which made me a Muslim at birth. My prayer life started when my brother and sisters moved to the States after the death of my mother in 1991. We started living with my Cha Cha ( my dad’s younger brother). My uncle has always been the religious type, he use to pray all five times a day, read the Quran and keep all the roza’s (fasts) in the month of Ramadan.
He used to encourage us to pray and memorize Sura’s (Quranic verses to use in prayers) in Arabic. No one really talked to us about learning the meanings of the Suras we were memorizing, but knowing them in Arabic was the most important part. My grandmother taught us how to pray when we were living in Pakistan. She used to recite the Sura’s and we would repeat everything she said.
My family wasn’t strict like many of the radical Muslim people you hear about these days, but all were Muslims who were trying to pray, read the Quran and try doing the ‘Good’ things as much as they could. My religious background did not consist of Hijabs (covering for women’s hair), religious fights or the hatred for the Americans. We were just a normal Muslim family living our lives, trying to remember all the rules and regulations in order to follow them.
Even though my grandmother taught us how to pray, it was really my Uncle who I lived with for six years who became the biggest influence in regards to my Muslim religion.
Like I mentioned before, my uncle would ask us to memorize Sura’s and either ask us or demand that we perform the namaaz. I grew up doing what he wanted us to do, but I personally didn’t care too much about the whole praying and reading the Quran thing.
I say that he was the biggest influence not because he encouraged me to love Allah or to seek him as a loving God, but because he had certain rules that we had to follow which forced me to pray, memorize the Quran and fast.
I faced many problems when I was living with my uncle. I faced physical abuse, sexual abuse from other men when I had to ran away from my uncles house( due to the physical abuse) and a lot of negative comments from the family member. I became the “Black Sheep” of the family and many adults did not think highly of me because I had told the police about my uncle’s abuse towards me. In Muslim religion and culture, the girl is rarely or never respected if she talks about an elder in the family even if she is getting abused.
I didn’t care about Allah at that time in my life, perhaps because I started hating my family and started leaning towards the American way of life. After some time and a failed attempt to gain my Uncles sympathy, I decided to run away from home and was shuffled around from foster home to foster homes. In 1996 my Uncle decided to send me to Pakistan to live with my dad’s sister.
I moved there when I was about 14 years old and started my life there. I think it was 3 years after that when my cousin and I were watching a movie late at night while my aunt was asleep. Two men broke into the house with a knife and a gun and demanded that we cooperate with them. It scared me because I did not want my cousin or myself to get raped or hurt in any way ( in Pakistan people can get killed and nothing is done about it). So I decided to cooperate with them and did whatever the asked. The whole attempted robbery lasted maybe for 20 minutes. My aunt fought with those men and they ran off without hurting anyone or taking anything from the house.
It was about time for Fajr Namaaz when everything was calm and over, and that is when I said to myself that I have to start praying and thanking Allah for this everyday of my life. That was the day I was motivated to pray and sincerely pursue God and the right path.
My friendships didn’t really influence or affect me spiritually at all. I think the whole concept of spirituality was far from our mindsets. I used to pray all five times, fast in the month of Ramadan and read the Quran, but never had the concept of growing spiritually or talking about Allah with friends as a topic during our “hang out times”.
I had maybe two or three friends who prayed, but we still did our own things. We still had dating relationships we shouldn’t have had, and enjoyed partying and enjoyed our lives. So I don’t think that you can affect anyone or be affected by anyone spiritually if your actions and life is not representing God’s truth. I didn’t know about this when I was a Muslim, I just prayed and did whatever I could or felt like to be religious.
What I learnt through the experience with my friends was that enjoying life may make you happy and satisfy you for a while, but it will never last. My friends and I lived to go to parties, dance and later on with age, we got involved in other things such as drinking and a little bit of smoking.
I am not saying that I didn’t learn anything good from my friends, but that basically going out and partying was “the cure for all our problems” (never really sat down and talked to God about things). I have had good conversations with some friends, but its different to just talk about things that matter and then going back to your life style as I would say now, to enjoy life “ the worldly way”.
In my past eight years I spent in Karachi, I learnt to pray five times a day, read the Quran and fast, but nothing stopped me from the sin I was in.
I now know that because of Jesus Christ who is the only way to God, I was able to receive his help and love to change my ways and grow in my faith in him. Now I pray and read the Bible because of the love I have for Jesus my Lord. I strive to put all my old sinful desires behind and to do everything that pleases Jesus instead of the things that hurt my Lord.