From Darkness to Light – By Sister Miriam

On August 2021, I travelled to England and stayed there for four months to visit my two brothers, Umar and Muhammad Isa Abdullah. I live in Mexico; they live in Leicester with their families, in a Muslim community where the backbone is the love, respect and care they give each other forming close, true bonds, guided by the teachings of Islām. The daily call to prayer heard with through the speakers and receivers at home five times a day was peaceful and enchanting. Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat’s speeches every Friday at 9pm were memorable. I treasure Shaykh’s advices which reminded us that we shouldn’t think badly of people because our hearts get hardened and relationships break down. Shaykh also used to speak about the need to take care of our words, not to judge or speak ill of others. Shaykh also emphasised that we should learn about Islām and its history to value it. Shaykh always stresses the need to cultivate a clean heart and to take care of ourselves by obeying Allāh and to have love for others. I have always admired Shaykh’s Islamic teachings. I am convinced the Shaykh’s teachings make everyone a better person. Every time I speak on the phone with my brother, I always ask him about what Shaykh talked about that week so I can reflect on my life and practise upon it. 

Joy and peace flooded the atmosphere always. I witnessed the Muslims’ discipline to perform Ṣalāh prayer without hesitation, five times a day, leaving aside their work or social activities. As important as it may seem, this was the first thing that impressed me; I thought that if I looked, five times a day, that there is something more important than everyday tasks, I would spend more time with people, I would listen to them more carefully, I would observe to discover how I can help and I would participate more in my community.

From the age of 5, girls and boys, attend the Madrasah to learn their Islamic studies and learn how to read Arabic. I found it amazing to discover that if all the printed Qur’āns in the world were to be destroyed, the Qur’ānic text teachings would still be preserved due to the fact that it has been memorised by millions of Muslims.

I learned that in the world there are 2 billion Muslims (a ¼ of the world’s population), who carefully follow the teachings that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), consider him the messenger of Allāh, the only God, who revealed His teachings in the Qur’ān.


My professional and religious background

I have a bachelor’s degree in Communications and one in Philosophy. I write books to teach Spanish and Citizenship and Ethics Training at primary and secondary levels. I was baptised Catholic; then I also studied Buddhism and I have also taught yoga.

In 2011, when my mother passed away, I became a Muslim in order to continue her path; but to date, I had not put the Muslim religion into practice. My spiritual search led me to explore many paths and to think that we all participate in divinity. After my recent experience in 2021 of living for two months with the Muslim community in Leicester, I discovered the difference between understanding and accepting the principles of a religion from its intellectual analysis vs becoming interested in knowing a religion by living with those who practise it.


Visiting a mosque

I attended a mosque for the first time along with approximately 300 women and girls. They were dressed in black robes and wearing hijab. It was the midterm Awards ceremony of the Riyāḍuṣ Ṣāliḥāt learning venue for Muslim sisters. The management gave away sweets and books to the two best achievers. I was amazed by these Muslim women – they manifested and conveyed self-confidence, truthfulness and sweetness, all at the same time. The Muslim women did not appear oppressed as the media portrays. I was also touched by the great silence, respect and cordiality which the congregation displayed throughout the ceremony.


Muslims’ hospitality

I also visited several houses where they offered me tea, samoosas, cinnamon rolls, among other desserts prepared at home. I observed that the community spirit is vibrant and they look after each other. Muslim families are extremely welcoming and really make you feel at home.


Marital Engagements

Muslim Marriages work because their based on the love of Allāh, making the marriage more meaningful. The wife and the husband strive their best to treat each other well in order to please Allāh first and foremost. Couples who intend to marry meet on the recommendation of family or friends and arrange a meeting, if they are interested in each other. If the prospective bride and groom consider that they could be happy together, they agree to marry. The latter approach is very different from how many relationships are formed in a western culture, where physical and intellectual attractiveness, mutual support or growth in some area, become the basis of a relationship.


Visit to Riyāḍuṣ Ṣāliḥāt

The Shaykh gave me the opportunity to visit Riyāḍuṣ Ṣāliḥāt by asking his wife to show me around the premises, for me to witness the teaching and learning of the future `Ālimas / Āpās or female scholars; this was an honour for which I was most grateful.  Shaykh’s wife introduced me to the female groups of students who were learning Arabic and another language (Urdu) to read and interpret the Qur’ān correctly. It was explained to me that these groups of `Ālimas / scholars of the Qur’ān will dedicate themselves to sharing their teaching to other women. I witnessed at first hand that Islām does not deprive women of an education at all, rather it promoted it with the right setup.

Upon arriving at each group, the female management introduced me as the sister of Mawlānā Muhammad Isa. I greeted the students and I explained to them what my profession was. The management indicated that students could ask me questions. This gesture of openness, unlike what is reported in the mass media regarding Muslims, moved me and inspired in me great respect for Muslims.


Islamic humbleness

During the conversation, several students asked me to pray for them so that they would be successful in their studies. A student from the `Ālimas group asked: “What can we do for the people in Mexico?” This gesture of humility to ask another human being to pray for you and the gesture of generosity when asking how you can help others, is a sample of what I lived in the Muslim community. It was a contrasting experience from life in a competitive and individualistic culture.

I responded to that student that I have observed restlessness and loneliness in many young Mexicans. I suggested that they write articles to share their way of life, their joy, their beliefs and values, their solidarity, everything that gives shelter to other members of the community. Doing this, would give a more positive perspective to young people in Mexico and other countries about Muslims. It would also counteract the negative narrative that discredits all Muslims by the actions of extremist groups, which even with their actions are far from the teachings of Allāh.


Getting to know more

At night some students came to visit me at my brother’s house to talk to me. My sister-in-law prepared them hot chocolate to welcome them. I questioned why they covered their faces and why they accepted that their husbands had other wives. One of them explained to me that if they cover themselves, it is because they consider that a woman is like a pearl that is protected in a shell so as not to be stolen. Another sister mentioned that they would not like their husbands to have another wife, having another wife is not mandatory; but is regulated in the Qur’ān as a possibility. She mentioned: “Imagine that in those times when women did not work, one became a widow. Such woman would not have a way to support her children because she did not have parents or siblings, so becoming a second wife was a possibility. My brother explained to me that in the Qur’ān there are very comprehensive rules that regulate many aspects of human life and ensure the rights of humans are fulfilled.


Good company influences positively

From my experience of living with Muslims for two months, I understood that living with pious, generous people, who help each other, transforms the heart and improves a human’s behaviour. I admired the discipline with which each Muslim follows this beautiful religion. I am beginning to practise Ṣalāh. I have not read the Qur’ān fully yet; I still need to understand some concepts and further my Islamic knowledge. However, the love with which my brothers, my two sisters-in-law, my nephews and nieces, Shaykh’s mother, the Shaykh himself, his wife and several members of the Muslim community offered me, opened my heart and increased my interest in studying and practising Islām. May Allāh bless them all and grant them happiness in this world and the hereafter. Please pray for me that I can become a better Muslim and that it is easy for me to practise in Mexico and that I die as Muslim and I am resurrected with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his family and companions, and all the pious people of the world and my beloved Muslim mother as well. Āmīn.