Monday, January 18, 2010

Khadijah's Journey


She looked at me, this bright-eyed stranger, a slight smile on her lips and hope written all over her face. "Can I call you Ummi?" **

Holding back tears that were beginning to well, I responded with a motherly hug, big and warm, and in a barely audible voice answered, "Of course you may, dear."

She arrived with two others, all similarly garbed in austere black jubah (robes). They were friends of Nawwar from her Arabic and Islamic classes. I had met the other two before but this was my first meeting with purdah-clad Khadijah.

With Pak Abu away at golf and no other male members of the family around, off came the veils and the robes to reveal the modern dressing within. And such pretty faces too!

When she first stepped foot inside my house over the weekend, I didn't know what to make of this open-faced, light-skinned young woman who spoke in a strange mix of accented English and a hodge-podge of Malay in the dialects of Perlis, Pattani and Champa.

I had worked with the Thais long enough to hazard a guess at her mother tongue from that familiar singsong lilt. She could very well be Cambodian or Vietnamese, but my money was on her being Thai.

As it were, I was spot on. Her speech was punctuated with Thai words I could still recall from my TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) days. And she squealed with delight when I offered "chan phut thai nit nuay." (I speak a bit of Thai).

Khadijah, one of three siblings, was Bangkok-born and bred to a Chinese father and a Thai mother. In a staunchly Buddhist country, the family were practising Hindus.

Khadijah said she had a conventional and happy childhood. But things began to change when her sister converted to Islam very much against family wishes, married an Arab and followed him home to Bahrain.

Seeking a better life, Khadijah too packed up and headed for Bahrain. Despite being in Arabia and surrounded by Islam, she wasn't in the least interested in the religion and resisted with all her might her sister's numerous attempts to make her a Muslimah.

The subsequent loss of her passport and visa, however, had Khadijah cowering in her sister's home for months. The fear of being discovered without a valid travel document and the constant threats of deportation eventually took its toll on her.

Khadijah revealed the wave of anguish became so excruciating one day that she felt as though her heart was being torn asunder. In desolation she cried out, beseeching Divine help, after which she collapsed in a heap of tears.

To her total surprise, a miracle happened the very next day, said Khadijah. Cops came over to the house, bringing the missing document which had somehow been been found and returned by person/s unknown.

Although she was subsequently deported, for failing to report the loss and for overstaying, Khadijah said the return of her precious passport had somehow sown a small seed of faith within her. "I asked for God's help and He helped me, Ummi," said the girl tearfully.

Khadijah's return was heartbreaking. Where she had expected a joyful reunion, there was coldness instead. Her decision to embrace Islam did not sit well with her parents. Harsh words were exchanged and she was asked to leave.

The subsequent years saw her eking out a living as a tourist guide in Bangkok, where she met and eventually married a guy from Satun, Southern Thailand. Unfortunately it didn't last; she asked to be divorced upon learning he wasn't a practising Muslim.

"I needed someone to lead me, Ummi, not just a husband but a good husband who could teach me Islam. He was not that person as I found out later," mused the 29 year-old ruefully.

She later made her way south to Malaysia where friends put her in touch with Perkim, the country's official body that deals with matters pertaining to recent converts.
Not long after, through the good office of Ustaz Haji Hussein Yee, founder of Islamic NGO, Al-Khadeem, Khadijah was absorbed into Al-Khadeem to study Islam and the Quran in a more structured manner.

In return for food and shelter, she helps run Al-Khadeem's orphanage for girls. The women of Al-Khadeem, Awwa and her fellow students in particular, spoke highly of Khadijah's deep commitment, both to her studies and to her charges at the orphanage.

I asked Khadijah about her family. "I went home once, Ummi, and managed to see my kid brother. My parents weren't around at the time. When they returned and saw me, they got angry and asked me to leave."

She added: "My sister too received the same treatment. She came home all the way from Bahrain, but they didn't want to see her."

Khadijah's inner strength was remarkable. "I miss my family, Ummi, and I pray everyday for God to open their hearts to accept us back. But I love Islam more and I will do what I can to become a better Muslim."

At this juncture, I was desperately reaching out for a wad of tissues myself. Now I fully understood why she needed to call me Ummi...

**Ummi - 'mother' in Arabic
PS: I was told, by Awwa and the rest, that Khadijah reads the Quran beautifully, despite having been a Muslim for just over two years and learning the Quran even later ....

19 comments:

Pp said...

Subhanallah...
what a story! I was moved to tears. sob...
Allah memberi Hidayah, kepada siapa yang dia mahu.

Semoga kita semua termasuk golongan yang di redhaiNya.

Kak Teh said...

Puter, need a box of tissues too! I know someone too by the name of Khadijah whose famly disowned her when she married a Muslim. Then her husband left her too with a disabled child but she continues with all these challenges, a good Muslim.

Thank you for sharing.

Pi Bani said...

Usually these people make better Muslims than those who were born Muslims.

Kak Ezza@makcik Blogger said...

semalam saya dok tergelak sorang2 bila baca yr previous entry and pagi ni saya menangis pulak...

Semuga Allah membuka pintu hati orang tua khatijah untuk menerima anak mereka kembali...

Salam untuk beliau dan Nawwar...

NanaDJ said...

Puteri,
A very touching story! It is always a big sacrifice when one had to convert. I have a number of 'foreign' relatives who converted to Islam. They suffer in their own ways in the beginning but sanity prevail and most are accepted by their families.

pakmat said...

let her called you Ummi, Pak Abu Abuya..for it is within His knowledge that they may find sanctuary in both of you..and give your thanks to Him that has led them to you, for in guiding them, He has guided you, too..Alhamdulillah..He has led them to you, and not some one whose religion restricts and views tunneled..but someone whose religion liberates, and with the eyes to see His greatness in a dew on a petal yet have the humour to appreciate a Chinese Adonis..:) ..cheers..

Raden Galoh said...

She has an inner strength, I admire kak!

MasyaAllah! I am so moved...

Thank you for sharing kak.

Shahieda said...

I find it most amazing how Allah places certain people at certain times in your path.

She and you are there to fulfill a purpose to each other! It's going to be so exciting as events unfold! Alghumdulillah!

May Allah make her path easy for her Insha-Allah! Love and salaams to Nawwar!

mamasita said...

Puteri..
you should send this piece of story to be turned into a drama..very touching..

Salam to Khadijah..

tireless mom said...

Subhanallah, my heart goes all out to Khadijah

D said...

Kak Puteri,
You are blessed to be fortunate enough to know this dear revert (I prefer using this term, as opposed to convert). I have a real soft spot over these reverts as they often remind me of who I am - a Muslim!

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story..

Superwomanwannabe said...

wwaaaaaa.. can hardly type for the tears. I wish she will one day be reunited with her family and I am envious of her deep commitment to the religion...makes you think how much you take the religion you are born into for granted...thanks for the post.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Puteri,

In most general matters, I can give u an instantaneous response but to this short & curly one, I needed a bit of time to think & sleep over it. No, as a parent I would not abandon or disowned my flesh & blood under any circumstances. We brought them up in this world with our unconditional love and whichever path that they take that would make them happy & fulfilled, I’ll give them my full support & guidance.That is if they stay out of trouble lah :))

Salam,
Tommy

edelweiss said...

*sob sob*

sedih i baca....semoga rahmat allah sentiasa bersama khadijah...i pun kena baiki diri ke arah yang lebih baik...

Zendra-Maria said...

Subhanallah, Khadijah has the resoluteness of the person she was named after ie. Khadeejah binti Khuwaylid, wife of the Prophet SAW, one of the female role models in Islam.
Thanks for posting this story, makes us realise how much we take for granted our privilege of being born into Islam :)

Kama said...

PP - Indeed. Couldn't agree with you more.

Kak Teh - I have the utmost respect for such a person, KT, the one who remains kekal dlm agama walaupun abondoned by the spouse.

Pi Bani - That has always been the case, kan Pi?

Ezza - Sometimes we smile, sometimes we cry.. that's life.. :)

Nana & Tommy - Usually the family would come around once the anger and disappointment is gone. It may take years, sometimes, but it has happened many time before. I have seen many such cases and I hope Khadijah's too would be the same.

Pakmat - I cant afford to be judgemental in religion when I am such an imperfect soul myself, Pakmat. Everything happens for a reason and I hold fast to that. perhaps I am meant to be Khadijah's 'Ummi' while she is here studying Islam.. Syukurlah tu..

Err, the Chinese Adonis? Hensem bagai nak rak, Pakmat! Hehehe...

Mamasita - I hv been following, on and off la, this Indonesian series called Sakaratulmaut... one an Astro channel. make one remember death...

Shahieda - I am glad to get to know her.. she seems a nice girl..

TM, Superwoman, Edelweiss - Indeed. Makes us wonder about our own resolve in becoming better Muslims..

D - We are so lucky to be born in the faith, yet many of us ambik lewa about agama.. I take this story as our collective eminder ..

Zendra - you are spot on. Khadijah, satu nama yg sungguh mulia..

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you for the posting. It's a touching tale. Perhaps she could be given some other form of training so that she can take better care of herself financially. She's so much braver and committed than a lot of other frilly Malay-Muslim females.

MyWAM said...

Salam! A truly touching experience for Khadijah. I still remember vividly, the date July 16th, 2004 when you and Pak Abu escorted me to PERKIM in Bangsar when I wanted to be a Muslim.
How my tears kept on rolling, my voice choking just after I said my 'Dua Kalimah Syahadah'. It was not tears of sadness but tears of joy, feeling reborn and finding Allah swt.
Alhamdulillah, till this day I am a good practising Muslim, 'solat' all in check and feel truly blessed that I found HIM with you and Pak Abu's help.
As for Khadijah's 'disownment', hope she will never give up on her family, for one day they will accept her...... as mine did.

Kama said...

AsH - she'll make a good teacher, that girl. I heard she's good with kids. Insyaallah she'll be alright..

WAM - how could we forget that day. It was a privilege beyond compare, to witness anyone entering the faith upon the utterance of the syahadah.. i remember sobbing with joy:)Subhanallah, what memories..