By Joanna Kelly
I’ve lived under a dark cloud for 8 years, but finally the sky is clearing. Here is my story.
8 years ago I left a long term relationship and married a Muslim man. I wasn’t particularly religious nor had I any interest in religion, but I decided to take Shahada and become a Muslim. I remember the Imam asking me about staying true to this religion, and the hurdles that I may face in the future. I ensured him that I knew what I was doing, and I had everything under control. How wrong I was. The first hurdle I met was my own family. Never could I have imagined their reaction towards me. My mother allowed me to go visit the house, but not without some kind of pork based food been offered to me. My husband was not allowed to go and nobody ever asked about him. If I mentioned him in any way, I was told that they didn’t want to know anything about him. I thought things might change when I had my 2 babies, but no, things stayed the same. One night when my first baby was about 6 weeks old I decided to take him to my mother’s house, in the hope that she might soften a bit, but this was not the case. She scowled at him, didn’t ask his name and looked at him as if he was vermin for the hour that I was there. The only mention of a babies was her telling me about some beautiful babies she knew and the wonderful Irish names that the parents had given them. I swore to myself that I would have nothing more to do with her. A few years later she rang me to announce the death of one of my Aunts. She tried to say that I alienated myself from the family. I asked why she would not accept my children, and she tried to justify her actions by saying I went against her wishes by getting married, and these were now the consequences. It is 8 years later, and the situation is still the same, and I have given up trying. My 2 boys have never known their grandmother and never will.
And so comes hurdle number two. Basically I was a terrible Muslim. With the fiasco surrounding my family I started to blame religion. I regretted getting married because I felt as if I had lost everything, and in turn I began to hate my own husband. I began to turn against Islam, blaming it for bringing everything bad into my life. I became very depressed, unable to sleep, and sitting until dawn, and then sleeping throughout most of the day. In September last year I returned to college. A chance of a proper career might give me a break from my miserable existence, and this it did, by completely overloading myself with work, I was finally able to concentrate on something else. However something else happened too. Since my college course is IT related I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer. One night I decided to do a google search for Jihad. I was tired of hearing the terrorism stories on the news, and I wanted to know what exactly Jihad was. I came across a website for Islamic studies, which I bypassed, but a few weeks later I found myself returned to that site again. I enrolled for the course and alongside my own college course I began to learn about Islam. This has been a complete turning point for me. I kept it secret from my husband until recently, because I didn’t want to get his hopes up that perhaps finally I may be taking an interest in Islam. I am now waking up and the day is much brighter, I am so much happier, and the house has a lighter atmosphere.
I still have a few more minor problems though. Prayer and Hijab being the main ones. For Prayer, well I feel a little embarrassed. My children have never seen me pray. My husband, I know would look on it with pride, but this still makes me feel uncomfortable. I know I need to get over this, and I will with time.
Hijab is another story. My job would not allow me to wear it, even if I wanted to. They told me this many years ago that it wasn’t allowed. Also, I have lived in this community for a very long time. Most people know me at least to see. I worry that they will judge me. They won’t see that I have embraced Islam. They will see me as someone who they think is brainwashed. How do I get over this? I have yet to find an answer. It’s not something I am going to dwell on too much, or make me step backwards in what I believe. Religion is in your heart, not on your head.
Throughout all my personal trials, my husband stayed right by my side. He put up with me at my very worst. He never lost faith in me.
This is my own personal Jihad against myself. Islam is light and it’s winning over darkness.