My name is Leilah Ahmad.
My parents have two kids; my brother and I.
My mom is Australian, and my father is a Pakistani. So it’s a bit of a mix there.
I wasn’t growing up in a religious background. My parents let me choose. So in a sense I had the chance to understand Islam truly for myself. I didn’t have anyone push me to anything.
So, when I realized that my father was going somewhere every Friday, I asked my mom "Where’s my dad going?” She said "Jumu`ah.” I had no idea what Jumu`ah was. I didn’t even know he was Muslim. And I decided to ask him about it.
He explained to me the purpose of Jumu`ah, what it was, and he explained to me that it was part of the five daily salats (prayers), and it was at the time of Zhuhr (noon). I asked him if I would be able to go with him to see this Jumu`ah. He said yes.
First Visit to a Mosque
He asked me just as respect to wear a long dress, scarf and long sleeves, and so I did. And when hearing the talk in the Jumu`ah, I guess it gave me like a sense of realization, like Islam was very new to me. I had no idea of it. I had seen Muslims walking around, and I didn’t even know why these women wore the scarves, nothing like that.
At my first visit to the mosque, it wasn’t actually a mosque, where I originally grew up in Cannes, they had a house where they held Islamic prayers and events. On my first day, I had the surah (chapter) of The Year of the Elephant. The Imam said it both in English and Arabic. When I heard this, it just felt, especially the Arabic, like it was so soft and light. It made me feel at peace.
And after that I asked my father more questions like "What’s the purpose of salat (prayer), and why did you choose Islam yourself, and why do these women wear the scarves? What’s a Quran? What does it all mean? Everything, What does Islam mean in particular?” He explained this to me. He even showed me the Quran.
Looking at these words in the Quran, it was remarkable. It was just beautiful. It was so beautiful, nothing else could compare to it. One day I decided, after researching and looking into it and then my father telling me about Islam, bringing me to the Jumu`ah, Maghrib, Isha, all these prayers and even Eid. He brought me to one of the Eids one day. I wasn’t actually fully Muslim then. I was still trying to practice Islam, but I hadn’t converted just yet.
My Final Decision
One day, I decided that I wanted to become Muslim, and that was my final decision. I had finally decided that I wanted to become Muslim. We went to the mosque, and the Imam got me to say "la illah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoul Allah” (There’s no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger). And I declared that I’m Muslim. I believed that there’s no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger.
About a year and half after that, after practicing Islam and reading the Quran, it took me about a year to learn how to read the Arabic alphabet, and this was around the time when we had moved to the Gold Coast. My parents moved here in order to give my brother and I the chance to learn more about Islam, and to become better Muslims as well. My brother also converted at the same time as I did. It took him a little longer to understand, but al-hamdulellah we are both Muslims now and we are both reading Quran now al-hamdulellah.
Family and Friends
Back in Cannes, there were very few Muslims. So I lost a lot of the friends that surrounded me because their understanding and perception of Islam was very different, and not many of them had that respect for Islam. So when I converted to Islam, I lost pretty much all my friends. So I had no one to support me but my father, mother and brother and my father’s family were very supportive as well during the hard times. Without Islam I wouldn’t have been able to get through such things. Islam showed me that true friends will stick with you through thick and thin definitely. If they understand then they will stick through.
When we moved to Gold Coast, at the beginning I didn’t know many friends at school although there were more Muslims and children here do understand Islam a lot more and making friends was a lot easier as well.
I do have two very fantastic friends, and I hope in-sha-‘Allah one day they will also convert to Islam. They often come with me to Jumu`ah to listen to the talks, and they say it’s very beautiful, and al-hamdulellah I’m happy to hear that. No matter what, these two friends of mine are two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. And with them Islam would become even greater in-sha’Allah.
Life in Hijab
It took me about a year to start wearing a scarf, and that was the time when I had moved to the Gold Coast, and seeing more Muslims around and a lot more people having a lot more respect for Muslims. It became easier for me to practice Islam openly, and not hide it or be in the closet about everything, like when someone asks me about my faith I don’t have to be quiet any more. I can now openly say "I’m a Muslim” and I’m proud of it. It’s something that I’m not afraid to admit.
I told my father "I’m going to wear the scarf tomorrow. I’m going to go to school wearing the scarf”, and that’s what I did. I put on my scarf, and made a vow I would wear the scarf permanently, and I felt more pure. I felt better. People looked at me, yes. But some looked at me with more respect. Some others did not, but I felt people won’t look at me as if I was exposing myself, as if I was disgusting or anything, and I felt a lot more happier. I felt at peace. My heart felt lighter. It’s just a wonderful feeling al-hamdulellah. I would never change it not for the world, not for anything. I would rather die than take this off.
What Islam Can Offer
My life didn’t change in a major way. I’m still the same person. I’m still a human being just as everyone else. I eat as everyone else. But my life has become more pure, and everything makes more sense. I stay away from the haram and I keep to the halal. That’s the main way, and to offer this to other people, it makes a great difference.
Islam has a lot to offer really. To me, Islam offered me peace, prosperity, truth, love, cleanliness and a way of life.
To me Islam is a way of life. That’s the bottom line, a way of life.
I’m still the same person. I’m still an Aussie but my faith is
different. I’m a Muslim. I’ m an Aussie Muslim, and I’m proud to say I’m
a Muslim, al-hamdulellah.