This story was originally posted by the author on The Asia Undercovers.
It was the most important part of my to-do list every Friday. To get our names on the hottest club’s guest list. You Only Live Once, they say.
Assalamu Alaikum! My name is Maya. I grew up in the province (San Pablo, Laguna), then moved here in Manila for college. Got my Computer Science degree in 2008 and after less than a month I landed a job in the field of research (yeah, it’s complicated).
Religion never played a big part in my life growing up. My parents are Catholic, not active in church but even then, I always believe in the existence of a Higher being, I believe in God, I just don’t follow any practice. Sometimes I go to church when my friends are going, but it’s usually more of a social thing for me than spiritual.
In 2011, I joined a Born-again Christian group at work. We have this circle where we discuss faith. I remember how it appealed to me because they explained why they do not worship any statues or saints like the Catholic does. I thought it makes sense because growing up, I didn’t really understand why we need an intermediary when we want to connect with God, like why can’t we just pray to Him directly? So after few months of looking into it, I embraced Christianity. That equates accepting Jesus as your lord and savior, he died for our sins and because he is the son of God, salvation is through him. I did not fully grasp what it actually meant but I was satisfied with the fact that I didn’t have to worship idols. Since then, I regularly go to church, they call that ‘service’ and I was reading the bible often… One thing that I noticed particularly in the prayer service is that, it was all an emotional experience, all emotions, to a point that it is not logical anymore… I always want things to be balanced. I believe that God gave us the ability to think for a reason. For me, logic and faith has to go hand in hand. I can’t just have faith blindly. So, it went on for a few months, then I got a new job and I had to move to another city. At that time, I lay low. It felt like something isn’t right, I was still looking for something and I was not quite sure what is it. I stopped attending the service and basically just went back to my old lifestyle of worshiping God but not conforming to any religion.
Then the ‘work hard, party harder’ kind of lifestyle begins…
I got introduced to clubbing. And yes, I loved it! Dancing, drinking, socializing and hanging out with friends on a Friday night ’til dawn. Everything was good, it was fun!!! I was living it up! I have a job, I have the coolest set of friends, I am young and single, whoohoo! At that time I thought I was free, YOLO-ing my life to the fullest. I was ‘independent’.
This is where I met my first Muslim friend. He was not a typical Muslim, that I knew because he was also a ‘party animal’ like me! We clicked from the get go. Several months of being together, he started introducing Islam to me. It was very subtle, he just used to watch Islamic lectures when I’m with him, giving me some ideas in a very subtle way. Then one day, he started asking me about my faith. He asked me who is Jesus? I said “He is the son of God.” He asked me, “How can God have a son? and if God has a son, what makes him different among us, his creation?” I couldn’t answer. Then he started explaining who Jesus is in Islam. How Jesus is not God, nor the son of God. He is just a messenger, just like Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc. It makes sense, I knew it makes sense but I rejected it initially. I guess it was my ego. I got emotional and defensive, I started crying, I couldn’t take it. How can I believe in that my whole life? It doesn’t make sense. I feel cheated, betrayed. It was my turning point.
After few hours, I composed myself. I told him what I really felt. From then on I started reading, researching about Islam. I found light in spite of the common misconception that Islam is a violent religion and all that. I felt the need to know more, and the more I learn, the more I fall in love. Time came when my friend and I needed to part ways, I still continue searching. After a few months, when I was fully convinced, I took my shahadah:
اشْهَدُ انْ لّآ اِلهَ اِلَّا اللّهُ وَ اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدً اعَبْدُه وَرَسُولُه
Ashadu an la ilaha illa-llah, wa ashadu anna Muhammadun Aabduhu wa rasuluh.
(I bear witness that there is no Allah but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger)
Surreal. I couldn’t even say the words right because I was crying. I couldn’t explain the happiness, peace and tranquility in my heart at that moment. It was amazing. The best moment of my life. Allahu Akbar! See, only Allah guides whom He wants. I didn’t ask for it, it was just through His mercy and love that He gave me Islam. Alhamdulillah.
It was December 29, 2012 when I became a Muslim. Before I took my shahada, my plan was to wait ’til I’m ready before I put a hijab on, I thought I was far from being ready… Surprisingly, the moment I put it on while saying the shahada, I didn’t take it off until now. It was only through the mercy of Allah swt that He gave me enough strength to wear it. Alhamdulillah.
People asks me why I wear the hijab and why some Muslim women don’t. From the start, I knew I needed to wear it but I wasn’t quite sure what to tell them so I started researching again. Now, with full conviction, I know why. Primarily, I am wearing hijab because Allah swt commands me to do so. It is clear in the Qur’an. Also, hijab overall protects me from being objectified, from unwanted and unnecessary gazes. I know this for a fact because I can compare how it is before and after I cover up, I must say, it works well for me. I saw a huge difference, I love it! It also automatically draws respect. However, not all Muslimahs have found it in their heart to wear it (yet), some rejects. But who are we to judge? It is between them and Allah swt. People have different struggles, we should be kind. Only Allah swt knows what’s in the heart. 🙂 May Allah swt guide and protect us all. Ameen.
I don’t want to be judged by how much skin I show. I want people to look at what I am capable of. What is IN my head, not ON my head. Today, in the world where people claims that “sex sells”, shamelessness is being celebrated and nudity is perceived as freedom, wearing hijab is liberating. Some people see it as a symbol of oppression but actually, it is the opposite. It is truly amazing how a piece of cloth can be a source of strength for a hijabi like me. Contrary to popular belief, hijab breaks the society’s twisted standard of beauty. Real beauty should not be superficial like what we see on TV, movies and magazines. Hijab teaches me that beauty manifests on the content of your character and the purity of your heart, not by the cosmetics you use or the label of your clothes. Most importantly, beautiful people are those who pleases their Rabb not the people. 🙂
Now, with Islam, I can say that my life changed 360 degrees for the better. Everything is easier now. I found peace, contentment and a sense of purpose.
Who would have thought that from club guest list booking, I am now organizing a guest list for Islamic events?
Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah!