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‘I Feel Cheated’ – Nina’s Life After Islam

‘I Feel Cheated’ – Nina’s Life After Islam

Nina was, in her words, “one of the lucky ones”, and when she tells her story, she says the one thing that made the biggest difference in her life was having Fatimah as a friend. And the only regret that she has till today is that she didn't realize this blessing sooner…

February 2002:

Nina's eyes overflowed with tears as she embraced the women who'd witnessed her shahaadah—the testimony of faith marking her entrance into Islam. “We love you for the sake of Allāh,” they said. “You are our sister.”

The following week, Nina's childhood friend Fatimah encouraged Nina to enroll at the New Muslim Class at the masjid Fatimah's family had attended since Fatimah was a child. Eager to learn about her new faith, Nina agreed.

In the class Nina learned about Tawheed (the Oneness of Allāh), the five pillars, and how to pray. When she completed the class, Nina and the other students received a gift bag. In it were two books, the Qur'an and a collection of authentic hadith.

“This is all you will ever need,” the teacher told them on the day they received their certificate. “So hold on to these. There is no Islam except what you find in the words of Allāh and in the life of Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him,” he said. “Remember that, and you will never go astray and you will never be unhappy inshā'Allāh.”

“That's not true,” a woman said six months later when Nina related these words and how happy she felt that Allāh had made Islam so easy for her. “You have to follow a madhhab. We are too ignorant to study the Qur'an and hadith by ourselves,” the woman said. “We need scholars to explain it to us.”

Fatimah laughed when Nina called her later that night and repeated what the woman had said. “Islam is simple, Nina,” Fatimah said. “There's nothing wrong with following a scholar or a school of thought, but this isn't required in Islam.”

“But, Fatimah,” Nina said, her voice shaky with emotion. “What if you're wrong? The sister said the hadith says we have to follow scholars.”

“Yes,” Fatimah said. “But today people follow scholars more than they follow the Prophet, peace be upon him. The hadith is about scholars inheriting knowledge from the Prophet. So we have to take from scholars only what is from the Qur'an and Sunnah.”

“But how would I know?” Nina said. “I can't trust myself like that.”

“Don't worry about trusting yourself, Nina,” Fatimah said. “Worry about trusting Allāh. If you get confused, do what you did when you knew being Christian wasn't right. Ask God to guide you,” Fatimah said. “And just like He guided you to Islam, He will guide you after Islam.”

But when Nina hung up the phone, she felt as if Fatimah didn't understand. Fatimah might be ignorant of Islam herself, Nina thought.

December 2002:

Nina was so excited she could scream. She quickly dialed her best friend's number to tell her the good news.

“Guess what?” Nina said after Fatimah finally answered her phone.

“What?” Fatimah said, excitement in her tone.

“I'm getting married!”

The silence on the other end of the phone made Nina's heart constrict in fear. But the feeling passed as quickly as it had come. Nina didn't want to be ungrateful for the blessing of Allāh putting Ammar in her life, so she pushed the doubts from her mind.

“Wow, okay…” Fatimah said, her voice cautious. “Where did you meet him?”

“At the masjid,” Nina said, excitement returning to her voice. “The imām introduced us.”

“When?”

“Three weeks ago.”

“Three weeks ago!” Fatimah couldn't contain her exasperation. “Nina, you can't marry someone you just met. What if he's not good? Did you ask some friends to meet him and give their opinion?”

“We talked in the imām's office a few times,” Nina said defensively. “And that's good enough.”

“Oh my God!” Fatimah said. “You didn't even talk to him on the phone or see him outside the masjid?”

Nina groaned and rolled her eyes. “I should've known not to call you,” she said. “My wali's wife said that people from your masjid think you have to fall in love before marriage. But that's not the Sunnah, Fatimah.” Nina felt a bit awkward having to advise the one who'd taught her about Islam. “The Companions of the Prophet didn't date and mix with the opposite sex.”

Nina heard her friend sigh through the phone.

“Nina, I don't believe in dating and mixing,” Fatimah said. “But you have to do your research and ask Ammar some hard questions. You have to let your family and friends meet him and see how he acts with them.”

“My family's not Muslim,” Nina said, annoyed. “Why would I waste my time?”

“You can't be serious!” Fatimah said. “Do you think the imām would marry his daughter to some guy they met three weeks ago?” She was so upset that her voice grew shaky. “These people marry their children to people they've known for years. Don't let anyone make you think your family is worthless just because they're not Muslim. When it comes to marriage, that's when you need family the most.”

“Look,” Nina said, aggravated. “The nikaah is on Friday at the masjid. You can come if you want.” She slammed the phone down and rolled her eyes, hoping Fatimah would just stay out of her life.

November 2007:

Nina was trembling when the plane landed in New York. As she entered the noisy airport, she whispered a prayer of thanks to Allāh that she was able to return to America safely—and with her three-year-old son at her side.

The divorce had been long and bitter, at least that's how it had felt for the eleven months it took before she was finally granted a khula', the wife-initiated marriage dissolution. Imām after imām and sheikh after sheikh refused to approve her divorce because they said she was divorcing her husband “for no valid reason.” Ammar, a “student of knowledge”, prevented her from talking to family and friends, forbade her from exercise or dance in the home, said she shouldn't listen to songs (even without music), forced her to quit her online degree program, and agreed to “allow” her to work only when he needed extra money. She told the imams and sheikhs all of this, but they told her to stay and be patient because “Ammar is a good man.”

“You will not smell Paradise if you leave him,” one Islamic studies professor told her. “So fear Allāh.”

“Even if your husband is a perfect Muslim,” Fatimah said on a phone call Nina secretly placed when her husband had left the house, “you can divorce your husband.”

“So you can divorce your husband for no reason?” Nina found this shocking.

“Of course not,” Fatimah said. “But your reason might be that you fear for your soul if you stay with him. He doesn't have to be a bad man.”

“Not in their madhhab,” Nina had said, groaning. “I swear, I'm so fed up with hearing about this scholar's opinion and that scholar's opinion, I could scream.” She slapped a hand to her forehead. “O Allāh, what happened to just following the Qur'an and Sunnah?”

“Nina!”

Nina turned from the carousel at baggage claim and saw the beaming face of Fatimah framed in a floral-print hijab. Nina was so happy to see her friend that she had to resist running to her and drawing her into a hug.

'I Feel Cheated'

“I feel cheated,” Nina says. And when she's asked why, she says because the Islam she learned before becoming Muslim was nothing like what she was asked to live after accepting Islam. “I grew so depressed that I wanted to leave Islam,” she says.

But what saved her is having a good friend…

And remembering this about her religion:

There is no Islam except what you find in the words of Allāh and in the life of Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him.

So today, Nina counts herself as “lucky” because, unlike others who left Islam because of the teachings of people, she stayed because of the teachings of Allāh and His Messenger.

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.

Copyright © 2013 by Al-Walaa Publications.  All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

allah imam insha'allah masjid muhammad

About Umm Zakiyyah

32 comments

  1. Great article, see this playing out often in the religion-centered part of the muslim community. Is this a true story?

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    • Siraaj, jazaakAllaahukhairan for the feedback. This is based on many true stories. I talk to and advise the Nina’s of the Muslim community (who are becoming more and more common by the day) on a regular basis. I decided to combine some of the most common stories into one. BarakAllaahufeek. Please keep the “Nina’s” of the world in your prayers.

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  2. Loved it Umm Zakiyyah. My kids-Nur and Furkan really enjoyed reading ‘If I should Speak’. We will be reading it in our next book club meeting at Zakat Foundation Delaware Community Center.
    Please keep writing for our youth and adults. And would love for you to visit us in Delaware!

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  3. Another excellent short story that captured some of the ills we have in our Ummah that needs to be addressed through the proper channels. Keep up the great work, Umm Zakkiyah!

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  4. SubhanAllah! This gave me goosebumps. I know a convert sister who’s been muslim for 5 years and still doesnt know anything about aqeedah or basic rules of salah. I think she converted because of her husband who isnt really being a good example to her. He doesnt pray regularly but always yells at her and tries to tell her that she needs to become more “religious”. The sad part is, I had just started to bond with her but shes moving to the states in a few weeks. I really wanted to do something for her. I hope Allah forgives me for my shortcomings.

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  5. Jazakillahu khayrah

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  6. There were too many ppl telling nina what to do, i do understand her frustration. But i really dont like how divorce is so easily thrown in, ammar was still muslim, i mean her friend cud hv advised her to seek marriage counselling. oh well, just my thoughts

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  7. There were too many ppl telling nina what to do, i do understand her frustration. But i really dont like how divorce is so easily thrown in, ammar was still muslim, i mean her friend could have advised her to seek marriage counselling. Oh well, just my thoughts

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    • Not all people are willing to seek marriage counsel, and for the most part; men who have these strange views about women and “their place” are never going to change. I know of so many women who have divorced their husbands due to same or similar problems after 5, 10 or even 15 years (wasting their youth on somebody who made them unhappy) and some even leaving Islam all together. Him being a Muslim (well, what else would he be?) has nothing to do with wanything. May Allah make us steadfast upon his Religion!

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    • Br.Mohammed, it’s this kind of thinking that not only makes us lose sisters from the deen but keeps them trapped in an unhappy mentally abusive marriage!!! It’s known that brothers like Ammar will NEVER agree to marriage counselling because in their ‘mind’ it’s the western corruption thing to do! Good muslim women don’t ask for counselling or seperation!! So would you tell your mother or sister to remain in such a marriage because Ammar is still ‘Muslim’ ?! Being Muslim does not make you a good spouse just as being non- Muslim does not make you a bad spouse.

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    • @ Mohammad:

      When it comes to divorce we have to look at the past. Please see the following ahadith:

      Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 63, Number 197:

      Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

      The wife of Thabit bin Qais came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for defects in his character or his religion, but I, being a Muslim, dislike to behave in un-Islamic manner (if I remain with him).” On that Allah’s Apostle said (to her), “Will you give back the garden which your husband has given you (as Mahr)?” She said, “Yes.” Then the Prophet said to Thabit, “O Thabit! Accept your garden, and divorce her once.”

      Volume 7, Book 63, Number 198:

      Narrated ‘Ikrima:

      The sister of ‘Abdullah bin Ubai narrated (the above narration, 197) with the addition that the Prophet said to Thabit’s wife, “Will you return his garden?” She said, “Yes,” and returned it, and (then) the Prophet ordered Thabit to divorce her. Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The wife of Thabit bin Qais came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for any defects in his character or his religion, but I cannot endure to live with him.” On that Allah’s Apostle said, “Will you return his garden to him?” She said, “Yes.”

      As long as she was willing to return the mahr she could be granted a divorce simply because she did not like living with him and it had nothing to do with his character or religion.

      Also, let’s not forget that even the wives of the Prophet (SAW) were given the option to seek divorce from him yet they all chose not to.

      Yes, it is better to try to work on one’s marriage, but I believe the point of this article is how converts are sometimes pushed out of Islam because 1.) They are not given the proper knowledge, 2.) The are not given the protection that born Muslims are given. They are often treated as second class Muslims. The prime example of this is pushing them into marriages with strangers when leaders of our communities would never dream of doing this with their own children.

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    • I’m really tired of the bida’ah of Arab tradition (THAT NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM) where women have to live in miserable marriages to abusive men that commit zina, lie about it and on and on and on only to be told by judges or imams “be patient sister.” I’m sorry but this is not Islam and this not the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

      I’ll tell you what, if some brother tries this nonsense with one of my daughters he’s going to find himself taking on more than he ever bargained for.

      I’m just sick and tired of cultural arrogance. AlhamduLillah I was born in the USA where is no culture. LOL

      Salams

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    • Br. Mohammed,

      My husband wouldn’t step foot in the masjid for counseling. Said “Only Christians do that.” His father, also muslim, said “You shouldn’t let anyone know what is going on in your marriage, and I don’t want to hear about it either.” Interestingly enough, the Qur’an gives guidance to go to family when there are marital issues. So you are correct in the counseling area, but getting a proud muslim man to do it…a woman is more likely to be struck my lightning.

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  8. MAsha’Allah, Great article. Enjoyed reading it.

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  9. I enjoyed reading this sister, Sometimes it takes new muslims longer to adjust, their hearts just arent ready to absorb the new information.
    The first ten years I after I converted to islam, I was content
    just to pray and fast without learning anything..
    No Hijab.. just bare minimum. Slowly things started to change…..very slowly.
    Alhamdulilah. I took that Al-Maghrib class Light of Guidance. It helped change my life.
    I always loved Islam before but having that information
    made Islam feel so Amazing…it gives you a boost.
    But you have to be ready for that information. to absorb it .to make it part of your life.
    Be patient with converts.
    Be Kind! Be a good example.
    I have been muslim 23 years(Alhamdulilah), it took time to get to where i am now.

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    • sometimes it takes “born” muslims a long time to adjust too. :)

      i thought i was understanding to converts when i married one, but not so. since then i learned people can have so much going on, so many concurrent issues people can grapple with at the same time yet they still have some desire towards islam… the part about ‘do not restrict the mercy of Allah’ – you think you know it but you really don’t… not everyone is whole… but even damaged people are welcomed by Allah, yet we turn them away because we don’t ask about their troubles or trauma or disabilities and so don’t understand their problems, restricting Allah’s mercy to mankind. we are impatient, we set time limits as to how long someone should take to be a practicing muslim. but Allah is patient, and sees the muslim’s potential bloom over decades. the hadith of the Prophet on how he treated and accepted new muslims… those all acquire new meaning for me now, like a light just turned on in my head to the significance of the things he (pbuh) said and did, truly a Mercy to the worlds.

      people have their own pace, and the priority (note: they can be concurrently provided, but there is a *relative priority*) for us to help converts is: sustain his/her LOVE for the One God and His religion (aqeedah); ease their physical/social/ economic difficulty if any (the role of the Ansar was not to teach religion!); *then* provide religious practice information. i think we tend to do it in reverse order, or forget to get to the first two entirely. the logic is obvious and shows the wisdom of our Prophet – if someone does not yet know how to pray even after a year, in future by his identification with muslims and sustained love for Allah, one day he will learn. if he knows how to pray but is isolated and muslims do not help with his personal difficulties or are intolerant of some disability or flaw he has, he will hate islam and stop to love Allah, and will stop praying.

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  10. Assalemu alykum,,

    I recognize this struggle with (so called) scholars. So many people, so many opinions about Islam.

    I never thought about leaving Islam but I found and find it hard to have close relationships with other Muslims.

    Over the years I found a few signs that guide me when it comes to listening to people and scholars. And one of the best signs for me is humbleness.

    But Allah knows best.

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    • This thought came up last night, What does humility
      mean is it an action or an attitude or both?
      It is hard to judge sometimes because some people
      are naturally more aggressive than others.

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    • Assalamalaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Come on brother……have you heard of Nouman Ali Khan lectures on YouTube?

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    • Wa alekom assalam

      I do also feel like that, that it is hard to be around other Muslims as an revert.
      There is so many opinions and words that “everyone” understands that just jumps over my head.
      I have few friends and always have but it doesn’t really matter. I only associate with Muslims on meetings to learn new things.

      My husband is the only one that truly accept my faults and just help me on the way. Giving me answers from the Quran and Sunnah in a way that I can understand and while seeing me for who I am and who I want to become.

      Sometimes I get the feeling that you have to be like the Muslims you talk to rather then yourself and feel that you aren’t good enough. That you have to change just like that and do everything “correctly”.
      When will they see how I feel and how far I’ve actually gotten in my mind?
      Don’t they understand how it it to flip the world up side down and see your life raining down upon you?
      Isn’t it enough with all the pain some goes through, then to get sharp rocks of comments about your dressing while you still try to grasp how life should be?

      There is no limit for how long it should take to learn as in school. Islam is a life, a travel and a full commitment.

      I, the “lonesome wolf” became a Muslim found light and found my home. I need no other then Allah swt but I welcome all to join me in the travel to the straight path.

      Fi amani Allah

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  11. Asalamu Alaikum, I really enjoyed this article and I think revert Muslims’ struggles need to be presented especially to born Muslims. This is a growing group and one day may outnumber the number of born Muslims that actually practice so their issues need to be addressed. I think the issue of “which” Islam to follow is something we all struggle with. I was born/raised Muslim but the more I learned the more confused I got and it made me question if Islam was really any different than any other religion. Alhamdullillah, Allah (swt) exposed me to the right people and scholars that put it all in perspective with the focus on the Qur’an and Sunnah. Confusion arises when we ONLY listen to scholars and don’t learn about the basic principles that are taught by Allah and His Messenger. And at the end of the day like “Fatimah” mentioned in the story, ask Allah (swt) for guidance with sincerity and He will guide you.

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  12. To be balance,..yes this situation do happen to some converts, but we also have converts who after converting follow scholars/ school of thought in proper way and lead a happy life. Even some of them themselves become scholars.

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  13. JazaakAllaah for this story!

    I am also a convert and reading this made me remember my first days of conversion when I had people telling me what to follow and etc. Luckily, I have a mind of my own and I always took the best of every school of thoughts and applied it to my life. I even had people insisting I should married right away and etc. I remember one time I went with my grandmother to a store to go buy something, I had 2 men telling me they remember when I took shahaadah and why I wasn’t wearing the hijab and etc and if I was married. They insisted they would find me a husband. In a nice way, I told them no and when the time is right, G-d will send me which eventually I got my naseeb.

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  14. Nuraini, i appreciated your comments.
    One thing I learned over the years is do not take everything so personally in the masjid(outside too) even the
    mean -spirited and slanderous comments you hear sometimes. We are all weak and flawed. i am working on being more forgiving.
    May Allah continue to guide us all.

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  15. jazakAllah i loved the comments more than the story specially nuraini and Marrisita their comments were awesome and of the rest of all,it gives us awareness to study the problems and their solution for all muslims ,its Allah’s blessing that He shows us ways through these blessed scholars may Allah give rewards to them for it.

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  16. i can indentify my self with this story i my self am a revert and i am going threw a difficult time in my marriege, i dont have children Alhamdulilah my husband can be verballly abussive, i have only live with him seven months and his character is very disapointing to me i see him and i think of how my children will be i think of leaving him but for some reason i just havent left him please pray for me i thought he was a good muslim but even his bad language is really a turn of since i dreamed to have a family one day but know i got to a point were i ask Allah not to give me children im currently living in Saudi Arabia i dont want Allah to punish me

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    • Sarita, Sometimes with time things get better.
      I am worried about you, you sounded like you are isolated.
      InshAllah, things will get better for you no matter what you decide. Ask Allah to guide you, that way you will feel fine whatever decision you make.

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  17. I was Nina, and I too left. I married a brother I only knew for 1 month and the marriage immediately turned sour. Whenever I used the Qur’an as a defense, my now ex husband would call up a “knowledgeable” brother to get an answer. I was called disobedient so often I thought it was my last name and my ex was even told “Why are you letting a woman leed you in the deen?” Of course, when it was all said and done and we went through with the divorce, Allah (swt) defended this muslim woman and showed that I was correct: I was being mistreated, and not only was I not disobedient in the way I handled things, I was correct in going to the Qur’an first! I am sad that my family is broken up, but it is better than living in a house where Islam in not being practiced correctly.

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  18. Amina, InshAllah you will find the right person. May Allah
    continue to guide you and increase you in knowledge.

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  19. Jazak’ Allah Khairan for this story. Sister Fatima made a very good point that we have to follow the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and not the scholars. At times we forget that these scholars are also human and humans make mistake all the time. How can we forget that even these sheiks and Imam’s ask for forgiveness from Allah.

    The conclusion that we all can draw from this story is Have faith in Allah and follow Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) teachings and Insha Allah you will over come all the problems.

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  20. WOW….I felt like this was me. I found Islam through Qu’ran. Got married…. too fast because I was fed a bunch of fatwas. Almost left Islam, lost my trust in the Prophet being a prophet ( I am still actually scared and nervous of the prophet.. to be honest), severed my family and friends. I was told so much from scholars and hadith, which caused so much anxiety. I was depressed and I went from loving womanhood to hating womanhood. I am still recovering and I divorced my muslim husband over 3 years and stopped listening to scholars. I did remarry an amazing man who has helped not just me but my non-muslim family as well. They adore him almost as much as I do :) I am still trying desperately to rebuild some kind of relationship with the Prophet, but it is amazing what damage can be done in so little time, it is very hard for me. I pray one day I can have faith in the Prophet like I once did. Qur’an has been my biggest helper in getting rid of the fears. Thank you so much for posting this!

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  21. May Allah keep us all steadfast on Islaam.

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