In the name of Allah
First I would like to thank you for your time in doing this interview with me today, my name is Zaynab McCabe. May Allah swt bless you dearly in sha Allah.
rahyafteha.ir: Please tell me your convert name or the name you were born with, or if you like you may share both with us and where you are from (your location)?
My name is Mariétou Ndiaye. I was born and raised in Senegal, in West Africa.
rahyafteha.ir: How old are you, and if you like to share your education with me.
I’m 43. I have a 2 year post secondary diploma in Communication, then I got my Bachelor degree in Sociology, and then obtained my Masters in Guidance counselling.
rahyafteha.ir: Please share a little about your family life and childhood growing up, what religion you were before converting (your religious state as well) and how many people you lived with (family members)?
I was born in a tijani (sunny) family from both of my parents. Growing up celebrating with my family all kinds of costumes (traditional, religious, christmas, etc.). I saw my mom changing her allegiances and way of worshipping throughout years. I saw her talking a lot about Khaderia, then started folding up her hands while praying, then unfolding them….talking about astrology, and having many “scholars” coming to our home. My mother, around the age 40, started wearing hijab, and forbidden my little sister and I to wear short outfits and gave away most of her jewelry and going out outfit clothes. All of a sudden, we could not celebrate any casual events or go to parties with family or friends anymore, like we used to. I was about 13 years old. We were not allowed to attend outdoor activities, being 5 mins late from school, having male friends or non muslims friends as these were reasons to be beaten or yelled at by my mother. The “scholars” whom my mother would give money to, kept coming over to our house. My parents were arguing a lot, and my dad would go on vacations by himself during summer, while we would be forced, by my mother, to have quranic teachings at home. My father, who was not religious at all, started to pray, fasting like my mother, and not allowing us to go out anymore, after a mental breakdown that took him and he was hospitalized for months, along with my mother. That was a starting point for me, since I decided to make a covenant with Allah SWT, asking him that if he would heal my father I would start praying regularly. I was at that time about the age of 15. So I kept praying and accepting this compulsory faith. Some new scholars called shias started to come to our house. Gently, they would talk to us, but would point out some new teachings about the hours of prayers, or when to end our fast etc. I started asking questions to my mother about all the changes she made about her way of praying, the reasons why she would do astrology while I heard it was forbidden. I did not dare tell her that all traditional practices that she would do or make us do, that seemed like voodoo stuff were scaring and sounded not Islamic at all. Then, I met my first love before going to Canada. My parents were so upset and against me for having a male friend that they blackmailed me, did voodoo against me, till we seperated. So, I started my life in Canada, being controlled by distance by my parents to make sure I would just study and have no social friends at all. Two years after being away from home, I decided to stop praying, fasting, believing in any kind of divine threat since I was already doomed according to my mother. Plus, I wanted to discover what they call the so called real life (clubs, etc) which were incompatible with practicing any religion. Thread to thread, I started becoming an anti religion, rebelious feminist whose values were totally fitting with Québec society.
rahyafteha.ir: Tell me about when you learned about Islam, how you felt, what your revert/convert story is and what was the breaking point in which made you come to the religion of Islam and was there ever a moment you hesitated in converting/reverting?
My ex-husband who knew I had muslim background, would always ask me questions about “that Allah, that Quran, that Muhammad” that I could never answer, cause I had never been taught. The only things I knew were how to recite some verses and there was a month of fasting called Ramadhan. When I became a mom, and went back to work, then experienced another psychological harassment from my quebecor colleagues. I totally felt so vulnerable. I realized that I didn’t have the energy or the skills to handle injustice by myself (oh I did not mention it, but i stopped talking to my mom and every family member who would ask me to come back to my previous sunny life for 10 years, and my dad stopped talking to me as well). So, feeling extremely lonely, stuck in an abusive relationship with my ex husband, having young twins, without any support from my family, and facing the harassment at my workplace, I started to feel very anxious and saw myself starting to pray to get help of any kind. I wanted to know, however, who was the One I was praying to. So, I just begin to read his book, the Quran, while I was searching on youtube for the answers I could never give to my ex husband about Islam. Without knowing that was sunni sources at first, the explanations that I got made no sense at all to me and were so confusing. One day, I then typed, the word “Hussein” on the search board and I think that was my breaking point, indeed. I remember saying to myself “ok, it’s time to know who that dude is, and his twin brother-Hassan -”ignorant me. So, while the shrine of Imam Hussein (as) was popping on the screen, one of my 3 year old boy lifted his head while playing and said “mommy, one day we go here”. So, I called, right away, my religious sister, whom I knew had some beliefs or knowledges about Shia or Hussein. She was, indeed, mesmerised by my boy’s comment. So, I decided to keep watching the next day, and the day after till up to today. So, I discovered the biography of Imam Hussein, Imam Hassan (who is not his twin brother ;)), Imam Ali, Zaynab, Fatima (as), Muhammad (sawas), the 12 imams (as) that I had never ever heard of, our Imam zaman (ajf). I gladly discovered all the defensive wars that our prophet (sawas) along with Imam Ali (as) had to face, with the permission of Allah swt; far from the barbarian jihads to kill and to conquer that I thought they were all about. I discovered the real meaning of injustice, especially when watching the 6 months baby being killed, the prophet (sawas) and his entire family being constantly harassed and murdered. So, while trying to understand why would a human being do that on earth, especially to a baby, I learnt islamic history; again, sunni theories never made sense to me, so I kept on listening to what I know now are majlis.
Basically, I got to understand that Allah SWT, who created us all, was the Unique entity capable of protecting and offering the best of Help against oppression and injustice. So, there, I got introduced to Allah Azzawajal. While reading the Quran and from the 1rst verse to the last, I had the impression that Allah SWT was actually talking directly to me, and decided to support me through the Quran. Everything about shia explanations (thank u Sayed Ammar btw) was so clear and comforting that I would have anxiety, only when I was not reading Quran, praying or watching about islamic teachings. So, slowly and surely I definitly had faith on Allah SWT, his Qur’an, his Messenger (sawas) and his purified family (as) Alhamdoulilah, and decided to be their shia, Mashalah.
rahyafteha.ir: How did you family/friends react?
As a Shia, who just learnt the sins and effects of cutting family ties, I started talking to my mother again, then my father talked to me again and so on. My mother seemed a little surprised, since she said she never talked to me about Shia traditions. The rest of my family was glad that I stopped being rebellious. Actually, my family was just glad I was putting hijab on and was muslim again.
rahyafteha.ir: What were your thoughts about Islam before you converted/reverted?
An easy way of abusing women; an inhalator of women freedom, a non peaceful religion, something I wanted to get away from; God would not be mean, so why muslims were mean….if God is loving and just, he would never burn me in Hell; I was really confused. I couldn’t believe that those abusive teachings followed by the majority of muslims were true.
rahyafteha.ir: How did you feel after converting/reverting to Islam?
Safe, not alone, loved and taken care of by Allah SWT, guided, ungrateful enough and so ignorant, much compassion for all Prophets and the Ahlulbayt (as); my life makes sense at last. Alhamdoulilah. Allah SWT saved me. ALHAMDOULILAH
rahyafteha.ir: How long have you been a convert/revert?
rahyafteha.ir: What is 3 things you would have liked to have happen after you converted to Islam but didn’t either due to your conversion or not?
–Not feeling isolated in the shia community; –having more accessible resources in real life, not just on youtube – being able to have french resources for me and my kids, i.e. not understand the arabic khutba at the mosquee is an issue for me.
rahyafteha.ir: What was it like for you to wear hijab for the first time, and how do you feel now about hijab?
It was obvious when I read in the Quran to veil my head and chest that I just wanted to please Allah SWT. I couldn’t believe my eagerness…However, I didn’t want to look like a stereotyped veiled woman, so i tried to find my halal style.
Now, I cannot believe the time I wasted being unveiled, physically harassed and thinking that was love from men.
rahyafteha.ir: How did you feel with the muslim community after your converted? Is there anything your community could do to improve their interactions with converts/reverts?
Well, like everywhere I guess, muslim community’s stay among themselves according to their background/culture; I did feel the racial barrier, which is uncomprehensive to me; and the suspicious questions, which I can understand due to some shia persecutions.
Letting new converts enter their community centres and not just talking to them at the front doors.
Having leaders and scholars speaking more than arabic language.
Having real social resources at the mosquee, not just advertised on the website.
Practicing genuinely, in everyday life, what the Prophet and the Ahlubayt (sawas) and the Quran have teached us, not just for salat on Fridays.
rahyafteha.ir: What has helped you most in gaining knowledge about the Deen (fiqh rulings, Islamic belief system ect.)?
Definitely the logic of the Islamic belief system, Oneness and Justice of God, guidance, and Judgment day.
Knowing history and the consistency between the past events and the teachings of the Quran and the lives of the chosen guides.
The way my islamic knowledge helps me in my everyday life to get close to Allah SWT.
The hope of the deliverance from injustice by our Imam Zaman (ajf), and the promises of God SWT.
The hope of living an eternel life with pure souls inshallah like Muhammad(sawas) and the fourteenth inshallah with my kids inshallah and all moomeen inshalah.
rahyafteha.ir: Who is your role model and why?
Allah SWT for his perfection on everything his handling and for being my Owner.