Islam teaches us how to keep ties with all family members and how to respect and treat them with the most care.
Islam teaches us how to keep ties with all family members and how to respect and treat them with the most care.
A Exclusive Interview With a Revert to Islam, Vanessa Hillyer (Zaynab), from Canada, by Bentolhoda Mofakhami
Congratulations on your Converting to Islam Thank You for agreeing to hold on Interview
First of all please tell us about yourself.
(Name, Country, Job, Field of Study, Degree, Your background, Age, Where Raised, and anything interesting about your background)
My real name is Vanessa Hillyer but my Islamic name is Zaynab. I live in Canada the province of Manitoba in a city called Winnipeg. I am learning Islamic studies online and I also teach at Quran and ٍEtrat online university. I am 31 years old. I have a degree in education as and education Assistance, this I help children in school with learning disabilities. I was raised in a small town 2 hours from the city here. I lived and was raised on a farm where my parents raised mainly cattle. I was quiet secluded to this rural area. I grew up having many surgeries to correct my feet and hands as I was born with a condition that effected this part of me. I traveled to Montreal where I had many surgeries. This never slowed me down and I was always laughing and having many friends. But I believe this was a blessing from God because I didn’t see the world like others, I was careful how I treated others and always wanted to make others happy. I believe without this blessing I may not have been where I am today.
How many brothers and sisters do you have? And how do you stand in your family?
I have 2 older sisters and I am the youngest I am married Alhamdulillah and have 5 children. 3 from a previous marriage. There are 2 girls and 3 boys Alhamdulillah.
Please tell us about your previous religion, before converting to Islam.
I was raised as a Christian and was confirmed in a church in a Lutheran church.
How different was your previous religion with Islam?
There was a lot different how I was raised as a Christian. My family didn’t have laws or rules to abide by, but we had moral things like being kind to our parents however we were not very religious
How did you become familiar with Islam? What specifically attracted you to Islam? When and how did you convert to Islam? (please also talk about your last second before converting) When did your journey to Islam begin? (Your Opinion)
I was care taking for an apartment building and there was an older sister there and her two sons who are having some issues with another tenant. She would not shake the other caretakers hand who was a male. So I had gone to see her what the issue had been and to talk to her I was a little curious to know why she doesn’t shake her hand. We started talking and she told me it was due to the religion and that got me curious as to what kind of religion would restrict the female and the male interaction like this. We ended up talking almost every day sometimes until 1 a.m. we got very close with each other until she had to leave. I continue to search about the religion reading Quran. I remember the day very clear the day that I decided that I was no longer able to call myself a Christian, it was a sunny day and it was the day in August. I was in between leaving and finally accepting the religion. I remember thinking about how I would lose my friends and I would even maybe lose family, I don’t know why I felt this way as my family never expressed their dislike we never talked about it. But then I realized I won’t be answering them on the day of judgment, I realized I had already chosen Islam in my heart. So as I sat on my bed in the hot sun I decided to convert to the religion Islam it was that next Friday that I did my Shahadatain at the Sunni mosque.
Did You Ever hesitate to say Shahadah?
Yes I did. Not in my heart as I think I had accepted it but was worried that this meant me being alone in this world.
How do you feel when you work for your Akherah (The other World)?
I have hope when I work for the hereafter but also fear that I have not Worked enough for it.
Did you have any problem with your family members when you accepted Islam? How did you come up with and Control the clashes with your family members?
Yes we have had our issues as our religious matter and how we live clash a lot. I keep my ties with them through phone but there are many issues with seeing them at their home such as Haram food and on celebrations there is a lot of mixed gender gathering with alcohol. So u avoid these things. I think it has come to be OK after this long but I know that they would live to see me become a Christian again.
Did they try to convince you not to revert to Islam?
Yes they did. They made many comments. We also had a debate once and in the end they said we will continue what our forefathers have followed.
Did the people around you cut the relationship with you after converting to Islam?
Yes all of them did that were my friends. Family have kept they tie but it is not how most families are.
What were your family members’ reactions when you were practicing Islam or doing your prayers?
They dislike it they especially hate my hijab.
What was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day?
No it wasn’t hard except for the recitation. I loved praying it was time to connect with the religion and God.
When and how did you announcing your convert to Islam?
I called my mom just prior to her visiting me and told her that I did and that I was wearing hijab I thought it would be awkward to put the hijab on if I went out with them so I wore it the whole time they came. I was so hot in the apartment as I was in hijab and Abaya.
Did you think that Islam is a religion Just for Arabs? (before converting to Islam)
No, but I really had no idea what Islam was about. I was very secluded from anything that was different from Christianity.
How do you see the spread of Islam in your country?
I don’t see it much, in fact I think my husband and I are the only Shia converts.
Many people think that religions are the main cause of problems in the world today, did you believe that too?
Actually I think it is the opposite. Before Islam, I wanted a religion that gave me the book to follow, interestingly enough I found it, Alhamdulillah.
Did you found anything illogical in your last religion? (How about Islam)
Yes I found the crucifixion and the God was a man and a prophet When I was confirmed to the Lutheran church I asked my pastor if I could still be as I couldn’t bring myself to believe Jesus was crucified. She said it was fine but tried to explain it, still I couldn’t accept it.
Did you use Media like YouTube, Facebook, etc. to be more familiar with Islam?
Yes I have and I still use but am careful to who I watch.
How did you adapt yourself with new ethics of Islam?
To be honest it was very hard to adapt, and even to be more honest I am still working on it.
How was the effect of reading the holy Quran for you? How did the holy Quran Influence you?
It was good, it has helped me spiritually even just hearing it however the more I learn on the Arabic words the more it impacts me to reach higher understanding and a higher love for the Quran.
What is the most beautiful Ayah in Holy Quran? (Say your opinion)
So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny? (Surah Ar-Rahman).
Why do most of the media attack on Islam? Why most of the Media are against Islam?
I believe media is against Islam and a lot propagate wrong Islam due to the fact that they are worried. Why because if people knew the true Islam many would come to follow it this would hurt them as those who are money making a lot of things in their job.
What’s your opinion about hijab? Has wearing hijab had any negative effects on your private life? Do you think it is only dedicated to women?
I love hijab and would love to share this love with others. It is my way to stay for only my husband, it is my care for myself and a way to express my religion and a way to be obedient to my creator. Hijab is not just for women, also men need to observe hijab, especially the hijab of lower the gaze!
Has wearing hijab limited any activities of your normal life?
Absolutely not, it actually helps me in ways that not wearing it does. I am looked at as a person and not just an object. My first time out with hijab I had a bus driver call me ma’am a sign of respect which I never had before!
How do you analyze women’s right in Islam compared to what the West has propagated?
Certainly women have more rights in Islam, their rights are designed perfectly for them and so is the men. Like the right that I don’t necessarily have to work and that my husband will provide me my daily comfort, but if I want to work that is allowed as well, in fact I can keep my earnings for myself and do as I wish with it.
How do you analyze the family institution according to Christianity and Islam?
Thought I was taught to respect my parents and that my sisters are my best friend I don’t think it is nearly emphasized how to respect the parents properly or the rest of our family. Actually there were no teachings on how to trait other family members, but Alhamdulillah Islam teaches us how to keep ties with all family members and how to respect and treat them with the most care.
As a convert, what way of inviting to Islam you believe is more effective on non-Muslims?
Teaching the correct way of Islam. Most non-Muslims get attracted to the true teachings of Islam such as hijab, no mixing with opposite genders etc.
How is Muslim’s behavior?
A good Muslim is one that has high moral traits, he or she respects all people as they are either your brother or sister in faith or an equal in humanity, but it doesn’t stop there they much have great respect to the animals and the whole world.
And how is your TV programs in your country? Is it good for family?
I stay away from TV from my area as it in not good we put certain TV shows on that is in accordance to our religious beliefs at home.
How do Muslims supply their own Halal food? Is there a main shop for it? What is its name?
Yes we have many halal shops in our city Alhamdulillah.
If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion what do you say?
Islam has brought the real meaning to life for me and my family, it is the answer to our salvation and it has taught us how to live peacefully with everyone and everything. It is a very peaceful religion that care it for the next world.
What do you think we should be done for Imam Zaman’s reappearance?
We must learn more about our religion and practice it. Praying to Allah for the hastening reappearance of imam Zaman.
What roles do imams have in your life?
They are my role models that I and my family look up too.
What is your opinion about Ahlulbayt? Who do you like?
I love them, this love was small but in recent years has grown a lot! I am more close to some than others such as the woman like Fatima Zahra (SA) and I have a close feeling to Zayanb (SA). However, this love isn’t limited and I love all my imams but it seems I can look up to some in a more spiritual way.
Edited by Faegheh Heidari
please accept this from us.
You are All-Hearing and All-Knowing.
You are The Most Forgiving.
You are The Most Relenting and repeatedly Merciful.
Allah! grant us The Taufiq to read all the 5 prayers with sincerity.
(Taken from To Be Earnest In Prayers By Amina Elahi)
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