Finding Islam: The Making of Me

I’m Amira, a Bengali born Muslim, currently in my first year of uni – tackling the challenges of balancing deen & dunya, university life, assessments, family, friends, community, finding myself and beyond. I’ve been in Australia my entire life, and Sydney is the place that feels most like home. But my identity runs much deeper – it begins with the story of my ancestors who first embraced, fought for and preserved Islam, passing it down to their progeny.


I remember once my uncle told me that he always sends his blessings to the first person in our family line that took the shahadah – that hit me. I realised how much we take for granted the athan (call to prayer) that was recited in our ears at birth & the Islam that was already around us as we grew up. We didn’t have to struggle to discover the idea of Islam for ourselves.


However truly finding the deen and resonating with it for oneself is a very constant and individual journey.


I remember when I began mine. It was the infamous quarantine Ramadan of 2020 & I had hit the lowest point in my life. Shackled at home, isolated from my people, drowning in HSC assessments and all alone with only my thoughts and Allah – I was placed in the perfect circumstance to interrogate myself about the purpose of my life. Sincerely I followed Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s daily “Juz a day” Quran Tafseer and fell in love with my Lord and His book. And when I came out of isolation something from deep within me had changed. It was a feeling of metamorphosis that words could never do justice to.


I always had powerful Islamic role models around me – my teachers, siblings and community. But I guess I just went with it – knew the basics well, did actions because I was told and loved Islam on only the basis of it being a part me. But as I got older, it was in the greatest joys in life and in its most difficult challenges, that I realised my absolute need for Allah. This happiness was temporary and so was this hardship, Allah was the only forever. I still have so much to learn as we all do, and I am only in the beginning of my relationship with Allah but I am confident that if I continue walking to him, he will continue running to me. 


But let’s explore the events that led me here a little deeper.

As a close friend of mine says “We always want to see the world through other people’s eyes and stories I feel is the closest we’ll ever get to that experience”. I realised it was through hearing the stories of others falling in love with the religion of Allah, did my own love and appreciation for Islam overflow uncontrollably. It is through stories we come to know each other and to know aspects of our own selves. It is through stories we are able to connect with each other on a deeper level and make sense of the intangible notions of the world – to learn, grow and gauge the diverse ways people come to find themselves & their purpose. It is through experiencing the stories of others that we increase our empathy, awareness and wisdom on how to interact with the world around us. That is why I want to share aspects of my own story a little deeper. 


Bismillah. (In the Name of God)

I am always grateful that growing up, my family has always provided me the freedom to explore the world. My early years of high school were like living a carefree, teenage dream. I was a wild spirit, had too many friends to keep count of, life was always buzzing with energy and excitement. I didn’t used to think too much, had no filter, and was infamously known for the volume of my voice. But I was also always curious, learnt a fair bit about Islam on the way, had fun at all times & that was pretty much it.


You could say I really had it all in terms of the schooling experience – I was in public, private, co-ed, Islamic, non-Islamic, and selective schools. I met all different nationalities, socio-economics, religions, Muslims and people generally along the way; providing me a unique exposure to more than a limited category of people.

Life was good, really good. Too good.

Towards the early middle of year 11 I realised despite the solid group of friends and community I had built, I knew I needed to escape the private Islamic school that I was in at the time which was sucking the soul out of me (I won’t go into details because that would be an entire other blog). I decided to leave on a whim – I will never forget that bus ride where I ranted to the entire M90 bus about our unethical school system and then to end off my dramatic speech, I announced to the entire crowd that I was leaving. Just like that my mind was set and no matter what, I would find a way to continue my education elsewhere. After being left schoolless for a short period, I miraculously found myself in the most random school ever. A freshly established community school down the road from my house, who had only had a single graduating cohort when I joined. After calls with NESA, exams to prove I was responsible enough to catch up on the new HSC subjects I was taking on board and quick touch ups of transforming trashy report comments into ones praising me – I made it. Moving there was a huge culture shock, from being a part of a massive community to this tiny block of buildings of extremely sheltered people, was not easy.


For the first time in history – life started to slow down and be a bit quieter. I was so accustomed to noise; the change really came crashing down on me. On top of that my sister had moved to another state and the single most grounding figure in my life was unstable and I was left to totally fend for myself. Falling out with every single person close to me and then finding myself tossed into an entirely new group of strange people I could mostly not connect with, was difficult to say the least. It was all happening so fast & I didn’t have time to process it. I was totally disoriented. Suddenly I could no longer relate to my friends stuck in the vacuum of my old school nor was I able to relate to the new people here. For a long time – I felt sad, lost and confused.

And it was in these times, I found my comfort, solace and protection from my Lord.

One eventful day I literally woke up and flipped the switch – this simply wasn’t me. I decided I would not allow my life to be all glum & it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. I embraced my personality and let myself connect to the people who I was shutting off because I was stuck in my own ideas of who they were. And that opened endless doors for me, I let go of my angst and let people in. It was through conquering my own internal battle I was able to create priceless memories and life-long connections with people externally. This taught me two things: the biggest battle is the one with your own self & the mindset you consciously choose to adopt into your lives is what will determine its course.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”

This quote was the absolute epitome of my time in Western Grammar. So much of this time period was exciting new thoughts, exposure to the greatest people I had ever touched lives with (my teachers – we will get there), being all alone which allowed me to exponentially develop as I was away from all the influences that were comfortable and had inadvertently trapped my growth. But in between all of this were negative feelings of loss, loneliness, dissociation and confusion that I couldn’t understand.

It was with the comfort of Allah’s words, time with my lord, contemplation and dua that I not only survived but thrived.


Immersing with the enemy within

Torn between who I once was 

Who I am now

Who I crave to be in the future


Mr Badar – once my teacher at a previous school, was the little part of familiarity in the foreign landscape of my new school. He was the single person who made this scary new experience slightly less bad and instead reminded me of who I was. He always viewed the world with a passion, a truth and an unconventionality I wished the rest of society would – he encouraged me and inspired me to break away from the ordinary. To my tiny, seven student year 11 Advanced English class – this teacher was our walking legend, our saviour. We were the Dead Poets Society, and he, as I like to say, was our “Mr Keating”.


Ms  Yasmin – my year 11 bio teacher and the “Mother” and “glue” of the entire school. She was one of the most incredible women I had ever seen in practise. Hearing about great people and actually witnessing them are two entirely different concepts. She was a walking, talking human who was in the constant service of people, in the constant service of Allah, embodying the beauty of Islam we so often overlook. The way she selflessly cared for others, took on the emotions of others, dealt with those who had wronged her, her patience, perseverance and love for her students would leave those who could see it in awe. And if you ever asked her why, it would always be because of Islam.


Mr Malik – my SOR and BS teacher changed the way I viewed the religion of Islam and the words of Allah. Before meeting him, the Quran was only a book for me. Through always somehow relating subject content (always a lol moment of school) with his gems of knowledge and own Islamic lessons, I developed my foundational understanding of the religion. His passion for what he taught was moving – through him I  learnt a new perspective of the miracles and stories in the Quran. It was he who both taught me the art of balance but also made me push my limits. 


Mr Qureshi – my PDHPE and English teacher of year 12. He made the most recent and foundational changes to my critical thinking and prepared me for what was yet to come. He touched my heart and mind in ways I didn’t think was possible and taught me the most about society as a large & the world. He always challenged me and dared me to think bigger, think different. He never doubted me – instead it was his belief in my abilities which led me to dream, evolve and succeed. It was through his support and my exposure to him I was able to grow leaps and bounds. Not only this, he was the king of advice and it was through relating, resonating and conversing with him, I filled my void of intellectual loneliness with substance.

My teachers all played a crucial role in my journey to Islam and to forming the person I am today. Witnessing them, I couldn’t help but be in awe at how they embodied the teachings of Islam in a way I had never seen done before. They made sense of the chaos of their worlds, they owned everything they did & they found all their success through Islam. It was contagious. In my previous schools – I was surrounded by people in leadership roles who were fighting their fitrah (natural inclination), never those who carried themselves with it. 


For My Teachers,

And now although there is no reason for our lives to be tied

You remain with me as I continue to journey through life,

My artwork permanently stained with the shades you added on — 

and together what a beautiful painting did we create. 


So up until the times of deep seclusion and true rock bottom confusion at this dunya I was still just a teenager going with the flow of where life took me, only vaguely figuring out that I really needed Allah. When I think of the times of COVID, I reflect on the seerah of the Prophets and great Islamic legends in history. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for example would escape the noise and fitnah (trials) of society by retreating to the remote cave of Hira to be in a state of deep contemplation. Our souls need isolation to connect with the One that created them. We must at times silence the clutter and hustle of the rest of the world to hear our minds and hearts for once. It was the COVID Ramadan of 2020 for me that truly allowed me to do this – in the peak of all these soaring emotions I mentioned, I was suddenly then locked up in my house. 

And I unexpectedly fell in love with all the time I had and the silence of every single moment – it was only me, my thoughts and Allah. I finally had a chance to internalise all that had to come to pass and the knowledge I was exposed to in the past few years of my life. I barely attended online year 12 classes or actually studied for HSC during lockdown, instead I spent every spare moment reflecting, writing and learning more about Islam. I got silence after an eternity of noise. I attained freedom after an eternity of captivity from futile social interactions. I gained independence for myself and connected with Allah more deeply than I had ever done before. 

Coming out of lockdown, something from deep within my heart had shifted. It is extremely difficult to explain but after this, something in me had firmed and with conviction I decided to consciously journey through life being mindful to seek only the pleasure of Allah. I have first-hand witnessed the presence of Allah in my life and His miracles, and it is the multitude of experiences that Allah has placed in my life that has allowed me to taste the sweetness of īman (faith). I would not change a single event in my life – not even the most terrible of moments, because without them there is no way I would have the appreciation for Islam that I do now. 

For now, I don’t know where life will take me, I don’t know what is yet to come – the trials, triumphs or tribulations. But what I do know for sure is that I am a human like any other, bridled by flaws and possessing a never ending room to grow and evolve. So I ask Allah for his guidance, for him to keep us steadfast on the deen and to move our hearts to always choose Allah as our ally. Because how can we ever lose if Allah, the All-Mighty, the Most-Wise, the All-Encompassing, the one who created everything that opposes us in the first place is on our side? 


Before I end off, here are 13 random principles that I currently resonate with and would humbly like to share to anyone who fate has brought here:

1. Share your story, discover the story of others: you will be surprised at all that you will learn and how much you will grow.

2. Dare to dream and be – an entire world of opportunities awaits; you simply must be brave enough to seek them.

3. Let Islam be your map for everything and ikhlas (sincerity) be your compass. By Allah – your Lord will take you exactly where you need to be if you sincerely seek his guidance.

4. We are only here for an extremely short while, live only for your eternal abode not this temporary stop you are just passing by (the dunya is a drop of ocean in comparison to the akhirah; the hadith that changed my outlook on life)

5. Learn both about Islam and the world & act when you know things have to be done, when you see gaps in society; no one will ever do it for you. If not you – then who?

6. Perfecting our prayer is a constant struggle. Place massive importance in doing justice to your Salah (prayer) and don’t forget your athkars (morning and evening remembrance of Allah) – they will structure and give meaning and barakah (blessing) to your life.

7. Treat people the way you wish to be treated.

8. Do not undermine your abilities and what you have to offer to the world. But do not walk with pride. Remember that every human being has something to teach you, you just need to have the humility to be able to see it.

9. Find mentors, make friends, network, connect with people. You can’t make it alone.

10.  Each of us are on our own unique journeys and have different, personalised individual needs. Don’t compare yourself to others and be discouraged, instead let them be a source of inspiration for you.

11. Don’t ever become stagnant or complacent. Take tiny steps, huge ones, walk, jog, run but never stand still. (Seems about right I ended up in UNSW) 

12. Live these hadith – “The greatest number of sins of the son of Adam are as a result of their tongue”. (Sahih), “Speak good or remain silent”(Sahih) 

13.  Make Allah your best friend & always make dua for everything, especially for Allah to keep your intentions pure. Don’t ever forget that Al-Wali is our protective friend who will never leave us. He is al-Mujeeb, the Answerer of all of our prayers.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and conclusions presented in these pieces are strictly those of the authors. MYA does not necessarily endorse the personal views of the authors.

Amira Rahman

Amira Rahman

Amira is a first year at UNSW - still figuring out her degree. She loves to write, do spontaneous things and meet new people.

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