Crossing the Threshold Khadija Masood’s Journey to Faith

A modelling agency: an unlikely place for the seeds of Islam to take root in someone’s heart. But that was where Aarti* first came across the freshness of a creed that was to bring a whirlwind change in her life.

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A modelling agency: an unlikely place for the seeds of Islam to take root in someone’s heart. But that was where Aarti* first came across the freshness of a creed that was to bring a whirlwind change in her life.
20-year-old Aarti was what you could call the ‘complete iconic cool’, with a national track record in running, a great time in corporate jobs at places like Wockhardt & Quality Inns, and a steadily building career as a TV anchor and a model in the apparel industry. The eldest of three siblings in a high-caste Hindu family, she was the ‘tomboy’ – daring, adventurous, always eager to try out new things, to learn, to discover. It was this relentless quest for knowledge and discovery, this earnest curiosity, that led her to bump into Islam in the bloom of her youth.
She had observed how her Russian and Uzbek friends at the modelling agency were never caught ‘living it up’. As a fresher in a profession known for its notoriety and scandal, she could not believe that there were these girls who would have nothing to do with alcohol, boys, drugs and a party-all-night lifestyle. Intrigued, she probed further into their lifestyle and was astonished to find that they had very clear notions about God and worship, and that something as Spartan as fasting was an integral part of the faith they practised.
One day she came across a prayer recited in Arabic. The mysterious melody of the foreign chant captivated her beyond anything she had ever heard in her life. She was hooked.
She decided to learn this beautiful language, and a Muslim brother directed her to a famous madrasa in Bangalore. She started visiting this place that had an aura unlike anything she had known, where people welcomed her into their presence and embraced her with a love that surpassed the boundaries of class, race, colour, language.
She adopted the Purdah. She would discover that this decision was the first hijrat (migration) in her young life. She turned away from her former lifestyle, avoiding the best of career opportunities, and turned to Allah, bonding with His exalted presence through the Salaat and supplications.
It was when her family started thinking of her marriage that her secret unfolded. Her mother, a social worker, was devastated. But Aarti was firm. She had always been an independent decision maker, and so it would be now. Walled off by hostile silence, she spent five turbulent years with her family yearning for their acceptance. But it was not to be so. During this period of emotional torment, her faith was put through great tests, which only made her more tenacious. Taking advantage of her predicament, a Muslim brother tried to exploit her emotionally. All this led her to great despair, and there came a time when she was so distraught by her troubles that one night she sat up reconsidering her decision. Afraid for herself, her future, her mother, she felt that it was time to step back. Praying for guidance, she fell asleep.
But Allah had set her destiny in motion. She had a vision where she was advised to hold on, to persevere, and to conquer what was seemingly indomitable. She knew now that she would never turn back, no matter what.
Under the pretext of a job change, she moved to Hyderabad. A lonely soul in a strange city, on a low-profile job with substandard pay, seeking peace in her faith and her Sustainer. Her second hijrat.
In a dark and bleak situation, anguished by the many torments following her, she decided she was going to spend the rest of her life alone away from society, practising her faith in solitude. The next day she received an offer of marriage from a completely unfamiliar young man, who was as intent on marrying her as if he had known her all his life. Stunned at the way her silent misery had been resolved and taken aback, she was reluctant initially. But she accepted, and is now happily married with a bright, beautiful baby. Even as she talks, 1-year old Zahid runs lopsidedly and climbs into her lap with a sparkling laugh.
“This is my dream,” she says smiling at her son. She tendered resignation from her job after Zahid’s birth, and is now studying a’alimiyat through correspondence. “I want to help my child on his way to Islam; I want to be there as a solid support for his faith and knowledge, the way my husband is there for me now,” she says.When asked what her message to the Islamic world is, she pauses to reflect. “Imaan is a gift from Allah for those who were born with it. But the road is difficult for those who come to it midway through their lives, leaving behind their whole world. It is a hard time adjusting to the harsh realities; Muslims need to be more considerate towards the struggles of converts. You must step forward and embrace us as if we were one of you, because we are one of you now.”
Having realised the ultimate importance of the most major decision of her life, she is now focused on two things: to try and make her still-adamant family accept the truth, and to help and comfort stumbling, hesitant newcomers to this way. We wish you the very best of both worlds, sister Khadija.
[* Name changed to protect privacy]