Moving to another city meant having to adjust to another lifestyle. Arriving in Grahamstown I soon realized that the Muslim community was very small.
I found myself trying to get closer to the people of Islam instead of Islam itself. What I shortly discovered was that cultural differences impacted on my outlook.
After a very entertaining experience at the Muslim Student Association (MSA) sign up on campus, I decided not to join because something just felt amiss. The MSA consists of a colourful Islamic community that honestly have Muslim students best interests at heart. 'My best interests' just seemed to fall a little short and I decided that I would maximize what I was taught at home to better my situation.
From Cape Town, I had brought my prayer mat and my Quran. Admittedly, I pushed them both aside as I adjusted to my new home and lifestyle. Thankfully, the fast life was shortly lived and my longing for home brought me closer to what I believed in. I had not made any Muslim friends until very late into my first semester.
Ayesha, a Kenyan lady, caught my attention when I overheard a phone call she was taking from home. The combination of Arabic and Swahili sounded surreal and I was immediately captivated. She welcomed me with a warm heart, as if we had both been searching for each other for much needed help and guidance. Together, we decided that we would use each other as tools to keep the world at bay.
Grahamstown is a student-based town, much like Stellenbosch. The isolation of the town allows for it to move on its own pace and as an inhabitant, so do you. Slowing down, I gradually progressed in performing my daily prayers; first one, then two and then three, four and five. I had discovered that looking for Muslim friends was not where my focus should have been. Finding the Muslim in me was the real discovery I had to make.
Rhodes University had now become my platform to prove that balance between Islam and the West is possible. I found myself in social circles where discussing Islam became the most popular topic, because non-Muslims found nothing but beauty within the religion. It puzzled me that I had to see the purity and sincerity of my own religion through the eyes of others.
Living alone, away from home, in a small town where religion is lost among the youth; finding your path is only as hard as you make it. Dedication and the ability to overlook things happening around you go hand in hand. As a young Muslim female, you are subjected to many comments and remarks. But I believe in my Maker and I believe that if my heart is in the right place, it will surely keep me grounded, no matter where I am. VOC
Opinion by Ra-eesa Mohamed
Ra-eesa Mohamed is a journalism student at Rhodes University, interning at VOC.
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