LONDON (Web Desk) – A German woman author Meike Ziervogel has revealed secret behind her wearing of hijab and conversion of Islam.
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I recently flew to Bangladesh for a literature festival. At Dubai airport I had a layover for a few hours.
It was early morning, I hadn’t slept well on the plane and I felt the onset of a migraine. For a while I walked around restlessly.
Eventually I decided to go into one of the prayer rooms. Out of curiosity. I’ve never before visited an airport prayer room.
I took off my shoes and entered a room with a beautifully thick carpet.
A Muslim woman was performing her morning prayers. I sat down in a corner cross-legged. I watched the woman for a while, then I closed my eyes.
For a few minutes I tried to concentrate on my breathing but I couldn’t stop worrying about my headaches.
When I opened my eyes the woman was gone. I moved into the middle of the room and stood there enjoying the total quietness.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I lie down, try to meditate, do a few yoga exercises?
Then, probably inspired by watching the woman, I lifted my hands to the side of my ears and mumbled “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is great’ in Arabic).
Then I realised that my head was not covered. So I stopped, walked over to my bag, took out a scarf and began again.
It was a few year since I’d last prayed in a Muslim way, but I still remembered all the words and movements.
I enjoyed forming the Arabic sentences and hearing them resonate within me.
I started to feel calmer. Once again I was reminded of how useful it is to combine prayer with movement – the mind has less opportunity to wonder.
I’d first learnt the Islamic prayer when I was 20. I was studying Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and had become friends with another young German woman who’d converted to Islam.
I admired Sahra for her faith, her calmness and certitude. The five daily prayers gave her life a firm structure: she knew what to eat, not to drink alcohol, how to dress.
I, on the other hand, was continuously torn: should I go to the bar or the library? Should I have one more drink or not?
Does he look at me because I wear a silly jumper or because he finds me attractive? Did what I just say sound intelligent or outright stupid?
Moreover, I was searching for a religion. Since I was a teenager. I’d wanted to believe in the existence of something beyond our material world.
In fact, I wanted to believe in a god. Because I was convinced that a faith – any faith – would answer all my ‘whys’.
I was brought up in Germany. My parents aren’t religious. Still, my siblings and I were baptised and confirmed as Lutheran Protestants out of tradition. We used to go to church once a year – at Christmas.
I thought that was hypocritical. When I was 14 I began to attend church every Sunday on my own. But after a couple of years I stopped.
I didn’t understand how Jesus could be the son of God, whose death in some way redeemed us. And no one was able to explain it to me in terms that made sense.
Islam argues that God is unique and indivisible and therefore there cannot be a trinity.
This sounded logical to me. I then read the Quran and discovered that Islam not only embraces the prophets of the Old Testament but Jesus as a prophet too. Again, the inclusiveness appealed.
I secretly began to pray in my room. I stopped wearing miniskirts. Through Sahra I met other Muslim women and I enjoyed the feeling of community.
And every now and again, when I knew no one would recognise me, I put on a hijab in the street to see how I would feel. And I realised that wearing long skirts and headscarf made me feel feminine – and special. I liked it.
Still, I kept my development and thoughts to myself and didn’t share them with friends or family members.
My yearning for firm rituals – both in terms of behaviour and dress code – stood in stark contrast to the persona I had cultivated up to then.
Since the age of 16, I had perceived myself as an independent, free-spirited feminist.
I had read a lot of feminist literature, from Simone De Beauvoir to Alice Schwarzer and Marilyn French.
But my feminism mainly consisted of being angry – with my family, my history, our patriarchal, capitalist society.
I hadn’t yet learnt how to channel anger into constructive, creative energy.
At Christmas I went home to Germany. An old school colleague asked me to a night club.
I agreed even though I neither liked the place nor the person.
But I still remember how I stood there in the flickering light thinking that nothing mattered because this would be my last visit to a disco – or indeed to any place that left me in two minds – since I had decided to convert in the new year. I would never again find myself in a situation that caused me confusion.
When I returned to London, I continued to pray secretly in my room, and every now and again put on a hijab when no one was looking.
I continued reading the Quran with the Arabic and English translation side-by-side. I listened to Quranic tapes.
I even practiced fasting, in preparation for Ramadan later on in the year.
I was waiting for the right moment to make a public statement about my new-found faith. But it never arrived. Or perhaps it passed without me noticing.
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In retrospect, I know now that I would have converted for the wrong reasons. Because my main concern wasn’t really religious.
I wanted to be held. Having come from a small rural German town to London on my own, I was very lonely and the freedoms of a huge cosmopolitan city felt overwhelming.
I wanted someone to look after me and to tell me what to do.
However, it was also then that I began to realise that I enjoyed the act of spiritual exploration.
The necessity to arrive in a safe haven now feels less important to me. I prefer to take from different religions, according to what suits me. Sometimes I fold my hands to pray, sometimes I turn to Mecca and sometimes I simply salute the sun.
I collect goddess figurines and images of the virgin Mary. At family meals with our children we hold hands in silence for a couple of minutes before eating.
Occasionally I join my husband at Quaker meetings.
And there are days when the trinity makes perfect sense to me – and other times Mother Earth is all I need.
But at Dubai airport, as my forehead touched the floor in the prayer room, I once again experienced the same sense of belonging that I felt when I bent down in prayer in 1987.
And for a fleeting moment I looked back, with a pang of nostalgia, at that crossroad where my life could have taken a very different path.
Courtesy: The Telegraph