Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
Ko Pirongia Te Maunga,, Pirongia is my mountain
Ko Waikato Te Awa, Waikato is my river
Ko Tainui Te Waka, Tainui is my canoe
Ko Ngati Mahanga Te Hapu, Ngati Mahanga is my sub-tribe
Ko Hamiora Toku Whanau, Hamiora is my family
Ko Caitlan Toku Ingoa, Caitlan is my name.
Currently living in Melbourne Australia
Life before Islam.
I grew up an average Māori girl. There were times l struggled with my identity as a Māori. I like to think I grew up with good values but I was most likely rebellious in my parents eyes lol. I moved to Australia for a better life and better paying job as we often do.
My first encounter with a Muslim.
I met an elderly man while working in Brisbane Australia, who when he spoke I could feel this amazing wairua (spirit). He was so humble, so giving, so content always smiling. I use to think to myself, why are you so happy? Lol.
I made some Muslim friends, met people and became curious as to what they were practising. Turned out it was the same religion of the older man whom I would later regard as someone very important to me.
I started to dive deeper into my thoughts of who made me and what is my purpose.
I started reading Islamic books. I did this for almost a year.
I became so intrigued and so surprised that I knew so little about this religion, I started to see myself as someone who could practice Islam.
I often asked myself, "Once I openly embrace Islam, what does that mean for me? "
I continued to learn. I never grew up religious, and I was always somewhat guided by culture.
Was that enough?
I went to the Holland Park Mosque (Brisbane) to get more reading materials.
The Imam gave me books to read and I told him I had already read them. I will never forget his funny analogy he used that day he said "There's a house and you are standing on the outside, and you need to come inside to be able to learn more. Do you want to come inside sister?" lol.
I agreed, I took my Shahada declaration of faith and saw a major shift in dynamics.
I gravitated towards in my opinion, the best, most kind, loving and giving people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I started feeding homeless, with a few of the members of the masjid. I did sometimes think about how I use to be one of those people watching the news and thinking that Muslims were radical, fanatical and extremists.
That wasn't the case once I surrounded myself with the Muslims of the community that I lived in. I saw them rush to charity, I saw them put their differences aside, I saw them feed people regardless of faith or race.
They showed me Islam without even saying a word.
I started to involve myself in Muslim projects. My heart for the first time in my life found it's purpose and l was guided by good. I immersed myself in good company and God fearing Muslims. I saw people with no agenda, just pure trust in Allah.
Two years later that mosque was on the SBS TV show called 'The Mosque next door' that did an amazing job of showcasing the true essence of Islam.
What do I love about Islam.
I get asked this question alot and honestly, even if I tried, could never put into words the feeling my heart has, even when I think about an answer years later.
How do you describe a feeling of completeness? being conscious of everything, being accepting of whatever happens, even on my darkest days, I draw closer to truth and Allah (SWT), I'm constantly reminded of my blessings, my hardships are no longer hardships, they are lessons and opportunities to remind me to ground myself.
I have the tools and skills to thrive, understand and Insha'Allah do good even if it's small.
A religion where a simple smile is charity, where your status in the world is based on your faith and how you treat not just people but everything around you.
I love that Islam makes sense, it's spiritual, it's logical and everything connects, everything aligns.
When I learn about the Prophet (pbuh) of Islam, I'm reminded how blessed I am to have the pleasure of understanding a man who was so perfect in character.
A man who sacrificed, a man who through his character alone was able to teach the world how we should behave.
How has Islam improved me as a person.
I am able to live simply, I am content, grateful but most of all my heart is at peace. I no longer yearn to fit into society, and compromise myself for society norms, or things that don't benefit me, or the people around me.
I put faith in action, through giving, understanding and patience.
My Deen has somewhat encouraged me to identify myself as a proud Māori.
To find the thing's that connect and unite us before any differences or disunity.
My family likes my changes.
My family are supportive of me, although with no understanding, embraced me and continuously remain that constant reminder of how blessed I am.
I hope that whatever good they see in me, comes from my Iman, my faith.
My appreciation for my family grows as time goes by.
This is my charity to them to be understanding and patient.
I married a Lebanese man who through the will of Allah has taught me things even when he remains silent. We feed off each other. I never openly express it but I know Allah has put us together to be a bridge so that we are able to teach each other.
I believe in love but l also believe in hard work, in compromise, in learning and growing together.
Islam teaches me to let the small things go and be realistic in marriage.
To choose a partner based upon the values we should pass down to our children.
As a Maori Muslim, what challenges have I faced?
Alhamdulilah, Allah has truly blessed me the only thing I can say is this - battling my thoughts and differentiating between culture as in any culture and Islam. Understanding that I don't need to give up who and how I was raised, but simply better myself.
To draw towards my people through my Deen Insha'Allah.
Islam allows you to be authentically you, to look at all the chaos and corruption and say, I want to be a part of the change and solution not the problem.
To block out all the outside noise and to seek no ones approval.
If you can take anything away from my story, l hope you understand that being Muslim doesn't mean you're no longer Māori. If anything our culture and people are a force of good and change in the world.
We as a people can be the most accepting. If only we take time to really appreciate the good in our people and culture because it's absolutely beautiful and it took me to move away to figure that out.
To be Muslim and Māori is not only unique but also empowering.
This is my Deen, this is the mercy of Allah.
Thank you for reading