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Introduction

Assalamualaikum waRahmatullahi waBarakatuh Brothers and Sisters.

Ko Kahuranake to maunga, Kahuranake is my Mountain.

Ko Ngaruroro te awa, Ngaruroro is my river.

Ko Takitimu te waka, Takitimu is my canoe.

Ko Mangaroa te Marae, Mangaroa is my Meeting house.

Ko Ngati Poporo te hapu, Ngati Poporo is my subtribe.

Ko Ngati Kahungunu te iwi, Ngati Kahungunu is my tribe.

Ko Māia toku ingoa, Maia is my name.

Kei Kirikiriroa ahau e noho ana inaianei

I live in Hamiliton.

Life before Islam.

I was born and raised in an active practicing Mormon whanau- family, so the concept of God has been with me since birth.

Through growing up and certain experiences, once I turned 18 I left the church. For some years I claimed to believe in the Māori Gods because I felt that if I told people I believed in something(anything) it would be more digestible than saying I believed in nothing, which I also knew wasn’t true. I certainly believed in something I just didn’t know what, however, it was an attempt to avoid the whole conversation completely, not because it made me uncomfortable, but because I couldn’t be bothered getting into religious conversations.

I continued to live a worldly life style with no want to become religious again.

My first encounter with a Muslim.

I made a friend prior to Ramadan 2021. They are kind, gentle, so considerate and polite that their example was so foreign to me - this first triggered my curiosity. I asked them questions about prayer, about what they can and can’t do, Ramadan in general and if they believed in the same prophets I grew up with - which they did!

My Conversion.

Because I lived in a different city as my friend, I decided to undergo some self directed study of Islam through podcasts, books - obviously the Quran, YouTube videos and eventually getting in touch with my local masjid who got me in contact with a wise brother who was generous with his time to talk me through what I had learnt for myself since the last time we spoke. Months later he said “you know Māia, you probably know a lot more than many Muslims raised in Islam - what are you going to do about it?” At this point, I already felt like a Muslim and completely forgot about the Shahada process. I replied “I want to take my Shahada.”

During a months period I let my friends and family know of my intentions and alhamdulillah they were all so supportive of my choice and joined me at our local masjid to witness me take my shahada.

What do I love about Islam?

Coming from a Christian background there was a lot to compare. The main things that stood out were…

1. My Deen is between me and Allah SWT (not through a bishop or a priest)

2. “Allah guides who he wills” (this made me feel special and chosen in a sense to be Muslim by Allah SWT himself)

3. The example of prophet Muhammad SAWS (an amazing human in time that we can only strive to be like)

How has Islam improved me as person?

Through the Quran we are told what to do in order to return to Allah SWT, he has made it easy for us to live a humble and fulfilling life. Because of that I have less stress on “where I’m going and what I’m going to do.” My only intention and focus now is to be one of the best of his creations that I can be, including practicing sabr, kindness, charity, speaking and treating others with love even when it’s not reciprocated. It has given me vision of a much bigger picture and a new focus on what I can do in this dunya so that I can thrive in the hereafter.

My family likes my changes.

My parents actually mention to Brother Mustafa “we noticed a change in her and we couldn’t quite figure out why, until she mention she wanted to become Muslim and then it all clicked into place.”

I have a much better relationship with my parents now and we can connect in many ways over our love for god even though we worship differently. I think in many ways they are pleased with the woman I’ve become and the woman I’m becoming, but they are more so pleased that I believe and have a love and appreciate for God again.

My older and only brother identifies as an atheist but always loves to learn so asks me questions about Islam all the time and how it differs from the religion we both grew up in - he thinks Muslims are some of the nicest people he’s met and that Islam is ‘logical’. The rest of my family have been super accepting and are just happy for me to have found my place alhamdulillah

As a Maori Polynesian Muslim what challenges I have faced?

The biggest challenge that I’ve had is no longer presenting as Māori. As a woman that now practices the hijab, I find challenges in carrying the multiple facets that make me who I am and ensuring they are all acknowledged. I’m Muslim, I’m Māori, I’m indigenous, I’m shy until I become comfortable with you, I’m a uni student, I’m well travelled, I’m educated etc… and it’s hard for all these parts of me to be recognised when the viewer can only associate my presentation with the hijab and with foreign ideas which are sometimes discriminating. However, with on going sabr and kaha, I do accept the challenge to challenge their way of thinking and open them up to the diversity and truths of Islam.