Assalamu alaikum warahmatulahi wabarahkatu.
My name is Mapafisi Ali and I'm a Tongan Australian from Western Sydney, Australia
Life before Islam.
I was born into a Catholic family. My parents are "freshies straight from the islands" and super old school. So you can say, imagine how strict religion was for me and my older bro.
Growing up I never really questioned my ‘beliefs’ .. I was always the ‘go with the flow, shy’ kid (still am lol).
I always felt religion was always imprinted in my life, since I went to Catholic schools. I knew of and respected other religions but never questioned being a Catholic.
My first encounter with a Muslim.
Growing up in Western Sydney, I was always surrounded by different cultures and nationalities.
I met a muslim brother at my first job and asked him a few questions about islam. Non-muslims growing up in western societies really have no idea of what islam is truly about. It took one brother to change my perspective on an entire group of people.
I met a revert at work and she questioned me about what makes me a Catholic (I asked her the same).
I had doubts in my religion growing up but nothing serious... so for the first time in my life, I thought to myself... do I truly believe in these teachings .. and why? My answers to her questions were sketchy and full of doubt.
But when she answered my questions , I was amazed about her story and how much knowledge she had for someone her age... not to mention the fact that she’s a revert. I learnt so much about Islam from her that it really made me ponder about my own beliefs!
Fast forward a few months and I happened to say my shahadah in front of her ! Alhamdulillah.
I ended up marrying her too !
What do I love about Islam?
Islam makes sense !
It’s given me a new perspective and love for this life and the next. I love how Islam brings together people of all nations.
How has Islam improved me as a person?
Islam has taught me to look at life from a different point of view. That this life is temporary. That it’s only just a test. So treat others the way you’d like to be treated, to follow the footsteps of our Prophet (peace be upon him).
I try to live my life with the values of a good Muslim, to put others before myself and put Allah (swt) before everything.
My family likes my changes.
My family didn’t like me reverting to Islam.
It was a massive shock to them and to this day still doesn’t sit right with them. They thought I would change entirely as a person as they have their own preconceived notion about Islam. But I have shown that I'm still the same person inside and I can only pray that being a good Muslim will show them to the greater path, InshaAllah.
As a Polynesian Muslim what challenges I have faced?
I'm not Māori but I think being a Tongan Muslim... We share similar challenges. It’s hard to embrace Islam sometimes, when you feel like an outcast.
Even though other Muslims have been very welcoming and helpful, it’s a struggle sometimes as cultural values are different.
**If you made it to the end.. thanks for reading. I tried to shorten my answers as much as possible lol