For UAE Muslim convert, Khadeeja, Ramadan is her favourite time of the year
'It was a call from Allah, I am in peace now'
For Khadeeja, a new Muslim, Ramadan is her favourite time of the year as the UAE presents an environment for complete devotion to Allah.
Khadeeja (formerly Shirley Rodriguez) is a Spanish Cuban born into a Catholic family. But now, she is fully committed in her effort to be closer to Allah.
"I went to a Catholic school. I couldn't fully understand the meaning of Christianity. Later, my family moved to London where I completed my graduation in journalism. Then I stopped religious practices as it wasn't coming from my heart."
A visit to Abu Dhabi in 2015 changed something inside her.
"It was during Ramadan that we first landed here. And I could feel signs of Islam."
The mellifluous call for prayer from th Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque entranced her. "I first heard azaan during fajr. It was one of most special experiences of my life. I didn't understand it but I slept in peace. I visited the Grand Mosque, which was very special."
She completed her media internship in Dubai and returned to London but wasn't herself.
"I had job and family but I felt something was missing - it was Allah. It would have been hard for me to embrace Islam in the UK, where the religion is misinterpreted. Even as I loved London, I had to return to Dubai. It was a call from Allah."
By 2018, she returned and started learning about Islam. After seven months, she decided to embrace Islam. "My family respected my decision. On January 19, 2019, I became a Muslim. I have spent past year to change myself into a better Muslim."
Khadeeja observed her first Ramadan last year and was scared about fasting.
"I managed to do my best but it could have been better."
Even as she doesn't speak the language, she prays in Arabic and goes to mosque. From January, she is wearing hijab all through the day. "I have left my bikini back. It all happen step by step and comes from my heart. Allah knows it's genuine. This Ramadan, I am trying to do everything as perfect as possible."
She easily finished her first day of fasting.
"I am not hungry or thirsty anymore. I am at peace. You can be closer to Allah all year but this holy month, you can see and feel others doing the same. Such environment helps you to focus on your relationship with Allah. Nothing else matters. We must remember the people in need and be grateful for what we have."
Khadeeja has stopped working in bank and looking for a job in media.
"Islam has taught me to do things you believe in."
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