The hand of Allah touches people from all walks of life and the grip of Islam has no rival. That two people from totally different backgrounds, travelling on two different paths, suddenly find themselves not only sharing the same religion but living together as co-wives is truly amazing.
These two women who themselves are quite different in temperament-one quietly reflective and introvert and the other demonstrative and dashing - have agreed to let the Message in on their conversion to Islam and their lives together.
Alia had her upbringing on the streets of New York’s Harlem. She learned at a young age not only how to care for herself and mark her way, but to see that God’s handiwork was apparent around every corner. Her immediate family was small but in that atmosphere her mother nurtured her and fought to keep open as many doors as possible for her young and quite precocious daughter.
At one time or another Alia had acquainted herself with any religion she came in contact with, always inherently looking for the truth. The search took her from Unitarian sects of Christianity to witchcraft and Tarot-card reading. She had always loved their arts and was career-minded in that direction.
She had done the wardrobe work for a popular film of the early seventies and on its completion headed for some rest and relaxation to Europe.
She had her ticket and twenty-five dollars cash, so off she flew to Belgium. From there she made her way to Germany via Amsterdam, now with twelve dollars in cash. After these few weeks of galivanting around and being a pleasure-seeker she sought some quiet respite in Heidelberg. In a round about way she met some American Muslims who, with their generous manners, took her under their wings. Her feckless but not unconscious search had ended and she embraced Islam the following day. “Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth; and none can know the forces of the Lord, except He, and this is no other than a warning to mankind.” (Qur’an 74:31)
In 1972 Alia arrived in Saudi Arabia and went straight to Makkah for the first time. She had two reasons to give thanks to Allah; firstly for guiding her to Islam and secondly for blessing her with a husband who had also embraced Islam at the hands of those same generous and inviting American Muslims.
The view of the Haram and Ka’abah left a permanent impression on her but she felt totally at home in Madinah.
She makes an interesting analogy about arriving in Madinah, saying it felt like a child who leaves its mother to make a way in the world and then comes home for a visit. She knew she was home. Madinah has a spiritual air that it is physically possible to smell with the senses.
Alia then spent the next twenty years living in Madinah. Due to a set of circumstances she now lives in Jeddah but dreams about returning there some day permanently. In the meantime, she looks forward to every moment she can spend there as it has a revitalising effect on her.
Austria is perhaps one of the most beautiful countries of Europe. Lofty mountains, covered by snow, tall trees blown by the winds for a hundred years, cities steeped in culture and the arts. Some of the most well-read Western philosophers have come from Austria. Opera and ballet can be seen all the year round.
Why would one be unhappy and dissatisfied living there?
Shamsa admits to a rather unusual upbringing in that she was never baptised. Her parents shunned any sort of formal religious affiliation and being products of the 60’s, they dabbled in Hinduism, Buddhism, reincarnation or whatever seemed to be vogue at the time.
Shamsa’s parents gave her the freedom to explore other avenues, something she was not allowed to do in school which required weekly attendance in church. She was independent at a young age, supporting herself all through university.
Being interested mainly in people she studied those around her diligently realising they did not have many good qualities to offer. Somehow she found them devoid of a basic understanding of how life should be lived and what goals should be foremost in their minds. She had always known that she would not live in Austria and that she would marry an American, but how and when was yet to be revealed.
Her aunt married an American Muslim and she became familiar with a bit of their lifestyle. Her mother and sister converted sometime after and Shamsa too, was attracted but wanted to find out more.
Shamsa could not locate much literature on Islam and she only had the people around her to go by. The only Muslims in Austria were some Turkish and other Arabs who were considered second-class citizens. But she saw her mother and sister return from Umrah contented and happy and changed in undefinable ways.
She also saw some of their acquaintances who embraced Islam and married and who appeared well-adjusted and she knew that was for her. She shunned the possibility of marrying a fellow- Austrian.
She found Islam to have clearly defined roles for women and she loved the thoughts of being a mother and caring for a home and husband.
After embracing Islam officially she had an opportunity to come for Umrah and was invited to stay in Madinah.
Arriving here she knew it was to be her home. She helped to care for the children of the family she stayed with and spend her time reading Qur’an and in the Prophet’s mosque.
This continued for almost two years. During this time she developed a close friendship with her hostess, Alia, and they found they had many things in common and took pleasure in each other’s company.
Alia helped to guide her in Islam and together they explored different texts of Ahadith and Tafseer of the Qur’an.
Shamsa often prayed that whatever she do would please Allah. Her foremost goal was to do so and at the same time increase her understanding of Islam and its tenets. “So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the faith; (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which he had made mankind..” (Qur’an 30:30)
It dawned suddenly on Alia that Shamsa would be good as co-wife and suggested it to her husband. He objected but she pursued it as she had that sightful gift that women sometimes have on what a husband needs.
The three of them prayed for Allah’s guidance and that if it was right, He would make it happen. Happen it did, and they live happily together.
They both say that it does not mean they live without their trials and tribulations and they are often jealous of each other.
But they have decided that they are friends first.
Even though there may be times when they are both angry and do not speak, that anger passes and they find one another friends again.
It is a highly unusual situation but one that Allah has created and they have done it totally out of love for Allah and for His pleasure.
“We should all strive for that goal to please Allah and to try and put our human wants and desires after Allah’s”. “They are those who persevere in patience, and put their trust on their Lord.” (Qur’an 16:42)
( Courtesy The Message)