“I didn’t decide to come here” – Student Testimonial
This is my second year at Zahraa Institute. I’m twenty years old and I matriculated two years ago. I was asked to speak of my experiences here and why I decided to come here in the first place.
So firstly, I didn’t decide to come here. The thought of coming here didn’t even cross my mind! In fact, the thought of going to any other academic institution didn’t even cross my mind at the time! Not that I had no dreams or I was lazy or anything like that, because I actually had plans to study Psychology after high school. Like, I was very confident that that was what I was going to do with my years ahead, but while my friends and other matriculants were applying at universities and colleges and writing their NBTs (National Benchmark Tests), I was just unbothered and couldn’t care less about the craze that year because I thought, why should I go to school for twelve years straight and then just like that go to university/college and then specialise in something but then I don’t even know myself?
So eventually, I felt uneasy about my situation because my parents were definitely not going to let me take a gap year and I needed to do something with my life so then I began telling myself every time, ‘Ok Rifqah, tomorrow you’re gonna sit and fill in your applications and get everything sorted,’ but tomorrow came…and it went. And nothing happened. But this nonchalant attitude wasn’t all completely me but also because of my cousin, Malikah, who mentioned to me earlier that year that maybe I should attend Zahraa Institute because it’s perfect for fresh matriculants, I’ll get to know myself and it’s the perfect course to do before studying Psychology. The idea sounded nice but not because of what I was going to be taught but because who doesn’t need a break from school, studying and the stress? In fact, when Malikah lived with me while studying at Darun Na’im and I saw the work she came home with and the late nights she’d sat with such difficult work, I didn’t understand the deep interest and excitement she and my sister were having in these Darun Na’im schools. Like, everything was about Darun Na’im for them! I mean, I certainly didn’t find it attractive because of all the Arabic I saw and I thought what’s so kwaai about studying Arabic? And how in the world is Arabic gonna help me with Psychology? But I kept those thoughts to myself and let the rest play out and hoped for the best.
So, what are you going to do next year?
Anyway, fast forward to when I registered at Zahraa towards the end of the year and the uneasiness was gone because I knew that my next year was sorted and my family would finally stop asking me the most famous question every matriculant gets asked whole year, “What are you going to do next year?”.
So I was happy because they’d finally stop asking me that question because I finally had an answer for them. So at this point, when my family asked me what I’d be doing with my life, I felt so certain and at ease to reply to them confidently, even though I knew they’d feel the exact opposite. But they accepted it eventually. So from that point on they started asking me, “Are you ready for Moslem school?” And my aunty said to me, “Nou moet jy toe dra!” And once my friends came to know about me going to study Islamic Studies they weren’t against it and they didn’t judge me or anything like that, but they would ask, “Are you gonna wear scarf now?” – and I’m not gonna lie, that question haunted me for a while because I thought ‘Is this place really gonna force me to wear hijab permanently?’ Not that I hated that idea, I just felt that I didn’t need hijab because I felt that I was already on the straight path and I was pure on the inside, I knew who Allah was, the ways of society worked on my nerves (and it still does) so I knew I was safe because I didn’t follow it. I also felt that my Iman (belief) was on point and my spirituality didn’t need polishing.
‘Is this place really gonna force me to wear hijab permanently?’ Not that I hated that idea, I just felt that I didn’t need hijab because I felt that I was already on the straight path and I was pure on the inside, I knew who Allah was, the ways of society worked on my nerves (and it still does) so I knew I was safe because I didn’t follow it. I also felt that my Iman (belief) was on point and my spirituality didn’t need polishing.
For me, I was happy about coming to Zahraa Institute because it was going to make studying Psychology easy for me and it was going to be a ‘gap year’ – because that’s what people call it, they make it sound so stupid or like a last option. Well, for me, it wasn’t my last option, it was my only option because I didn’t have anywhere else to go!
When it all clicked
OK, so it was the first day of school wherein we had our first lesson of Qur’an and SubhanAllah, it was so amazing and intriguing. Like first of all, I didn’t know that teachers could be so kind and patient and I never knew that people could smile so much! Secondly, I didn’t know that the Qur’an actually had a message for me and that Allah speaks to us directly! SubhanAllah, I was mind blown – and here I thought that was on the straight path, I was already pure on the inside, and I knew who Allah is. But I was so confused as to why my sister and Malikah didn’t tell me that this is what it feels like to be here, that this is what the Arabic was all about!
I’ve come to understand that you can’t just tell people what you’re being taught and what you’re experiencing because they’re not going to feel your emotions unless they travel the journey themselves.
And this is one of the many lessons I’ve learnt – that your job is to only to convey to people but you cannot change them because that is Allah’s job as He is the Most Wise and He chooses specific people for His Path for a specific reason. So don’t nag your family and friends because they are going to see an ugly side of you and that’s what they are going to think this Institute and the Qur’an teaches, and that is exactly what Shaytan wants. He wants to avert people from the straight path. So rather just relax and enjoy your journey and don’t worry about anyone else. Work to outperform yourself and don’t lose yourself and overburden yourself with other people’s misguidance. Advise them gently and remember that words are just noise but actions are what speak. Make du’a for them and for yourself. Give them time and give yourself time, be patient with yourself because growth is uncomfortable but just trust your journey and you need to trust Allah as well. He has something amazing planned for you. And stop focusing on your results and rather start focusing on your efforts, because if you do that, your results will be so beautiful, inshaAllah Ameen. You must know that Allah looks at your efforts and not your results as He says in Surah al-Insan that when you’ve been granted His Jannah it will be said, “Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated.” [76:22]. SubhanAllah, may Allah make us of those who will be told these comforting words, Ameen.
So how did I end up here for another year?
So last year was the complete opposite to my Matric year. I was on the ball with all of my applications to universities and colleges and I was ready to take on 2018! Alhamdulillah, I even got accepted at all the institutions I had applied to and UCT even offered me a scholarship for my first year as well! Who in their sane mind will turn away from such an awesome opportunity? But, again Allah had different plans for me. I was told by Malikah and Mualima Radia that it would be great if I could do second year. At that point, I almost felt some sense of relief when second year seemed like another option…but no one wanted me to ‘waste’ another year of my life because then I’ll be 21 years old already and only then starting university! This time, my parents were reluctant to the idea as well. Being in such a dilemma, I could only turn to Allah for help because I have never been more anxious and confused in my life. So He opened up for me, He helped me. So Alhamdulillah, here I am, at Zahraa Institute, doing second year. SubhanAllah, I didn’t know that learning Allah’s Deen could get even more exciting and interesting!
So in the end, I found that Malikah was right, first year really helped with finding my true career path, which is still Psychology, because the Qur’an is basically Psychology – the true source of healing and guidance. I also found Allah and got to know Him and at the same time found myself and got to know myself as well, Alhamdulillah! In the end, I wasn’t hesitant to wear hijab, I did it willingly and happily. In the end, I lost friends and gained amazing companions. In the end, Allah had placed His Light, Love and Guidance into my life. In the end, He granted me true understanding of His Deen and Has placed within me love for our Prophet Muhammad (saw). In the end, He enabled me to place the Dunya (this worldly life) in my hand and not in my heart. Alhamdulillah, all of these things Allah had given me when I didn’t even know that I was in desperate need of it.
You have to do your part
I want you to know that Allah can do this for you as well if you feel that He hasn’t, but you have to do your part. For those who are struggling, whether with yourself or you’re struggling with your Arabic, or if you feel that darkness is clouding your life – know that Allah is waiting for your du’a. All you have to do is ask and He will respond. He said that He will never give you more than you can bear. He sees so much potential and light within you and that’s why you are sitting here this year. Thank Him for that. Don’t give up. Allah says that He is the Protector of those who believe and He brings them out of the darkness into the Light.
And I know there are some of you who don’t want to be here – maybe because your parents forced you to be here or for whatever other reason, and that you’ll rather be back at school or at university living your best life and experiencing your life to the fullest. But the thing is, Allah wanted to guide you, so let Him. Maybe you are making du’a every day or wishing every day to be somewhere else, but maybe you are asking for a drop and Allah has written the ocean for you. And these emotions that you are feeling are all coming from only one thing – Shaytan – because he promised Allah that he is going to sit and wait for us on the straight path and he will come to us from all sides and he will hinder our way. He doesn’t promise us anything except deception as he beautifies everything that is bad for us. So don’t fall into this trap.
You have to get out of your own way
If you want to change, you will have to stop feeding your desires. Don’t waste your youth being distracted over one of the many temptations that will cross your path. And you have to change your priorities if you really want to be different from our misguided and deluded society. Don’t wander blindly in this world and live a meaningless life when you can ask Allah to place His Light into your life so that you can follow your true path using that Light. Ask Al-Fattaah, The Giver of Victory – The One Who opens doors that aren’t even there. Ask An-Nur, The Light. Ask Al-Haadiyy, The One Who Guides.
So one of the most amazing lessons I’ve learnt is that when I thought I was so lazy and unconcerned about my plans the one year, and the next year my attitude was the opposite and Allah got me accepted at universities and colleges – only to bring me back here – I’ve learnt that we plan and Allah plans, and Allah is the Best of Planners. He turned me away from such an awesome opportunity to start university this year so that He could bring me to this beautiful and fulfilling state first. Alhamdulillah.
So I pray that Allah grants you the same and better. I pray that just as your Qur’an will be handed to you in your right hand today, your Book of Records will be handed to you in the same manner. I pray that Allah eases each and every one of your struggles. I pray that He makes this year the best year of your life, where you will find Him and at the same time you will find yourself. I pray that He opens up for you. I pray that He brings you out of the darkness into the Light and I pray that your path is illuminated by the burning light that’s inside of you. Ameen.
So I’ll finally end off and leave you with this: You must realise the immense power, light, and guidance that the Qur’an has. Like, really take advantage of this year with Allah’s Book. Use it to grow close to Him and to grow spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Use it to nourish yourself, to purify your heart and perfect your character. Just re-invent yourself – because this year is the beginning of the rest of your life.