By Natalie Mohammed, October 2022
The air was crisp, but the sun beamed down through the leafy pathways with the promise of warmth. I was late. I had to run. Walking boots on, my husband’sloose,tangerineT-shirt beaming bright against the weathered red bricks of the grand Edwardian houses, I fought to catch up.
There! Down the next road, straight ahead. A mob of colour. My sisters.
It was a tight group –dear friends I have known since I reverted fifteen years ago, new friends I have made on the wayand fresh faces, all in varying shades of orange. We were there for the same reason: to walk together. To support our revert sisters in Islam. I chatted to the ladies ambling at the back of the pack, grinning at the chance to spend a few hours in the Autumnal air without my children. Then, shuffling forward, I spoke to one teammate who had been dominating the fundraising leader-board for weeks.
“How did you do it?” I exclaimed.
She shrugged and laughed, “I put it on a few family groups and they all piled in –aunties, cousins.”
I smiled. “They just wanted to see you walk 5 miles.”
“Yes, there’s that,” she said, “but it’s charity. They are happy to give.”
Sadaqah, charity, is a magic word. It brings out the best in people.
As we wound our way through the tree-lined suburbs, I couldn’t help but think how blessed I was. I had never experienced the devasting alienation that becoming Muslim can bring to a revert sister. I had come to Islam through friends, together with my husband, who had held my hand every step of the way. Dhikr was light and swift on my tongue. Alhamdulilah. Alhamdulilah.I could hear the susurration of the trees joining in; the sweetness of birdsong.I prayed for the sisters who did not have it so easy.
The kids walking with us looked after each other –big ones tailing little ones like shadows. Laughter and conversation rolled in waves. It was joyous. Even the blisters forming on my toes were a friendly reminder that this was not supposed to be a literal walk through the park–that with difficulty, there comes ease. ‘Walk with Her’ was gathering of souls, bonding, striving for a greater cause. The word ‘Solace’ itself means to give comfort, and it lightened our hearts that we were not doing this, alone. The walk was a beautiful reminder of how Allah (swt) drives us together. We are not meant to live in solitude. We are designed to be social creatures; to worship as one Ummah.
It’s not always so easy. As reverts, we pluck ourselves out from the norms of British socialisation. We don’t go to the pub after work. We don’t drink wine in a fancy restaurant that serves bacon and chorizo on everything. We try not to indulge in gossip. We become outcasts. Language is often a barrier to entering into established Muslim communities, and we get confused between what is part of our deen and what is cultural practice. We find ourselves lost in the middle of two worlds.
Exercise is a safe ground. Anyone can walk, if Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has gifted them sound legs, and as we trampled over prickled chestnut shells, acorns cracking under our shoes, we found ourselves united and equal, despite our differences. In our one group in Solihull, we had English, Egyptian, Spanish, Pakistani, German and Ukrainian backgrounds. It was mesmerising to think of how many other cultures across the walks in London, Manchester and Nottingham were represented in those few hours, all walking with the single goal of raising money for revert sisters in need. SubhanAllah, it was humbling.
I may have been late at the beginning of the walk, and I may have been Muslim for less time than most of my fellow walkers, but we all ended up in the same place, eventually: being comforted by warm drinks, smiles and sugary treats; showered in the mercy of Allah (swt). The day left us all with precious memories to lock away and a feeling of peace, regardless of the journey we took to get there.