My Journey to Islam
Aisha Bhutta The Guardian Newspaper, England Thursday 8th May 1997 A Woman on a Mission ——————————– Aisha Bhutta,…
Despite her conversion however, Mohammed’s parents were against their marrying. They saw her as a Western woman who would lead their eldest son astray and give the family a bad name; she was, Mohammed’s father believed, “the biggest enemy.”
Nevertheless, the couple married in the local mosque. Aisha wore a dress hand-sewn by Mohammed’s mother and sisters who sneaked into the ceremony against the wishes of his father who refused to attend.
It was his elderly grandmother who paved the way for a bond between the women. She arrived from Pakistan where mixed-race marriages were even more taboo, and insisted on meeting Aisha. She was so impressed by the fact that she had learned the Koran and Punjabi that she convinced the others; slowly, Aisha, now 32, became one of the family.
Aisha’s parents, Michael and Marjory Rogers, though did attend the wedding, were more concerned with the clothes their daughter was now wearing (the traditional shalwaar kameez) and what the neighbours would think. Six years later, Aisha embarked on a mission to convert them and the rest of her family, bar her sister (“I’m still working on her). “My husband and I worked on my mum and dad, telling them about Islam and they saw the changes in me, like I stopped answering back!”
Her mother soon followed in her footsteps. Marjory Rogers changed her name to Sumayyah and became a devout Muslim. “She wore the hijab and did her prayers on time and nothing ever mattered to her except her connections with God.”
Aisha’s father proved a more difficult recruit, so she enlisted the help of her newly converted mother (who has since died of cancer). “My mumand I used to talk to my father about Islam and we were sitting in the sofa in the kitchen one day and he said: “What are the words you say when you become a Muslim?” “Me and my mum just jumped on top of him.” Three years later, Aisha’s brother converted “over the telephone – thanks to BT”, then his wife and children followed, followed by her sister’s son.
It didn’t stop there. Her family converted, Aisha turned her attention to Cowcaddens, with its tightly packed rows of crumbling, gray tenement flats. Every Monday for the past 13 years, Aisha has held classes in
Islam for Scottish women. So far she has helped to convert over 30. The women come from a bewildering array of backgrounds. Trudy, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow and a former Catholic, attended Aisha’s classes purely because she was commissioned to carry out some research. But after six months of classes she converted, deciding that
Christianity was riddled with “logical inconsistencies”. “I could tell she was beginning to be affected by the talks”, Aisha says. How could she tell? “I don’t know, it was just a feeling.”
The classes include Muslim girls tempted by Western ideals and need in salvation, practicing Muslim women who want an open forum for discussion denied them at the local male-dominated mosque, and those simply interested in Islam. Aisha welcomes questions. “We cannot expect people blindly to believe.”
Her husband, Mohammad Bhutta, now 41, does not seem so driven to convert Scottish lads to Muslim brothers. He occasionally helps out in the family restaurant, but his main aim in life is to ensure the couple’s five children grow up as Muslims. The eldest, Safia, “nearly 14, Al-Humdlillaah (Praise be to God!)”, is not averse to a spot of recruiting herself. One day she met a woman in the street and carried her shopping, the woman attended Aisha’s classes and is now a Muslim.
“I can honestly say I have never regretted it”, Aisha says of her conversion to Islam. “Every marriage has its ups and downs and sometimes you need something to pull you out of any hardship. But the Prophet Peace by upon him, said: ‘Every hardship has an ease.’ So when you’re going through a difficult stage, you work for that ease to come.”
Mohammed is more romantic: “I feel we have known each other for centuries and must never part from one another. According to Islam, you are not just partners for life, you can be partners in heaven as well, for ever. Its a beautiful thing, you know.”