Please read / watch first before making assumptions, drawing conclusions, or passing judgments.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Professional Lady Pilot Reverts To Islam

My Name is Aisha Jibreel Alexander and I grew up in a Roman Catholic family. I was always very interested in knowing about religion and always questioned the “dogmas” of the catholic faith, but I found the same answers every time I asked about the trinity. “You have to believe and not question your faith because you are committing a sin”, the nuns at the school always replied. With this concept, I grew up and I developed a fear of challenging my faith, so I continued in the road of Christianity with great faith and trust in God and on what I learned to believe, “the holy trinity.”

In 2001 I had the first encounter with Islam when I worked for a Canadian Company owned by Muslims. There, I had my first confrontation with the faith, but as I was young and very much dedicated to my professional career, I left the questions about religion behind, and I concentrated on finishing my career and taking care of my responsibilities with my family who also relocated with me from Colombia (my mother and my grandmother who are now 61 and 93 years old). I was very blessed with the family where I was born. These two women taught me the love and respect of God. They started my journey towards Islam by teaching me that I could not be or do anything without faith in God. Regardless the school they adhered to or followed, they taught me all about faith and respect of God.

I got married in 2003, a marriage that unfortunately marked my life with domestic violence, but out of the sad episode, I had my dearest son who is now eight years old. My husband at the time did not believe in God. Or should I say he believed in his own way. He drew me far from God; even from Christianity. It was the saddest episode of my life. But one day in 2005, I broke out of that situation with the help of my mother, and I continued life alone with my son and my mother, working hard to achieve  my career goals, while  becoming the main provider for my home.

Aviation brought me many opportunities; most of them really good. I had the opportunity to live in Malaysia, a country that shares three religions - Islam mainly, Hinduism and Buddhism. Back then, I lived in South America and I worked in the United States as a Corporate Pilot. Now, I am an Airline pilot flying mainly to Asia, Middle East and Europe. Unfortunately, being the only female pilot, almost everywhere I went, I spent most of time lonely. Maximum of my colleagues spent their spare time in night clubs and bars, and I was looking for something else that I could not have ever found in a club or at a bar, so I dedicated my spare time to continue my university studies online, but no time for God, other than a small prayer in the morning, and maybe at night time; no time to go to churches. So I was growing as a career woman but what about the life after?

Whenever I travelled to the Middle East, I always felt something special inside. There, I felt like dressing in a more decent manner than I normally did. I used to wear tight jeans, tight pants and fashion tops but I didn’t feel like dressing that way in the Middle East, not at a place where they called the name of God five times a day. I felt ashamed. I guess this is how the conversion started. Once in Bahrain, while waiting for my airplane to be fixed, I downloaded the Quran and I began praying every day in the morning before going for breakfast. I was feeling very empty inside; my life then was limited to waking up, working, eating, exercising and sleeping, but what about my spiritual life? Even when I returned back Home, I was not leading my son spiritually in the way I was supposed to. Previously, on my search to find God, I went from the Catholic church to the Baptist church, and after the ceremony of baptism, we only went to church a few times, mainly because of my tight schedule at work and honestly, there was no connection. Something was  missing. I was not there completely.

Was God in my life? Yes, indeed! But He had better plans for me. I think He was just waiting for me to realize that my life was not only to work and pay bills. He knew I had more responsibilities with myself and my son; responsibilities to build for the life after. So God knocked at my door...and I was afraid to open. I thought just by talking to God in my mind all day and saying His name many times in the day was enough to feed my soul….but no it wasn’t enough. God knew I was in urgent need of Him saving my life.

The moment I said Islam was for me, it was in the Middle East; when I heard the call for prayer. At that moment, I had to cover my eyes with my sun glasses in front of the other pilots that were with me on the way to the restaurant, because my eyes were filled with tears...I felt like saying, “stop! I have to join this prayer”. I still remember one of them making fun of the call for prayer, and I felt so upset inside. I felt like calling him ignorant, & saying, “Don’t you realize it is a call for praying to God?”…but the words didn’t come out. Only tears kept rolling down my eyes. On that night after dinner, I came to my room, grabbed the praying rug, and bowed down to God; as I asked for His guidance for finding my spiritual light. After that night, my search started stronger than ever. I watched videos, read the Quran on my long flights, looked out for Islamic organizations to find answers, and finally one day in Argentina; while resting after a long flight, I listened to a program about Islam in the country. So I googled for Islam in South America, and found that I was not the only Hispanic interested in Islam. The community was bigger than what any one could imagine. I committed myself to return to Argentina soon and visit the biggest Masjid in the American Continent. So I did. Three months passed, and I was assigned a trip to Argentina on thanksgivings day. After arriving, I made an appointment and went to visit the Masjid. I met with the Sheikh, a Saudi Arabian man who led the prayers in the Masjid. We talked for about three hours and before I left, he asked me if I wanted to embrace Islam. I said right away, “Yes!” I feared I might not return back to Argentina or get a similar opportunity.

My biggest struggle was to change my preconceived conviction of Jesus (peace be upon him) being God. At first, I felt I was betraying him. I was concerned and scared. I couldn’t wash out those phrases of the nuns back at school saying “not to challenge the religion because it was a sin”. This was the most difficult part.

Sheikh Mohammed from the Masjid in Argentina helped a lot with a little phrase he said to me, “Ibrahim, Moses, Noah, and Jesus (peace be upon them) where all in this road. Do you think is there any reason why you can’t be following them?” Reading the Quran and finding the recognition that Jesus (peace be upon him) enjoys, the importance of Maryam in Islam (she is in Islam, more important than she is for many Christians in Christianity), reading about the influence of Constantine and how he changed Christianity, all these studies helped a lot in clearing out my mind and feeling comfortable with accepting the truth that was always hidden to me; not by purpose, hidden just because it was the truth that my parents and ancestors knew, but “never challenged”.

As far as my lifestyle was concerned, I stopped drinking; this happened few months before I accepted Islam. Soon after my trip from Bahrain, after I prayed for guidance, I met with a good friend of mine; she and I always ate at the same restaurant and had a drink or two with the food. That day, I said “no” I don’t drink anymore, and I declared inside I was never going to have another alcoholic beverage, because I wanted to seek God. Also, I don’t eat pork anymore and I am changing my wardrobe, which is very difficult because I love clothing and fashion.  I was always proud of my body and I liked dressing in a way so that everyone would look at me. Now, I have starting wearing a Hijab, wearing loose clothing, abayas, and modest long shirts.

At work, I am struggling very much. In the company where I work, most people are biased towards Islam. As far as my mother is concerned, she is still Christian, but she says she’s glad of my positive changes, and she is learning more and more about Islam every day, and she feels proud of me for being a Muslim. And now that my 8 year old son also reverted to Islam at his own free will, she is happy that we are on this safe path seeking for God.

My dream as a new Muslim is to study Islam, and help those families that are struggling with accepting the idea of converting to Islam. I want to focus particularly on children coming to Islam.

I think converting to a new faith is harder for parents with younger children because they can be easily confused. This is why I would like to concentrate on children of converted families in the future.

I also would like as a Muslim Pilot, to show the world that Islam is not the submission or oppression that many think it is, and defeat the idea that Islam rejects career women; on the contrary, being able to do what I do is something that only Allah could make possible.

          The last thing I would like to share is that I have chosen a Muslim name for me, which is Aisha Jibreel. Aisha means ‘new life’, as Islam is a new way of life for me, and Jibreel, because he is the messenger of Allah, and I am in Islam because Allah delivered to my heart a message of peace, by showing me the road to Islam.

No comments:

Post a Comment