From being born in a Gujarati family as Deepa Kotecha to becoming Aishah, a Muslim (Alhamdullilah), it has been a long journey.
The echo of Kalame-Shahadat, the Muslim priest asking me, “ Are you embracing Islam with your own free will?” “ Do you know the meaning of it”? My Muslim friends and well-wishers sobbing overwhelmingly, all this flashes before my mind’s eye when I think about my coming into the folds of Islam.
It is said that you cannot appreciate light till you have seen and experienced darkness, Like other reverts, the same holds true for me too. From being born in a Gujarati family as Deepa Kotecha to becoming Aishah, a Muslim (Alhamdullilah), has been a long journey.
It all began when I was about 17 years old (1991). I was in the Std XII and was taking special coaching for Maths with a family friend whom we all called as Abbajaan. One day, he asked me a few questions which changed my entire belief system and with it my life too. Often we really wonder how we can do Dawah with non-Muslims, but believe me, it is just some basic questions we need to ask. I was asked to list down a few qualities of God which I did. Then he told me to compare those qualities with the gods that I was worshipping. I was very disturbed for a few days after which I went on to read some literature on Islam given to me by Abbajaan. The seerah of our beloved Prophet (Pbuh) was something unbelievable for me. My eyes would be filled with tears with his exemplary life and heart with sadness when I saw the Muslims in our locality.
The most exciting thing for me next was to learn praying, which became my most richest source of courage since then. I really wonder how I learnt Surah Fatiha in just 10 minutes when Arabic was a very new language for me. But it is Allah’s mercy that He made it easy for us to learn the Quran as it is mentioned at various places in the holy Quran. The holy month of Ramadan arrived and I convinced about the truth to my mother and my younger sister too, who started fasting. Very soon, my father came to know and he bashed us down after which my sister left fasting. I could somehow continue with my mother’s help alhamdullilah. My father caught me red-handed offering salah and cried like a baby requesting me to forget everything about Islam. From that day, I started offering salah at my friend’s place which was also raided time and again by my mother who thought that I was going far enough now. This continued for around four years after which one day my mother’s death came as a big blow to me. I stayed with my grandmother for five months and then as a paying guest for around two years. These wer the periods of trials, tribulations and loneliness. Then in 1998, somehow I managed to bring my sister and my mentally challenged brother to stay in a rental house. It was at that time, when I met a Hindu friend who helped me to overcome my difficulties. He promised me that he will allow me to continue my practice as a Muslim in secret, butnot in front of the world. We got married in 2000, but fortunately or unfortunately we got separated. It was written in my fate. So here I was all alone again. I joined a course of meditation as the Buddhist tradition and fell into a severe bout of depression for over a year. That was the horrible phase of my life and I had never felt so lonely ever before.
I joined the Yoga Course and very soon started recovering with the help of my new friends. One of my friend then introduced me to a few Christian priests who helped me to understand more about Christianity and I even got admission in the choir group. I took up the job of teaching in a Convent school and somewhere in 2002 I had got terrible fever and I was all alone with no strength even to get up and ask for help. That evening is still fresh in my mind, when I was lying in bed and communicating with Allah to get me out of this and a very good Muslim family cmae to my rescue who later got me back into the folds of Islam after such a long break. I was moving very fast from insecurity to security and from darkness to light. I was now able to understand Islam and the holy Quran better than before. I still wonder how amazing it is, that everytime you approach the Quran, you have a different comprehension about the same verses which you might have read earlier.
Then i met a Muslim sister who advised me to declare my faith on December 27, 2002. My job in the Convent school was another tension I had, since I had to face the problem of adorning the hijab. And alhamdulillah, my decision was received warmly by one and all at school and even my students, except for the fact that their teacher was now wearing what they called a Kashmiri cloak.
Soon, I got a job in an Islamic School and got married to a very broad-minded person and a true Muslim at heart. My life got completely changed and I started leading a respectful life from the stigmatized life of a divorcee. I feel that my real journey to islam has begun now with the trials I face while I do jihad with my nafs and try to give a tough fight to satan. But inshallah with the fountain of knowledge and the training ground, and witnessing the positive impact of Islamic knowledge on students and their families, I feel more and more convinced about Islam.
I feel very contented with my challenging life, where the challenge is to deal with the very evils of the self and the society and the world at large where the mission is to spread peace and to be peaceful myself and where the resource is the time tested knowledge of Islam.
I was able to understand Islam and relate to it with greater depth after I attended the “Discover Yourself” workshop in Mumbai. The beautiful manner in which the coach explained the Hadith by relating it to everyday life was what inspired me most. Infact it was a breakthrough for me as I was able to speak to my father about me accepting Islam as during the workshop I opened up my mind and heart wholly to understand other people’s point of view. I was also able to invite my father to Islam two months ago!