Assalamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh everyone,
My name is (lol, not saying), but hopefully, you’ll all get to know me as ‘Bint Shafi’ In sha Allah. I am starting a new series on Hayati’s online magazine called #TheJournalofaTraveler. This series follows a short period of my life that I spent studying away from my home country, Nigeria. The articles are slight variations of excerpts from my journal and mainly highlight personal experiences that I have tried to learn from. I am sharing these experiences partly because you might find them interesting but mainly in hopes that, like me, you can learn from them.
Let us start from where it all began.
Starting my university experience in the Middle East was something I greatly looked forward to. Even though studying away from home was scary, I was filled with so much excitement and eagerness to begin ‘a new chapter in my life’. My first day at university was filled with anxiety and the realization that I did not know anyone. Naturally, I tried to cling on to people who looked like me and made so I made my first friend, a Nigerian girl. Through her, I met other Nigerians, and then Zimbabweans, Kenyans, and Tanzanians, and eventually we had a big clique. Sometimes I felt we were loud, occasionally maybe too much, but they were lovely. I was the youngest in the group, so naturally, I felt an extra need to fit in, but ultimately I loved my large group of friends.
At first, being away from home seemed like the hardest thing, however, over time, it felt normal to be away. I mainly struggled with fitting into a fast-paced society filled with constant consumption, spending, and extravagance. Overtime, I forced myself to adapt to this lifestyle so I could be like everyone else around me, but over time it began to take a toll on me. It was exhausting, physically, and mentally. I started changing the way I dressed and spoke, buying things I did not need, and some that I didn’t even like. I spent foolishly and often got into trouble with my dad because I would regularly run out of money. I started to feel like I was entitled to such a lavish lifestyle forgetting that my parents were making a huge sacrifice in order to give me a life with greater opportunities than they could ever dream of.
Over the course of the first year, I lost touch with myself and sadly with my faith. I know it must sound strange how these things might take a toll on us and even our spirituality, but it happened to me. I was in a bubble and had somewhat gotten myself into a vicious cycle. Wanting to fit in made me do things that were unnatural to the individual that I am. I started living to please others at the expense of my own happiness, and even worse, my relationship with Allah. Like someone once told me, “we were made to please The Creator, not His creation”, therefore we can never be happy when trying to please people who do not matter. Realizing this has been revolutionary to me. It made me strive to always do the right thing, even when it may come across as strange or different. I want to be unique, to be different, and follow what I know is right, even if the whole world is against me. The moment that it gives me peace within and I know Allah loves it, it’s perfectly fine with me.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Islam began as something strange and will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the strangers.’”Sahih – Vol. 5, Book 36, Hadith 3986
Until next time,
– Bint Shafi.