Akhila is the only daughter of 56-year-old retired army-man, K M Ashokan who lives in a small 3-room house in Kerala’s Kottayam district. Ashokan is an atheist while his wife Ponnama is a staunch Hindu. Hadiya has always found herself torn between the two as Mr Ashokan has always admonished his wife over her blind beliefs and practices. Akhila has been confused between the views of her father and mother as she has been unable to understand the complexities of the views of both her parents.
The confrontation between her parents over religious beliefs and practices was her first step of moving away from the beliefs of her parents to which she never subscribed willingly. Akhila completed her schooling from a local government school. But being weak in studies she had to struggle a lot after stepping into higher classes. She couldn’t pass out in her first attempt of exams for class 12, however, she successfully cleared the exams on her 2nd attempt. She applied for admission in a private Homeopathy Medical College and Research Institution in Tamil Nadu. One of her uncles helped her in securing a seat for admission. There were 25 students in the program she had taken admission in. Four of the students were from Kerala. Out of those four girls, three were Hindus and one was Muslim. Jaseela Abubaker [who shared the course with Akhila] and her younger sister, Farseena Abubaker, were also from Kerala. Akhila became friends with the two Muslim sisters and three other Hindu girls who were all from Kerala. Within six months all the six friends (Akhila, Jaseela, Farseena and three other Hindu girls) moved to a rented house outside the college campus.
That was the turning point in Akhila’s life. She started getting deeply influenced by the practice of prayer in Islam. She used to gaze keenly at Jaseela and her younger sister Farseena when they offered prayers. She would continuously look at their practice of worshipping (Namaz) without moving from her place until the two completed their prayers. She enjoyed the company of her Muslim friends which began to result in her indifference towards her family religion. She never even accompanied her Hindu friends whenever they paid a visit to a temple. Her growing intimacy and proximity with the two Muslim friends drifted her heart away completely from Hinduism, tilting it towards Islam. She started reading a translation of the Quran in Malayalam, which she had borrowed from Jaseela.
In her studies, Akhila failed in her first semester at university. She was so hurt and disappointed that she wanted to quit her studies but then it was Jaseela who consoled her with lessons of patience and persuaded her to continue her studies. After some time, Akhila started asking different questions from Jaseela regarding Islam. Jaseela being an ordinary Muslim, not well-versed with Islamic teachings, used to find it difficult to answer all her questions. Then one-day Jaseela took Akhila to her father, Abubaker, so that she could seek answers to all her queries relating to Islam. Akhila then started visiting Jaseela’s family on a regular basis and with the passage of time, started observing Fast and Eid-ul- Fitr with them. Also, she started posting Quranic verses (translations) on Facebook and other thought provoking posts on Hinduism and Atheism.
In September 2015, Akhila formally converted to Islam by getting an affidavit attested from an advocate in Kochi which stated that she is living as a Muslim girl without anyone’s compulsion. She kept her conversion a secret. However, her mother noticed her growing interest towards Islam and her increasing proximity with Muslims. Ponnama could easily see her daughter drifting away from her family religion but she could not do anything about it because Akhila (now Hadiya) was a grown up and mature girl and it was hard for her mother to impose her thoughts on Hadiya.
Hadiya keenly observed the world of confrontation, confusion and chaos around her. She had started finding peace of soul and mind in Islam only. Except for Islam, she found Atheism, Hinduism or any other religion, as a mirage in a hot desert. It is only Islam that appeased her soul within.
When her grandfather died and she refused to join the 40th-day ritual, terming it Hindu ritual, (Unfortunately, even today this Hindu ritual of 40th is practised in some Muslim families as well). It is for the first time that she openly spoke against Hinduism. Her family and relatives were shocked over Hadiya’s remarks against their religion. They all scolded her but instead of fearing them she argued with them that Islam was a better religion than theirs. She also urged her parents to embrace Islam.
From that point onwards, Hadiya visited Jaseela too often and refrained from going her own home. She insisted Abubaker to teach her more about Islam. Abubaker fearing the revenge from her family took her to two Islamic Institutions in Kozhikode but both refused to admit her (due to some preventive issues). He then took her to Sathya Sarani, the only Institution in Kerala that offers two months residential programme for new converts to Islam but Hadiya failed to get an entry there as she could not produce documents of conversion.
Therefore, Hadiya started learning and practising Islam on her own. She started wearing a headscarf and Islamic dress code. One day her Hindu friend informed her father about her change in dress, as a result of which Mr Ashokan strongly conveyed a message to his daughter to return to home and quit studies but she refused and instead went to Jaseela’s home. Mr Ashokan registered a case at a local police station which resulted in the imprisonment of Abubakar. He was released after two days only when Jaseela produced Hadiya before the court.
In order to protect herself, Hadiya decided to get married ASAP. Therefore, Hadiya married Shefin Jahan, a graduate in Islamic studies working as a Manager at a firm. After two days of marriage, the newly married couple visited the court where the court ordered Hadiya to return to her hostel and ordered Shefin not to have any kind of contact with her. The case moved to high court. The high court ordered a probe and consequently, their marriage was nullified. Shefin then filed a petition challenging the high court verdict. Supreme Court stepped in and ordered NIA to take up the case. The case is now under NIA’s investigation and both Hadiya and Shefin are struggling hard to save their legitimate marriage.
Whatsoever the result of the investigation may be, Hadiya’s struggle to protect her self-discovered new identity has been not only praiseworthy but also amazing. It also validates the fact that whosoever is chosen for the guidance towards the right path is blessed with it even against all odds.
The authors are doing B. A. Honours in Economics at Aligarh Muslim University. They can be reached at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.