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In this SISTERS Series SOLACE shares the insights they have gained from working with revert Muslim sisters.
“Another lonely day ahead, another day of thinking how to fill my time… sometimes I long for the brash laughter and the hustle and bustle of family life that used to fill my days – now all I seem to have are long empty hours to look forward to, with yet another cup of coffee going cold, like a part of my heart.”
Sumayya’s* experience is one of the more challenging results of her reversion to Islam. Although she recognises that her choice has brought so much true meaning into her life, the hardships sometimes cloud over her faith. Having lost the warm contact of family and many friends, Sumayya now faces a life where sisters in Islam can sometimes be a comfort, but more often, she is left feeling alone, out of place, and forgotten.
“Sisters are lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I’m older, and they’re often too busy with their children and relatives – and when we do spend time together, I feel they are getting tired of hearing my endless problems which I can’t seem to overcome.”
It is for revert sisters like Sumayya, who may have been rejected by their non-Muslim families, that SOLACE was set up. SOLACE is an organisation that caters specifically for revert sisters in difficulty and aims to deal with particular issues that these sisters face. What began as a heartfelt idea by a revert sister who herself had faced many difficulties since entering Islam, has now blossomed into a service that is helping women across London and the UK to find solace with the help of trained volunteers and specialist advisers.
SOLACE is an organisation catering specifically for revert sisters in difficulty and aims to deal with particular issues that these sisters face.
Fareda, a SOLACE volunteer, points out that it is not her job to advise the revert sister: “We meet, we chat, I listen, and the sister simply explores what her root problems are and how she can move forward with the options available to her. Because SOLACE has the support of trained counsellors and other professionals within the Muslim community, the revert sister is given access to a range of understanding and supportive options.”
The organisation provides a wide range of services for revert sisters with an equally wide range of needs. Services such as shopping, cooking and cleaning can meet the short term needs of a sister who has just given birth or gone through a testing illness, whereas more specialised services such as counselling and parenting workshops can meet the longer term needs of those who may have gone through divorce, abuse, or depression. These services are not just for those who have newly embraced Islam, but also for those who have been Muslim for many years.
One important aspect of SOLACE’s work with revert sisters is that of the Listening Service. This involves trained volunteers spending time with sisters who need a non-judgemental and completely confidential space where they are heard. Too many of us can try to give well-meaning advice, or rush to share our own experiences, thinking this may make the distressed sister feel supported – when what is really needed is the space for the sister to explore her problems and look at the options for change for herself.
The experience of volunteering can often be as beneficial for the volunteer as the service she offers the revert sister. As Sabina puts it, “Being a part of the Listening Service means that you naturally get to know someone gradually. You remember her in your dua’s, and you feel for her, as she has often gone through such severe difficulties. And yet it is her belief in Islam that has brought her this far and kept her going where others would have broken down and given up on life. Whilst I always keep in mind my intention that this work is for the sake of Allah SWT, it has been a very motivating experience for me. It’s been very encouraging to talk to a revert sister over time and hear her positive feedback, and see the changes in her life that she has achieved by herself.”
And as for Sumayya, she explains how SOLACE has benefitted her:“When my lovely volunteer came through the door that first time and sat down and listened to me, I felt so much better. Better than I had done in years! And then at the end of her first visit, she gave me a wonderful bag full of goodies that lifted my heart and brought a big smile to my face. I look forward to her visits each week, because she gives me time to think about the ways in which I can move on, and how I can improve things for myself, instead of just dwelling on a past which I can never go back to. SOLACE has helped me see the beauty of life again!”
- Walking 5 Miles in Her Shoes (fajr.wordpress.com)
- Walk with me… (advice2ummah.co.uk)
- From Oppressed Minority to World Leaders (revivers.wordpress.com)
- An Islamic Life: A Balance between Work and Prayer (ahalalintrospection.wordpress.com)
- Searching for Solace: A Biography of Yusuf Ali, Intrepeter of the Quran (Islamic Book Trust, 1994) (themalaysianreader.com)
- Can I Ask God for the Right Mate? (xeniagreekmuslimah.wordpress.com)