"You can't tell if a man is a Chinese Muslim.. he still looks Chinese!"
Kevin still hides his reversion to Islam, for many months now, from his family members. As a son, he has more freedom to go anywhere, unlike his sisters, who'd be questioned if they arrive home later than usual. He has decided that it's time to move out of his family home, where he's been living with his Christian parents and two younger sisters, citing the long travelling hours to live alone in a flat near his office. His mother has raised some objections but she reluctantly agreed when he promised to visit every weekend.
Kevin is still deciding on the best way to inform his family about his reversion to Islam. He knows that his family would object and try to persuade him to return to his former religion. Fortunately for him, being a Muslim doesn't require any physical changes except for a certain surgical procedure. But that, is something very private and nobody has noticed any changes except for the fact that he's stopped eating seafood and eggs for about a month.
Praying has not been a problem. He'd wake up at dawn while everyone else is still asleep and perform his prayer in his bedroom, with the door locked. Zohor and Asar are done at the mosques. Maghrib and Isyak are done at another mosque or at his Muslim friends' homes. Kevin hasn't memorised the surah al-fatihah for the prayers, but he's told that he just needs to follow the imam at the mosque or surau. Anyway, he's learning to recite it properly from the ustaz after prayers at the mosque.
It's challenging and stressful for Kevin to hide his new identity from his family but it's a choice he has made and he plans to stick to it, until the day comes when he will reveal his secret to his family.
Of course, eating at home poses the question about eating non-halal food. He has been very careful not to raise suspicions, occasionally forcing himself to eat the meat his mother has spooned into his plate.
His Malay Muslim friends have persuaded him to inform his family, reminding him that it's sinful to eat non-halal food but he's still hesitating. He doesn't want his mother who has a weak heart, to suffer a heart attack. He's already inviting a few Chinese Muslim friends to his house, hoping that they'd help him to break the news gently to his family. However, should they object, he's ready to leave the house temporarily, to stay with his Malay bachelor friends in their rented flat. His bags are already packed.
Anna still relies on her family to sponsor her tertiary education. She has been interested in Islam since her school days, but was told that she couldn't choose her own religion until she's 18 years old. Anyway, she knows that her strict Buddhist father would never agree to her plan, so she's been keeping the secret desire for many years.
However, Jenny has found it hard to live a double life. She feels she is a hypocrite for doing something she no longer believes in. She doesn't want to be involved in the religious rituals performed by her family members, but they'd nag her if she refuses to pray at the family altar during religious festivals. Thankfully she's only required to do so once a fortnight, as her own family are not very religious. Only her mother prays daily, placing the lighted joss sticks in the ash container. Her own father, will pray according to his moods.
Once Anna turned 18, she decided to do something for herself. She didn't want to die a kafir, and she really believes in the teachings of Islam. Therefore she had gone to her ustazah and recited the syahadah before a few witnesses. Her friends were joyful but at her request, promised to guard her secret.
When Anna learns more about Islam, she wants to wear the hijab. Her ustazah and other Muslim sisters have never forced her to wear one, understanding that she' s hasn't told her family. Anna herself wants to do so because she knows that it's God's instructions for Muslim women. On the other hand, she is also aware that once she wears a hijab, the whole world would know that she's changed her religion and is now a Muslim. Anna faces a dilemma. She has to choose between her religion [the Islamic way of life] and guarding the secret of reversion from her family members, while she decides the best way to break the news to her family. It's not an easy decision to make. So for the time being, she has to curb her desire to wear the hijab.
Praying also poses a new problem for Anna. She has grown up praying to God as she's usually dressed [without any special attire for prayer], and she's not even required to wash herself before the prayer. However, praying as a Muslim is a new experience. She has to learn the correct way to do the ablution. When she first put on the long white telekung, she had felt uncomfortable and warm. She fumbled with the long sarong cloth around her waist, not knowing how to tie it properly. Additionally, because the other Muslimah are also in the prayer garment during prayers, she can't see their hands and legs during the prayers. So, she has to rely on her memory, trying the remember the correct steps as required to perform the solat.
In order to hide her secret from her mother who enters her room unannounced, Anna has to lock it whenever she performs her prayers. And she has to do them hurriedly, for fear that her mother would knock on the door. She can't use the prayer garments because her mother might find them, so she has worn a long shawl and a long skirt to cover her aurat during prayers.
Anna has taken a long time to memorise the surah al-fatihah. It's been tough because she doesn't understand the Arabic words. Besides, she was told by a Muslim sister that she shouldn't mispronounce the words, because it'd change the meaning and her prayer will be meaningless. Anna is worried but she tries to calm herself, believing that Allah is Merciful and understands her troubles.
Like most Asian mothers, Anna's keeps a watchful eye on her. She has to inform her mother where she wants to go and what time she would be home. That makes it difficult for her to attend special Islamic classes, and pray at the mosque. Besides, she doesn't like lying to her mother.
When she had secretly gone to the Pejabat Agama to declare her reversion, she was advised to keep her Chinese surname. A few of her friends told her that she doesn't need to change her name at all, but she herself has chosen to adopt an Arabic name. She wants to have a new identity and hopes to start a new life as a Muslim, and although she still cherishes her name given by her parents, she wants people to know that she's a Muslim, some time in the near future [after she declares to her family]. While she supports other Muslim reverts who keeps their Chinese names after reverting to Islam, she realises that it's not as easy for a female Muslim to do so. The Muslim brothers can walk about in public, and others would think that they're nonMuslim men until they wish 'salam' or enter a mosque. But a Muslim sister? People who read her name and expect to see a nonMuslim Chinese woman would raise their eyebrows, when she arrives in a hijab. And as a Muslimah, she doesn't like answering questions from strangers about why she chooses Islam.
Helen is still bidding her time. She has nowhere to go if she is kicked out of her home by her family when they found out that she's left the religion she's been brought up with. She doesn't have enough money to live on her own. The shelter home for reverts in the rural village doesn't look very welcoming for someone who is used to watching astro channels and surfing the internet at night.
She can't stay with her Muslim sisters because they're living with their own families. And while they sympathise with her plight, none has invited her to stay in their homes, perhaps because they don't have their parents' permission. And Helen doesn't want to trouble anyone.
Helen prays that Allah would provide her a way out of her predicament. She finds solace chatting with her internet friends and reading about Islam from reliable sources.
But for how long shall she wait before she informs her family that she's now a Muslim? Helen has no idea.