Zainab Amy Hodgkins: Islam is a Universal Religion Encompassing People of all Nations


Islam is a Universal Religion Encompassing People of all Nations

Honestly, I believe the family structure is very similar in Christianity and Islam. People often mistake Western secular values for Christianity but the fact is Christianity puts just as much emphasis on the family as Islam does.

First of all, please tell us about yourself. (Name, Country, Job, Field of Study, Degree, your back Ground, Age, Where Raised, and anything interesting about your back ground)

My name is Zainab Amy Hodgkins, I’m 23 years old and am from the UK. I am a TV producer and have a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. I was born and raised in the West Midlands in an English/Irish family.

How many brothers and sisters do you have? And how do you stand in your family?

My family is quite small. I have one older half-sister. I am very close with my parents but unfortunately as for the rest of my family not so much. Many tensions have arisen since I reverted to Islam.

Please tell us about your previous religion, before converting to Islam!

I was a Christian but my family has never been practising. I learnt about Christianity at school and quickly developed love of the noble prophets (as) as well as Lady Mary (as).

How different was your previous religion with Islam?

The ethics of Islam and Christianity are very similar but the practises are completely different. As a Protestant Christian, I was taught that by believing that Jesus (as) had died for my sins then I would enter Heaven as you are saved through faith and not deeds. Islam on the other hand stresses on the importance of deeds not just to earn Heaven but to bring peace and serenity to the heart of the human being through closeness to Allah (swt). The concept of God is entirely different as well: Christians believe that God is a Trinity and became flesh to save humanity but in Islam we believe God is One without compare and far above what human beings can attribute to Him.

How did you become familiar with Islam? What specifically attracted you to Islam?

When I was 18 years old, I became engaged to my then Sunni fiancé. He was Egyptian and I got the chance to visit Egypt with him and it was my first time in a Muslim country. It was a totally new experience and everything about Islam intrigued me. At first, I wanted to study to understand the faith of my fiancé and his family, but as I read, I quickly fell in love with Islam and soon enough I couldn’t ignore the desire within me to revert.

When and how did you convert to Islam? (please also talk about your last second before converting)

I took my Shahadah on 3rd February 2016 Alhamdulillah at my local mosque in Leicester. I emailed all the mosques around me asking for help and thankfully this particular mosque was very accommodating and I met with the Sheikh and two of the sisters that attend there regularly. It was an enlightening and moving experience

When did your journey to Islam begin? (Your Opinion?)

Even though my first encounter with Islam happened in Egypt, I would say that my real journey didn’t start until I was 21 years old. I had broken up with my fiancé who was abusive to me during our 3-year relationship and after taking a year to recover, I went back to reading Islam with the intention of reverting for myself. This is when I found Ahlulbayt (as) and pure Islam. Immediately I saw the difference that the Ahlulbayt (as) bring to Islam and if I loved Islam before knowing them, with Ahlulbayt (as) I became infatuated with this way of this.

Did You Ever hesitate to say Shahadah?

Alhamdulillah I can safely say I never hesitated to say the Shahadah. As soon as I found Ahlulbayt (as), I knew this was my path and my destiny.

How do you feel when you work for your Akherah (The other World)?

Working for the Hereafter is not easy because most of the results of such work you cannot see in this world. So, you have to be strong and remind yourself of the promises of Allah (swt). We are not created for this world of darkness and evil, we are made for something far greater than we can comprehend. Though saying that, it is truly something very special to be close to Allah (swt) and to taste the sweetness of faith.

Did you have any problem with your family members when you accepted Islam? How did you come up with and Control the clashes with your family members?

Unfortunately, my conversion did cause problems in my family and now I am only in touch with my mum and dad who are very understanding and supportive. I did face some issues with my mum and dad initially but we overcame this through communication. I allowed them to ask questions and I would take the time to answer them. I would tell them about what I am reading and show them videos on You Tube and this helped them to understand why I had taken this step.

Did they try to convince you not to revert to Islam?

My extended family did yes before turning their backs on me, but Alhamdulillah my parents never did that.

Did the people around you cut the relationship with you after converting to Islam?

Yes, I lost most of my family and lost a lot of my friends who were Christian.

What were your family members’ reactions when you were practicing Islam or doing your prayers?

It took them a little while to get used to. The main issue my parents had was with me wearing the hijab but Alhamdulillah overtime and having much communication they accepted it. It was strange for them to see me cover, to not eat pork and drink alcohol among other things. But Alhamdulillah I cannot complain as there are reverts that have had it a lot harder than me.

What was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day?

I started very slowly with my prayers to make it easier. I started praying once a day and in English to begin with. From there I learnt it in Arabic and slowly started building up to praying 5 times a day. My first prayer as at Asr time and as I stood and recited, I began to cry so much. It was truly a special feeling. Being in Sujood in particular is a humbling and moving moment. Your face is on the ground, but in that moment, you are closer to Heaven than ever before.

When and how did you announce your convert to Islam?

My family knew about my intention to convert before I took the Shahadah. After that I started to tell friends.

Did you think that Islam is a religion Just for Arabs? (before converting to Islam)

Honestly yes, I did used to think that. But the reality is that Islam is a universal religion encompassing people of all nations. Islam is not a chaste system where one group or one race is superior to another. As the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) said: An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, and a white person is not superior to black person or vice versa. The only way a person can be superior is because of their God consciousness.

How do you see the spread of Islam in your country?

It is a positive thing as I strongly believe multiculturalism is a beautiful thing and it makes it easier for us to practise our faith. However, the rise of Wahhabism/Salafism really does concern me. There are books circulating by the likes of Ibn Tamiyyah and Ibn Qayyim which promote intolerance and violence which is in stark contrast the pure Islam of the Prophet (sawa) and his family (as). I believe that such books should be banned in this country and stricter measures should be implemented on Wahhabi centres in order to protect non-Muslims and Shi’as.

Many people think that religions are the main cause of problems in the world today, did you believe that too?

The reason why religion causes problems is because people abuse religion. If we educated ourselves and implemented the teachings of our faith, we would not have the issues that we face today. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) told us to hold firmly to Qur’an and the Ahlulbayt (as) because with these a person will never go astray. Even us, the Shi’as, we have not held firmly to these principles.

Did you find anything illogical in your last religion? (How about Islam)

The Trinity was the most difficult thing for me to understand. I always saw Jesus (as) as a prophet and not as God. Further to this, Catholics and Orthodox Christians refer to Lady Mary (as) as ‘Theotokos’ which roughly translates to Mother of God. Although this is not something practised amongst Protestants, it was something that troubled me. How could God have a mother? Surely if He had a mother than she must be a greater god than him (audobillah).

Did you use Media like You Tube, Facebook, etc. to be more familiar with Islam?

Yes, You Tube in particular was really helpful for me because I could watch as many lectures as possible. Up until today I use You Tube every day to increase my Islamic knowledge.

How did you adapt yourself with new ethics of Islam?

I took things very very slowly. I was not in a rush to reach perfection overnight. The best thing I can advise a fellow revert or someone who is coming back to Islam is to take it slow and to make sincere du’a to Allah (swt) to help you. You must believe that Allah (swt) will help you for He is the aid of the believers.

How was the effect of reading the holy Quran for you? How did the holy Quran Influence you?

At first, I found the Qur’an very confusing. It is not like other books in the sense that it is not in chronological order and the structure is at times strange. Even now when I read it, it fills me with questions. But I can honestly say that putting in the time to understand the Qur’an really pays off and learning to read it in Arabic is a mesmerising thing. All of a sudden, the words that were already powerful in English are now opening something up in your heart that you did not expect.

What is the most beautiful Ayah in Holy Quran? (Say your opinion)

At the moment I would say this is my favourite verse:

“Their reward with Allah will be gardens of perpetual residence beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is for whoever has feared their Lord.” (۹۸:۸)


I love this verse because it reminds me of the bliss of Jannah and also it encompasses the beauty of the relationship between mankind and Allah (swt): if we put our trust in Him, in the end we will achieve happiness.

Why do most of the media attack on Islam? Why most of the Media are against Islam?

The Media as an institution thrives upon attacking a particular group of people. For example, back in the 1980s in the UK, if you were Irish and living in the UK, people would give you a really hard time thanks to all the coverage of IRA bombings and anti-Irish reports. Nowadays because of actions of a small group of misguided individuals, the Media seeks to create sensationalism and paint Muslims with the same brush. But unfortunately, the Media is not entirely to blame. Even the Shi’as must take part of the blame because we have been misguided and turned our backs on the Qur’an and Ahlulbayt (as) and as a result we have been humiliated. We must stand up and defend our religion, we must know it inside and out, just like our Masters Imam Zainul Abedin (as) and Sayeda Zainab (as) demonstrated in their sermons in Kufa and Damascus.

What’s your opinion about hijab? Has wearing hijab had any negative effects on your private life? Do you think it is only dedicated to women?

The hijab is a lot more than just the headscarf that it has been reduced to. Hijab is the inner and outer honour and dignity of both men and women. Yet unfortunately we very much treat it as a woman’s issue. I have seen people vilify women in this community for making mistakes in their hijab and yet there are countless brothers who do not lower their gaze and do not adhere to modesty in their dress and actions. This is such a shame. Imam Hussain (as) died for hijab on the Day of Ashura when he refused to wear a shirt that was too tight and he was a man. So what excuse do we have?

For me, I love the hijab and consider it my pride. It is my uniform that I wear on a daily basis to show my love and service to the ladies of Ahlulbayt (as), especially Sayeda Zainab (as) who was distraught when her face veil was snatched from her. This hijab is not oppression, it is not because I am ashamed of my body or that I feel I am inferior to men, rather it is a sign of my status in the eyes of Allah (swt). He loves women so much and knows the pain and struggle women go through in this patriarchal and misogynistic world, therefore he has given us the hijab of the Ahlulbayt (as) to remind us how precious we are to Him and to give us extra rewards in this world and the Hereafter.

Has wearing hijab limited any activities of your normal life?

Alhamdulilah I wear the jilbab/chador every day and it does not limit me at all. I go to work, I go shopping, I go out with friends, I go on holiday and it does not stop me from doing anything. If anything, the hijab stops me from doing or saying things that would dishonour me as a human being.

How do you analyse women’s right in Islam compared to what the West has propagated?

Islam is a religion that is deeply concerned with the wellbeing of women. There is no religion or ideology in this world that gives honour to a woman like that of Shi’a Islam. Let us look at all the wonderful examples we have from history: Maryam (as), Asiya (as), Khadija (as), Fatima Zahra (as), Zainab (as), Umm Salamah (as), Umm Kulthum (as), Ruqayah (as), Umm al-Baneen (as)… no other faith has women as strong as a vibrant as our faith.

The Western media has made great attempts to blacken the rights of women in Islam and unfortunately due to ignorance and selfishness amongst the Muslims, it is not surprising why many people believe women in Islam are oppressed. If our men truly followed the example of the Imams (as), women would get the recognition and rights they deserve. We would not have honour killings, FGM, domestic violence and harassment. Honestly it breaks my heart how misguided this Ummah has become.

How do you analyse the family institution according to Christianity and Islam?

Honestly, I believe the family structure is very similar in Christianity and Islam. People often mistake Western secular values for Christianity but the fact is Christianity puts just as much emphasis on the family as Islam does.

As a convert, what way of inviting to Islam you believe is more effective on non-Muslims?

Our manners are the most important factor in inviting people to the school of Ahlulbayt (as). We must aim to be walking examples of the Ahlulbayt (as) – an adornment for them and not a disgrace. We must be kind and open with people because I know many non-Muslims that have spoken to me and have apologized after asking me questions because they thought such questions would offend. I would smile and reply no we want you to ask questions, it is an honour for us to tell you about our faith.

how is muslims’ behavior?

The behaviour of the Muslims is very mixed. Unfortunately, during my short time as a revert (nearly 3 years now), I have seen many things in the Muslims that trouble. It hurts me how people can cry in a Majalis and then leave the Hussainiya and oppress other people. It is as if crying for the Ahlulbayt (as) is just a ritual for many people. As a woman one of my greatest problems has been some of the brothers in the community who have harassed me or even tried to lead me on for marriage. Thankfully Allah (swt) has protected me well but I feel that it is appalling that there are individuals out there that will take advantage of reverts who are especially vulnerable when they first enter the faith.

And how is your Tv programs in your country? Is it good for family?

Alhamdulillah in the UK we have some wonderful Islamic channels that we can watch if we want to avoid the mainstream channels.

How do Muslims supply their own Halal food? Is there a main shop for it? What is its name?

Depending on where you live in the UK, Halal food is really easy to come by. I live in London and on my street alone we have many shops selling Halal products Alhamdulillah. Though it is more difficult for Muslims living outside of the city as where I was brought up in the countryside there were no Halal shops.

If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion what do you say?

Many people are under the impression that when someone reverts to Islam then its happily ever after. Yet this is just the beginning of the struggle: the struggle against the self, friends, family, the community. At times it has been bitterly hard for me and I have wanted to walk away completely. Yet Subhanallah, I hear the holy name of Imam Hussain (as) and it ignites a fire in my heart. The beauty of Islam is that no matter how alone and isolated you feel, the Ahlulbayt (as) surround you like a shield. You can lose everything in this world and yet they will never ever give up on you.

What roles do imams have in your life?

The Ahlulbayt (as) are more than just role models for me, they are my family. They totally understand me and I feel like I belong with them. They are my sanctuary and my hope.

What do you think we should be done for imam zaman’s reappearance?

We must all be educated in our religion as ignorance is the biggest opponent to Imam Mahdi (af). The more we educate ourselves the better Muslims we will become and it equips against sinning and hypocrisy

What is your opinion about Ahlolbayt?

Whom do you like?

I love them more than life itself. I love each and every one of them but if I had to choose it would be Lady Fatima Zahra (as). She is the ultimate example of feminity and like any good mother, she rushes to the aid of her children. I am indebted to her.