"My Path, My Story"

Assalam Aleikum and Hello everyone!

My name is Alina B. and I am the founder of the Hijab City, scraves/hijabs and accessories brand. I think that in order to run any type of business you have to be a person that people could trust. Since online business does not always involve direct interaction between owner and customer, I find it essential to have some kind of interaction by sharing my stories and thoughts with you through blogging. That way you could get to know me better as a real person. In this blog post I want to share with you the most important life event that changed me from who I was to who I am today.

I was born and raised in a small Siberian town in Russia. Right after I graduated from high school I came to the United States to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. For the first time in my entire life, I had to live far away from my parents and since my only best friends were my parents at the moment, I had quite a challenging time here alone. I had to make myself VERY busy with studying (I even changed my major from business administration to chemistry) and whenever I had a free time I would go to the gym (sport was always my passion and a way to distract). I had to learn how to become more independent and strong. I had to learn how to face difficulties and how to solve them on my own. I had to learn how to choose the right people to be friends with. But at some point, there was a difficult time in my life. After a few years of living and studying in another country, emotionally I was becoming very exhausted and weak. I began to feel more stressed at school, lost and lonely. I began to have more self-reflections. I could no longer find peace when staying on my own. I needed a constant company in order to avoid those feelings to come back. Those moments of loneliness and sadness would happen to me every night before I go to bed, at the times when I had to face my own company. I forgot to mention that from the very beginning of my college life, I was surrounded by a lot of Muslims (which I think now it was a sign). I’ve never seen them in my country or neither I spoke to one, but, Subhan Allah, in college they became my very first and true friends. They were the people I could trust and rely on. They were very kind, polite and tolerant to people of other cultures and religions. Honestly, we did not talk that much about religions, but what I could see was that we had similar morals and values that we all shared in common. I also noticed how happy I felt when I was around them because their internal happiness and peace illuminated the others. Eventually, that made me wonder a lot because that was something that I was looking for, especially when I was going through emotionally difficult times. So, one night when I began to feel sad again, I tried to find an Orthodox Christian prayer online, which I’ve never done before, and try to sit on my knees towards the bed (like I saw in American movies) and pray. It was my first official step towards God, but there was a big BUT in all of that. Since the prayer was directed to the Saints instead of God (in Orthodox Christianity they mostly pray to Saints because they think they will solve their problems), it didn’t make me feel better. It, however,  made me feel confused and questioned about my own religion. I remember that I asked my mom to bring me the list of prayers and Bible in Russian language when she was planning on visiting me. Eventually, she brought it to me and when she went back to Russia, I was trying to read it when I was feeling sad again. EVERYTHING seemed even more confusing and hard for me to make sense of. I didn’t understand why we are praying to Saints instead of God Himself? Why Jesus was God if he was a creation just like you and me? I was confused about how God, if He is Immortal, had to die for our sins on the cross? I had too many WHY’s in my head at that time. I was lost… I tried to go to church seeking that peace and happiness, but any time I went there, I felt even more confused. I needed the simple truth, that’s all. Since I am a scientist, everything has to make sense to me to believe in it, and whatever I was told by preachers, it was nothing but an abstract answer and phrases like: "You don't question your religion, you just follow it..." Since I had a lot of Muslim friends, I began to ask them A LOT of questions about their religion Islam. Why do they pray so often? Why do they fast? Why do their women cover? And most importantly, why do they call their God Allah? At first everything seemed to me very strange and distant. I thought that it was their culture and I was a stranger there. But I needed to know more. I even went to talk to the local Sheikh about Islam. However, instead of having a deep conversation, he simply gave me some videos to watch. Those videos were eye openers for me because for the first time in my life I saw American converts! It was so beautiful to hear their stories and how their lives changed for the better after they came to Islam. I also found an amazing book called Islam for Dummies and I began to read it in order to learn more about this religion of peace. It turned out to be my favorite book! And, Subhan Allah, for the first time for so long I began to finally feel more happy, peaceful and content. The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the morals and values that Islam was calling for were so right for me that I started to realize that it was exactly what I was searching for so long. The most important thing that opened up my heart to Islam was the concept of oneness of God (Allah is the Arabic name for God) and that when you pray you pray directly to God without any third party involved. I loved it with all my heart and soul, but I was still not sure about when I should make that decision. Soon after I began to learn about Islam, the winter break came and I had to travel back home to visit my family. And as usual, any time I come back to Russia I perform my regular health check up; however, this time I had no idea what I was going to face. My endocrinologist saw that the node on my thyroid gland became different in shape and structure and that it needed to be surgically removed. They suspected that it might be a cancer and in order to check that, it had to be removed and taken into the lab for further investigation. From the moment I heard the news I experienced something I didn’t experience before. In my head I had all sort of things like "I am too young for the cancer, I am not even married yet, I want to have children and I don’t want to die yet". Honestly, it was a reality check for me. After the surgery has been successfully done and they found out that it was a benign form of cancer, my worldview on everything has immediately changed. I was extremely grateful to God. I knew that He gave me the second chance in this life so I could make it different. I knew that I should be more connected to Him and that I should rely on Him only when calamities strike me. It was a big push for me to come much closer to God. After I returned back to the States, I began to learn about this religion of peace in depth by watching documentary videos of some Russian converts. I even took a class about Islamic history in my University so that I could get more knowledge about this religion. Slowly but surely, I was trying to learn how to perform a wudu (ablution). I was trying to learn how to perform the salat (prayer) in Arabic language. I was trying to read the Holy Quran in Russian translation, which I brought from Russia. I was on my way to God; I was slowly becoming a Muslim (the one who submits to the God from Arabic translation). Finally, a few days before my 21st birthday I took my shahada (the testimony of faith) alone in my apartment Alhamdullilah. On that note, I want to conclude that everyone comes to Islam through absolutely different paths. Someone might have a bad past and in Islam he finds the light, which changes him for better. Someone was an atheist and didn’t believe in God at all and in Islam he finds the sense to everything. Someone came to Islam through questioning his own religion, and in Islam he finds the truth. For me, serious of major events caused me to rethink my lifestyle and brought me closer to God than I ever was, Subhan Allah. I felt that I should submit to God and to Him alone by becoming a Muslim and I should start living more peaceful, happy and content life. Islam made me a better person and no matter what happens in my life now, I know it’s all God’s will and I just say Alhamdullilah because indeed,

"Allah knows exactly what to give you to help you return to Him. The events in your life are purposeful, appropriate and non-random" -Shaykh Hamza Yusuf