We have had the pleasure of chatting with sister Um Youssef, an italian revert from Naples who moved to Algiers in 2013. This is our little interview with her…
What have been the difficulties at the beginning of your ‘adventure’ in Algeria?
At the beginning I felt very lonely, my husband wasn’t with me and I have to admit that I have felt a strong loneliness. I am not talking about loneliness because of friends to talk to but because I felt as if I wasn’t ‘part’ of that world. It was very hard, I felt like a fish out of water. Other little things were the language, the food and the habits completely different from mine. I had to adapt to whatever was available, from every point of view alhamdulillah but this hasn’t been a big issue. The Algerian mentality was different from mine but I am not talking about kindness or good manners, absolutely, but the fact of being in a country completely different from the one I had been for the past 10 years, the UK, a country that evolves really quickly. However, I would say that the biggest difficulty has been the loneliness and alhamdulillah I have learnt what ‘being alone with Allah’ really means.
And the positive things ma shaa Allah?
The thing that I have always loved a lot here in Algeria is the simplicity in people. Simplicity in everything that often makes me think about the times of the Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Then the direct contact with the nature, the sea behind the corner, the forests and the beautiful still untouched landscapes alhamdulillah. Not even mentioning the adhan, my natural alarm, my ‘adhan clock’, alhamdulillah it helps my approach to the prayer a lot! And as I have said people are always kind and friendly, it’s amazing being able to exchange the ‘salam’ with everyone. These are little things with an immense meaning, alhamdulillah.
Do you live far from your family in law? What’s your relationship with them like, ma shaa Allah?
I live upstairs… they are my neighbors ma shaa Allah. First of all I would like to say that I have been blessed with such a nice family. They have a big heart, very kind and very modest ma shaa Allah. They have accepted me straight away without prejudices, malice or negative thoughts, alhamdulillah.
At the beginning, being alone, they were everthing for my son and I. They have been very helpful and generous but at one point, living all together from morning until evening, I have started to feel under pressure because I was used to live alone in my complete mental and physical indipendence.
There were mornings during which I wanted to be alone, by myself, can you imagine smiling and greet the whole family from the window? Or, in the worst days, I wanted to be alone, in peace but I couldn’t because it wasn’t nice, not only from an Islamic point of view but also a ‘human’ point of view! With time I have learnt to accept the situation for the sake of Allah so now I try to do things with moderation, also because I know there is the hikma (wisdom) of Allah in all this. Also I think that living all together brings lots of barakah ma shaa Allah, in the food, support and unity of the family, alhamdulillah.
We often hear that Algerian men have a strong character, they are harsh… do you think it’s true?
Oh no, absolutely not! Algerian men are just like men from Southern Italy, strong and nervous… just a look and they get angry, they reminds me of the Sicilians.. but they have a big heart and are very generous, ma shaa Allah.
Are there any mosques you attend and where it is possible to attend Islamic lessons or Quran lessons? Have you met sisters on the Sunnah?
Ma shaa Allah there are sisters I know from London, who have also moved here to Algeria years before me. We keep in touch and sometimes meet. They are Spanish, from South Africa… ma shaa Allah. I have never been for a lesson in the mosque, only for ‘Eid prayer, but there are many mosques that organise Quran classes and halaqah for sisters. In the area of Bab El Oued they organise Arabic lessons for non-Arabs sisters ma shaa ALlah. Then, not far from me, there is a dear sister who made hijrah before me and who makes hijama. Alhamdulillah I have hijama done regularly, something I wasn’t used to in London.
But I am still looking for a sister who can give me a ‘push’ from the Islamic point of view. A sister who can inspire me in applying the Sunnah in every day life, in the education and upbringing of the children… a student of knowledge… I haven’t found one yet… in shaa Allah!
What do you think about those who say that there isn’t any Sunnah in the Maghreb, that it’s not like Saudi Arabia so it’s better to remain in Italy or another European country?
Oh no, that’s not true. In my personal experience, applying the Sunnah varies from home to home. There are practicing families and some which are less practicing and alhamdulillah we have practicing ones! Of course we are all different because we are all at different stages of imaan and different levels of knowledge of the deen. Then everyone is effected by external factors, which have an effect on us every day so it’s important to apply the Sunnah at home first of all. Every Muslim country is somehow effected and is not perfect, also in Mekka you find those who don’t follow the Sunnah! If we all think this way we remain in Europe for ever. Everything starts from home, the sadaqah, the prayer, sawm…. doesn’t matter where you live, you continue to follow and apply the Sunnah, anywhere you are, it’s important not to be influenced by external factors, in shaa Allah.
What would you say to those sisters living in Italy or other european countries who have the wish in their hearts to make Hijrah?
I tell the sisters to try at least! Myself I always had the wish in my heart to make Hijrah as soon as possible, because I had enough of the life in England. Then, at one point, I was blocked and decided to leave it to Allah, thinking about my life there in the UK. Then alhamdulillah, it’s like if He has thrown me to Algeria, very quickly. At the beginning it has been like ‘moving’ for me and the with time the hijrah has started to grow in my heart. I have ‘translated’ this quick move to Algeria as His guide… a guide which I have understood with time. If you don’t follow the guide, and put your trust in Hum, you could loose the guide… so it’s worth trying!
Um Youssef – Algers, May 2015 – barakallahu fiha!
Update (January 2016) – Um Youssef is now studying ahadith with a sister, student of Shaikh Ferkous hafidhahullah – may Allah accept it from her, ameen!
Translated by ouralgeria.wordpress.com