Being a journalism student, I've always been an open-minded person and have a lust for the unknown. Islam quickly became a mysterious religion I wanted to learn more about. That's when I decided to do one of my investigative articles about Muslim women's rights. THIS was the beginning of everything.
My eyes and mind were completed opened and bursting with knowledge about Islam and the fact that WOMEN HAVE MANY RIGHTS IN ISLAM! In fact, Muslim women were legally given rights (that's including divorce, land rights, monetary rights, the right to choose who to marry, etc.) in the Qur'an and Hadiths hundreds of years before Western women were legally given the same rights. There's even a whole chapter about Women in the Qur'an. Men are taught to lower their gaze, and to treat women and their wives with utmost respect because this is favored in God's eyes.
THIS, of course, does not mean Muslims are sinless. People need to differentiate between culture, politics and religion. We humans are not perfect, in fact far from it. Even I learned this in Malaysia – instead of judging a whole religion on a few people's actions, look into the religion and what it teaches.
When I first stepped into a mosque, I felt an immediate sense of calm and peace. I even interviewed an imam. The strong yet humble cry of the call to prayer invoked feelings in me I had never felt before. When I first bowed my head toward the Ka'ba, I felt home in my heart. I didn't convert to Islam in Malaysia – I was to over a year later – but it introduced me in a beautiful way to Islam and to the Oneness of God.
As each day passed in Malaysia, and with each experience I lived, it dawned on me that I was starting to outgrow the sheltered life I was living back home in my country town, and the various stereotypes placed on society from culture to culture. Malaysia was having an effect on me far greater than the boundaries of Monash University, cool clubs and intriguing food; it was the people itself and the lessons I was learning. I realized that every little moment in Malaysia would be some of my best.
I was definitely not the same girl that left Melbourne airport for this unexpected journey. I grew immensely, while paradoxically also finding myself and what I'm truly capable of. I was a girl who was insecure and always feeling confined and trapped in the community I was living in – Malaysia, in a way, set me free. While we can't be sure of much in this world, I know without a shadow of a doubt that going to Malaysia randomly was one of the best decisions I have ever made.