It's not easy to find a Japanese Muslim, and it is even harder to find a Japanese Muslim revert. But Arisa has defied all odds in her pursuit of faith, using her experiences to inspire others around her through her blog
. She is an avid traveler who somehow manages to look great even while traveling. Read on to discover her inspiring revert story and some tips on how to travel in style ?
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I'm Nur Arisa
Maryam. I am a Japanese Muslim revert. I recited the syahadah in 2015. Alhamdulillah!
2. What inspired you to be a Muslim?
I decided to take the shahada after reading a Japanese translation of the Qur'an. I felt that there was no reason not to believe in Allah. After reading the Qur'an, it felt like Allah knows everything about us already.
3. What were the reactions of your family and friends when you told them you’re now a Muslim?
When I became a Muslim, the most difficult part was getting my family to understand my decision. Thankfully, my younger sister had some knowledge of Islam, so when I became a Muslim, she told me she was happy for me. However, my mother could not accept my reversion. She felt betrayed at the fact that I reverted without consulting anyone, and shouted to me "you are not my daughter anymore!"
I couldn't say anything back. I just made du'a to Allah. Although we didn't speak to each other for a few days , my mother came to me crying and apologised for her comment.
Of course, at the beginning, she said things such as "you're not allowed to wear hijab" and "I don't understand why you can't eat pork", but now she comes with me to the mosque, and sometimes chooses my hijab. She also gave me the name "Maryam". Alhamdulillah.
4. What was it about Islam which truly fascinated you during your travels?
Whichever country I went to, I was moved by how kind Muslims were. I thought it was amazing that they would say salaam with a smile and always help each other out.
5. What are some of the differences you experienced when you traveled before being a Muslim and after being a Muslim? How did you deal with these differences?
Always having to think about prayer times when I'm travelling. Before becoming a Muslim, I would spend a whole day without worrying about anything, but now I've learned to live more according to time. Since I was not used to it at the beginning, I found it particularly difficult trying to pray when travelling or moving around. But now, even when I'm going out I look forward to prayer.
6. Your blog is truly inspiring, and you’ve been very honest and open in sharing your travel stories as well as your journey as a revert. What inspired you to start your blog?
Thank you so much for saying so. When I was a non-Muslim, it was difficult to meet other reverts. During that time, I saw the Instagram of a Malaysian model called Raisyyah Rania Yeap. She was no different from other Muslims, and I felt she looked really beautiful covering her awrah. When I heard the news that she'd taken the shahada, I felt so moved by her and it became a source of courage. I gained the confidence to become a Muslim, too. So in that sense, I began my Instagram as a way to support and give courage to those who want to become a Muslim but are not sure what to do.
7. Considering how Japan has a non-Muslim majority, could you share with us your experience of being a hijabi Muslim there?
When I first wore the hijab, I hadn't become a Muslim yet, but I do remember feeling a strong sense of peace of mind. However, as people wearing a hijab in Japan are rare, you often get stared at. It's like I've suddenly become somebody famous. Because of that, I didn't always have the courage to wear hijab, but after taking the shahadah, my confidence grew a lot. Now, if I'm walking outside, I get greeted by a lot of people. They often tell me how pretty the hijab is.
8. Any insider tips for Muslims living in or visiting Japan?
If you wear a hijab in Japan you'll quite often have people calling out or stop to talk to you, haha! Everyone is so lovely.
9. We really love how stylish you are! Do you have any tips for Muslim travelers who want to dress well and look good even while traveling?
I'm so happy to hear that! Thank you so much! Firstly, with whatever clothes I wear, I remember that I wear them for the sake of Allah. Even if we wear 'beautiful' clothes, if it's for fashion, that is not good Islamically. It isn't 'beauty'. Especially when travelling to Japan, I think it's important to have confidence in the Islamic clothing you wear since Muslim women stand out so much. Rather than wearing trousers, many people will tell you your Muslimah dress is much more attractive.
10. Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that...
We all learn to respect each other, regardless of nationality, race, religion or culture.