Growing up in a strong Christian family with 9 siblings in Jamaica, Hazel was deemed to be rather rebellious as she often questioned fundamental aspects of the religion. She had a strong relationship with God, however, her inability to conceptualize a trinity, depicted her as a controversial member at her church.
Her questions about God and Jesus (a.s) were deemed blasphemous, but from a young age her curious mind forced her to seek guidance from different pastors and Christian leaders.
Having lost her mother, confidante and best friend at the tender age of eleven, she found herself going from church to church in her early teenage years seeking spiritual fulfilment.
She soon realized that her debates regarding Jesus (a.s) not being the son of God, were futile, and the contentment she sought was found with no group or denomination, even though her father, siblings and loved ones were around her.
She prayed in every way she knew how, and maintained firm faith in her Lord who she firmly believed was One.
Due to seeing much suffering and disease around her growing up, as well as caring for her mother before she passed, Hazel’s aspiration was to become a nurse. In the early 1960’s her father sold one of their best horses in order to buy her a plane ticket to begin her training in London.
Hazel said her farewells and left all of her siblings, friends, and the only island she had ever known, for a new life in the UK.
The only contact she had was the address of her older sister who was living and working in Brixton with her husband and family. It was the first home she would live in while training to be a nurse.
She landed on Wednesday 18th April 1962, having only turned 18 two weeks prior to her flight!
Being from a traditional home and entering another, Easter that weekend in a new church and a new country would naturally be significant.
Even though she was conflicted in her beliefs, on Easter Sunday the 22nd April, she woke up early to begin praising the Lord.
While getting ready for church with the rest of the family, a knock at the front door startled her.
She opened it, and a young Asian salesman stood there politely saying “Good Morning”.
Hazel felt deeply offended and questioned why he was trading, instead of being at home preparing for church – it wasn’t just any Sunday, it was Easter Sunday!
His reply remained with her for many months and years to come: “I’m sorry to disturb you – I’m a Muslim.”
Hazel had never heard of a Muslim, but the salesman went on to explain that he didn’t go to church, (which initially infuriated her further!), but that they actually prayed in places called mosques and their holy day was Fridays.
Back in Jamaica, Hazel had heard of Hinduism – so she assumed these Muslim people must be similar, and have many deities and practices strange to her.
As time went on, Hazel and Yusuf remained in touch. Both had come to the UK for a better future, to help their families back home, and due to grieving the loss of a close parent.
Hazel’s interest in Islam naturally grew when she learnt of the concept of God’s Oneness, charity, the many shared stories of the Prophets, concepts of heaven and hell, and of course – destiny.
One day she set out for a trip to Foyles Bookstore in Charing Cross, having only one book in mind.
It was there that she purchased her first Qur’an, and the emotions that came over her reading the first chapter are still as raw and real to this day.
“In the name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, The Merciful.
Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You ALONE do we worship, and You ALONE do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
The path of those who have received your grace;
Not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.”
Uncontrollably, tears rolled down her face as she re-read and felt the words of the Qur’an echoing in her soul.
She continued reading with her heart racing, almost in disbelief that she had finally found what she was searching for.
She felt complete.
All Praise is due to Allaah.
1960’s London was not home to the vast and growing population of reverts there are today, more than 50 years on. So when Hazel decided to embrace Islam, she was met with some confusion.
Visiting mosques seemed to get her nowhere – although she felt accepted by the different communities and sects, no one could tell her what exactly she had to do to become a Muslim!
Yusuf was beside himself with joy hearing that she had read the Qur’an and in fact wanted to become a Muslim.
Hazel decided to write to the High Commission of Pakistan. Most of the Muslims she met were Pakistani, including Yusuf, so this seemed her best option for some advice.
She explained her story, and her relief in finding the beauty, balance and simplicity that is Islam.
Soon after sending this letter and plea for help, she received a “certificate of Shahaadah” in the post.
Overwhelmed – seeing her name and the Declaration of Faith on the same page, Hazel felt her path into Islam was finally in front of her.
Her mother named her Hazel Elfreeda – so she soon became known also as Faridah (Arabic meaning: Unique)
She devoted more than 40 years to the NHS, and soon became active in her local community teaching the youth.
In 1966 Hazel and Yusuf were married, they have three children, eleven grandchildren, one great grandchild, and still reside in South London were they first met.
Hazel now faces the tough battle of Alzheimer’s disease, but All Praise is due to Allaah as the Shahaadah is always firmly on her lips and deeply imbedded in her heart.
If you read this, please remember Hazel Faridah and her family in your prayers.
May we all die saying the Shahaadah.
As Imam Omar Sulaiman recently said:
“Legacy is not how you are remembered. Legacy in Islam is how you are resurrected.”
–SAFIYYAH WAS BORN IN LONDON AND IS THE YOUNGEST DAUGHTER OR HAZEL FARIDAH AND YUSUF. SHE HAS SPENT THE LAST FEW YEARS TEACHING ABROAD IN SAUDI ARABIA, WHERE HER CHILDREN WERE ALSO BORN. HER CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH HER DEAR MOTHER, INSPIRED SAFIYYAH TO BECOME MORE POLITICALLY AWARE AND AMBITIOUS. SHE ENJOYS WRITING, MENTORING, PARENTHOOD AND TRAVELLING.