Spotlight: Safiyyah Levine, artist, prison chaplain, and Love InshAllah contributor!Posted: January 25, 2012
S.E. Jihad (Safiyyah) Levine is the daughter of Polish immigrants. Her father’s family were Ashkenazi Jews, and her mother’s family were Roman Catholics. She practiced Judaism until her parents divorced, and then her mother converted the children to Catholicism. When she was old enough to choose for herself, she returned to Judaism. However, Catholicism had an important impact on her, introducing in her a love for Prophet Jesus. She embarked on a long journey to make sense of religion, exploring most of the branches of the Protestant faith, and even Wicca and Santeria. Her search ended when she found Islam.
An excerpt from Saffiyah’s story, “From Shalom to Salaam”:
Later, when I embraced Islam, my father nearly disowned me. He still accepted an occasional phone call, but his replies were cold, distant, and brief. Because he loved me so much, I don’t think he could have brought himself to cut me off completely, but he made it very clear how angry and disappointed he was with me. Our relationship never recovered from what he perceived as parental disobedience and family dishonor. He died in August 2001, and, at my stepmother’s request, I was not told of his passing until after the funeral. Did they fear that I would show up at the synagogue dressed in a burqa and accompanied by my black husband?
To read the rest of Saffiyah’s story, order Love InshAllah today!
Why were you drawn to this project?
I saw a call for submissions on Sister Ayesha’s blog for Love InshAllah and was immediately attracted to the description of the project. The search for love and a healthy relationship has been a lifelong jihad for me, especially as a Muslim. As I describe in my story, I wasn’t a Muslim when I married my husband. It was real on-the-job training for me, negotiating a new religion and a new husband at the same time. Marriage in Islam is not like marriage in other religions in many aspects, so I made many mistakes which played a huge part in my divorce from my husband.
I thought Love InshAllah was a wonderful way of reaching out to other Muslim sisters, sharing my story, and encouraging them toward patience and trust in Allah. After all, divorce stories are not something shared in your local mosque, except between your close sisters!
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Because I didn’t use a pen name for my contribution, the most challenging part for me was sharing my story in a way that respects the privacy of my husband and my family. Writing my story also forced me to re-live the memories and feelings, and process them fully.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
Never give up, and trust that Allah t’ala will always answer your dua. As you will learn from my story, He answered mine right at the time when I was ready to give up on ever finding love and a strong Islamic marriage! My trust in Allah t’ala is so complete. Alhamdulillah, I don’t think there’s anything that could happen to me that would cause me to turn away from Him to seek help elsewhere.