Follow Your Heart
Finding a love for religion at a young age is a beautiful thing. For Ayesha Hull living her faith has always been important to her, but as she shares, the journey has come with some sacrifices.
Born and raised in Cape Town, Ayesha (19) is the middle sister of three children, she has an older and younger sister (22) and (18).
“Growing up we lived with both my mom and dad who were married, I would describe my father as someone who made sure that we lived according to our religion. We would have to wear a scarf when men who are not related to us came to our house and we would pray the five daily prayers together as a family, I always enjoyed it.
“I don’t remember much about my younger days except that my father took on a second wife when I was seven. He just sat us down one day and told us that he had another wife, I was young, so I don’t think I knew the deepness of what he was saying. After telling us this news he wasn’t around that much. We went from seeing him every night to only at weekends’’
With her mom working full time in a call centre and her father in-between jobs, Ayesha viewed her mother as the bread winner who cared for her daughters.
“Throughout primary school my mom supported us with everything we needed. Even though my mom brought in most of the money, my dad still ruled the house, especially when it came to where his daughters went to high school.
“My dad told me that after primary school I would change from a public school to an Islamic school where I would join my older sister.
“I couldn’t understand why I needed to change. All through my primary years I attended madrassah after school. I loved my religion but wanted to further my studies. I knew that I was good academically, I enjoyed learning and being at school. However, I decided not to say anything to my father for two reasons; One: I respected him. Two: I believed rejecting Islamic school would look like I was rejecting my faith… which was not true.”
Ayesha began her high school career at the Islamic school
“We studied the Quran and learnt the basics of the religion. We learnt about the meanings as well as how to speak Arabic. I enjoyed the process, even though memorising became difficult. Regardless of the challenges I still gave it 100%.
“At the time my dad also said that I need to cut down on seeing friends… I couldn’t see any male friends and wouldn’t be allowed to go to parties. I had known my friends since I was a little child, not being able to see them really upset me.
“I spoke to my mom and told her that I believed my dad should trust me. I never gave him any reason not to and I felt this treatment was unfair. She told me that everything would be okay and motivated me to be patient, to speak to him when I was older.
Ayesha spent two years at the Islamic school.
“I felt like I was missing out during that time. I would speak to my primary school friends about what they were learning. They all were clear about what they would study afterwards and they were excited about their futures. Every time I would hear them, I would remember how much I enjoyed English and my dream of being an English teacher. But for now it wasn’t possible… English was not even a subject at my school.
“At the end of the second year of high school, I built up the courage to speak out. I spoke to my mom first and pleaded with her, she said she would speak to him. Three days before my third year started, my mom spoke to my dad and told him that my younger sister and I wanted to go to a public school.
“He replied that if we were going to a mainstream school, then my mother would need to pay for all school fees. Then he went silent. The day after the conversation, we started the process. My mom phoned my grandpa and asked for the number of the local high school principal. She called him and he confirmed that there was space for us… he just needed our Grade 7 results.”
Finding a school was a simple process because my grandparents knew the principle.
“When I started school, the principal asked me if I wanted to write a test to see if I could go to the grade I was supposed to be in (Grade 10). I opted not to write it because I had not been exposed to any of the subjects. I started in Grade 8 and I was placed in the same class as my younger sister. My age affected me because my classmates were two years younger than me, between 13 and 14 years old. I became academically stronger due to my age, I had a different kind of maturity to that of my peers.
“I saw the opportunity to get an education. I was determined. Sitting in the class was a blessing to me, I was just happy. I was placed 3rd in Grade 8 that year. I was so proud of myself even though my father showed no interest in me or my studies.
“My parents were still married but when I turned 17 (Grade 9) things got harder at home. My parents were arguing a lot, because of our school uniform; he thought our skirts were too short. I felt like he would pick fights for no reason and we would walk on egg shells when he was home.
“At the beginning of Grade 10 my parents got divorced. It made the situation better at home because there was less arguing and we were more at peace.”
Ayesha says that even though she and her dad still speak over the phone sometimes, they hardly see each other.
“He lives five minutes away but never visits us. I think about him a lot because he is my dad, I wish we could have a closer relationship. He has hurt me through his actions but I still love him.
“I have found my release through writing and learning. I am in Grade 11 and I am working hard to be accepted for a teaching degree at University. I want to prove to everyone that I can achieve my childhood dream.”
Ayesha concludes by saying, “I believe I can still be faithful to my religion while pursuing a career. I trust that by following my heart I am serving Allah.”
Ayesha is a Leaders’ Quest participant