Jean Khan, 85, is a devout Muslim and writer living in Newtown, Wellington. She has three children, nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
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Islam goes back a long way for me, even though I was brought up an Anglican. I grew up in Birmingham, during the [Second World] war. It was such a terrible time; we were roused out of bed every night and had to go to the bomb shelters to sleep. The Germans thought they were going to break our spirit, but they just made it stronger.
At primary school our religious instruction was always about Christianity and Judaisim. On one particular day when I was about eight or nine, the teacher said, 'Today I'm going to talk to you about Islam'. It must have made an impact because I remember feeling very peaceful and it left me with something. A little while after that I saw a film called 'The Thief of Baghdad', which also made references to Islam. I remembered both of these things, and how they made me feel, when I met my husband.
Salamat was the joy of my life. After I met him, everything changed. We met at ballroom dancing classes. I think God sent him. We went out together for two years, and I converted to Islam, then we got married. I think we must have been one of the first mixed couples to marry, which was quite something at the time. My parents absolutely loved him. When we moved to Fiji, they came with us, then they joined us in New Zealand in 1966.
He died nine years ago, after we had been married for 53 years. It was always romantic. We had rough patches, but we got through them. We used to talk all the time and discuss things together. Our bond was very strong. He taught me so much about practicing Islam.
I've never not had faith. I feel very sorry for people who don't believe in God, or who aren't sure about God. There comes a time in everyone's life when things are hard and they can feel very alone. But if you believe, God is just waiting there.
Islam is intended to be a peaceful religion and the feeling of joy should follow automatically if one's joy comes from deep within the human heart. Ahamdolillah, [all praise be to God], this joy has been experienced by me, as a result of the peace which the true Islam has brought to me. I also feel peace and joy during the daily prayers. During a part of these prayers we are asked to prostrate on the ground and our forehead should touch the prayer mat. At this point, when our forehead touches the ground, it is said we are the closest we humans can be to almighty God. I have experienced this, together with the special joy and the accompanying peace, because of that closeness.
If you go about life in the right way, you can make your own happiness. If you have faith, it's a wonderful feeling. You will never get depressed because God is there to help you, 24 hours a day.
As told to Lucy Corry.
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