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Aqeela's Cleansing Journey towards the Love for Healing

Writer: Ferozah Kothdiwala



With a philosophy of life which simply states “Trust in Allah”, Sister Aqeela Wood starts her day at Fajr (the first of the 5 daily prayers).  She would briskly work towards preparing breakfast and lunch for her husband and son while taking care of laundry and preparing meals for the remainder of the day.  After their departure at 6 am on school mornings, Aqeela goes about completing her daily household tasks before she too can leave home at 9:30 am to begin her round of appointments with her clients. A trained reflexologist with an impressive list of qualifications in Rehabilitation Therapy, massage and reflexology, this 49-year old sister was born in 1968 in London, England. The second of 3 children born to a father who was a mechanic and a mother who was a nurse, Aqeela loved her life in London so much that when her parents returned to Barbados, after spending 30 years there, she went into a “culture shock”.  At 13 years of age, she disliked living in Barbados. After 5 years, she had had enough of being labelled a “foreigner” in a pre-dominantly black society, where the “black/white and class divide” was so great.  She headed back to her beloved England where she worked in event management moving around to various locations across the length and breadth of England. On her return to England, she went on a “cleansing journey” of self-discovery.  As a young black woman, she wanted to expand her knowledge. Having been brought up in a Christian family, the young Aqeela had attended Sunday School and church regularly.  She said she had many questions about what she learnt but was not able find the answers she needed and did not feel comfortable with the idea of Christianity. She had difficulty coming to terms with Christianity playing a key role in the subjugation of what she refers to as “her people”.  Reading the biography of Malcolm X played an integral role in her discovering her “identity” although Aqeela did not take Shahadah* until much later. Amazingly, she credits her becoming Muslim to a Methodist preacher. She quietly explains, that while at a funeral of a very close friend; Carl – whose death sent her into a shocked retrospection. Carl had gone to bed as normal one night and did not awaken the next morning.   To Aqeela, it was unbelievable that a healthy, 29-year old male could go to bed and just not wake up!  During his funeral, with the traditional eulogies etc, a Methodist Pastor delivered the sermon.  His question to the congregation on that day was: “What had the deceased, Carl, done for God?”  “What had he put forward?”   “Was God pleased with him?” In shocked silence, Aqeela, who by this time had given up partying, drinking and eating pork, began to question what life was really about? Her friend Carl had a successful business, a big house, a nice car.  Was that true success?  The reality of what was taking place, she says, hit her like “a ton of bricks”.  Aqeela left the funeral and took Shahadah* almost right away. She had finally found the answer she was looking for! ​ Aqeela returned to Barbados in 1998, a more mature, open-minded person but this time as a Muslim, divorced and with a 2 ½ year old son, Shaakir.  With her cousin’s help and encouragement, she enrolled at the Barbados Community College to pursue an Associate Degree in Rehabilitation Therapy.  She graduated as valedictorian and with her “healing hands” began working in various health institutions: geriatric, psychiatric, QEH, polyclinics and district hospitals. She married Mohamed Ali Kothdiwala and joined her husband in his business.   Together they have one son, Khaleel.  Although, she faced some challenges because of her race, she generally found the Muslim community, although “insular’ welcoming and accepting of her. When the Barbadian economy, like many others across the world, was hit by the economic recession, Aqeela and her family found themselves, like many others in Barbados, looking for new avenues to generate an income.  Aqeela along with her husband, attended an introductory 1-day seminar on reflexology, and found herself totally falling in love with its ability and power to give relief and heal.  From this spring board, Aqeela and her husband Ali, launched themselves fully into learning and gaining qualifications in their chosen field. She applauds the strides that young people in the Muslim community are making and finds the community more integrated than before.  As a mother of a young, articulate son, Aqeela encourages all mothers of teenaged children to spend quality time with them.  She advises parents to make their children feel that they are important, listen to them and provide opportunities for them to share their life, experiences, thoughts and feelings with them every day.  Aqeela, values meal times and uses this as a “learning time to share life lessons” with her family. She further advises that when faced with a conflict or making any decision, her recipe for success is referring the matter to Quran or Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet Muhammad {pbuh}) and to always “do what is right even if it to your own detriment”. ​ As she looks to the future, Aqeela eagerly awaits the day when the Masajid in Barbados would not only be used for the purpose of prayer but as a “safe haven” for all members of the Muslim family. She believes that now, more than ever, it is necessary. She sees a masjid as a place for not only worship but a centre for learning, creating a togetherness, a community centre for recreation and other wholesome Islamic activities. Now, fully settled in the her career choice, which she and her husband share a passion for, Aqeela encourages Muslims to educate themselves, get involved in halal community activities, to “mix” with the average Barbadian, to personify Islam and use the beauty of what Islam has to offer to uplift the Barbadian society and themselves because as she says with much conviction; “Islam is a treasure to be shared”.

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*The Shahada is a declaration that all Muslims must make, and anyone who cannot make this declaration cannot be considered a Muslim. Shahada” is Arabic for “testimony” or “witness.” The Shahada is the first pillar of Islam.  It simply states:  “I testify that here is no God but Allah, and I testify that Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

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