Rahmatullah's collaborative self-portrait

My friend Rahmatullah is an Italian 28 year old woman who converted to Islam some years ago, before she met her Senegalese husband and before giving birth to her two children, Imnou and Awa. Since she was a child she  had strong feelings about religion and spirituality, but she did not trust the Catholic faith. At 11 she started reading books about Judaism, Induism, Buddhism and Islam. At 16 she met an Italian Muslim family who had travelled a lot and had a very strong and sophisticated Islamic culture. She converted at 19, following the ritual of shaving all hair from head and body and accepting the 5 pillars of Islam:

- saying the Faith profession: "Allah is One, Muhammed is the Profet"

- praying 5 times a day

- charity

- pilgrimage to Mecca

5 years ago she had a terrible accident while driving with her daughter on the motorway. Little Awa flew out of the car window and suffered from brain injury. With her unconscious and bleeding daughter in her arms she made a solemn vow to cover her head to the eyes of the world, if Allah would save Awa from death and illness. In her quest around the chaotic and often unhuman Italian National Health system, Rahmatullah managed to find a great Italian doctor, and Awa went through brain surgery several times. Now Awa is a healthy and beautiful 7 year old girl. And Rahmatullah will wear her veil all her life.


Awa's self-portrait at 6


I have asked Rahmatullah to tell me her thoughts about woman and Islam. "In Muslim faith, in the Choran, women and men are equal, we are all brothers and sisters. Women are more spiritual, sensitive, devoted to the soul and with a sixth sense on inner life. Man is more practical, dedicated to worldly matters. Allah has done this to compensate us, not to make women subjugated to men. Every culture and country interpret the Choran according to their social and political needs, which very often come from their ancient tribal culture, before Islam came.

Since I was a little girl, I liked to see women with the veil. Woman is pure and precious, and must remain so, this is why she wears the veil. Muhammed's second wife Aisha was the first to start wearing it to express this purity. Then, all Muslim women started to do the same, to be closer to the Profet's wife, to elevate themselves, to mark their spiritual quest. It is written in the Choran that the woman is the main figure in the family and the husband must always listen to her views on anything regarding the family and himself. Poligamy started because in Muhammed's time there were too many lonely widows because of the wars, who needed a home and company. Now it doesn't make sense. Being a Muslim in the Italian province means having people point the finger at you. People think we must stay at home, and see us as a menace, someone to avoid."