The first ever homepage on Surayya (launched at 8 am on 12 Dec 1999)
“It was at a public seminar that Kamala Das, a renowned poet, writer and columnist who lives in Kerala, announced her conversion to Islam publicly.
Now Kamala Das and Madhavikutty (as she is known in her home country) will have a ‘Surayya’ (meaning splendid star) next to it.
On December 11th 1999 Kamala Das publicly declared her acceptance of Islam.
“At night I sleep holding a pillow close to me. I am all alone. But now it seems I have many with me. There is no religion like Islam that protects women. At this age, that is what I need. The most Merciful will provide me with care and protection”.
The writer explained that she had been carrying the thought of converting for the past thirty years. ” I don’t think I am late in my choice. Yet this is a new birth. I don’t need freedom. I am not a feminist. Just a woman. When one realizes that a religion gives the refuge that one is seeking, why would anyone turn aside?” asked the writer.
For the past few days Kamala Das was at Malabar (the Muslim majority area of Kerala). She had held discussions with religious scholars. The conversion will be complete within two weeks. Her multi-colored saris will give way to the single-colored burqa. The mark on her forehead will also vanish away.
“I have no regrets in any matter. I have given a thought about what my children will think. I haven’t told anyone except my younger sister.”
I am not against any religions. I only depend on a religion that gives protection for woman. She has begun studying Arabic language. ” I will start writing poems in Arabic”. The poetry of Surayya…
(based on the report that appeared in Malayala Manorama Internet Edition on Dec 12 1999)
The ‘Star’ Speaks Out
What is your mission as a Muslim?
I would like to make this a religion of the new millennium. I will tell the people the virtues of this religion. I would like to share the happiness I have got after embracing Islam. I have no words to explain the happiness and contentment I have felt after converting to Islam. I have never felt such happiness in my life. I feel that I am loved and protected. I am an old person. I want this love and protection.
Will you be visiting the Holy city of Makkah?
Yes, I will visit Makkah and embrace the soil of Madinah as early as possible. I have already received several invitations from Gulf countries.I am overwhelmed by the love support I have got from several Keralites in Gulf countries. A person from Dubai just called me and asked me to visit the UAE. I will visit some of these countries depending upon my health and the audience I have to address. I don’t mind sharing my experience. I have a lot to tell them.
Do you think your strict adherence to Islamic laws would impose restrictions on you as a writer?
I’ve had enough of freedom not only as a citizen but also as a writer. I don’t want that freedom any more. Restrictions bring their own happiness. I want that happiness and pleasure.
You said Islam forgives one’s sins if one repents. Have you committed sins requiring repentance?
It’s a relative subject. I have done a lot of things, which in the minds of others may be sins. For me they were not sins. I had acted with full conviction. So I am not bothered about sin. Even if I have committed any sin unknowingly, Allah is kind enough to forgive it. ” I have left everything to this Master of compassion and forgiveness.
You talked about life after death. Were you haunted about life after death?
I cannot ignore death at the age of 67. And for a person like me afflicted with so many other illnesses, I cannot brush aside death thoughts of death. The thoughts of death no more disturb me. I feel there is Allah to take care of me. I have left everything to Him. So I have no fears.
Would you follow Islamic rituals?
I will follow what my health permits. My old age does not permit me to fast. However, I will perform Namaz. I will learn more of holy Quran and understand what other good Muslims has to do. I understand that a good Muslim should help other people. I have been doing this and I am keen to continue it. I don’t want to accumulate money.
Is your statement that women get a lot of protection and freedom in Islam not at variance with realities at least in Indian conditions?
Yes, the purdah that I wear gives me lot of protection. The dress gives me a sense of security. No man ever makes a pass at a woman in purdah. Now let us consider the freedom. The tenets of Islam offer full freedom to women. They are treated with equality. Curbs on freedom are there only in societies where these tenets are ignored. I don’t consider a woman’s submission to her husband and other higher powers as representing a lack of freedom. I had enough of such freedom and I don’t want it anymore. I have totally submitted myself to Allah. I am happy to observe his rules and conditions.
What would your future agenda as a writer be?
I will write lot of poems on Allah. Allah is the fountainhead of love and compassion. I will write about Him. I have already written three poems on Allah. I will write more soon and bring out a compilation before the end of next year.
What about the threats you have reportedly received from Hindu fundamentalists?
I am not frightened by these threats. The police had come to me offering security. I have refused to accept this security. I don’t need the security of mortals when I have surrendered myself to Allah, the biggest protector. I am sure He will take care of me.
(based on the interview that appeared in Khaleej Times (Wednesday, December 15, 1999). Edited by Jaihoon