In a YouTube video, Hadiya had explained why she embraced Islam & dispelled the notion that she had been forced to do it before her marriage to Shafin Jahan.

New Delhi: For some, she is the face of ‘Love Jihad’, a woman who converted to Islam and married Shafin Jahan, with even the National Investigation Agency claiming she had been ‘indoctrinated’ by religious extremists. For others, she’s the victim of an unfair custody battle between her parents and her husband. But who really is Hadiya Jahan?

Before the Kerala High Court struck down her marriage and put her in ‘protective custody’ of her father 11 months ago, life was very different for Hadiya.

Born Akhila Ashokan in Vaikom, Kerala, she studied at the Sivaraj Homeopathy College in Salem, Tamil Nadu. She liked to spend her time studying and watching movies on her laptop, according to her statement before a Supreme Court bench Monday.

She first got attracted to Islam through her college friends Jaseena and Faseena, and began the process of understanding the religion. She started practicing the religion with the help of the Markazul Hidaya Satya Sarani Educational and Charitable Trust, and was renamed ‘Hadiya’.

She had made a YouTube video during her internship, explaining what drew her to Islam. “I’ve adopted Islam. I’ve adopted the truth behind Islam. I received the most help from Satya Sarani to study Islam,” she had said.

Hadiya said she had become disillusioned with idol worship: “I have understood there is one god. Regarding idol worship, I lost faith in it. I was disillusioned by the thought of idol worship. This is what brought me to Islam.”

Through the video, Hadiya also tried to dispel media allegations that she was forced into conversion. “My reason for joining Islam is not because anyone told me to,” she said.

 

With Hadiya striving to practise Islam, her parents went to court saying she had gone missing. In the meantime, Hadiya registered herself on matrimonial website waytonikah.com, with the help of her caretaker, Sainaba, president of the women’s wing of the Popular Front of India. That is how she met Shafin Jahan, whom she later married.

The court battle turned uglier after this marriage, with the Kerala High Court annulling the marriage altogether and handing over Hadiya’s custody to her parents. Hadiya was not allowed to see anyone for a period of 11 months and could not step out of the house.

Hadiya told the Supreme Court Monday that she was mentally harassed during this period. She had earlier told interviewer Rahul Easwar that her father had “pushed and kicked” her. When her mother claimed that she gave her daughter everything possible as a parent, Hadiya had interrupted and responded: “You have provided for me, is keeping me like this (in custody) enough?”

In the Monday hearing, Shafin’s lawyer, Kapil Sibal, requested the Supreme Court bench to acknowledge Hadiya’s unwavering consistency in her stance since the case began. Hadiya has stuck by her demand to be free, to be able to see Shafin, to be able to pursue her dream to become a doctor, and to be able to “stay true to her faith”.

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