Account of Vivienne Noble and the Hedges Family
My name is Vivienne Noble and I was born in Hartlepool. My father’s name is William Hedges and my mother’s name is Marion Hedges and I have one brother whose name is Paul.
Before I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat I was part of the Church of England. My upbringing was like any other child, I would call it a normal upbringing. I went to primary and secondary school. I would say that I had a very western lifestyle before I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat.
Initially what brought me or should I say my whole family to Islam was my brother, because at the time my brother was in a really bad place in his life. The reason I say that he was in a really bad place in life was due to the fact that he had just gone through a divorce, because of which, he just wasn’t a very nice person to be around. He knew himself that we, his family, didn’t like the way he was behaving or treating us. He became very rebellious. He was living at home at the time. So my brother got to know a woman called Christine Harrison and she introduced my brother to Dr Hameed Khan, and they just hit it off. They became really good friends and got to know each other very well. At the time he must have been in his late forties and he was living at home with our parents.
As time went on we realised that he was acting strange and every few hours he would disappear to his room for an hour or two. Once when I was visiting my parents, I asked my mother where Paul was? She told me to be quiet and I naturally asked why? She told me that he was praying! I was shocked because before this, whenever Paul and I would have a conversation regarding prayers, he used to mock me about it as to why I was praying. So the fact that he was praying came to me as a big shock! Paul meeting with Dr Khan or getting to know him, changed my brother totally and turned him upside down and made him a much better person to be with and more tolerant with other people, which he never used to be.
One day he invited my mother and I to go and meet Dr Khan and Sajida, his wife, because by this time Paul had already converted to Ahmadiyyat and was a practicing Muslim. When we met them we clicked too. We used to sit around the table and have conversations regarding anything and everything. Sajida used to cook really nice food too and we would just have a really good time. Sajida was just a lovely person and even if I wanted I couldn’t say a bad thing about her and I believe this was due to the fact that she would live Islam, because whatever she believed in, she would practice exactly that. We started to regularly visit Sajida, more or less every other evening, because she would invite us. Eventually when we learnt about Islam and saw Islam in the character of Sajida and saw how she lived, we started to grow a love for Islam too and started to study it. We went to Sajida’s house so often that my father, whose name is Bill, started to get curious as to where we were going every other day and what we were doing there? Therefore he asked whether he could go too and Dr Khan agreed happily and they would sit together for hours and just discuss everything from current affairs to religion. But my father was stubborn and said that he would not change his religion for nobody because Dr Khan used to preach Islam to him. So Dr Khan gave my father some literature, which he studied and eventually started to study the Holy Qur’an. As he studied the Qur’an he used to mark out different verses of the Qur’an and make notes on the Qur’an and then go and ask all these questions to Dr Khan. This went on for a while and he used to go back and forth. One day I was sitting with him and he turned to me and said that all of this makes sense. So I used to say to him that you’re going to change your religion and you’re going to make me too. I used to say that Paul is already an Ahmadi now you are going to convert too, but not me.
It had been a while now that I hadn’t seen my mother and one day she came to meet me and said that she was going to stay over for a few days. We were sitting and my mother out of the blue told me that she had become an Ahmadi! I couldn’t believe it. Time passed by and I think it was after about a year. By this time we had got to know Dr Khan and other people from the community better and enjoyed their company and it was totally different, because the cultures were different too. It felt so peaceful to be with these people and it was an example to us the way they lived their life and how they followed their religion. There was no gossiping about other people and they would never back bite about each other.
Once we were sitting at Sajida’s house and another woman from Yorkshire came to their house, her name was Salma Khan. While all of us were talking, she turned around towards me and asked me, ‘give me a reason why you don’t want to accept Islam?‘ I turned to her and was just lost and I thought to myself that I actually don’t have a reason as to why I shouldn’t accept Islam. So I replied to her that ‘I don’t know!‘ And I said that ‘I am scared I guess.‘ She asked me ‘what are you scared of?‘ I told her that I actually didn’t know, but of the unknown I guess? She said to me that ‘you’ve been staying with us for a while now, your mother has converted and your brother has also converted. You know how we live and the kind of people we are and after all we’re not telling you to do anything, which is against humanity or the law.‘ Then out of nowhere she just asked me whether I want to be an Ahmadi? It was a shock for me, but I went quiet for a minute and I felt that the whole room was quiet too and I don’t know from where, but something inside of me told me that I was just running away from the truth and I had to accept the truth. So I said ‘yes! I want to become an Ahmadi.‘
When I got home I told my husband who was a Catholic. Initially he wasn’t very happy but I said to him. That you practice your religion I haven’t ever said a word about that to you and this is the path I want to follow so it shouldn’t be a problem to you too. He said to me that he knew I was going to convert. He stopped speaking with me because he wanted our daughter to go to a Catholic school and be brought up in a Catholic house. But eventually when he saw that nothing changed except for the better, he got used to it and he didn’t really mind.
That night after I got home, a little later, my front door rang and to my surprise it was my father. I asked him ‘what he was doing here?‘ and he told me that he had also converted. He told me that he had been ready to accept Islam for a while now but didn’t because he told himself that he would only convert, if I converted (didn’t want me to be the only one left who had not converted). So as soon as he heard the news that I have converted, (some of the ladies had rushed around to inform him) he converted too.
My perception about Islam before I converted, it would be fair to say that it wasn’t very deep, even that it was probably the same as having none. This was the reason why I would come to Dr Khan’s house and learn about Islam and it’s teachings. But obviously that all changed after I converted. Sajida started to teach me how to say the prayers and she also gave me lots of books in which I learnt about the positions of the prayer and the words in the prayer. The good thing was that it was in English translation, so I always knew what I was saying, which made it very easy for me. But then it started to get quite complicated because Sajida wanted to try to teach me the Arabic and I always said to her that I have come to the age that this is going to be hard for me now, but still I tried my best. Even my mother tried her best, because she had got ‘the hang of the Arabic,’ so I remember whenever I went to my mother’s house she always had a lot of books scattered over the dining table and she used to get me to sit down and try her best to teach me the letters of Arabic.
The prayer aspect of Islam wasn’t hard for me to understand because the concept of prayers had always existed in my life. When I was younger, my father used to take me to Sunday school and he used to also take me to Church. In all of these they emphasised a lot on prayer so this was something that stuck with me forever, which I thought was a strong thing to have.
The change Islam has bought in me after my conversion is that I think it has made me a better person. Before my conversion to Islam I would never think twice about what I was going to say, but now I do and I think of what the other person would feel like if I say a certain thing to them.
I have also met the fourth Khalifa and that was amazing for me because as soon as you see him you know that he is no average person, but still he never made anyone feel little. The amazing thing about him was that he had a calming effect on others. I remember once I spoke to him and he asked me whether I had any children and I told him that I have a daughter whose name is Rebecca and he turned to me and said that ‘I’ve read a book and book was also titled Rebecca and it was a very good book.‘ So this was an experience that I have had with the fourth Khalifa.
Since I have converted my relationship with God has definitely changed for the better and I feel that my relationship with Him is more intimate now. I remember having a dream a little while after my mother passed away. The dream was that I was on a bus and all the houses the bus drove past were white. All the roofs were domed and they had lovely arches. In the bus I was with my daughter Rebecca and I was saying to my daughter that I should buy myself a house like this. Then I was in a house and I was looking around and I felt that it was so peaceful and it was also very cool in the house although it was very hot outside. When I stepped outside I saw that my mother was living next door. I met my mother and I asked her what she was doing there and she told me that she lives there now. Then I told her that I was going to buy the house next to hers. That was the end of the dream. To this day I can clearly remember the place I went to and I can remember it exactly. This was a way I feel that God told me that my mother was in paradise and Insha’Allah I will join her one day and we will live together. So my relationship with God I would say has changed dramatically in a good way after my conversion.
At the end I am going to add a little letter written by the Sadr of Hartlepool Jama’at at the death of Bill Hedges who was the father of Vivienne Noble.
The letter is as follows;
It is with deep regret and sorrow that we announce the death on the 17th September 1990, of Mr Bill HEDGES of the Hartlepool Jama’at.
Bill was the head of the Hedges family of Hartlepool. This family is unique in the History of Ahmadiyyat in the United Kingdom. Less than four years ago, not one of his family members was a Muslim let alone an Ahmadi Muslim. Bill’s only son Tariq (Paul) was the first to accept Islam, followed by his mother Ayesha (Marion). Bill’s only daughter Vivienne accepted Islam on the 26th November 1988, the day on which the Hartlepool Jama’at were hosting the Forum for new Ahmadies in the north of England.
On hearing of his daughter’s acceptance, later that same evening, Bill intimated that he too wishes to embrace Islam, which he did.
From that day onwards, Bill’s love for Allah and the Faith of Islam grew in leaps and bounds. Not only was he an inspiration to us all, he was looked upon by the whole Jama’at as a father figure, always ready to listen and to lend a helping hand.
He was an avid reader of the Holy Quran and strived to put into practice its teachings.
On the 16th December 1989, he was honoured in the presence of Huzoor at the London Mosque, by being allowed to take the pledge at his hand. This moment was recorded by a Television Company.
Bill Hedges and his wife, taken for the Telegraph magazine
during the New Ahmadi Forum in Hartlepool in 1989
On the 21st and 22nd October 1989, a forum for New Ahmadies was again hosted by the Hartlepool Jama’at and on this occasion, the meeting were photographed by a representative of the Sunday Telegraph Colour Supplement. Bill and his wife Ayesha’s photograph duly appeared. The picture not only illustrated their obvious love for each other, its most outstanding feature among the hundreds of photographs taken, was that the Kalima and the Ahmadi slogan ‘Love for all Hatred For None’ were above them and these they so personified.
Bill’s family of Muslims are almost complete in that his son Tariq’s wife Rose, also accepted Islam as did the cousin of Ayesha.
To a great friend, husband, father and brother, May Allah grant Bill entry to His Gardens of Bliss and enable his family and our Jama’at to bear this loss with strength and steadfastness.
Alhamdo Lillahi Rabbil Alameen.