If you'd told the teenaged Aeliya Hayat that by the time she was in her 30s she'd be a full-time mum and devout Muslim, she would never have believed it.
Originally from Kazakhstan, she was known as Yuliya when she was sent by her employer to Dubai. Then 20, religion was the last thing on her mind as she found her way in a culture of shopping and flash cars, working in sales for a computer firm.
"It was a selfish kind of life. I had my own principles but I was like the person who has no ground beneath their feet ... I had no sound foundation."
Hayat hadn't embraced her family's Christian orthodoxy.
"I started from a zero level in religion overall, not just Islam. But in a Muslim country I was exposed to the culture. My colleagues at work were Muslim so it was an opportunity to inquire and I started observing. Then I met my husband-to-be and he paved the way towards Islam for me.
"I had lots of questions. I used to argue about everything and question everything and it took time to understand."
It was in 2001, about a year after she met her husband, Kashif, that she made her decision. "I started to accept Islam and started changing my lifestyle. Once I was 100 per cent convinced it was the path to follow I said to him, 'Okay, I'll convert'.
"I didn't convert because I fell in love, but the relationship helped a lot. He was such an example to me. At the same time, I had to use my intellect and logic. It was not forced on me."
But the change wasn't easy. She gave up alcohol and changed her wardrobe - no more tight-fitting clothes or elaborate makeup. "I was a typical Western girl, the same as the girls you see in New Zealand, the same way of living and dressing. Life took me 180 degrees and I had my ups and downs. From time to time I was thinking 'What am I doing?' Then I would do more learning about it and found peace. It took time but it was quite a bit of a jump."
Now, she says covering up makes her feel safe and secure. Islam comes with rules for everything from how to go to the toilet to how to fulfil your purpose. "I thought, 'Isn't it a bit much? Where's the freedom?' Then I realised this is the way, if you want to be human and not an animal, you have to follow certain rules."
She moved to New Zealand in 2011 and lives with her family in Flat Bush, Auckland.
"I used to have a motto of just enjoy life. Friends knew me as such an outgoing girl with a career.
"Now it has turned upside down. I married at 21, have four children and now I'm a nice mother and housewife ... it's such a drastic change, you wonder how is that possible? But it's possible if you take small steps one at a time, it becomes your nature, it becomes you."
New Kiwi believers 'didn't take much convincing'
Hemi Taka was cooking breakfast after a night out at an Auckland club, when the television programme
Voice of Islam
caught his attention.
It was 2006 and the 26-year-old roof tiler had been looking for more out of life. He'd visited churches and studied Buddhism and Hinduism but nothing felt like a good fit.
"I started watching, then a verse from the Koran came up and I thought 'what are these powerful words?'"
He began watching the show each week and studying the Koran. After two years, as his fifth child was about to be born, Taka decided to make the leap.
"I went into a local mosque but no one came up to ask if I needed help so I went home and asked God to send me a Muslim brother to help me."
Taka discovered his car mechanic was Muslim. "He was so excited and said, 'Go home, shower, I'll come and take you to the mosque'," says Taka.
The transition wasn't easy. Friends thought Taka was joking or going through a phase. "They'd call me a suicide bomber but I brushed it off. My wife used to laugh because I had to recite prayers in Arabic, she'd tease me when I was fasting."
His wife, Debbie, eventually converted and his family came to terms with the change. Giving up drinking was a big deal for a guy used to socialising. "I finally gave up drinking in my second year of being a Muslim and I've only slipped up a couple of times.
"I was so upset when I found out I couldn't eat pork but after watching a few documentaries on pork and the health issues with it, I didn't take much convincing."
Many of the Islamic rules are basic common sense, Taka reckons. He says he's a better husband, healthier and keen to spread the message about Islam. He hands out brochures at weekend markets.
"I'm still a normal Kiwi. I take the kids to the beach, eat icecream, go to the pools, but I pray five times a day and fast. It's made us better people with better conduct."
As for Debbie, she was first exposed to the religion when Taka converted.
" I kept thinking, ' Oh, he'll get over this one.' When he became Muslim I thought, 'He's really lost the plot this time.'
"It took eight months after Hemi converted to realise he's not drinking any more, he's spending all night talking to the brothers and getting to know more about the religion.
"He's still never here - but he's not coming home drunk and wasting money."
Hemi organised for Debbie to meet other converts. "It's the biggest eye and heart opener. It's made life seem so pure and easy to understand."
Despite her passion for the Islamic faith, putting on the hijab was another matter.
"It took me about six months. I'm the chairwoman of the board of trustees at the kids' school, the school netball coach, the SKIDS [out-of-school care] worker, the parent help. What would people say?
"I would wear it then get down the road and think, 'I can't do it' and take it off."
A friend asked who she was trying to please - other people or God. "I thought 'that's it, I don't care what anyone else says, I'm not taking it off.' This is me, if you don't like me for this you've got the problem'."
Now the 34-year-old mother of five says she notices people treat her differently when her head is covered.
"I could go into the supermarket and everyone would say, 'Hi, how's your day?' When I walk in with the scarf they look at me like I can't speak English. I say hi and they're blown away."
Debbie and Hemi have four girls aged 11-to-18 and a 7-year-old boy. They also have three teenage girls placed with them by Child, Youth and Family.
Debbie worried how she would fit in prayers five times a day - but jokes it's become a welcome relief. "At those five prescribed times, it's like finally your brain can have that five-minute chill out thing."
Debbie says she felt a bit lost before she became Muslim.
"It put things into perspective. I saw massive changes in my husband, thought, 'Wow, this can only be good for the kids'."
Since she converted, Debbie says she has met at least one New Zealander, often Maori, a week who has also converted.
And she says understanding is developing slowly but surely.
"It's the Kiwi way to shake hands with men [which Islam does not permit].
"I have to meet so many Ministry of Education people at the school and it's like they already know, they'll say, 'Oh, we know not to shake your hand.'
"I smile. I think people are becoming more educated."