Islamic Ladies Social and Cultural Association
Sisters Serving Humanity
The Story of a Revert
Ever since my birth my parents made it their duty that I had a firm foundation in Catholicism. They ensured that I not only attended a Private Catholic School but had the Sacraments of the Church bestowed upon me (Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation). I was an active member of the Church I attended participating in every event, from plays to cakes sales, youth group and prayer circles. As a result I was loved by everyone from my peers to the now deceased Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
Everyone was proud of me, especially my mother, and things went on like that until my early twenties when I came across an Islamic Programme on television. The Imam of the programme spoke about the Oneness of God and what it represents. He spoke of Muhammed and how he lived, what he preached, and some of his trials. I was astonished, intrigued, but more importantly curious as I found the doctrine of Towheed to be consistent with reason and logic as opposed to that of the Trinity. Then the Imam said something that would turn my curiosity into a quest. He said in numerous places in the Quran God encourages mankind to reflect, to challenge, and to think for yourself.
Now that was an irresistible appeal for me for I never came across a religion or a book that challenged me to challenge it. As a Catholic I always felt that my mind was trapped in a bubble and locked in a box; that I could not think for myself and ask the questions that haunted me for years. Questions like how can God die, or when he did allegedly die whose power was it to cause the sun to rise for three days. I remember once wanting to ask these questions and more to our close friend of the family, the Archbishop, but at the time was too shy since giving towards such thoughts and far more questions would be considered heresy.
I got a copy of the Quran and while I could not read the Arabic I read the English and pondered on its meaning. I also became very fond of its Arabic Recitation which I frequently listened to on television. Its enchanting beauty, and tranquil melody did for me what no musical instrument nor any song could ever do. It melted my heart.
Then, at age 24 I did the best but most challenging thing of my life. I accepted Islam. My church, my family, my mother was not only shocked and confused but also very disappointed and weary. With all the negative misunderstandings of Islam, and all the media sensationalism of the Muslim World, coupled with all the wrong practices of Muslims, be it culturally or otherwise, they all had 1990 reasons why I should reject Islam and 911 more reasons why I would be a fool if I did not.
Battered and bruised from the people I knew all my life. Ostracised and stripped of my inheritance as I was taken off the will. Rejected as a daughter, a niece, a neighbour and now not having any friends I turned to the Muslim community for comfort.
I remember as a child there was a big beautiful Masjid not too far from where my cousins lived. I used to visit them for the holidays and could vividly remember not only the tall minaret but also the women with their headscarves and the men with their beards and robes. I remember always thinking that they looked like Mary and Jesus. Also, five times a day the call to prayer was sounded and though I could not understand its meaning I loved listening to it. I decided to visit that particular Masjid to see and speak to someone. One evening I entered the Masjid and saw a sign with the word Sisters written on it. I entered the sisters’ side and sat in a corner of the Masjid. I reflected on my life and was confused, because now having the correct belief as a Muslim brought joy but changing my belief as a Catholic brought a lot of strife so I started to cry. Then two sisters entered the Masjid. I wiped my tears as I saw them walking toward me. I was happy as this was an opportunity to talk to a sister about my situation as a new Muslim. I looked up at her with a smile and she looked at me, gave me greetings and before I could reciprocate she told me that I was in her spot. I was shocked but I gave way and got up. There were some chairs next to “her spot” so I sat on the closest one to her only to get some advice that may help and comfort me. But before I could ask or say anything I felt someone touching me on my shoulder, I turned around and saw that it was the other sister. She told me that I was sitting in her chair. Already emotional, but fighting very hard not to show it, I broke down. I got up and walked out of the sisters’ side.
I thought, maybe I was attempting to speak to the wrong people. Maybe I needed to speak with the Imam. As I entered the hall I saw a group of brothers and one of them looked like he was the Imam. I made my way towards them but saw that they were having an argument about what I later came to know as the famous debate of the Tazeem. This experience being my first real interaction with Muslims only amplified my emotion and exacerbated my situation. I was more confused. I wondered to myself, was this a bad time, did I go to the right Masjid, did I meet the wrong Muslims or was I even in the right religion? Then I remembered what the Imam on television said about Towheed and hence I was reminded that this is the right belief.
I left for home and on the way I remembered feeling a sense of confidence in my belief theoretically but I was weary of my ability, as well as my fellow Muslims’ ability, to practically implement the guidance of Islam. I arrived home and immediately turned to the Quran. I came across the verse where Allah says that the believers are friends, protectors and helpers’ one to another.
At that time I did not have any Muslim friends, and the only one who supported me was my father whom I did not live with. He consoled me and later gave me a gift of three khimars. He told me that he will contact his good friend Dr Wahid Ali for me to speak with. The next day I received a very pleasant call from my father with the good news of an invitation to visit Dr Ali’s home. We met for afternoon tea with him and his daughter. We spoke of old times and how I came to accepting Islam. His daughter took my contact number and promised to keep in touch with me which she has done up to this day. I continued reading all the literature I could find on Islam reflecting and trying to understand it whilst at the same time working and furthering my academic studies.
It was not long before I found out how far and wide the gap is between the knowledge of Islam and the understanding of Islam; hence the reason for the many different sects, groups and organisations that can be found in the Muslim world today. I strove hard, and continue, to follow Islam in its purest sense. The Islam that the Prophet and his companions practiced (the Quran and Sunnah). But I soon found that many fundamental aspects of Islam were sidelined and in some cases replaced by the culture of the people and the country that Islam came to. Also, I found out that many Muslims had a challenge in deciphering the difference between Islam and Arab culture. My greatest finding on Islam however was the undisputed fact that what qualifies us to be true Muslims is that we do not separate the religious rituals of the Quran and Sunnah from the politics of the Quran and Sunnah. As Allah says in the Quran those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are sinners, wrong-doers, and unbelievers.
As I conclude, I wish to advise all Muslims, and myself first, to always remember that we do not know what someone else is going through, nor their level of Iman. As such we must always be welcoming, and have a pleasant disposition to our fellow Muslims, for all you know they may have just taken their Shahada. Or, they may be a close friend (wali) of Allah, as the great Messenger of Allah Yusuf (as) was, who was seen as a nobody when he was found in a well and was sold into slavery for a few silver coins which Allah commented in the Quran on by saying in such light esteem did they view him. And finally, we must embody what As salaamu alaikum truly means ,that is to say, that while it literally means May the Peace of The Almighty be with you, it represents I am safe with you as you are safe with me.
As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.