God is with me

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Ilze Laila

With her husband and two sons, European revert to Islam Ilze Leila currently lives in Egypt, where she owns a successful tourism business.

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god_is_with_meQuite often I have returned to the very beginnings for starting a ‘new life’. As long as I can remember myself, I have always been looking for the true path and, when unable to find it, returned to the starting point once again. Now, having entered my thirties, I have once again embarked on something new, and finally it is clear that this time it is the right way.

To explain, what God means to me, I have to go back to my very first impressions and conclusions.

  • Islam – Despair of Women

Ever since my childhood, I’ve been reading fairy-tales about the eastern beauties spending their lives under the veils of harems. Today, I’m reading about terrorism, harshness, despair. Not undeservingly the media is called ‘the third force’ – facts can be presented in many different ways, and it is easy to confuse people, especially when talking about the unknown. After reading the book “Allah’s Brides” my verdict about this religion was clear – Islam was the despair of women.

  • Islam – A Soap Bubble

I got to know this religion closer in Turkey. I was a tour guide, read a lot, asked questions from my Muslim colleagues and observed them. It was interesting to see two distinct realities: in Quran and in theory of this religion, there were strict laws and regulations, which seemed strange and exaggerated to us, non-Muslims; while in real life, together with my Muslim colleagues I went to entertainment places and brought for them bottles of alcohol and hot-dogs (with pork) as souvenirs from Latvia.

As the time went by, I realized that the main sign of Muslims present in this area were the numerous mosques, exceeding one another in beauty. Only when peeking into these I could see some old men mumbling something under their noses.

However, I still consider Turkey as my beginning, because just before the end of the tourism season, I happened to take a group of tourists to Istanbul. One of our sight-seeing objects was the Blue Mosque. I have to admit that I didn’t even know what to expect from this visit – may be some higher force, His presence? From the visit to this famous mosque, I remember crowds of people with shoes in their hands and the continuous noise of snapping cameras.

After the Blue Mosque, I let the tourists enjoy the magic of eastern markets, while I decided to go for a stroll. My legs by themselves brought me to a small, ordinary-looking mosque. I don’t know from where I got the courage to enter it, even though no woman was in there. I’ve kept in my memory very unusual feelings. I entered the mosque and sat on the floor at the wall in the very back and prayed… I remember only the complete silence, peace in my heart and feeling that He really exists.

  • Islam – Sufferings and Difficulties

I came to Egypt in the middle of Ramadan. With a great interest I noticed that people were observing Allah’s (swt) laws, but again a paradox – it didn’t bring happiness to them. I remember that this was the time I read the first time the Hadeeth, in which the Prophet (saw) asserts that religion is easy, that the aim of Allah (swt) is not to torture people throughout their lives. This is what I read in the books, but in reality I saw the sufferings and difficulties of fasting.

  • All Muslims will go to Paradise

A young man came into my life. With eyes full of excitement, he told me, how beautiful this religion was – that it was full of peace and not difficult at all. He told me that Allah (swt) loves us all, forgives us and that all Muslims are following the only true religion, and, what is not insignificant – that ALL Muslims will go to Paradise.

Since these beautiful words came together with expressions of love, I gave in, I believed. When I asked about the sufferings and difficulties of fasting, I was told that the restrictions apply only during the day. Prayers? Not praying is bad, but Allah (swt) forgives everything. Allah (swt) does not require official marriage? No, because Allah (swt) sees what is in our hearts. I felt that it was strange that the written did not correspond with the reality, but I was flying because I wanted to fly.

  • The Last Hope

I became pregnant and the soap bubble of my excellent Muslim man got burst. All the beautiful and the imagined crushed. In my entire life I had not cried so many tears and had been so hopeless like in those couple of months.

I understood that I had only one way out – I had to accept Islam. It was sort of a practical deal: I become a Muslim, my man starts loving me again, and we live happily ever after and die on the same day.

I started to search for information on how to become a Muslim. Just like Christians had baptism, so also here I would have to do some specific actions and the thing would be done. The last hope of a despaired woman.

  • It’s Not Just Words

I remember the evening I was sitting alone in my bedroom. I gathered my courage for saying the Shahadah and knew that He is with me and that those were not just words. If I will pronounce these words, nobody will hear them, except me and Him. It was not a revelation that God exists. I have felt Him throughout my life. But now He was next to me, and now I will have a Witness, a Supporter… or a Judge for my every action. I remember how trying to read the words of Shahadah from a piece of paper, my hands got sweaty and the voice was trembling, because I realized that these were not just words.

  • Deal with Allah (swt)

I remember the despair I felt that evening. I was a Muslim. Allah (swt) has accepted my testimony (I knew it for sure because I felt His presence). I needed something from Allah (swt) but I also had to give something in return. I knew that my request was big – to open the eyes and heart of my man, so that we would realize, what he was doing. So I also had to give something big. That day I decided to give the only thing, which did not cost me anything – to become closer to Him.

  • My Side of the Deal

The very next day, I put on Hijab. Day after day, I was reading and learning. At the beginning, I was performing just the actions of Salaah, then memorized one Surah, then another, till I completed my Salaah. Day and night, I didn’t stop pleading with Allah (swt) to open his eyes, to open his heart.

Reading more and getting to know Islam as the given by Allah (swt), I realized that it did not have any connection at all with what I had read before and experienced in Turkey. People, although they were Muslims, had forgotten what this religion was. Allah (swt) opened my eyes.

  • Allah (swt) Answers Prayers

I still cannot believe this, but Allah (swt) opened my future husband’s heart and eyes, and our life changed. My man started to pray, to go to mosque, changed his friends and, most importantly, without all these external things, he let Allah (swt) into his heart, and I could feel it.

Today, we are married. We have two naughty boys. We get up together for the dawn prayer to perform it together. We spend hours together talking about the things we’ve learned. We compete in counting the bruises we’ve got in worshiping and praising the One, Who opened our hearts and eyes.

They say about me that not my husband introduced me to religion but I returned him into it. But I know – Allah (swt) answered my prayers.

  • God is with me

I am a proud and independent woman; therefore, my every step in Islam is the result of hard and long inner struggles. Nobody promised that it would be easy. But the prize is worth it. Alhamdulillah, Allah (swt) is with me and helps me to find the right way and answers.

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