Being a Muslim, I am very much interested in listening to the stories of reverts. It really fascinates me, how people of different religions come into Islam by their own will. And all of them have beautiful stories of how they are guided by Allah (swt) to the true religion and to the one and only God.
On Wednesday night, 10th December, 2014, a Columbian lady came to my house with her husband and two little daughters: Shazia and Hanan. Actually, she was my father’s old friend’s wife. She was clad in a black Abaya with a scarf neatly tucked onto her face. Her mother tongue was Spanish, and so her daughters could only speak Spanish. They all were sitting in our drawing room, when the two cuties saw the whiteboard in our basement, and they wanted to write on it. So we all went into the basement and they just started playing. A huge smile came on their faces and they got busy. It was then that the Columbian lady told me that she reverted to Islam in 2001, and before that she was a Catholic.
I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly.
I was excited to know that she was a revert. I wanted to know everything about her journey to Islam. So we went upstairs at the dining table to talk. She asked me where and what was I studying. And then told me that she herself was a costume designer. She went to USA to get her degree in costume designing, as she was very passionate about it. I then asked her; “So how did you find your way to Islam and Allah (swt)?” She said; “Okay, so let me tell you my story. But I want all of you to listen; your mother, brother and sisters.” So I called my siblings and mom. We all sat at the dining table, eager to hear from her. As she recently learned English from USA, so her English accent was a mixture of Spanish and American English, which sounded really sweet.
She started off with her story. “I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly. I used to go to the church and ask the nuns: ‘Why can’t I pray to God directly? Why do I have to pray to the priests and saints as intermediaries?’ She said that’s how it was. But her answer did not satisfy me. I told her again: ‘Tell me a way, through which I’ll be able to pray to God directly.’ She told me: ‘For that, you will have to become a nun.’ Obviously I never wanted to become a nun, as I wanted to get married and have kids. This caused so much chaos in my mind that I just told myself that I wasn’t a part of any religion. However, it was somewhere in my mind that there is a God… the One Who created me.” She told.
“There were some thoughts that kept coming to my mind. I knew deep inside that there was a Creator – the One, Who created me. And I really wanted to pray to Him. My mother was a very practicing Catholic, whereas my father wasn’t that practicing.” “He’s an artist.” She added, looking at a painting on our staircase wall.
“I went to USA to do my career in costume designing, as I loved clothes. During my stay in USA, I used to live alone in an apartment with my younger brother. Since a very young age, my parents had taught me to be sincere and truthful. I used to tell myself: ‘Keep it clean.’ My brother had gotten into bad company, and his conduct was worsening day by day. I was getting very depressed for him, because back at home in Columbia, my parents were thinking that my brother was doing well, as he was living with his elder sister, i.e., me. But sadly, little did they know that the reality was very different. When I could not bear my brother’s ill behaviour any more, I told him to leave my apartment and live where ever he wanted. From then on, I was living alone. I was very disturbed. I started thinking about life, my purpose, God… I was in a state of utter confusion.
As I had to earn for my living, I started a part time job as an office cleaner. The job of cleaning is very beloved to me as God guided me to Himself through this simple job. So one day, I was alone in the office, and it was very late. I was exhausted. I went clumsily to get the cleaning equipment. Then, with a lot of effort, I cleaned the office. As I was tying the garbage bag, all of a sudden it fell on the carpet and all the tiny pieces of paper were scattered on the carpet that I just cleaned. Although I was drained out, I had to clean everything again – otherwise, my boss would get angry. So instead of bringing all the equipment again from the store, I sat on my knees and started picking up the mess with my hands. As I was on my knees, a very strange thought came to my mind; I am on my knees. I am humbling myself in front of whom? In front of this garbage just to please my boss? Why can’t I humble myself to God? Why?”
“You know, I used to write these thoughts in a diary. I still have that diary. Because I knew these thoughts were not mine. And I was scared I would forget these thoughts, so I secured them in the form of writing. I was lost in these thoughts. At times I felt like I was getting crazy. I never felt like partying anymore. My friends and I used to party a lot every weekend. But later, whenever they called me I used to refuse. I wanted solitude. I told them, “Leave me alone please.” I started thinking about life. I started thinking: whom am I worshipping? What are my desires? My career – costume designing? Is that it? Is this what I will be doing all life?
I felt empty and purposeless. I missed my brother, too. I prayed to God in my own way; I prayed that my brother comes back home. And after a few days, he did come back. This strengthened my belief that we can communicate to God directly without any intermediaries. And God listens to our prayers.
Now, when I look back, I realize that God was guiding me step by step. So one day, I was in my university library working on an assignment on the computer. I needed some assistance in setting up a program on the computer, so I went up to the librarian. She was a young lady, who wore Hijab. And she was writing an essay on Islam. I don’t know what happened to me, but I asked her if I could read her essay. She was astonished. She asked me, if I was interested in Islam. I told her: “I don’t mind reading your essay. I’m very open minded.” So she took my email address and gave her number to me. She said she’d mail me her essay. Her name was Zahida.
After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism.
So, I went home, read the essay. I was not intrigued by it. My depression phase continued… After some time, I had opted for another job of a house cleaner. Due to my parents’ upbringing, there were some values that were ingrained in my mind: to do every work with perfection and not to steal or lie in any case. Hence, I was a perfectionist even at cleaning. I used to clean every corner of the house. One day, I was cleaning this house, working too hard to clean it well. Suddenly, a thought struck my mind that why am I being so cautious while working? I am not stealing even though there’s nobody looking at me. Why? Because of recompense from my boss. I immediately got my answer to “What is life?” and “What is our purpose in life?” I thought just like I’m working sincerely because of recompense from my boss; similarly, in life, whatever we do, there will be a recompense from God for all our deeds. I immediately went into prostration and I was crying like a baby, although I knew nothing about prostration. It was just automatic, by default. I thought this was a last push from God for me to come to the true path.
I went back home and wrote about all this in my diary. Then I called Zahida (that Muslim librarian) and told her: “I don’t know why I feel like crying and I feel like talking to you only Zahida.” I told her about my recent thoughts. She told me: “God does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” I found these words so beautiful and soothing. I cried when I heard them. I asked her, if these were her own words. She told me these are from the Quran. I told her I wanted Quran. She told me she would send it to me with translation in my language i.e. Spanish. In the meanwhile, she gave me Hadeeth-e-Qudsi (Hadeeth Qudsi are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) as revealed to him by the Almighty Allah (swt). Hadeeth Qudsi (or Sacred Hadeeth) are so named because, unlike the majority of Hadeeth which are Prophetic Hadeeth, their authority (Sanad) is traced back, not to the Prophet but to the Almighty) to read. The Hadeeth-e-Qudsi touched my heart deeply. I knew this was the true religion that I was searching for. And Alhumdulillah, I took my Shahada.”
After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism. Subhan’Allah! She told me: “My parents named me Monica. But after accepting Islam, I named myself Sakina.” Sakina means: tranquility, devout, God-inspired peace of mind.
When leaving our house, Sakina hugged me warmly. And her daughters just clung on to me. They didn’t want to leave. I asked Sakina how to say “Come back soon!” in Spanish. “Regrato pronto!” she told me cheerfully. I asked her the same for “I love you”. “Te quiero mucho!” she said. I kissed her lovely daughters saying “Te quiero mucho.”
This beautiful sister left such a deep impact on my soul. How she yearned to pray to Allah (swt), how she cried, while prostrating. And then I thought of how strong her faith was, Masha’Allah. Most of us are born in Muslim families, but we hardly strive to find Allah (swt) and build a connection with Him. The signs are everywhere… if only we strive to seek for Him.