How She Found God

stepping-stonesBeing 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.

Part 2 – Chaplain Yusuf Estes

lightMy father was very active in supporting church work, especially church school programs. He became an ordained minister in the 1970’. He and his wife (my stepmother) knew many of the TV evangelists and preachers and even visited Oral Roberts and helped in the building of the “Prayer Tower” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were also strong supporters of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker, Jerry Fallwell, John Haggy and the biggest enemy to Islam in America, Pat Robertson. Dad and his wife worked together and were most active in recording “Praise” tapes and distributing them for free to people in retirement homes, hospitals and homes for the elderly.

In 1991, he began doing business with a man in Egypt and told me that he wanted me to meet him. Then my father mentioned that this man was a “Moslem.” I couldn’t believe my ears. A Moslem, no way! I reminded dad of the various things we had heard about these people, how they are terrorists, hijackers, kidnappers, bombers and who knows what else! Not only that, but they don’t believe in God, kiss the ground five times a day, and worship a black box in the desert. My father insisted that I meet him, however, and reassured me that he was a very nice person. So I gave in and agreed to the meeting.

I was looking for a huge man with flowing robes and a big turban on his head, a beard halfway down his shirt and eyebrows that go all the way across his forehead. But this man had no beard. In fact, he didn’t have hair on his head at all; close to bald. And he was very pleasant with a warm welcome and handshake. It didn’t make sense. I thought Muslims were terrorists and bombers; what was this guy all about?

I decided to get the right to work on him. He needed to be “saved”, and the Lord and I were going to do it! I was winning souls to the Lord day after day, and this would be a big achievement for me – to catch one of these “Moslems” and convert him to Christianity.

I asked him, if he liked tea, and he said he did. So off we went to a little shop in the mall to sit and talk about my favorite subject – beliefs. We talked about the concept of God, the meaning of life, the purpose of creation, the prophets and their mission, and how God reveals His will to mankind. We also shared a lot of personal experiences and ideas. Constantly on business trips, we became good friends.

One day, I came to know that my friend, Muhammad, was going to move out of the home he had been sharing with someone and would be living in the mosque for a time. I went to my dad and suggested that we could invite Muhammad to our big home in the country and he could stay there with us. After all, he could share some of the work and expenses, and he would be there whenever we were ready to travel. My father agreed, and Muhammad moved in.

I recall asking Muhammad how many versions of it were there. He told me that there was only one Quran and that it had never been changed.

One day, while visiting a friend in the hospital, I met a Catholic priest in a wheelchair, who seemed extremely depressed. The priest began to share his story of being a missionary for over twelve years in South and Central America, in Mexico and even in New York’s “Hell Kitchen.” When he was released from the hospital, he needed a place to recover. Rather than let him go to stay with a Catholic family, I suggested my dad that we invite him to come and live with us in the country, along with our families and Muhammad. It was agreed to by all.

After settling in, we all began to gather around the kitchen table after dinner every night to discuss religion. My father would bring his King James Version of the Bible, I would bring out my Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and my wife had another version of the Bible (maybe Jimmy Swaggart’s Good News for Modern Man). The priest, of course, had the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books it than Protestant Bible). We spent more time talking about which Bible was the right one or the most correct, than we did trying to convince Muhammad about becoming a Christian.

In the meantime, I had finally read the Quran in translation. I recall asking Muhammad how many versions of it were there. He told me that there was only one Quran and that it had never been changed. He also let me know that the Quran had been memorized in its entirety by hundreds of thousands of people in many different countries. Over the centuries, millions have memorized it completely and taught it to others, letter perfect without mistakes.

This did not seem possible to me. After all, the original language of the Bible had been a dead language for centuries, and the original documents had long been lost.

One day, the priest asked Muhammad, if he might accompany him to the mosque to see what it was like there. They came back talking about the experience, and we could not wait to ask the priest what it was like and what types of ceremonies they had performed. He said they just prayed and left. I said, “They left without any speeches or singing?” He said that was right.

A few more days went by and the Catholic priest asked Muhammad, if he might join him again for a trip to the mosque. But this time, they did not come back for a very long while. It became dark and we got worried that something might have happened to them. When they finally came in the door, I immediately recognized Muhammad, but who was this with him wearing a white robe and cap? It was the priest! The priest had become a Muslim!

I immediately recognized Muhammad, but who was this with him wearing a white robe and cap? It was the priest! The priest had become a Muslim!

So I went upstairs to think about things over a bit and began to talk to my wife about the subject. She then told me that she too, was thinking to enter Islam, because she knew it was the truth. I was really shocked then. I went downstairs and woke up Muhammad and asked him to come outside with me for a discussion. We walked and talked that whole night through. By the time he was ready to pray the morning prayer, I knew that the truth had become clear at last and then it was up to me to do my part. Behind my father’s house, I found an old piece of plywood and right there I put my head down on the ground facing the direction, in which Muslims pray five times a day.

In that position, with my head on the ground, I prayed, “O God, if You are there, guide me, guide me.” After a while, I raised my head and noticed something. No, I didn’t see birds or angels coming out of the sky, nor did I hear voices or music, nor did I see bright lights or flashes. What I noticed was a change inside me. I was aware then that it was time for me to stop lying and cheating and doing sneaky business deals. It was time that I really worked at being honest and upright man. So I went upstairs and took a shower with the distinct idea that I was “washing” away the sinful old person that I had become over the years. I was now coming into a new, fresh life – a life based on truth and proof.

Around 11:00 a.m. that morning, I stood before two witnesses, one the ex-priest (formerly known as Father Peter Jacobs) and the other Muhammad Abdul Rahman, and announced my Shahadah (testimony to the oneness of God and the prophet hood of Muhammad (sa)). A few minutes later, my wife followed suit and gave the same testimony.

My father was a bit more reserved on the subject and waited a few more months, before he made his commitment. But he did finally accept Islam and began offering prayers right along with me and the other Muslims in the local mosque. My father’s wife was the last to acknowledge that Jesus could not be a son of God, but that he was a mighty prophet of God.

Our children were taken out of Christian school and placed in Islamic schools. And now, ten years later, they were memorizing much of the Quran and the teachings of Islam.

If I were to stop here, I’m sure you would have to admit that this is an amazing story. But it is not all. The same year I met a Baptist seminary student from Tennessee who came to Islam after reading the Holy Quran while being in Baptist Seminary College! There were others as well. I recall the case of Catholic priest in a college town who talked about the good things in Islam so much that I was compelled to ask him why he didn’t enter Islam. He replied, “What? And lose my job?” His name was Father John, and there is hope for him yet.

The very next year, I met a former Catholic priest, who had been a missionary for eight years in Africa. He learned about Islam while he was there and embraced it. He then changed his name to Omar and moved to Dallas, Texas. Two years later while in San Antonio, Texas, I was introduced to a former Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Russia, who learned about Islam and gave up his position to enter Islam.

I have encountered many more individuals, who were leaders, teachers and scholars of other religions, who learned about Islam and entered into it

I have encountered many more individuals, who were leaders, teachers and scholars of other religions, who learned about Islam and entered into it, from amongst Hindus, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Coptic Christians, non- denominational churches and even scientists who had once been atheists. Why? Because they all became aware of the truth. I suggest to any seeker of truth the following:

  • Open your mind, heart and soul.
  • Clear away all prejudices and biases.
  • Read a good translation of the meaning of the Holy Quran in the language you understand the best.
  • Take time.
  • Read and reflect.
  • Think and pray.
  • Continue asking the One who created you to guide you to the truth.
  • Keep this up for a few months and be regular in it.
  • Above all, do not let others who are poisoned in their thinking influence you while you are in this state of “rebirth of the soul.”

The rest is between you and the Almighty Lord of the universe. If you truly love Him, then He already knows it, and He will deal with each of us according to what is in our hearts.

May Allah (swt) guide you on your journey to truth. And may He open your heart and your mind to the reality of this world and the purpose of this life. And peace to you and guidance from Allah (swt), the One Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer, of all that exists.

Source: “An Undeniable Fact – Prominent Church People Enter Islam” by Dr. Abdurahim bin Mazher Al- Malki. Excerpt printed by permission of the publisher Dar Abul-Qasim, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (www.abulqasimbooks.com).           

My Life – Story of a Revert Muslimah

islam__beautiful_saings_1_by_strugaartdollo-d494gfnDaiga, a convert Muslim and a mother of five, lives in Latvia, a tiny Eastern-European country. There are no other Muslims in her hometown, except her. Her unusual ‘virtual’ conversion story and her full of determination new life in Islam are truly manifestations of the most amazing ways Allah (swt) can guide people towards Islam.     

 (1) What was your experience with religion before you encountered Islam?

Being a Catholic by birth, up till thirty years of age, I truly believed in Catholicism – it was not just a formality. I attended church together with my grandmother and mother and deeply believed in the values Catholicism stood for.

(2) What was it that turned you towards Islam?

It is difficult to pinpoint the very first influences. Around thirty years of age, due to several reasons, I was going through a crisis of personal values. The deceitfulness of Catholicism had extinguished in me the faith in the values I had believed in, and I found myself in some sort of a religious vacuum. I never lost faith in God. I am talking only about the form of religion – about the fall of Catholicism as a religion in my eyes and my heart. Essentially, it was due to the gap between what was preached in church and what was happening in the real life – both in the doctrines of the church and in the lives of the people around me. I was especially deeply affected by some of my mother’s beliefs – this was, most probably, among the strongest reasons that pushed me out of Catholicism.

My first meaningful encounter with Islam (before that it was only curiosity) came through online talks with a Muslim man from Morocco. I had never before met anyone so frank, sincere and clean. It was a great surprise that in today’s world there could be someone so sincere in intentions and thoughts. This made me interested in the reasons that let people keep their thinking and attitude towards life so pure. It was Islam.

(3) Can you describe the time, when you were moving towards Islam? Which angles of Islam influenced you the most and why?

It was not an easy time for me. After years of discords in family life, which ended with a divorce, I felt confused about my feelings and emotions. I had reached the critical point of needing stability – something, which would be permanent and profound. Since my faith in church was lost and the advice of my mother went against my convictions, I needed something to believe in. In Islam I saw what I had been missing – invariable and unchangeable values, stability, peace.

(4) What was the final drop towards accepting Islam?

In a sense, it was like a revelation. At some point, I got the feeling that, yes, this is what really matters. God is One, and things happen with me only by His mercy. Only the trust onto the One gives meaning to my life. When I internally accepted that Islam is what I have been missing, I felt complete happiness. I can say that I know and can describe what happiness is.

(5) How, where and to whom you said your Shahadah?

My Shahada, just like my second marriage, which followed after it, are virtual. I said my Shahadah over the Internet through Skype to my Muslim friend in Morocco and his friend.

(6) How did you begin practicing Islam?

I began practicing Islam right after my Shahadah. I was convinced that if I am a Muslim, then I have to do everything the right way. Initially, before memorizing the text, I was reading my Salah from paper and learned the recitation through computer softwares. I stopped wearing skirts above my ankles. In about a week, I accustomed my work colleagues to the idea that I will be wearing Hijab. On the first day, I came to work with a small scarf covering just my forehead and ears. After a couple days, I put on a small Hijab, which covered my entire head and was tied behind my neck. After a few more days, I was putting on Hijab properly – so that only my face could be seen. I had to start buying my clothes in second-hand store, because only there I found long enough skirts and blouses that were loose fitting and long.

(7) What was the reaction from your family like? And what about your work-place and hometown?

At work I was accepted almost without any comments. When I came in Hijab, somebody asked, if I would be coming now like this always, and I answered – yes. I think colleagues talked about it behind my back, but nobody said anything in front of me. However, they still cannot understand why I refuse to participate in company outings.

Children accepted me. May be because they did not really have a choice. I am the only one, who takes care of them, so they try to respect me. Time to time, I do hear rebukes from my eight-year-old son. He feels hurt that his mom is not like other moms. May be at school somebody has said something or laughed about him.

With my own mom I had (and still have) painful problems. Once, when we accidentally met on the street, my mom could not control herself and began yelling at me. It was a big shock for me, because usually she does not show her emotions openly, not even talking about public places. I got the feeling that I had hurt her so deeply that she would never be able to forgive me. At the moment, our relationship is better, but only till the moment my way of dressing or religion come in question.

In my hometown, I am the only one wearing Hijab. I have heard laughing, cursing and swearing. Even on the Internet I have read remarks that in Jekabpils (Daiga’s hometown) one is going around in ‘those rags.’

(8) Have you had any pleasant surprises after becoming Muslim?

The time, when I daily searched for, found and studied the materials on Islam was truly beautiful. I did not have surprises – it was a steady feeling of happiness. Islam really is a total model of life given to people by Allah (swt). If this model would be adhered to, people would live in harmony. The actual encounter with people in Islam has somewhat deteriorated my notions about Muslims, but not about Islam.

(9) Have you experienced any hurtful incidents because of your conversion?

I do not want to talk about the negative. I have had verbal attacks, painful feeling that my relatives are suffering.

(10) Are you keeping in touch with the local Latvian Muslim Ummah?

As far as I know, in Jekabpils there are no other Muslims except me. I have been a few times in the mosque in Riga (the capital) and attended the Eid celebrations. However, due to several reasons, I cannot attend the events in the mosque on regular basis. I have not met any Muslim for quite long now. Time to time, I correspond with sisters over the Internet. I am really longing to meet other Muslims for refreshing the feeling of unity, for strengthening my Imaan.

(11) Can you tell a little about your second marriage after conversion to Islam?

I divorced my first husband prior to accepting Islam. After becoming Muslim, I realized that I want to have a family in the true sense of this word. Not only my five children, but also a husband. After reading about Islam, I really liked the Muslim family model. I longed for being a good wife and mother.

Since in my surroundings I do not have any Muslims, I put an advertisement in a Muslim matrimonial website www.qiran.com. Letters poured. Initially, I was surprised that among Muslim men there are so many, who are ready to accept me with my five children. Only later I found out that just a small percentage of them have clean intentions. For some time, I was corresponding with quite many Muslim men. The experience ranged from unpleasant to shocking. Then, through the same website, I got a letter from a man in Makkah. He already had a wife and a large family. I was offered to become the second wife. Originally, Abuhamed is from Morocco. He has studied in France and now lives in Makkah. Although he had a degree in engineering, he is committed to studies of Islam and writes books.

After a virtual meeting with Abuhamed, his wife and family, I accepted his proposal. I was given many promises – that soon I would not have to work any more, so that I can become a full-time mother and wife, that he would come to Latvia for getting to know my children and that afterwards we would be able to live in KSA or in any other country of our choice. We were planning that I would help him with online Dawah activities. I was truly delighted!

However, life has put many hurdles in the way of our new family. My husband has dedicated his life to studies of Islam and writing about Islam, while I am working for earning at least a decent living for my children. We have met two times in Istanbul, Turkey. He was refused visa for Latvia. He is continuously asking me to come to Makkah, but how is it practically possible, if I have neither a Mahram to travel with, nor money for buying my ticket? It is also not possible for me to uproot my children from their current lives and ‘throw’ them into a completely different environment than they are used to. I keep praying to Allah (swt) for uniting our family soon.

(12) What is it that keeps you steady on the Path of Allah (swt), despite the difficulties you face?

My relationship with Allah (swt) is guided by internal conviction, not by any external reasons. The difficulties, which come about due to external obstacles, cannot become a reason for doubts in the matters of faith. Faith can get affected only if a person has internal insecurities and lacks confidence in himself/herself.