Daiga, 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.