News about Converts/Reverts: Canadian professor finds true religion
- Canadian professor finds true religion
By JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published: Mar 30, 2012 00:29 Updated: Apr 1, 2012 00:22
David Roy Woelke, a Canadian English language instructor at King Abdulaziz University, embraced Islam at the World Assembly of Muslim Youth’s (WAMY) headquarters here Wednesday.
Abdul Elah Al-Ajlan, deputy director of dawa programs at WAMY, assisted Woelke to recite the Shahadah (Lailaha Illallah Muhammad Rasulullah “there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God” during a brief ceremony at the organization.
Woelke, whose new name is Dawood, said he embraced Islam after he was fully convinced that it is the true divine religion. He conducted a comparative study of Islam and his former religion Christianity and noticed a lot of differences.
“When I came to Saudi Arabia I realized how wrongly the Western media portrays Islam as a religion of violence and terrorism. In fact, it’s a religion of peace and universal brotherhood,” he said.
Woelke said it was this biased portrayal of Islam that prompted him to learn more about this religion and read the Holy Qur’an. “When I came to know that Islam is the true religion I decided to cut my relation with Christianity.”
The Canadian said he saw a totally different picture of Islam and Muslims in Saudi Arabia, adding that it was quite opposite of what has been projected in the Western press.
“Many Muslim friends encouraged me to accept Islam as my religion. Once a Pizza salesman told me he wished to see me becoming a Muslim very soon,” he said, adding that deeper studies about Islam made him closer to the religion.
Asked what would be the response of his family, Woelke said: “Mine is a tolerant and open family. However, they may find it a bit strange in the beginning because of their wrong perception of Islam painted by the Western media.”
He expected his family members would ask him about the Islamic teachings and how he would adapt with them. “There are a lot of misunderstandings about Islam in their minds. But I am quite sure that their impressions about Islam would change when I explain to them its various teachings,” he pointed out.
“There is a vast distinction between faith and religion,” said Woelke.
“Religion is a man-made institution but faith is the relationship between man and God,” he told Arab News. “I want to be busy working on my own relationship with God and not so busy about another man’s relationship with God,” he added.
Soon after reciting the Shahadah, WAMY employees embraced Woelke and congratulated him for accepting the true religion. The dawa department at WAMY gave him a copy of the Qur’an and a number of Islamic books in English as a gift.
Dr. Muhammad Badahdah, assistant secretary-general of WAMY, expressed his happiness over Woelke’s decision to embrace Islam. “Thousands of people belonging to different religions and nationalities, especially educated men and women like Woelke, are coming to the fold of Islam every year,” he said.
The WAMY official reminded Muslim governments about their duty to propagate the message of Islam and urged them to establish a ministry for the purpose. WAMY conducts dawa programs in more than 70 countries through qualified Islamic preachers. “Muslims are responsible to take the message of Islam to other communities,” Badahdah told Arab News.
He said a large number of men and women in the West had embraced Islam following the trident media campaign against Islam and Muslims following the 9/11 events. “There was huge demand for English translation of the Qur’an and Islamic books at bookstores. I am sure Islam will attract honest people like Woelke.”
Dr. Ismail Maritheri, an English teacher at KAU and a social activist, was overjoyed hearing the pleasant news. He said Harold Trupos, a former South African English professor at the university, had also embraced Islam because of the negative portrayal of the religion in the Western press. “He started learning about Islam when he saw a different picture of Islam and Muslims in Saudi Arabia.”
Queenie’s Change of Heart
By DONNA CORPIN & RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | LIFE.STYLE@...
Published: Dec 7, 2011 01:49 Updated: Jan 31, 2012 13:31
Queenie Padilla shares her rebirth after performing Haj in Makkah
By all accounts, a young Filipino singer-actress dubbed "the future leading lady" was on her way to stardom before she had a spiritual rebirth.
Queenie Padilla was starring in primetime TV shows and would sing and dance in production numbers on popular variety shows in the Philippines. She was the other half of a romantic pairing ("love team" in local showbiz parlance) meant to set hearts aflutter. At 20, she was living her dream — or so she thought.
"It was a deceiving dream," Queenie told Arab News as she sat wearing an abaya and a veil on her head. Devoid of makeup, her face is just as angelic and even more beautiful than when she was all dolled up for guest appearances and shows.
The Saudi media had recently picked up on the story of the Filipino celebrity who went to Makkah and came back with Islam reignited in her. After performing Haj for the first time, she declared to all and sundry that show business was now behind her. The YouTube video in which she tearfully shares her life-changing Haj experience was going somewhat viral; it was garnering likes and getting shared and re-shared among Muslims, and not just in the Kingdom. "Inspiring" was the consensus.
What triggered a 180-degree turn for the young lady who was dead-set on pursuing a showbiz career a mere four years ago? How did the decision come about? And, how did she break it to her fans?
Queenie said she had been so worried what the producers, directors, managers and especially her fans would think. Everyone had expectations of her and she was feeling the pressure. She had to ask herself: “Am I going to live my life disobeying Allah or am I going to make the final decision in living my life as a good Muslim and really practice Islam the right way? There was a struggle but I had to make a choice. So I made that choice. I quit.”
Queenie calls herself a revert to Islam because it was only eight months ago that she embraced her faith wholeheartedly after visiting her mother in Australia, where she grew up nominally Muslim with her two sisters and their youngest brother.
Her father Robin, who comes from a big showbiz clan, famously married Queenie's mother in Muslim rites inside prison as he was serving a 21-year sentence for illegal possession of firearms in the early 90s. He was pardoned by the then-president, and he left jail in 1998 no less famous than when he entered it. He remains one of the Philippines' most bankable action movie and TV stars to date.
The busy life of a celebrity didn't leave much time for Robin to educate his family about Islam as much as he would've wanted, but Queenie credits him nonetheless, because if it weren't for him they would not be Muslim.
“When I went to the Philippines, my father told me to wear a hijab and pray. But I didn't know why I was praying. I was ignorant about Islam and about being Muslim. At that time I hadn't yet tasted the sweetness of faith. I think that's why I was misguided.”
Their mother started practicing Islam herself just two months before Queenie did, and she let her eldest daughter know her desire for her children to become good, practicing Muslims. Queenie says that when she first saw her mother after the latter rediscovered Islam, she was pleasantly “shocked.”
“I saw this glow in her that I've never seen growing up as a child. Everything that came out from her mouth was all about Islam and Allah. And she was reading the Qur'an constantly and listening to lectures and she wore the hijab. I asked her if she was afraid of wearing the hijab in this society. She said she wasn't because she has piety, and that's all that matters."
Over dinner, they would have conversations about the Hereafter and whether or not they obeyed Allah with their deeds and actions.
"It got me thinking," she said. "I started evaluating and asking myself if I was really happy with my job, and I realized that there was something missing in my life. There was emptiness inside. I wanted to feel what my mother was feeling because she was so happy and content — and peaceful. I told her, 'Oh please, I want to learn more about Islam.'"
And she did. As she learned more about Islam, she knew she had found what would fill the void: renewed religious fervor.
“It was an amazing feeling. I think it was a calling from Allah. The more I learned about Islam, the more it became my passion. And every day, when I gained more and more knowledge, the missing parts of myself began to grow. The emptiness is gradually going away too,” she added.
Queenie went to the Kingdom solely as a pilgrim and not an actress, although she met the Filipino community just the same. She visited the International Philippine School in Jeddah and other Saudi private schools where the students' reception was uniformly warm.
Her most unforgettable experience in her brief two weeks here, however, took place in a hospital where she visited a 30-year-old Filipino woman with a rare form of cancer. Queenie prayed for the patient who dreamed of going to the Kaaba. Shortly after, the woman reverted to Islam and declared her formula of faith in Islam, making Queenie “the happiest person alive.”
“The patient awakened me in a way; she reminded me that sickness or death could hit us anytime. Every day as Muslims, we should prepare,” Queenie said.
Queenie’s parents, now married to different people, are very happy over her decision to fully practice her religion. Her next mission is to share more about Islam with her sister Kylie, who is an up-and-coming star in her own right back home. Queenie also plans to major in business, and at the same time, take up Islamic studies.
These days, Queenie speaks with a conviction not previously seen in some of her TV interviews, in which she appeared reserved and even a little nervous. She has transformed into a lady who conveys the message of Islam to people with courage and confidence, even if she admits her knowledge is still limited.
Queenie — or Khadija, the Muslim name she recently adopted — is sure to lose fans once she leaves the glare of klieg lights completely, but she looks to have gained new ones in her journey of proclaiming her faith.
See Youtube video:
‘Embracing Islam is the best deal I made in the Kingdom’
By WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS
Published: Jan 25, 2012 01:39 Updated: Jan 25, 2012 21:00
US businessman and pilot calls for efforts to project true image of his new religion
RIYADH: Just after spending one month in the Kingdom, where he was treated with kindness in a spiritual atmosphere, American businessman and pilot Richard Patterson, converted to Islam.
Richard, who is now called Abdulaziz, owns a company providing services in critical care. It has a capital of $50 million, and a fleet of two aircraft and two helicopters, specializing in medical flights.
Abdulaziz arrived in the Kingdom on a contract with the Saudi Red Crescent to train students for air emergency. During his stay, three members of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance invited him out for dinner. The members who worked with the “Guide Me to Islam” project, talked to Abdulaziz about Islam and it’s real essence.
“I came to the Kingdom for a commercial deal. I was so thrilled to make the best deal of my life with God Almighty by converting to Islam,” said Abdulaziz, during the conversion ceremony, commending the Saudi attire and describing it as comfortable and beautiful.
When Abdulaziz was in his country, he used to hear negative things about Islam through media channels, which were aimed at distorting its image.
“Just reading about Islam is not enough to understand Islam. It’s meeting people who best represent it and reflect its true spirit,” said Abdulaziz. He considers himself lucky to discover through Muslim friends he met and dealt with in the Kingdom that Islam is a religion of righteousness and tolerance. “Muslims and Saudis are kind, humble and open to others,” said Abdulaziz, adding that he felt they were like family to him, and never experienced alienation or ill treatment from their side.
What attracted Abdulaziz the most to the Saudi society is that it is religious. That helps people relate to religion as a part of their daily life. “I wish I could bring all my colleagues to the Kingdom to experience what I have and change their viewpoints on Islam,” he said.
Abdulaziz called upon fellow Muslim businessmen to work on attracting foreign businessmen to Islam, accusing them of not taking serious initiatives to call their peers to this glorious religion. “We can provide books on Islam to delegates during business meetings which help present true image of Islam to others,” said Abdulaziz.
Teacher and scholar Esam Abdul Razzaq, who translated for Abdulaziz, said that celebrities and key figures play a greater role in their societies in projecting a certain image. “Successful people have a credibility among members of their society, as they are considered important. Therefore, when they choose to convert to Islam, they trigger curiosity in others, who in turn, want to know more about this religion,” said Abdul Razzaq.
BOONE LIFE: A Columbia woman tells how she converted to Islam
Monday, December 5, 2011 | 12:08 p.m. CST; updated 7:57 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 15, 2011
BY KATIE CURRID
COLUMBIA — Jessica Fay is a blonde. But you wouldn't know that from looking at her, and that's just the way she likes it.
"No one can really judge me straight off, 'Oh, you're a dumb blonde, I'm not going to listen to what you have to say,'" Fay said. "When I cover my hair, people can't judge me right away off of the color of my hair."
Fay is Muslim, and she wears the hijab, the Islamic veil that covers a woman's hair. She said there are many reasons she likes wearing the veil, which is required by the Quran, the Islamic holy book. The veil also comes with a certain dress code that usually includes being covered from head to toe, with most of the arms covered, too.
"It's kind of nice because when I walk down the street, I don't see (men) going and looking at my body — they're looking straight at me," Fay said. "I feel more a sense of respect and dignity from that, knowing I don't have to show my boobs to get respect from a man."
For the past two years, Fay has taken baby steps to become a Muslim. It took her a few years to adopt the veil. She said she was nervous other people would judge her when she started wearing it. She used a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to help her transition, and since she returned to America wearing the hijab, she has experienced support and curiosity.
Some would call her process a conversion, but Fay refers to it as her "reversion."
"In Islam, what they believe is that all babies are born Muslim," Fay said. "If their family is not Muslim, they learn a different religion or whatever. So they call it reversion because you're reverting back."
Becoming Muslim can be difficult for those who weren't raised in a Muslim family or with an Arab background. Islam, which requires prayers five times a day and prohibits alcohol and some other foods, takes commitment.
As a college student, not being able to drink alcohol can be difficult, Fay said. She added that it doesn't help that she's already in an awkward transition in her life, as she started graduate school this year.
Many of her undergraduate friends have left Columbia, and she has a hard time keeping in contact with the ones who still remain, she said.
"It's hard to find something that your friends are going to want to do with you that doesn't involve drinking," Fay said. "But then again, I want to think about: I wear hijab and I don't want to misrepresent my religion and make people think, 'Oh, that’s OK.'
"It's a process," she said.
Fay isn't Arab, which leads some people to be curious about her, such as when she is trying to get a table at a restaurant or is in the supermarket. She said sometimes people are more open to discussing Islam with her because of the color of her skin.
"People may be just a little more curious than if I looked Arab. Then they'd be like, 'Oh, that's expected, I don't have to ask her why.'"
Despite the stereotype, only 12 percent of Muslims worldwide are Arab, according to PBS.
Fay said she hopes that her looks will lead those who don't understand Islam to ask questions. She wants to be a good representative of her religion, which she said she thinks is often misunderstood.
"I hope to educate them in a way, if only to show that I'm not oppressed by my hijab," Fay said. "I go to the gym, and I work out. I'm going to run a 5K. I'm doing things. I'm also a shy person, but I'm talking out more in class. I want to educate, but I'm not going to pressure anyone."
My journey to Islam
By ABDULLAH AL-KANADI
Published: Dec 1, 2011 23:05 Updated: Dec 1, 2011 23:05
My name is Abdullah Al-Kanadi. I was born in Vancouver, Canada. My family, who were Roman Catholics, raised me as a Roman Catholic until I was 12 years old.I have been Muslim for approximately six years, and I would like to share the story of my journey to Islam with you.
I suppose in any story it’s best to start from the beginning. During my childhood I attended a Catholic religious school and was taught about the Catholic faith, along with other subjects. Religion was always my best class; I excelled academically in the teachings of the Church. I was pressed into service as an ‘altar boy’ by my parents from a very young age, which pleased my grandparents a great deal; but the more I learned about my religion, the more I questioned it! I have this memory from my childhood, I asked my mother on Mass: “Is our religion the right one?” My mother’s answer still rings in my ears to this day: “Craig, they are all the same, they’re all good!” Well to me this didn’t seem right. What was the point of me learning my religion if they were all equally good!?
At the age of twelve, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer and died a few months later, after a painful battle with the disease. I never realized how deeply her death affected till later on in life. At the tender age of twelve, I decided I would be an atheist in order to punish God (if you can even fathom such a thing!) I was an angry little boy; I was angry at the world, at myself and worst of all, at God. I stumbled through my early teenage years trying to do everything I could to impress my new “friends” in public high school. I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn, for being sheltered in a religious school you don’t learn what you would in a public school. I pressed all my friends in private to teach me about all the things I did not learn, soon enough I gained the habit of swearing and making fun of people weaker than me. Even though I tried my best to fit in, I never actually did. I would get bullied; girls
would make fun of me and so on. For a kid my age, this was devastating. I retreated to myself, into what you would call an ‘emotional shell’.
My teenage years were filled with misery and loneliness. My poor parents tried to talk to me, but I was belligerent towards them and very disrespectful. I graduated from high school in the summer of 1996 and felt that things would have to change for the better, since I believed they couldn’t get any worse! I was accepted in a local technical school and decided that I should further my education and maybe make good money, so that I would be happy. I took a job at a fast-food restaurant by my house to help pay for school.
A couple of weeks before I was to start school, I was invited to move out with some friends from work. To me, this seemed like the answer to my problems! I would forget my family and be with my friends all the time. One night, I told my parents I was going to move out. They told me, I couldn’t, and that I wasn’t ready for it and that they wouldn’t allow it! I was 17 years old and very headstrong; I swore at my parents and said to them all sorts of evil things, which I still regret to this day. I felt emboldened by my new freedom, I felt released, and I could follow my desires as I saw fit. I moved in with my friends and didn’t speak to my parents for a long time after that.
I was working and going to school when my roommates introduced me to marijuana. I was in love with it after the first ‘puff’! I would smoke a bit when I got home from work to relax and unwind. Soon though, I started to smoke more and more, until during one weekend I had smoked so much, that it was Monday morning and before I knew it, it was time for school. I thought, well, I’ll take one day of school off, and go the next day, since they won’t possibly miss me. I never returned to school after that. I finally realized how good I had it. All the fast food I could steal and all the drugs I could smoke, who needed school anyways?
I was living a great life, or so I thought; I became the ‘resident’ bad boy at work and consequently the girls started to pay attention to me like they hadn’t in high school. I tried harder drugs, but alhamdulillah, I was saved from the really terrible stuff. The strange thing was, when I wasn’t high or drunk I was miserable. I felt worthless and completely valueless. I was stealing from work and from friends to help maintain the ‘chemical haze’. I became paranoid of the people around me and imagined police officers were chasing me around every corner. I was beginning to crack and I needed a solution, and I figured that religion would help me.
I remember seeing a movie about witchcraft and I thought that would be perfect for me. I bought a couple books on Wicca and Nature Worship, and found that they encouraged the use of natural drugs so I continued. People would ask me if I believed in God, and we would have the strangest conversations while under the ‘influence’, but I distinctly remember saying that no, in fact I don’t believe in God at all, I believe in many gods as imperfect as me.
Through all this, there was one friend who stuck by me. He was a ‘Born Again’ Christian and was always preaching to me, even though I would mock his faith at every opportunity. He was the only friend I had at the time who didn’t judge me, so when he invited me along to go to a youth weekend camp I decided to go along. I had no expectations. I thought I would have a huge laugh making fun of all the “Bible Thumpers”. During the second evening, they had a huge service in an auditorium. They played all sorts of music which praised God. I watched as the young and old, male and female cried out for forgiveness and shed tears over everything. I was really moved and I said a silent prayer along the lines of “God, I know I have been a horrible person, please help me, and forgive me and let me start fresh.” I felt a surge of emotion come over me, and I felt tears roll down my cheek. I decided at that moment to embrace Jesus Christ as my
personal Lord and Savior. I raised my hands in the air and started dancing around (yes, dancing!) All the Christians around me were staring at me in stunned silence; the guy who mocked them and told them how stupid they were for believing in God, was dancing and praising God!
I returned to my party home and eschewed all drugs, intoxicants, and girls. I promptly told my friends how they needed to be Christians so they could be saved. I was shocked that they rejected me, because they always used to pay attention to me before. I ended up moving back with my parents after a long absence and used to badger them with the reasons why they should become Christian. They being Catholic felt they were already Christian, but I felt they were not, for they worshipped Saints. I decided to move out again but this time on better terms and was given a job by my grandfather who wanted to help with my “recovery”.
I started to hang out at a Christian “youth house” which was basically a house where teens could go, to get away from family pressures and discuss Christianity. I was older than most of the boys, so I became one of those who talked most and try to make the boys feel welcomed. In spite of this, I felt like a fraud, for I started drinking and dating again. I would tell the kids about Jesus’ love for them, and during the nights would drink. Through all this, my one Christian friend would try to council me and keep me on the right track.I still remember to this day my first encounter with a Muslim. One of the boys brought his friend to the youth house. He was a Muslim kid whose name I forgot. What I do remember is the boy saying “I brought my friend ‘so and so’, he’s a Muslim and I want to help him become a Christian”. I was absolutely amazed by this 14 year old kid, he was calm and friendly! Believe it or not, he defended himself
AND Islam against a dozen Christians who were hurling abuses at him and Islam! As we sat there fruitlessly thumbing through our Bibles and getting angrier and angrier, he just sat there, quietly smiling and telling us about worshipping others besides God and how, yes, there is love in Islam. He was like a gazelle encircled by a dozen hyenas, yet the entire time, he was calm and friendly and respectful. It blew my mind!
The Muslim kid left a copy of the Quran on the shelf, either he forgot it or left it on purpose, I don’t know, but I starting reading it. I soon became infuriated with this book when I saw that it made more sense than the Bible. I threw it against the couch and walked away, seething with anger; yet, after I read it, I had a niggling doubt at my core. I did my best to forget about the Muslim kid and just enjoy my time with my friends at the youth house. The youth group used to go to various Churches on weekends to prayer events and Saturday nights were spent in a huge Church instead of at the bar. I remember being at one such event called ‘The Well’ and I felt so close to God and wanted to humble myself and show my Creator my love for Him. I did what felt natural, I prostrated. I prostrated like Muslims do in the daily prayers, yet I didn’t know what I was doing, all I knew was, that it felt really good… it felt right, more than anything
else I had ever done. I felt very pious and spiritual and continued on my path but as usual, started to feel things slipping away.
The Pastor always taught us that we must submit our will to God’s, and I wanted nothing more than to do that; but I didn’t know how! I always prayed “Please God, make my will Yours, make me follow Your will” and so on, but nothing ever happened. I felt myself slowly slipping away from the Church as my faith ebbed away. It was at this time that my best friend, the Christian man who had helped me come to Christ, along with another close friend of mine, raped my girlfriend who I had been with for two years. I was in the other room too drunk to know what was happening and unable to stop anything. A couple weeks later, it was revealed that the man who ran the youth house had molested one of the boys that I was friends with.
My world was shattered! I had been betrayed by so many of my friends, people who were supposed to be close to God and working towards Paradise. I had nothing left to give, I was empty again. I walked around as before, blindly and without direction, just working and sleeping and partying. My girlfriend and I broke up soon afterwards. My guilt, rage and sadness encompassed my entire being. How could my Creator allow such a thing to happen to me? How selfish was I?!
A little while after, my manager at work told me that a “Moslem” would be working with us, he was really religious and we should try to be decent around him. The minute this “Moslem” came in he started Da’wah. He wasted no time in telling us all about Islam and everyone told him they didn’t want to hear anything about Islam, other than me! My soul was crying out and even my stubbornness could not squelch the cries. We started working together and discussing our respective beliefs. I had given up on Christianity completely, but when started asking me questions, my faith surged and I felt I was a ‘Crusader’ defending the Faith from this evil “Moslem”.
The fact of the matter was that this particular “Moslem” wasn’t evil like I had been told. In fact, he was better than me. He didn’t swear, he never got angry and was always calm, kind and respectful. I was truly impressed and decided that he would make an excellent Christian. We went back and forth asking things about each others religions, but after a time I felt myself getting more and more defensive. At one point, I became very angry… here I was trying to convince him of the truth of Christianity, and I felt it was he who was on the truth! I started to feel more and more confused and didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I had to increase my faith, so I jumped in my car and roared off to ‘The Well’. I was convinced that if I could only pray there again, I could get the feeling back and the strong faith and then I could convert the Muslim. I eventually got there, after speeding the entire way, and found it was closed!
No one was in sight, I frantically looked around for another similar event so I could ‘charge up’ but found nothing. Dejected, I returned home.
I started to realize that I was being pushed in a certain direction, so I prayed over and over to my Creator to surrender my will to His. I felt that my prayer was being answered; I went home and laid in bed and at that moment I realized that I needed to pray like never before. I sat up in bed and cried, ‘Jesus, God, Buddha, whoever You are, please, please guide me, I need You! I have done so much evil in my life and I need Your help. If Christianity is the correct way then make me strong, and if it is Islam, then bring me to it!’ I stopped praying and the tears went away and deep within my soul I felt calm, I knew what the answer was. I went to work the next day and said to the Muslim brother “how do I say ‘hi’ to you?” He asked me what I meant and I said, “I wanted to become a Muslim”. He looked at me and said “Allahu Akbar!” We hugged for a good minute or so and I thanked him for everything and I began my journey into
I look back at all the events that happened in my life over time, and I realize that I was being prepared to become a Muslim. I was shown so much mercy from God. Out of all that happened in my life, there was something to learn. I learned the beauty of the Islamic prohibition of intoxicants, the prohibition of illegal sex, and the need for the Hijab. I am finally on an even keel, no more am I too much in one direction; I am living a moderate life, and doing my best to be a decent Muslim.
There are always challenges, as I am sure many of you have felt, as have I. But through these challenges, through these emotional pains, we become stronger; we learn and, I hope, turn to God. For those of us who have accepted Islam at some point in our lives, we truly are blessed and fortunate. We have been given the chance, a chance for the greatest mercy! Mercy which we don’t deserve, but still will God willing be given on the Day of Resurrection. I have reconciled with my family and have started looking to start my own God willing. Islam truly is a way of life, and even if we suffer poor treatment by fellow Muslims or non Muslims, we must always remember to be patient and turn only to God.
If I have said anything incorrect it is from me, and if anything that I have said is correct it is from God, all Praises are due to God, and may God bestow His mercy and blessings upon his noble Prophet Muhammad, Amen.
May God increase our faith and make it in accords to that which pleases Him and grant us His Paradise, Amen!
Journey of faith
Published: Jan 12, 2012 20:13 Updated: Jan 24, 2012 18:50
Denja Abdullahi is a renowned Nigerian poet who performed Haj in 2011. He recounts how he traveled to the holy land to perform the pilgrimage.
The general belief in my part of the world, the African continent, is that your first Haj happens only when called by Allah and in spite of whatever preparations you make, you will only make it to the holy land if your time to answer that special call has come. Some who may have prepared so well end up not making the trip while others who never imagined they will make the trip suddenly find themselves on their way to Haj.
I only became sure I was destined to answer the Haj call when I found myself on the plane bound for Jeddah. Many on that same flight who were making the trip for the first time like me felt the same way as we had all anticipated that flight with bated breath. Seeing Jeddah with its dazzling light from the air announced our entry at last into the holy land and lifted our spirit. The formalities at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah were bearable and a couple of hours later we were on our way to Madinah.
We entered Madinah after the morning prayers and we were all eager to see the famous mosque of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). However, the problem of moving to our accommodation delayed some of us from this cherished first visit until the following day. The following day, after going round Madinah on a guided tour of historic places like the Quba Mosque, Uhud battlefield and cemetery and other places, which we had read so much about and now encountered, we ended up at the Prophet's Mosque. The environment was very welcoming though getting to pray at the Rawdah (inner precinct of the Prophet's mosque) was a Herculean task. I made three attempts to pray at the Rawdah in my one-week stay in Madinah before I became satisfied. The stay in Madinah was so stress free, comfortable and the daily visit for prayers at the Prophet's Mosque was such a pleasure that one wished the whole of the Haj period had spent in that manner.
Arriving at Makkah before dawn after a rather long journey from Madinah in Ihram and reciting the Talbiyah all the way, was the first indication that performing the Haj would not be a piece of cake. Soon we herded ourselves into the Masjid Al-Haram to perform Umrah rites and our first site of the Kaaba was humbling rather than overwhelming. The emotion was like “this is the much photographed, much talked about sacred house, which we have been facing in our prayers all these years.”
We were now so close to even touching it! Allah-o-Akbar! Umrah rites completed, our group went through the ritual of getting lost, losing our bearing and having to ask for directions before we could find our way back to our residence. It was not a funny experience. I passed the long days before the commencement of Haj rites making the daily visit to the Haram for prayers, drinking Zamzam, shopping in the innumerable shops for taking home souvenir, religiously buying my daily copy of Arab News which I was forced to "discover" while in Madinah when a brother from home gave me the news by phone, of first, the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Through Arab News, I followed the tremendous preparations of the Saudi authorities for the Haj and I learned about some of the things to expect as a pilgrim during the Haj.
You can never prepare well enough for the Haj rites as a first-time pilgrim. Being told about it can never take the place of the actual experience. The tranquil stay at the tent city in Mina, the standing at Arafat, the long and tasking night at Muzdalifah, the grueling trek to the Jamarat Bridge for the first throw of pebbles at Satan, then the throwing of pebbles on subsequent days and the Tawaf Al Ifadah and Sa'ee marking the completion of the Haj rites, were experiences apparently difficult but made easy to accomplish because they were collectively undertaken and shared with fellow pilgrims. The whole of the Haj rites itself tells us that when things are done in unison, with single mindedness, with sincerity and with cheerfulness and respect for fellow men and women irrespective of race and status, the outcome will always be success and satisfaction.
Post Haj stay in Makkah for me was a period of rest, contemplation and reflections on the lessons of Haj. I was impressed with the organizational ability of the Saudi authorities and their unceasing efforts to make the Haj a more comfortable experience for pilgrims every year. I was amazed at the massive construction projects under way around the Haram and in other parts of Makkah; all to make the Haj in future a more comfortable experience for pilgrims. I wondered at the strain the pilgrims of bygone days must have gone through in their own journey of faith and was almost feeling guilty that we have had it so easy. However, I wished transportation of pilgrims during the Haj days between and around the holy sites should be looked into more seriously to reduce the mostly unavoidable physical strain pilgrims go through by the unending trek from one place to the other. Also, through the mutawif groups or other kinds of arrangements, pilgrims should be well
informed of what they would encounter in performing the various Haj rites.
I left Makkah for the onward journey back home through Jeddah with a feeling of spiritual fulfillment, a much fitter body and with loads of tales to tell and souvenirs to give the eagerly waiting family and friends.