Converts/Reverts to Islam: The Quran Wasn't What I Expected!
- The Quran Wasn't What I Expected!
A British Sister's Journey to Islam
By Reading Islam Staff
Saturday, 02 February 2013 00:00
I will shortly give you an introduction of why I became Muslim and how it just came about really.
About a year ago, my fiancée came back to his religion. When we first met he was Muslim, but he was not a practicing Muslim. And this time last year he actually came back to his religion and found his faith again. He started to read the Quran and pray, and everything like that.
He started to read to me stories about the prophets, peace be upon them, and also gave me a web site where I could read the Quran in English, and next to it was the Arabic translation.
The Quran actually wasn’t what I expected. The way it was written was really beautiful, and it seems to me that every question you had it was answered there. No matter what question it was or anything, there was an answer in the Quran at some point in it.
So the more I started to read about it, the more I wanted to learn about Islam, its principles and what it was like to be a Muslim in general, so I started to get books out and read them, and I also started to look at web sites on the Internet about Muslim converts and just anything that I could find really.
So it carried on for a few months, me researching and finding everything that I could, and in November of last year I actually said my Shahadah. I didn’t say it with anybody present, I said it to myself, and I did all the purifications and everything. So since then, it’s just been amazing. I don’t actually live in a Muslim community, so it’s a bit difficult for me to interact with Muslims personally.
I got a book out a few months ago, it was called The Bible, The Quran and Science, and that book is so great. It’s by an author called Maurice Baucaille, and he basically tells you all the contradictions of what the Bible says, between the Old and the New Testament, and how it has changed through the years. And then he also goes on to say that the Quran is in modern knowledge it can’t be explained, and therefore it must be the word of God, because things that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago cannot be explained today, how they knew it sort of thing, and it’s just a great book, you should check it out it’s really good.
So that’s in a nutshell, it took a few months for me to get there, but I did.
So brothers and sisters, you've got a new one to add to the family.
An American Sister’s Struggle to Find & Keep Islam
By Reading Islam Staff
Saturday, 19 January 2013 00:00
I am born and raised in Jersey City.
My parents are from Columbia and from Italy.
From being with my friends, spending time more with them, once I began on my own journey, really, because I really didn’t ask anyone exactly of other religion, it was just something teenagers at that age we really didn’t discuss about religion.
So I myself started searching on the Internet about Islam, that’s when I came into the site Why Islam, which was one of my web sites that I found, and they sent me a lot of information, books, the Quran, a prayer rug, hijab.
Once I got this information I started reading on my own. I also had ordered brochures about Islam. And once I continued to read more and more every day, it would just interest me and bring me more and more to continue to read and learn about it.
I continued to go on the web site here and there, and what I did see was a way to go into a mosque. They have you set up with someone in order to go and visit a mosque, so I did that, and they had e-mailed me and connected me with another sister, actually she had converted four months earlier, prior to my decision to converting, so I think that’s what made me feel more comfortable and push me to really convert was after I met this sister.
One day, through the Internet we connected, we called each other and we met and set up a date to go to the mosque. And after we did go to the mosque, she did take me before to an Islamic store, bought hijab, showed me how to wear hijab, and she made me feel very comfortable because she was African American, had converted four months prior, pretty much was going through the same process and questions that I felt that would push me away from Islam, and why I should convert. So every question I had she answered, and she was going through the same experience as I would after I converted.
That day that I did go with her to the mosque, she asked me if I wanted to take my Shahadah in the mosque. I had said La Ilaha Illa Allah Muhammadan Rasoul Allah, already at home, but she told me if you’d like you can say it with people around in the mosque. And she said one thing that made me and felt that it made me comfortable and I knew that this was for me, she asked me a question. And the question was if you died tomorrow would you like to die as a Muslim, and as a believer?
And that’s what made me think and brought me to say my Shahadah in the mosque that day, and the welcoming of everyone, all the ladies being so welcoming, comforting, crying, congratulating me, it felt like I was with a family that I was searching for and Al-Hamdulel-Allah after that day it was my journey into Islam, and learning more and getting closer to Allah.
Accepting Islam: What Changed?
I believe it was the process, it’s a daily process. At first I started reading, you know, I was very very into Islam, reading books, learning, going to classes, just trying to find more friends, Muslim women that I can be around and teach me, and I guess very little that my attire of how I would dress, how I would act with others, to me it was a way of life so everything I did I took it step-by-step, especially with my parents because they are not Muslim.
I started wearing hijab about maybe four months after, little by little. So I started praying and my mom would see me, my dad would see me, just the way I would act around them, my dedication and my effort to show them that this was not something that I was just going to drift away from or something that I was trying to do to fit in with my friends, it was a struggle and a challenge until now after so many years I can say Al-Hamdulel-Allah, it’s changed so much, but it’s still sometimes a struggle at times with them.
Your Experience From Then Till Now?
I’m very happy and very in to it.
You know I wanted to do everything at the same time, which at that moment you feel so good and you want to give da’wah, and to tell everybody about Islam, you know let everyone know about this religion and how beautiful it is.
But slowly I realized around people, Muslim and non-Muslim, they would act differently towards me I guess. I don’t know if it was too much for them at the same time, and knowing me already for so many years, so little by little I just learned to slow down, take things step-by-step, and do the most important things which were prayer, read Quran, learn Arabic.
I did go and learn Arabic in school, Arabic 1, Arabic 2. I went to the Quran classes in the mosque, your iman (faith) is high then low, then up and down, and I just had to learn how to work on that and how to gradually keep myself stable as much as possible in my iman, because it’s a struggle, in this world I believe ever day.
I can say in the beginning it was a struggle at first. In Jersey City, most of my friends and most of the peers that I did have that were Muslim that I went to classes with. Most of them are from Arab descent, so I pretty much felt a little bit out of place at times, although they would never make me feel out of place, they would always make me feel like part of the family.
But it just felt because I was the only one that was American-born or Hispanic-Italian background, just trying to fit in, and with my family telling me you are not Spanish anymore, you took your race out of you, not understanding, so it kind of put me in the middle, like am I trying to fit in? Is this just not for me? Is this just for Arabs?
But Al-Hamdulel-Allah, now compared to then, I’ve met so many people that are Muslims, that are Pakistani, Indian, Spanish, white, African-American that makes me feel comfortable and I know that I’ve made the right choice.
So, at first it was a struggle, but Allah has made it easier and easier throughout the years for me I believe…
12/13/2012 - Religious Interfaith - Article Ref: SW1212-5346
By: Talha Ghannam
Since reading Muhammad Asad's "The Road to Makkah", I have become fascinated with exploring the perspectives non-Muslims and converts have on Islam and life generally. Being born Muslim, many of us take for granted the way we think and act, rarely paying attention to the reasons why. We casually assume every person to be the same as us, unable to fathom the nuances between different perspective, the rationality behind their thought or the background with which they speak. What Asad brought to light in his book was a perspective on life which underlies all these different issues, something I had rarely ever considered before; change.
Change is a word we often hear. Though many of us understand what it is, few of us know how to actually achieve it. Ramadan has become the Muslim equivalent of a New Year's resolution; they come and go with promises of change but we often end up with very little to show for it. Change just seems too inconvenient.
What fascinates me with converts like Muhammad Asad is how they embody change. Every aspect of their life gradually changes over time, sacrificing the most deeply rooted of habits in order to align themselves with their new found faith. Their conversion is encapsulated through two key dimensions: an open mindedness to address the most fundamental aspect of their humanity - their faith - and a willingness to explore other perspectives of reality which were previously considered as foreign or wrong. By changing their faith, they are not only changing an identity or set of values, they acknowledge that all their previous decisions and actions may have been wrong and concede that the perspective they disagreed with was right all along. If they can overcome these two obstacles, everything else becomes a walk in the park. These two things are the keys to their success. The resulting changes are all fruits of this change.
As Muslims, we seem to have forgotten so much of this. We fail to understand that conviction is what drives the change, not our own actions. We need to 'convert' ourselves back to our original disposition, ridding ourselves of our intellectual and spiritual arrogance to search for the truth ourselves and recognize it wherever we see it. We must look beyond our own culture, habits and desires and be willing to place ourselves to learn what true faith and submission means. So many Muslims close their minds to any perspective other than their own, scarcely ever trying to understand the essence behind what they believe and practice. The process is gradual and the results take time, but this is the key which brought the fruits of change we witness in the great men and women in our history and the key to our own self reformation. I often reflect at what made the generation of the companions radi Allahu `anhum (may God be pleased with them) of the Prophet so
great. There are so many things we can cite; their support of the Prophet during the heydays of Islam, the transmission and preservation of the sacred tradition, their devoutness in following Islam in its entirety. But for me, there is a more fundamental role that each of these companions played before any of these could happen; their honesty in recognizing their own misguidance and their ability to change everything in order to live in accordance with their new found faith. Imagine an entire society of individuals whose focus was on their own spiritual journey before casting judgment on others. Abu Bakr , the greatest of men to walk this earth after the prophets, was named As-Siddiq (truthful and trustworthy) for his unequivocal faith in revelation and his rush in applying it to himself.
With this regard, converts are the modern day manifestations of the companions. Their journey is precisely what those great individuals went through in the past, and to understand them is to understand the companions of the prophet . I recently had the privilege to talk with a convert who has only been Muslim for a few years. Here is one extract which I will never forget:
"It's been almost one year to the day since I started practicing - praying five times a day, no pork/wine - although it took me a bit longer to take my shahadah (testimony of faith) formally since I wanted to be sure of what I was doing. There's something indescribable about such a huge piece of your life you never knew you were missing coming back one day to fill that gap you didn't realize you had."
"Even after I took my shahadah, in some respects it felt like getting a driver's license but not really having a car to drive. We really need to be training our imams (religious leaders) who do the shahadas to facilitate the spiritual process and not just the 'repeat after me and sign here' process."
"The thought of having your slate wiped completely clean is actually quite a daunting one. You would think one would feel all light and spiritually weightless knowing that everything you've done wrong before that day has been forgiven, alhamdulillah (praise be to God), but for me, it was quite a heavy feeling. It's the weight of sensing just a molecule of the immensity of Allah ; that He can, would and does forgive you, even after a lifetime of disobedience. It's the weight of knowing He still loves you after denying Him to His face, year after year, and that He never gave up on you. But most of all, it's the weight of knowing you don't want to let any dirt get anywhere near your now clean slate again, but the realization that you'll definitely continue to make mistakes, because you're human after all. But even then Allah will continue to forgive you until you get tired of asking. Subhanallah (glory be to God), it's nothing short of mind-blowing."
Reading that blew me away. So much of our perception of converts is the "all your sins are forgiven" part that we often neglect the huge struggle and reconciliation the person has to go through behind the scenes. We assume the change is "rational" and "easy" with just a simple utterance of a few words, yet we forget the difficulties that come with changing bad habits and adopting new ones, difficulties which perhaps merit the forgiveness. Rarely do we ever empathize through our own struggles of reformation yet we expect an immediate reconciliation and change in others, something we ourselves are incapable of! How many of us know that being fat is bad for us and against the sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ) yet never put anything in place to change it? How many of us know that food should halal and Tayyib (pure) yet are content to eat the conveyor-belt meat that fills our shelves? The list can go on... Relating to their struggle is far more effective
than judging it.
I remember sitting with one of my teachers in Egypt as we read the 'Letter of Imam Qushayri' (Risaalah Al-Qushairiyah), a book which describes the biographies of the great scholars during the early period of Islam. What struck me when reading the book was the number of these people who began their life as bandits, thieves and other kinds of criminals yet went on to become some of the greatest Muslims who have walked this earth. As we read through the book, I remember asking my teacher; "I know when someone converts all their sins are forgiven, but what happens if someone is already a Muslim? Is their only route to forgiveness the penal punishment?" As I said this, my teacher looks me in the eyes, smiles and says, "Is the One who is able to forgive the greatest sin of all (shirk) at the utterance of one sentence unwilling to forgive the smaller sins in the same way? All we need is to have that same conviction they do when they make that testimony of
So perhaps change is not the most difficult thing to understand or achieve after all. Most of us have not reached the level of criminality that some of the great people before us did before they began their process of reformation, so surely our journey shouldn't be as difficult. In fact, how many of us regularly demonstrate the capacity to change our lives when we hear the commandments of Allah; fasting, praying and giving zakah (charity) when asked to? In this light, the words of Allah become so much more meaningful as the significance of our own inner struggle and the tribulations of this world are cast in a new light:
"Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (Qur'an 13:11)
Source: SuhaibWebb - Talha Ghannam
Canadian Victoria Finds Inner Peace in Islam
By Reading Islam Staff
Saturday, 20 October 2012 00:00
How does it feel to be Muslim?
Amazing, ... indescribable.
Sometimes when people touch my life, or when Allah touches me, it’s a feeling that I never thought I could feel.
It’s like overwhelming compared to any sense of happiness that I've ever had in my life before this.
In what way is it different than before?
I’m much more patient now, I’m more understanding, more accepting. I’m not afraid to die anymore like before when I didn’t believe there is anything after death, that this is all what we have and then it’s over, and whatever you do in this time is what you do.
But now it’s like whatever I don’t do now I can do later. It’s like an unlimited amount of time, and it just makes refraining from all the things we shouldn’t do so much easier to know that there is going to be 10,000 times better things that we can’t even imagine afterwards. I’m just more at peace in my everyday life, in the way that I deal with people and in the way I deal with my work.
French rapper stuns fans, makes first TV appearance wearing hijab
Monday, 01 October 2012
By RAMDANE BELAMRI
Amid a nationwide debate in France surrounding attitudes towards the Islamic veil, or hijab, a French rapper has surprised fans by announcing her conversion to Islam and choosing to wear a headscarf.
Mélanie Georgiades, known as Diam’s, has gone through what onlookers have described as a “complete transformation” from an image she had prior to 2009.
Since 2009, Diam’s had been unusually absent from the mainstream rap scene, prompting more than three years of controversy over her whereabouts, despite making the odd public appearance with her scarf.
But recently the French rapper made her first television appearance with her new image.
Diam’s appeared in an exclusive TV interview with French TV station TF1, to talk about a past experience with drugs, including hallucinating narcotics, and being in a mental asylum until she discovered the “serenity of Islam.” The rapper said the religion was introduced to her by coincidence, when she saw a Muslim friend praying.
Diam’s, said she has been married for over a year and is a now a new mother, moving far away from her drug-relate past.
In her TV interview she said her “conversion to Islam was the result of a personal conviction, after understanding the religion and reading the Holy Quran.”
When asked about wearing the hijab in France, a country which has banned the niqab, she said: “I believe that I live in a tolerant society, and I don’t feel hurt by criticism, but by insults and stereotyping and ready-made judgments.”
Asked by her host about why she is wearing a hijab while many Muslim women don’t wear it, and don’t find it to be a religious obligation, she answered: “I see it as a divine order or a divine advice, this brings joy to my heart and for me this is enough.”
Diam’s said that by converting to Islam she gained comfort, adding that stardom doesn’t fit in with her life anymore, adding “this has warmed my heart, as I know now the purpose of my existence, and why am I here on Earth.”
Diam’s criticized the media which photographed her coming out of one of the mosques in France, wearing her Hijab and looking at her mobile, preceded by a man in a training suit, which many believed to be her husband.
Discussing how her life was like before her conversion to Islam, Diam’s said: “I was very famous and I had what every famous person looks for, but I was always crying bitterly alone at home, and this is what none of my fans had felt.”
She added: “I was heavily addicted to drugs, including hallucinating narcotics and was admitted in mental asylum to recover, but this was in vain until I heard one of my Muslim friends saying ‘I am going to pray for a while and will come back,’ so I told her that I want to pray as well.”
Recalling that moment, Diam’s said: “it was the first time that I touched the floor with head, and I had a strong feeling that I have never experienced before, and I believe now that kneeling in prayer, shouldn’t be done to anyone but Allah.”
Islam, a religion of tolerance
Diam’s said that she moved to Mauritius to read the Quran, and have a better understanding of Islam, discovering during her retreat, the tolerance of Islam.
When asked by her host about her views on Islam, and those who commit all the murders and atrocities pretending to be doing it in the name of religion, she answered: “I think we should differentiate between the ignorant and the knowledgeable, and the ignorant should not speak about what he doesn’t know, Islam does not allow murdering innocent victims the way we see it nowadays.”
Me, Natalie, and Rachel
A Muslim Woman’s Reflection
By Raudah Mohd Yunus
Freelance Writer- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Thursday, 09 August 2012 00:00
My friend Natalie, a Latvian girl who converted to Islam in 2008, resembles Nicole Kidman. So when the image of the Hollywood star comes to my mind, my lips make a naughty smile.
It was a calm Ramadan in 2008 in the small and peaceful town of Dundee, Scotland. No doubt, Natalie was slim, tall and beautiful just like any supermodel you would see on TV. When she spoke on how she came to know Islam, her soft voice was full of passion and her eyes would sparkle, enough to make you understand the excitement within.
During Ramadan, she would come almost every day without fail to the masjid, to mix with her new sisters in faith, learn to read the Holy Qur’an and pray Tarawih. When she prostrated, I could see her eyes closing so hard in concentration and her lips moving fast from reading prayers, as if she was in a deep conversation with God.
Her story was rather simple but interesting. Natalie had always been interested in religion and she was born a Christian. Throughout her teenage years she used to read books on different religions, one after another, until she came to know Islam.
Coming across the Holy Qur’an, she found it amazing and heart-touching. Slowly her heart became drawn to it, and she began to believe. Not having the chance to convert, she continued life as a Christian until she came to Dundee University to study, and met Muslim students. Subsequently, she proclaimed Shahadah during the holy month of Ramadan.
For Natalie, her struggles were different from ordinary Muslims. First, Islam was still new to her and there was so much to learn. I saw her struggling to put on hijab, to pronounce the Arabic letters while reading the Qur’an and to understand the different Muslim cultures in the Muslim community around her.
I wondered whether she knew that most of our cultural practices had nothing to do with Islam. Then came the next obstacle: emotional isolation caused by disconnection from her natal family.
Natalie’s non-Muslim roommate reacted with hostility upon receiving the news of her acceptance of Islam and Natalie had no choice but to leave. Her parents in Latvia were secretly informed about her conversion and they were in shock. Natalie was torn between her new passion for Islam and embarrassment for defying her parents’ religion. She was also torn between her old lifestyle which in many respects contradicted Islam and the new Muslim culture. On top of that, in a few weeks’ time she was to marry Abdullah, a Pakistani man who was a university friend.
Being a Muslim does not mean one will get along easily and automatically with other Muslims of different cultures and backgrounds. I was secretly praying that the marriage decision was made out of wisdom and thorough thinking and not simply out of excitement of meeting a Muslim man, or to wipe out the loneliness in her heart after being distanced from old acquaintances. Those, in my observation, were Natalie’s main struggles and Ramadan was the perfect time in which she sought help and inner strength from the Most Compassionate.
The Qur'an & My Own Curiosity Led Me to Islam
Interview with an American Financial Consultant
By Reading Islam Staff
Saturday, 11 August 2012 00:00
Interviewer (Umar Nasser):
In the main Islamic society of New Hampshire, in the Masjid here, I’m joined by one of my brothers in Islam, brother Joel Underwood.
Assalamu Alaikom (peace be upon you), and thank you for agreeing to spend some time with us and share with us your story of how you came to Islam and how you were attracted to Islam.
But as we begin, I want to know a bit about your life before you came to Islam, before you started to study Islam.
Joel: I suppose it is easiest to say I was a typical American who was raised as a Christian with some variety.
I definitely believed in God, and I was a serious person. When I was reading the Christian Bible, I would read it very carefully and critically trying to understand what it would offer. And from there, I migrated through a number of thought processes, as I grew older, trying to understand my life. I didn’t really have any exposure to Islam. I didn’t know any Muslims.
Umar: Even when you went to college?
Joel: I was not aware of any one. I went to a college in the North East of the United States which is predominantly white from the New England area. There was very little diversity in schools back then. So, my coming to Islam was really my own journey that came about in a way that I could never imagine.
Filipino nurse embraces Islam
By FOUZIA KHAN
When 55-year-old Duris Newels, head nurse at Abdulkarim Bakr Medical Center, Jeddah, embraced Islam last week, it was a proud moment for the clinic and its staff.
Newels, now Dania Newels, was a Catholic Christian working at the center for the past five years.
"It is a proud moment for us. We are delighted to announce that our head nurse accepted Islam on her own wish and we wish her success. I also thank our Muslim staff members who helped Dania in understanding Islam in its right perspective," said Dr. Tawfik M.N. Rahaimy, CEO and executive director of the medical center.
"We at the center are not just staff members but are a small family," he added, thanking Mohammed Bakr, chairman of the board of trustees, and Dr. Zakiya Baker Muhandis for their "continued support to the clinic and staff".
Speaking to Arab News, new Muslim Dania said that although she had been a Catholic for a long time, she wasn't a practicing Catholic. She went to a Catholic school because her "parents told her to do so".
"My family and relatives call themselves Catholic Christians. So when you are born in such an environment, you have to accept whatever is around you, without ever knowing what religion exactly is," Dania said.
"In the Philippines, when I was young, we had a very negative conception of Muslims; we believed that they are bad people, traitors, and are always against us. We never dealt with or studied about faith; it was only in our mind," she added.
When Dania came to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to work, it was the first time she met many Muslims.
"I was shocked to know about Muslims, their religion and practices because I had never seen anything like that in the Philippines. I had never seen a mosque or heard the Salah. I gained all this basic information here," she said.
Dania describes her life as a 'roller coaster" with many ups and downs. She has hopped from one religion to another but none satisfied her, she said.
"When you are despaired in life, you always look for someone who can help you. I have been to the church but nothing satisfied me," she said.
Dania befriended several Muslims here but the thought of embracing Islam never crossed her mind until an incident that she says changed her perspective about life.
"Five years ago, I never thought that such a moment will come in my life. Life is very difficult. I started to ponder on what being a Muslim is like. I asked my Muslim friends about it and what they had to say, such as about the Day of Judgement, hell fire and life in the Hereafter, interested me. They told me that Allah SWT is the only Creator, Nourisher and Sustainer and there is none besides Him and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last Prophet. Belief in these principles makes one a Muslim; it is so simple," Dania said.
She further read books on Islam, watched videos on the life of the Prophet (pbuh). She read about the difference between the Bible and the Qur'an and compared the two religions.
"Though I understood many things, I still had doubts in my mind. One day we received a patient who was about to die. She was hospitalized for a long time due to a back fracture. I asked for a sign from God. I said to God that I will accept Islam if the patient, Sultana, is cured," she said.
Dania said she was not quite expecting Sultana to recover. "The same day Dr. Tariq informed me that Sultana had recovered and was doing well. I didn't know what was going on. I was sweating and didn't know what to say. I told Dr. Tariq about the sign I had asked God to give. That very moment I realized that I must keep my words and accept His true religion, the path He showed me," Dania recalled.
Dania went to Makkah to perform Umrah after she accepted Islam last Friday. "I only pray that Allah SWT will guide me on the right path and will be there for me always. I hope I am not late in discovering the light of truth," she said.
"Islam is a complete religion, which not only belongs to Saudi Arabia and the Arabs but it is the religion of the universe. In Islam, you are directly dealing with your Creator. It is not only for your present life but also for your life in the hereafter," said Chairman Bakr, congratulating Dania and praying for her guidance.