Saturday, 8 December 2012
An Orphan Found Islam
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is the conversion story of my friend. She is shy so for the sake of anonymity, we shall call her Maryam here since it is a name she loves. She is a convert, a single mother who is living with her children in a non-Islamic environment, surrounded by Muslims.
“There were so many times that I had been asked how I came to Islam but I have never been able to explain it in its entirety. If I were to start from the beginning of my life, I could never get to the end. And if I were to begin from my conversion to Islam, there would have been so much left out of that would the understanding. When Islam came into my life and entered my heart, I was at a turning point in my life. I had been trying to escape the darkness from my past. I had spent my life lost and alone. I had been searching in the faces of strangers for my parents. I was ever searching for love and the completeness that I felt I lacked.
In those nights when everyone went home to their families, I went home alone. In the small hours of the night, I read the Bible and prayed to God and Jesus (a.s.) to Help me. I have always loved Jesus (a.s.) since I was a child. I had spent a part of my childhood in a Catholic orphanage being taken care of by nuns; nuns who wore the habit. My memories of them and the stories of Mary’s (a.s.) purity stayed with me throughout the years. I have always wanted to be like Mary (a.s.) and this love I had for Jesus (a.s.) was planted deep in my heart. I took solace talking to him and singing songs of praise for him and God.
I had moved to another city after a failed relationship with my daughters’ father. I moved into a place for single mothers trying to get back into education and work. This new area home had many Muslims. In all honesty, I knew nothing of Islam apart from the fact that Muslims are forbidden to drink or eat pork. One of my new neighbours was a devout Muslim lady with three children. She was recently divorced. She was not wearing the Islamic attire when I first met her. We became friends since we were often on the same courses within the premises. I admired her greatly. She was such a good mother and was always polite and friendly.
As her closeness to God increased, she started wearing the hijab and I would ask her about it. She slowly drifted away from keeping company with us and spent most of her time in the home. When she did come out she was always clean and her children had the best manners. She reminded me of Mary (a.s.) and I dreamt of being like her. I often walked to the shops with her and asked her questions about her faith: about how I aspired to be a good mother like her, to give up drink, drugs and smoking, but it seemed impossible to me. I was empty inside and could not find the strength to change. What I needed was the faith to change but I did not realise it at the time.
I continued on my path of self-destruction, blanketing my pain with drugs and drink. Since I could remember there was not a day gone by when I looked at the world through sober eyes. The world was a lonely hurtful place. I had never had family in those times of need. I only had myself to turn too. I was lost, wandering around looking for answers in all the wrong places. I never found them so I went back to the only friend I knew, drugs. They were the only thing that took away all the pain and helped me live another day. I was doing well in college and finally getting some qualifications behind me. As a young child the orphanages moved me every year and on my path of self-destruction, I did not study well and would run away from everything and everyone. I thought people would always hurt me. I never realised how much I was hurting myself.
I had never let anyone get close to me. When I left the Catholic orphanage and was placed in foster care, my guardians physically and mentally abused me. I do not think I trusted another person after them. I was moved from pillar to post as I moved through the care system. I destroyed any relationship that ever came close to me, partly from the loneliness within. Perhaps I liked it that way. When you depend on no one, no one can let you down. I went from place to place from home to home, living alone from the age of 16. It was not easy. By the time I reached this place with my daughter I was tired of moving , tired of being alone and tired of having no one. I was older now and felt there was more to life than this empty shell. I started researching religion and became interested in the new world order and conspiracy theories. I would often talk about them with my neighbour and she always gave me her Islamic perspective. I started to look at the world differently and listen to songs that talked about God and the deceptions of the world. I found religion and with it my whole world. My thoughts often travelled to Islam and I was very curious about this way of life.
One morning, in my local Muslim neighbourhood, I found all the shops closed and a beautiful feeling in the air a feeling of celebration and love. What was I missing? Where were everyone and what was this feeling that penetrated my heart? I saw my neighbour when I returned home and asked her why everything was closed and what was the significance of this day? She told me today was ‘Iyd, a Muslim celebration somewhat like our Christmas. I was amazed and love for Islam settled deeper in my heart.
The next week, as I rode the bus to college, I noticed a sign hanging on a building I knew was a mosque, it read, ‘Read al-Quran, the last Testament of God.’ This confused me a little. I had always been reading the last testament, the Bible, so how could this be the last? Again I went back to my neighbour and asked her about this. She explained to me about the Qur’an and that there was another prophet after Jesus (a.s.), the final prophet named Muhammad (s.a.w.). I thought about it. But still believed this religion was for foreigners only. Surely white girls are not Muslim, I thought. I continued my life of emptiness, drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
One night as I sat smoking with the local drug dealer, who was Muslim, he started to tell me about hajj and how all Muslims should perform hajj at least once in their lifetime to a house in Saudi Arabia. At the time, I wondered why on earth he was telling me this. But it was a conversation I never forgot. Many of the local drug dealers where Muslim and I used to ask them about their religion. It seemed strange to me that they would never eat or drink from my house, nor go out on dates or been seen in public with me. I wondered why? I asked one of my friends one day what is the difference between me and another girl, he said. ‘Nothing. Only religion.’ He showed me a Qur’an that he wore around his neck and explained that they could only ever marry a Muslim girl as they were not allowed to marry someone who was not Muslim. I found it intriguing the respect they had for their religion. Although I know now that selling drugs was totally wrong but they never ate food that was haram, or drank liquor or dated girls. It was the same respect, I had for my righteous neighbor and it was something I wanted. I wanted to be respected, I wanted to be a good mother, I wanted to be pure, clean, and know who God is.
Something dramatic happened that changed my whole concept of Islam. When I opened my curtains one morning I was faced with another neighbour wearing Muslim attire. Only this time, she was a white British girl! I could not believe my eyes. I went out to talk to her and asked her what happened; she told me she had embraced Islam. I was surprised at this. “You can do that?” I asked. Then I saw her entering my Muslim neighbour’s house. That same neighbour never let anyone into her house. When I got a chance I spoke to my neighbour, who was delighted at the young girl’s conversion. She explained to me that she was teaching her how to pray. This pushed me to ask more questions about Islam and the young girl took me to a local Islamic book store where they gave me a Qur’an in English and a small pamphlet on understanding Islam.
I sat in the local park and read while my daughter played on the swings and slide. I was amazed at the sciences of the Qur’an and the Truth encompassed my heart taking it over entirely. The next few days were a blur, as I went to my neighbour and discussed more about Islam, She took me to another local white British convert and we sat talking about Islam for hours. As we left that house my friend and neighbour asked me what I thought. I told her. it is all Truth. I cannot deny it. She asked me if I was ready to accept Islam and say that there was no God but Allah and that Muhammad (s.a.w.) was the Messenger. I affirmed I was ready. She brought me to the mosque. I was seated behind a curtain when the man came and explained to me what I was about to say and he asked me to repeat the shahadah after him. An intense feeling overwhelmed my body and soul. For the first time in my life, I felt completely at peace just. I looked at my friend and her five-year-old son and tears were streaming down their faces.
I would like to say my life has been a bed of roses from that day, but Allah (s.w.t.) does not leave us without test. In some ways, the tests and trials have been stronger, but through each and every phase, I changed. I grew as a woman and went closer to my dream; my dream of being a good mother. It has not been easy changing from the person I was, and I have not reached the place I want to be, but I hope I am closer. I still do not have someone to love in my life but I do have God’s Love and this is the best Gift I could ever have. The lonely nights and empty feelings can be changed into longing for the Divine. I realised everything that happens to us is good for us and takes us to a better place eventually; we just have to have patience with the process and patience with ourselves. Diamonds are not just found. It takes a long time of chipping away the bad before the true beauty shines. I have hope of one day being a good person, a great mother and a true Muslim. It is all in God’s Hand and in Him I place my trust.”