Monday, 28 January 2013
Lorraine Embraces Islam
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is the story of how Lorraine Branson embraced Islam. I have edited the text below. The full unedited text may be found at My Conversion Story.
“I was 21, and had gone through a tough time as a teen. I had so many questions about this disillusioned life since the age of fifteen. I remember, thinking about life and its meaning. Why did I live and why did I have to die? Having seen a few people I loved, pass away, my vision of life was bleak. I did not understand why my heart was beating, only to be tired, to sustain me physically; but for what purpose in life? It could not be only to live and to die.
My religious upbringing was Catholic. I went through all the rituals and was taught everything about being one. I went to Catholic schools and never knew anything else as a religion. I was never exposed except by having friends from different faiths and backgrounds. I never for once ever deliberated a change of religion. As the tumultuous teen years passed into adulthood, confusion about the “meaning of life” took on an important aspect of my life. I had an exciting life with travels, wealth and some fame, living on a small island and going through being a flight attendant with Singapore Airlines, winning pageant titles and finally the crux and highlight was to represent my country in the Miss Singapore / Universe pageant. I vied for everything and tried everything to find this meaning of life. I liked music, parties, friends and having fun. I tried to lose myself in the moments of temporary happiness. Still, I felt empty.
At the age of 21, I went through depression after a difficult breakup and disturbing relationship issues which at the time made no sense. The hurt, pain and confusion became depression as I had given up my career for someone who disappeared without a trace. That is a long story of the past, a sequence of many unsuccessful relationships. Suffice to say, I was very disillusioned by people, life and God. I kept waking up feeling the terrible dullness in my heart. I had trouble sleeping and cried easily. I had no one to discuss my troubles with and by this time, church was not an option. I grew up in the Catholic faith, but my heart never accepted the Trinity nor did I think God was fair to crucify one for many. And that if He did that to one, He would not have mercy on me, when I sinned. So, this illusionary life was a theory I could not hold on to as a life pillar or for guidance. In my state of melancholy, I stood at the balcony of my home in Singapore. Looking up at the night sky, clear with a full moon and brilliant shiny stars, I asked the Maker of Creations, “God, You can Make these stars sparkle and moon hang in the sky, without falling; certainly You can Take this unbearable heartache away from me.” I felt so lost and quite hopeless.
Not long after, I started having vivid dreams. The first dream I had, was very frightening. I was lying in a dark space. Below me, I felt the damp ground; above me and on the sides about 20 cm space from my body as well. I felt a thin, white sheet covering me, my eyes were opened as I was veiled over my face and I saw a blur of white in darkness, totally alone. I felt terrified, and I could only call out to God to Help me. The next dream was one where a member of my family was sick; my mother, a charismatic woman, came by and prayed on this person, my father and others. But, nothing happened, then I came and put my hand over the head of this sick person, I said some prayers over this person, words that were unfamiliar, and he became well. The last dream, was one where I saw a skinless, dark, small and ugly creature with sharp teeth, the form was humanlike but it was not. We were in a space and it was trying to scare me. I uttered the words “Allahu Akhbar.” I had never learnt nor uttered theses words before in real life. It was shocked that I knew these words, and repeated it after me in a jesting manner. I felt anger that it was ridiculing me and I repeated these words again, louder, harder and with belief; although I did not understand what they meant. “Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar!” He cringed and became smaller and smaller and disappeared. I woke feeling light.
These dreams prodded me in an unseen manner. I was being led in my soul searching. Prior to this, I had been reading books on astrology, palmistry, parts of mystical Hinduism, Buddhism; but none had satiated the question about the “meaning of life”. Earlier that year, I had been given some books by a friend, the Qur’an in English, translated by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, The 99 Names of Allah and a book on shari’ah. They sat in my drawer never opened. One night, as I sat alone in my dimly lit room, I decided to read one of these books. As I picked them up, I realised, I had never read my Bible fully. How could I seriously read a book from another religion without doing justice to the religion I had grown up with. So, I started to read the Bible. The more I read, the more I was confused and felt uneasy. The first Commandment Given to Moses (a.s.) was, “Thou shalt not worship any other god but Me.” And in the latter part of the Bible, I was told that God has a son. I always felt that my connection with the Creator was a personal one, a direct one and questioned many times the trinity theory that finally, I stopped attending church.
At this point where I was on the verge of reading another religious Scripture, I was most definitely convinced that this chapter in my life with the Bible was of no use to me. After reading thoroughly through the Bible, I turned to open one of the first three books, “The 99 Names of Allah.” I casually flipped through to see these 99 Names. I felt more confused than I was before. Here I was rejecting the Trinity and faced with a God with 99 Names. I was baffled about religion. In one night, Allah (s.w.t.) can Open the doors of wisdom to come through, for guidance to Descend. I nearly put all these books away, when the preface of the 99 Names of Allah opened in my hands. My fingers seemed guided somewhat, and I started reading the story of a teacher in a small madrasah, a poor man with many students. And he was visited by the imam from a renowned school, with lesser students. They had come to inquire what made people more attracted to the smaller and poorer school. In his answer, the shaykh posed his lessons, the remembrance of God, the recitation of one sentence, the power over everything. And as he sat demonstrating the lessons, as he spoke the words the first time, he disappeared and reappeared, secondly, the visitor disappeared and reappeared and finally all the students disappeared and then reappeared when he spoke it . They were humbled. These words, are “Laa ilaha il Allah,” “there is no god except Allah.”
As I read this story, I knew that I had found what I was looking for. The verification, in direct words, that God is One. So, I said these words out loud in my dimly lit room in Singapore, by myself. And as I did, I “saw” a large, glowing golden key come into my heart and unlock it with the sound of crunching, and I felt light. I felt excited, I felt illuminated, I felt my heart was shaking. For those who are interested in the actual story, it may be found here: The Reality of Laa Ilaha illa Allah in Dzikr.
With this newness in me, I decided then to open the Qur’an. As I read it, from the beginning chapter to the very end and throughout, each and every question that I ever had about the meaning of life, my life, our lives, mankind’s existence was answered. Nothing was left to be wondered about anymore. From here, my journey as a muslimah began. Islam is the right of every person. Everyone is born Muslim until they are taught otherwise by their parents and carers to be something else. This purity, fithrah is our right.
My journey learning about Islam; the shari’ah and practices, reading the ahadits, learning to read Qur’an up until learning about the thariqa’ and now trying to live and abide the best as a muslimah; all began in a small, dimly lit room, on a small island, continued in Australia where access to books were limited yet Allah (s.w.t.) Provided for me, books, teachers and all that I needed to learn and practice the Diyn in an uncontaminated environment; in an Islamic community, where for the first three years, I found challenges, being alone, learning all I could. The first masjid that I made swalah in , was Masjid al-Haram and the second was Masjid an-Nabawi, 5 years after reverting when I performed ‘umrah. Where I was in Australia, we had only two muswalah for the community.
I have been very blessed to have such hikmah. I eventually realised, after learning more about Islam, that my dream showed me the grave and how we are when we enter that small area. That I was buried as Muslims were, although at the time of dreaming, I had no idea. Later in years, I had another spiritual experience, where in dzikr, I had an out of body experience. I would have died because of a medical condition, but in my state in dzikr; I was reciting “Allahu Allah,” I was delivered towards light and beings of light surrounded me. This was a very real experience one which reminds me of the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims.