Saturday, 31 May 2014

Jude Malecdan's Conversion

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is the conversion story of our brother, Jude Malecdan.  He is from the Philippines and recently converted when he wrote this.

“My name is Jude Malecdan, from the Philippines.  I come from a Catholic family, from the  Igorot tribe from Cordillera in the Luzon highlands.  Aside from being Catholics, our tribe also follow pagan rituals which are part of our culture.  These rituals are inherited from previous generations.  For example, after a church wedding, we perform ritual slaughter of pigs or cows to be given as offering to our anito, our tribal spirits.  We call this halad.  I was never actually baptised.  But I had been searching for a religion that I could have faith in.  I was looking for something to believe in.

Anito is a collective name for the pre-Hispanic belief system in the Philippines.  It is also used to refer to spirits, including the household deities, ancestors, various nature-spirits, nymphs and diwatas, which are a form of dryads.  We kept statues to represent these spirits, asked guidance from them and sought magical protection.  Our traditions were Christianised into a form of Folk Catholicism.

I had a co-worker who happened to be a Muslim.  I noticed that every time the food served had pork, he never ate it but instead, ate alone.  He would not complain but he would not eat.  That was how I found out that he was a Muslim.  I thought to myself, what if I was like him, so that he would have a companion when pork was served.  Eating alone, separately did not seem to be a happy event.  And so, it all began there.

I studied the lifestyle of Muslims, and the religion.  From there, I found Islam: the religion of peace.  I embraced Islam last November 2013, with the help of Sister Shorouk Abdel.  I am still new to Islam, but I felt that this religion is the one I was searching for.  My sister was the first one to know about my conversion, and she laughed at me, thinking I was not serious.  Eventually, she realised that I was serious about it.  Then my parents found out.  They said, ‘Whatever my faith is, for as long as I feel I am on a right path, then I must commit to it.’

On my shahadah itself, I cannot recall what exactly how it went.  I remember saying, ‘Ashhadu an laa ilaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasulullah,’ pointing my finger up.  After I performed wudhu’. I was thinking to myself, the hardest part of being a convert would be to adjust to everything: prayer times, foods, and leaving other things I had been used to.  The first week of my conversion, I practiced my swalah a lot.  I used to pray in English, then tried it in Arabic, following a video.  I remembered once, I tried to pray on my rooftop, not realising that my 11-year old niece was watching.  After I finished, she laughed and asked what if I had farted when I bowed, because I did a lot of bowing.  And she told to my family how I prayed and they all laughed.  It was new to them.

I embraced Islam also, because I really want to make something of my life.  I wanted to my place in this world and discover why we are here.  I can say I am fortunate.  What my people see of me before and now, after my conversion is still the same.  My family is still my family, and my friends are still my friends.  Most of them never questioned me about my decision to convert because they respect my choice.

It is hard for me being a convert.  Some people would say, ‘You’re going to miss the best dish in your life.’  Some would tease me, saying, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or, ‘as-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,’ and then laugh about it.  Some would tell me, ‘You’re crazy, you’ll never find happiness in your choice.’  The hardest part, is when a born-Muslim told me, ‘You’re just a wannabe, a 10% Muslim.’  But there are still understanding people who respect my choice.

Embracing Islam has changed my way of life.  From waking up early in the morning for fajr, the food I eat, no pork, no alcoholic beverages.  But I still smoke, and hopefully would be able to quit sooner or later.  Despite my challenges, I know I am in the right path.  There are time when I do lose my hope and  my faith due to the continuous problems I face.  I miss my prayers sometimes because I feel as if all the problems in the world are on my shoulders.  And then I remember Allah.  I have thought twice or thrice what to do about whether I should stay or leave, but leaving Islam is not the solution for me.  So I asked Sister Shorouk, and Brother Terence Nunis, who runs The Sharing Group.  With the help of The Sharing Group and the converts here in our place, I was able to carry on.  They all told me to be strong and to have faith.  Whatever I face in this life, I know Allah is Here beside me, Watching my steps and Guiding me in my decisions.  There are still some challenges in my convert journey, but I am trying my best.,  I know Allah is the Most Merciful, is Waiting for me.  And I know we will all Return to Him.  As for now, I am looking forward to having an official conversion at a later date.”


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