Saturday, 18 April 2015
My conversion story
I have been meaning to write this post for a long time. As you may know, I have not always been a Muslim. I was brought up a practicing Catholic and converted to Islam at the age of 19. Here is my story.
I grew up in a Polish Catholic family in the South West of England. I went to church every week until the age of 16, I did my Holy Communion and confirmation and went to Catholic schools. However, as a teenager I started to doubt the religion and look for alternatives. I became interested in paganism for a while but it wasn't serious, a passing interest. Later, after I became Muslim, I realised my brief fascination with paganism was actually just a love of nature and there was no reason I couldn't love nature as a Muslim.
Anyway, just before my 18th birthday, I met my husband. By this point I did not consider myself to be of any religion really. I had never really spoken to a Muslim before. Well, I had a few Muslim friends at college but none of them were practicing. I went out drinking with them and I never saw them pray or anything like that. So I guess my husband was really the one to introduce me to Islam.
Like a lot of non-Muslims who have never spent time talking to Muslims, I had quite a negative view of Islam. Obviously, this is something I had learnt from the media post 9/11. Islam seemed like such a strict religion with no women's rights. Of course, I now know that that is completely untrue. Islam is a wonderful religion for women. In Islam, women are respected and treated well. The prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, said that the best man is the one who is best to his wife. Men and women are equal, one is not better than the other, however, they have different roles to play. This is something I think non-Muslims have a hard time understanding, as did I at the beginning.
As I got to know my husband, I started to learn about the wonderful religion of Islam. I learnt about the five pillars of Islam; testimony of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. These are the things that each Muslim must do. I saw people pray, I learnt about the month of Ramadan where people fast. I learnt all kinds of things I had never seen or heard of before. The more I saw, the more interested I became. I started to ask questions. I spent more time with Muslim people and watched them to see how exactly they lived their lives. They were all so kind and welcoming and I enjoyed being around them.
I bought a Quran and started to read it but this brought up more questions for me and uneasy feelings. There were parts of it I couldn't comprehend, perhaps I din't have the best translation, and my husband could not answer my inquisitive questions. Without answers, I began to turn back to Chrisitanity, something I was familiar with. I didn't start practicing but thought myself as a Christian once again.
I gave up on the idea of Islam for a short while. I had never thought about converting anyway I had just wanted to learn about it as a way to help me understand my husband better. We were not married then, so one day he told me that he would like us to have a Muslim marriage. What's that? I had no idea. I asked him what it was and what it involved but he couldn't really answer me so I decided to research myself. I looked on the internet and asked Muslims I met. This sparked my interest in Islam again. I got a book about Islam and started to read about what it would mean to be a Muslim. This is the first time I started to think about conversion. I thought about the things I would have to give up, the things I would have to change and the things I would need to start doing. Could I do all this?
I asked my husband to take me to a mosque. I had never been inside one before but I wanted to know what it was like and how I felt inside this holy building. He explained I would have to wear a scarf over my head to go inside so I did. This was not the first time I had worn a scarf. My husband's mother had sent me some over from Turkey when we had first met and I'd tried them on and often worn them when we went to visit Turkish people. I quite enjoyed wearing one, it was a novelty for me at first. I didn't wear it all the time, of course, I wasn't a Muslim yet.
Inside the mosque I met the Imam, a person with a lot of knowledge about Islam who leads the prayers and teaches and advises about Islamic issues. I asked him questions, he answered them. He told me stories about other people who had converted to Islam. I felt inspired! I am not sure if it was then or soon after, but I decided to become a Muslim. It wasn't something I had spent a long time thinking about. I don't think I needed to think about it too much. When you know in your heart that something is right, why wait?
I spoke to my husband and told him my decision. We agreed that I should convert at the same time as our nikah, Muslim marriage, which was only about a week away. He helped me learn the Shahada, testimony of faith, for me to say when I converted. This just means that I would have to say that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. That's it. It's really very simple. You should say this in front of two witnesses.
The day came for our nikah and my conversion. I remember feeling so nervous to the point I cried in the car on the way there. I felt so emotional, two big events happening in one day, it was almost too much. It was a very small ceremony, we had a handful of witnesses as well as the Imam. After the ceremony, I was given a gift bag with a Quran, some books about Islam, a prayer mat, a hijab and some prayer beads. I felt happy. It was like I had been reborn and I couldn't stop smiling.
I was keen to learn everything right away but I realised it would take me some time. After all, it had only been around a month since I first toyed with the idea of becoming Muslim to me taking my Shahada so there was a lot I needed to learn. I have had ups and downs along the way but I have never looked back. Becoming a Muslim was one of the best things to ever happen to me Alhamdulillah.
People often assume I converted for my husband but he never asked me or pushed me to do it. It was something I did for myself. You can never and should never try to force someone to change their religion. It has to come from within them and they have to do it for themselves and no one else. Although I did not convert for my husband, he was the one who introduced me to Islam and I will be forever grateful to him for that.
Posted by Weronika at 23:37