My Islamic Journey

 

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This is a story of my experiences, rewards, and challenges as a new European convert to Islam.

My journey began more than two years ago, when I professed the shahadah in a mosque I had been visiting, alhamdulellah. A Sister took me into a classroom to teach me every rule regarding prayer in a matter of minutes. I felt slightly overwhelmed, but still very eager to learn. Within three weeks, the Sisters taught me the essentials of the religion. Although I was in high spirits and peaceful in my practice of Islam, there was something about the mosque that began to trouble me.

The Sisters often acted as a “religious police,” eyeing anyone for mistakes and verifying the “correctness” of their beliefs. No day passed without me receiving impolite remarks, and a point was reached where I was worried about being criticized for breathing incorrectly. Disconcerted, I came to view this place not as a mosque, but as a checkpoint. Still, there were still more reasons to be alarmed.

Between the lines of the imam’s weekly lectures, I sensed much anger. Not a week went by without hate speeches and slander. That community can pronounce someone a kaafir (“disbeliever”) quite readily, while viewing this attitude as an obligation. Aside from this, the way they passed knowledge was of concern to me.

The priority of this mosque is to have people memorize books by their own carefully selected scholars. No other views are tolerated, and the level of mistrust in the rest of the Muslim world is strangely elevated. On a daily basis, their teachings are drilled into people’s heads. I observed how the people became like sheep, and how the young women seemed almost besotted with the charming imam. I wondered why there were limited resources of knowledge, why the Qur’an was less studied than Al-Mukhtasar by Sh. Abdullah Al-Harari, and why they didn’t have a complete biography of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم). I was equally concerned about why they distance others from the Qur’an, by insisting that they will get it wrong by themselves, and claiming that the Qur’an is “not enough” to have “the correct belief.”

Clearly, they demand loyalty not to Islam, but to the mosque.

When the time came for me to leave Switzerland and return to Poland to finish medical school, I felt apprehensive about meeting my family again. I risked estrangement for being on the path of Truth. Indeed, I had an extremely difficult time, and though I wasn’t kicked out of the family, our relationship was very unhealthy. My most painful experience was when they, and others close to them, believed me to be mentally ill. I was forced into many hours of psychiatric evaluation, which finally proved that I was not mad. I also had a large course load and final exams to contend with, so I was very stressed as well as very hurt. In spite of the seemingly all-encompassing darkness I was living in, I managed to find the light.

The flame of Islam is ever burning in my heart. During my darkest hours, when it seemed like I had nothing but a floor to lay my face on, I emerged with the wisdom that God is all I have and ever need, and I can always count on Him. I endeavored to bring myself closer to Him by attaching myself to the Qur’an for dear life, learning tajweed (proper pronunciation of the Qur’an), and engraving several ayat (verses) into my heart. I never abandoned my ‘ibadat (acts of worship), which kept me going when I often felt like my “battery” was very low. Islam taught me the meaning of patience and forgiveness. It gave me serenity, a quiet inner strength, and hope.

With hardship comes ease, and there is always something to be happy about. Alhamdulellah, I happened to live near an Islamic center, where I met a more tolerant community. I adopted trustworthy references, Ust. Yasmin Mogahed and Ust. Nouman Ali Khan. I had true friends, near and far, who would always offer me their love and support. I clearly understood that God loves me and would never leave me alone. Even when my religion and I were eventually kicked out of my apartment, God gave me a new, much better, and happier situation.

With God’s help, I lived through my hardships in Poland, earned my M.D. degree, and left my non-allies. I met a wonderful, caring, and God-loving man whom I married, and started a new and happier life. We moved to Switzerland, because it offers better perspectives for me as a young doctor. Our beautiful and lovely little princess Aisha was born, who is a constant source of joy for us.

We brought closure to the story with the famous mosque. We went there out of religious obligation only, while not being a part of it. By then my Islamic knowledge had increased, and I was able to see the novelties and subtle forms of idolatry the community was practicing. I felt very perturbed, and my spouse, a wise and perceptive man, also sensed something altogether wrong with that place. We voiced our views on their strange practices (celebrating new Islamic “holidays,” having loud and rambunctious parties at the mosque, and wearing “protective” amulets), out of love and concern for them. We met honest friends who translated to us what the imam was really saying in his discourses (violence towards disbelievers), and who informed us that this community is part of a new sect by the name of Al-Ahbash. We dissociated from the mosque, and live in peace.

Disappointing as this may have been, my experience brought me much benefit. In this article, I have described what a sect is like from the inside, as a warning for others. As a general rule, European mosques should be approached with caution. Another lesson I learned is that it is necessary to begin at the wrong end in order to arrive at the Truth. My understanding of what is wrong and unIslamic can give a better idea of the true, pristine Islam revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

What is certain is that Islam is not a message of fear. It is a message of love.

 Imam Ash-Shafi was asked, “How can we know the People of Truth during times of fitnah (trial, affliction, distress)?” He answered, “Follow the arrows of the enemy, as they will guide you to them.”

What were some of your experiences and lessons learned as a convert? Please share in a comment.

What the Hijab Means To Me

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This is the story of how I came to wear the hijab, and discovered what it really is about.

Before reverting to Islam, I used to dress according to the Western idea of women’s beauty and fashion. I dressed simply, yet in an elegant way. I enjoyed my style until I was told by some males that I was “hot,” which I did not really view as a compliment. Until some colleagues, who I thought were just colleagues, looked at me with desire and spoke luridly. And until one dared to touch me, and consequently earned my slap. I generally felt like I was not seen as the woman that I am, but something pleasant to look at.

One summer a few years ago, I began asking myself questions. Are Western standards of women’s beauty right, or are they really misogynistic? Are women really being treated with the honor and respect that they deserve, or is society using them as objects for the viewing (and physical) pleasure of men?

Honestly, I believe that women deserve much better than what they are getting. I daresay that Western society is indeed misogynistic and highly sexualized. Women don’t deserve to be put on the front cover of men’s magazines, or to be used in advertisements to market products. They don’t deserve desirous looks by men other than their husbands, or to be told how they have to look in order to be beautiful. They don’t deserve to be rated in terms how “hot” or “sexy” they are, and they certainly don’t deserve to be used and abused by men.

Women seem to be turning into pleasant things to look at, rather than being celebrated for who they are. In other words, Western society is treating women as objects.

Upon reflection, I decided to take a stand and show society what a woman’s beauty and worth really mean. They’re in her heart, her qualities, her faith, and her moral character. I began to cover myself more, and I gave up the cute little dresses and vintage hairstyles. Then one day, I embraced Islam into my heart and life, and put on my very first hijab.

No incidents of the sort mentioned earlier occurred again, and to this day, I feel comfortable, happy, and at peace with myself.

As the Reader can see, the Islamic veil is much more than a religious symbol. It represents respect. Respect for oneself, other people, and for God, Who ordained modesty out of Love and protection for women.

“My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.” He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

Source: More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes

Sisters, what was it like for you to put on your first hijab? Non-Muslim sisters, how do you now view the hijab? Feel free to express your thoughts below.

Transcending Conflict

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“We spend so much time asking God to cure us of our hardships. But we never stop to consider that our hardships are curing us.”
~ Yasmin Mogahed

On the surface, conflict may seem like poison. It may be catastrophic for some of us. But know that any kind of difficulty in our lives is necessary. It is not a sign that something is wrong with us. Rather, it is a sign that something is wrong in our lives. Conflict is not the poison itself, but a moment when the poison is brought to the surface for us to notice and remove.

Conflict is a blessing from God, to show us that there is something wrong. Sometimes, God sends rain to wash away the dirt of our lives and clear our path, to cause seeds of new beginnings to grow. These difficult moments are really blessings that allows us to reflect, heal, and grow. It draws us closer to God through the prayers it inspires in our hearts, in the rivers of our tears, and in the moments alone with Him in the dead of night.

Imagine a life without any conflicts, where we wouldn’t know where to improve. Where we would not have any opportunities to bring out the qualities of love, forgiveness, and patience within us. Can we fully appreciate the light of a candle in broad daylight? No, only in darkness. Similarly, the light within us can be best appreciated during our dark times.

In order to grow, we need conflict in our lives. It should not be taken as a “proof” that we are “bad” or a reason to assign blame to ourselves, and neither should we tempt ourselves to think other people are “bad” or at fault, either. These are disempowering ways of thinking that won’t get anyone anywhere. Instead, conflict should be taken as a golden opportunity for growth by removing any present negativity in our lives – be it a place, an activity, a person, or perhaps something more internal, like harmful thought patterns or false core beliefs.

“When someone beats a rug, the blows are not against the rug, but against the dust in it.”
~ Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

How have you positively dealt with conflictual situations in your life? Please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Caring Too Much

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Sometimes, we lose ourselves by being too altruistic. By living for other people, while forgetting ourselves. By always meeting their needs, while ignoring our own. By making their problems our problems, and their pain our pain.

The result is that we lose our own identity. This is a slow and deeply sad death. We don’t know who we are or where we stand. We walk through life feeling invisible, as though we have no face, no place in this world. Our lives are not our own, and all meaning and purpose are lost. It’s a very difficult and painful way to live.

If the Reader feels the above, please remember that you do matter. You do have a place in this world. There is a God who loves you very dearly, widely, and profoundly, no matter who you are or what you did. With His help, you can reclaim your life and find meaning.

As someone who personally went through this, I have some general advice to offer:

  • Look for the root of the issue, and ask yourself why you chronically abandon yourself and your needs for other people. Often, if not always, the root cause is low self-love. If you identify the cause as such, make increasing your self-love a top priority.
  • At all times, I strongly advise you to be very kind to yourself. By doing so, you are helping a human beingImagine for a moment that you have encountered yourself, and you are asking you for help. Would you refuse? Give yourself the same love and compassion as you would your best friend.
  • Thirdly, it is crucial to invest your time in getting to know yourself and your values. Cultivate self-awareness and notice your thoughts and feelings as they come, with curiosity. Be attentive to your needs, and take responsibility for getting them met yourself. When you know yourself, you build a solid ground on which to stand.

“And do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful.” (Surah An-Nisa, verse 29)

You are very welcome to share any thoughts, suggestions, or experiences in the comments section just underneath.

God’s Love And Ours

 

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We all have trouble understanding unconditional love, and even greater difficulty receiving it. There could be many reasons for this, one being that this love is otherworldly. It may also be that many of us walk with a wall around our bruised hearts, thereby keeping love at bay. Another reason is that we tend to view God as an extrapolation of our parents, or any early figure.

As we were raised, our early significant figures influenced us more than we realize. Their concept of love became our own. The way they saw us, was the way we came to see ourselves. Unconsciously, we tend to feel that God must love and see us the same way. The same imperfect, conditional way. When we come from abusive and dysfunctional families, it becomes even more difficult to let unconditional love into our hearts.

As long as we think God loves us like a human being does, we are worshiping a false god. When we worship God on the outside, but do not accept His unconditional love, we are living a Godless life. His Love is real and all we need. It is pure, everlasting, and unfailing. To deprive our hearts of this love is the worst thing we could do to ourselves. We may be sinners. We may not deserve Paradise. But God is offering His mercy, love, and guidance for free. Not because of what we have done or who we are, but because He is Ar-Rahman, the All-Merciful. There is no arrogance in accepting this love, rather, it is an act of humility. In receiving God’s love, we are admitting that we are sinners in dire need of Him and His mercy. Nothing else can take us to Paradise.

The Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “No one of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone.” They asked, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allah covers me with His Grace and Mercy” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 8, Volume 76, Number 470)

What do you think stands between us and God’s love? Have you experienced His love in your life? I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, or advice in the comments section below!