Volume 14-12 No:180
Truth, honesty, discipline, women’s rights, and the search for spiritual peace are some of the reasons that have led people of different nationalities and religions to convert to Islam. Interviews with new Muslims have revealed that people who have converted to Islam were in search of the truth in life. They wanted to know the purpose of life and were seeking spiritual satisfaction. “The majority of people converting to Islam in the Emirates are Filipinos followed by people from India, Sri Lanka, China and Russia.” Says Taher Khalid, Director of the New Muslim Centre in Sharjah who himself converted to Islam from Christianity 20 years ago, Women top the list of people converting in the Emirates.
According to Othman Burry, and Irish born Islamic preacher and the owner of the Discover Islamic Centre, around 30 men and women of different nationalities have converted to Islam since the beginning of this year. He said it is the simplicity of the system of beliefs and the clarity that attracts people to Islam. “Islam urges people to question, which is not available in other religions. Faith should be based on understanding and not on blind acceptance.”
"It was a call from within"
Ayesha Supnet, a Filipino who became a Muslim just a few weeks ago, said she became interested in Islam four months ago when she felt the urge to read about the religion. I was not satisfied with my life and always wondered what was the purpose of life. I felt the urge to study Islam. It was just like a ‘call’ from within.
“I wanted to find a true way of life and please God because I was not really satisfied with what I was doing. During my initial reading of Islam, I was impressed by the way rights of women were protected in this religion and the oneness of God.”
Ayesha, who works at an edutainment center in Sharjah added: “I became convinced that Islam is a true religion that provides a true way of life. When I first wrote to my parents that I had converted to Islam, they asked me why? Then I discussed with them and finally my mother asked me: ‘Are you happy with your new life?’ And I said I am much happier than before as my life has completely changed.
“Before converting to Islam, I felt I was praying for myself”
Omar Hassan Pacubas, a 30-year old Filipino technician who converted from Christianity a year ago, said: “I became interested when I saw somebody distributing pamphlets on Islam in Sharjah. I got more reading material and found out during my readings that Islam is a true religion, which I should follow. Now I feel that I am more satisfied with what I am doing and living a disciplined life. When I told my father and mother about my accepting Islam, they got angry with me and stopped writing to me. But I continued to write to them and tried to make them understand why I had taken this decision. Finally, with the grace of Allah, they wrote to me a letter addressing me by my Islamic name, ‘Omar’, giving their consent to my decision”.
“Islam changed me a lot. I used to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, tell lies and waste time in useless activities. But after converting to Islam, I am strictly following the Islamic way of life and spending my time in constructive things like praying, reading the Quran and spreading the message of Islam. “Whenever I prayed before converting to Islam, I felt that I was praying for myself, but now I am more satisfied because now I know that I pray for Allah who created us and everything in the world. My attitude towards people has entirely changed. I have no fear of anybody, but Allah.”
“Being a Muslim, I found the purpose of life”
Ibrahim Daniel Bernard from Ireland converted to Islam four and half-years ago. He works as a mechanical engineer in Sharjah. Ibrahim, who has grown a beard is married to a Muslim. “One of my colleagues at my company gave me an English translation of the Holy Quran to read. I started reading it everyday just for the sake of reading a book, as I had never thought of converting to Islam. But during my reading, I found the things pretty logical, such as the Oneness of God, the prohibition on gambling and alcohol, the segregation of men and women, and much more.
“I started thinking about Islam and then started travelling with Muslim groups to different countries to thoroughly explore Islam. After one year of soul-searching I decided to convert to Islam in May 1997.
“My father was angry with me when he heard about my conversion, but my mother was just fine. And slowly, when they felt that my integrity was much better than before, they accepted the fact and started helping me by getting ‘halal’ food. “My brother used to argue with me and tried to warn me that my hands would be cut off if I stole something or did something wrong. But, I replied that why should I do something wrong? Now I have a stronger character, I am more honest and capable of managing myself in any situation.. I fear Allah and realize that life is short in this world and whatever life we live, we have to make the best of it by doing good deeds. Earlier, I was just living out my life without any thought of what would happen after this worldly life. Being a Muslim, I found the purpose of life.”
“I was greatly influenced by the way Islam treats women”
Mohammed Ali Sanchez and his wife Sheikha Sanchez embraced Islam after studying the religion for five years in the UAE. Sheikha’s cousin Febie Cheka, who lives in Abu Dhabi, also embraced Islam and adopted Zulekha as her Muslim name. Mohammed, formerly Enrique S. Sanchez, has been working for the Private Department of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for the last 12 years. Working among Muslims in Ras Al Ghanadha, he said, he was deeply touched by their regular prayers and true devotion to Allah and the life of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). His wife Sheikha, formerly Rosy Sanchez, was also influenced by similar reasons. She has been studying Islam for the last two years in Abu Dhabi. Mohammed said: “It took me about five years to fully understand Islam and then finally my wife and I decided to convert, and went to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf. “I embraced Islam because I saw, from the bottom of my heart, that it is the religion of peace to save us from the worldly sins”.
Sheikha, Mohammed’s wife, said she knew little about Islam back home, but after joining her husband in the UAE in 1995, she started learning more. She said it was very easy for her to understand Islam because, as a born Christian, she had read the Bible. “I was extremely influenced by the way Islam treats women. In Islam, there is great respect for women,”.
“I found the Quran perfect, logical and reasonable”
Nabeel Subhi is an Egyptian. He was a priest in the Orthodox Church in Cairo. He said that he began studying Islam and the Holy Quran to learn how to argue with Muslims about their religion. His study lasted four years during which time he came to the conclusion that the Holy Quran is a great book. “All along, I had been told fabricated stories about the Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh). The faith he brought was not wild and barbarous, as I was taught. I found the Holy Quran perfect, logical and reasonable.” After Subhi converted to Islam, he was pressured and abused by members of his former community to give up Islam. “When my family heard about my conversion, they just threw me out of my house. And my community sent people to kill me, but what hurt me most was that my Muslim friends did not welcome my conversion, thinking that I had converted with the intention of marrying a Muslim woman or earning money for being newly converted.”
“I always felt comfortable with the Islamic ambience”
Marion Maris, another newly converted Muslim, is a 30-year old German. Before her conversion, she was an atheist. “As an atheist, I never had faith or believed in the existence of God. I always felt lost and confused about many things in life.” Maris is a regular visitor to Dubai. “I always felt good and comfortable here as it had the Islamic ambience. The religion of the people here always got my attention, no one pushed me to convert, but I myself decided to provide myself with Islamic courses to get closer to this religion.”
“With Islam, I am psychologically more balanced”
Juyaryah Perez, vice-president of a Swiss association for Muslim women, was a punk before her conversion. Now a mother of three, she said she has travelled a lot in her young days and once met a Pakistani family who spoke to her about Islam and helped her become a Muslim. “After becoming a Muslim, I turned out to be more wise and sober, I found my path. I am now, with Islam, more balanced and psychologically settled.” g
(As told to Ashfaq Ahmed, Nissar Hoath and Haya Farouk Al Ras in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi,Dubai) Courtesy: Gulf News
As I left for the Eid Prayer on the early morning of Eid Al-Fitr, my husband and I began making the Eid Takbeers through all of the traffic, and the traffic lights. I was feeling quite content, it was after all, Eid. I had been to many other Eid prayers before, this one was somehow different for me. Since I have converted to Islam almost seven years ago, it has taken me quite sometime to begin to comprehend the greatness of this religion and to study it a little more in-depth. It has taken some time to understand why and how we do certain things as Muslims. Also, it has taken some time for this holiday to have a deep meaning for me as well as time for me to grow as a Muslim.
I began thinking about another reason why this Eid was different for me. I realize now that it was also very special because I was going to the Eid prayer where I knew almost everyone there, almost as though they were my close family (and for many converts to Islam, that means a great deal). As my husband and I arrived at the place of the prayer, we saw a good friend of my husband’s directing the traffic. We parked and I walked towards the prayer area, it was such a peaceful morning. I entered the prayer area, and I was greeted by a couple of sisters that I know to be kind-hearted and Masha Allah, pious Muslimahs. They were directing the other sisters towards the Qibla. My job was handing out the Takbeer sheet to all those who arrived for the prayers.
As I stood by the entrance door, saying, “As-salaamu Alaykum, Eid Mubarak and Taqabballahu Mina wa Minkum (Peace be upon you, Happy Eid and May Allah accept your good deeds and mine)”, everyone was smiling and joyful. Some sisters grabbed me with delight hugging me and others shaking my hand enthusiastically. Subhan Allah, I couldn’t help but feel so strong in my Iman as I was on this Eid day- a feeling of trust, and a feeling of closeness that you cannot experience it in any other way. I had been a Christian before, and had been to the Christian celebrations and through all the hoopla surrounding it, not a shred of a similar feeling ever existed as on the Eid. I thought of the hadith of the Prophet (Pbuh) where he had told us, “ “Allah has given you Eid Al-Udhaa and Eid Al-Fitr as better feasts.”
The feeling of true kinship with your fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, the true feeling of peace is something to ponder over, and we must always keep in mind what a great blessing it really is that Allah has bestowed on us all the greatest of mercies...that He made us Muslims. May Allah keep us all on the Straight Path and bless us all with a strong Iman-Ameen!