Falling in Love with Islam
By Farieda Amatullah
This is always the hardest part – to begin to write everything down when I myself do not understand it all. What has happened to me is great and makes me warm and fuzzy inside. But, at the same time it scares me very much.
I now have two worlds, which are very different from one another…and their relationship has never been the best. I feel as though I am standing in the middle of them, with my left foot in one world and my right foot in the other. I fear that I have not fully recovered from the entire shock, which was coupled with ignorance of the differences between my old world and my new one. This is partly caused by the fact that the two are so incredibly different.
The Middle East and the West share a violent history, which unfortunately influences how the West looks upon the Islam. Islam is perceived as something evil, corrupt and dangerous, when in fact, it is not. It is something very special and marvelous. Just look at the word “Islam” and what it means. It means “to surrender yourself to God and Him alone.” Every human being is born with the natural tendency and desire to surrender to God.
The way I fell in love with Islam is actually a bit bizarre. A book I am writing, which contains strong Islamic and Middle-Eastern influences, was the catalyst. I always found the Middle East incredibly fascinating. To write this book however, I had to do a lot of research. The more I read about Islam the better I began to understand it. Through this newfound comprehension and understanding, I could see and describe things I previously was blinded to.
One day, a tidal wave of inspiration engulfed me and I started to type whatever came to my mind – the things that happened and so on. My poor fingers religiously attempted to keep up with the pace of my brain, which was going too fast and almost on its own. When I re-read the pages, I was deeply moved by their depth and intensity. I think I stared at my monitor for at least half an hour. For a minute I finally recognized myself and suddenly I could pinpoint that emptiness inside me. Then, I realized what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a Muslim! Just by saying it I scared myself and I had to blush. It was as if I was speaking of things that are forbidden.
I still cannot comprehend how this could have happened. But, I can only guess that I must have had this need and desire all along. After that first impact, Islam has never released me. In fact, I was so taken by it that almost immediate results came about, in a way I still cannot comprehend.
Music (mostly dark Gothic music, Heavy metal, Punk, Hanson), which I always enjoyed listening to, now became improper. I abandoned clothing that was too revealing or too tight. Everything I had doubts about, I removed from my room, literally turning it upside down (I will get around to fixing it again soon).
At that point, the euphoric feelings traded places with those of fear and insecurity, which I wanted to push away from me. I kept telling myself that I could not do it and that I was not strong enough. Excuses and more excuses. Then slowly, you start to talk to people about it, which only succeeds in further discouraging you. I did not have Internet at the time and information was sparse, certainly in the place I live, a small fishing community in the Netherlands.
I went to the tourist information office and found one person I could talk to, but I was not yet brave enough to call. After that, I went to the library. As I did not have a library card, I had to read the books there and since time was sparse I again became stressed. One of the books that I picked up off the shelf was the Muslim Woman’s Handbook. But, I could NEVER do THAT! You begin to see all these Arabic words that you do not understand; and names that did not sound Dutch began to terrify me even more. The book almost made it sound like Islam was an exclusive club. What if I was not even allowed to become a Muslim? What if I had to be born a Muslim? As a result, more insecurity and more fears.
By reading the various books, I started to realize what a poor and wrong life I had lived. It was something that no minister or priest had been able to clarify for me. And here I was finding it out on my own, in the book that had been written by Muslim women. I felt deeply ashamed. I felt ashamed of my former hostile attitude towards Muslim women and my inheritance of the West.
I did not eat, drink or sleep much during the last couple of days. I was really bothered and I wanted to know more but I just did not know how do go about it. I felt a strong desire to seek out a contact, but I was scared to make the first move. Boy, aren’t I the brave one? Honestly, I am not the bravest person and to take those first steps is not an easy task.
I remember a few days ago, where I went to bed, sat on my knees and called out to myself, “There is no God but God alone, and Mohammed is His Prophet,” though not in Arabic because at that time I knew very little. After I got under the sheets, I broke into tears. When I describe this special moment I still feel very emotional about it.
When I told my mother as such, she laughed and mocked me, saying, “I really do not see you walking around in a headscarf!” However, I do understand how she feels. She is in pain because, according to her, I have gone astray. She is hurt because I cannot accept Jesus in the way that Christians do, but that I can accept Mohammed a prophet of God. As soon as I told her about my desire to become a Muslim, we got into heated discussions where she demanded her rights over me as my mother. I could not give them to her, so I left in the middle of the argument. When I was at the door she tried to convince me that the Islam was bad and that it was especially so for women as they “lose their rights”, “have no life of their own”; and that the religion only exists to “dictate sex segregation”. I let out a deep distorted sigh and realized that this was going to be very difficult, but nonetheless, I still wanted to go through with it. The will and desire were there, although I still do not fully know how.
Things between my mother and I have changed. We have solved our differences and her fear has now changed into genuine interest. I also bought her a small book, entitled Islam for Beginners and it seems to help her a lot. Through Allah, I know can better understand my mother and this mutual understanding has made our relationship stronger.
The reactions of the rest of the family were somewhat stiff in the beginning, but in general, they had a positive impression. This is mainly because, for all of us, many things are still unclear and my family does not entirely know where this journey will take me. But, I feel that these insecurities will decrease as I grow stronger in my beliefs.
Now, my family members are asking me more questions, which I think is a very positive step. I am also very thankful to Allah, because my family’s impressions regarding my new life have been complimentary and encouraging. They see me change, almost daily, and none have yet to say that what I do or show them is wrong. Alhamdullilah. That makes me feel really good.
I hope that I do not offend any of you and that none of you are sighing all the way through my story. It is correct that I feel a certain shame, and certain fearfulness that I need to overcome. I am convinced that I will overcome them. It is just that at this time, I am very afraid of doing the wrong things. I just want to do everything right…always!
The first thing I have to do is continue acquiring knowledge because I feel in my entire soul that Allah is the Good, the Merciful and the Generous.
How badly I have organized my life and how poorly ordered it was continues to hurt me… and very much so. How very wrong some of the things I have done have been. To realize this can be quite a painful experience.
However, my biggest fear is that I will not be accepted. I have reasons for that fear, since other religious communities have denied me access because they could not accept me “due personal reasons”.
I cannot change who or what I am. That is how I was born. The things in the past are exactly that – in the past – and I cannot change them. The only things I wish and desire are to contribute in a positive manner and to become a better person.