Its funny for me reading the title, because I didn't really 'embrace' Islam, to be honest, I think I fought it. Initially I was thinking Islam was probably like a religion of deception - sorry I know this is really hard for Muslims to read, but I have to be honest about this. I guess I believed that many Muslims were nice people, but they were misguided, and it was my duty to enlighten them. Ouch. Sorry.
The moment of acceptance came on the night of 23rd, early morning 24th February, 2004. That is 10 years ago exactly last night. Yesterday I was reflecting a lot on my faith. I had recently finished reading the Quran page to page in English and had decided to set myself the goal of reading it in Arabic. I have been learning the Arabic alphabet, and with online resources such as this one it is not so difficult a challenge. If I read at least 18 verses a day I will have finished the Quran in Arabic in one year.
I was thinking to myself, its crazy really that it took me so long to read the Quran (a translation, in English). I had for years been dipping in and out of it in no particular order, then some months back I realised I had never read it cover to cover, so started to do so, put half an hour aside each day. Don't know why it took me so long, I should have done that years ago!
I started adding up the years since I had accepted Islam, and then realised it was actually 10 years ago. Then I started to calculate exactly which day it was, and realised with amazement that it was exactly 10 years ago to the day. To many that would be considered a coincidence. For those that believe however, we know these coincidences are signs, that God exists, and that we are on the right path. Still I am amazed and so thankful every time I see one of these signs in my own life.
So I thought now would be a good time to tweet about my Islam acceptance story. Some would call it a conversion. Others, a 'reversion'. I just call it a blessed moment of enlightenment, one of many on a path, but one so special. The reason I say this is because I had faith in God before that moment. Islam to me was like a refinement of my faith. A slight correction. Further enlightenment. Guidance to the right path.
I tried to keep the story brief. I will copy it here as I tweeted it:
Ok so hear it is. Story of how I embracedAfter tweeting, I received so many lovely comments, thank-you all. This is a story I have held on to for 10 years, I just told a few close friends who specifically asked about my journey. I felt it important to wait for the right time to tell people this story, even though it was burning a hole in my heart. Now felt like the right time.
#Islam. Many people asked me about it. 10 years to the day a good time I think to tweet it.
I was born Catholic. I had an unusual Catholic upbringing, very spiritual actually. Less of the tradition, more about faith.
As a young kid I witnessed some amazing spiritual things. Including a miracle. I came to know God as a child. But I questioned a lot too.
As a teenager I started to feel angry at church, saw a lot of hypocrisy, many things didn't make sense. So I stopped going to church.
For a while instead of going to church on Sundays I read the Bible on Sunday instead. And then I tried different churches. Lots of them :-)
Later I rebelled. Decided the world was full of bad things that I couldn't change. Best thing to do was enjoy myself.
More I put myself first, trying to have a good time, lonelier and sadder I became.
After many mistakes I went back to church. Was 'born again' :-) loved church then, was full of life, for a while.
But the hypocrisy was there still, beneath the surface. Ministers putting on a holy act, yet hiding their sins. I had to leave that church.
Next church was a quiet church. Lots of old people. Just used to go there for some peace and quiet really.
I remember praying that I wasn't sure about a lot of stuff preachers preached, but in my heart was something real, so I held on to that.
At the same time I was starting to make friends with Muslims. I was always interested in other cultures, and wanted to tell them about Jesus.
Funny looking back on my view of Islam then. I did think it was wrong. That I was right. But gradually my views were challenged.
The thing that really made me question my beliefs, was when I got to know some wonderful Muslim families. Much better than myself.
How could I be going to Heaven, and all those people to Hell?
So then I started reading,listening,asking questions,debating. I actually had a LOT of arguments with Muslim friends. Was a painful process.
Eventually I had ironed out all differences and similarities between Christianity and Islam. I admitted, both were good.
I started living like a Muslim in many ways. Stopped drinking alcohol (best decision of my life).
I also started to fast in a Ramadan, in solidarity with friends. Thought it a good practise of endurance. Character building.
But there was one question I couldn't answer with my heart, and my heart was afraid of making a mistake, I had made too many in the past..
Question I could not resolve was the place of Jesus Christ. Was He the Son of God? Was He part of God? Was He divine?
A friend at church once asked me if I prayed to Jesus, or to God? I was puzzled. I'd actually never thought about that.
However, the answer to my dilemma was not forthcoming, and I was extremely frustrated about this, and scared of making a mistake.
This night, 10 years ago, b4 I went to bed, I knelt down and pleaded to God for guidance on this matter. Then went to sleep.
Then I heard a knock at the door. You can call this part a dream if you like.
I got up and answered. Three men were at the door. I felt I knew them. They asked me to go for a walk. It was raining outside.
I put on my raincoat and wellies (over my pyjamas) and we went for a walk in the rain, on that dimly lit deprived street of terraced houses.
I realised I was walking with Moses,Jesus and Mohammed,peace be upon them all. At my side was Jesus. I asked Him lots questions,he answered.
Then we turned round and they walked me home. It was at that point I realised I was walking next to these 3 great men. Not worshipping them.
I thanked them. Said goodbye. Went back to bed, in peace. Woke up. Said my Shahada.
I was also tweeted some questions. I will post some of them here, with my replies:
Q: That's an amazing spiritual experience. Have you had a similar experience since?
A: Yes :-) but that one so special, I feel very blessed, still cry when I remember that walk.
Q: U were dreaming right ? It was a dream or real?
A: It's hard to say. It didn't feel like a dream, it felt real. My reasoning leads me to think there is another dimension.
Q: Did yu c the prophets pbuta faces??
A: When walking no, we just walked and talked, although I knew them, but when we said goodbye I looked Jesus pbuh in the face.
Q: What did u ask them and what answers did they give you?
A: I was waiting for this question :-) I remember at the time looking for a pen, I wanted to write it all down so I could remember. Jesus said to me that I didn't need to write it down,he would put it in my heart what I had heard,reached right inside of me. I try now to remember the words but struggle, or even the content, parts come to me at times, but something is deep inside.
I have also had people offering me help in any way that I want - thank-you so kind. If you want to help me, please help the Rohingya. I have been campaigning for them every day since June 2012 when they started to experience a terrible wave of genocidal attacks and are still suffering terribly to this day. Their plight is more important than my testimony. If my experience helps draw attention to them, I am happy. Here is one video video compilation I put together that you can watch and share:
You might also read and share my campaign blog savetherohingya.blogspot.com
If anyone would like to reprint this testimony anywhere, feel free. If you want to talk more you can contact me on Twitter @jamilahanan or on email firstname.lastname@example.org