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Champion Weightlifter Rebeka Koha Converts to Islam

Today is a special day for me, because I became a Muslim🧕🏻

Latvian weightlifter Rebeka Koha has announced that she has converted to Islam and, as a result, has decided to remove all photos and videos from her social media.

 

She has also asked other people not to post images featuring her hair, neck, arms or legs.

 

Dear friends, followers and just everybody!
I made a big decision in my life! And all I can tell is that I’m happy and thankful about it☺️I’m sure for myself that I did the right thing❤️
The only thing what I’m asking about is RESPECT and if you have nothing good to say you can leave and better remain silent!🙂
Today is a special day for me, because I became a Muslim🧕🏻
At 3:48pm I did the Shahada(which is a declaration of faith aka converting) and entered Islam🙏🏻 from here I believe that the new and beautiful chapter of my life can begin 🙌🏻😍🤩
As I’m a muslim now I would like to ask you to not post and share any pictures of me (if you have ofc) anywhere for a public use where is seen my hair and/or body(arms, neck, legs).‼️
Thanks to those who supports me and stays with me no matter what! Alhamdulillah, wishing you all the best and God bless all of you❤️

In a comment on the post, which is now the only one on her Instagram account, she clarified that she does not expect all existing content featuring her to be removed:

“What we have and what is done we can’t change that. I can’t ask all the people to delete everything, throw everything out. Just be respectful and don’t post anything from this moment. That’s it”

In another comment, she responded to a question about her reasons for converting:

“first of because of my future husband when we started dating I got to know more about Islam. Thank to him I found so many good things and this is one of them. I feel peace and happiness in this. So I found it right to do it”

In early May, Koha announced her engagement to Qatari discus thrower Moaz Mohamed Ibrahim. Twenty-one-year-old Ibrahim won a gold medal at the 2016 World U20 Athletics Championships but has not yet won a medal at a senior international competition.

Koha last competed at the Latvian Championships in early March, where she set new Latvian records with a 104kg snatch and a 227kg total. She has already done enough to qualify comfortably for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (assuming it goes ahead in 2021), sitting fourth in the W59 rankings and having completed all of the required competitions.

The statement from Koha did not state whether her religious conversion or planned marriage will affect her weightlifting career. Latvian news is reporting that she currently has some knee issues but is training for upcoming competitions. Her coach, Eduards Andruškevičs, is quoted as saying:

“I think that everything is based on love. We talked to Rebeka before … She said that this would not interfere with her career in any way, but now there is another problem – health misfortunes. The doctor did not find anything in the initial tests, but Rebeka has problems with her knees. She is currently having difficulty withstanding a heavy load. “

He went on to say:

“I am worried about whether Rebeka will be able to withstand the whole program. She started well in the Latvian championship, but now there are health problems and I know that Rebeka will not want to fight for the tenth position”

Her next competition would be the Latvian individual lift championships in August. According to her coach, she will lift there in an outfit that is compatible with her faith.

The IWF has allowed full-body unitards and headscarves to be worn in competition since 2011, which has enabled several Muslim women to compete internationally.

According to reports in Latvia, Koha still plans to represent the country at the forthcoming European Championships in Moscow. The Latvian Olympic Committee has expressed its support for her, saying that they hope her conversion will positively affect her preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Latvian Olympic Committee Secretary-General Karl Lejnieks said:

“The LOK respects the free choice of anyone that affects their privacy. The same goes for Rebeka Koha. We hope that this decision will have a positive impact on her sporting path to the most important competition of the four years – the Tokyo Olympics”


Source: Weightlifting House website with some modifications

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A New Convert Becomes Interested in Teaching Islam 2

By Editorial Staff

I find Islam a learning religion. You don’t stop from learning new things when you’re Muslim.

Perhaps everywhere in the world, more and more people are converting to Islam and start learning about its teachings.

The reasons for this are many such as the sense of calmness that they would feel, the happiness, tranquility and inner peace that they achieve after conversion.

Life challenges often lead them to this point. Moreover, being a servant to the One True God liberates a person from slavery to everything other than God.

In short, every new Muslim has an inspiring story to tell. However, in this article, we have a new, simple and short message from someone who is not only a new convert, but also a teacher. Although he wishes to remain anonymous, the message may still be inspiring.

As-salam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh (Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you) brothers and sisters.

First, I would like to thank Allah (Subhana wa Ta’ala, highly exalted is He, and most high) for granting an opportunity to realize the true religion of Islam.

I would also want to thank my teachers who have been with me every step of the way. May Allah (Subhana wa Ta’ala) reward you handsomely.

I find Islam a learning religion. You don’t stop from learning new things when you’re Muslim. On this note, I know and believe it will be a wonderful opportunity if I can help my fellow brothers and sisters who would want to know more about the true religion of Islam.

Through teaching/guiding the new members, it will be of much benefit for me as I’ll be learning and keeping my faith strong.

I’m also attending Arabic language classes through social media links. So this will make it easy for me to be more perfect.

May Allah (Subhana wa Ta’ala) guide me and make me more knowledgeable about Islam as I start this noble course.

As-salam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

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A New Convert Becomes Interested in Teaching Islam

By Editorial Staff

7 April, one of my unforgettable days, was the first time I went to the mosque. I was welcomed warmly during Asr (Afternoon) prayer.

Abu Bakr is now a junior teacher of Islam who wants to share his simple, short but touching story of conversion. Celebrating his first day of teaching, Abu Bakr wrote the following:

Al-Salam ‘Alaikum (Peace be upon you) my fellow Muslims. I am Abu Bakr, born Lovemore Vito from Christian family from Malawi.

My journey to Islam starts long back. In short, l was inspired by brothers and sisters l work with. Some of them were Muslims and were humble to me and everyone.

After some years l left them but l was still asking myself questions about their lifestyle. Luckily enough, l joined different groups on Facebook. Then, I started reading about Islam.

Luckily l joined Chat on faith. I was directed to Brother Fuhaid (May Allah bless him). He is the one who taught me all the doctrines on behalf of Chat of Faith. Though he was teaching me, l myself was working tirelessly reading different doctrines about Islam.

7 April, one of my unforgettable days, was the first time I went to the mosque. I was welcomed warmly during Asr (Afternoon) prayer.

About My Life after Converting to Islam

My life has totally changed because of this true and beautiful religion. I have met good and humble brothers and sisters.

Now I am always near Allah because most of my time is spent with my brothers in Islam discussing about Allah, the Last Day, life in the Hereafter and some good stories about Allah (God) and Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace).

Why I Am Intrested in Teaching

Everything has a reward in the life of the Hereafter. If you do bad deeds you will not enter Paradise but if you do good deeds you will be rewarded with Jannatul Firdous (the Gardens of Paradise).

The Book(Quran) and Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace)clarify clearly that the one who teaches other people about this true and beautiful religion will be rewarded after this painful world. So I am interested to impart knowledge to my fellow brothers and sisters regardless of culture, country and tribe so that Allah will reward me with Jannah (the Gardens of Paradise).

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Wilhelm Ott, the Great Austrian MMA Fighter, Converts to Islam

Wilhelm Ott, the Great Austrian MMA Fighter, Converts to Islam

 
 
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Austrian famed Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Wilhelm Ott converted to Islam while searching for the ‘truth’ during the Coronavirus crisis.

Wilhelm Ott, a 37-year-old Austrian fighter from Mixed Martial Arts, announced on Instagram that he had become Muslim after reading the Shahadah.

 

“The Coronavirus has given me so much time that I can find my faith, my faith is so strong that I can proudly say that I am a Muslim, knowing God and reading the Shahadah,” he said.

“I let myself be influenced politically. But when I had hard times, the Islamic faith gave me the necessary strength,” he added.

Ott said he had been researching Islam for many years and thanked the fans for their full support.

On this occasion, he thanked fellow Turkish MMA fighter Barak Kizlermak who had given him the gift of the Holy Quran and prayer.

Ott thanked the Muslim community for accepting Islam openly, acknowledging that they would fast for the first time in Ramadan this year.

The great Austrian fighter known as The Amazing was born in 1982 and is currently ranked 74th in the rankings of 615 active wrestlers.


Sources: gossip.pk with some modifications

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The Swiss Nora Illi, the Co-founder of the Swiss Central Islamic Council, Dies Aged 35

Nora Illi, a famous Islamic preacher who co-founded the Swiss Central Islamic Council (IZRS), died on Monday at the age of 35, after a long illness. As the IZRS now reports, Nora Illi has lost the fight against breast cancer diagnosed in 2012. She is survived by six children and her husband.

Originally from Zurich, Illi converted to Islam in 2002, aged 18, after a trip to Dubai. Prior to this, she had been a punk and had also been interested in Buddhism.

Nora Illi was born in 1983 to a German psychotherapist and a Swiss social worker. Illi dropped out of high school and trained as a polygraph. In addition, she became active in the punk scene of her hometown Uster ZH. As an 18-year-old, she converted to Islam.

At a solidarity campaign for Palestine, she met her future husband, Schaffhausen’s Patric Illi (now Qaasim Illi). In 2003 they married in Jordan. Together, they subsequently represented the Swiss Islamic Central Council (IZRS) in public: Nora Illi as the commissioner for women’s affairs, her husband as the PR manager.

Influence of chemotherapy

She was known in public for always wearing her Niqab. Illi was an advocate of polygyny. This differs from polygamy in that a man may have several women, but a woman may only have one man.

In the talk show Anne Will in 2016, she was defending the woman’s right to wear niqab. Thus, she was falsely accused of supporting extremist groups like ISIS. Replying to this false accusation, she stressed that any Muslim whether in Switzerland or any other country in the world should denounce and avoid violence.

Bussenfang in Ticino

As a Niqab activist, Illi publicly caught fines: After the ban on veiling came into force in the canton of Ticino in July 2016, she received the first banned buses because of her public appearance in the Niqab. In 2017 she also had to pay for her veiling in Vienna.

Her husband, Qaasim Illi on the passing of Nora Illi, said, “We are overwhelmed by your tributes from all over the world – Thank you!” Keep her and us in your du’a’.


Sources: 20min.ch/schweiz/ (as cited in allaboutgeneva.com) with some modifications.

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Hanan’s and John’s Stories of Conversion to Islam

By Abbie Wightwick

Born to Christian but not especially religious families, Hanan Sandercock and her husband John Smith became Muslims as adults in Wales.

They celebrate Eid and not Christmas, pray five times a day, and don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. Hanan, 51, has worn a scarf for 23 years since converting aged 28 and raised all her four children in the faith.

Both say they felt a sense of relief and fufilment converting. They describe it as finding a community as well as a faith and finding answers to questions they’d been asking.

Artist and play worker Hanan Sandercock has decorated the family home in Pentwyn with copies of ancient Islamic tile designs. She is pictured with husband John Smith

Searching for the meaning of life

While their families supported their choice some of Hanan’s friends drifted away when she became a Muslim in 1995.

Then Donna Sandercock, she arrived in Cardiff in the early 1990s as a young art school graduate looking for work.

“I was in my 20s and I think I was searching. I wanted to know the meaning of life. I went to a Buddhist meeting but that didn’t do anything for me.”

 

With Cardiff beginning to shake off the grey days of the 1970s and ’80s Donna, originally from a small village in Cornwall, was intrigued to be in a city with a historically multicultural population. She got to know and befriend young Muslims her age working and socialising.

“I was interested. Their religion was very important to them. They were solid and had a belief system I didn’t have.

“I’d eat at their houses and have the nicest food. They were really open and welcoming and happy I was interested.”

If we got our safely I’d become a Muslim

In the summer of 1994 visiting a kibbutz in Palestine she also learned more about Palestinian and Muslim history and culture and had a religious experience which led her to convert to Islam when she returned to Cardiff.

“I was walking in a wadi, a deep ravine, in the heat of the day with a friend and we got lost,” she said. “There were no mobile phones then and we had run out of water. I prayed in a way I’d never done before. I prayed that if we got our safely I’d become a Muslim. It wasn’t something I’d vocalised before but realised it had been inside me.”

Back in Wales she “read and read about Islam” and spoke to a Yemeni  friend “who kept asking me if I was sure” before converting at the South Wales Islamic Centre in Butetown.

The well-known late Imam Sheikh Said, whose own mother was a Welsh Muslim convert, listened as Donna changed her name to Hanan and recited the Shahada, the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as his prophet.

Inside the The South Wales Islamic Centre where Hanan converted to Islam

“I immediately felt a great sense of relief,” she said. “Islam explains things to me. The answers are all there.

“I became part of a diverse community. I was not pressured to be or become a particular way.

“I wore an abayah. Being Muslim is an identity and I wanted to show that.”

Marrying an Algerian Muslim in Cardiff Hanan had four children, now aged 22, 21, 14 and 10, but later divorced.

And within a few years world events led her to stop wearing her robe robe because she was scared of being attacked. When 9/11 happened the whole landscape changed.

Although Hanan had been shouted at and had things thrown at her by men in cars in 1990s Cardiff, it was only when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 that she began to feel seriously at risk.

“I stopped wearing the abayah (robe) after 9/11. I knew some Muslim women had been attacked in the UK and America. I had little children and didn’t want us to be at risk. I carried on wearing the scarf but not the abayah.”

At the same time a few miles down the road 35 year-old John Smith was seeking out Muslims but for different reasons.

John’s journey of conversion

John and Hanan’s bookcase is filled with books about Islam

Born in Omagh, northern Ireland, to a Protestant Irish mother and English army father, John was living in Pontypridd when the September 11 attacks happened in 2001.

“9/11 led to me converting to Islam,” he said as he recalled not so much a search for faith as a bolt out of the blue.

“I met a University of South Wales (USW) student who was Muslim and asked him: ‘How could Muslims do this? Where’s the rationale?’

“He told me the people who carried out the attacks had Muslim names but were not Muslims. He gave me a copy of the Quran.”

After reading the holy book John attended a lecture tour by a Muslim cleric and converted.

“I converted before I really found out about Islam. Saying the Shahada is a declaration. You have to take it slowly and really want to do it.

“Being Muslim for me means having a sense of family.

“You never stop learning. Islamic culture and religion is incredibly rich.”

As there is no mosque in Pontypridd John prayed at the prayer facility at USW. Although he wasn’t a student the room is open to the community. Now living in Cardiff he visits the Al Manar and Dar Ul-Isra mosques. Like Hanan he prays in Arabic.

The couple, who met through a friend in 2017 and married the same year, are horrified by extremism in any part of the Muslim or non-Muslim community.

“Extremist Muslims are the bane of our lives because it’s always those that make the headlines,” said John.

“They almost become the public face of Islam which is really difficult when you when you are living as a Muslim and it colours peoples’ judgement.”

Hanan has witnessed a child’s headscarf being snatched off her head in Roath Park by a teenager on a bike, knows people who have been insulted regularly in the street, and has herself been insulted and had liquid thrown at her from a car in the 1990s.

She is impatient with those who won’t adapt and celebrate diversity, saying she is proud to be a white “British Muslim”. She disagrees with the Salafi Muslim view that Muslims should not take part in Western democracy by voting and is frustrated by non-Muslim friends and acquaintances who turn up with bottles of alcohol or argue about the custom of not celebrating birthdays.

Both say they have been very lucky with their families accepting and embracing their change of religion and lifestyle.

Hanan’s younger sister Lisa also converted and their parents moved to Cardiff and enjoy celebrating Eid with their grandchildren, all of whom are Muslim.

 

Both Hanan and John feel it is vital to talk about their faith to counter ignorance.

Hanan, a play leader at the Steiner School in Cardiff, said she works and teaches with people who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan and of no religion.

Her younger children attend the school and she likes that it is a place where discussion is easy and differences are accepted. She regrets this is not the case everywhere but said she and her family are happy to be who they are and say so.

“I am British Muslim and happy to be. At first when you convert you are shy and embarrassed. But I even make halal pasties now.

“This is who I am.”


Source: walesonline.co.uk with some modifications

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Canadian Youtuber Rosie Gabrielle Reverts to Islam

By Editorial Staff

Canadian traveler and vlogger Rosie Gabrielle reverts to Islam after a long journey of discovery and explorations and life full of anger, pain and suffering. She finally found  peace in Islam. May Allah help her remain steadfast in her faith!

Last week, Gabrielle shared her story of conversion on Instagram. She wrote:

For me, I was already technically a “Muslim”. My Shahada was basically a re-dedication of my life to the path of Oneness, connection and Peace through the devotion of God.

I CONVERTED to ISLAM☪️

What lead me to this Big decision?


As I mentioned previously, this last year was one of the hardest in my life, and all life’s challenges have led me to this point here and now. From a young child, I’ve always had a unique connection with creation and special relationship to God. My path was far from easy and I carried a lot of anger in my heart from a lifetime of pain, always begging God, why me? Until ultimately coming to the conclusion that all is meant to be, and even my suffering is a gift.

Never resonating with what I was brought up with, I denounced my religion 4 years ago, going down a deep path of spiritual discovery.Exploration of self, and the great Divine. I never let go the sight of the Creator, in fact, my curiosity and connection only grew stronger. Now no longer dictated by fear, I was able to fully explore this righteous path. .
As time passed, the more I experienced, the more I witnessed the true nature and calling for my life. I wanted to be free. Free of the pain and shackles that was hell. Liberation from the anger, hurt and misalignment. I wanted peace in my heart, forgiveness and the most profound connection with all. And thus started my journey.

She Finds Peace of Heart in Pakistan


“The universe brought me to Pakistan, not only to challenge myself to let go of the last remaining traces of pain and ego, but also to show me the way. .

Through kindness,& humbled grace of the people I met along my pilgrimage, inspired my heart to seek further. Living in a Muslim country for 10 + years and traveling extensively through these regions, I observed one thing; Peace. A kind of peace that one can only dream of having in their hearts. .

Unfortunately Islam is one of the most misinterpreted and criticized religions world wide. And like all religions, there are many interpretations. But, the core of it, the true meaning of Islam, is PEACE, LOVE & ONENESS. It’s not a religion, but a way of life. The life of humanity, humility and Love. .

For me, I was already technically a “Muslim”. My Shahada was basically a re-dedication of my life to the path of Oneness, connection and Peace through the devotion of God.
If you have any Q’s comment below”

She Makes Her Declaration of Faith

 

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Why I Converted to Islam – Part 2

By Sarah Price

CHRISTIANITY

I was a very strong Christian before converting to Islam. It’s an extremely focal point of my faith journey and without it I would not be a Muslim.

My love for Jesus (peace be upon him) actually led me to Islam. Christianity is actually the closest religion to Islam, not only theoretically but also historically.

Jesus (peace be upon him) is an important figure and you cannot be a Muslim without believing in the life and work of Jesus (peace be upon him)

There are many misconceptions about what Islam teaches about Christianity. To begin, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) taught Muslims regarding how they should treat Christians.

To summarize it, we are to treat Christians with respect, and even if a Muslim man is married to a Christian woman, she cannot be stopped from praying in her place of worship. In Surat Al-Ma’idah (The Table Spread), 5:82, this is what it says –

‘and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers who say, “We are the Christians”. That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant’. (Quran 5:82)

Christians and Jews are commonly referred to as ‘People of the Book’ in Islam, because we all have the same Abrahamic roots.

The Status of Jesus and Mary (Peace Be Upon Them) in Islam

Jesus’ (peace be upon him) name is actually mentioned more times in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him).

Muslims still believe in the virgin birth and place importance on Mary (may Allah be pleased with her). Jesus (peace be upon him) is an important figure and you cannot be a Muslim without believing in the life and work of Jesus (peace be upon him). I could write a huge post about this, which I will discuss further in future blog posts.

Jesus (peace be upon him) prostrated and humbled himself before God. He only performed miracles under God’s permission. He was an incredible prophet who taught love and compassion to the children of Israel.

The only difference between Christians and Muslims is that we take Jesus (peace be upon him) to be a prophet and not to be worshipped alongside God.

Islam teaches the Oneness of God, and to worship Allah alone and we believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) taught this himself. The term ‘Allah’, by the way, is the Arabic word for ‘God’ and is not just an Islamic term. Arab Christians also call God ‘Allah’.

Christianity vs. Islam

However, after returning from Malaysia I felt like something was missing. I researched key aspects and foundations of Christianity, right down to the trinity and where the concept came from.

I researched what Paul taught, what various historical leaders implemented after the death of Christ and I read my Bible inside out. I researched on what has been taken out of the Bible, what has been put in and the various contradictions and solid truths of the Bible.

There are similarities between the Qur’an and the Bible. For me, the Qur’an answered many questions I had about my Christian faith for a long time. I could find no fault, no contradictions in the Qur’an. I listened to debates between world-renowned Biblical and Qur’anic scholars, and felt that the Qur’an made more sense.

JOURNALISM

My sheer drive to be a journalist has taken me to places I never imagined and allowed me to meet amazing people. I’ve interviewed famous people such as One Republic, Bastille, Marina Mahathir, Kristian Chong, Yannick Bovy, Sisters in Islam, Virginia Haussegger, Senator Michaelia Cash, VJ’s Hanli Hoefer and Alan Wong and the list goes on.

I’ve been to incredible events and interned at really great places. I am very fortunate to have experienced so much at such a young age while still completing my undergraduate degree in journalism.

However, the best part of being a journalist is being able to make some change in the world. To give people a voice, to learn about human beings and the world around me. This is so humbling and motivates me every day.

Being a journalist led me to learn about Islam.

Yes, I am still a journalist and still as motivated (if not more) as a Muslim woman. Incorporating my faith and career is not a difficult task, and in fact Islam helps me to appreciate people and the world around me in many different ways.

Interviewing UN Person of the Year, passionate leader of SIS (Sisters in Islam), writer and strong advocate for women’s rights Marina Mahathir definitely shaped my view of Muslim women’s rights and of Islam itself.

I still remember how sweaty my palms were. A million thoughts were rushing through my head. ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Am I really cut out for journalism?’ This was my first interview with someone quite famous.

As soon as I met Marina, her quiet yet assertive nature impressed me and I immediately felt a sense of ease with her. I knew the interview was an important one, a life-changing one. She answered so many questions I had been asking myself since arriving in Malaysia.

The Qur’an does not teach inequality.

It does not permit men to beat their wives. Her knowledge was exuberating, and I felt as if I had a newfound understanding of something much bigger and deeper than I ever thought possible.

“We are all one people on this Earth, ” said Marina as we finished the interview. I smiled at her in appreciation, and looking back now I know that was the most important lesson I had learned thus far.

Despite various factors that apparently make us so different – such as national borders, countries, politics, culture, tribes, heritage, skin color, race and religion – we all bleed the same and breathe the same air. I think we should all try to remember this daily.

It’s Important Not to Judge Too Harshly

The most vital thing I’ve learnt in Islam which I incorporate into journalism is no matter what evil and good I see in people, it’s important not to judge too harshly (that would be bias for one, we need to be as objective as possible in our reporting) because EVERYONE is capable of anything.

‘The greatest jihad (struggle) is to battle your own soul; to fight the very evil within yourself,’ Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We can always look at others and improve certain things about ourselves. There’s so much worldly wisdom in this one quote, and it truly inspires and humbles me.

But let me not disillusion you – becoming a Muslim and incorporating it into my way of life has not been easy in the slightest. It’s hard, and you learn more every day.

People judge you, even Muslims judge you. I’m not going to just put some holy light around it…being a Muslim has tested my patience more than ever before, more than I ever imagined. But they say the right path is not always the easiest one – and despite how hard it is at times, it also brings an incredible sense of peace in my heart and into my life.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is part of me now, but not all of me. It makes me happy, it makes me cry, and it makes me question a lot of things about society and about the Dunya (this life).

All I can say is that I find rest with Allah , and no matter what I go through, I know I am never alone every time I make Salat to my Creator. Truly,

‘verily with every hardship comes ease’ (Quran 94:6).


Source: http: muslimsincalgary.ca with some modifications

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Why I Converted to Islam – Part 1

By Sarah Price

Islamic. Jihadist. ISIS. Terrorist. Women banned from driving in Saudi Arabia. Burqa. 9/11…unfortunately, the term ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’ isn’t always associated with the most positive attributes. In fact, the term ‘Islam’ can inflict some pretty negative connotations in this day and age. For a term that means ‘peaceful submission to God’, it is a religion that is often seen in the media for all the wrong reasons.

Islam quickly became a mysterious religion I wanted to learn more about. That’s when I decided to do one of my investigative articles about Muslim women’s rights.

So, why would an educated, independent and well-travelled young Australian woman decide to convert to a religion widely considered ‘backwards’?

Well, it’s for multitude of reasons. Although people usually assume it’s for a man. Why else would a woman do that, right?

WRONG. Not in my case anyway. It’s pretty dazzling how some people assume these things though. Even asking for halal food at my local university cafe received a snarky comment from the waitress asking if I ‘converted for my boyfriend’.

I get confused looks at my fair skin and light eyes, some Australians ask what country I’m from, only to be shocked to hear I am myself an Australian. Australian AND Muslim? The combination is unthinkable to some.

Converting to Islam Has Been No Easy Task.

Despite some pretty harsh and rude comments about my change in faith, I’ve also had some amazing people come up to me and ask me why. This, ladies and gentleman, is the question that I am happy to answer.

You don’t have to agree with it – my word, you don’t even have to accept it – but this is my story and reasons which led me over the course of two years to where I am now.

Converting to Islam has been no easy task. I’ve been called names, been scrutinized, rejected and fired from jobs, lost friends and had a really difficult time with my family accepting the changes in my life. But with prayer, investigation, lots of reading and researching and talking to people from different faiths and backgrounds has all contributed to my peaceful way of life now.

Yes, I am Muslim. I am also Australian, I’m a journalist, and I am also a traveler. Being a Muslim doesn’t change the elements that make up who I am as a person. Although you can never truly express what comes from your own heart in your own personal journey, my reversion to Islam was due to three main factors. This is my story and mine alone.

MALAYSIA

Traveling to Malaysia was definitely the foundation for my conversion to Islam. After deciding on a whim to go on student exchange to Malaysia, I never imagined what a crazy adventure I had set myself up for.

Malaysia is my second home. It holds a very special place in my heart and I grew immensely as a person there. I experienced some of the best and worst moments of my life; and the whole experience was filled with color, adventure and opportunity.

From sleeping in a dirty ferry port for eight hours, getting lost in a rainforest on Tioman Island (and trying to make it back before dark), riding on motorbikes in Penang and scuba-diving in Perhentian Islands, these were just the beginning of my adventure there.

I was getting out of my comfort zone in Malaysia and exposed to things I had never seen as a small town Australian girl from Gippsland. Nothing went to plan nor was expected in Malaysia.

My Thoughts About Islam Before Malaysia

Before Malaysia, I knew nothing about Islam. I had never met a Muslim (to my knowledge) and I always thought of Muslims as wearing heavy black garments somewhere in the Middle East, far, far away from ‘civilization’.

Yes, I also thought Muslim women were oppressed. That they couldn’t go anywhere without their husbands, that they couldn’t have careers, and had to wear black all the time. Not that I really thought about it much, I was always in my own bubble of society to ponder too much about it.

So, my somewhat fabricated image of Islam was shattered when I came to Malaysia. Suddenly, I found myself becoming curious of the pretty South-East Asian Muslim girls with their colorful hijabs and clothes. I met many Muslim friends – who became life-long friends- who went to university, who had jobs, who wore veils and also many who didn’t, and they all seemed quite content and loved their religion.

An Article on Muslim Women’s Rights

Being a journalism student, I’ve always been an open-minded person and have a lust for the unknown. Islam quickly became a mysterious religion I wanted to learn more about. That’s when I decided to do one of my investigative articles about Muslim women’s rights.

THIS was the beginning of everything. My eyes and mind were completed opened and bursting with knowledge about Islam and the fact that WOMEN HAVE MANY RIGHTS IN ISLAM!

In fact, Muslim women were legally given rights (that’s including divorce, land rights, monetary rights, the right to choose who to marry, etc.) in the Qur’an and Hadiths hundreds of years before Western women were legally given the same rights.

There’s even a whole chapter about Women in the Qur’an. Men are taught to lower their gaze, and to treat women and their wives with utmost respect because this is favored in God’s eyes.

THIS, of course, does not mean Muslims are sinless. People need to differentiate between culture, politics and religion. We humans are not perfect, in fact far from it. Even I learned this in Malaysia – instead of judging a whole religion on a few people’s actions, look into the religion and what it teaches.

Feelings Never Felt Before

When I first stepped into a mosque, I felt an immediate sense of calm and peace. I even interviewed an imam. The strong yet humble cry of the call to prayer invoked feelings in me I had never felt before. When I first bowed my head toward the Ka’ba, I felt home in my heart. I didn’t convert to Islam in Malaysia – I was to over a year later – but it introduced me in a beautiful way to Islam and to the Oneness of God.

As each day passed in Malaysia, and with each experience I lived, it dawned on me that I was starting to outgrow the sheltered life I was living back home in my country town, and the various stereotypes placed on society from culture to culture. Malaysia was having an effect on me far greater than the boundaries of Monash University, cool clubs and intriguing food; it was the people itself and the lessons I was learning. I realized that every little moment in Malaysia would be some of my best.

I was definitely not the same girl that left Melbourne airport for this unexpected journey I grew immensely, while paradoxically also finding myself and what I’m truly capable of. I was a girl who was insecure and always feeling confined and trapped in the community I was living in – Malaysia, in a way, set me free.

The Best Decision I Have Ever Made

While we can’t be sure of much in this world, I know without a shadow of a doubt that going to Malaysia randomly was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Malaysia didn’t turn out as I imagined or planned, and that in itself made it so wonderful. It taught me to believe in my own capabilities and in myself more than ever, and that comes with taking a deep breath and stepping into the world on your own for the very first time.

Malaysia gave me adventure. It kick started my career in journalism. It allowed me to meet wonderful, terrible yet interesting people. But most importantly…Malaysia gave me Islam. I truly believe I was meant to go there.

To be continued…


Source: http: muslimsincalgary.ca with some modifications

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