I am a forty seven year old wife, mother of three and grandmother of one. I was born & brought up as a Methodist Christian. As a child I was Christened and sent to Sunday school, even becoming a Sunday school teacher. Both at Sunday school & day school I always came top in religious instruction exams. Even then though, I remember thinking that I wished I could really believe and accept Christianity wholeheartedly, but I always felt that something was wrong or something missing. Why if there was only one God did we worship Jesus? How if God was not human could he have a Son? Why did we refer to God as three- the Holy Trinity? As far as I was concerned God was God, on his own Ė Full Stop! My fatherís family were not practising Christians but my mothers were. My great grandfather had even been responsible for the setting up of the Methodist Chapel in his village. This was the same chapel I attended and where my family were very well known and always treated with the utmost respect.
After I met my future husband, who told me he was an atheist, I stopped attending Chapel and teaching at the Sunday school. Over the next few years my husband & I had three children and like a lot of people I followed the traditions of my family and had them christened and sent them to Sunday school. I may not have agreed wholeheartedly with Christianity but I had nothing better to offer them. I attended weddings, christenings & burials and some Easter & Christmas Services and Chapel Anniversary
Services, always thinking that I really wanted to believe more than I did and always feeling something was missing.
Having three children my life was always busy and I didnít really give much thought to religion on a day to day basis but then about fifteen years ago I became involved in local politics. Attending a party political conference, one of my fellow delegates was a Doctor, a Bangladeshi Muslim. We struck up a friendship and would talk, not just about Politics but many other things including religion. I had for some time admired things like Islamic buildings and art, I also liked the clothing that Indian women (not necessarily Muslim wore ĖSalwar Kameez, particularly the printed fabrics and scarves). From the few things I had learnt about Islam and Muslims from newspapers etc. I could see that my colleague was a pretty poor Muslim. I found out that he only prayed once a day, didnít fast, and hadnít been on Hajj, but this somehow got to me and I started reading anything and everything I could find about Islam.
Over the next ten or twelve years I had periods when I would read extensively and periods when I wouldnít give it a thought. I quickly began to admire the ethics of Muslim families, the way children were taught respect for their elders, the way they all spoke up for each other. I also began to feel the need to speak up for them, it always appeared they were the ones to be persecuted.
About three years ago I realised that I was spending more and more time thinking about Islam and that without realising it I would steer conversations with friends around to this subject. I also noted that I was very slowly changing my own habits, dressing more discreetly, not drinking, praying (not as a Muslim), something I had not done for a very long time. I then
found myself saying this is ridiculous I am not a Muslim I am a Christian and I would go out of my way to convince myself of this. I changed my job and went to work in London for the first time and made sure that I always went out with colleagues to bars and restaurants after work, I bought more showy clothes, I am sorry to say that I neglected my family duties, I was too tired to do housework and cooking. My husband & sons (my daughter had by now gone to University and set up home on her own) had to fend for themselves. My Muslim friend asked why I was doing this to my family and I told him about my feelings for Islam, I guess he wasnít all bad as his response was to buy me an English translation of the Quíran. I was hooked!
January 2001 I made one last attempt to convince myself that I was not a Muslim, I changed my job again. This time to work for a West End theatre producer, even more partying. But it didnít work and I quickly realised that I was making myself physically sick. I developed several different illnesses all with symptoms brought about (according to my doctor) by stress. I was taking several types of medication. One day at the beginning of September 2001 I was reading the Quíran when without realising what I was doing I said the Shahadah to myself and felt the most wonderful sense of completeness and a serenity I had never felt before. I made the decision there and then that I would find somewhere to really learn how to become a Muslim and to say Shahadah again, but this time in front of witnesses. My only worry was how I would find the courage and words to tell my family of my decision. I had been married for twenty-eight years by now but still didnít really know what my husbandís beliefs were or how any of my family would react.
Imagine my horror therefore and I am sorry to say the anger I felt when I came back from lunch on 11th September to be confronted with pictures on the Internet of the planes flying into
the world trade centre. Over the next few days and weeks I would hear people say that all Muslims were alike and that they should all be thrown out of the country etc, etc. I found myself defending them saying not all Muslims were terrorists any more than all Roman Catholics supported the IRA and were we going to throw out all Irish people. I soon realised however that now was not the time to break my news. I decided to keep it to myself. Ramadam came and I remembered that I had just a couple of months earlier imagined I would be fasting. I spent Christmas with my family as I have always done, this year cooking for twenty people. I travelled to Scotland two days before New Year only to spend new years eve travelling back to England, as I was unwell. We arrived home with fifteen minutes to spare before midnight and I made a resolution that I would give up my job in London and work part time locally so that I would have time to learn Arabic and really make the effort to become a good Muslim.
I decided to write to two local Mosques. I desperately wanted to learn how to pray as a Muslim but knew that I couldnít just walk into a Mosque. I was terrified I would do something wrong and really offend someone or that they would be really un-welcoming. I got no response from either of my letters. One day however I found a book with a rough outline of a prayer in Ė I think the book was meant for school children- but anyhow I followed the instructions and prayed. I knew then I had made the right decision. I also knew I had to find the courage to tell my family, but how? It was at this time that I sent two emails which were to be the most important of my life. One was to a site for new converts and one was to an Islamic Centre in a nearby town. To my amazement they were both answered. Within two weeks of this I was to meet two amazing groups of people who welcomed me into their midst. Within a month I had
said Shahadah in front of witnesses as I had hoped for.
I was now a Muslim and somehow I had to find a way of telling my family. I now had a son in law and a grandson as well as my own children. A Jewish son in law in fact albeit non-practising. One evening when I was reading the Quíran, before I had had a chance to tell my husband he asked when I was going to change my faith. He was very shocked to begin with but we talked and I told him how happy I felt and that I hoped he would try to understand and to find out why I had come to this decision. I think he has coped amazingly well especially as I had felt a need to wear Hijab almost immediately, probably because it has taken me so many years to get this far.
My children seem to have accepted the changes I have made, although like their father they find the wearing of Hijab rather strange but they are persevering and have actually commented on how much happier and relaxed I seem.
My son in law has actually been the one who has so far shown the most interest, asking questions about various aspects, and although he has reservations about explaining to my grandson why I wear a scarf and his own mother doesnít, he is trying hard to be accepting. Unfortunately it has been my daughter who is most against it. Unfortunately some years ago she had a relationship of her own with a Muslim guy who didnít treat her very well and I feel this has coloured her judgement.
As for my husband we have now talked and I have found that his own beliefs are not that dissimilar to my own, but he just believes that religion should be private and that in this modern age we should keep our beliefs to ourselves and not go out of our way to make our beliefs obvious to others i.e. wearing Hijab.
Slowly our lives are changing, there are those who say I should
move quicker and canít do this or that any more, but I know my family and if I want them to accept Islam for themselves I know I have to be patient.
Holy Quran 42:23