Tag Archives: islam

The Sabah Crisis and the Filipino Muslims

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I wrote some articles on the History of Islam in Philippines while I was in Dubai.  It never occurred to me that I will have to write about the armed struggle normally associated with my Muslim compatriots in Mindanao.  I must admit I wanted to stay silent to respect the positions taken by those closest to my heart, yet doing so is like turning my back to the very people who helped me become who I am today.

Islam is a religion of peace, and the most peaceful way of life.  The judgement people passed to my religion because of what some minorities do continue to cripple us in spreading the message of peace and love embodied in the Koran.  I don’t blame the media though they contribute a lot in shaping the bad image of Islam, nor do I blame my brothers and sisters who were gone astray for lack of knowledge about the religion because they were just born into and never had the chance of realizing how beautiful and perfect it is.  I cannot blame them because it is the system of this imperfect world.  All I can do is pray for Allah to give me strength in fighting for what I believe in, and to do what Koran teaches me about compassion, love and social justice.  In this regard, I would like to state my position about the Sabah crisis in the most objective way I can, as a Filipino and a Muslim, and as a freedom fighter.

The Sultanates of early Muslim civilizations in Mindanao have property rights over Sabah and the large part of Borneo.  These rights were relegated to the government when the families agreed to and supported the Philippines’ assertion of its sovereign rights on these islands against other nations like Malaysia, Brunei and China. This territorial dispute has been around for a long time and is recently elevated to the UN/International Court of Justice, the resolution of which is heavily dependent on the will of the people actually living in that area.  I will never condone any aggressive violent course of action in the name of Islam, especially if the issue is not of faith but of worldly things, but I firmly believe that every Muslim should defend his property and honor.  The Kirams felt that the government is giving away what they had given to it.  They felt not only losing Sabah but the dignity of being its rightful owner because the government continues to turn a deaf ear to their pledges of dialogue.  Hence, I am disappointed how Malacanang is handling the crisis and I strongly detest the threats this government has posed against the Sultanate.  On the other hand, I wished that the Kirams had consulted their Muslim brothers and sisters on other possible ways of solving the problem.  I sincerely hoped that they considered the fact that Malaysia is a Muslim country and most of its inhabitants, filipinos or malaysians, are their very own brothers and sisters in Allah’s Ummah.  And my deepest prayer is that their recent and future actions will be driven by faith and not by want of more money from this Sabah property.

The greater part of resolving this crisis is in the hands of President Aquino, as the father of this nation and as someone posing to be pro-Muslim and leading the country to the Tuwid na Daan.  Instead of threatening the Kirams, I hope that he will show them good reasons to give up their arms because the government is not abandoning the fight for claiming Sabah.  Instead of bowing his head to the Malaysian authorities who are driven by their own country’s interest, I hope that he will dignify our country and  talk to our own Muslim leaders  and send Muslim emissaries to Malaysia and the Kirams to find a common ground for the resolution of this crisis.  Instead of talking on television and wasting his time selling the idea that the Kirams are funded/instigated by opposition forces, I hope that he will unite the country and stand ground on the issues of sovereignty and peace.  I hope that he will set aside the past and focus on finding out the truth about claims of abuse and oppression against filipinos in Sabah.  This crisis should have an immediate resolution.  Don’t let the Manila Hostage Crisis scenario happen again.  Act now.  Before it’s too late.

To my Muslim brothers and sisters, let us pray for Philippines and Malaysia.  Let us pray for the leaders of this world to be conscientious in handling their affairs.  But most importantly, let us take a strong and unified stand against any form of oppression and social injustice.

At the end of the day, a true Muslim never gives up.  Don’t be silenced.  Don’t stop believing this can be resolved through humane and just actions.  Don’t be afraid of what the world thinks about us.  We know who we are.  We know our faith and our God.  So let’s just be who we should be – Muslims.

Anything that happens and will happen is by Allah’s permission and greater design, so let’s be firm and strong in the belief that He will not desert us all.   Jazzak Allah Khair!

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A Muslima’s journey

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Retiring to bed last night, I remembered I should have written something in this blog as I promised to.  But I felt quite exhausted after finishing two chapters of the current book I am writing so I shrug the urge off.  Then today, I woke up earlier than I wanted for my morning prayer, so I grabbed to read “Why women are accepting Islam” and few pages after, I knew what I wanted to write.

My journey to Islam was not an easy one, though looking back at all of it now I believe I am destined to be where I am.  It was always a spiritual journey for me.  And all the experiences I had just add up to how much I appreciate my life now as a Muslim.  Being a spiritual person in my younger years – I was president of Legion of Mary in Grade School and president of the Pious Union for Evangelical Rogation in High School – I was always comfortable in church matters.  There was even a point in time after I finished High School that I asked my mom to allow me to enter the convent and be a nun.  She declined, reasoning that there are so many ways you can serve God.  So there I went, entered College and took Political Science and Law, the career path chosen for me by my grandfather.  The political awakening led to more questions.  Islam knocked in my door a few times.  First, when I was in college and questioned openly the rational of trinity as it just really didn’t make sense to me.  My search was halted by a sarcastic comment from my brother that I should deepen my catholic faith before I question any part of it.  I wanted to answer and let him know I studied that’s why the questions arose but I guess I was frightened that time to be alienated from my family. So I stopped talking about religion but hopped from one sect of christianity to another – I joined Jehovah’s Witness then Iglesia ni Kristo then Bread of Life (born again)  until I got worn out for not finding the answers and just stopped my religious activities altogether.  It was in Dubai that I regained my spiritual thirst.  My former immediate boss is a good muslim, praying 5 times daily and living a man’s life unfamiliar to me – no smoking, no drinking, quiet, modest and a true family man.  He intrigued and amazed me but when I came to know he attributes all of his approach in life to faith I got scared he was trying to brainwash me.  So I surrounded myself with christian friends and once again joined a congregation – the Singles for Christ.  The odd of it is, while we studied the bible and talked about a righteous life, we were there in discos getting drunk afterwards.  Then there was my time in Awir as I already blogged about here earlier.  It was during this time that I kept repeating to my friends that I will never sell my religion for freedom.  A lot of filipinas converted in Awir for convenience and easy way out.  Rebel as I am, I refused to take the same route.  I fought my case hard, and I fought for my christian faith harder.  Though there were moments of questioning my own beliefs, my ego prevailed, wanting to prove to those Arabs that a filipina christian like me can win them out in their own country.  I may have proven my point and won my cause, but my spiritual journey took a different turn.  As my earlier blog revealed, when I got out and reentered the mainstream of Dubai life, there was something inside me that radically changed, spiritually.

After declaring my faith or shahadah to that Imam brother in Saudi Arabia in 2009, there’s no more stopping my thirst of knowledge.  I started reading all the books and articles about Islam that I can get hold of,  hoping that one day I am equipped and knowledgeable enough to spread the good news to my loved ones in Philippines.  And to my amazement, the Glorious Quran answers all the questions I could ever have.

I have lost friends along the way.  Some just can’t accept the changed me – the one who can’t go with them to discos and nightclubs anymore – and how easy it had been for them to label me as a stranger who lost her mind.  I understand it though.  The life I shared with those so called friends was a superficial existence. I never really cared whether I was doing right, I just went with the flow for their acceptance and happiness.  So when they saw me changed, no amount of explanation would suffice to make them understand that I found a better life, that I am a better me and I want them to experience the same.  The hard part is they just didn’t change their attitude towards me, they even became partners of my enemies.  They wanted me to crush and beg my way back to my old life with them.  Alhamdullillah, I grew stronger each day I was apart from them.  And I found new friends who not only understood me and my past but also helped me become a better Muslimah.  These new friends beam with positivity and modesty.  They live their life in peace and the strong bond of friendship I share with them now is something I never experienced prior to my conversion.  Indeed, Alhamdulillah, these new friendships bring me greater joy and spiritual growth.

I lost some of my comrades too.  The very people who fought with me on the streets during my college life and counted on me for many years to continue the struggle for world liberation has stopped believing in me.  They simply regarded my conversion to Islam as a step backward.  They have all these misconceptions about the women in Islam – that we are oppressed, pessimists and broken.  What they don’t know is that this religion is at the very core of feminist and social justice struggles all over the world throughout mankind’s history.  Not the terrorist ones, but the muslim people who believe everybody has equal rights to justice and economic growth and peacefully fight for that cause, the likes of Malcolm X, and many others. Though my comrades cannot tell it to my face, rather because they care or they don’t want me hurt, I was altogether dropped off the wagon of an activist’s life.  I’m no longer part of any plan nor would they want to interact with me in matters of political importance.  It was hurting but I didn’t let it sip into my soul.  In my own way, through the person that I still am, I live my life according to my faith and principles which in truth never contradicts each other.  The teachings of Islam is practically the same things I stood for as an activist.  The things and traits my former comrades attributed to Muslims are cultural, not the tenets of Islam declared in the Holy Quran.  So if I am to insure that Islam is understood by all peoples, that include liberating my former comrades from their cultural misconceptions. One step at a time, Inshallah,  I will be able to make them understand.

Alhamdulillah I never lost my family with this conversion.  I was afraid back then knowing that my mom is a devout catholic and all my family are servers of the catholic church in my place.  Out of respect or love for me, I never heard anything negative from them though not any positive or encouraging words were offered either.   That was enough for me as I am aware that so many sisters and brothers who converted to Islam had family struggles, some were even disowned by their parents and thrown out of the house.  My family accepted and respected my decision to embrace Islam and wear my hijab.  My mother and siblings may have thought it was just a phase for me, but seeing my dedication to study and practice this religion convinced them otherwise.  My dad who is a hardcore liberal surprised me that he still believed in God because he openly discusses Islam and its great contribution to history with my son.  He said he never doubted my intention as he knew I was stubborn but never a coward.  I am now in a phase where not only am I able to practice my faith openly, but also my family is giving me all the opportunity to teach and instill Islamic belief to my children.  Inshallah, someday, we will all be a part of this great Ummah.

I am still young in this faith.  I know there is still so much struggle ahead but I will not bend.  This journey is always complemented by joy of knowing that I am on the right path.  I still sometimes get emotional in prayer for all the mistakes I made in the past but Allah always comfort me with his love and forgiveness.  All that happened has happened for a reason, only Allah knows my fate.  I am fortunate enough to have a career in writing now because it is through my books that I share what good Islam can bring to one’s life.  I am happy and my heart had seen the contentment and peace it yearned for so many years.  Inshallah, when I finally reach my final destination, I hope I am able to do what I was meant to do in this world.

To Allah be the greater glory, forever.

Proud to be a Muslim Pinay

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Converting to Islam is the hardest yet the best decision I ever made.  Being born to a family of devout catholics, I knew it won’t be easy to convince the people closest to my heart that I have found my home in the beautiful religion of Islam.  I even imagined them saying “it’s one of her rebellious stints again”.

I’ve always been a rebel, a non-conformist, a different person than what is usually expected of me.  Without intending to be deviant, I always find myself in that unpopular position where I always have to explain myself to people that matters.  But I never sold my conviction for want of being accepted.  Whether I’ve been right or wrong, I hold my ground and learn from the experience.  Living for what I believe is the soul of my existence.

It all began in Awir.  Sister Wafa was trying to teach Islam to a group of Pinays who in turn debated with her and they picked me to defend our christian belief.  I said my piece based on what I knew at that time, citing mostly the historical and political evolution of the Muslims, the war and hatred associated with their religion.  I earned the cheers and admiration of the catholic pinays.  And rebellious as I am, I formed my christian group in that Muslim-ruled establishment.  My intentions were clear – to unite the believing Christians in prayer and continue their belief in salvation from sin through Jesus (pbuh).  Crushing the Muslim’s faith in Islam was I thought the only way to liberate Arabs from their conservative way of life.  When my time has come to go out of Awir, a Muslim policewoman who became a friend and has patiently listened to my rants handed me a Quran.  She said she admired how I influenced people on my strong convictions and that she believes Allah has a special plan for me, and that I will be a Muslim one day.  I laughed but courteously accepted The Book which from that moment on was kept inside my luggage bag until after 7 months.

Then on the night of 9th September 2009, I pulled out my hidden Quran and read it page by page.  At some point, I cried while reading and I knew at that time a revelation has come to me.  I fought this awakening, too proud to admit that what I’ve always believed for 35 years of my life is not the right path.  At 2am, I remain wide awake.  Hoping to let go of what I was feeling I opened the internet hoping to chat with my friends, then voila, the Athan (call to prayer) banner ad of my computer program popped out in my screen.  My hand clicked on the link to another link to another link until I found myself in a live chat with an Imam from Saudi Arabia.  I poured in to him all personal questions  that I was too proud or too shy to ask.  At 4:00 am that same day I recited my “Shahada” and I cried and cried afterwards for reasons I can’t explain.  After awhile, I excused myself from the chat and took a shower longer than I usually do.  Only later was I informed that taking shower after shahada is really recommended for new muslims as a symbol of washing away all past sins. It came so true in my case.  I felt like a new person after the shower.  My life has never been the same after that day.  It turned completely upside down for the better.  All aspects of my life just started falling into their right places.

I am not saying here that conversion to Islam is a dramatic phase that will make all your dreams come true.  It is absolutely not.  But I am proud to say that Islam will make you understand yourself better, see the world clearer, know your Creator deeper – and that is the secret to a wonderful and fulfilled life.

Two years past that momentous night, I still can feel Allah’s wonderful embrace when I recited my Shahada.  It felt like home, like being back to my mother’s protective womb.  Islam liberated me from all my pains and fears and questions.  My friend is right, Allah has a special plan for me and that I am destined to be a Muslim.  Because this is who and why I was made for.

Inshaallah I will live as a good Muslim for the rest of my life, and that my children will see the beautiful life I have seen in Islam.

La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah!  Alahu Akbar!