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.