-Celine-

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Salam Alekhum.

I became Muslim almost three years ago, right after Ramadan in between the two Eids. My spiritual search lasted over thirty years. I was born a Catholic and found many things I did not agree with: I believe in Jesus, but did not believe that he was the son of God, nor that he was God. I concluded on my own that he was a rabbi, since he  was  a  learned  Jew  and  a  teacher.  Because  of  this I  went  and studied under rabbis and learnt the Tanakh, the Torah and some of the laws of Judaism. I learnt the Kosher laws and the proper way of cooking, and the rules of being a woman. It became natural that men and women prayed separated as the women were together.
 
Though  Judaism  was  not  the  answer  for  me,  I  gained  anunderstanding of its religious and spiritual ways. I then looked into women  spirituality  but  found  that  it  was  lacking  something,  it  was not  always  monotheistic  in  practice  because  they  believe  in  a Goddess, and disclaimed many teachings by re-inventing a new way of life. I had a great deal of problems with God being a woman since I did not believe He was a man either. I liked the Judaic way that God  was  unseen  and  unknown.  Because  of  this  I  could  notunderstand their teachings but I did agree in the equality of men and of women. Because of this I respect their search but their methods did  not  appeal  to  me.  In  1990,  I  learnt  about  native spirituality. Though they believe in the Creator and the oneness of the world I could not become native - I had to find my own spirituality. I was shocked when my country Canada went to war against Mohawks in 1990.  I  fought  side  by  side  with  them  for  about  five years.  I  was working but at that time I was offered a choice, I saw two paths in front of me: one the path of God, the other the path of man. I made a conscious commitment towards God, that I would serve Him and use my talents to propagate His word and His message, that is, one of Peace and of Justice through his laws. I chose the path of God instead of that of "man" - in this case human. When the crisis was finished after five years, God guided me back to my spiritual roots.

Most of my life I had friends that came from North Africa and the  Middle  East.  They  were  Jewish,  Christian  and  Muslim,  but whether they observed their religion or did not, it mattered little to me, as I did not believe in organized religion. I have strongly believed all my life that I should talk directly to God and ask what I needed and thank Him for what He gave me. I also strongly believe in the equality of men and women, and the equality of all races in front of God  and  of  people.  Christianity  taught  me  about  Jesus, whom  I believed  in.  Judaism  showed  me  I  could  talk  to  God  directly,  that men  and  women  should  worship  separately,  and  that  God  had dietary laws. Mohawks showed me that men and women were equal though they had different obligations. Where could I find all of this. No  religion,  no  teachings  could  offer  me  all  of  this,  but  God  was there to guide me.

When I was twenty-five years old, I met and fell in love with a young man. He was Iraqi by birth, Jewish by religion, and lived in Israel for many years. He came to Canada in the 1970's, and we met and fell in love. Then there was a war in between Israel and Lebanon. We were to get married and he decided to go back and fight in the army. Sadly, he was killed. For many years I kept the hurt bottled up inside of me. But Allah protected my heart and gave me a great gift. I met a Lebanese Muslim girl. She was not very religious but she was proud to be Muslim. We talked and I told her what happened, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me she lost her brother during  that  same  war.  To  this  day  we  do  not  know  if her  brother killed my boyfriend or vice versa, maybe they did not kill one another that too is a possibility. What came out of this, after the tears and the hurt is that we became very good friends, and she helped me heal my aching  heart.  I  also  saw  the  horrors  of  war  and  it's  evilness,  how people get hurt.

In  1995  there  was  a  controversy  in  Montreal  about  women wearing Hijab, so I decided to document this myself, and look forinterviews since I had a spot on the radio for about 4 years, doing Native,  North  African  and  Middle  Eastern  news.  I  met  through  a friend  this  very  kind  woman,  she  is  Iraqi  -  Allah  does  work  in unusual  ways  -  who  spoke  about the importance of wearing Hijaband  what  it  meant  to  her.  What  struck  me  with  her  was  her  deep commitment towards God whom she called Allah. I was impressed by her truthfulness and her kindness of heart. She explained to me what  was  Islam.  She  told  me  that  "There  is  no  other GOD  but GOD".  Men  and  women  were  equal,  that  all  races  were  equal  in front of GOD, that Jesus was a Prophet not a rabbi, that Maryam his mother was a great example, and that the dietary laws were less strict than  in  Judaism.  To  my  astonishment  this  is  what  I  believe  in.  I started  being  friends  with  her  and  within  one  month I  became Muslim like her. I recited my Shahada with her.

This was three years ago. I now wear Hijab and I am very happy. I have gone back to University and am studying religions. My field is Islam,  and  I  would  like  to  go  as  far  as  my  doctorate and  become proficient  in  law  for  women,  and  Hadith.  I  am presently writing a book about women and Islam in the 7th century in English. I now have a radio show which I co-produce with my friend through whom I  became  Muslim.  It  lasts  half  an  hour.  We  talk  to  women  from around  the  world  and  from  various  religious  denominations.  I  try with  the  help  of  teachers  and  religious  leaders  to  de-mystify  Islam and the message of Islam. I am also trying to document in film the life of Muslim women and their role in society. Allah guided me and gave me what I was looking for through Islam. Because of this I try to  use  my  pen  and  the  airwaves  to  give  a  broad  picture  of  all  the facets  of  Islam and see the unity in the diversity that is Islam. My Muslim  name  is Um-Khalthum,  like  the  daughter  of  Prophet Muhammad. She has inspired me to be a good Muslim as she too was a convert or revert to Islam.

This  is  my  story.  My  first  love  was  for  an  Iraqi  Jewish  young man, who died stupidly in a war, my heart was broken. I was left in pieces  in  Lebanon,  yet  a  Lebanese  Muslim  woman  started  the mending process. But my heart was healed by another Iraqi, this time a Muslim woman, because she introduced me to Islam and invited to become Muslim. From the pain of loss the joy of finding a way of life that brings me closer to Allah.

May  Allah  guide  all  of  those  who  have  a  broken  heart.  And remember that the message of Islam is that of peace and of harmony. Before we heal we must talk about the hurt, and Allah does heal our hearts  by  putting  people  in  our  path  that  are  there  to  guide  us  to HIM.

Ma Salam
Um-Khalthum (Celine)



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