Irish lady recounts her long and slow spiritual journey culminating in her conversion from Catholicism to Islam during the summer of 2001
Bismillah hir-rahman nir-raheem,
These words resound in my head as I began to pray, something I have been doing for only 6 weeks now but it is the culmination of a long and slow journey to the right path. I thank Allah that I have at last found peace and the look forward to continuing my quest for knowledge about Islam in it’s truest and purist form untainted by cultural practices and racial divides but clearly and beautifully detailed in the Quran, Hadith and other teachings.
I was born in Ireland and raised a Roman Catholic, I went to a convent school run by the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ and was not that interested in religion, however in times of crisis such as close to exams I would always say a prayer to help me through. Mass was somewhere I had to go every Sunday and at Christmas and Easter where a middle-aged man would bore everyone to death with ceremony that had no relevance to me and I would stand and sit and repeat the prayers but as soon as I left the Mass that was the end of my religious obligations. I started work in in the eighties, drifting into computers and getting on with my life, I stopped attending Mass and began enjoying myself going on foreign holidays and ‘socialising’ which in Ireland consists mostly of going to pubs and clubs and generally having fun.
I spent the late eighties and early nineties socialising with my friends but I was missing something fundamental. I started studying European Law, Business, Statistics anything that would give my mind the nourishment it was missing and I really felt like my life was slowly drifting by without any meaning, all that was happening was that the clubs and pubs were being populated by younger and younger people and I wondered is this it? Is this all that life is meant to be.
I had met Muslims over the years but none of them were very religious, they drank and smoked and did not seem any different to my other friends. Then in 1996 I moved to a small town quite far from my home for work and did not know very many people. This had not been a problem as I moved around a lot with my job and could settle down in most places without too much fuss. While I was there I met someone who has since become my husband. He did not drink or smoke, was polite and gentle and we had a lot in common with both of us missing home though he was much farther from his. Not long after we met he asked me to marry him and I accepted but I had to tell my parents – not an easy task with films such as ‘Not without my Daughter’ in vogue. They refused to meet him until I said that I would not come home until they agreed – emotional blackmail but I knew as soon as they met him they would see how special he was. They came round after a month of phone calls and threats and now they are very happy with him. I think if anything happened they would take his side before mine!!!!!
We were married shortly afterwards and began our life together. He spent the next few years talking about Islam but whenever he brought it up I was very defensive and felt it was a criticism of me if he mentioned anything bad about the culture in Ireland. During all this time I had no contact with any Muslim women even though several of his Muslim friends were married and their wives lived here I was made to feel like I was not good enough to visit their homes a word of advice (if I can be so bold) to other Muslim women, it is essential to ask your husbands to allow you to be introduced to the wives/sisters of their friends because they might be brought to Islam. I had heard so much bad things about women’s status etc yet I never in three years met one women who could have explained or demonstrated that the articles you read in the media are often full of misconceptions. Despite this I was being more and more drawn to Islam. I read the Quran but, unlike other convert stories I have seen, I found it difficult to read and it took me several months to finish it, I was not struck by lighting or with a burning desire to convert but I found so much of what it contained made sense.
I began researching Islam with particular emphasis on women using the internet as my research tool. I spent hours surfing looking for similar stories to my own, checking on women’s’ rights and I began to discuss these things with my husband, once or twice I knew more which was very heartening as I knew my knowledge was beginning to grow. I also began to order books on Islam ( I had exhausted the meager supply they had in the local library within a matter of weeks) from the bookshops, looking for titles on the net and ordering them. I found this to be very hit and miss as some were written by non-Muslims who were often confrontational when dealing with women’s issues in particular. I found myself defending Muslims whenever I heard people criticise them or saying something I knew to be incorrect.
My thirst for the truth began to overtake me and six weeks ago I said Sha’hada and began to pray, I had begun to learn my prayers phonetically several weeks before this as I wanted to be able to begin as soon as it was ‘Official’. In my heart I think I always knew I would convert but I was waiting for the right time, using various excuses pride is a terrible thing as it prevented me on several occasions from saying Sha’hada, something I will always regret. When I eventually said the words it was as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders and at last I could publicly declare what I had felt in my soul for so long.
I have fasted for Ramadan for the last three years and always felt particularly spiritual but this year will be my first Ramadan as a Muslim and I am already looking forward to it. I love going to pray, and particularly when I can do it with my husband, I have only visited the Mosque in Dublin once since I converted – it is a five hour journey from where I am living and the other Mosque which is nearby does not encourage women to attend. The one thing that remains it that I would love is to meet some Muslim women and learn from them – Insha’Allah this will also happen and I must learn to be patient as we do not know what Allah’s plan is.
My husband’s family are very happy and they had a big party to celebrate my conversion. My husband was also extremely happy as I know he felt he should have been able to show me the way sooner. I am now talking to my friends but taking it slowly as I do not want to turn them off but whenever I get the opportunity I have started to familiarise them with the faith. One friend who is also married to a Muslim is beginning to show interest and Insha’Allah I will be able to help her find the strength to convert.
I have not as yet began to wear hijab although I am dressing modestly – I had begun this process a year ago buying looser and longer clothes and have hope to find the strength to wear hijab soon. I have never met any woman in hijab through my work in the computer industry in Ireland and I have yet to speak to a hijabi about their experiences in Ireland but I am hopeful this will also come to pass.
I would like to finish by saying, if your soul is thirsty and you wish to take the right path come to Islam – do not let ignorance or pride keep you away. If you know any Muslims talk to them and let them show you how beautiful it is.
I hope that other people who are feeling like I did and searching, are guided to the right way – if you are reading my story you may have found what you were searching for. I spent over thirty years on this earth without knowing the beauty and peace that I now have and hope I can help someone else to find what I found – tranquility and peace.