I am a Shi’a Muslim and I am so proud to tell you this fact – part 2


I believe I was always a Muslim Written by Sister Janaan Da’wah (part 2)

In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful

When I discovered more about Islam my dreams seemed to begin telling me messages.

I had this veiled woman come to me she pointed to parts of the world that were in trouble that had lost their way to God. I was shown war and violence and the homeless. I saw myself talking to people about Islam. I was shown three stones and the stones were moved together to become one stone. I interpreted this dream to mean the three major religions are meant to be one. I was told I needed to help spread the deen and to do it as soon as possible. I was also shown ways to express my art to bring attention to Islam. It was clear that all my dreams were telling me that not only do I convert and submit to Allah (swt) but that I should also spread the truths of Islam.

I believe my dreams were signs and I saw them as such at the time and so they only helped to encourage my efforts to study slam.

What triggered the changes in me to begin a search for truth and a rediscovery of my soul? As I write this, five years ago I gave birth to my second child. It was a difficult birth as I had to have cesarean section and the unfortunate or fortunate experience that occurred during this operation was what began to alter my life.

I was given what’s referred to as a spinal rather than an epidural, it’s an anesthetic. The anesthesiologist will take a very long needle and insert into your spinal canal, which is next to your spinal cord, to cause freezing over your lower torso. The operation was going well my son was born and I was overjoyed to see him.  This perfect little son, this life, this miracle of God. I love my sons.

The nurses hurried him off to check him over as the Doctor’s continued to clean me up and begin the process of sewing me up layer by layer. I thought things were going all right until I realized I could move my feet, then my legs and then this unbelievable sensation of heat and searing pain began to build in my belly. In a panicked but steady voice I told the anesthesiologist, who stood just over my shoulder, that I could feel everything. He seemed very concerned and he attempted to comfort me by telling me the Doctors were almost done the operation. He was right they were done approximately fifteen minutes later but it was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.

During this fifteen-minute window of pain something very strange happened to me.  The pain I was experiencing was not my focus after the first two or three minutes. My attention was on this odd sensation this pulling of sorts or a sucking. It had nothing to do with the operation itself. It felt as though my soul was being sucked or pulled away from me. I laid there panicked but focused on this sensation, focused because I felt I had to hold on to my soul or I felt I would die, I had to be here for my son, my new baby who needs me, my baby needs me. I concentrated as hard as I could to stay focused on my soul. This sensation is one that I have never experienced in my life nor do I ever want to again. Was this a near-death experience? I don’t know, but I know it triggered a change in me, a refocusing of my soul.

The nurses rolled me into the €˜wake up area’ of the operating room and they instructed me to let them know when I could wiggle my toes. I lifted my legs from the gurney, they gasped and ran for the Doctor.

I began to feel confused maybe a little lost. Who am I? After the birth of my second son I found myself thinking a lot about my soul again. I submerged myself into my artwork and I began to visit with an artist friend of mine who I was studying under, every three months. When I would visit him and his family, I would feel comforted emotionally and it was filing some of my soul but there was still so much missing.  My husband worked out of town more than he was home but he was always home on weekends and a loving man and great provider. The distance, however, grew us apart and I cried in private a lot during this time. It was very difficult on all of us. A change was happening within me. I felt I had to search for something, but what? It was all so confusing.

I played games on the net and oddly enough I was introduced to Islam. I often played games with my children. I love spending time with them and we enjoy playing games on the systems for TV and on computer. My older son introduced me to this very popular online multiple player game.  Hundreds of thousands of players from all over the world play online in this virtual world. So, my son and I played this game together on line. He played on his pc I played on mine. It was a learning experience we had to fend for ourselves finding food and items of survival. The other feature offered by this game and the feature I most enjoyed was the ability to be able to talk to other players. It was so much fun to help people in the game that you knew were people somewhere out there in the world. I always lectured my son to be kind to the other players as they are real people with real feelings. He is so kind in nature I really didn’t have to say this.

One morning while playing the game I bumped into a player that needed some help. After I assisted him, I found he was so polite and so kindhearted that I asked if I could put him on my friends list. (For his privacy I will not divulge his real name so I will refer to him as Din) Din agreed and when he came online, I would talk to him about the game and ask for advice. One day we somehow got to talking a little about life. There were others, around us at the time we weren’t alone. He told me he was a Muslim. I have never known a Muslim and I was very intrigued. I asked him about his religion and he told me about Islam. Din mentioned that he thought maybe I was Muslim at first because of how I represented myself in the game. He always joked that I was much too nice and that I spent more time helping people out then actually playing the game.

When he came online, we would often talk about Islam and I found myself becoming more interested in Islam so it wasn’t long before I decided I would do some research on my own.  Din advised me as to which sites to visit and to which books to read that pertained to Shi’a but he also encouraged me to look into all of the Muslim sects. He never pushed Islam on me he would wait for me to ask then he would answer and encourage. Din made it clear that I was not meant to talk to him because of my gender so we kept our conversations to Islam and the game. I mentioned to Din that it was unique to get to know him through the Internet because we could not see one another and I equated this as a form of hijab. We were forced to see whom we were inside. We contacted each other through the game, e-mail and on occasion messenger however I respected his concerns about my being female. I understand this situation more now that I am Muslim. I am very grateful to Din for introducing me to Islam; however, Din takes no credit and tells me it is all the will of Allah (swt).

I couldn’t stop reading about Islam

I read and I read and I read. I couldn’t stop reading about Islam; it was as if I had been walking the driest desert my whole life and now finally finding a source of water to revive me. The more I drank/read the more connected I felt the more energized my body became and the more my life began to change.

Shi’a, to be a Shi’a Muslim this sect was slowly beginning to show true to me. I discovered my connection with Shi’ites while reading extensively about the two major Islamic sects, the Sunnites and Shi’ites. I read about many other sects as well such as Sufis, Nizari, Ismailis and even wahhabis (and others). I even began to touch on Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.

I read extensively on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his loving wife Khadija. I fell in love with them and their journey together. I have such admiration for the relationship that Muahammad’s (pbuh) and Khadija maintained even with their age gap. I sincerely believe they held a very special love between them; it was their gift from Allah (swt), in this life, for their surrender to his will.

As I continued to read about the Imams, I fell in love with each of them.

Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh), once having read about him I found myself in awe of him. This Imam truly was a pious and virtuous man, a man that men should aspire to. I would (and do) wake up at night and read about Islam any available moment I have I spend in study. I would listen to audio lectures (some of which Din sent through email) and I watched anything to do with Islam through documentaries. I would download and watch lectures by Imams on the Internet and many have inspired me. I have audio lectures copied over to mp3 player so that I can listen while in travel. I even started the process of learning to speak Arabic.

This beautiful religion was unfolding in front of me. The light was turned on and I could see the truth with my own eyes. I could not get enough.

Why did I choose Shi’a?

It made the most sense to me. Allah (swt) had sent message to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and as Muslims we believe all of his messages as we believe that Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah (swt) the All Knowing, the Creator. Because of this fact we should believe in all that he had stated.

It is my belief that Muhammad (pbuh) designated Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh), The Commander of the Faithful, who was cousin and son-in-law to the Prophet, to be his true successor (the first Imam). If Muhammad (pbuh) had instructed us whom to follow then we should listen. If we believe that Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah (swt) then how can we disregard his message?

“I leave two things of value amidst you in trust which if you hold on to you will never go astray: the Quran and the members of my household. These will never be separated until the Day of Judgment.”

It is of my belief that the descendants of the Prophet are blessed with an innate ability to see Islam in a way that most of us who are not descendants do not and if these descendants choose to study Islam they will be most successful and if they go astray it is a great loss. I have read of many Muslims that do not hold the lineage of the Prophet behind them but they are very pious and highly knowledgeable of Islam. I express my tolerance for all religions and for many of the other Muslim sects. I would only voice that we find our comparisons rather than our differences.

The pressures of growing up female in a western culture. I was told I’m pretty and I have a nice figure. I hate compliments never been good at knowing what to say. “You have such a lovely figure why hide it? show it off”? This is what I was told by many and it always made me so uncomfortable. As I got into my teen years, I began to dress a little more provocatively. (Tighter jeans and tops and high-heeled shoes). Following the fashion guidelines of many of my peers.

This style did not change much for me, as I got older. I would dress to draw attention to myself. It was not uncommon to get catcalls, rude comments and stares or having a man talk to my breasts rather than to me. (Long blond hair, lots of makeup, miniskirts and jewelry). I have even been stalked not just once but twice, one stalking lasting over two years.

You grow up in a western culture concerned on a regular basis about your appearance. Everywhere you look you see ads and billboards of scantily clad women selling products with perfect figures and flawless features. My weight, even though I never had a weight problem, became an obsession for me and I lived by the scales. I’m five feet five inches tall (although I’m told I look taller, could be the heels and in my teen years I dropped down to 95 pounds at one point. I wouldn’t eat. I felt I had to stay thin to look good, to feel good about myself and to remain attractive to the opposite sex. Fortunately, I struggled and got out of this starvation/anorexia mode. I didn’t know any girl in my class though that didn’t feel the same way. We were all obsessed with our weight and appearance. I knew of girls that were throwing up in the school washrooms in attempt to lose their lunch and they would come out smiling. How sad.

So, I know first-hand the pressures of being a woman living in a western culture. I was rarely looked at for who I am on the inside. I was always judged by my appearance first as many women are. The opposite sex was drawn to me because of how they viewed me they didn’t care about my level of intelligence or my spirituality and or interests. Some might say, don’t complain at least you’re an attractive person but there can be a very negative side to drawing attention to your physical make-up. As a Muslim today I can’t help but notice that I draw less attention modestly dressed.

When I met my husband, we were very young I’m sure his original attraction was physical as was mine but he soon took the time to really get to know me. Even though we are separated today he stands by my decision to convert to Islam and he remains a constant support. He thinks that my decision to become Muslim and my wish to spread the word of Islam to non-Muslims is commendable.  He is proud of me even through our difficulties. You can imagine we have had our share of debates about Islam but they have all been a learning experience for me as much as they have been, at times, frustrating. It’s good to be prepared with quick retort for future non-Muslims that will cross my path with lots of questions and possibly charged with a negative attitude towards Muslims. I want to stand prepared.

The miracle of sura Al-Faitha (the opening) the words of Allah (swt). Din recommended I should learn this sura first so he sent me an audio file and wrote it out for me and emailed it. When I first heard it, I thought it was beautiful but I also thought how in the world was I ever going to be able to learn this? I practiced every day for weeks. I was finally able to say it and say it rather well. I would say it as much as maybe 30 times a day because I soon realized that when I said it out loud it was doing something to me physically, something really nice.

When I would say sura Al-Fatiha out-loud I felt very calm and secure and again this warmth washing over me as it had done at other points in my life. I mentioned how I was having these sensations, while reciting Al-Fatiha, to Din and he informed me “Yes this is how you are meant to feel it is part of the miracle that is the Qur’an”? I thought how incredible is that? I do not know the miracle of the Qur’an at that point. I know now that the Qur’an is itself a miracle and I have read that the words are so pure that they can bring converts in upon hearing them recited for the first time and most effectively sura Al-Fatiha.

I can see that had I been told it can affect you this way that maybe on a subconscious level I might have somehow altered my body, but I had no idea. I felt so moved every time and still do when I say out loud sura Al-Fatiha. These words from God are the most powerful words that have ever crossed my lips. I looked at this as a sign and more compelling reason to further my studies.