Sep 26 2023
Yvette, the Australian muslim convert: Sayyida Zainab is one of the great role models for women
Yvette Baldacchino was born in a Christian family. She is from Australia and has changed her name to Soraya. She talks about the reasons for her conversion to Islam and the role of Imam Hussain (AS) in her guidance.
How was your first acquaintance with Islam? How influential was Imam Hussein (AS) on your decision to become a Shia?
Thinking about the questions like where I came from, why I am here and where I will go, caused me to search for the truth and start religious studies.
I grew up in a very fanatical Catholic environment. They didn’t allow me to research into beliefs. In that environment, a person should accept the same religion that his fathers accepted and follow it blindly without any question. I was always dissatisfied with their incomplete and illogical answers. Although, I finished high school with a good grade and was still interested in studying religious books, in my teenage years I abandoned Christianity completely.
In 1997, while I was still searching about religion, my mom decided to travel to Egypt. She was interested in the Egyptian civilization and this was her lifelong dream which was fulfilled at the beginning of her forties. When she went to visit Egypt, I started a trip to the Europe to visit my relatives. But at first I made a 5 day reservation to meet my mom on the way to Europe.
But my stay in Egypt took longer than I had planned. Every time I tried to leave this country, something stopped me. In this way, my 5 day trip to Egypt lasted 6 months.
In Cairo, wherever I travelled, all people talked about Ahl al_Bayt Mosque. They told me if I go there and pray, all my wishes will fulfil and come true.
I didn’t know anything about the character of this Imam of Ahl al _ Bayt (Imam Hussain) but Egyptians loved him very much. They had a lot of faith and belief in this Imam and this place. Their belief motivated me to visit this Mosque.
So, when I was ( still apparently) a Christian, I visited this place ( Ras al _ Hussain Mosque) three times with full hope, and when I was next to the shrine, I asked to be guided to the right path and my absurd and meaningless life in Australia to be changed and my searches will lead in good results.
Growing up with western cultures, I was fed with negative images of Islam and Muslims. So I never looked at Islam. However, my trip to Egypt changed my view completely. In that country I saw many things that attracted me such as a strong family values, respect for elders and indifference to material things and I saw that people were poor but their hearts were satisfied with their lives. I felt as if they knew what their purpose in life was.
I concluded that most of this characteristics were due to their religious roots. This issue resulted in my inquiry about Islam. The more I learned about Islam, the more I was influenced. I found that Islam is like a complete package that includes all aspects of life, from medicine to health, from science to moral values and even unseen world.
Finally, I was given a copy of the Holy Quran in English. The moment I opened it, I realized that my inquiry and search was over. For the first time I felt that Quran was speaking to me. Quran was clearly God’s words and not human’ thoughts. Many verses such as Tawhid:’ In the name of God, the beneficent the merciful” Say: He, Allah is alone. Allah is He on whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.” Instantly ended a lifetime of my confusion.
At last, on that morning, I became Muslim and I came to the conclusion that there is no God but Allah.
However my search for finding the truth did not end in Egypt. Then I went back to Australia and after six years of following Islam, I discovered that there is a big difference between Shia and Sunni beliefs. I start studying about these differences for one year and again I asked God to guide me to the truth.
The more I read about Shia, the more I realized that I was inclined towards Shia. I liked its ideas and events and it was compatible with my logic.
Sadly I found that the division of this great religion was merely because of the issue of Imamat which was arose after the Prophet’s demise.
I found more than 140 Sunni narrations that confirmed and supported the incident of Ghadir. I also used my own logic that if Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had no important reason for this, why did he stopped this huge group of pilgrims exactly when they wanted to disperse in the blistering heat of the desert? There is also a verse in the Quran that confirms this event and its importance and value.
Would you tell us how influential was Imam Hussein (AS) on your decision to become a Shia?
My relation with Imam Hussein (AS) is a deep, long term and loyal relationship. Based on all the evidences I found, Imam Hussein (AS) is my reason for what I am now. I will die for Him million times. He is the savior and my intercessor with Allah, and I owe everything to Him.
I believe that Imam Hussein (AS) was with me in Egypt in 1997 when I went to Imam Hussein mosque in Ras al Hussein in Cairo. I asked for guidance when I was there, but Imam Hussein (AS) didn’t leave me there. Six years later when I was looking at the differences between Sunni and Shia, I was taken to a Shia mosque in Australia for the first time. Despite all the mosques in the world, I was taken to the Imam Hussein Islamic Center in Sydney and the moment I entered the house of Allah I felt strong energy and a great connection between my heart and Allah.
The Shiite prayers that were recited such as Komeil prayer and Arafe prayer, opened a deeper spirituality for me and I found a mysterious and intimate door to connect with Allah. Shiite mysticism, (the guidance of infallible Imams (pbut) to the correct knowledge of Allah) became my motivation. During this time I understood the concept of Invocation and I also got to know the personality of Imam Hussein (As) that was kept in darkness by the for many years. When I understood the beauty and depth of his character and what He had done for history and his devotion, I realized that He is my intercessor and quickly found a strong love for Him in my heart.
Can you please describe Hazrat Zainab for us?
I think Hazrat Zainab is one of the great role models for women that history has seen so far. She is a shining example for western feminism and those who claim Islam oppresses women.