May 24 2021
An interview with Fatima Isabel Fernandes, a catholic Christian from Portugal who converted to Islam
I had a dream four years ago. Then two years later, I had a strong feeling while I was passing through a Shia’ mosque. I felt that someone was calling me from that mosque, which was inviting me to go there.
An interview with Fatima Isabel Fernandes by Atefeh Keyhani:
Hi Fatima. How long have you been Muslim? What was your name before? Please give us a short biography of yourself.
I’ve been Muslim for two years and I was Catholic before like my family. I added Fatima before my name because I converted in lady Fatima’s birthday, now I’m Fatima Isabel. I’m 36 years old and come from Portugal. I divorced with 3 daughters, actually I’m the only Muslim in my family.
How did you convert to Islam?
I had a dream four years ago. Then two years later, I had a strong feeling while I was passing through a Shia’ mosque. I felt that someone was calling me from that mosque, which was inviting me to go there. I was living far from that mosque but that day I heard that voice from my heart. I didn’t know much about Islam and what I knew was bad but I decided to search about that mosque again. After a few days, I found it. I asked them to give me information about Islam then I had the second dream with a white lion,” I’m writing “Allah Akbar” in Arabic.” I found that Islam was what I was looking for a long time about it, so I converted.
Did you know the word “Allah Akbar” before your dream?
I have never known how to write Arabic before my dream, but I wrote it in a paper just after my dream, however I didn’t know it’s meaning. I learned it after converting to Islam.
What was your family’s reaction?
My mom didn’t accept it at first, my daughters felt strange but after a while they found that I didn’t change my decision so they accepted it, also I was patient with them. They’ve not accepted Islam but we love each other now as a family Alhamdulillah.
What’s your educational level?
I’m college educated and now I’m studying Traditional Hawza for two years.
Why do you study at Hawza?
I was trying to learn Islam but nobody could teach me well. I was invited to start Hawza and I found a great opportunity for learning Islam. I love studying at hawza and I’m full integrated in the Muslim communities.
Why you became Shia’?
I became Shia’ because it was my heart that chose it, as I said before it was like a spiritual call of invitation to Islam.
you have hijab as a Muslim woman, don’t you fear of Islamophobia atmosphere?
About hijab I’ve started to do hijab after two months of being Muslim, at first I worried but I don’t fear now. It is my choice. If people don’t like, it’s their problem. It is a risk to wear hijab but there are many other things that can be risk too. No fear of men, only fear of Allah.
In this two year that you are studying at Hawza, what have you learned?
I’ve learned Logic,Theology,Ethics, Islamic history and Laws and more things, but the most important lesson is learning how to respect myself and also a different view about many things and I have improved my behavior. Determination to have strong character is very important in my development.
Who is your close friend?
I am friend with everyone, nobody in special. My daughters are my love.
What point of Islam society and Muslims is interesting for you?
I love study Muslim’s culture and behaviours. I love the reasoning and logic that only we use to worship. Faith is very beautiful and sometimes makes me feel that I’m not good enough. Being a Muslim is not just by name. It needs big jihad with ourselves to be a Muslim, not only by name also by actions and heart, also the spirituality of each one is very important to a good reflection.
Do you have any reminiscences about Islam?
people around me didn’t like my conversion to Islam, even I had to get out from the house with insults, but I found my own way. God protected me and I found a place to live where I could practice Islam Alhamdulillah.
what do you do when the conditions become hard?
Well, I trust God and I try to sort it out.
How was your first fasting experience in Ramadan month? and how did your friends and family react to your refraining from eating and drinking?
I can’t fast for health reasons but I tried in first year because I didn’t know I was not allowed to fast and not knowing about the rules of fasting, so it was complicated for me and I was confused at that time and I had nobody to guide me in that aspect . It was hard time my first Ramadan since collapsing in street to quick change of mood and the desperation for food and water. Now I still not allowed to fast but I fast in different ways in aspect of self-control, not watching TV or other media only for happy things and reflecting about my actions. So, there is many ways of fasting in my view and I feel very happy with Ramadan, even being the only Muslim in family, I don’t feel alone. because God is with me.
What do you do at your free time? Which books are you interested in?
I read books and I’m reading most related to hawza studies such as Theology, Logic, Tafsir etc. The books that don’t lead me to any knowledge are useless for me just wasting my time. I like “Towards Eternal Life” by Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour. He is Iranian and my teacher at hawza. I also like the book of Dr. Shomali of Islamic belief system. I also love Islamic Laws.
Fatima, what is the most beautiful Ayah of Quran in your opinion?
I haven’t read all of Quran in my own language but I like the Sura An-nas referring to the whispers of Shaitan and the tentations for take us astray. I am also memorizing Quran .
What’s your opinion about hijab? Isn’t it hard for you?
No, I adopted hijab after 2 months of being Muslim and I accepted it. It’s part of me now.
Thanks a lot for your attention…
By: Atefeh Keyhani