Chronicles of the converts – Written by Sister Janaan Da’wah – Part 1


Bismillah hir Rahmanir Rahim

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

I’m a female convert to Islam and I believe I was always a Muslim, I only needed to find my path. I was born, after all, with fitrah (innate nature) and so it was natural for me to eventually find Islam if I could see the light of truth, which I did.

“Thou set thy face in the right direction to receive the Primordial Religion, the Law of Allah, that Religion which is inherited innately for people to follow. No change in what Allah has set forth. That is the Religion to be appreciated: but most among mankind understand not” (HQ: 30:30)

I have only just begun my conversion and I have only preformed my shahaada (confession and testimony of a Muslim) at home in private between Allah (swt) and myself. However, I soon look forward to reciting my shahaada at the Masjid in which I have found a place where I am welcomed and a place to worship Allah (swt) with the rest of the ummah Maa shaa Allah.

The signs were many and the feelings overwhelmed me, as I grew closer to Islam by the day. I have attempted to write down my experiences, as I felt relevant to finding Islam. I will tell you a little about my childhood and my belief system already in place and then how I discovered and eventually converted to Islam. I write about moments in my life where I felt very close to God and moments when I did not and was lost.

My life is forever changed and I am now a Muslim here’s my story

When I was young, I was aware of my soul. I grew up in an Anglo-Protestant Canadian family hanging out in Montreal through the 70’s and 80’s, my family later moving off to Ontario when I was a teenager. We did not go to church very often, if we did it was usually Mom forcing us to go around the holiday season.  Boring, you stand you sit, you stand you sit, I wouldn’t listen I’d just daydream. I didn’t mean any disrespect but I just never found it grabbed my attention. We were not a religious family however we were and still are a close family with a whole lot of love and respect for one another. We are the kind of family that hangs out together every weekend even as adults.

I do not recall ever being told to pray or to believe in God but yet I always did. I don’t remember how it started but I always remember praying to God and thanking him and asking for forgiveness. I felt very connected spiritually and with this I felt very aware of my soul.

I was about four years old when I asked my parents a very peculiar question that had to do with the awareness of my soul, “Why is it that we only have our eyes to look through? Why can’t we look through our bodies? I feel so trapped in”? You can imagine, my parents thought it was a rather odd thing to say and they more or less dismissed it politely and replied “Hmmmm, Well, dear, that’s a very interesting thought”?, (or at least this is how I recall it) but they always encouraged me to discuss anything that may concern or interest me so I continued to ponder life and ask questions much like most kids would.

A sensitive child. “Yes, be careful how you are around her she’s very sensitive you don’t want to have her in tears.”? They were right I was very sensitive and I still am. I was always concerned about making sure everyone around me was OK. Making sure everything around me was OK. I would worry about everyone even strangers. (still do)

We use to have this lovely big maple tree out at the front of our house. I would climb it frequently and I would sit in my favorite spot at the top. I looked it over, the branch, and its every detail, so rigid, so strong. I would inspect the leaves and stems to check for anything out of the norm..not that I ever really knew what out of the norm’ might look like. I simply had affection for this tree it was life.

The branch jutted out in a way that allowed me to sit in it much like a mother’s arms as she cradles her child. I marveled over its creation and I would sit there feeling comforted as though I was a part of the tree. I would sit and I would daydream about life, the sky, the air, friends and this tree. However, sometimes I just daydreamed about that cute little boy down the street that smiled at me. I loved that tree it was nurturing and I had respect for it.

Another stray cat, a dog, squirrels, so many injured birds, chipmunks, mice…the list goes on. I was forever bringing home animals. I felt very connected to them and I went out of my way to make sure they were safe. I use to feed the squirrels in my backyard with peanuts that I dangled precariously from my mouth. My Mum would warn me to be careful that I would likely be bitten but I never was. Foolish though, Mum was right I could have been.

I regarded all forms of life and did my best to remind myself of their worth.

The Monarch butterfly flew into my hand. I was just 8 years old. It was so lovely to look at, those wings as they gently moved back and forth; the colors and it perched there on my hand as if about to tell me a story. I loved it immediately. I was so excited by its beauty.

“Oh, let me get a glass and I’ll catch it for my artwork”? my Aunt yells out to me. My grandmother points out to her sister not to bother that the butterfly will be gone by the time she returns from the house with a glass to capture it.  My grandmother looks over to me, my eyes were as big as saucers and welling up with tears she looked so concerned. My grandmother new that I had realized why my aunt wanted to capture the butterfly she wanted to kill it for her artwork.

My Aunt would press butterflies and flowers under glass and somehow convince people it was €˜art’. “Don’t let it go now hold on to it”? my aunt yells out to me as she makes her way from the backyard to the back door and into the house.  My heart was racing I knew that if I were to let the butterfly go that my aunt would be very mad with me but how can I not let it go? I’m responsible for the life of this butterfly, as God had made me aware of it. I didn’t hesitate for more than a few seconds I waved my hand up into the air and it flew off.  My grandmother looked at me and smiled.

My aunt came rushing out with the glass in her hand, she saw my empty hand, she was mad…. I wasn’t.

To be aware: It’s my belief that if you are made aware of a plight of a person, animal, nature that if you are made aware of it, it is because God made you aware and it is your obligation to then try to do something about it to the best of your ability. So, stopping in the middle of traffic to help the stray dog cross the road is not an uncommon thing for me to do (just a heads up if you happen to be in the passenger seat with me at some point (giggle)).

I know of many that share this view and in particular many Muslims seem to. The Muslims that I have met have all been very welcoming, caring and ready to be there for me when and if I need something. My experience with my conversion and becoming part of the Muslim community has been a very positive one.

Offer your zakat all things belong to God, and our wealth is therefore held by us only in trust, I believe this to be true.

I have acknowledged the five pillars of Islam. The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the pillars. It is the center of the world. (Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia, where the Kaaba sits and was built by the Prophets Ibrahim (pbuh) and son Ismail (pbuh)). Mecca is the city in which Muhammad revealed the words of God for approximately a dozen years before leaving to Medina. This pilgrimage is one that will help to define me as a Muslim. I pray to achieve this goal someday.

Islam, I’ve been made aware I know the truths now so it is my obligation to let others know the truths.

My Dreams

I always wrote my dreams down or told my father about them. I would look forward to sleeping as I enjoyed analyzing my dreams the next morning. There were some dreams that made no sense at all then there were the ones that left you with a funny feeling and then the lucid dreams when you are aware you are in a dream and the recurring dreams these were the ones I enjoyed most.

I dreamed of angels. I was a young teen and I had experienced something rather traumatic. I was the unfortunate victim of a young man’s lust. I knew him and I trusted him, this is where I went wrong. At the time I did not know I had any legal rights and the thought of saying anything to my parents left me feeling shameful. I decided to stay quiet but I soon became distant from my friends and family.

During this period in my life I found my dreams changed in mood. They became darker as every day my thoughts became darker as well and I grew more distraught. The dreams were often of Shaytan but it was not only Shaytan who occupied my dreams. I had two angels on either side of my shoulders at all times. They encouraged me to fight the devil and to be strong. I could feel their love for me. They held close to me and whispered advice in my ears. Much like the coach at the corner of the ring once the bell rings he massages your shoulders throws water in your face and tells you how great you are “You can do it, you can beat this guy!”? and you believe him and so you fight and you win.

I felt touched by an angel. One late night, during this dark period, I sat on my bed in my bedroom and I drew my knees up to my face and rapped my arms around them as I rocked myself gently. I was so sad so despondent so full of shame and fear and anger. I sat and I prayed to God and I asked God why I had to feel this way? I had thoughts of wanting to end my life that night.

Then something happened and I often wonder if it was only a dream but it all felt so real. I felt a hand come under my chin and it raised my chin to look towards the sky. Then this voice, not sure if it was in my head or where it was from, reassured me and told me that I only needed to speak to God and to God I should speak with full sincerity and intention and he would take me from my pain.

I felt frightened but calm at the same time as much as this contradicts itself. I spoke to God that night, I spoke to God knowing that he was listening, knowing that he was there for me and I asked God for his help. I then felt this warmth wash over my body, like a bucket of warm water spilled over me from head to toe and I cried and I cried and I cried. I felt exhausted and fell asleep. I did not dream of Shaytan again.

I crawled out of my black hole that night and I no longer had these sad feelings that overwhelmed and crippled me. I got on with my teenage years. I reflect on this a lot. This was a sign from God that he is there for me when I am sincere and when I truly believe in him.

After this event my life became busy and my soul took a back seat while the material world stepped in for a few years. This was a time when I made plenty of mistakes in my life.

A recurring dream about a book. This recurring dream started so far back that I’m not sure how old I was. I would have it maybe twice or three times a year right up until just a few years ago.

I entered a dimly lit room. The room was baron except for an old wooden table that sat near the middle. There were no other people in the room but there was a presence. On the table there laid a large opened book. I would attempt to move towards the book but I would struggle something or someone was usually holding me back. I would wake feeling frustrated and reminded of all the other times I had experienced this dream in the past, never once being able to read this book. On occasion in my dream I would break free and make it over to the table and to the book but when I looked down at the pages, I could not read the words. I could not understand the words. What was this book trying to tell me?

An epiphany

I made the purchase and the teller handed me my first English translated Qur’an and when I looked down at the Qur’an, time seemed to stand still; my dream suddenly came to the forefront of my mind. I hadn’t thought of the dream for so long.

I was holding the book’, the book on the table, the book I had been longing to read. The feelings were overwhelming a rush of heat came over my body and my hands began to tremble. This was the beginning of my life with Islam. This was a sign.

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 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.

To be continued…