Chronicles of the converts – Written by Sister Janaan Da’wah – Part 2


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…


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 firsthand 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.

I met a Shi’a Muslim Sister, a friend. After several months I realized I needed to begin to speak with other Muslims I wanted to reach out to the community to the ummah but I felt shy. Din was full of advice on these matters and he mentioned a forum on the Internet called shiachat. For the first few weeks I stayed silent but I finally had the courage to post and once I started, I kept on posting. It was a great way to talk about Islam and life with other Muslims and for me mainly the sisters. I then posted my conversion story and to my delight I received so many replies and welcomes to Islam. I felt so thrilled to be accepted it was a great comfort. A big warm hug.

This one shi’a sister lived only an hour from me and she wanted to meet me and take me to Friday Jumah prayer. We sent several long emails before we got together. I met not only her (who I will refer to as Q) but I also met her Mum and her sister. Q was very welcoming and caring she hugged me and handed me a gift, a hijab. We then went to an Islamic shop where I purchased some clothes that I then wore to Friday Jumah prayer at the Masjid she attends. The day was momentous for me and I felt welcomed into the Masjid by all the sisters. I prayed for the first time with others and I felt so good inside.

Q adjusted my hijab and assured me I looked fine. We agreed that we would become great friends that we can foresee a good connection. We further agreed that Allah (swt) had chosen for us to meet and that together we will learn more about Islam and we will support each other Maa shaa Allah. Allah (swt) knows best. Q expresses her feelings in an email to me after we first meet, she writes “Janaan the second I saw you smile I knew you were one of those people who have big hearts and the ability to change someones day with a simple smile. I’m sure many people have told you this, but youre beautiful and you have a radiant personality that shines through.”? This was the nicest compliment I had ever received as I knew her words were sincere and that she could see who I was inside. I cried upon reading this. I feel blessed to know her, she is my sister, she is my friend.

The conflicts of being a female converted Muslim in a very western culture.

It became clear very soon into my study of Islam that most around me were not comfortable with it. Some even accusing me of losing my mind?? There was a lot going on in my life with the separation to my husband and my interest in Islam and my family was confused by my actions. The fact that I was embracing Islam with my heart and soul was a shock for everyone around me. A religion they knew very little about and were partly influenced by what they hear in the media as I was before taking the steps to learn the truth. It’s very trying to be experiencing such an altering of oneself a reawakening of your soul and a focus on your spirituality and not be able to have your close friends and family to share it with.

They were listening but not really understanding so it was frustrating for me and still is at times. I know that my family will always love me no matter what and I know they will never abandon me. So many in my circle of friends and family thought they knew me well but didn’t as they said things like “Well you were an €˜atheist’ now you love God?”? … “Atheist??”? I replied. “When have I ever stated that??”?  I’m a fairly private person when it comes to my spiritual side, I do not divulge a lot of my intimates to others. They assumed because I did not practice a religion that I did not believe in God. I also never really told any of them (nor had they ever asked) whether I believed in God so I can see why they assumed but they assumed wrong.

I’m sure if any of my family/friend’s circle read this memoir of conversion they will be surprised but I hope it gives them some idea of where I’m coming from and where I want to go. I am Muslim for me not for anyone else.

People are confused to see that I want to wear hijab. Why would I cover my long hair and cover my body that was normally showing to the world? They don’t understand and most see it as oppression rather than how I see it as liberation. The changes to my wardrobe were dramatically different but I did not have to think long and hard about it. I understood it when I read the virtues of modesty practiced within Islam and so to dress modest was a must for me and it was part of my submission to the will of Allah (swt). Modest dress is a great virtue to help establish the proper workings of a society under Islam.  To those non-Muslims that say but why would you hide your body like that you have no reason to hide it. I tell them my body will be for the Muslim man that I choose to marry if I choose to re-marry again and for only him. Does this not make it more special? It does, in my opinion. I have nothing to prove I struggle to be seen for who I really am.

As a convert I have taken it upon myself to study Islam as many hours as I can. I know that as a convert I will be asked (and have been) many questions from non-Muslims and Muslims as to my intentions and my understandings of Islam. The more knowledge I build the more power I will have for friendly debate. I want to make for a good representative of Islam and of Shi’a Muslims as I am obligated.

It’s a comfort that I have a handful of very understanding friends. I have a few friends that live near by I have one in the US and a very close friend who lives in England. They have all shown me respect in my choice to become Muslim and they have done their best to try to understand what I’m going through. My US friend is Catholic and we have had some great conversations comparing our religions and our love for God. My British friend and I connect on a spiritual level, she is very understanding and compassionate.

I think my family is afraid that I will change, that I will not be the same person. They are wrong however as I am the person I was meant to be since I was a child. I had temporarily stepped off my path but I am now back on it and I will continue along this path to the end. My parents will eventually understand my quest and they will respect it. I know this because of their understanding nature and love for me. I respect my parents and I am grateful for all they have ever given me and that they continue to give me.

I now find patience with those that do not understand my choices as Allah (swt) has given me the strength to do so.

All my life I felt a building towards something’ feeling inside me. This feeling was there from a very early age. Maybe it’s the same feeling that one has when you question at some point why you’re here? Is there more to life? I have always felt that I was building towards something important. Every momentous event that would come up in my life I would wonder if it was the event that would help clarify this feeling of building towards something big. It was always there in the back of my mind and it always had me wondering. I would often have this strange day-ja-vous effect when something significant happened in my life. For only a few seconds I felt I was in a dream like state then in my mind’s eye I see a path in front of me, and it forks off into different directions, I choose one. This strange day-ja-vous or this visual in my mind of pathways happened to me several times in my life and it would always signify my life would be taking a different direction. It happened at momentous events such as my first job, boyfriend, my artwork, the birth of my sons, my marriage. Just before the separation to my husband and the discovery of Islam I had another €˜pathway visual’ so I prepared myself. It was yet another sign.

One more sign. I prayed to Allah (swt) to show me another sign to please show me that I am meant not only to be true to Islam to be a Muslim but also to spread my story of conversion to tell others about Islam and its truths. Is this something I am meant to do? The next day I was asked if I would be interested in submitting this memoir to AIM. Question answered.

To convert, to be a Muslim and to try to enlighten others with my conversion to Islam, is my path.

I wake up automatically in the morning around 3:30, 4:00 a.m and do you know what I hear in my head? I hear call to prayer and it’s beautiful.

I am a Shi’a Muslim and I am so proud to tell you this fact. Allah (swt) most Beneficent, the most Merciful, has led me to him and I surrendered.