My journey to Islam began twelve years ago, and about eight months after the beginning of this beautiful journey I found my true way in life by entering the blessed religion of Islam, alhamdulillah.
Having lived the difficulties of a convert and having seen a lot of other new converts or people who desire to convert to Islam, I thought about writing down my story, with the purpose of making it somehow easier for the brothers and sisters in humanity who wish to accept Islam as their way of life.
My Previous Life
About my religious upbringing there is not much to say. My parents were average Italian Catholics, not very religious, who sent me to the religion lessons in the church every Wednesday afternoon, just because all the other families did the same. But the thought of God had not much influence in our home: my parents never told us a word about life after death, or about the necessity to have faith in God. They just gave me very good moral values, derived from a secularized contest.
That’s why, when I decided to leave the religion lessons, and later decided not to go to the church anymore; my parents didn’t have anything to say. So, since I was fourteen, I lived without thinking of God, even if I don’t remember having explicitly denied the very existence of a Creator.
Anyway, even if I could live without faith in God, I could not live without asking myself what purpose my life had. I was very concerned with the injustice in the world and I looked for a possible theory that could help the world to be a better place. When I studied Marx’s theories in high school I thought that could be the solution to most of the world’s problems, and I was convinced just for a while, that all the injustice has been derived from disparity in wealth, and all the spiritual phenomena were no more than consequences of the material condition.
But my life as a materialist couldn’t last long. Towards the end of high school some deep problems affected me, I felt it was my soul that lacked something, and this didn’t have anything to do with the material conditions of my life, which were very good.
Searching for the Meaning of Life
Asking for a sense of life I decided to study philosophy at the university. It was a big shock for my parents. I finished the scientific high school with very good results and I could be admitted to every faculty I wished. So they wanted me to study something that could assure me a good job for my future, something like medicine or engineering. But I was tormented by the questions about the meaning of the universe; human beings, life and death, and I decided that just studying philosophy I could find some answers.
If I thought I could find much ‘‘intellectual food’’ at the faculty of philosophy, then I was wrong. Most of the students there had decided to study philosophy just because they thought it was the easiest, or one of the easiest, between the many faculties.
And the students who really tried to answer “philosophical” questions were soon kept in an atmosphere of false intellectualism, that was no more than showing off how much knowledge about literature, music, films, figurative arts, and wearing “alternative” clothes to be different from the good kids of the middle class. Since my personality wasn’t very strong at the time, and I didn’t have the courage to make a “really” alternative choice, I adapted myself to that atmosphere.
Of course I was not happy and I didn’t like my life, but sometimes I came to the extent to think that nobody is really happy, and especially the most intelligent and sensitive people had to be sad. I can say that during the five years of my studies I met many people, but just one girl became a real friend (and she’s the only one with whom I still have contacts). One special thing in this girl is that she wasn’t afraid or ashamed to tell she was a believing Christian, and I thought she should have courage, assuming the prevailing atheistic contest of the faculty of philosophy.
The only thing that made me really happy was traveling, and I traveled much indeed, despite the little money I had in my pockets. That’s why I couldn’t miss the possibility to spend a study-year abroad. I worked very hard because a lot of students wished the same and the number of places was limited. With the help of God I got a place for 6 months in Germany. Many “errors” occurred in the selection of the city and dormitory where I was going to stay: now I know they were no errors, no tricks of a blind casualty, but just the will of God.
Making the Change
My perspective of life changed with my new condition, especially because I had the fortune to live in a dormitory where not many European students lived. Some of them came from poor countries and they had to work to support their studies, and some had to send some money to their families abroad. This changed my perspective of life, and I started thinking that much of my “spiritual” problems derived from the fact that my life was very easy and I didn’t have many material needs, so I had to make it difficult somehow with other burdens.
It was during the first months in Germany that I came nearer to God. As I mentioned, I never denied His existence, but I thought of Him like an original power who “created” the universe (anyway without a “will” similar to the human one) and constantly maintained it, and maybe one day everything would collapse in Him again. Yes, I knew there is law and order among all the units that comprises this universe.
Everything is assigned to a place in a grand scheme, which is working in a magnificent and superb way. I admired the whole “project”, but of course I couldn’t pray to this “physical” God, no more than I could pray to gravity force. He was too great and too abstract in my conception and I found it stupid to think that He could listen to us, or judge us, or fulfill our wishes if we pray to Him.
Then I became friends with a girl who attended the functions in the Catholic Church of the city we were living. I started going to the church with her with the purpose of improving my German by learning new words, which actually I could listen just in the church. Anyway I started liking attending the Mass?
Because it reminded me of my childhood, and because yes, I started thinking of the meaning of praying and having a close relationship with God, who maybe wasn’t just an absent power like I figured it to myself. Anyway I found the Catholic ritual like a sort of big theater, maybe beautiful to see, but superfluous to a true adoration of God.
If my Creator was so near to me, why did I need so many things to communicate with Him; like a priest, a statue of Jesus, the ceremony of the holy bread and wine, the remission of the sins by a human being like me, who committed sins as well and then the music, the pictures…?
In the same period I came close to a Muslim man who was living in my same dormitory. I found him very intelligent and I liked discussing with him; in fact, we could talk for hours and hours without getting tired, even if German wasn’t our native language. Our discussions were not only about religion, but it was an important part of it. I must admit that, although at the university I had learned so much about Christianity and western philosophy, I had almost no knowledge about Islam.
I had learned something about Avicenna and Averroes, anyway just as commentators of Aristotle; I realized my education was very Eurocentric, and the philosophical theories, which had often their roots in Christianity, were just a limited possibility of the human thought, even if they were presented to us as “universal”, or “human” in general.
I learned the basic points of Islam, and the differences between Islam and Christianity: from the very beginning I realized that the absolute Oneness of God made more sense to me than the Trinity of God, the pure human nature of Jesus was more logic that the “double” one and the absence of priesthood, Church hierarchy and Pope was absolutely in accordance with my own ideas about religion. Once the absolute Unity of God without any partner or plurality in his essence is admitted, the other points can easily be settled.
The Trinitarian branch of the Christian school had exhausted all the brains of its saints and philosophers to define the essence and the person of the deity. And what have they invented? Athanasius, Augustinus and St. Thomas Aquinas, “fathers of the church”, have stated the unity and trinity of God’s essence as a dogma, a dogma which cannot be understood by reason and, at the same time, is like a puzzle and paradox for our understanding.
Anyway, when I spoke with him, I always tried to defend the Christian dogmas, not because I was really convinced of them, but because I was used to the dialectical contraposition in dialogue and I couldn’t accept so easily that he “won” almost always, through his simple, direct, logical arguments.
Even if I didn’t admit it, it was the influence of Islam on every action, even the smallest one, that impressed me most of all. I understood Islam to be a practical religion. Achievement of purity is through action. Good behavior, avoiding bad actions, and being strong and assertive in making correct choices is the practical way to self-development. So easy, so beautiful.
Another important point was the perfect balance between the material and the spiritual side of life.
In my opinion the exaggerated asceticism of some currents of Christianity was against human nature, but even excessive hedonism or materialism cannot fulfill the needs of our soul. My Muslim friend explained to me that, through Islam, we should renounce materialism and give priority to the afterlife, since the Hereafter is better than the material world. But, at the same time, we are not asked to withdraw from life and to make no contribution to the building of a material civilization. Neither does it mean refusing to enjoy the bounties that God put on earth for the benefit of humans. It simply means belittling materialism and having a correct relation to material goods as things to be used by humans in the fulfillment of their duties to God and not as masters who control human behavior.
One evening I heard my neighbor reciting the Quran: a sort of irresistible power drove me to his door, and I stood there and listened to those words, which I cannot understand, but had so much power on me. My emotions were very strong, and I remember having written an e-mail to a close friend of mine to narrate to her the fact of the previous night as very important to me, even if I could not understand the real meaning of it.
When I went back to Italy, I was sad and bored of my “old” life. I started reading everything that I could find about Islam. The first books that I could get were all written by non-Muslims and dealt just with the material history of Islam and Islamic countries. The only book which was really interesting had been given to me in Germany; its topic was the relationship between the Old and the New Testament and the Quran. The author was a very well-educated Christian scholar, who had become a Muslim after having studied for many years the Bible and the Gospels in their original language.
This book left me no doubts about the divine origin of the Quran, and I felt I had just one step more to do, the most important one: reading it! Actually I should have done it first, but maybe it was good to read it after having gained some general knowledge about it. On a hot day in June 2002 I visited a friend in the beautiful medieval town of Bologna, and during the afternoon we looked for some refreshment in a bookshop.
There I found an Italian translation of the Quran, translated by an Italian journalist who had converted to Islam many years before. I didn’t know there were Italians who converted to Islam and I was very surprised. I bought the Quran and I sat on a bench in a park, practically ignoring my friend… it was not very polite, but I was so captured from those words, that I couldn’t stop reading. My friend read a couple of pages and was fascinated as well. Then I read the Surat An-Nur, the Light, and the famous “verse of the Light”:
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories: and Allah doth know all things.” (An-Nur 24:35)
Well, I had no doubt that God couldn’t have described Himself in a more appropriate way than “Light upon Light”, and the allegory came from God. I can individuate that moment as the one in which I was really convinced of the truth of Islam.
More than twelve years after that moment, I cannot say that “my journey to Islam” has reached an end: indeed, I wish to learn more and more till the end of my days, inshaAllah. The acceptance of Islam changed many things in my life, all in a positive way. Of course I have had some difficulties with my parents, and I still have most of all as I decided to wear hijab. But I’ll not give it up, because I feel it as a blessing from God to women, to protect their dignity and their honor, and now I couldn’t live without it.
My family also has problems with my husband—the same, wonderful man, who introduced me to Islam. For the first time; I cannot stop thanking God for having given him to me, and I hope and pray that one day my parents will accept him and all the beautiful things of my new way of life.
Sometimes I ask myself how my condition was before submitting myself to the One God. I think I was already submitted to Him, like every other part of the universe, I just needed to recognize it. This universe and all the created beings in it are in thrall to God, whether by choice or by force. Even though my mind was alienated from my Lord and failed to worship Him, the atoms of my body and everything in me were worshipping Him and glorifying Him, like everything else in the world:
“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft Forgiving.” (Al-Israa’ 17:44).
Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
Nura is the author’s name after she converted to Islam. The author has requested that her real name not be revealed for fear of repercussions from her family.