*Editor’s note: Joyce and Janice are sisters, and each of them sought their own paths in searching for God before beautifully intertwining only just recently. Their stories are evident of how God holds the Best Plan for every single one of us, and places people in our lives at every point to make us question and realise our purpose, our belief, and our true destination to Him. They’re full of inspiration in their want to submit entirely to Him, and I am truly blessed to have crossed paths with them by Allah’s Will. Joyce reverted to Islam on 31st Oct 2016, and her sister Janice will revert together with her officially within the next few weeks. Please do dua for their beloved mother as well, that she may be Guided too, to the Straight Path.
When I first knew about Islam, it was 9 years ago. Then, I was dating a Malay Muslim guy. But we did not talk about religion at all. One day, we were chatting with one of his bandmates, a Chinese guy, and he told me that he only dates Muslim girls because he is planning to convert to Islam in future. I was puzzled by his decision. After that, I starting researching about Islam on the internet. I was surprised that Islam was just the Arabic term for submission, and Muslim basically means “one who submits”. What shocked me the most was that Muslims only worship ONE God! Not a prophet, deity, or idol. Even though I always watched my Muslim friends pray at the staircase landing in school, I had no idea who they were praying to and did not bother to find out.
Then I also found out that astronomy is also mentioned in the Quran. I’ve always been interested in space and astronomy and I guess this was also what got me to want to read more. I knew that the solar system was formed after the Big Bang but there was no explanation on why after the Big Bang, planets were formed, and suddenly in the Planet called Earth, there were humans living in it. Then I realized it must be God.
After that day, I would keep asking my Muslim friends questions about Islam, and I got to know more and more. I also decided to buy an English translated Quran and my then-boyfriend brought me to the Bookshop at Darul Arqam to purchase one. I even tried fasting during Ramadan once. however, it only lasted 11 days before I fell sick, but it was a great experience. My friend also brought me to the mosque to break fast and there I was first introduced to dates. They looked like cockroaches to me but I still tried and loved them. It really is nature’s candy.
Just when I thought I was going to convert to Islam, marry my then Muslim boyfriend and live happily ever after, My mum came into the picture. She was against our relationship and felt that if we were to get married, it will not last. She also said if I were to become a Muslim, no man will want to marry me. Four years into the relationship, I broke up with him. However, I was still interested in Islam. I would read the Quran at times. Other times I would forget about it and eventually shelved it in a corner. I focused on my work after that, and sometimes I would question the meaning of life. Are we just supposed to work and die? Life is so meaningless.
Out of nowhere, my friend invited me to a talk for Muslimahs. It was held in a mosque. The Muslimahs were all wearing hijabs and they looked so beautiful. Then I got reminded about Islam and Allah again. I already believed in Allah all along but I felt that there was no way I could become Muslim. Time passed, and I started to think about what happens after death. I don’t want to go to hell. It scares me at the thought of it. I even started thinking about cremation and whether I will feel any pain. I even asked my friend what I should do.
She told me, “When you are dead and burnt, even if it’s painful just bear with it. It will be over in no time.”
I started thinking, if that’s gonna hurt, what about hell? Burning for eternity?! I was just filled with fear. Again, I prayed to God and asked him to forgive me of my sins and to guide me to the straight path. Months passed and my friend invited me to a talk again at the mosque. At the end of the talk, the ustaz recited a prayer and everyone was praying together. I listened to the prayer and watched everyone and felt very peaceful.. if only I could do this.. I prayed to God again to forgive me of my sins and to guide me to the straight path.
Night after night I would imagine the hell of fire before I sleep and get so scared and worried. I would force myself to go to sleep. One day, I was chatting with my friend on the phone. He asked me, “What is the purpose of life?” I couldn’t answer him. I said, “I’ve thought about that question many times but I think it’s to be kind to people and do good, and hopefully go to Heaven?” He didn’t sound satisfied with my answer but I couldn’t help him.
A few months later, I saw a photo of my colleague wearing the hijab and told her that she looked very nice in it. I also asked her why she is not wearing it now. Another colleague added in and said she is waiting for the angel to blow the horn. Then I said, “Isn’t that too late?” And so, this topic brought on a chain of other Islamic topics.
Finally, I asked them the purpose of life. They couldn’t answer me. That evening, my colleague sent me a video by Mufti Menk about the purpose of life. I felt emotional after watching it. I started watching more and more videos. In the end, I realized something, that just believing is not enough. Islam is submission. I needed to submit to God and obey his rules. That was when I decided I am going to become a Muslim.
I did do some research about religions (Editor: since 20 years ago!) as I was trying to find similarities between the different religions to support the theory that there is only one true God. I can’t really remember very well the exact way I started out because I’m on medication and it gives me very bad memory.
But if I’m not wrong, my journey with God started with Christianity. My friend brought me into the religion when she found out about my interest. I would read the bible and pray and speak with God every night. But as I read further into the Bible, I found contradictions and how God seemed to be a completely different entity between the Old and New Testaments. I was confused and my faith shook a little. I can’t remember why I stopped going to church… might be because of the hypocrisies I see within Christians or something else but I backslided. But even though I questioned the Christian faith, I never questioned God. I believed that He exists and believed that I didn’t need to go to Church to worship Him. He is in my heart. I didn’t pray regularly after that. Along the way, things got really bad at home, my parents divorced and we were forced to move in with my grandma. There were frequent conflicts and very soon I broke down mentally. I started to seek God every night. Asked Him to save me from the despair and give me the courage to go on. I was constantly thinking about killing myself. For eight years, I cycled between despair, anger and elation. It was very hard but I got closer to God as a result. I did think about going back into Christianity but I didn’t agree with them worshipping Jesus and Mary and all the saints. It was wrong and they seemed misguided. God is who they should worship. I started researching about Christianity for surely there might be evidence that the bible is not totally true. I found some semblance of truth in the Gospel of Judas. However, the text is badly destroyed and there wasn’t much I could research about. I tried to find similarities of Christianity in Buddhism but realised that Buddhism is a way of life and not a religion which its followers were confused about. Hinduism is too farfetched. I can’t remember if I checked out Islam but if it didn’t it was because (very sorry for racism) the Malays were not exactly very good role models.
But that changed when my sis came home one day with a Qu’ran and said that Islam is like Christianity and that the Qu’ran has never been edited before. I decided to find out more about the religion after that and I found that it is indeed very similar to Christianity and not only that it went hand in hand with science as well! I am a science junkie so I totally amazed. But then terrorism happened and a lot of untrue information was disseminated about Islam. I couldn’t get into the religion because of the practice of a man having multiple wives and that Muhammad had a child wife and the virgins you will get in afterlife. It’s like, why would God encourage that?
Anyway, I was struggling with my mental illness and I couldn’t concentrate on my research. But many times I have asked God to show me the way. Send somebody to write an english version of the bible or the Qu’ran. Because, despite believing that Islam might be the one, I thought that maybe the Qu’ran was like the bible, edited to one’s fancies. And again, more terrorism happened and I realised that the Christians and Muslims are suffering the most. I asked God why he was letting this happen? Why are his followers suffering the most? But He didn’t give me an answer and I lost faith. My heart went cold and I stopped praying altogether. But despite that, deep down in my heart, God was still there. I still believed in Him but refused to acknowledge it because of my willfulness.
Time passed, time and time again I would catch myself accidently talking to God, or asking him for help. I felt like a willful child. But one day my sis came home and started talking about Islam again, she answered most of my questions, showed me videos and brochures and suddenly I felt like, yes, God is trying to tell me that this is the way. He is guiding me back to him. I didn’t need much persuasion, once the multiple wives question was answered, I was very much sold. Though I did read further about science and Qu’ran and found some discrepancies but I manage to find my answers in the end. It was like God was giving me a crash course. Bam bam bam and I was ready. After speaking with Ustaz Zhulkeflee I felt like all my questions were answered, actually I realised that the answers were buried deep in me. He only needed to start explaining a little and suddenly I understood it all. Maybe if I had not been so willful and lazy I might have found my answers much sooner. To add on, I have recovered very well from my illness, I was very fortunate to find the right mix of medication within a year, all thanks to our Lord and yes, despite Him being so patient and forgiving with me I still turned my back against him. I feel very bad about this and ask for His forgiveness. I love God very much and I feel that it is time that I submit to him totally. He is the most loving Lord and without Him I wouldn’t be where I am now. This is my story as much as I can remember.