Ever since I was little, I’ve been having a vague image of God.
I spent nights getting scared of the idea of death that all of us are destined to experience without exception. I used to cry and ask my parents, “What will happen to me after death?” “I wish I weren’t born if I have to die someday!” I was feeling that something great beyond human imagination exists but at that time, I didn’t know it is Allah (s.w.t).
The 6 years I spent in a Protestant Christian missionary high school influenced me a lot. Christianity taught me about the existence of God, God’s love, Prophets and hereafter. However, there were some points I couldn’t get convinced.
I remember I asked my Bible teacher why Jesus(a.s) had to say “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46) when he was on the cross, that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, if he himself is God. But their answer, “It was to fulfill the prophecy in the Old Testament,” didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t get baptized all those years in the Christian missionary high school.
My first encounter with Islam occurred in France where I participated in a French summer course in my junior year of university. The city of Marseille, where my French school located, had big muslim immigrants community. After finishing my course there, I flew to Tunisia across the Mediterranean simply due to my curiosity about Arab culture.
It was so sensational for me to see a woman fully covered from head to toe standing in the coast, especially after I got used to see topless bikini women on the opposite side of Mediterranean. I was also invited to a Bedouin wedding ceremony and again had a huge shock to see a bride, segregated by a white sheet with a small hole from which she was looking at her own wedding without showing up to her guests throughout the ceremony.
After coming back to Japan, I started my own research about Islam and Arab culture to mitigate my culture shock.
Alhamdulillah, my university had a Japanese muslim professor, Prof Okuda, and I took his class of Islamic theology. To my surprise, Islam, the barbaric and retarded religion, turned out to be the logical and reasonable one after all those researches. Islam gave me satisfactory answers to all questions about Christianity. I was sensing Islam is the true religion in my heart but still didn’t want to conclude so, I continued my research on Buddhism and Shintoism. The more I researched, the more I was attracted to Islam, and yet, I was scared to be a muslim. The muslim world seemed so “messy” and full of “chaos”, and getting involved with it didn’t seem like a smart decision. I was comfortable with Islam, but not with “muslims”, and then I noticed that I didn’t actually know any muslim!
Feeling the need to interact with “real” muslims, I started participating weekly study group at Tokyo Camii and tajweed class for Egyptian sisters at Yuai arabic school. I joined an event held in the Saudi embassy. I emailed long lists of questions to many muslims. Alhamdulillah, gradually, my anxiety disappeared. I thought I can’t make any more excuse to postpone my conversion.
My shahada brought me larger-than-expected impact.
For example, fasting as a muslimah in my first Ramadan was a totally different experience from what I tried when I wasn’t a muslimah. I learned that I can gain stronger taqwa through salah. Considering my understanding of Islam was knowledge-based before, I came to feel the need to be more committed to gain practical understanding. I was working for an American financial company as a salesperson when I made the shahada. I didn’t have any problem in opening up about my conversion to my boss and colleague. I quit taking alcohol and meat. I also fasted and did salah although I was often unable to pray on time. However I wasn’t strong enough to insist on my hijab. I was afraid that the hijab might affect the relationship with my clients’ companies and that would cause a loss to my company. Such company life continued for an year, but finally I had to admit that I had to quit this job anyway because my company was involved in conventional finance dealing with riba(interest) which is strictly prohibited in Islam.
I quit the job and entered graduate school in Malaysia to study Islamic finance. It was only after I quit my job that I started to fully practice the hijab and on time salah. Previously, I was often angry to the injustice and the tragedy of the world. After knowing about Allah(s.w.t)’s perfect justice on the Day of Judgement, I think I gained a little bit more of peace of mind. Also, by trying to be a sincere slave of Allah(s.w.t), I’ve noticed that I was enslaved by many other things such as success in career, reputation from people, nationalism etc…
Alhamdulillah I didn’t face any trouble with my non-muslim family, friends and colleagues. They all respected my decision. However I had a hard time with muslims after my conversion. There are cases that born muslims mix up Islam with their cultures, and they don’t know the minor differences among the four major schools (Hanafi, Shafi, Hambali, Maliki), or they simply have different opinions on controversial issues, and so on. In the beginning, it was really confusing that many muslims told me different things and insisted they were absolutely correct. Now, whenever I learn something new, I try my best to confirm the resources and references.
I love Islam because Islam provides us the whole package of spiritual and physical, practical and theoretical, personal and social guidelines.
As far as I know, there is no other religion like this. I personally believe ultimately all religions promote peace, but the uniqueness of Islam lies in its comprehensiveness.
Therefore, every aspect of life (even sleeping!) can be an act of worship if we do it with the right intention. We don’t have to do special things such as practicing asceticism, being celibate or preaching house to house.
How merciful it is that in every aspect of life, we are given a chance to worship Allah(s.w.t) and repent to Allah(s.w.t). It really brings rays of hope to our lives.