*Editor’s note: Eileen (well-known as Eslimah), is a social icon for reverts and muslimahs worldwide for her fashion, faith and beautiful personality. She has allowed us to post her video of her journey to Islam on our website, and below the videos is an extracted transcript, if you prefer to read instead. Any errors in the transcript are made on our part. JazakAllahu khayrun for your kind attention!
I was born and raised an atheist.
My parents did not teach me to follow any faith. I’m Northern European, and religion isn’t something common here. It’s not something we would discuss around the dinner table.
“In my mind I never thought that religious people equate to normal people.”
So when I found out my foreign friends were religious, I was like, “Whoaa”. They were normal, they were religious- not necessarily Muslims, but there were Christians as well. Naturally, you are influenced by the people you are surrounded with. Soon enough, the topic of religion became normal among us.
One day I remember I woke up in bed, thinking, “I do believe in a greater existence.”
That was it. I believed in a God, faith had entered in my heart, and I acknowledged it. But there are so many religions in the world, so how would I know what was right, and what if I chose the wrong religion? So I decided that I believed in God, He knows, and that’s enough.
But after a while… it wasn’t enough. I started questioning.
Why did He put me here? He wouldn’t put me here just to vegetate, He must want something from me.
I wanted to establish a bond with my Lord. That was when I started researching religions. A lot of people told me that it was so weird that a person so young would be searching for a ‘way’. I never drank or smoked, so I didn’t really fit in, because smoking and drinking was the norm in my country.
Now, I thought Christianity would be the easy way out.
In my culture, People would accept it (Christianity) even if they might frown upon it. My life would be the same but I would have found Faith, and that seemed like a good deal. But I did not find my truth in Christianity, because I never understood the concept of Jesus in Christianity.
The community of muslims in my country was really small.
There was this small apartment that served the function of a mosque. I remember my mum was really freaked out when she drove me there, people were all wearing hijab… even I was freaked out. When I went in I couldn’t get information in my mother tongue, nor in English. All information was available only in Russian, so i was clueless. They made me wear a hijab, which was my first time. I had mixed emotions about it because i was not ready to accept Islam yet.
When I got information about Islam in my mother tongue, they were just printed out pages. I hid them under my bed because i didn’t want to freak my mum out. I was still in school and had lots of schoolwork to do, so I had the mentality that I am really busy right now, i will study later. (A piece of advice: You might not have tomorrow, so whatever it is in your life that you intend to do and want to do, do it now.)
I started peeking at the book (“A Brief Illustrated Guide Towards Understanding Islam”- a good book for atheists) from time to time, and its scientific proof why Islam is the truth. It speaks of the the mountains, how a child comes to life inside the mother, it speaks about water… People are ‘discovering’ this things in the 20th century! For me it was life changing book, but I didn’t know it at that time, it was all gradual. I started realising that whenever I had a debate with anyone, i would start defending the point of view of Islam. But when anyone were to ask me if I were a muslim, I’d go, “NO WAY!”
What pushed me to study religion as a whole was when someone (that person was a believer) asked me questions like, “Where did you come from?”, “Where are you going?”, “Why don’t you just vegetate on the couch all day?” Those were questions that I didn’t really think about- death was a taboo subject, you don’t speak about it. But i started thinking about these things for the first time in my life. Fear definitely motivates people- I might deny with 99% of me that God is nonexistent, but still, what if…?
That believer said, “Lets pretend that in the end there’s no God. What would you lose?” Im not going to lose anything. I lived a better life, I always had someone by my side. Religion is basically ethics- how to be a good person.
The believer flipped the coin and asked,
“So what are you going to lose if God is there?” That really hit me, and I contemplated over that a long time. I can’t say i know – I’m just a small girl from a small country, a small place.
I attended a lecture in University.
The Professor said, “Not wanting to know the religions of the world is like not wanting to understand your fellow beings- the majority of people on this planet.” God might not be common to my country, but Majority of the people in the world believe, and it’s the most selfish thing in the world not to want to know them.
I’ve always loved arabic. I signed up for classes at the newly established Islamic culture centre in my country. My teacher was an Estonian convert, so I would have information on Islam for the first time in Estonian- my mother tongue. But i was still thinking Islam was something distant. I went to a mosque, into the classroom, and saw a group of women just like me. All ages, same questions, same search, same desire to know who is God, why we are here, what are we doing.. the same thing that nothing else answered their questions, nothing else made their heart tick.
We studied the Quran down to detail- every surah, even dividing the words into parts and analysing what they mean, what the prefixes and affixes and whats the meaning of everything, all in my mother tongue! Classes were the only time of the week I waited for. I was absolutely hyper everytime I came out of the class. It was no longer me studying something for interest and then closing the books and thinking, “Nice fairytale,” as I did earlier, but I believed in it with every bit of my being. Everything was my truth. I wanted to go for every lesson because I wanted to know what else was my truth, right now. This is exactly what happens to a lot of new muslims. Religion becomes your drug- you feel like you can do anything. Its a beautiful phase. It was when I realised I was muslim.
But I wasn’t practicing, I didn’t pray.
When the other women went to pray. i was sitting at my desk and waiting for them to come back to learn more about Islam.
(I had prayed once before, for someone I dearly loved. I still had fake nails and I didn’t know anything about prayer and Islam. I didn’t know you can’t pray in the bathroom, and I knew that muslim women are supposed to be covered while praying. I was in my robe and tied my towel the way you do when your hair is wet. I went into sujood (because I’d seen muslims do that), and went “Dear God….. Alhamdulillah :D,” yet, I still didn’t admit to myself that I was muslim. ironic.)
Unfortunately something bad had to happen to me to push me towards prayer. I remember the first time i prayed. It was 25 minutes, i took all the notes, what you’re supposed to say and what position you’re supposed to do.
I was dead sure that I was the first muslim in the world that can’t pray because she’s too stupid. I was looking at the pages and going “No way, man. That’s like, What?? This can’t be done!” but i started reading from here to there and following the poses… I started with one, then two, then four… then eventually fajr was added to the list. it took me a week to memorise all i had to, but if it takes longer for you, it’s fine, don’t worry about it, its the intention that counts.
I took my shahada on the 14th May, 2011.
I’m more peaceful, I’m happier. I have a purpose. I have the knowledge that no matter what happens, no matter how much I fall, everything is ok. I’ll strive. Many people tell me that you don’t need faith to be a better person. But I am exactly a better person , because of my faith. It makes me better, it fulfils me, it completes me, and I have no idea how I ever lived without it.
It’s been the best decision of my life and if I would have to compare to anything, its as if in my entire life I was blindfolded and suddenly someone let the fold loose.. and masha’allah the world is just gorgeous. Subhanallah.
Im very happy in Islam, so I don’t appreciate anyone ever thinking I am oppressed or brainwashed or forced into anything or just plain stupid. Atheism was not my choice, but Islam is. Insha’Allah it never goes away, and I hope you will find a peace of heart on your own, and I pray for you. All the best.
You can continue to follow Eileen’s journey in Islam from the following links:
Eileen in YouTube: E S L I M A H
Eileen in Instagram: @eslimah