My name is Sara, I’m a Muslim Australian, and I’m actually descendent of a couple of Jewish convicts, believe it or not, and from those men who were brought here in a large clan or group, and married into other clans, French, German, Russian…
Somewhere along the line over the years they lost their religion, they were not really religious Jews, so by the time you got down to my grandfather, he had converted to Mormonism, and also my mother was a Mormon, and at one stage, probably in her early twenties, she was a door-to-door woman missionary, but she became disillusioned with that and let it go because she did not feel authentic going around preaching something which she didn’t in her heart really believe in.
Other Inspiring Journeys to Islam
So I was raised without any religion really, except what I guess is ingrained in Australian culture, so I went to Sunday school, and this kind of thing. I wanted to do that, I remember I had a wanting to do that, you didn’t have to do that, but I was interested. I was a curious child and I always had an inquiring mind. I remember when I was a child I used to try to imagine thinking about what was God like. I don’t know whether that sort of thing usually preoccupies young children, but that was the sort of thing I used to think about.
In my early teens I experimented with Christianity a little bit, and I joined a Church, and sort of went along with all that. This seemed to be something which was good, and true but I sort of went out of that and just became a normal teenager.
When I was 21 I moved to Sydney, and I spent 8 years there, I went to university and I worked. When I was there was the first time I had an encounter with Islam, and it was through a movie called Malcolm X, which probably many people may have seen. I was about 22, I went with my friend and I was very impressed with this person. I was impressed with his humility, I’d never before seen a man or a public figure of a man stand up and admit he was wrong about something, and I remember that really affected me.
Because when he goes to Makkah – and that was another thing which really affected me – it was when he went to Hajj and previously he had been this white people hating person (he was in the Nation of Islam – NOI – and they thought white people were the devil, they had these kinds of beliefs) and he went to Hajj and he prayed next to these blond blue-eyed men, of all different colors and he realized he was wrong, and he admitted that in front of the whole world, and that really impressed me.
|After that film, I actually felt so touched that I knelt down in the aisle, and I don’t really know why I did that.|
And I was also impressed with the fact that he thought when he went to Makkah that wow here is a place where there seems to be equality of different races, so that affected me so much, I was a bit of an eccentric character in my early twenties, and I just very much lived according to what I felt, you know, according to what inspired me.
After that film, I actually felt so touched that I knelt down in the aisle, and I don’t really know why I did that. Lots of people were looking at me, but I just remember doing that because I was so touched. So I think that is when I first thought a bit about what Islam can be about, but I didn’t pursue it. I sort of became a Malcolm X fan, I read the book, and I bought the T-shirt you know, I did not go past the person to what was behind that.
Invited by Muslim Sisters
And it was not till later on that I had my second child, she was five months old, and this is almost five years ago, that I went to what they call a Da’wah Day put on at the Gold Coast by some Muslim women, where they were sharing information about Islam, and talking about misconceptions, and trying to bridge gaps. I found out about this through a group I was involved with, a natural birth community, and I was on someone’s mailing list and I got an e-mail about this, and I thought I’ll go there, as I’d been interested in Muslim people and Islam as I had become more politically aware as well.
We’d just been through September 11, a couple of years down the track, and I just remember the news about Iraq, and the atrocities at the Abou Ghuraib prison, and these images very much affected me, and made me start questioning what is really going on. I thought we were the good guys… I didn’t exactly think that, I was a bit more aware than that, but I couldn’t believe that people who had supposedly gone there to liberate the society, and though it was a certain group that committed those particular things, it deeply affected me and made me look more deeply into what was really going on.
And I began to understand a bit more about Islam in the media, and I began to feel for the Muslim people that they are being unfairly discriminated against, and generalized about. I always had the sense of justice, I don’t know if it’s in my Jewish blood, but I remember being little and watching on TV a program about the Nazis, and there were images of the concentration camps, I was only about my son’s age – 10 years old – or maybe younger, and I remember picking up something and throwing it at the television I was so upset at this terrible injustice perpetrated against this sector of people in the world by another group.
So I researched, and that was another thing when I saw this invitation and I thought I would like to be part of something which is proactive that works against these prejudices, and helps to bridge these gaps as well, so I’m going to go and meet these women. I also thought of my children who have a Turkish Muslim background, although my husband was not practicing at all, and his family hadn’t been particularly practicing either, so I thought for my children if I was able to tell them something about Islam if they ever asked me.
So I went to this group on this day, and I walked into this room, and there was all these women wearing scarves, but actually the first one that opened the door was in full cover, which didn’t bother me. It had never ever bothered me. If I ever saw a woman in a burqu’ or in a niqab, I just thought she was a very religious woman, I associated that particular dress with being a strictly religious person, it never frightened me or worried me.
So I had an amazing day there. Because you are not taught a lot about Islam in school, when you do encounter and start learning about it, it’s like opening this beautiful treasure box and it is just full to the brim, but you never saw it, you never knew it was there. I read lots of religious books, but I always bypassed the Quran, I don’t know why, I didn’t have anything against it. Once you do delve into it, it was amazing.
|I felt like crying. It was so beautiful, and I remember thinking it was the most ancient and holy thing I had ever heard|
There were about half a dozen women, and they gave talks on different things and I thought like it really made sense. I liked the fact that there were religious people talking about One God, that really resonated with me as well, it was not like this is our God, and this is a different God, but God is One. So that really impressed me, and the women impressed me they were funny, they were strong and really smart.
Then somebody outside started to … I could not called it signing, I did not know what it was, but this beautiful sound came and I was absolutely dumbstruck, and I said to one of the women “What is that?”, and she said he is calling us to prayer. And I felt like crying. It was so beautiful, and I remember thinking it was the most ancient and holy thing I had ever heard, it just touched something very deep. And I thought I got a bit more than what I bargained for when I came here…
Books, My Husband and Our Shahadah
So over the next month or so, I started disappearing behind books, and I read the Quran and I had that beautiful experience you hear about, you read the Quran and you start to read nature, because there are many verses in the Quran that say look at this and look at that, it sort of works together and it gets to the heart, and I remember coming to a part where it says “So get you down and prostrate in front of your God”, and I said “Yeah, I need to do that.” I really felt the authority at that... So I started experimenting doing that, and all this was sort of going on at the same time as I was having contact with Muslim people, which started to develop a change in my consciousness over a month or so, and actually in my dress as well.
My husband started noticing long sleeves,… etc. I tried to talk to him about it, but it was really not working, and he didn’t like the sound of that. It was when I stopped talking to him – I thought I will just not talk to him about it anymore – and then we ended up his father passed away, may Allah have mercy on him, and that was a really amazing day because we found out in the morning and then later in the day a Quran arrived in the mail, an Arabic Quran that one of the brothers we’d met at the Da’wah Day promised to send it to my husband. God it was amazing.
We went to Melbourne and we went to the janaza, the funeral, it was very sad, but I remember being very impressed about that because it was very simple, beautiful and very frank, and the men placed Dad in the grave with their hands, and all of this just really touched me. I thought it was really beautiful. So that was all part of us coming to Islam as well.
When we got back, it was Ramadan, and on the last night of Ramadan we were going to go to the masjid (the mosque) with some friends, and going out to the car I said to my husband I think I’m going to make my statement of faith today, I’m going to make my Shahadah.
And he said, I think I’m going to make mine too. I was very surprised, and very happy about it, as I was worried, what happens if I become a Muslim and my husband doesn’t want to?
It’s his choice, and once he was left alone to have his own journey he was guided as well.
And so we sat with friends and with the Imam that night, and we testified the belief in One God, and it went from there…
Watch sister Sara describe her journey to Islam
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