Khawlah bint Yahya
I switched off my bedside lamp and closed the notebook in which I had written ‘inspirational quotes’ from the Quran over the last few weeks.
Not raised upon any faith, I had studied books of different religions in my quest to find truth, and even though I liked many verses, many I didn’t understand. The next day I returned the Quran to the library and said to myself ‘Islam is nothing for me.’ I was nineteen.
Four years later, I had built up a career and a life many dream of. My own apartment in a vibrant European city, a well-paid job, expensive clothes and freedom to do whatever I liked.
One summer evening I sat on a balcony conversing with a Muslim friend, “If I get married, I want to raise my children as Muslims, even though I’m not practicing much of Islam myself,’’ my friend said.
I remember my response clearly:
“The concepts of heaven and hell are just too far-fetched, I will never believe in that. I will never, ever become a Muslim.”
“Never say never,” my friend replied. I nodded my head vigorously.
“Never”, I said.
Little did I know how my life would be changed upside down.
The Mysterious Book
Two years later, I was sitting in a friend’s car. Going through some papers I came across a little book. ‘What’s this?’ I remember myself asking.
My friend told me to take it home with me and I casually slid it in my pocket. That evening I went to sleep and had the worst nightmare I had ever experienced; I was standing in a dark space and was surrounded by a huge, black beast that was panting on me. I could feel its disgusting breath and felt my chest was being crushed.
So, I woke up sweating and frightened; and as if on automatic pilot I found myself walking in the dark towards the cupboard in the living room, reaching out and grabbing the little book from my friend’s car. It was all I thought of to do in my moment of fear.
It was the Fortress of the Muslim, an Islamic supplications book, and holding it tightly to my chest I ran back to bed and switched on my bedside lamp.
Recognizing True Joy in Life If I Convert?
I opened the book randomly and to my surprise written on that page was: ‘What to say when having a bad dream’. As if being controlled I whispered the words I saw in transliteration; there was Arabic written too but I had no idea what that said.
From a Nightmare to a New Mission
The next morning a friend called and asked me to come to a gathering and I agreed. Now, this same friend had been asking me for a year to join her to attend a weekly Islamic lecture. For a whole year, I had made excuses as I had no interest to do so, and today I felt I had to go.
When we arrived, a large group of girls and women were sitting on the floor, chatting. Some wore scarves, others not. All of a sudden their chattering faded as a lady came in. The first thing I thought was how she looked like my mother, only covered in a hijab. She started speaking to the crowd and when she announced that day’s topic my heart jumped. ‘Dreams.’
After an introduction she described a dream exactly like I had; a dark, black beast chasing her and then said she had those dreams just before she came to Islam.
My head was spinning. Was this all coincidence? Right then and there I made a promise; I was going to prove to myself that Islam was nothing for me.
In the next few months I vigorously studied Islamic literature, and attended gatherings; I had a strange desire to listen to Islamic reminders when I would come home from work; I couldn’t wait to return home and listened to lectures for hours.
My mission to disregard Islam in my life, for once and for all, was taking a turn. I started eating with my right hand and only halal foods; and I started to look into how to perform the prayer.
Muslims around me noticed and kept saying ‘Say your testimony of faith to enter Islam, you can say it with me, what are you waiting for?’
They started sending me ‘scary’ reminders about the punishment of not performing the prayer, not covering up properly etc., and I was getting slightly annoyed. I turned to myself, away from people. I had read about the accountability of all your deeds as soon as you’d enter Islam, I wasn’t ready.
Truth in the Kitchen
One afternoon, which I remember like yesterday, I was standing alone in my kitchen. All of a sudden I felt this extraordinary, overwhelming sense of awareness.
Like it was just me and God. This was it. This was the moment. In that tiny kitchen, in that busy city where I lived far away from my family, I looked up, and uttered the testimony of faith. All alone. What I had touched upon, seven years before, what I then had moved away from so far, and then had tried to block out of my life for good, was written for me that destined day.
Two Heart-Felt Supplications
Soon after, I started performing the prayer regularly and while prostrating I found myself begging Allah for two matters; to make me ready for the hijab and to use me as a tool to benefit the Muslim nation.
These supplications weren’t in any fancy words; I had no knowledge of Arabic but I remember how intensely close I felt to God uttering them.
As a Public Relations consultant, I wasn’t wearing anything representing my new faith. After supplicating for weeks, one morning I decided to wear the hijab and went to work. That same afternoon I was called in by the CEO and told my contract would end that same week.
For some reason, instead of feeling angry and upset, losing my job, my source of income and worrying about my rent and livelihood, I felt a strange type of peace inside. This door was shut and it was fine.
Closing Doors, Opening Doors
As a break I traveled to the United Kingdom; and within a year, I got married, went on Hajj, had my first son, set up an organization to support women in need and was given the opportunity to teach Quran, Islamic studies and publish Islamic books and articles. I still, humbly feel this is an answer to that very supplication I repeated and repeated when I entered Islam.
‘O Allah, use me as a tool to benefit the Muslim ummah.’
Many doors were shut in my life; losing my job, people and my home. But one beautiful attribute of God will always have a special meaning in my journey, The Opener, Al-Fattaah, opened doors to the ultimate goodness instead:
Islam. Never say never.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)