Journey of a Lifetime
Jenkins from the U.K
I was born into a lower
middle-class English family, my mother was (and is) a housewife and my
father worked at an electronics firm (he is now a lecturer in electronic
engineering). My father came from a Catholic background, and my mother
from a Protestant one. They had both shared a short spell in the Quaker
church in the early 1970s but by the time I came along they were strong
atheists and religion was never mentioned in our house, let alone practised.
My parents had decided that if we wanted to be religious when we grew up,
they would support this.
From a young age I believed in God,
despite not being brought up with this belief, but still I got the feeling
that what they were teaching in the Christian school I went to was not
right, somehow. I didn’t believe in Jesus or the Holy Spirit, it all seemed
false but at school they told us this was the only right way, all other
religions were wrong, so I was VERY confused. When you’re a small child
you assume adults are always right with no exceptions, what they say, goes.
Still I could not let this go, so I probably quite wisely, decided to keep
my belief in only one God private. I felt guilty for believing something
that was ‘wrong’ I felt ashamed and I hoped and prayed that I would stop
being a heretic soon. When I was young, I was exposed very much to the
fear of 'Islamic Fundamentalism', especially with the Salman Rushdie affair
at the front of people's minds, I was very frightened of the Muslims in
general. There were two Muslim children at my primary school, but they
kept their beliefs to themselves, except for the fact that the younger
child Ali refused to pray in Assembly.
I had always prayed for God to show
me the right way, I always turned to God for help, there was no doubt in
my mind that God existed. By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, and in
high school I began to realise that perhaps my belief in one god wasn’t
wrong. At this time I had not really heard of Islam, all I ‘knew’ about
it, was that it was a violent religion that treated women like dirt. We
were actually taught in SCHOOL that Islam was spread by the sword (in other
words by violent and forceful means), that women in Islam were chattels
symbolised by their dress, and that Muslims worshipped Mohammed (Sallallah
Alaihi Was Sallam). I was really disgusted, every time I saw a Muslim lady
when shopping in Manchester (there are few Muslims in my area) I thought
‘how can you do that to yourself?’ I was really incensed. They did
teach us one true thing though, that Muslims believe in only one God, which
was something I honestly did not know before then.
I looked into all manner of other
religions, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism but they all appeared so man
made and contradictory. However, one day I don’t know what hit me
but I just felt I had to check whether what I had been taught was true
or not. I was also curious because I had been told Muslims believed
in one god and I wanted to see if it were true or not. I saw a book
called ‘Elements of Islam’ in the local library, and secretly I took it
out. I turned straight to the section on Muslim women and I was absolutely
astounded by what I read, it was contrary to what I had been taught about
Islam and women, and better than anything else I had ever heard of. I didn't
doubt what I read, I knew it was true, I knew deep in my heart that all
of my prayers had been answered. Islam was the truth that I had been
searching for all of my life! Still I felt bad for feeling this, the old
guilt from my primary school days came creeping back; how could I believe
in this 'wrong' religion? I tried to find evidence to 'prove' to me that
Islam was not the truth but it was impossible, all books that said negative
things about Islam, I already knew they were lying. All books that said
positive things about Islam, I knew they were telling the truth.
I decided I must be a Muslim although
I couldn't come to terms with it, and I didn't tell anyone. I read every
book I could get my hands on, I got a translated copy of the Qur’an from
the library but I couldn't understand it, it was all in middle English.
This didn't put me off I knew it was only a translation, and what I did
gather from it, I liked very much. I knew Islam was for life, that there
was no turning back so I really had to make sure. I ended up studying for
two and a half years before chancing upon a chat room in January 1997 that
was to change my life. It was the chatroom at Islamicity, and the people
there were very helpful, the second time I went there I took Shahadah (declaration
of faith that makes One a Muslim) in front of people from all over the
My story spread like wildfire, I
got e-mails from all over the world congratulating me and this was actually
really frightening at the time. I felt like I was a celebrity and that
I was under scrutiny. At the time I had just been diagnosed with clinical
depression, I was feeling very delicate. Some people were very helpful
and very understanding, one brother even sent me a package of books which
for safety reasons I had delivered to my friends house instead. However
some of the e-mails I got were quite threatening, they were telling me
everything I was supposedly doing wrong, and this from people who had never
even met me! I was also sent many articles full of lies about christianity
and the bible, because everyone assumed that I was going to 'go back to
christianity' (I was never Christian in the first place!), and that being
Muslim was just a phase. I can imagine Christians thinking this but the
fact that other Muslims were making these assumptions really hurt me and
wrecked my self worth. As even other perverts started making disparaging
remarks and accusing me of 'just playing around' I began to doubt myself.
I developed a phobia of the internet and I distanced myself from Islam.
I didn't know any Muslims in 'real life' and I had no idea who I could
contact. I felt so alone and so frightened that I looked for friends in
my area, but they were a bad crowd. I was really stressed out and I needed
some sort of company to stop me going right over the edge. Every day was
a nightmare for me and at school, people were threatening me and making
fun of me.
Eventually I got so bad, I was just
unaware of my surroundings that I was admitted to hospital as a day patient.
Being there didn't really help in any way. After some plain hard thinking,
my head was clear again like it was when I first discovered Islam, and
I eventually saw my 'friends' for who they really were. I had to escape
from them, but I didn't know how.
Now I was of sound mind again, the
clear truth and logic of Islam shone through once more. Only one friend
at the time, Emma knew I wanted to go back to Islam and supported me in
this. I made the decision that I would try to get in touch with Muslims,
so I phoned the Mosque nearest to me. The masjid was NOT helpful, they
actually laughed down the phone at me when I asked if they had any classes
or study circles for sisters; and they found it even more hilarious when
I told them that I was a white revert to Islam. Sadly this is quite a common
attitude in parts of Britain and elsewhere, and I, and other reverted brothers
and sisters have been faced with this completely unIslamic attitude time
and time again. Many reverts have left Islam because of the cruel remarks
and nasty looks they were relentlessly subjected to when in the company
of other Muslims; Alhamduli'Llah I was stronger. The attitude of these
racist and bigoted people just made me more determined to make it on my
own as a practising Muslim.
One day a sister, Rehana I knew from
the internet convinced me to meet her to go shopping in Manchester. The
day before was spent as usual, hanging around town with my 'friends', still
in my head I was planning how to tell them that the next day I would not
be coming to their party in a field. Just as I was about to leave for home,
at around 9pm I said 'oh by the way I'm Muslim and I am meeting a Muslim
friend tomorrow in Manchester'; boy were they shocked. They (all but Emma
and a boy called Alasdair, who supported me) tried to talk me out of it
but I knew what I had to do.
The next day I put a scarf in my
bag and set off for Manchester. At Manchester station I went into the toilets,
waited until nobody was around and put on the scarf around my head. I felt
wonderful and incredibly confident, even though I walked out of an exit
that came out in a busy restaurant I wasn't fazed. I practically skipped
to the shopping centre, the sister was really friendly, we went around
the shops for a little while but then she asked me if I would like to come
to Medina Hall? The hall being a hostel for Muslim students and also where
the offices of the university Islamic society were situated.
That day, a whole bunch of sisters
were having a picnic out of doors, I felt like I had come home. I was invited
to a camp, I felt elated. My parents knew I had converted to Islam earlier
in the year but they thought I had left for good, I wondered what their
reaction would be.
When I came into my house my mother
smiled and said 'that’s a nice scarf', I told her about the camp and she
got out her purse and asked how much money it was and she'd pay. My dad
was equally supportive and he took me to the sisters house, twelve miles
away (which is a long way for my dad to drive) from which the camp transport
was leaving. I enjoyed the camp immensely, I have been on three other camps
since. I even went to an Islamic private high school for a while, I was
sponsored but my parents paid for my books and uniform and they became
good friends with the headmistress, Mrs. Mohammed. Unfortunately the school
was too far away and I had to stop going, but I still keep in touch with
some of my friends from there.
I have worn hijab full time since
that day I went to Medina Hall and can read, write and pronounce Arabic
well (I taught myself but checked it up with a qualified teacher). I am
a practising Muslim but I am not judgmental of other people and I do not
tell people what to do.
Although I have been treated badly
by some other Muslims, I have come to realise Islam is perfect, Muslims
are not. My family encourage me more in my pursuit of Islam than many Muslim
parents do Alhamduli'Llah. I also have many non-Muslim friends who are
very supportive. I do not belong to any particular sect or school of thought,
I follow Qur’an and Sunnah and scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds.
I have found that a lot of Muslims do not accept me on the basis of my
colour and nationality, but this is just cultural ignorance and not from
Islam. I'd like to remind such people that Islam is for all of mankind,
we are born Muslim; but if they do want to use labels, all of the prophets
PBUT and their followers were essentially 'converts' themselves anyway!
Nothing can put me off Islam I am
glad to be Muslim and although I am not perfect I am really working on
it. In the future I hope to improve my practice of Islam even more.
Women in Islam are people in their
own right, they are valued as individuals. If a woman has property it is
completely her own, if a man has property it is also for his wife and children.
Muslim women were given rights to vote, inherit and own and deal in property
and goods 1300 years before America and Europe. In some European
countries women could not vote until the 1970s and 80s! Childbirth and
Motherhood are not curses in Islam, they are blessings with many rewards.
If a woman dies in childbirth it means she is a martyr! I can’t wait to
have my children and bring them up in the religion of ISLAM! I hope
that my story inspires other people, both young and old ( I have come across
people who came to Islam in their seventies, eighties and nineties !) to
study Islam for themselves and find that inner peace that they never imagined
Please learn about Islam today, it
will be the best step you ever made.