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Hanan’s and John’s Stories of Conversion to Islam

Hanan’s and John’s Stories of Conversion to Islam

By Abbie Wightwick

Born to Christian but not especially religious families, Hanan Sandercock and her husband John Smith became Muslims as adults in Wales.

They celebrate Eid and not Christmas, pray five times a day, and don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. Hanan, 51, has worn a scarf for 23 years since converting aged 28 and raised all her four children in the faith.

Both say they felt a sense of relief and fufilment converting. They describe it as finding a community as well as a faith and finding answers to questions they’d been asking.

Artist and play worker Hanan Sandercock has decorated the family home in Pentwyn with copies of ancient Islamic tile designs. She is pictured with husband John Smith

Searching for the meaning of life

While their families supported their choice some of Hanan’s friends drifted away when she became a Muslim in 1995.

Then Donna Sandercock, she arrived in Cardiff in the early 1990s as a young art school graduate looking for work.

“I was in my 20s and I think I was searching. I wanted to know the meaning of life. I went to a Buddhist meeting but that didn’t do anything for me.”

 

With Cardiff beginning to shake off the grey days of the 1970s and ’80s Donna, originally from a small village in Cornwall, was intrigued to be in a city with a historically multicultural population. She got to know and befriend young Muslims her age working and socialising.

“I was interested. Their religion was very important to them. They were solid and had a belief system I didn’t have.

“I’d eat at their houses and have the nicest food. They were really open and welcoming and happy I was interested.”

If we got our safely I’d become a Muslim

In the summer of 1994 visiting a kibbutz in Palestine she also learned more about Palestinian and Muslim history and culture and had a religious experience which led her to convert to Islam when she returned to Cardiff.

“I was walking in a wadi, a deep ravine, in the heat of the day with a friend and we got lost,” she said. “There were no mobile phones then and we had run out of water. I prayed in a way I’d never done before. I prayed that if we got our safely I’d become a Muslim. It wasn’t something I’d vocalised before but realised it had been inside me.”

Back in Wales she “read and read about Islam” and spoke to a Yemeni  friend “who kept asking me if I was sure” before converting at the South Wales Islamic Centre in Butetown.

The well-known late Imam Sheikh Said, whose own mother was a Welsh Muslim convert, listened as Donna changed her name to Hanan and recited the Shahada, the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as his prophet.

Inside the The South Wales Islamic Centre where Hanan converted to Islam

“I immediately felt a great sense of relief,” she said. “Islam explains things to me. The answers are all there.

“I became part of a diverse community. I was not pressured to be or become a particular way.

“I wore an abayah. Being Muslim is an identity and I wanted to show that.”

Marrying an Algerian Muslim in Cardiff Hanan had four children, now aged 22, 21, 14 and 10, but later divorced.

And within a few years world events led her to stop wearing her robe robe because she was scared of being attacked. When 9/11 happened the whole landscape changed.

Although Hanan had been shouted at and had things thrown at her by men in cars in 1990s Cardiff, it was only when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 that she began to feel seriously at risk.

“I stopped wearing the abayah (robe) after 9/11. I knew some Muslim women had been attacked in the UK and America. I had little children and didn’t want us to be at risk. I carried on wearing the scarf but not the abayah.”

At the same time a few miles down the road 35 year-old John Smith was seeking out Muslims but for different reasons.

John’s journey of conversion

John and Hanan’s bookcase is filled with books about Islam

Born in Omagh, northern Ireland, to a Protestant Irish mother and English army father, John was living in Pontypridd when the September 11 attacks happened in 2001.

“9/11 led to me converting to Islam,” he said as he recalled not so much a search for faith as a bolt out of the blue.

“I met a University of South Wales (USW) student who was Muslim and asked him: ‘How could Muslims do this? Where’s the rationale?’

“He told me the people who carried out the attacks had Muslim names but were not Muslims. He gave me a copy of the Quran.”

After reading the holy book John attended a lecture tour by a Muslim cleric and converted.

“I converted before I really found out about Islam. Saying the Shahada is a declaration. You have to take it slowly and really want to do it.

“Being Muslim for me means having a sense of family.

“You never stop learning. Islamic culture and religion is incredibly rich.”

As there is no mosque in Pontypridd John prayed at the prayer facility at USW. Although he wasn’t a student the room is open to the community. Now living in Cardiff he visits the Al Manar and Dar Ul-Isra mosques. Like Hanan he prays in Arabic.

The couple, who met through a friend in 2017 and married the same year, are horrified by extremism in any part of the Muslim or non-Muslim community.

“Extremist Muslims are the bane of our lives because it’s always those that make the headlines,” said John.

“They almost become the public face of Islam which is really difficult when you when you are living as a Muslim and it colours peoples’ judgement.”

Hanan has witnessed a child’s headscarf being snatched off her head in Roath Park by a teenager on a bike, knows people who have been insulted regularly in the street, and has herself been insulted and had liquid thrown at her from a car in the 1990s.

She is impatient with those who won’t adapt and celebrate diversity, saying she is proud to be a white “British Muslim”. She disagrees with the Salafi Muslim view that Muslims should not take part in Western democracy by voting and is frustrated by non-Muslim friends and acquaintances who turn up with bottles of alcohol or argue about the custom of not celebrating birthdays.

Both say they have been very lucky with their families accepting and embracing their change of religion and lifestyle.

Hanan’s younger sister Lisa also converted and their parents moved to Cardiff and enjoy celebrating Eid with their grandchildren, all of whom are Muslim.

 

Both Hanan and John feel it is vital to talk about their faith to counter ignorance.

Hanan, a play leader at the Steiner School in Cardiff, said she works and teaches with people who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan and of no religion.

Her younger children attend the school and she likes that it is a place where discussion is easy and differences are accepted. She regrets this is not the case everywhere but said she and her family are happy to be who they are and say so.

“I am British Muslim and happy to be. At first when you convert you are shy and embarrassed. But I even make halal pasties now.

“This is who I am.”


Source: walesonline.co.uk with some modifications

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Dr. Murad Hofmann, Islamic Thinker and Former Diplomat, Dies Aged 89

Dr. Murad Hofmann, Islamic Thinker and Former Diplomat, Dies Aged 89

Yesterday, the German Muslim diplomat, writer and thinker Murad Wilfried Hofmann died at the age of 89, after a long struggle with illness and a life full of intellectual work and authorship of important books in modern Islamic thought, including “German-Muslim Diaries” and “Islam as an alternative.”

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany mourned Hofmann, who worked as his adviser, and the council’s statement added that the German Islamic thinker died among his loved ones.

“Islam is a comprehensive religion. It is capable of confrontation. It was able to render education into an obligation and learning into a worshipping.” Murad Hofmann

About Dr. Murad Hofmann

Dr. Murad Wilfred Hofmann was the ambassador of his country in Algeria and Morocco, born in 1931 to a Catholic family in Aschaffenburg, a large town in northwestern Bavaria, and embraced Islam in September 1980, provoking a controversy because of his high diplomatic status.

Hofmann worked for the German Foreign Ministry from 1961 to 1994, and he specialized in issues related to nuclear defense.

He continued his work as director of information for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels from 1983 to 1987, as ambassador to Algeria from 1987 to 1990, and as ambassador to Morocco from 1990 to 1994.

As a result of what he saw in the Algerian war of independence and his admiration for the patience of the Algerians and their understanding of what happened, and his passion for Islamic art, and for what he considered contradictions in the Christian belief that he embraced Islam.

Islam as an alternative

Hofman responds in his book “Islam as an Alternative” to the claim that secular and capitalist democracy is the pinnacle of civilization, and Hofman presented his book to “Westerners who seek to understand Islam on a personal level.”

The book was considered a declaration by the German diplomat and thinker about his Islam, which exposed him to an attack by German and European media as he was a former German diplomat and worked in a sensitive position in NATO.

Hofman converted to Islam on September 25, 1980, and spoke in his book about Islam providing his future vision of religion, and he sees in his book that the twenty-first century is the century of the revival of Islam in Europe.

The book deals with sensitive issues

Although the author presented the book to Western readers, he did not avoid sensitive issues such as the rulings on borders, polygamy of the Messenger, may God bless him and grant him peace, issues of justice, destiny, usury, and the four schools of thought, as well as controversial topics such as succession, Sufism, extremism, women, art, and others.

The book caused a sensation before its publication, just as it was announced that a well-known German publishing house would print it, and Hofmann was exposed to numerous rumors and mutilation campaigns, including from allegations that every woman in the German Foreign Ministry working under the Hofmann administration would be forced to wear the hijab.

Without reading the book, some writers and politicians attacked Hofmann by claiming that his ideas were inconsistent with the German constitution, and the German Foreign Ministry asked him to provide a statement about his views, and in the end the book was issued with the presentation of a prestigious German academy that praised the book, which sparked a long debate on the pages of German newspapers and books.

Hofman’s Diary

In his diaries, the first Arabic translation of which was published by the Al-Ahram Center for Translation and Publishing in 1985, Hofman deals with his journey of pilgrimage and the positions that occurred to him with Muslims in the West and the Islamic world, and expressed it by saying, “Brotherhood in Islam has no borders.”

It is noted in the diaries that Hofman dealt with Islam as a religion and belief more than it dealt with the reality of Muslims, and the German thinker believes that Islam can fill the vacuum created by the West’s departure from the Church to atheism.

He says in the introduction to his book, “It is inevitable that the newcomer to Islam will see his country in a new light that requires him to conduct a dialogue with himself, and this is in fact the subject of this book.”

In his discussion of Al-Madina newspaper, Hofman shows in the book that he is surprised that Western and Muslim diplomats alike have been unable to find common ground in them between them against a legal background.

The philosophical controversy between Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd Al-Andalusi

In the book, he discusses the philosophical controversy between Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd Al-Andalusi, after he read translations of their books, and also takes notes on Ibn Khaldoun’s study of the human meeting and compares it with Western philosophers such as Nietzsche, Hagel and Rousseau.

In the notes, Hofmann appears to be a fugitive from a Western material society and a searcher in Islam for lost spirituality. He criticizes the incarnation of God in Christianity in exchange for the abstract and monotheistic concept of deity in Islam.

Islam Hofman came as the culmination of a long process of research, reflection and comparison between religions and modern philosophies studied by a law scholar from Harvard University and doctorate from the University of Munich, and he also has a book “A Philosophical Approach to Addressing Islam” (1983) and “The Role of Islamic Philosophy” (1985). ).

In his book “A Journey to Mecca”, Hofman deals with his first trip to Mecca after his conversion to Islam, touching on the pillars of Islam and the reality of faith as he feels, exposed to his mystical and philosophical reflections that were necessary throughout the pilgrimage.

Hofman criticizes Muslims, “psychologically defeated”, considering that Islam is a viable alternative to solving the world’s major problems in the postmodern era and the third millennium. Hofman has offered his criticism of Western modernity and stereotypes about Muslims and hostility between East and West from the site of the German Muslim thinker.


Source: tellerreport and aljazeera websites

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Ten Reasons to Be a Muslim

Ten Reasons to Be a Muslim

By Editorial Staff

The following video provides ten reasons why you should be a Muslim. These reasons and many others prove that Islam is the most rational religion. In addition, it is in harmony with human nature. Thus, it’s one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Transcript

Give me a reason to be a Muslim!

Just one reason? Come on! Let’s see what you have here! I’ll give you ten.

1. Islam gives clear and rational answers to the important questions on everyone’s mind like:

Why were we created?

What is our purpose in life?

And what will happen to us after death?

2. Islam takes human nature into consideration. Thus, it puts neither the spiritual side before the physical side nor the physical side before the spiritual side. Islam creates a balance between the two that is enough to reform all aspects of human life.

3. Islam does not actually recognize blind submission and does not call for it. It elevates the value of the mind and intellect. There are no prohibited areas or taboos in thought. It rather tells its followers to think as a way to strengthen their faith in God.

4. Islam refuses worshipping creations. It rather focuses on worshipping the Creator solely, The Mighty Lord who is described by all attributes of perfection.

5. Islam does not allow confusion in the day-to-day life. It presents a set of legislations to organize society, economy, politics and even personal relationships. Its laws call for high values without disregarding human nature.

6. While religions are different in how they perceive the Creator, Islam announces it clearly.

“There is nothing like Him.” (Quran 42:11)

And there is nothing that could be compared to Him. He has all the attributes of perfection that make Him worthy of worship.

7. Islam respects all prophets and describes them as the most reformed and pious of humans worshipping God, Almighty, whom He chose to deliver His message.

8. Islam refuses alleged mediators between man and God like priests, clergymen or idols, etc. It connects you directly to the Creator because all men are equal before the Creator and no one is above the other except by their piety.

9. Islam does not force anybody to embrace it. You have to think for yourself to finally be chosen by God to enter His Paradise. Almighty God says,

“There shall be no compulsion in acceptance of the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” (Quran 2:256)

10. By testimony of all those who embrace it, Islam changes the life of the new adherent 180 degrees to the better. And this is why it’s one of the fastest growing religions in the world according to Guinness actually.

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Hijab Story

By Tara Dahane

I want to share my story about my journey to wear hijab in the hope that some aspiring sisters will glean strength from it. Sisters, you can do it! Just keep in mind that you need to please Almighty Allah before you please anybody.

I converted to Islam in May 1996 after having been reading about it for almost 6 years. I have never regretted it only wish that I had took shahadah sooner. I did not wear hijab at first, only to wear to the mosque and during prayer times. I was aware that the condition of being a Muslimah required covering modestly yet I couldn’t act on it because of my fear of other people. I was afraid of how they would treat me such as looking upon me in pity, in utter disgust, or just plain hatred.

Actually my first bad encounter with hijab happened with my sister. She picked me up from the mosque one day and when I got inside the car she told me to “take that “s***” off my head” I am so glad that the people standing out in front of the mosque and especially my hubby did NOT hear what she said. Needless to say, I refused to take off my hijab until I got home.

Over the next three years my faith would increase gradually as I pursued knowledge in Islam more. In 1999 my faith was even stronger than the preceding years so much so that the hijab issue began to trouble me. It worried me so much because I actually thought of myself as “sinning” I had a choice to make, who was I supposed to be afraid of Allah or other people? Of course Allah is number one so my next step was the issue between head covering and face covering. I researched the Qur’an, Hadith, articles, and spoke with other sisters who wore hijab, even to the brothers. My conclusion was based on the fact that yes hijab is obligatory based on two verses in the Qur’an, Al-Ahzab 33:59 and An-Nur 24:30-31, as well as the hadith of Asma (may Allah be pleased with her) the daughter of Abu Bakr came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: “O Asma! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this.” And he pointed to the face and hands. I believe face veiling is optional as you are striving to emulate the Mothers of the Believers who by the way were special and no one can ever be like them. I believe that
there is no sin for not wearing the face veil but rather it is a symbol of more modesty and a higher reward.

Armed with this I planned to wear my hijab in to work the first day of Ramadan. I had even laid out my veil and pins the night before so I didn’t have the excuse of “forgetting” to wear it. Once I arrived at work I became more nervous because there were people looking at me in the parking lot already! With each step I got closer and closer to the building where I worked and strangely more and more calm. Until I was on the elevator and in my office in no time. I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t run into anyone in the halls though. And my did I have a surprise waiting for me. Each co-worker that passed me by just treated me like they always did on a normal day. One even remarked that my veil was beautiful and at least two asked me if it was a special occasion (I had to laugh at that one). At the end of the day, I couldn’t believe that I had worked myself up about nothing all of these years!

It was truly a success to wear hijab and I feel beautiful because I am doing a thing that pleases Almighty Allah I even get more respect when I am out. I don’t care what people think anymore. If I find them staring at me I look back and smile. I am more often than not surprised to see them smiling back at me. For the ones that consider me a source of amusement, the feeling is mutual!

I recommend this book on hijab: “Dearest sister: why not cover your modesty” by Abdul Hameed Al-Balali translated by Wael F Tabba That’s all folks! Tara.

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Source: www.islamfortoday.com

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Discovering One’s Flaws: The Tenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you.

One may start his journey to God the right way. But unfortunately, he might feel self-conceit or feel that he is doing God a favor and forget that he has many flaws. After setting the rules of how to perfect the beginning of the journey, Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you.”

“Human” Flaws

A servant, who does extra rituals, might think that is able to know the Unseen or that he has the piercing sight about which the Prophet said; “Beware of the piercing sight of the believer, for he sees with the light of God.” (At-Tirmidhi) Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is warning us saying: “Trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you.”

If one thinks that he is free from flaws, surely he is mistaken, because this is the nature of human beings. God enjoys the perfect attributes, while humans suffer from flaws.

God is the Generous, but man is miser: “Say: “If you were to own all the treasure-houses of my Sustainer’s bounty, lo! you would still try to hold on (to them) tightly for fear of spending (too much): for man has always been avaricious (whereas God is limitless in His bounty).” (Al-Israa’ 17:100) God is the Mighty, but man is very weak: “God wants to lighten your burdens: for man has been created weak.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:28) God is Merciful, but man is cruel. God is much-forbearing, but man is angry. God is forgiving, but man does not forgive easily. God is patient, but man is prone to be hasty in his judgments. God is the Knower, but man is ignorant. God is the Just, but man does injustice to others.

Self-purification

One should do his best to discover the flaws within himself. This is much better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from him because one can not discover hidden worlds before purifying himself from flaws. Man will never purify himself completely, but he should do as much as he can to purify it. Purifying the inner self eventually helps one realize his nature and attain the quality of humbleness. Self-purification and humbleness make one spiritually elevated and bring about divinely bestowed knowledge and spiritual lofty status.

Scholars have identified several ways through which one discovers his flaws. This includes:

First, being criticized by people: if someone criticizes you, you have to think deeply about this criticism. Is it a constructive criticism that will help you discover your flaws? You have to take into consideration every criticism that comes from everybody even if it comes from those who are not in good terms with you. You have to ask yourself: does this criticism show me my flaws?

Second, a good friend; a good friend helps you discover your flaws when he offers you a sincere advice. `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) said: “May God have mercy on the one who shows me my flaws.”
A sincere friend comes to you directly telling you about your flaws. From your part, you should listen to him and look within yourself for those flaws and try to amend them.

Third, God’s tests; when you are put to a test, this test will reveal your flaws and shortcomings. God says; “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God).” (At-Tawbah 9:126)

The verse here is talking about the hypocrites. God always puts them to tests, but they never repent to Him and they do not bethink themselves of God. If you are under pressure or put to test, you have to discover your flaws so that you will pass this test easily.

We pray to God to conceal our flaws and to help us amend them. We pray to God to grant us forgiveness in this world and the world to come.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Self-criticism: The Eleventh Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

After looking within oneself and discovering its flaws, one has to know the origin of these flaws so that he can get rid of them. This is self-criticism. In this connection, Ibn `Ata’illah says; “The origin of every sin, forgetfulness, and lust is in being self-righteous, and the origin of every good deed, awareness, and chastity is in being self-critical.”

The origin of flaws -sins, forgetfulness, lusts, etc. – is to feel self-righteous, i.e. one tells himself “I am a good believer, and I am doing good deeds. I do not have to worry.” God the Almighty swore by the “Nay! I call to witness the Day of Resurrection! But nay! I call to witness the accusing voice of man’s own conscience!” (Al-Qiyamah 75:1-2) The accusing voice of man’s own conscience is the one that does not feel content with what one does and always blames him.

In another verse we read’ “And yet, I am not trying to absolve myself: for, verily, man’s inner self does incite (him) to evil, and saved are only they upon whom my Sustainer bestows His grace. Behold, my Sustainer is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!” (Yusuf 12:53) We notice that this statement was said by Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him), then what about us?

The accusing voice of man’s own conscience will be saved from the Hellfire by God on the Day of Judgment. The inner self that does not blame itself may think that on the Day of Judgment it will be saved from the Hellfire.
In the story of the people of the Cave we read that the owner of the two gardens, who was very content with his inner self, said; “And neither do I think that the Last Hour will ever come. But even if (it should come, and) I am brought before my Sustainer, I will surely find something even better than this as (my last) resort!” (Al-Kahf 18:36) He hoped that on the Day of Judgment he will find a better garden than the one he had in this worldly life.

The original situation according to the Qur’an and the prophetic tradition is not to feel self-righteous. This is what the Prophet taught his companions. Therefore, they doubted even their faith. Hanzalah, one of the Prophet’s Companions, had knowledge about the names of the ten major hypocrites who were unknown to other companions. `Umar ibn al-Khattab used to ask Hanzalah if his name was among the ten people. Why did Umar ask Hanzlaha this question? Because he did not feel self-righteous. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used to say: “I would not feel safe from God’s deep devising even if one of my feet was in paradise.” Why did Abu Bakr say that? Because he thought that he does not deserve paradise as a reward from God.

This is Abu Bakr about whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) said; “If the faith of Abu Bakr is put on one side of the scale and the faith of all people is put on the other side, the side of Abu Bakr will outweigh that of all people.”(AlBaihaqi, At-Tirmidhi, and Ahmad)

The Forbidden Lust

Feeling self-righteous is the origin of all sins. If you feel self-righteous and think that you have a special status in God’s sight, surely you will commit sins. If you fear God and think that you are a normal believer, you will avoid committing sins.

Ibn `Ata’illah is talking in this word of wisdom about the forbidden lust, i.e. arrogance, miserliness, greed, extravagance, etc. Feeling self-righteous is the origin of every forbidden lust. If you avoid this feeling, you will keep yourself away from committing sins. This was the practice of the prophets, messengers, and righteous people.

However, the believer blaming himself should not come under self-criticism. Self-criticism means that you always blame yourself until you feel desperate. For example, if you keeping telling yourself that you are not a good person, you are not doing good deeds, etc., you will feel hopeless and will abandon everything. This course of action is rejected in Islam.

Moderation is a virtue that lies between two vices, one of blaming oneself until one feels desperate, and the other not blaming oneself at all until one feels self-conceited. With moderation, our inner self will improve and we will advance in the course of our spiritual journey to God.
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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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