Why British Women are Turning to Islam

Why British Women are Turning to Islam

By Truth Seeker Staff

Islam

“Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here”, says Rose Kendrick

The Spread of a World Creed

Lucy Berrington finds the Muslim Faith is winning Western admirers despite hostile media coverage.

Unprecedented numbers of British people, nearly all of them women, are converting to Islam at a time of deep divisions within the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The rate of conversions has prompted predictions that Islam will rapidly become an important religious force in this country.  “Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here”, says Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher at a Hull comprehensive and the author of a textbook guide to the Koran.  She says: “Islam is as much a world faith as is Roman Catholicism.  No one nationality claims it as its own”.  Islam is also spreading fast on the continent and in America.

The surge in conversions to Islam has taken place despite the negative image of the faith in the Western press.  Indeed, the pace of conversions has accelerated since publicity over the Salman Rushdie affair, the Gulf War and the plight of the Muslims in Bosnia.  It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly.  In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million.  Many of Britains “New Muslims” are from middle-class backgrounds.  They include Matthew Wilkinson, a former head boy of Eton who went on to Cambridge, and a son and daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the judge heading the arms-to-Iraq inquiry.

A small-scale survey by the Islamic Foundation in Leicester suggests that most converts are aged 30 to 50.  Younger Muslims point to many conversions among students and highlight the intellectual thrust of Islam.  “Muhammad,” said, “The light of Islam will rise in the West”[1] and I think that is what is happening in our day,” says Aliya Haeri, an American-born psychologist who converted 15 years ago.  She is a consultant to the Zahra Trust, a charity publishing spiritual literature and is one of Britain’s prominent Islamic speakers.  She adds: “Western converts are coming to Islam with fresh eyes, without all the habits of the East, avoiding much of what is culturally wrong.  The purest tradition is finding itself strongest in the West.”

Some say the conversions are prompted by the rise of comparative religious education.  The British media, offering what Muslims describe as a relentless bad press on all things Islamic, is also said to have helped.  Westerners despairing of their own society – rising in crime, family breakdown, drugs, and alcoholism – have come to admire the discipline and security of Islam.  Many converts are former Christians disillusioned by the uncertainty of the church and unhappy with the concept of the Trinity and deification of Jesus.

Quest of the Convert – Why Change?

Other converts describe a search for a religious identity.  Many had previously been practicing Christians but found intellectual satisfaction in Islam.  “I was a theology student and it was the academic argument that led to my conversion.”  Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher, and author, said she objected to the concept of the original sin: “Under Islam, the sins of the fathers aren’t visited on the sons.  The idea that God is not always forgiving is blasphemous to Muslims.

Maimuna, 39, was raised as a High Anglican and confirmed at 15 at the peak of her religious devotion.  “I was entranced by the ritual of the High Church and thought about taking the veil.”  Her crisis came when a prayer was not answered.  She slammed the door on visiting vicars but traveled to convents for discussions with nuns.  “My belief came back stronger, but not for the Church, the institution or the dogma.”  She researched every Christian denomination, plus Judaism, Buddhism and Krishna Consciousness, before turning to Islam.

Many converts from Christianity reject the ecclesiastical hierarchy emphasizing Muslims’ direct relationship with God.  They sense a lack of leadership in the Church of England and are suspicious of its apparent flexibility.  “Muslims don’t keep shifting their goal-posts,” says Huda Khattab, 28, author of The Muslim Woman’s Handbook, published this year by Ta-Ha.  She converted ten years ago while studying Arabic at the university.  “Christianity changes, like the way some have said pre-marital sex is okay if it’s with the person you’re going to marry.  It seems so wishy-washy.  Islam was constant about sex, about praying five times a day.  The prayer makes you conscious of God all the time.  You’re continually touching base.

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The Times – Tuesday, 9th November 1993 – Home-news Page

Footnotes:

[1] There is no such statement by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) – IslamReligion.

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Conversion Story of Leopold Weiss

Conversion Story of Leopold Weiss

By Ebrahim A. Bawany

Leopold Weiss

Muhammad Asad’s two important books are Islam at the Crossroads and Road to Mecca. He also produced a monthly journal Arafat and an English translation of the Holy Qur’an.

Muhammad Asad was born Leopold Weiss in July 1900 in the city of Lvov (German Lemberg), now in Poland, then part of the Austrian Empire. He was the descendant of a long line of rabbis, a line broken by his father, who became a barrister. Asad himself received a thorough education that would qualify him to keep alive the family’s rabbinical tradition.

In 1922 Weiss left Europe for the Middle East for what was supposed to be a short visit to an uncle in Jerusalem. At that stage, Weiss, like many of his generation, counted himself an agnostic, having drifted away from his Jewish moorings despite his religious studies. There, in the Middle East, he came to know and like the Arabs and was struck by how Islam infused their everyday lives with existential meaning, spiritual strength, and inner peace.

At the young age of 22, Weiss became a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung, one of the most prestigious newspapers for Germany and Europe. As a journalist, he traveled extensively, mingled with ordinary people, held discussions with Muslim intellectuals, and met heads of state in Palestine, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.

During his travels and through his readings, Weiss’ interest in Islam increased as his understanding of its scripture, history and peoples grew. In part, curiosity propelled.

Muhammad Asad, Leopold Weiss, was born in Livow, Austria (later Poland) in 1900, and at the age of 22 made his visit to the Middle East. He later became an outstanding foreign correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung, and after his conversion to Islam traveled and worked throughout the Muslim world, from North Africa to as far East as Afghanistan. After years of devoted study, he became one of the leading Muslim scholars of our age. After the establishment of Pakistan, he was appointed the Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction, West Punjab and later on became Pakistan’s Alternate Representative at the United Nations. Muhammad Asad’s two important books are Islam at the Crossroads and Road to Mecca. He also produced a monthly journal Arafat and an English translation of the Holy Qur’an.

Let us now turn to Asad’s own words on his conversion:

In 1922 I left my native country, Austria, to travel through Africa and Asia as a Special Correspondent to some of the leading Continental newspapers, and spent from that year onward nearly the whole of my time in the Islamic East. My interest in the nations with which I came into contact was in the beginning that of an outsider only. I saw before me a social order and an outlook on life fundamentally different from the European; and from the very first there grew in me sympathy for the more tranquil — I should rather say: more mechanized mode of living in Europe. This sympathy gradually led me to an investigation of the reasons for such a difference, and I became interested in the religious teachings of the Muslims. At the time in question, that interest was not strong enough to draw me into the fold of Islam, but it opened to me a new vista of a progressive human society, of real brotherly feeling. The reality, however, of present-day Muslim life appeared to be very far from the ideal possibilities given in the religious teachings of Islam. Whatever in Islam had been progress and movement, had turned among the Muslims into indolence and stagnation; whatever there had been of generosity and readiness for self-sacrifice, had become, among the present-day Muslims, perverted into narrow-mindedness and love of an easy life.

Prompted by this discovery and puzzled by the obvious incongruency between once and now, I tried to approach the problem before me from a more intimate point of view: that is, I tried to imagine myself as being within the circle of Islam. It was a purely intellectual experiment; and it revealed to me, within a very short time, the right solution. I realized that the one and only reason for the social and cultural decay of the Muslims consisted in the fact that they had gradually ceased to follow the teachings of Islam in spirit. Islam was still there, but it was a body without a soul. The very element which once had stood for the strength of the Muslim world was now responsible for its weakness: Islamic society had been built, from the very outset, on religious foundations alone, and the weakening of the foundations has necessarily weakened the cultural structure — and possibly might cause its ultimate disappearance.

The more I understood how concrete and how immensely practical the teachings of Islam are, the more eager became my questioning as to why the Muslims had abandoned their full application to real life. I discussed this problem with many thinking Muslims in almost all the countries between the Libyan Desert and the Pamirs, between the Bosporus and the Arabian Sea. It almost became an obsession which ultimately overshadowed all my other intellectual interests in the world of Islam. The questioning steadily grew in emphasis — until I, a non-Muslim, talked to Muslims as if I were to defend Islam from their negligence and indolence. The progress was imperceptible to me, until one day — it was in autumn 1925, in the mountains of Afghanistan — a young provincial Governor said to me: “But you are a Muslim, only you don’t know it yourself.” I was struck by these words and remained silent. But when I came back to Europe once again, in 1926, I saw that the only logical consequence of my attitude was to embrace Islam.

So much about the circumstances of my becoming a Muslim. Since then I was asked, time and again: “Why did you embrace Islam?  What was it that attracted you particularly?” — and I must confess: I don’t know of any satisfactory answer. It was not any particular teaching that attracted me, but the whole wonderful, inexplicably coherent structure of moral teaching and practical life program. I could not say, even now, which aspect of it appeals to me more than any other. Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other: nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure. Probably this feeling that everything in the teachings and postulates of Islam is “in its proper place,” has created the strongest impression on me. There might have been, along with it, other impressions also which today it is difficult for me to analyze. After all, it was a matter of love; and love is composed of many things; of our desires and our loneliness, of our high aims and our shortcomings, of our strength and our weakness. So it was in my case. Islam came over me like a robber who enters a house by night; but, unlike a robber, it entered to remain for good.

Ever since then I endeavored to learn as much as I could about Islam. I studied the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him); I studied the language of Islam and its history, and a good deal of what has been written about it and against it. I spent over five years in the Hijaz and Najd, mostly in al-Madinah, so that I might experience something of the original surroundings in which this religion was preached by the Arabian Prophet. As the Hijaz is the meeting center of Muslims from many countries, I was able to compare most of the different religious and social views prevalent in the Islamic world in our days. Those studies and comparisons created in me the firm conviction that Islam, as a spiritual and social phenomenon, is still, in spite of all the drawbacks caused by the deficiencies of the Muslims, by far the greatest driving force mankind has ever experienced; and all my interest became, since then, centered around the problem of its regeneration.

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Courtesy with slight editorial modifications from islamreligion.com.

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Conversion Story of Sir Jalaluddin Lauder Brunton

Conversion Story of Sir Jalaluddin Lauder Brunton

By Sir Jalaluddin Lauder

Sir Jalaluddin Lauder

It became so abhorrent to me that I almost became a sceptic.

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity of saying a few words as to why I embraced Islam. I was reared under the influence of Christian parents. At an early age, I became interested in theology. I associated myself with the Church of England and took an interest in Mission work without an actual active part in it. Some years ago I gave my attention to the doctrine of “Eternal Torment” of all mankind except a few elects. It became so abhorrent to me that I almost became a sceptic. I reasoned that a God that would use His power to create human beings whom he foreknew and pre-destined should be Eternally Tormented, could be neither wise, just, nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men. I continued, however, to believe in the existence of God, but was not willing to accept the commonly understood teachings of God’s revelation of Himself to men. I then turned my attention to the investigation of other religions, only to feel baffled.

An earnest desire to worship and serve the True God grew in me. The creeds of Christianity claim to be founded on the Bible, but I found these to be conflicting. Is it possible that the Bible and teaching of Jesus Christ had been misrepresented? So, I turned my attention again to the Bible and determined to make a careful study, and I felt that there was something wanting.

I determined to strike out for myself ignoring the creeds of men. I began to teach that men possessed a “Soul”, and an “Unseen Force” which was immortal, that sins were punished both in this world and in the next, that God in His Goodness and Mercy was ever ready to forgive our sins if we only were truly repentant.

Realizing the necessity of living up to the Truth and digging deep, so that I may find the “pearl of great price”, I again devoted my time to the study of Islam. There was something in Islam which appealed to me at this time. In an obscure and almost unknown corner of the village Ichhra, I was devoting my time and service to God’s glory amongst the lowest classes of society with the earnest desire to uplift them to the knowledge of the True and only god and to instil a feeling of brotherhood and cleanliness.

It is not my intention to tell you as to how I laboured amongst these people, nor what were the sacrifices I had under-taken nor the extreme hardships I had undergone. I was simply going on with a singleness of purpose to benefit these classes both physically and morally.

I eventually took up the study of the life of Prophet Muhammad. I knew very little of what he did, but I knew and felt that the Christians with one voice condemned the celebrated Prophet of Arabia. I was now determined to look into the matter without the spectacles of bigotry and malice. After a little time, I found that it was impossible to doubt the earnestness of his search after Truth and God.

I felt that it is wrong, in the extreme, to condemn this Holy Man after reading his great achievements for humanity. People who were wild idol-worshippers, living on crime, filth and nakedness, he taught them how to dress, filth was replaced by cleanliness, and they acquired personal dignity and self-respect, hospitality became a religious duty, their idols were destroyed and they worship the True and only one God. Islam became the most powerful Total Abstinence Association in the world. And many other good works were accomplished which are too numerous to be mentioned. In the face of all this and his own purity of mind, how sad to think that such a Holy Messenger of God should be run down by the Christians. I became deeply thoughtful, and during my moments of meditation an Indian gentleman named Mian Amiruddin came on a visit, and strangely enough, it was he who fanned the fire of my life into a flame. I pondered over the matter a great deal; brought one argument after the other bearing upon the Christians’ present-day religion and I concluded in favour of Islam, feeling convinced of its truth, simplicity, toleration, sincerity and brotherhood.

I have now but a little time to live on this earth and I mean to devote my all to Islam.

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This article is taken with due reference and slight editorial modifications from discoveringislam.org.

 

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After Ten Years of Atheism: Dr. Jeffrey Lang Discovers Islam

After Ten Years of Atheism: Dr. Jeffrey Lang Discovers Islam

By Mushfiqur Rahman

jeffrey lang

When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind.

For those whom Islam has embraced, the greatest witness to God’s unremitting, pursuing, sustaining, and guiding love is the Qur’an. Like a vast and magnificent ocean, it lures you deeper and deeper into its dazzling waves until you are swept into it. But instead of drowning in a sea of darkness, you find yourself immersed in an ocean of divine light and mercy … as I read the Qur’an and prayed the Islamic prayers, a door to my heart was unsealed and I was immersed in an overwhelming tenderness. Love became more permanent and real than the earth beneath my feet; its power restored me and made it so that even I could feel love … I was happy enough to have found faith in a sensible religion. But I never expected to be touched by such intoxicating mercy.

“Dad, do you believe in Heaven?” When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind. There perhaps was also a sign that he would subject things to a logical scrutiny and validate them from a rational perspective. It was little surprise that one day he would end up being a professor of mathematics, a matter subject that leaves no place for anything but logic. During his senior years at the Notre Dame Boys High, a Catholic school, he formed certain rational objections against belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Discussions with the school priest, his parents, and classmates could not convince him of the existence of God, and to the dismay of the priest and his parents, he turned into an atheist at the age of eighteen. He was to remain so for the next ten years, throughout his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. It was a little after his becoming an atheist that he first saw the following dream:

It [sic] There was a tiny room with no furniture, and there was nothing on its grayish-white walls. Its only adornment was the predominantly red-and-white patterned carpet that covered the floor. There was a small window, like a basement window, above and facing us, filling the room with bril­liant light. We were in rows; I was in the third. There were only men, no women, and all of us were sitting on our heels and facing the direction of the window.

It felt foreign. I recognized no one. Perhaps I was in another country. We bowed down uniformly, our faces to the floor. It was serene and quiet as if all sound had been turned off. All at once, we sat back on our heels. As I looked ahead, I realized that we were being led by someone in front who was off to my left, in the middle, below the window. He stood alone. I only had the briefest glance at his back. He was wearing a long white gown, and on his head was a white scarf with a red design. And that is when I would awaken.

During the next ten years of his atheist life, he was to see the same dream several times. He would not be disturbed by the dream, however, for he would feel strangely comfortable when he awoke. But not knowing what it was, he could not make any sense out of it and thus gave no importance to it despite its repetitions. Ten years later in his first lecture at the University of San Francisco, he met a Muslim student who attended his mathematics class. He was soon to develop a friendship with him and his family. Religion, however, was not the topic of discussion during the time he shared with that Muslim family, and it was much later that one of the family members handed to him a copy of the Qur’an. He was not looking for a religion. Nevertheless, he started reading the Qur’an, but with a strong prejudice. “You cannot simply read the Qur’an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset, it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side.” Thus he found himself in an interesting battle. “I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself.” It was as if the Author was reading his mind. Every night he would make up certain questions and objections but would find the answer in his next readings as he continued his readings in the accepted order. “The Qur’an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries.” He fought vigorously with objections and questions, but it was apparent that he was losing the battle. “I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice.” It was early 80’s and there were not many Muslims at the University of San Francisco campus. He discovered a small place at the basement of a church where a few Muslim students made their daily prayers. After much struggle in his mind, he came up with enough courage to go and visit that place. When he came out of that place a few hours later, he had already declared the shahadah, the proclamation of a new life, “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.” After he made his proclamation, it was the time for the afternoon prayer and he was invited to participate. He stood up in rows with other students behind a prayer leader named Ghassan and started following them in prayer and:

We bowed down in prostration with our faces on the red-and-white carpet. It was serene and quiet as if the sound had been turned off. And then we sat back on our heels again.

As I looked ahead, I could see Ghassan, off to my left, in the middle, below the window that was flooding the room with light. He was alone, without a row. He was wearing a long white gown and on his head was a white scarf with a red design.

The dream! I screamed inwardly. The dream exactly! I had forgotten it completely, and now I was stunned and frightened. Am I dreaming? I wondered. Will I awaken? I tried to focus on what was happening to determine whether I was asleep. A rush of cold flowed through my body, making me shudder. My God, this is real! Then the coldness subsided, succeeded by gentle warmth radiating from within. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Everyone’s journey to Islam is unique, varying from one another in many different ways, but Dr. Lang’s is an interesting one. From one who had once challenged the existence of God, he became a firm believer in God. From a warrior who fought a fierce battler against the Qur’an, he became one who surrendered to it. From one who never knew love and who only wanted to live a comfortable materialistic life until he died and become “long-forgotten soil underneath an unmarked grave,” he turned into one whose life became full of love, mercy, and spiritualism. “God will bring you to your knees, Jeffery!” said his father when he denied the existence of God at the age of eighteen. Ten years later, that became a reality. He was now on his knees and his forehead on the ground. The highest part of his body that contained all of his knowledge and intellect was now on the lowest ground in complete submission before the majesty of God. Like all Muslim reverts, Dr. Lang felt that he was favored by God’s mercy and that it was God Himself who directed him to Islam:

I perceived that God was always near, directing my life, creating the circumstances and opportunities to choose, yet always leaving the crucial choices to me. I was awestruck by the realization of the intimacy and love that reveals, not because we deserve it, but because it is always there and all we have to do is turn to Him to receive it. I cannot say with certainty what the meaning of that vision was, but I could not help seeing in it a sign, a favor, and a new chance.

Dr. Lang is the author of two books — both make interesting readings and are useful for both Muslim converts and born Muslims to read. He is married and has three daughters. It is no surprise that his children inherited some of his inquisitive mind. The boy who once threw questions at his father was now a father himself who had to face questions from his own children. One day he was confronted by his eight-year-old daughter Jameelah after he finished the noon prayer with her:

Daddy, why do we pray?

Her question caught me off guard. I didn’t expect it from an eight-year-old. I knew, of course, the most obvious answer — that as Muslims we are obligated to — but I did not want to waste the opportunity to share with her the experience and benefits of salah. Nevertheless, as I tried to put together a reply in my mind, I bought a little time by beginning with, “We pray because God wants us to!”

But why, daddy, what does praying do? She asked.

It is hard to explain to a young person, honey. Someday, if you do the five prayers every day, I’m sure you’ll understand, but I’ll do my best to answer your question.

You see, sweetheart. God is the source of all the love, mercy, kindness, and wisdom — of all the beauty — that we experience and feel. Like the sun is the source of the light we see in the daytime, God is the source of all of these and much more. Thus, the love I feel for you, your sisters, and mommy is given to me by God. We know that God is kind and merciful by all the things He has given us in this life. But when we pray, we can feel God’s love, kindness, and mercy in a very special way, in the most powerful way.

For example, you know that mommy and I love you by the way we take care of you. But when we hug you and kiss you, you can really feel how much we love you. In a similar way, we know that God loves and is kind to us by the way He takes care of us. But when we pray, we can feel His love in a very real and special way.

Does praying make you a better daddy? She asked me.

I hope so and I would like to think so, because once you are touched by God’s love and kindness in the prayer, it is so beautiful and powerful, that you need to share it with those around you, especially your family. Sometimes, after a hard day at work, I feel so exhausted that I just want to be alone. But if I feel God’s kindness and mercy in the prayer, I look at my family and remember what a great gift you are to me, and all the love and happiness I get from being your daddy and mommy’s husband. I’m not say­ing that I am the perfect father, but I believe I would not be as good a father without the prayers. Am I making any sense at all?

I kind of understand what you mean, Jameelah answered.

Then she hugged me and said, and I love you, Daddy!

I love you too, sweetie pie. I love you too.

  References:

  • Lang, Jeffrey. Struggling to Surrender. Beltsville: 1994.
  • Lang, Jeffrey. Even Angels Ask. Beltsville: 1997.

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.welcome-back.org.

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Conversion Story of Yvonne Ridley, Journalist, UK

Conversion Story of Yvonne Ridley, Journalist, UK

By Hannah Bayman

Working as a reporter for the Sunday Express in September 2001, Ridley was smuggled from Pakistan across the Afghan border.

Working as a reporter for the Sunday Express in September 2001, Ridley was smuggled from Pakistan across the Afghan border.

If you were being interrogated by the Taleban as a suspected US spy, it might be hard to imagine a happy ending.

But for journalist Yvonne Ridley, the ordeal in Afghanistan led her to convert to a religion she says is “the biggest and best family in the world”.

The formerly hard-drinking Sunday school teacher became a Muslim after reading the Qur’an on her release.

She now describes radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri as “quite sweet really” and says the Taleban have suffered an unfair press.

Working as a reporter for the Sunday Express in September 2001, Ridley was smuggled from Pakistan across the Afghan border.

But her cover was blown when she fell off her donkey in front of a Taleban soldier near Jalalabad, revealing a banned camera underneath her robes.

Her first thought as the furious young man came running towards her?

“Wow – you’re gorgeous,” she says.

“He had those amazing green eyes that are peculiar to that region of Afghanistan and a beard with a life of its own.

“But fear quickly took over.  I did see him again on my way to Pakistan after my release and he waved at me from his car.”

Ridley was interrogated for 10 days without being allowed a phone call and missed her daughter Daisy’s ninth birthday.

Of the Taleban, Ridley says: “I couldn’t support what they did or believed in, but they were demonised beyond recognition because you can’t drop bombs on nice people.”

It has been suggested the 46-year-old is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages take the side of the hostage-takers.

But she says: “I was horrible to my captors.  I spat at them and was rude and refused to eat.  It wasn’t until I was freed that I became interested in Islam.”

‘Flappy knickers’

Indeed, the Taleban deputy foreign minister was called in when Ridley refused to take her underwear down from the prison washing line, which was in view of soldier’s quarters.

“He said, ‘Look, if they see those things they will have impure thoughts’.”

“Afghanistan was about to be bombed by the richest country in the world and all they were concerned about was my big, flappy, black knickers.

“I realised the US doesn’t have to bomb the Taleban – just fly in a regiment of women waving their underwear and they will all run off.”

Once she was back in the UK, Ridley turned to the Qur’an as part of her attempt to understand her experience.

“I was absolutely blown away by what I was reading – not one dot or squiggle had been changed in 1,400 years.

“I have joined what I consider to be the biggest and best family in the world.  When we stick together we are absolutely invincible.”

What do her Church of England parents in County Durham make of her new family?

“Initially the reaction of my family and friends was one of horror, but now they can all see how much happier, healthier and fulfilled I am.

“And my mother is delighted I’ve stopped drinking.”

What does Ridley feel about the place of women in Islam?

“There are oppressed women in Muslim countries, but I can take you up the side streets of Tyneside and show you, oppressed women, there.

“Oppression is cultural, it is not Islamic.  The Qur’an makes it crystal clear that women are equal.”

And her new Muslim dress is empowering, she says.

“How liberating is it to be judged for your mind and not the size of your bust or length of your legs.”

A single mother who has been married three times, she says Islam has freed her from worry over her love life.

“I no longer sit and wait by the phone for a man to ring and I haven’t been stood up for months.

“I have no man stress.  For the first time since my teens, I don’t have that pressure to have a boyfriend or husband.”

But there has been a phone call from at least one male admirer – north London preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri.

“He said, ‘Sister Yvonne, welcome to Islam, congratulations’.

“I explained I hadn’t yet taken my final vows and he said, ‘Don’t be pressured or pushed, the whole community is there for you if you need any help, just call one of the sisters.’

‘Straight to hellfire’

“I thought, I can’t believe it, this is the fire and brimstone cleric from Finsbury Park mosque and he is quite sweet really.

“I was just about to hang up when he said, ‘But there is just one thing I want you to remember.  Tomorrow, if you have an accident and die, you will go straight to hellfire’.

“I was so scared that I carried a copy of the vows in my purse until my final conversion last June.”

And the hardest part of her new life?

“Praying five times a day.  And I am still struggling to give up cigarettes.”[1]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Yvonne Ridley: From captive to convert. BBC News Online. 2004/09/21 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/england/3673730.stm)

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.islamreligion.com

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Conversion Story of Mark Shaffer

Conversion Story of Mark Shaffer

By Truth Seeker Staff

Mark Shaffer

I could see Mark observing the jamaah, especially after the Friday prayer was completed when everybody was shaking hands and embracing each other with radiant and happy faces. Mark was very impressed with what he saw.

Mark Shaffer, an American attorney, and millionaire has declared his Islam in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, 17th October 2009. Mark was at that time on a holiday in Saudi Arabia to visit some famous cities like Riyadh, Abha, and Jeddah for 10 days.

Mark is a well-known millionaire and also a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, specializing in cases of civil laws. The last big case he handled was the case of the famous American pop singer, Michael Jackson, a week before he passed away.

A tourist guide who accompanied Mark for 10 days in Saudi Arabia, Dhawi Ben Nashir told: Since he set foot for the first time in Saudi Arabia, Mark already started to ask a question about Islam and Solat. As soon as he arrived in Saudi, Mark stayed in Riyadh for two days. While in Riyadh, Mark was very interested in Islam. After moving to Najran, we went to Abha and Al-Ula. There, his fascination with Islam grew more obvious, especially the time when we ventured out into the desert.

Mark was amazed to see three Saudi youths who were in our group in Al-Ula, performing salat in the expanse of the very wide desert. A very fantastic panorama indeed.

After two days in Al-Ula, we went to Al-Juf. As soon as we arrived in Al-Juf, Mark asked if I could get him some books on Islam. I then obtained some books on Islam for him. Mark read all those books. The next morning, he asked me to teach him how to perform salat. I then taught him how to pray and take wudhu (ablution). Then, he joined me and performed salat beside me.

After salat, Mark told me that he felt peace in his soul. On Thursday afternoon, we left Al-Ula heading for Jeddah. He looked very serious throughout the journey reading those books about Islam. On Friday morning, we visited the old town of Jeddah. Before the time for the Friday prayer approached, we went back to the hotel and I excused myself to go for the Friday prayer. Then, Mark told me: I would like to join you for the Friday prayer so that I can witness myself how the Friday prayer is like. So I answered: welcome…

We then went to a masjid which was not far from the hotel where we stayed in Jeddah. Since we were quite late, I and many other jamaah had to pray outside, as the number of jamaah was overflowing. I could see Mark observing the jamaah, especially after the Friday prayer was completed when everybody was shaking hands and embracing each other with radiant and happy faces. Mark was very impressed with what he saw.

When we return to the hotel, Mark suddenly told me that he wanted to become a Muslim. So I said to him: Please have a shower first. After Mark took the shower, I guided him in saying the kalimah of shahadah (declaration of faith) and then he prayed two rakaah. Later on, Mark expressed his desire to visit the Masjidil Haram in Makkah and perform salat there before leaving Saudi Arabia.

In order to fulfill his wish, we went to the Da’wah and Irshad office in the area of Al-Hamro’, Jeddah, to obtain a formal proof of his conversion to Islam, so that he would be allowed to enter the city of Makkah and Masjidil Haram. Then, Mark was given a temporary certificate of his conversion to Islam. As a number of group members who participated in Mark’s visit to Saudi Arabia had to go back to America on Saturday afternoon, Al-Hamdulillah, Ustadz Muhammad Turkistani was willing to send Mark to the Holy Land of Makkah that same morning.

Regarding Mark’s visit to Masjidil Haram, Ustadz Muhammad Turkistani narrated: After Mark obtained his temporary certificate, we straight away departed heading for the noble Masjidil Haram. When he witnessed the Masjidil Haram, he face looked radiant and it emanated an extraordinary happiness. When we entered the Masjidil Haram and witnessed the Ka’bah for ourselves, his happiness increased. By Allah, I could not express that scene with words. After performing the tawaf around the noble Ka’bah, we performed the sunnah salat and went out of Masjidil Haram. I could see Mark very reluctantly wanting to leave Masjidil Haram.

After Mark declared his Islamic faith, he had the chance to express his happiness in Al-Riyadh Newspaper saying: I could not express my feeling at this time but I am being reborn and my life has just started… then he added: I am very happy. This happiness that I am feeling could not be expressed in words especially when I visited the Masjidil Haram and noble Ka’bah.

Regarding his next step after his conversion to Islam, Mark explained: I will learn more about Islam, I will delve deeper into this religion of Allah (Islam) and come back to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj.

As to what impelled him into converting to Islam, Mark explained: I have already had information about Islam, but it was very limited. When I visited Saudi Arabia and personally witnessed the Muslims there, and saw how they performed the salat, I felt a very strong drive to know more about Islam. When I read true information about Islam, I became confident that Islam is a religion of haq (truth).

Sunday morning, 18th October 2009, Mark left the Airport of King Abdul Aziz Jeddah heading for America. When filling in the immigration form before leaving Jeddah, Mark wrote ISLAM as his religion.

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This article is taken with due reference and slight editorial modifications from discoveringislam.org.

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