Women Who Embraced Islam [C2]


Here's my "story".

For as long as I can remember, I have never been satisfied with Christianity.  I could never assimilate their belief that Jesus (alaihi Salaam) is the "son of God" (astaghfirullah).  I used to think it was a fault in me - that I was of "weak faith".  When I was a child, I used to pray to God to help me believe that Jesus (as) was His son (astaghfirullah).  I didn't feel God responding to my prayer to strengthen my faith in the Christian church.

I had a little Jewish friend in the 3rd grade.  I remember being fascinated by her religion. I asked her why she wrote the word God as "G'd", and she replied that in her religion, even the WORD God was considered too holy for them to spell out.  I was amazed at the supreme power of our mutual God!

I remained very interested in Judaism all the way throughout elementary school, up into high school and college, all the while researching and studying it. I decided that it was the closest thing I had found so far to what I believed about God.  During college, I joined the Jewish Students Organization, started taking Hebrew and religious study, and began to make plans for my formal conversion to Judaism.  I contacted one rabbi at a conservative synagogue, and was quickly and purposefully discouraged by him as to the amount of work and effort it would take on my part.  When I persisted, saying that I was willing to work hard for something as important to me as religion, he said "we really don't do conversions here."  That was the end of THAT conversation!  I was somewhat discouraged, but decided to try again at another synagogue with another rabbi a few days later.  This one told me that I "could convert if I wanted to", but that I "would never be considered a Jew by other Jews".

With this "warm" reception, I was finally discouraged, and decided to look into other faiths.  I examined Catholicism, Buddhism, and even Native American Spirituality, and I was getting no where!  I finally decided that I would just believe my own beliefs (of a supreme and omnipotent God), and "go my own way".

I never even considered Islam until I met the man who was to later become my husband.  I had previously always dismissed Islam as a violent religion, full of bloodshed, "holy wars", and men who abused and oppressed women.  This was ENTIRELY due to the western media's gross misrepresentation of Islam - the only exposure most westerners, including myself, ever have to Islam, unfortunately. When I found out (through casual conversation) that the man I had met was a Muslim, I was somewhat taken aback.  He was so sweet and warm and caring, and he had a great sense of humor! (A Muslim with a sense of humor????  Impossible!!!)  I really liked him as a person.  I thought maybe I should investigate Islam more on my own, as I had just met a Muslim who defied all of the negative stereotypes that I had in my head about Islam and Muslims.

As the months went by, and as I studied more and more in depth about Islam, my conviction began to grow steadily that this was the true religion.  It was so close in many ways to what I ALREADY believed! Then one day at a weekly women's lesson on Islam  that I had been attending, (even though I wasn't a Muslim yet), one of the sisters was reading a verse of the Qur'an that really affected me. It was about the Jews and their questioning of God's commands in sacrificing the heifer in Al-Baqarah.  This verse suddenly affected me so much that, much to my embarrassment, I began to cry in the middle of the lesson.   The sister who was reading comforted me by saying that the Qur'an - the word of Allah (swt) - often affects people this way.  That evening at home, as I was preparing for bed, I went through my usual routine of opening the Holy Qur'an at random and asking Allah to select a passage for me to read. The verse that my eyes fell on as I opened the book read as follows:

"And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth:  They pray: 'Our Lord!  We believe; write us down among the witnesses.  What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing as we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?'  And for this their prayer hath Allah rewarded them with Gardens, with rivers flowing underneath - their eternal Home.  Such is the recompense of those who do good."

Holy Qur'an  5:83-85

This was the final message to ME from Allah subhana wa ta'ala for me to revert to Islam!  I was speechless.  He SPOKE to me through the glorious Qur'an.  He SHOWED me the straight path - the TRUTH.  I said Shahada shortly after that, Alhamdulillah.  Shahada was a homecoming for me - I felt that my soul had been set free! Also, in direct contrast to the less-than-friendly "welcome" of the Jews when I expressed a desire to convert, the Muslims ALL said: Allahu Akbar! Alhamdulilah.!  Masha'Allah!  Subhana Allah!  Ahlan wa Sahlan!  Mabrouk!Asalaamu Aleikum!  No one has EVER told me I "would never be considered a Muslim".  To this day, and always, it warms my heart and soul to go to a gathering of my sisters and brothers in Islam and hear the quiet murmuring of "Asalaamu Aleikum", and see the warm smiles, hugs and handshakes, and the welcoming outstretched arms of my Ummah! I will never stop thanking Allah for guiding me to the light of Islam!

Mrs. Cecilia Mahmuda Cannolly (Australia)

Why I embraced Islam ?

First and foremost I would say it was because fundamentally I had always been a Muslim without being aware of it.

Very early in my life I had lost faith in Christianity for many reasons, the major one being that whenever I questioned any Christian, whether it was a person belonging to the so called Holy Orders or a layman, regarding any point that puzzled me in regard to the Church teachings, I invariably received the monotonous answer : `You must not question the teachings of the Church; you must have faith.' I did not have the courage in those days to say : `I cannot have faith in something that I do not understand', and, from my experience, neither do most of the people who call themselves Christians. What I did do was to leave the Church (Roman Catholic) and its teaching and to place my faith in the one true god in whom it was much easier to believe, than in the three gods of the Church. By contrast with the mysteries and miracles of the Christian teaching, life took on a new and wider meaning, no longer cramped with dogma and ritual. Everywhere I looked I could see God's work. And although, in common with greater minds than my own, I could not understand the miracles that happened before my eyes, I could stand and marvel at the wonder of it all --- the trees, flowers, birds and animals. Even a new born babe became a beautiful miracle, not the same thing that the Church had taught me to believe at all. I remembered how, when a child, I gazed at newborn babies and thought, 'It's all covered in black sin', I no longer believed in ugliness; everything became beautiful.

Then one day my daughter brought home a book about Islam. We became so interested in it that we followed it up with many other books on Islam. We soon realized that this was really what we believed. During the time I had believed in Christianity I had been led to believe that Islam was only something to joke about. Thus all that I then read was a revelation to me. After a while I looked up some Muslims and questioned them on some of the points that were not quite clear to me. Here again there was yet another revelation. My questions were all answered promptly and concisely, so different from the frustration I had experienced when questioning Christianity. After much reading and studying of the religion of Islam both my daughter and myself decided to become Muslims, taking the names of Rashida and Mahmuda respectively.

If I were asked what impressed me most in the religion of Islam, I would probably say the prayers, because prayers in Christianity are used wholly in begging God (through Jesus Christ) to grant worldly favours, whereas in Islam they ar used to give praise and thanks to Almighty God for all His blessings since He knows what is necessary for our welfare and grants us what we need without our asking it.
From "Islam, Our Choice"


Salam Alekhum.

I became Muslim almost three years ago, right after Ramadan in between the two Eids.

My spiritual search lasted over thirty years. I was born a Catholic and found many things I did not agree with: I believe in Jesus, but did not believe that he was the son of God, nor that he was God. I concluded on my own that he was a rabbi, since he was a learned Jew and a teacher. Because of this I went and studied under rabbis and learnt the Tanakh, the Torah and some of the laws of Judaism. I learnt the Kosher laws and the proper way of cooking, and the rules of being a woman. It became natural that men and women prayed separated as the women were together. Though Judaism was not the answer for me, I gained an understanding of its religious and spiritual ways.

I then looked into women spirituality but found that it was lacking something, it was not always monotheistic in practice because they believe in a Goddess, and disclaimed many teachings by re-inventing a new way of life. I had a great deal of problems with God being a woman since I did not believe He was a man either. I liked the Judaic way that God was unseen and unknown. Because of this I could not understand their teachings but I did agree in the equality of men and of women. Because of this I respect their search but their methods did not appeal to me.

In 1990, I learnt about native spirituality. Though they believe in the Creator and the oneness of the world I could not become native - I had to find my own spirituality. I was shocked when my country Canada went to war against Mohawks in 1990. I fought side by side with them for about five years. I was working but at that time I was offered a choice, I saw two paths in front of me: one the path of God, the other the path of man. I made a conscious commitment towards God, that I would serve Him and use my talents to propagate His word and His message, that is, one of Peace and of Justice through his laws.

I chose the path of God instead of that of "man" - in this case human. When the crisis was finished after five years, God guided me back to my spiritual roots.

Most of my life I had friends that came from North Africa and the Middle East. They were Jewish, Christian and Muslim, but whether they observed their religion or did not, it mattered little to me, as I did not believe in organized religion. I have strongly believed all my life that I should talk directly to God and ask what I needed and thank Him for what He gave me. I also strongly believe in the equality of men and women, and the equality of all races in front of God and of people. Christianity taught me about Jesus, whom I believed in. Judaism showed me I could talk to God directly, that men and women should worship separately, and that God had dietary laws. Mohawks showed me that men and women were equal though they had different obligations. Where could I find all of this. No religion, no teachings could offer me all of this, but God was there to guide me.

When I was twenty five years old, I met and fell in love with a young man. He was Iraqi by birth, Jewish by religion, and lived in Israel for many years. He came to Canada in the 1970's, and we met and fell in love. Then there was a war in between Israel and Lebanon. We were to get married and he decided to go back and fight in the army. Sadly, he was killed. For many years I kept the hurt bottled up inside of me. But Allah protected my heart and gave me a great gift. I met a Lebanese girl, she was Shia Muslim. She was not very religious but she was proud to be Muslim. We talked and I told her what happened, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me she lost her brother during that same war. To this day we do not know if her brother killed my boyfriend or vice versa, maybe they did not kill one another that too is a possibility. What came out of this, after the tears and the hurt is that we became very good friends, and she helped me heal my aching heart. I also saw the horrors of war and it's evilness, how people get hurt.

In 1995 there was a controversy in Montreal about women wearing Hijab, so I decided to document this myself, and look for interviews since I had a spot on the radio for about 4 years, doing Native, North African and Middle Eastern news. I met through a friend this very kind woman, she is Iraqi - Allah does work in unusual ways - who spoke about the importance of wearing Hijab and what it meant to her. What struck me with her was her deep commitment towards God whom she called Allah. I was impressed by her truthfulness and her kindness of heart.

She explained to me what was Islam. She told me that "There is no other GOD but GOD". Men and women were equal, that all races were equal in front of GOD, that Jesus was a Prophet not a rabbi, that Maryam his mother was a great example, and that the dietary laws were less strict than in Judaism. To my astonishment this is what I believe in. I started being friends with her and within one month I became Muslim like her. I recited my Shahada with her.

This was three years ago. I now wear Hijab and I am very happy. I have gone back to University and am studying religions. My field is Islam, and I would like to go as far as my doctorate and become proficient in law for women, and Hadith. I am presently writing a book about women and Islam in the 7th century in English. I now have a radio show which I co-produce with my friend through whom I became Muslim. It lasts half an hour. We talk to women from around the world and from various religious denominations. I try with the help of teachers and religious leaders to de-mystify Islam and the message of Islam. I am also trying to document in film the life of Muslim women and their role in society.

Allah guided me and gave me what I was looking for through Islam. Because of this I try to use my pen and the airwaves to give a broad picture of all the facets of Islam and see the unity in the diversity that is Islam.

My Muslim name is Um-Khalthum, like the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. She has inspired me to be a good Muslim as she too was a convert or revert to Islam.

This is my story. My first love was for an Iraqi Jewish young man, who died stupidly in a war, my heart was broken. I was left in pieces in Lebanon, yet a Lebanese Muslim woman started the mending process. But my heart was healed by another Iraqi, this time a Muslim woman, because she introduced me to Islam and invited to become Muslim. From the pain of loss the joy of finding a way of life that brings me closer to Allah.

May Allah guide all of those who have a broken heart. And remember that the message of Islam is that of peace and of harmony. Before we heal we must talk about the hurt, and Allah does heal our hearts by putting people in our path that are there to guide us to HIM.

Ma Salam

Um-Khalthum (Celine)

Constance Mcdonald

Former US Model Overwhelmed by Muslim Pilgrimage
(Source: http://www.akhbar.com/article/0,1690,ArabiaLife-15822,00.html)

March 15, 2000, 12:40 PM

ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Former US fashion model Constance Mcdonald sat at a camp in Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday listening to a Muslim preacher explaining the rituals of the hajj pilgrimage.

Clad in traditional white clothes from head to toe with only her face and hands showing, she sat listening attentively to the sermon delivered in English and Arabic with an English copy of the Quran in hand.

But for the Muslim convert, it is a far cry from when she used to parade on the catwalks and pose at photo shoots.

Understandably, she seemed overwhelmed by the experience of being among 2.1 million other Muslims performing the pilgrimage to Makkah.

"I just can't explain how I feel, there are mixed feelings," Mcdonald told Reuters at a complex housing 1,200 American pilgrims when asked about the hajj. "There have been several spiritually moving moments, but also it has been somewhat confusing and frustrating.

"I am finding the language and cultural differences difficult to deal with," she said, adding that this was her first trip overseas. "It is like a dream, once we're back home, I wouldn't know if it actually happened or not."

Wide circle of converts

Mcdonald, a 38-year-old from Lake Orion, Michigan, said she converted to Islam in 1990 to marry Carl Karoub, a US national whose grandparents were Lebanese.

"At first the conversion was just out of convenience," said her husband, a medical staffer at William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, who was born into a Muslim family. "But a couple of years later she realised that this was what she was looking for and she started practising (Islam).

"There was no pressure from Carl," she said. "I had been searching for the truth for 10 years, and after I read the Quran and looked at it closely I knew that this is the truth, much like Yousef al-Islam (singer Cat Stevens)."

Mcdonald said her faith was further strengthened when her three little girls started going to a Muslim school and she met many other women who had converted to Islam and were married to Muslim husbands.

She said she started covering her hair in accordance to Muslim teachings two years ago.

Her husband said he paid $10,000 in hajj costs for his wife and himself. Most of the American pilgrims in the complex were of Middle Eastern or Asian origin.

Back to People Who Embraced Islam Stories

Go back to the Main Page

If you have any questions or comments please click this image: