Growing up in a supposedly Christian, but in fact non-religious family, I
never heard the name of God being uttered, I never saw anyone pray and I learned
early on that the only reason for doing things was to benefit yourself. We
celebrated Christmas, Easter, Mid-summer and All Saints Day and even though I
never knew why, I never questioned it. It was part of being Swedish. As a
Christian (protestant) you can go through something called confirmation when you
are about 15 years of age. This is meant to be a class to take to learn about
your religion and then confirm your belief. I wanted to do this to learn about
Christianity so I was signed up for this 3-week camp which was a combined
golf-and confirmation camp. In the mornings we had classes with a senile priest
and our thoughts wandered off to the upcoming game of golf. I didn't learn
I went through high-school with a breeze. I felt that nothing could harm me.
My grades were the best possible and my self confidence was at the top. Religion
never came to my mind. I was doing just fine. Everyone I knew that was
"religious" had found "the light" after being either
depressed or very sick and they said that they needed Jesus in their life to be
able to live on. I felt that I could do anything that I put my mind to and that
religion only was an excuse to hide from reality.
In college, I started thinking about the meaning of life. I had a hard time
accepting any religion because of all the wars and problems relating to them. I
made up my own philosophy. I was convinced that some form of power created
everything but I couldn't say that it was God. God for me was the Christian
image of an old man with a long white beard and I knew that an old man could not
have created the universe! I believed in a life after death because I just
couldn't believe that justice wouldn't be served. I also believed that
everything happens for a reason. Due to my background and schooling I was fooled
to believe in Darwin's theory, since it is taught as a fact. The more I thought
about the meaning of life, the more depressed I became, and I felt that this
life is like a prison. I lost most of my appetite for life.
I knew a lot about Buddhism and Hinduism since I was interested in these
things in school. We learned in detail about their way of thinking and worship.
I didn't know anything about Islam. I remember my high-school text book in
Religion showing how Muslims pray. It was like a cartoon strip to show the
movements but I didn't learn about the belief. I was fed all the propaganda
through mass media and I was convinced that all Muslim men oppressed their wives
and hit their children. They were all violent and didn't hesitate to kill.
In my last year of college I had a big passion for science and I was ready to
hit the working scene. An international career or at least some international
experience was needed to improve my English and get an advantage over fellow job
hunters. I ended up in Boston and was faced with four Muslims. At that point I
didn't know who Muhammad was and I didn't know that Allah was the same god as
"God". I started asking questions and reading books, but most
importantly, I started socializing with Muslims. I never had any friends from
another country before (let alone another religion). All the people that I knew
were Swedish. The Muslims that I met were wonderful people. They accepted me
right away and they never forced anything on me. They were more generous to me
than my own family. Islam seemed to be a good system of life and I acknowledged
the structure and stability it provided but I was not convinced it was for me.
One of my problems was that science contradicted religion (at least from what
I knew about Christianity). I read the book "The Bible, The Quran and
Science" by Maurice Bucaille and all of my scientific questions were
answered! Here was a religion that was in line with modern science. I felt
excited but it was still not in my heart.
I had a period of brain storming when I was thinking over all the new things
I learnt. I felt my heart softening and I tried to imagine a life as a Muslim. I
saw a humble life full of honesty, generosity, stability, peace, respect and
kindness. Most of all I saw a life with a MEANING. I knew I had to let go of my
ego and humble myself before something much more powerful than myself.
Twice, I was asked the question "What is stopping you from becoming
Muslim?". The first time I panicked and my brain was blocked. The second
time I thought for awhile to come up with any excuse. There was none so I said
the shahada, Al-Hamdulillah.
I didn't know much about Islam when I married my Muslim husband. But early on
I learned the basics and had a respect for it. I grew up in a religious Lutheran
conservative home with practicing parents who brought us up in the church from
birth. In college, I left our church and felt strange finding another
church to go to as some churches (even the Lutheran ones) varied quite a bit in
how they conducted services, etc. I was always taught that there was one
God, even as a Christian. But then we learned about Jesus and they told us
that Jesus was the savior and we touched upon the trinity in Sunday School but
it was usually just something we took as belief and didn't question much.
I have always believed there is only one God. Didn't think of Jesus as a
god. Had a hard time "accepting Jesus as my savior".
Couldn't understand how I had to pray to Jesus when I was speaking to God.
The trinity is confusing and when I think about it, most Christians do not
believe they are ascribing partners to God although the trinity seems to say
that. It is hard to explain really. The Christians say that Jesus
was made in the image of God but maybe they don't realize that that is making
him a partner of God. They also believe that Jesus was human too (God in
human form???). It is very easy for most people to just accept and not question.
It didn't take long for me to convert once I started really looking at Islam
seriously. It was only a month. The biggest step for me was the fact
that I would be rejecting the belief about Jesus, and if this was wrong,
although I didn't have that strong of a belief in the Christian way of thinking
by then. I too was so amazed how much similarities there were between
Islam and Christianity. What made me believe was the fact that THERE IS
ONLY ONE GOD.
I can relate to another sister who said she was not entirely happy when she
converted. For me, it was something I HAD to do, HAD to decide on.
It was not a "life-transforming" experience then. It has been a
process. And still is. Being Muslim is so much in our actions.
Sure, first of all I had the faith. After that came the actions along with
it. And I still am working on perfecting myself, which of course will
never happen. What I love now is from time to time learning more of the
beauty of Islam as I go along on my path in life.
Why I chose Islam, by bride Jemima Goldsmith
Sunday Telegraph, May 28, 1995
When Jemima Goldsmith, the 21-year-old daughter of billionaire Sir James,
married Imran Khan she embraced not only the world's most handsome sportsman but
also the Muslim faith, taking the name Haiqa. Here, in an exclusive account, she
tells how she journeyed from the glamorous society of London to the austere
religion of Lahore
THE media present me as a naive, besotted 21-year-old who
has made a hasty decision without really considering the consequences - thus
effectively condemning herself to a life of interminable subservience, misery
and isolation. Although I must confess I have rather enjoyed the various
depictions of a veiled and miserable "Haiqa Khan" incarcerated in
chains, the reality is somewhat different. Contrary to current opinion, my
decision to convert to Islam was entirely my own choice and in no way hurried.
Whilst the act of conversion itself is surprisingly quick - entailing the simple
assertion that "there is only one God and Mohammed is His Prophet" -
the preparation is not necessarily so speedy a process. In my case, this began
last July, whilst the actual conversion took place in early February - three
months before the Nikkah in Paris.
During that time, I studied in depth both the Quran and the works of various
Islamic scholars (Gai Eaton, the Bosnian president Alia Izetbegovic, Muhammad
Asad) , thus giving me ample time to reflect before making my decision. What
began as intellectual curiosity slowly ripened into a dawning realisation of the
universal and eternal truth that is Islam. In the statement given out a week
ago, I particularly stressed that I had converted to Islam entirely
"through my own convictions". The significance of this has been
largely ignored by the press. The point is that my conversion was not, as so
many have assumed, a pre-requisite to my marriage. It was entirely my own
choice. Religiously speaking, there was absolutely no compulsion for me to
convert prior to my marriage. As it explicitly states in the Quran, a Muslim is
permitted to marry from "the People of the Book" - in other words,
either a Christian or a Jew. Indeed, the Sunnah - which describes the life of
the Prophet - shows that the messenger of Islam himself married both a Christian
and a Jew during his lifetime.
I believe that much of this hostility towards my marriage and conversion
stems from widespread misconceptions about an alien culture and religion. Not
only is there a huge gulf between the Western view of Islam and the reality, but
there is in some cases also a significant distinction between Islam based
directly on the Quran and the Sunnah and that practised by some Islamic
societies. During the last year I have had the opportunity to visit Pakistan on
three separate occasions and have observed Islamic family life in practice.
Thus, to some extent I now feel qualified to judge for myself the true role and
position of women in the religion. At the risk of sounding defensive, I would
like to point out that Islam is not a religion which subjugates women whilst
elevating men to the status of mini-dictators in their own homes.
I was able to see this first-hand when I met Imran's sisters in Lahore: they
are all highly educated professional women. His oldest sister, Robina, is an
alumnus of the LSE and holds a senior position in the United Nations in New
York. Another sister, Aleema, has a master's degree in business administration
and runs a successful business; Uzma is a highly qualified surgeon working in a
Lahore hospital, whilst Rani is a university graduate who co-ordinates charity
work. They can hardly be seen as "women in chains" dominated by
tyrannical husbands. On the contrary, they are strong-minded independent women -
yet at the same time they remain deeply committed both to their families and
their religion. Thus, I was able to see - in theory and in practice - how Islam
promotes the essential notion of the family unit without subjugating its female
I am nevertheless fully aware that women are sometimes exploited and
oppressed in Islamic societies, as in other parts of the world. Judging by some
of the articles which have appeared in the press, it would seem that a Western
woman's happiness hinges largely upon her access to nightclubs, alcohol and
revealing clothes; and the absence of such apparent freedom and luxuries in
Islamic societies is seen as an infringement of her basic rights. However, as we
all know, such superficialities have very little to do with true happiness.
Besides, without in any way wishing to disparage the culture of the Western
world, into which I was born, I am more than willing to forego the transient
pleasures derived from alcohol and nightclubs; and as for the clothes I will be
wearing, I find the traditional shalwar kameez (tunic and trousers) worn by most
Pakistani women far more elegant and feminine than anything in my wardrobe.
Finally, it seems futile to speculate on my
chances of marital success. Marriage, as Imran's father has been quoted as
saying, is indeed "a gamble". However, when I see that in a society
based on family life the divorce rate is just a fraction of that in European or
American society, I cannot see that my chances of success are any less than if I
had chosen to marry a Westerner. I am all too aware of the enormous task of
adapting to a new and radically different culture. But with the love of my
husband and the support of his family I look forward to the challenge
wholeheartedly, and would like to feel that people wish me well. Whilst I do
appreciate the genuine concerns of many, I must confess to feeling somewhat
bewildered by all of the commotion.
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