Women Who Embraced Islam [L-M]

Lady Evelyn Zeinab Cobbold (England)

I am often asked when and why I became a Muslim. I can only reply that I do not know the precise moment when the truth of Islam dawned upon me. It seems that I have always been a Muslim. This is not so strange when one remembers that Islam is the natural religion that a child, left to itself, would develop. Indeed as a Western critic once described it. `Islam is the religion of common sense.'

The more I read and the more I studied, the more convinced I became that Islam was the most practical religion, and the one most calculated to solve the world's many perplexing problems, and to bring to humanity peace and happiness. Since then I have never wavered in my belief that there is but one God; that Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and others before (peace be on all of them) were prophets, divinely inspired, that to every nation God has sent an apostle, that we are not born in sin, and that we do not need any redemption, that we do not need anyone to intercede between us and God, Whom we can approach at all times, and that no one can intercede for us, not even Muhammad or Jesus [unless God permits it -ed.], and that our salvation depends entirely on ourselves and on our actions.

The word `Islam' means surrender to God. It also means peace. A Muslim is one who is `in harmony with the decrees of the author of this world', one who has made his peace with God and His creatures.

Islam is based on two fundamental truths: (a) the Oneness of God and (b) the Brotherhood of Man, and is entirely free from any encumbrances of theological dogma. Above everything else it is a positive faith.

The influence of the Hajj cannot be exaggerated. To be a member of that huge congregation gathered together from the four corners of the earth, on this sacred occasion and on the sacred spot, and to join with this mass of humanity, in all humility, in the glorification of God, is to have one's consciousness impressed by the full significance of the Islamic ideal, is to be privileged to participate in one of the most soul inspiring experiences that have ever been granted to human beings. To visit the birthplace of Islam, to tread the sacred ground of the prophet's struggle to call erring humanity back to God, is to re-live those hallowed by the memories of Muhammad's long toil and sufferings in glorious years of sacrifice martyrdom, is to have one's soul kindled by that celestial fire which lighted up the whole earth. But this is not all. The Hajj, above everything else, makes for unity among Moslems. If there is anything that unifies the scattered forces of Islam and imbues them with mutual sympathy it is the pilgrimage. It provides them with a central point to which they rally from all corners of the earth. It creates for them annually an occasion to meet and know one another, to exchange views and compare experiences and unite their various efforts to the common good. Distances are annihilated. Differences of sect are set aside. Divergences of race and colour cease to exist in this fraternity of faith that unites all Moslems in one great brotherhood and makes them conscious of the glorious heritage that is theirs.
From "Islam, Our Choice"


April 25, 1996

As-Salamu Alaikum wa Rahmahtullahi wa Barakatu (May the peace, the mercy, and the blessings of Allah be upon you).

I am Canadian-born of Scandinavian and other ancestry, and I was raised in Canada. I have been a Muslima since February 1993 when I was 23. While growing up, I was never affiliated with any religion nor was I an atheist. When I was in my mid-teens I started to think somewhat about religion and at that time I did believe in the Oneness of God (Tawheed). Christianity never interested me.

My first contact with Muslims occurred when I was introduced to some Muslim international students in 1988. Through them I learned a bit about Islam, such as Ramadan fasting. But it was really not until 1992 that I became interested in Islam. In the summer of that year a Canadian newspaper published a series of articles attacking Islam by using examples of anti-Islamic behaviour of some Muslims in an attempt to vilify Islam itself. Non-Muslims tend to judge Islam on the basis of the behaviour (which is not necessarily Islamic) of Muslims. I was not yet a Muslima but the articles were so outrageous that I sent a letter to the editor in defence of Islam. Now I was curious about Islam. I re-read some articles I had picked up several months earlier from the MSA Islam Awareness Week display at my university. One was about 'Isa (Alaihe Salam) [Jesus] as a Prophet of Islam. Also, I asked a Muslim to get me some books about Islam; they were about the overall ideology of Islam and were written by two famous Muslim authors. Impressed, I thought, "This is Islam? It seems so right." Over the next few months in my free time while attending university I continued to learn about Islam from authentic Islamic books, for example The Life of Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihe wa Salam) by Dr. Muhammad Haykal. One certainly does not learn the truth about Islam from the mass media! Also, newcomers to Islam especially must be careful to avoid the writings of deviant groups which claim ties to Islam so as not to be misled. And just because the author has an Arabic name does not necessarily mean that he or she is a knowledgeable Muslim or even Muslim at all. Also, I learned about Islam from some kind, knowledgeable Muslims and Muslimas who did not pressure me. Meanwhile, I had begun to Islamize my behaviour which did not require huge change. I already avoided consuming alcohol and pig meat. Also, I always preferred to dress conservatively/modestly and not wear makeup, perfume, or jewellery outside my home. I started to eat only Islamically slaughtered meat. Also during this time I visited a masjid (mosque) in my city for the first time.

Until I discovered Islam, I knew almost nothing about it. I say discovered because the "Islam" that I had always heard about through the mass media is not true Islam. I had always assumed that Islam is just another man-made religion, not knowing that it is the Truth. I had also assumed that a person had to be raised as a Muslim to be one. I was not aware of the fact that all humans are born Muslim (in a state of Islam - submitted to the Creator). Like many "Westerners" I associated Islam with the "East" and did not know that Islam is universal in both time and place. However, I never had negative feelings about Islam, al-Hamdulillah. The more knowledge that I acquired about Islam, the more I felt that I too can actually be Muslim as I found that many of the beliefs that I already had were actually Islamic not merely "common sense."

So after familiarizing myself with what Islam is basically about and what are the duties and proper conduct of a Muslim person, as well as thinking and reflecting, I felt ready to accept Islam and live as a Muslima. One day while at home I said the Shahada (declaration of faith) and began to perform the five daily salawat (prayers), al-Hamdulillah. That was in February 1993, several days before the fasting month of Ramadan began. I did not want to miss the fasting this time! I found the fasting to be much easier than I had anticipated; before I fasted I had worried that I might faint. At first there was a bit of an adjustment period getting used to the new routine of performing salah and fasting, and I made some mistakes, but it was exciting and not difficult.
I started to read the Qur'an (Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation) when I was given one soon after accepting Islam. Before that I had read only excerpts of it in other books. Also in the beginning, I found The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam by Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be a useful guide.

In January 1996 (during Ramadan) I started to wear the Islamic headscarf (hijab). I realized that I could not fully submit to Allah (SWT), which is what being Muslim is about, without wearing it. Islam must be accepted and practised in its entirety; it is not an "alter-to-suit-yourself" religion. Since becoming a Muslima I was aware that the headscarf is required of Muslim women and I had intended to wear it eventually. I should have worn it immediately upon accepting Islam but for many Muslimas (even some from Muslim families) it is not easy to take that step and put it on in a non-Muslim society. It is silly how so many persons get upset over a piece of fabric! Also, it is interesting to note that Christian nuns are never criticized for covering their heads. Never in my life did I have negative feelings toward muhajjabas (women who wear hijab) when I saw them. What made me hesitate to put it on was fearing receiving bad treatment from others, especially family. But we must fear Allah (SWT) only, not others. In the few months before I permanently put on hijab I started "practising" wearing it. I wore it when I travelled between my home and the local masjid on Fridays when I started attending the jum'a salah (Friday congregational prayer). (Of course, since becoming Muslim I always wore it during every salah). A couple of weeks prior, in du'a I began asking Allah (SWT) to make it easy for me to wear it.

The day I finally put it on permanently I had reached the point where I felt that I could no longer go out with a bare head, and
I thought "tough bananas" if others do not like me wearing it since I alone am accountable for my actions and am required to perform my Islamic duties, and I could never please everyone anyway. Sometimes opposition to hijab is a control issue: some persons just plainly do not like those who are determined and independent especially if it is their child.

Upon wearing it I immediately felt protected and was finally able to go out and not be the target of stares/leers from men. At first I felt a bit self-conscious but after several weeks I felt completely used to wearing hijab. Sometimes other persons look puzzled/confused, I think because they are not used to seeing pale-faced, blue-eyed Muslimas! By the way, wearing hijab is da'wah in a way as it draws attention to Islam.

Since accepting Islam I continue to seek knowledge about the Deen (religion) which is a lifelong duty for all Muslims--male and female. Currently, I am learning Arabic and hope to be able to read the Qur'an in Arabic soon, insha'Allah. Reading, discussing Islam with other Muslims, and the Friday jum'a khutba are all educational. Striving to be as pious as one can be and fighting against one's own evil traits (jihad al-nafs) takes effort and is continuous and never ending for Muslims.

I find Islam ever-more fascinating, and I enjoy living as a Muslima.

Madonna Johnson

Taken from Why We Embraced Islam, Books 9 & 10. Edited by Dr. Arafat El-Ashi (1419H/1998), Toronto, Canada

Looking back on my past, I say that the turning point in my life was without a doubt the birth of my daughter.

Before she was born, I spent my life on a day to day basis, concentrating my time and attention to whatever crisis I could get my hands on. If there wasn't one, then I made one.

When I became pregnant, I knew I would be raising my child alone. If it weren't for the love, devotion, and determination of my mother, things would have been different.

When my daughter was 5 months old, she died of "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome"(SIDS), which is a medical term for
"No known cause".

I had never experienced such pain, panic, and complete emptiness. However, throughout the funeral, I was consoling other people, telling them I believed with all my heart that God would not cause me such pain if He didn't have something incredible waiting for me in the future; all I had to do was stay on the right road, and God would show me when I was ready.

Friends would say, "You'll see her again someday." I would question them openly; how does anyone know that I'll be going to heaven? Just because I was a Christian was no guarantee, since I couldn't bring myself to swallow all of Christianity. There were too many unanswered questions.

So my quest for the "One True Religion" began out of a desire to insure that I would indeed see my daughter again.

I went through all the Christian religions diligently. Having been a Christian all my life, I found it very hard to look outside the church, even though my heart wasn't totally Christian.

People would say things to me like, "Jesus spoke to me today," or "Jesus is with you, all you have to do is invite him into your heart and you will see your daughter in heaven."

I was beginning to think I was doomed. I looked at Tarot cards, crystals, and even entertained the thought that all religions would take you to heaven, if you followed their beliefs.

Eventually I put my search on hold for awhile and got a job at a bar in Indianapolis. It was there that I met a girl, who later turned out to be a good friend for a while. She had three or four businesses running out of her home, none of them doing very well, and some of them questionable.

One day, she asked me if I wanted to go to Malaysia. She said she wanted me to buy some Malaysian style clothes, get pictures taken of them, and find an importer-exporter to handle the business. Without thinking I said "I'm there!"

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur during the middle of Ramadan. I'd never heard of Islam before, and had no idea that Malaysia was an Islamic country. Almost every woman I saw had a scarf on her head in 95 degree heat!

I also noticed that people went out of their way to be nice to me. It took a very special friend (plus, he was one of the few who could speak English fairly well) to explain that Malaysia was an Islamic country, and Muslims believe that whenever we do something nice for someone for the pleasure of Allah (SWT), then we will be rewarded for that deed on Judgement Day, Insha Allah.

However, all I could see where the negative aspects of Islam, the same things others see, who are ignorant about Islam; so
I bought some Islamic books (including a Qur'an) and began studying Islam.

I asked many questions, such as why do women cover their whole body, except for the face and hands? Why is everyone so happy and willing to fast throughout the day? How could anyone be happy about starving themselves? It seemed suddenly that no one could speak English well enough to satisfy me, so I turned to the Qur'an.

Ever since I can remember, I have felt out of place in Christianity , like I was the only one in the whole church who didn't know the joke was on me.

The more I studied about Islam, the more I began to wonder if this was the road to my daughter; would this religion get me into Heaven?

Although my biggest obstacle was the Islamic concept of Jesus (PBUH), and how would I explain this to everyone at home,
I found the answers to some of my questions and realized that Islam was what I had been looking for.

But I had a problem, should I take the challenge...become a Muslim and walk the straight path to heaven? Or deny the Truth
I knew in my heart out of fear of disapproval and persecution from family and friends...only to abide in the hellfire forever?

I constantly carried with me a feeling of doom and anxiety. This was my state of mind everyday while I was deciding whether
I should revert to Islam or not.

For me, this decision was not as easy. Islam is not a part time religion; a true Muslim doesn't practice Islam one day a week. Islam is a full-time challenge with enormous struggles, as well as benefits. The more you learn and understand, the more you realize you have only just begun to scratch the surface, which makes you strive even harder to learn more.

One day I woke up with the words, "OK, I believe, I will go and revert to Islam", and from that moment on, all of my turmoil and anxiety was gone Alhamdulillah.

All of the pain I had felt from my past experiences, including my daughter's death, were gone. The nightmares stopped, and
I felt the most incredible peace.

I went to PERKIM, the Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organization, and took my Shahadah, filling my life with the peace and love of Allah (SWT) , Alhamdulillah.

Looking back, I can say all of the things I experienced on my path to Islam were well worth the effort and pain, because now, Insha'Allah, I will be able to see and hold my daughter again, if I can stay on the right path.

Sure, I still have challenges, being Muslim doesn't mean I won't have problems. But being a Muslim does mean that for every challenge I came across, the solution lies in following the path of Truth. And at the end of that path lies Heaven, my daughter and numerous other pleasures that the human mind can't begin to comprehend.

All praises are due to Allah for bringing me to the Truth and for His grace in making me a Muslim.

Back to People Who Embraced Islam Stories

Go back to the Main Page

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