Zuzana, a reverted Muslim from Czechoslovakia
During my school days (as an anti-religious propaganda) we learned about Church and its crimes, about witch-hunting, „holy inquisition“ in Spain, etc…thanks to which I never fell any sympathy towards Catholic Church. Also the concept of Trinity was unclear and confusing to me and the concept of „original sin“ seemed very illogical.
Despite of this, as I little child, I used to think about „The Beginning“ of every existence, I was wondering how everything started, lying in my bed before I fell asleep, my mind was full of many unanswerable questions. I liked the idea of some superior being taking care of us and protecting us, I used to pray – I used to address my „Guardian Angel“ in my supplications, asking for my protection when I sleep.
As years passed and I reached the age of adolescence, perhaps due to the environment of post communist Czechoslovakia, when everyone enjoyed „freedom“ and many exciting items coming from western countries, western music, fashion etc. – I forgot about my thoughts of „The Beginning“ and stop asking my angel for protection. Instead, my mind was occupied with thoughts about new fashion and music, and, because I don‘t come from a rich family, many things were unavailable to me, which made me feel frustrated. I was an ordinary Czech girl, with the interests of average girls of my age and country. Fun loving and party loving, simply said.
But I was not happy like this. The places I used to go and the people I used to meet, were full of shallowness, selfishness, egoism and materialism. Nobody cared of anybody except him/herself. Every one tried to exploit the others to the maximum. There was no place for care or affection. I continued to go to these places, but used to feel as a stranger, who did not fit there.
During that time I completed my education in High school of Economy and started working as a shop assistant in a shop in a busy part of Prague, which is a famous destination of many tourists from different parts of the world. The owner of the company was an Iranian doctor and some of my male colleagues were from Pakistan, some from Iran. Whenever we didn‘t have customers, we highly enjoyed chatting.
We used to talk about everything. Sometimes our colleagues were talking about Islam. In the beginning I was cautious, knowing they were Muslims. What I had heard about Islam till then was the „old song“ of Islam being harsh, intolerant, backward religion and his followers brutal against women, who had no rights. – Yes, we did have a couple of lessons about Islam as well, in Basic school as well as in High school, not very detailed though but definitelly full of bias.
I remember first time I had positive feelings towards Islam, was during our lessons of Spanish in High school, when we learned about Réconquista (the era when Spaniards defeated Muslims and „regained“ Spanish territory in 1492). Our professor told us, that when Muslims were ruling in Spain, Jew and Christians were free to practise their faith, but when Spaniards conquered the land, they forced people of other faiths to either become Catholics or leave. At that time I thought: „At least something positive about this tough religion…“
So it was my very first time to meet Muslims, at my work. And I was amazed. They were very polite, kind – real gentlemen, to my surprise. Our boss never let us girls do any tough work, instead, he did it himself so as our other Muslim colleagues, who held senior positions to us. On the contrary, the manager who was Czech was never as courteous as them. He was a womanizer, and our Muslim colleagues disliked him.
After meeting these boys, I was curious about Islam, and wanted to know what it was like. Something was wrong. If this religion was so bad, how come these boys, practicing Muslims, were so nice? I used to ask „our“ boys about women’s rights a lot, about Jihad etc. And whatever answer I got, it was so logical, so clear, I loved it, my heart accepted it easily. Later on I married one of the „boys“ (who didn’t know I was an atheist, he didn’t ask me because he maintained I was a Christian). It was a good opportunity to see how a Muslim husband behaves.
I had read „Not without my daughter“ and read about many cases when Muslim husbands treated badly their either Muslim or non-Muslim wives. I was not worried though. I worked with him and I knew he was such a tender hearted person. I have just recalled one incident, while writing this article. When I joined the company, and had been working there only for 2 weeks, I had a phone discussion with my mother, and my colleague (now my husband) heard what I was saying.
I was telling my mom that I had seen a beautiful jacket and wanted to buy it, but I didn’t have enough money for it yet. So he came to me and asked how much money the jacked cost and gave me my pay before it was due and even more money for which I would have to work one or two more weeks! Such a trusting person! Even though he had done something similar before with one employee who was a cheater, and as soon as she recognized he was a nice guy, she played a drama, that her mom was in hospital and needed money for an operation. He gave her the money and she never came back to work, so he had to pay the money to the company himself.
As a colleague, he was courteous…and as a husband…May Allah bless him…I am so lucky to have a husband like him. Even non Muslims who know him, confirm, that he is very special.
He used to help me with household, he taught me how to cook Pakistani dishes, sometimes he cooked too, when I was ill he took care of me – and still after 10 years of our marriage he hasn’t changed, Alhamdulillah.
He used to tell me stories about our Prophet (p.b.u.h) and Ahlu’l-Bayt and I started feeling love towards these personalities who had such high morality. I decided to study about Islam, so I went to the library and borrowed some books dealing with this faith. My mother, who is open minded once gave me a Christmas present – a book about Islam. But reading these books made me confused.
When my husband talked about Islam and Islamic history, it was logical, beautiful. When I was reading from those books, I didn’t feel comfortable with the facts written in them. They didn’t make sense and Islam didn’t seem so pure. I was frustrated, and thought, that I couldn’t trust anything written by a non-Muslim. I thought all of the Orientalists were biased against Islam (well unfortunately it is mostly true). Later on I learned that someone else was responsible for what Orientalists described in their books…
… I didnt know much about differences between Shia and Sunni at that time (and the differences really didn’t bother me, both of them were simply Muslims), the only thing I knew was that Shia believed Allah is the only one who could appoint a successor to the Prophet (p.b.u.h), and He appointed Ali a.s. as his successor, while Sunnis believed that Prophet (p.b.u.h) didn’t appoint anyone and the matter was left on Umma to decide who would become a Khalifa. My husband didnt talked to me about the other differences, he left it upon me to discover them.
I didn’t accept that Sunnis beleif, because it was illogical, to leave a matter of such importance (leadership of Umma) on ordinary fallible people, while Allah knows everything. Gradually I was discovering, that the things I disliked in the books of Orientalists were beliefs of Ahlu’s-Sunnah, for example, the incident in the cave of Hira, where the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h) had the first revelation and then allegedly he was afraid he was possessed by Devil, astaghfirullah, so he (p.b.u.h) rushed to his wife Khadija, layed his (p.b.u.h) head in her lap, and she had to console him and assured him (p.b.u.h) the he was indeed a prophet (naudhubillah) and other similar things.
These discoveries made me shocked, I couldn’t understand, how could any Muslim believe in them. Thus, I chose Tash‘ayyu (Following of Ali a.s.) as my path, because he a.s. was the only one who could lead Ummah after the demise of the Prophet (p.b.u.h), who could uphold the Prohet’s Sunnah and protect Islam from distortion…
So before I made these discoveries, my husband used to take me to our Iranian boss, who has quite good knowledge about Islam, and he was giving me replies to my inquiries. I was always satisfied with his answers. I enjoyed these religious discussions. Beside that he is very nice and polite man and has similarly nice and polite wife and cute kids (at that time, they had only one child). I believe they are good examples how proper Muslim family should look like.
I found out that I didn‘t have any problem with any Islamic teachings and accepted them as sound and logical. There was one problem, however. I was brought up as an atheist. I didn‘t feel the existence of God. I had to discover it, I had to believe in His existence from my heart. This problem was stopping me from embracing Islam. Once, I said to my boss, with frustration: „ I want to love God.“ I thought this was the real belief in God, to love Him, to love Him more than anything else.
My boss told me : „You don’t know how much happy I am to hear it.“ I decided to find God in books. To get the proof of His existence from writings of the learned. What they said about Him, how they described Him etc. There was a book, which I believe helped me with it. It was not an Islamic book. It was written by a woman writer, perhaps Christian, who spoke about the three major monotheistic faiths and how they perceived God, it was very philosophical, thanks to it I got the idea of God. I forgot the title of the book and name of its author, though. I believed in God‘s existence, finally.
So there was last step remaining, to profess my faith, to recite Shahada. I was quite reluctant in the beginning. I thought about how would people take it, how would they react if I put a scarf on. I decided to start wearing hijab from the beginning, I knew it was wajib and understood the reasons for being compulsory for women to conceal their hair. My husband helped me to overcome these worries. He asked me: „Do you believe in Islam (to be the right path)?“ I replied in affirmative.
He said: „If you believe, then what is stopping you from becoming a Muslim?“ He told me that we could go to our boss’s place and I could recite Shahada. He called him, and my boss and his wife were really happy. I thought I really shouldn‘t delay my conversion, and should go ahead with it. So our boss arranged a „party“, his wife cooked some delicious meals (she is a wonderful cook, nobody can make rice like she does) and they gave me also a present, a beautiful silken scarf, which I put on immediately I professed Shahada (I still have that scarf).
It was October the 27th, 1998.
Before embracing Islam I wanted to tell my parents about my decision, because I thought they should know about it. But they came to learn about it after I became Muslims, because I could not reach them. They took it well, my father remarked about my scarf, that when he was young, women from the town he lived didn‘t go out without a scarf on their heads (he is from Slovakia). He bought me 2 scarves when he returned from India and when his colleague brought some pashmina shawls from her honeymoon, he called me to his work to choose some for me. Now, my father was in India again and bought for me– guess what – a shawl (I guess I should open a hijab shop).
None of my relatives created any problems for me. Still I am a “welcomed“ member of the family. I enjoy their company and they enjoy mine, I believe. I wish they could become Muslims too, may Allah lead them to the right path. Ameen.