(MENAFN - Arab News) Celine (now um-khalthum) has nearly the same story as it has been with several women before her: disenchanted with rituals and not so convincing ideologies in their faiths they embarked on a spiritual journey in search of truth... ultimately leading them to islam. in celine's case as she narrates the story here however the search took her over 30 years to make her revert to become um-khalthum.
my spiritual search lasted over 30 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. 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 learned the tanakh the torah and some of the laws of judaism. i learned the kosher laws and the proper way of cooking and the rules of being a woman. it became natural that men and women prayed separately. 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 that i respected their search but their methods did not appeal to me.
in 1990 i learned 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 toward 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 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 believed 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 (peace be upon him) whom i believed in. judaism showed me i could pray 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 25 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 between israel and lebanon. we were to get married and he deced 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 muslim girl. she was not very religious but was proud to be muslim. i told her about what had happened to me. 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 its 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 was her deep commitment toward god whom she called allah. i was impressed by her truthfulness and her kindness of heart.
she explained to me what was islam about. she told me that 'there is no other god but god" and that '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 the name of the daughter of prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). she has inspired me to be a good muslim.
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 to 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.
- courtesy: islam-universe.com