By Guest Contributor Sarah Hunak- My conversion was not the product of some miracle, or in response to some booming voice from the heavens calling me to Islam. It was more like a fitting together of pieces that simply made sense.
I’d had an awareness of ‘a higher being’ since I was young. I remember praying to ‘God’ to help me find my bouncy ball once in my bedroom when I was overly distraught at losing it. This ‘God’ didn’t have a specific form or context, and I think when I prayed I probably prayed hands palm to palm like I’d seen the Christian children in picture books do, clad in white nightgowns, knelt at the end of their beds. I was pretty sure something or someone out there existed, but I never had any clear idea who or what that was.
As I got older, that feeling never left me. Again, I knew I believed, but had no idea in what or who. I dabbled in a few belief systems. Wicca, a modern pagan religion, was the first one. White witches were all the rage in young fiction stories when I was a teenager, as vampires are now. I liked the idea that you could speak to someone directly, and ask for things you wanted. I also liked the ritualistic aspect of it. I like routine and order, so as daft as it may sound, I liked the idea that if you completed a list of prescribed steps in order to achieve your goal, then it would surely be granted. I also liked the environmental aspect of it. I liked the idea that we were all connected to the earth, the seasons and every living thing and should protect the earth and everything living upon it.
Next I tried Christianity. One of my closest friends at school was a practicing Christian and upon noticing my interest in religion she took me to her church youth groups. That was a poignant step for me. It felt so good being around people who had faith. Teenagers, no different from me, that believed in God, and weren’t afraid to show it. Up until this point I’d felt quite alone in my confusion of beliefs, but at this group I felt so accepted, so welcome, so much at home, even in a group of complete strangers.
The first time I actually really became aware of Islam, was when I was in the 6th form at school. There was one Muslim in all my classes and we slowly became friends and gradually spoke more and more about religion. It struck some sort of chord with me and I turned into a frenzied internet researcher on Islam, reading long into the night on a whole range of Islamic topics just to feed my hunger for knowledge.
That summer, my family and I went to Indonesia. That was the final piece in the puzzle. Just being around hijab (head scarf and modest dress in general) clad women, hearing the adhan (call to prayer) and seeing how people with very little in terms of material possessions could be the most content and generous people I’d ever come across in my life before made me think that they must know something I didn’t, have some sort of reliance on something much greater than the money driven, consumer world I was used to.
I fasted that year for Ramadan, and decided that when I went to university, that would be it, the time for me to ‘reinvent myself’ as a Muslim. I had worries, certainly. The concept of wearing hijab scared me like crazy! But I knew in my heart that this was where I’d been heading all along, as clichéd as it sounds, I genuinely did feel like I was coming home. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), my first flat moving away from home to university was a shared flat of 4 girls, all Muslim by seemingly divine coincidence. Here I learnt to pray, and managed to corroborate all the things I’d been looking for in other religions. With Islam, I had someone to talk to, and unlike the Wiccans, where there are many ‘Gods’ for different things, I could talk to the one, the only, the big man himself. No need for intermediaries. With my love of order, I found comfort in the routine of salah (prayer). Environmentally, Islam couldn’t be any clearer on our responsibilities for care and protection of the world we live in. To treat animals kindly, and avoid cruelty. To avoid waste, and pollution.
I studied Physics at university and one optional module I took was “Physics of Life”. I picked it because it seemed like an easier module, no formulas to remember, minimal calculations involved, and I already owned the recommended book on the reading list for the module. This module was something of a milestone in my journey as rather than it being the easy option, the effortless credits towards my degree, it became much more than that as it flawlessly merged the two realms of the physics I was studying and the Islam that was contained within my heart. I won’t go into the details here (Stephen Hawking said once that each equation in a book halves its sales!) but if you’re geekily inclined can recommend “Just six numbers” by Martin Rees as an eye opener to just how beautiful this world is.
It’s not been completely smooth sailing from there. I have wavered and I have gone off the straight path more than once, but I feel like I’m back now, I’ve rebelled against the rules, I’ve tried to dilute things to suit me, but in the end, there’s no hiding from the truth. Only when you kick back and give in to the infinite wisdom of God, can you truly appreciate the magnificence of Islam. I pray that Allah keeps us all strong in faith and forgives us for all our shortcomings. Ameen
Sarah Hunak is 26, single white female living in Manchester. Reverted 9 years ago, wavered, came back, and now proud to call herself a Muslim