Coming back to the Straight path

‏‎Monika Karbowiak‎‏.
A Muslim woman from Poland.

I am a “convert”, a “new Muslim”. But I prefer to say that I was lost and He guided me so I could come back to Him. “Every child is born in a state of fitrah…”, but then my parents made me into a Christian…

I was born and brought up in a Catholic family in Poland. I must admit that I liked to go to church and attend religion classes – God was a great mystery and the afterlife was something unknown but worth to be discovered. As a child I used to ask many questions, I always wanted to know “why?” and “how?”, but nobody was giving me satisfying answers, and too many things seemed to be illogical. And I was taught that “Curiosity is the first step to hell”. So instead of asking questions, I started searching for answers in books. I used to read a lot about religions and beliefs, heresies and ancient civilizations.

When I was a teenager, I liked attending different religious, “spiritual” or New Age meetings. But once my Parents forbade me from going there – I got angry and I announced them that one day I would chose my own “way”… One night I was in my bed, thinking about mysteries of the universe and that the Truth was hidden somewhere there, and that there was no true religion so maybe one day I would have to invent my own one… Since I remember, I believed in God, but I could not accept what I was told about Him or follow any form of adoration that I knew at that moment.

I used to have strange dreams. I was visiting old churches or temples and there was always a horrible odor (which I remember till now, although I had never smelled it in a real life) coming out from below altars. My sub-consciousness “knew” that there was something wrong with those “sacred” places. The second type of dreams was about searching for a mountain in a plain and vast landscape. I knew that the mountain was somewhere there, but I could not find it. I stopped going to church, I stopped praying… I was asking myself, if God exists and He does not need me, why do I exist at all? There must be a reason for it – I am not just an accidental creation made from nothing, by nothing and for nothing! And everything is in order and harmony in the universe! And if God exists, He would not leave humankind without any clear guidance! So where is it? And I was feeling incomplete – something was definitely missing… I remember several months in my life when I was completely obsessed with searching for a “true name of God”. And I was not calling myself a Christian anymore, I was thinking about myself as “a gnostic of unidentified identity” – I could not find a suitable name even for myself!

Several years later I moved to Spain. It was my very first direct “introduction” to Muslims and Islam. In my country I had never met a real Muslim and I had never read anything (good) about Islam (Internet was not my favorite source of information, and I had never read an Islamic book in Polish). The only thing I knew was that one time a year Muslims had a big “gathering” in Mecca, called “Hajj”, and that they were doing some “strange things” there…

In Spain I worked with some Muslims in the same company and we had a common dining-room where we used to have lunch. One day I was there, reading about the first crusade that took place in Europe against the Cathars… A Muslim colleague asked me about the book… We started talking about religions in general… Another day he asked me: “Do you know that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said that ´If a fly falls in the vessel of any of you, let him dip all of it (into the vessel) and then throw it away; for in one of its wings there is a disease and in the other there is healing.´?” I just thought: “What is he talking about?” Probably it was my first presentation to the Prophet Muhammad (saws), because in Poland I had heard about “Mahomet” (not “Muhammad”) – and this is how people call the Prophet (saws) in many Western countries even today! So it was like knowing someone by his real name for the first time. My workmate provoked my curiosity and it was enough – now I started reading about Islam…

The first book I read was “Islam for atheists” by Abdelmumin Aya. It was written there that God was a hidden treasure and He wanted to be known… I decided to find a mosque and talk to someone… I spoke with an imam and asked him some basic questions. I was given an interpretation of the Qur´an in Spanish, but I thought that I should read it first in my native Polish language. When I visited Poland, I went to the biggest bookstore in the city and asked if they had the Qur´an. They looked very surprised, because they did not have “such a book”… I came back to the same bookstore two weeks later and – to my surprise – I found it. So I read it and… I was quite disappointed – it was written in a difficult and incomprehensible language (the translation seemed to be bad enough!), with no chronological order, names of the prophets different from the names I knew from the Christian Bible, some histories so similar and so completely different from what I knew… I was more than confused! Nevertheless, I did not want to give up easily…

I came back to the mosque where Muslim women had their weekly meetings. Unfortunately, they were all speaking in Arabic dialects (most of them were not able to speak Spanish fluently), so after the first meeting I started crying like a child, because I learnt nothing… But in any case, while I was in the mosque, I could feel tranquility and peace. I had an impression of being in a right place at the right moment… I wanted to pray with them, but they did not allow me (another reason to cry). In the same period of time, I used to attend meetings organized for “new Muslims” in different places in Spain. I met many Spanish converts, I tried to fast in Ramadan, I memorized Surah Al-Fatiha, I started learning Arabic letters by myself and wearing different cloths.

I tried to look for errors in what Muslims were telling me about Islam or to find “solid arguments”. But every time it was becoming more and more interesting, exciting and convincing… Oneness of God was clear, worshipping the Creator and not His creation – so obvious, concept of Islamic beliefs – very transparent, the Word of Allah that could not be changed, unity in prayer (no distinction between rich and poor, white or black, Arab or non-Arab), no intermediary between me and Allah – everything was so overwhelming and beautiful!

But I also started experiencing fear – if I accepted Islam, my life would change drastically, I would be alone and still knowing nothing, my family would never understand it… One night I had another dream – finally I found the high mountain I had been looking for in my other dreams, and there was a huge, very green and very beautiful tree on the top… And there was someone behind me saying: “Do not go there, do not go there!”, but it was too late, because I said: “I want to go near and see it”… But it was terrifying me – I was going to sleep with fear and waking up with fear… It lasted for several weeks or maybe months.

One day I could not stand it anymore. I told myself: “It must be now or never!” I called one of my Muslim friends and asked her to help me with my shahadah… She invited me to a mosque in another town… Just before my shahadah, her husband asked me: “Are you really sure you want to do it? Are you aware that maybe your friends and family will abandon you?” I said: “Yes, I am sure”, but I was scared and nervous…  When I was coming back home by train, I was feeling like not me, like a different person… My head was full of new questions: “What now?”, “What should I do next?”, “How will I live now?”

I found in Islam pure monotheism and form of worship that I had been searching for a very long time, but I still knew very few things… My fear was replaced by inner peace and firmness – I knew that I had made the best and most important decision in my life. But I did not know how to perform wudu or ghusl or salat in a correct way, I did not even wear hijab (for the next six months I was not able to understand why I should wear it at all)… I still had to learn a lot. I found many obstacles, everything seemed to be very difficult, and I was feeling more ignorant than ever before…  Especially the first year was very hard, but gradually I was discovering the true beauty of Islam as well as the importance of acquiring knowledge…

There are many dangers especially for a “new” and inexperienced Muslim. At the beginning it is very easy to go astray, to misunderstand some teachings of Islam (due to lack of Islamic education or wrong interpretation of the Qur´an) and follow a wrong path… But I believe that if someone is searching for Allah, He will guide him and He will open all the necessary doors… And being guided to Islam is not the end, but just a beginning. A Muslim needs Allah´s guidance during all his life and my new life was just about to begin. But this is a completely different story…

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