Date :Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 | Time : 17:05 |ID: 67969 | Print

Climbing Mountains: A Quest to Find the Truth-Part 2 – From Christianity to Sunni Islam

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SHAFAQNA-This is the story of British born Dr Kate Godfrey-Faucett and her incredible journey from Christianity to Shia Islam via Sunnism.Kate is a Chartered psychologist & psychotherapist with specialist training and experience in working with complex trauma, personality disorder and self harm. She has worked in various settings including the NHS, HMP Prison service and the voluntary sector. Kate has extensive experience of working with both adults and young people and currently works freelance in schools providing therapy, consultation and training. She is also working within the Muslim community helping to create awareness of various issues of concern including mental health; relationship and sex education in schools, and psycho-social engineering. She characterizes her journey with a quote from Nelson Mandela ““After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Climbing Mountains: A Quest to Find the Truth

Part 2 – From Christianity to Sunni Islam

It was now 1993, and events took me away from Dahab to a small Egyptian town that was far removed from the well-beaten tourist track. For various reasons, I spent a lot of time alone in a small and dingy room without much else but my books for company. This was before the advent of the internet or mobile phones, so books were my only source of information and I literally had no communication with the outside world. I had a Bible with me and decided to read it cover to cover, and was slightly shocked by some of the stories I read and what it alleged some of the prophets got up to. By this time, I was desperate to read a Qur’an and finally found the opportunity to buy one on my 22nd birthday. I located an Islamic bookshop and was intrigued that all the pictures of women on books or hair products had black sticky tape blanking them out. Well I assumed Islam oppressed women so I guessed that explained that. I didn’t speak Arabic and the shop owners, with their big dishevelled beards, just stared in a perplexed manner at this strange white foreigner in front of them. After battling through shelf after shelf of Arabic script, by the Grace of God, I somehow managed to find a Qur’an that had been translated into English and that had some explanatory notes accompanying it. I eagerly paid for it and went back to my room.

I just started reading the Qur’an, page by page, and explanation by explanation. I cannot remember how long it took me to complete it but I remember being transfixed. As I started to read and reflect I began questioning everything I knew to be true, the experience was overwhelming and challenging on an emotional, psychological and rational level. It was a process that involved confusion, distress, guilt and a deep-seated desire to know the truth but simply just not knowing what that was. I remember crying, having nightmares and being in an utter state of unease and unrest. No-one around me spoke English and I had no-one I could properly talk to. I remember just calling out to God to help me.

And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you (Qur’an 40:60)

As I continued to read and study the Qur’an however, something happened and I felt an incredible sense of tranquillity descending. I found the Qur’anic stories engaging and captivating, the use of metaphors affected me profoundly and made me reflect, and the descriptions of Heaven made me yearn to reach there and to be close to God. This beautiful text began to change my entire outlook on life and gave me a new perspective on everything around me. I remember arriving at the point where I had nearly completed reading and reflecting on the Qur’an and asking myself, ‘Well I either believe this is the Word of God or I don’t?’ Without hesitation, I said to myself ‘Well I do’. In the solitude of that darkened room in which I had spent many hours studying and searching for the truth and calling out to God, I finally recognised Islam as the truth.

 

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. (Qur’an 2:186)

One of the greatest impacts that reading the Qur’an had on me was gaining the understanding that this life is temporary and that it is the Hereafter that matters and what we should be striving for.

The life of the world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The abode of the Hereafter—that is truly Life if they only knew. (Qur’an 29:64)

O my people! This life of the present is nothing but (temporary) convenience: It is the Hereafter that is the Home that will last. (Qur’an 40:39)

I had never experienced that insight or feeling on such a profound and meaningful level with Christianity or Buddhism, and it was overwhelmingly powerful and emancipating and made me break down into floods of tears. I felt released from the burden of having to try and conform to what people and society wanted me to be. I felt God was close and that I could talk straight to Him without the need for an intermediary. God was near not distant, and that affected me deeply.

And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein (Qur’an 50:16)

Also, coming from a culture and background where class and hierarchy were endemic, the fact that Islam abolished such illusions of superiority, distinguishing people only on the basis of their good deeds, fervently appealed to my inner sense of fairness and justice. Islam just made perfect sense on so many levels and it felt like what I can only describe as the ultimate home coming.

In particular, I had always felt deeply uncomfortable with the Western preoccupation with nudity and encouragement that women should dress to reveal their bodies in public. On discovering that Islam not only allowed, but made it obligatory for a woman to cover herself, felt like an absolute blessing and gave me a great sense of relief. At school, I remember countless times feigning illness to avoid swimming lessons and hiding in the loos during PE to evade having to wear skimpy PE skirts or pants, as I felt too ashamed to be seen in such a state of undress. And now Islam was saying that covering my body was right and that I was not weird for feeling this way. It felt so liberating.

One of the struggles I had encountered throughout the conversion process was regarding my spiritual connection and relationship that I had developed with Jesus (as). I struggled with deep feelings of guilt that I would somehow be betraying him if I became Muslim and ceased to recognise him as the son of God. However, since becoming Muslim I realised that my relationship with Jesus, or Prophet Isa (as), as he is referred to in Arabic, is still there. I now recognise him as one of the great prophets and look forward to the time when he will return with our awaited Imam Mahdi (atf) to restore justice and peace to the world. I feel blessed and thank God that I was given the time and opportunity to have formed that relationship with him.

Having been guided to Islam by the Grace of God alone, I was desperate to learn more and travelled to Cairo to Al Azhar University to see if someone would help. I remember turning up and waiting for ages whilst men gave me quizzical looks. One man who was slightly hunched over indicated for me to follow him down some dusty alley way. My excitement grew as I thought finally I’d get my hands on some Islamic books so that I could begin to quench my thirst for knowledge. I remember he scurried away and beckoned me to follow him into this dusty building. He then proceeded to unlock a cupboard door and began rummaging through piles of dusty papers … I was appreciating his desire to help me, and assumed he had recognised my newly found faith as an opportunity to demonstrate how Muslims were all a living example of the Prophet Muhammad (saws). Yes, I was naïve and idealistic …! This man finally emerged from the cupboard clutching a wad of deteriorating and indecipherable leaflets which he thrust into my hands with a toothless grin on his face. I thanked him in my basic Arabic and proceeded to walk away, when he made a grunting noise and stuck out his dusty hand asking for money. Whilst I obliged, I realised his enthusiasm to help was more because he’d seen me as a business opportunity rather than as a newly found sister-in-faith.

So that was my induction into Islam … and the sister/brotherhood! I spent further time in Egypt and then later returned to London in the UK. I bought books on Islam whenever I had the chance, but the opportunity to fully study and practice all aspects of my faith was constrained due to various factors. My belief in God and in Islam as the truth however continued to grow and kept me going through difficult and challenging times.

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