Rahyafte team appreciates Fatima Dehdasht formerly known as Melody Baker for the time allocated to us. Mrs. Dehdasht is former hostess of Pure Home (Shabakeh Sahar) recent revert to Islam from Massachusetts, America.
She was a former Catholic and 25 years ago she reverted to Islam. Currently residing in Tehran, she is a mother of one girl and one boy. She is an English teacher and has taught at several schools, with over 6 years teaching experience in the University of Imam Jaffar as Sadiq (AS). Here we invite to read the story of our sister, Mrs. Fatima Dehdasht…
We would like to know a little about your journey to Islam and what made you choose Islam over other religions?
Well, first I should tell you that being raised as a Catholic was very difficult because it wasn’t logical. Finding Islam was very logical for everyday life. From the beginning, I was searching for a way to feel closer to God. I first was introduced to Islam through a group of students who were studying in Florida and I was introduced to this group who were Shia. I met my husband through this group of Shia Muslims. They were all studying at the university, My husband and I became friends and soon after that, he started to introduce me to Islam and to the behavior of Muslims. I started to read books and do research and it took me 2 years to do some of my research and after 2 years I converted to Islam and today I’m still learning.
What made you interested in this group who were Shia?
I had a friend who was involved in this group and she knew that I was researching for a better religion, a better way to be close to Allah. So she introduced me to this group. Prior to meeting this group of Shia, I had done some research on some other religions but I found them not logical just like I found being a Catholic wasn’t logical.
MashaAllah Mrs Dehdasht could you tell us a little about how difficult it was for you at the beginning of your search for the Truth?
Finding the truth wasn’t so difficult because my research, in the beginning, was the basic things about Islam, things that were logical and weren’t difficult for me to understand some of my basic concerns were about Prophet Isa and when I did my research in Islam they had a logical answer for Prophet Isa as in the Catholic religion it wasn’t logical.
Because in being a Catholic the way I was raised I knew and felt in my heart that those things were not the truth. So Finding the truth was not so difficult; some of the things staying on the right path after you find the truth, that’s when some things become difficult.
Well, in Catholic religion they believe that Prophet Isa died on a cross for mankind sins which is not logical at all. Because nobody should pay the price for someone else sins it was much more logical when I read the story that Prophet Isa was saved by Allah, taking up to the sky to Inshallah come back with Imam Mahdi. It means more sense that he was a prophet than he was a God. In the Catholic faith, they believe that he is God, the son, the spirit, the savior. If he is God, there wouldn’t be any reason that he should die for our sins; it just never made any sense to me. It was always confusing. Is Jesus a person? Is Jesus a God? It wasn’t clear. But in Islam it was clear that Prophet Isa is a Prophet, he was a man and the person that we thought was crucified was someone to look like Prophet Isa; and the message that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left the Christians was this message. Unfortunately, their leaders or followers did not get the message across.
What is your opinion about Islamic code (hijab)? How is it possible to actualize that?
There are many many different ways to describe the hijab. Some people prefer to wear chador because they’re comfortable with it; some people prefer to wear a long dress with their scarf. Everybody has her own opinion or idea about what hijab is. And my opinion for myself I wear good scarf and I wear loose clothes. It was difficult for me in the beginning because I couldn’t really understand the value of the hijab. I used to say to my husband all my hairs not that beautiful, what is the point? It took me about 5 years for me really truly understand and believe in the hijab. Five years after I became a Muslim. Of course, I was wearing the hijab but I didn’t fully understand it for about 5 years where I felt comfortable to defend it to non-Muslims in America. I think that when you value yourself and you begin to respect yourself and know the importance of yourself I think then is the time you accept the hijab. For me I even felt in America non-Muslims should respect to me more with hijab because they were listening to my answers; they were listening to me speak; not looking at to what I was wearing or not wearing. So for me, the hijab is something important to each individual. Being able to feel proud of it, to understand it, it takes a lot of time and a lot of understanding and research.
I do strongly believe in the hijab. I do believe that the hijab is vajeb in Quran but at the same time I believe strongly that people’s behavior is as important. I don’t think someone wears chador or good hijab who has bad behavior or bad manners is equal. So I do believe strongly in the hijab but I think we need to teach young people to respect each other and to have the best behavior and then maybe start to discuss and talk about the hijab and the importance of it.
What was your family’s reaction after you became a Muslim? Did you have any problem with people who knew you?
I was one of the fortunate ones when I chose to become a Muslim. My mom passed away when I was 18 years old. So unfortunately she wasn’t able to see me as a Muslim but I know in my heart she was a supporter of me. My dad was very supportive when I told him that I was converting to Islam and I was changing my religion. My dad’s response was if it makes you happy, then I am happy for you. I want you to be happy in your life. My brothers and my sister were very supportive. They had no problem when I visited them worn in the hijab. Unfortunately they didn’t show any interest themselves as far as learning about Islam or become a Muslim. But they continued to support me and love me. So I was very fortunate when I came to my family. Most of my close friends also supported me. They didn’t have any problem with my hijab or anything like that. They didn’t have any problem that I gave up drinking, smoking or didn’t eat pork and that staff. But again because their life styles were so different from mine, our friendships changed. I am still in touch with a lot of my friends that I grew up with but we are not close like we used to be because our life styles are so completely different.
I did have some American friends that also converted to Islam and they had more difficult these with their family unfortunately.
How did you feel the first time you wore hijab?
The first time I wore hijab was very scary. People who knew me saw my hair on Friday then on Monday I was completely covered it was hard to explain at that time.
I will never ever forget the first time I wore the hijab. I was working in a bank and I had been working in the bank for two years and most of my close friends knew that I was married to a middle eastern person that he was in other religion. But I didn’t talk about my personal life for my religious beliefs very much at work. So the first time that I converted to Islam on a Sunday and I had to go to the work on a Monday and I remember sitting in a park being so afraid. I wore a short scarf but every hair was covered and I wore loose pans and long sleeve shirt and I remember sitting in my car for I don’t know maybe 30 minutes; being really afraid to go inside and my close friends were understanding but people that didn’t know well me in the bank they ask me really crazy questions that “Oh my, God did you get bald? Do you have cancer? Did you color your hair wrong?” They weren’t very understanding; it was difficult for me. It took me some time to get used to and for my colleagues at work to get used to it. As I told you it took me about 5 years before I become really strong about the hijab.
Please tell us about your learning experience. Your learning journey and the stages you went through while learning about Islam.
My journey to find Islam started when I was about 9 years old as when I started to realize that being a Catholic was not something that I wanted to be. Due to so many rituals that the Catholic have that were not logical. So for my young age, I knew I was missing something and I knew that I wanna to have a different in a better relationship with God; then I was finding in my church. As far as my learning, after I converted to Islam I learned something new every day, I’m sure I’m gonna learn something for now until the end. I guess the most important thing that I learned while I was studying and deciding to become a Muslim was that patience and understanding are two the most important parts about being a good Muslim. If you don’t have patience and you don’t have understanding, you can find being a Muslim more difficult. There are something as a Muslim that you don’t fully understand and maybe I don’t agree with them but I trust in God. So if something that Quran has asked me to do, I do it. I think everybody’s journey is a little different. I think everybody has her/his own reasons for searching for something to really believe in. For me it was a lack of something to hold on to. So for me finding Islam was the best way to have a better relationship with Allah.
What is the most beautiful Ayah of the Quran in your opinion? And why?
I don’t have any favorite Ayah but my favorite parts are about Prophet Joseph, Prophet Isa and Saint Mary (PBUT).
As for the Quran, unfortunately I don’t read Arabic. The only Arabic I know is how to do my namaz. I read the Quran in English. Of course I love to hear people recite Quran with beautiful voices, and thanks God I have a wonderful son-in-law who recites Quran beautifully and I love to listen to him. I don’t really have a special Ayah but I do like to read the stories in Quran that are more understandable in English for example about Prophet Isa or Saint Mary (PBUT).
If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion what would you say?
The beauty of Islam is be able to have a conversation with Allah and really feel he is listening.
Are you happy with your decision of reverting to Islam today?
Converting to Islam saved my life. I thank God every day for helping me find the right path and becoming a Muslim. Embracing Islam is opening a door to all goodness how you use this goodness is up to you.
What did think the first time you heard about the Ahlulbayt (AS)?
I didn’t understand about Ahlubayt for some years. But now I feel I have a good understanding of our Prophet and our Imams (PBUT).
What final message do you have for people who want to revert to Islam today? How would you describe Islam to them?
Look deep into your hearts for the right answers Trust in God. Islam is so logical and has all the answers if you look in the right places. As I said Islam saved my life and my life now is so full and so many blessings from God.
My final message is be kind to each other. Kindness is the best way for a better life. Real Islam is love and forgiveness. Thanks for your patience. Everyone please pray for me and my family.
Is there anything else you would like to add on?
Something that I like to add to this, you have to understand 25 years ago not as many people were aware of Islam and Muslims and hijab. And the town that I grew up in was a very very small town in Massachusetts. So people were more accepting; they didn’t have a problem with me because they knew me, they knew my family, and they didn’t let me wearing scarf on my head have any influence on them. I think today is much more difficult for young people to convert to Islam unfortunately because of the way the world is.
Thank you very much for your time Mrs. Dehdasht. May Allah bless you and keep you strong and firm on this true path.
By Tina Baradaran, Zahra Salehi