First Ramadan as a Muslim

SHAFAQNA - When April Manipis heard the adhan call to prayer for the first time, it stirred something in her heart.

“I felt deep inside that I was the one being called,” said Ms Manipis, 27, a sales executive from the Philippines who arrived in the UAE in March 2010.

“The melodious sound of the adhan resonated throughout the surroundings that day and the succeeding days, weeks, months and years, bringing a peaceful feeling to my heart.”

From her balcony, she saw men of different nationalities flocking in large numbers to the mosque with their own prayer mats.

“They looked fresh and clean as they hurried towards one direction — the mosque,” Ms Manipis said. “I was amazed by these God-fearing men prostrating during their prayers.”

Raised as a Roman Catholic, she has made a conscious effort to understand Islamic teachings and way of life.

Last August, she registered as a Muslim at the Shariah Court in Abu Dhabi, where she recited the shahada, or the testimony of faith.

Conversion to Islam requires converts to profess their shahada in front of two witnesses. This is the first pillar of Islam. The other four are prayer, fasting during Ramadan, giving to charity and going to Mecca at least once for Haj pilgrimage.

She took the Muslim name Aisha Dahab. Aisha is the wife of Prophet Mohammed, and Dahab is the Arabic word for gold.

“Islam holds women in high esteem,” Ms Manipis said. “The society is continuously facing issues such as violence against women and children, while Islam has a high regard for women, worth more than gold.”

Her parents and three siblings, are still practising Catholics, but accepted her new faith, while her colleagues, friends and long-time clients found the move intriguing.

“I would walk into malls wearing a hijab with most people I speak to or get introduced to assuming I got married or I’m about to get married,” Ms Manipis said. “I’m single and proud to be a Muslimah.”

She had long been looking forward to her very first Ramadan as a Muslim.

“I’ve been praying for a successful fasting,” she said. “This blessed month of fasting helps us deepen our faith, gain piety and strengthen our relationship with Allah.”

This upcoming Eid, Ms Manipis plans to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and watch sunset while waiting for the call for maghrib prayers.

“I’ll have dinner at my favourite place afterwards and head to the mall for some Eid shopping for my family back home,” she said.

As she does not speak Arabic yet, she is keen on improving her language skills to read and recite the Quran correctly and strengthen her faith by participating in Islamic lectures at the New Muslim Centre in Abu Dhabi.

“After gaining considerable knowledge, I would like to share it with those seeking to understand Islam and Muslims,” she said.

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