“A-‘uuzubilahhi minasy syaitaanir rajim. Bismillaahir rahmaanir rahiim. Alhamdulllaahi rabbil ‘aalamin. Ar-rahmaanir rahiim…”
During my probation years between wanting and actually reverting to Islam, these verses would haunt me in my dreams. They would automatically be recited in my heart when I had nightmares of ghosts and spiritual disturbances. Why only these few verses, one might ask. Well, they were the ones I had actually memorized from a small doa book which I had secretly bought when I got interested in Islam. I had forgotten the rest but always, after reciting the verses I would wake up in cold sweat. Conscious, I would also recite them silently during difficult times.
I knew that Islam was still within me, but my fear of the unknown was stronger than the need to follow my heart. I didn’t tell anybody about my recurrent dreams. I outwardly became a free-thinker while my then-husband remained a staunch Tao-Buddhist who maintained a family altar in our house. During religious festivals, I would put all the food offerings onto the plates for him (my wifely duty) and made a disappearing act. When obligations required me to pray, I’d hold the joss-sticks, gave a few shakes and pushed them into the holder. I lived the life of a hypocrite for ten years, hoping for a solution to end my predicament. The solution came in an unexpected way. I applied for government scholarship to continue my studies fulltime and was successful. Throwing all caution to the wind, I left home despite my then-husband’s disapproval.
It was the right time, the right place and the right condition. Alhamdulillah I shared a room with a good Muslimah for the first 14 weeks. I observed the way she did her prayers, what time she did her prayers, and how she conducted herself. The following year, I shared a hostel room with an Indian lady. Despite her own devotion to her goddess which she kept in our little bedroom, she was a good friend and still is. In fact, she would be the first non-Muslim to support my conversion to Islam.
I even recited the 2-khalimah syahadah on my own on one emotionally-tensed day. I knew the verses by heart. There was no witness, and I didn’t inform anybody except for a close friend who told me to plan my steps carefully. However from that day onward, I had started to change. My friends commented on the changes; they said that I had become gentler and friendlier. I didn’t tell them the reason for the physical changes because spiritually I was undergoing changes too. I had started to read books about Islam, taking great care that my friends and roommate didn’t see them in my possession.
Two months afterwards, I had a strange dream. I dreamt that I was walking alone along a quiet road and there was somebody waiting for me. The person was holding a beautiful white tudung with flowery side embroidery, the soft material spread out in his hands. He was somebody I knew. We didn’t say a word to each other, but I reached out and wore it on my head. The next thing I knew, he was sitting and I was standing behind him. And I realized that I was still wearing the tudung but it has become a part of myself. I took the dream as a positive sign because I had never felt as peaceful as in that dream.
Later I shifted to another block. I had another strange dream. This time, I was opening a book. Strangely the pages were empty until I saw a word printed boldly across the two pages. It was not an Arabic word. It was a name but it was not His name. It was the name of a man. Ghazali. There staring at me across the pages, was Ghazali. Then I woke up.
I pondered for a long time about the meaning of those dreams. My Malay close friends believed that the dreams were good omens, that I would soon be their sister. But why Ghazali? I didn’t know anybody by that name. I couldn’t see the significance nor could my friends, so I asked Him for a sign.
Alhamdulillah, Allah revealed the meaning of Ghazali to me majestically. Soon after, I was walking towards by hostel alone. It was a beautiful evening, the sky was golden and a gentle breeze was blowing. Then the azan came. Maghrib time. Somehow the azan sounded very clear that day, and I looked up. It had just occurred to me that I was standing in front of the mosque. I stared straight at the name of the mosque. Allah akhbar. It was the al-Ghazali Mosque. I had passed by that building every day but didn’t notice its name till that moment. Ghazali is the name of the mosque that called out to me to pray to the Creator. It’s also the name of a great Islamic scholar. Subhanallah. Alhamdulillah. Allah akhbar.
It was a good sign. A sign that it was the right time and right condition. Allah will help me in my quest. I asked for divine guidance and strength to do whatever I needed to do in order to be a true Muslimah. It would not be easy but Allah had answered my silent plea. He made the difficult task of divorce and conversion quick and easy.