I didn’t suddenly decide to be a Muslim. I didn’t wake up one morning and say that I wanted to recite the 2-kalimah syahadah, the two verses that would proclaim a person to be a Muslim. I didn’t have Muslim scholar, an ustaz or an ustazah, to explain to me about the truth in Islam. No, I didn’t experience all that. Yet my personal journey into Islam is no less spectacular.
I first became interested in Islam in 1995, at the age of 24. At that time, I was already a young teacher who has just got registered in marriage to another teacher, D. We rented a singe-storey terraced house and life was simple. However, my relationship with D was rocky. He had talked little about his hobby – rearing birds in cages and fish in aquariums - and had only revealed them when I became his lawfully-wedded wife. I was angry because I have sensitive skin that would breakout in rashes when it comes into contact with bird feathers, but it was too late to do anything. He refused to let go of his hobby.
Being miserable and left alone in the house most nights when D went out for tea-drinking sessions with his buddies, I started to read more and more. That was when I learned about Islam. I secretly learned to say the syahadah using the romanized version, but I was too scared to tell anyone about my interest. D, being a staunch Buddhist, would never go for Islam. My parents would be livid, so I kept the growing interest a secret. It was easy because D was seldom at home. My books about Islam were secretly kept in a box in the store-room.
However, I made a mistake that would cause me to wait 10 years before I get to recite the syahadah. I told my school teachers, Malay ladies whom I thought would help. I was wrong. I didn’t get the support I needed. Maybe it was because I was a married woman and they know D, maybe it was something else but I was disappointed to say the least.
After weeks of uncertainty, I decided to do it myself. I donned a baju kurung and with a scarf to cover my hair, I went to the Islamic religious office in town after school ends at 1.30pm. I stepped into the building and saw three Malay men in their 40s at the entrance. One of them at the table asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to know how to convert to Islam. He looked at me for some time, then told me that I would have to go to Perkim. Not sure where it is, I asked him again where the Perkim is, and he mentioned a place which is at the outskirts of town, and that it was usually opened at night. He did not give me any address or contact number, and as I looked around for advices, I realised that the men were not going to help me. Disappointed, I walked out of the building alone.
Perhaps it was too early for me to be a Muslim, perhaps it was a preparation of the type of welcome I was to expect from the community towards a single lady, so many perhaps. But their negative attitude and my school teachers’ gossips somehow put me off from going ahead with my plans to be an Islam convert. In my mind at that time, they were not ready to welcome me. If I were not able to get the support I’d need as a new convert from these people, then my conversion would be even more difficult. I might not survive mentally and spiritually on my own. Hence, I decided to postpone my plans for Islam for the time being.
I always believe that if God wants me to be a Muslim, He’d give me another chance at another time, with better support. I held on to that belief, and kept it a secret from my family and D,with whom I eventually reconciled but our marriage continued to be rocky until it was dissolved. What I didn’t know was, it would take me ten long years before the right time came for me to venture forward into the world of Islam.
I got interested in Islam in 1995 but couldn’t go forward.
I got my chance again in 2005 and learned more about Islam and my interest was renewed.
This time around, it was the right time… I finally recited the two-kalimah syahadah in 2006.