‘It Found Me When I Was Lost,’ a Non-Muslim’s Journey to Discovering Islam

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they’re so desperate that they’re forced to make a pact with a higher power. For those of us that consider ourselves “religious”, it’s a pretty simple and effective process, but for those that haven’t ever done it before, it can be a little bit daunting, maybe even a little bit humiliating to turn to God. For Beauty Das, a life-shattering event meant an inevitable re-discovery of a faith she’d been surrounded by for years, but never really explored. And now, she can’t stop wanting to learn more.

This is her story.

***

It was October 9th and Beauty’s father had just passed away. We sat together in silence. None of us really knew what to say, and not because our old friendship group hadn’t seen each other in years, but because of the unspoken differences that surrounded us in this one particular moment. As Muslims, we have the comfort of prayer, the Quran, advice from the greats before us to help us deal with such difficult circumstances like loss and death, but for Beauty, who was a devout Hindu for as long as I’ve known her, the same type of comfort did not apply.

The thought of prayer crossed my mind a few times, but I chased it away, knowing there was nowhere our religions could meet. But then suddenly, like a siren at sea, Beauty’s voice cut through the air with a familiar phrase I never thought I’d hear her say.

“I’ll meet him again someday, insha’Allah.”

Not only did the final tag, which is an Arabic phrase that means ‘God-willing‘, catch me off-guard, but her mention of being reunited with her father again also shocked me. In Hinduism, this is not a concept that really exists, so you could probably imagine why we were a little taken aback. But for Beauty, it rolled off of her tongue like it was normal.

After sensing our shock, she smiled and explained to us that she had been studying the Quran this past year.

“I’ve even got a notebook that I make notes in about my favourite surahs,” she laughed.

Everything she said just added to the initial shock of her revelation, but once that wore off, we congratulated her the only way we could, by making a joke about it.

“Finally, you made it to the dark side.”

Over the next few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Beauty had said. Though she had always had a lot of Muslim friends and even participated in our traditions – she was more dedicated to fasting than half of the Muslims I knew – I always thought it was for the novelty of the idea rather than something she had taken the time to internalise.

And of course, I just had to know more. So after a quick phone call, we organised to meet up at a local coffee shop and talk a bit more about the journey that led her to this point in her religious discovery.

Supplied by Nasima Khatun

I’m dying to know, how did you personally manage to find your way to Islam?

It was different because it was just me and it kind of felt like an accident. I’ve been brought up as a Hindu where we were allowed to drink, where we were allowed to smoke, we were allowed to do whatever we wanted but after the temporary excitement of that wore off, I just had questions like “where do we go after this?” And “what is the meaning of life?”

I had lots of questions because, in Hinduism, there isn’t really a purpose given to us, so that’s why I took an interest in Islam… Because it had answers.

I also had a lot of friends who were Muslims. I had Christian friends as well, but the Muslims were more passionate about their religion and that’s what I wanted to be. They had a feeling of community there that I couldn’t find. We didn’t have a lot of that in Hinduism. 

Why feel like you feel like that ‘togetherness’ aspect was missing from your own community?

It just came down to the fact that there was no single strong motivation that everyone believed in. People were kind of just doing whatever they wanted to whereas with Islam, even though they might be other branches, everyone believes in the core values. And it’s easier when there is only one God. In Hinduism, we have lots of Gods and that can cause confusion. Islam is easier to grasp because there is only one Creator and everyone works towards building a strong relationship with Him.

Also, remember when we were all at Aqsa’s dad’s funeral? [Reference to a funeral we attended while we were at college.] Everyone turned up to show their support and everyone also knew what to do in such a sensitive situation. Like the reciting, we don’t have things like that so there’s nothing we can do together in those circumstances.

So how did that then relate to you being able to use the teachings of the community to better your own life?

Recently, my dad just passed away, and knowing that I’m gonna be able to reunite with him at some point gave me that hope that all is not completely lost in this world, and I will get to see my dad again one day if I want to.

In Jannah, I’ll see him again, so that’s a massive thing for me now and it’s definitely strengthened my interest in Islam. It allows me to keep going rather than fall into a pit of hopelessness that I’ve lost my dad forever. 

In Hinduism, we have reincarnation and it’s so influential because that’s one of the only things we can believe when death comes around. It kind of just tells me that after this life, I’m just gonna move into a different one and I don’t know which one and I don’t know who will be there and who won’t. It makes you feel lost, especially when it comes to your loved ones. You never know if they’ll be on their 2nd life or their 7th, so everything is based on chance rather than a more definitive answer.

And like I mentioned before, that’s what I get with Islam – an answer.

Hinduism tells us start we should live our life to the fullest because we don’t know what’s gonna happen next whereas Islam tells us that this life is going to add towards a bigger picture in the next. It just gave me more clarity on what my purpose is in this life. I used to spend a lot of my time messing about, doing what I wanted to do, drinking, going out, but at the end of the day, I still felt like I had no direction.

Since I’ve started looking into the religion, I realised that this is going to amount to something, something much greater.

I know you’ve been reading the English translation of the Quran and making notes. How did you feel when you finally finished it?

Honestly, I never thought I would do it, but I managed to finish in 29 days. It was last Ramadan [in 2021] when I started it and by the end of the 30 days, I had also reached the end of the Quran. When I finished it, I felt complete, but I also wanted more.

Then I cried.

Really? Why did you cry?

I don’t know, it just got me really emotional. I was kind of sad that had come to an end but was also happy that I managed to get to the end.

I never thought I would actually understand it the way I did. I’m going to be really honest here – I thought I was going to get bored and give up but once I was in it, I was just there. And I let my mind and my heart be open to the Quran’s messages and that was when I truly started understanding the words.

Supplied by Nasima Khatun

The way you’re describing it contrasts completely with the way the media portrays it. How did you prepare yourself for the misconceptions that we’ve all heard about?

When people talk about Islam, they always put it with terrorism but while I was reading, I never understood it, because nowhere did it say go out and hurt other people. 

There was no sign of direct violence, even in regards to stuff like war because there were always conditions and it was written for a different time which people fail to consider. But there were lines like [paraphrased] “Even if you sin, always turn to God, because he’s ready to forgive you,” so I don’t understand why people would only pick certain lines to talk about and not these good ones that tell you about empathy and understanding.

And it [terrorism] doesn’t make sense anyway because one of the other main quotes is that [paraphrased] “If you kill one man, including yourself, you kill the whole of mankind.” How can you take that and completely change the meaning?

I did have some doubts though and it was more about the rules I’d heard about. I thought: “Oh maybe this religion is too strict for me” but again, it was just a misconception. If you have willpower and control which are two important things in Islam, it’s never really that hard.

I’m still on a rocky path though but I’m learning.

So I know we discussed this a little bit before but tell me about which quotes or chapters of the Quran resonated the most with you? 

One of the best quotes for me was: “Be good to others because Allah is good to you.”

Quotes like this one and others about patience and fate have helped me through a lot of difficult times in my life, especially when relating back to my dad. These words might be short, but they have such a big meaning in Islam and a big influence on the way that Muslims live their lives. And if one word can give you so much hope that things will get better, then it makes you wanna cling onto the whole thing and that’s what I’m doing.

Some people might need other people’s help with these things, for example, to have conversations with, but in Islam, even if you have no one, you still have someone. These conversations can happen between you and God because our fate on our feelings have already been thought about by Him.

It’s really quite amazing.

Has Islam now become a part of all aspects of your life too?

I think one thing that really surprised me, which is also one of the best things, is that there is a prayer for everything. One before you go to sleep, one before going outside, going to the toilet, just everything. And that tells me that Allah wants us to be protected no matter what we’re doing even if it’s something as small as opening our eyes in the morning.

I remember when I was taking my exams, I would just recite “Rabbi Zidni Ilma” over and over again because that’s the only thing that was in my mind at the time and it gave me some sort of peace. Like God didn’t want me to think of anything else besides that so that’s why it was in my head.

Obviously though, it’s still early days I’m still learning, so I’m not gonna pretend that Islam is the first thought in everything I do, but it is the most important one when I’m feeling helpless.

So there are parts of Islam that are similar to Christianity and Judaism. How did you know that this one was the correct one for you and not the other two?

I feel like with Christianity, it just kept changing and changing over time. I have Christian friends but none of them were really that practising and that’s not any of their fault of their own, it’s just reflecting the change in the importance of religion in society. But my Muslim friends value their religion with passion and continue practising even despite how other people viewed it. And with Judaism, it just didn’t connect with me so that’s why I turned to Islam. 

And with the rate that religion was growing, you just wonder why everyone is turning to it so there was a bit of curiosity there too. And after looking into it I realised why.

What’s the hardest realisation you’ve come to throughout your religious journey?

The hardest part for me is still something I’m working on and it’s leaving my family behind. I know the risk that comes with converting out of Hinduism and because my family are really strong believers, this just isn’t going to sit well with them. And that’s probably the only thing that’s holding me back. And it’s a big thing.

My family don’t even like listening to Arabic music, let alone the Quran. And sometimes when I accidentally say certain phrases around them, they look at me really funny and I just play it off. So it’s going to be hard. But I know I have to do this.

I never cared about all the other superficial things like “oh I’m going to miss wearing short skirts” or drinking alcohol, the only thing that bothers me is knowing that I’m going to be disowned or even worse, just lonely. But thinking about it, the Muslim community values this idea of being together so I don’t think I’ll truly ever be alone. It’s just going to be hard without my loved ones though.

My family will just never accept it and I know that. It’s really conflicting but at the same time, I want the best for me in this life and the one coming after. And you never know, the fact that I’m going through this change, they might actually wonder why and then have a look at the religion and just accept it for what it is or at least come to some sort of understanding about it.

I want them to think about in terms of dad, that they’ll never see him again but Islam tells me that I will and I want them to have that hope as well.

You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but do you think you’ll be able to get through something like that?

I’ll be honest, my mental health hasn’t been the best lately so something like this can definitely make it worse but knowing that I have Islam with me makes it a little easier because I know I’ll always be protected.

I’ll be able to get through this and I’ll be better for it. And I also know that I’m doing the right thing and if I focus on that then there’s no reason not to do it. If I don’t end up doing it I’ll be constantly thinking about it anyway so I know it’s inevitable at this point.

This year, that’s my main focus. And hopefully, by the end of it, I might even be Muslim. Insha’Allah.

As long as I know my intentions, Allah will help me with the rest.