Ramadan in UAE : ‘I felt I got a msg in my inbox from Allah,’ says new Muslim
Anastasia started off as a Christian, turned to Judaism, returned to Christianity, before finally deciding to explore Islam.
She was born as Anastasia in the former Soviet Union in a military family, where following any religion was prohibited. At home her parents fondly called her Asya, little realising that later on in life, it would become her new Muslim name.
The girl started off as a Christian, explored Judaism, returned to Christianity, before finally deciding to explore Islam. That’s when she said, she found the peace and happiness she was looking for all her life.
Her journey from Anastasia to Asya was as fascinating, as it was tumultuous. Her parents were born Christians, but were not practicing because her father was a military officer and under the Soviet regime it was strictly barred to follow any religion. After the dissolution of USSR (Soviet Union) in 1991, Asya and her family settled in Ukraine and one day a friend gifted her a small illustrated book about God. This was her first introduction to God and Asya was fascinated.
Recalling her first introduction to ‘Godly’ things, 31-year-old Asya said: “I still remember what I saw in the book. It contained beautiful pictures of what Paradise would look like, full of exotic flowers and beautiful smiling people wearing snow-white robes. That left a deep impression in my mind…
“Fast-forward to years later when I came to UAE in 2020..I saw men wearing beautiful white kandooras and it reminded me of that book. The UAE was no less than a paradise for me,” she said.
While at school, Asya said she saw many children wear holy cross pendants on their necks and asked her mother about it. Her mother then got her baptized and Asya began exploring Christianity.
“I began my journey as a Christain with great zeal and enthusiasm, but as I went along, I couldn’t find answers to many questions haunting my mind. I was unable to understand the need to worshipping idols of saints and priests in order to connect to God. I thought to myself, why do I need to do these rituals to talk to God and can’t I directly connect to Him in peace? When I turned to the modern world, I got lost further as I saw there was no value system, no sincerity and trust,” Asya said.
Not knowing where to go, Asya decided to seek help from a Christian priest who advised her to become a nun and renounce the world. “When the priest asked me to adopt monasticism and renounce worldly pursuits and fully devote myself to spiritual work, something inside me rebelled. I felt that was not the way God had intended us to be. I wanted to be a wife and mother, and these were the relations, emotions and feelings given to us by God. I thought why would God want us to renounce the world and abandon relationships when it was He who had given us this world with all these relationships around us.”
At the age of 23, Asya then turned towards Judaism before returning to Christianity. However, she just couldn’t find the peace and happiness that she longed for. That was when she decided to explore Islam.
“I had never ever thought of going near Islam because of the fear instilled in my heart by what I saw, heard and read in media channels. However, finding myself in a spiritual vaccum, I decided to explore Islam and that was when I chanced upon the story of Jesus and his mother Mary in Islam. I wondered to myself how come this story has similar characters as the one I had read in Christianity. This got me hooked and I started reading up on Islam. I could not believe how one by one, all my questions were answered as I kept reading more on Islam.”
After four months of research, Asya became certain Islam was her calling and tried to connect to a practicing Muslim to speak to.
“My friend, with whom I discussed my dilemma, told me about another girl who had converted to Islam and suggested I connect with her. I tried messaging her on social media, but did not receive any response for a week. One night I cried to God and said ‘I’m tired, sad and disillusioned. Tell me if Islam is the way for me, or just give me peace, I cannot run anymore’. The next morning I had a message in my inbox. I felt it was from Allah. The Muslim girl I wanted to speak (her name is Khadija) had replied and she invited me to meet her at a park,” Asya said.
Asya said that when she saw Khadija, she looked angelic in a hijab and abaya. Khadija answered all of Asya’s queries, as she had gone through a similar situation. She then asked Asya if she wanted to take the Shahada (oath to embrace Islam).
“While I was thinking, Khadija said something that shook me. She said ‘life is unpredictable, so you better decide now if you want to die as a Muslim or not.’ At that moment my heart said ‘I want to enter the folds of Islam and die a Muslim’. We then went to a mosque in Kiev in Ukraine where I took the Shahada. I finally felt fulfilled, happy and at complete peace. I had found what I was looking for.”
Asya has since been learning how to recite the Holy Quran, understanding Arabic and perfecting her prayers. Although her parents and siblings are still Chirstian, Asya says they still love her and respect her for her choice. “My mother who was against the hijab at one point of time, now shops for colourful hijabs for me, as she knows I like them,” Asya said.
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