Questions were racing through my mind. Does this makes me a Muslim? What is a Muslim after all? And is it easy to become one? And what happens after that? What if I regret?
It was minutes after my shahada (my declaration of the Islamic faith), a few weeks ago.
It took me almost 9 years to believe there is actually a God and choose Islam as the way to worship Him. But why was that? Having a very hard life so far, full of personal traumatic experiences of which I could not be responsible for during childhood, puberty and adolescence, a person does not have the right to make his own choices by law, I was led to disappointment.
I almost completely rejected the presence of God or of any Divinity in my life.
Although I was completely dissatisfied by the behaviour of the clergy in Greece and still having the words of the burial service which says “rest your servant ignoring all sins,” I decided to start reading about religion.
Feeling tormented, tired and a bit desperate to find answers to my questions, I choose to read religion initially and then philosophy and history of sciences instead of trying to find my way through fortune tellers or tarot readers, drugs or alcohol.
No matter how hard someone tries to numb himself so he doesn’t feel any pain, the pain will always be there, waiting to be confronted. Being deeply ethical and raised with the traditional values of a middle class Greek family , values of honesty, pride and dignity, I did not want to be part of any religious or philosophical group just to satisfy my needs for warmth and affection. And I definitely, loved and honoured my Greek cultural identity and I did not want to imitate or fake any other identity or nationality.
I started researching Christianity and mainly the Orthodox Dogma, then Judaism and Buddhism and finally Islam. I started gradually believing in God, my faith becoming stronger with time. At some point I started having questions about the Trinity, questions for which I found the answers in Islam.
What I realised is that Islam is the religion that closes the circle of Divine revelations. Islam means peace and Muslim means the person who offers himself to God and God only, with no remorse or personal benefit. Allah is not a new invention, it’s just the Arabic word for God, the half moon is not a symbol of blood bathing and revenge but is a reminder that Muslim people calculate the time based on the moon rather than the sun.
At this point I seriously started to consider myself as a believer rather than an agnostic. In the meantime, I moved to United Kingdom, to further educate myself though postgraduate studies. I do not know if it was a sign but while I was in UK, I kept meeting really nice people, the majority of them being Muslims, and I ended up marrying one of them.
I continued reading more and more and was becoming focused on Islam this time. Though not only reading, watching documentaries, attending Islamic lectures, going to Islamic museums, attending Islamic classes.
And there comes the questioning. Do I want to be part of a religion that has so many different variations of interpretation of its Holy Book? Would I want to be part of a group that would be a religious minority in my country? Would I want to be part of a religious group where most people, of the ones I have met at least, are paying attention just to the rules of worship and not the worship itself? Or would I want to be part of a religion which is used by its own followers to inspire hate and hostility?
I got again disappointed but this time not by the religion itself or the philosophy itself or from the Quran but from the followers. And then I realised that I cannot blame the religion itself since I found the answers to my questions, from its followers. I decided to start living as a Muslim for a period of time, to see what it takes and see if it is really so hard. As it is stated in Quran, men and women were created equally having their own free will.
But what does it mean to live as a Muslim? Wearing an abaya and niqaab? Praying 10 times a day? Fasting strictly during Ramadan? Staying at home and having loads of children? Avoiding any kind of joyful experience just in case you do something forbidden? Certainly not, in my opinion.
Islam is not a strict system of rules or a kind of imprisonment. Doing good deeds every single day, trying to avoid bad actions, praying as much as you can, fasting as much as you can, showing love and compassion and always fighting peacefully to improve yourself, progressing and evolving in knowledge day by day, trying your best every single day, this is what it takes to be a Muslim.
I realised that I could live as a Muslim, I just changed the way and the frequency of my prayers, I stopped completely eating pork or drinking alcohol and I wore a headscarf. That’s all. So after this so long journey, I decided to have my shahada done admitting firstly to myself that ‘There is no god but Allah (God), and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah (God).