This has been sitting in my draft for the longest time. I initially had the idea of writing this because there appears to be a lot of assumptions being made on the circumstances that surrounded my conversion. So here goes!
Not a lot of people know about this but I was pretty unhappy few years back, after I graduated from university. I would have sudden panic attacks where I would be paranoid about my parents meeting harm. One incident was particularly bad. My father had gone to China. I was telling my mum that he hasn't whatsapped us for two days, which was unusual.
I couldn't barely sleep that night and in the rare moments that I did, I would be rudely awakened by a dream of a car crash or the metallic smell of blood. I still couldn't sleep at 6am, so I tried calling my father's phone but it wouldn't get through. Probably because my plan only allowed local calls. I waited till my mum stirred in her sleep to ask her for her phone. The call went through this time but I got an automated message saying that the phone number was no longer in use. That only added to my anxiety.
I whatsapped, SMSed and emailed my dad - just trying to get any response I could. 12 noon and I still got no reply. I was a mess. Thoughts were running through my head, mostly of regret. I thought of the times I was rude to my father, and how I would always refuse to accompany him whenever he wanted company to have dinner, supper or drop by the supermarket or petrol station.
It was only in the afternoon, at about 1 or 2pm, when my mother told me that my father had called back after receiving my messages. He thought something bad had happened at home. She assured him that everything was fine, and I was just worried that he had not contacted us for 2 days.
My mum asked if I wanted to speak to him on the phone. I declined. I didn't know what to say to him. I ran into the toilet and cried, overwhelmed with relief.
I remained kind of unhappy after that, not doing much to change things as they were. I slowly started to realize that maybe I was disappointed at the person that I was? I was always nice to friends, but I never gave my parents the love I thought they deserved and it was eating me up.
This had never bothered me before but perhaps growing up and graduating from university made me realize some things? It was as if something snapped in me and made me aware of this gaping hole that I never knew I had and left me very unfulfilled about my life.
I would hear Aizat talk about the funny things that happened at home with his family and I would get jealous. They were so close. I don't even remember the last time I hugged or kissed my parents, let alone enjoy a meal out with them. Our outings were always quiet and tense and not much fun. I always dreaded them.
I didn't know how to turn things around.
A friend got to know about my situation and recommended that I attend a life coaching program. I was so desperate to feel better that I dragged another friend along with me. We spent almost $3000 on the program to 'fix' ourselves.
It wasn't very useful in retrospect. Sure, during those 3 days you witness miraculous changes in your attitude and mood, but I wouldn't liken it to anything more than having a great holiday with friends.
Long story short. Life coaching programs aren't what they shout to be, at least to me.
What I did take away from the program was the call I made to my mum (as part of the Acts of Courage we were required to do everyday) to ask for her blessings, and if she would be fine with me embracing Islam. She told me that all she wanted was for me to be happy and she hoped that I would make the decision for myself and not under the pressure of others.
Perhaps the best part of the program were the similarities I drew between the program and Islam. One example was how the program required us to do 5 daily ritual/routines that were meant to be meditative and instill discipline. That sounded a lot like the 5 daily prayers Muslims had to perform every day! There were many other aspects and reflections I had of the program that reminded me of Islam.
I thought to myself, why was I spending money on a program to make myself happier when I could get it for free by learning more about Islam? And why was relying on a 3 day course for guidance when I had something more permanent I could depend on?
That was when I thought, screw this program, let's see what Islam offers. And I haven't stopped learning about Islam since. And what a change my life has been!
I'm happier now. I can hug and kiss my parents freely. I learnt how to put my parents before my needs - sometimes! But it's a start! I'm starting to become the person, the daughter, the sister, and the friend I want to be.
The day of my conversion (30 May 2015) at Darul Arqam.
I just want to leave this world feeling like I was a good person and that I have reciprocated the blessings I received in this life to the wonderful people, and the world, around me.
Beliefs aside, I believe that this desire to be a better version of yourself, to do good is an innate one for most people. We're not unique or different from others in this aspect. Everyone finds their own way there. I don't believe that anyone can be truly happy without it, else there wouldn't be so many self-help books on happiness and finding purpose in life.
Skeptics often say 'Oh, that's sad. You actually need a religion to do good'. Great for you if you managed to get there on your own - that's really impressive and admirable. But it wasn't as straightforward for me. I knew what was wrong but I didn't know how to fix it. Thankfully though, I have found my way.
I'm done with the self-help books and life coaching programs. I now have Islam and it just makes things a lot easier for me. My religion makes me more disciplined, more reflective, and implements a way of life that makes doing good easier. I think of it as a lifehack and it's the best lifehack I ever discovered.
Think of it this way: even if there wasn't a God, I would have lost nothing, but gained everything. I would have lived a more meaningful life. And that's all that matters to me.