I'm an American woman and not affiliated with any religion, but I have always respected people's right to practice their choice of religion or spiritual belief. After Sept 11th, I realized that I knew almost nothing about Islam. I live in France, and as I write this, the neo-Nazi candidate Le Pen is facing an election run-off with Chirac. Much of his campaign is based on people's fear of rising crime and unemployment, and his hateful rhetoric implies that this is related to Muslim immigrants of North African/Arab origin. Despite negative things I read in the US and French media, I could not believe that Islam was a religion of anger or evil. The Scottish poet Kathleen Raine says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you really don't see it at all. I was determined to learn more about Islam. Fortunately I had an experience that enabled me to replace my fear with joy.
Recently I had an unexpected opportunity to visit Istanbul. French and American friends expressed surprise and concern. 'This is a Muslim city and there is still a lot of hostility to Americans after Sept 11th. Do you want to end up like Daniel Pearl?' 'How are you going to walk around by yourself? It could be dangerous!' 'Are you nuts?' Their comments only made me more determined to go. I wanted to see the city, and I am not a person who is willing to live in fear - or ignorance.
It was my first visit, and I was fascinated and delighted by the beauty of Istanbul. People's friendliness, honesty and politeness was incredible. The old area of the city was charming, but I could also appreciate Istanbul as a modern and progressive world-class city.I visited several of the beautiful historic mosques that are popular tourist destinations, but it was impossible to find or speak with anyone working in the mosques. I enjoyed my sightseeing, but I still wanted to better understand Islam. On the last day of my trip, I walked around Uskudar and noticed a smaller mosque in a residential area. It was shortly before the 5 p.m. prayer time. At the other mosques I visited, there were always signs posted that visitors were not allowed to come during the prayer services. But it was only five minutes to 5, and I had a strong feeling that I should go inside the mosque. My friend chose to wait outside, but I wanted to have just a quick look inside and then leave before the service.
I created a reasonable head covering using my sweater, and was wearing a long dress and long sleeved blouse. I probably looked somewhat bizarre with my sweater-turban, but no one said anything. As I entered, an older man rubbed a small tube of scented oil over his hand and the hands of his friends. When he saw me watching them, he smiled and did the same to my hand. After I entered the mosque, the friendly man indicated that I should go into the women's area, which was separate and enclosed by a wall.In some of the mosques I visited, this area provided a partial view of the mosque interior via slats of wood, but this particular mosque had built a solid high wall, providing no view of the other part of the mosque. I was alone in the room, and sat on the carpets for a moment and wondered what I should do next.
I felt that I had no business being there and was probably intruding. To exit the mosque, I would have to walk near the main prayer area. Although I could not see what was going on, I could hear that singing had just commenced. And a small but important detail - I had no idea where the man had put my shoes! I debated the best way to gracefully leave the mosque without disrupting the service or making a total spectacle of myself. Then a small group of veiled women entered and stared at me with open curiosity. I experienced irrational feelings of panic - how would they react to a blonde, blue-eyed American woman who was sitting there with a sweater wrapped around her head? If they had a good sense of humor, we could share a giggle. But what if my presence was offensive - and their reaction was displeasure, or even anger? I quickly got up to leave, but a woman touched me and pointed to a center area of the carpet. Another woman took my hand and guided me over there. Then the women knelt next to me, each finding their own space. A woman sitting next to me took my hand. I glanced at her face and she had the most gentle expression of warmth. She smiled and held my hand for almost a minute as we listened to the man's chanting. I relaxed and began to feel welcome.
Up until then, I had almost no interaction with women on my trip. All the people working in shops or restaurants were men, and women passed by in small groups. Now, I was surrounded by women, and I felt a profound sense of love and community. An older woman next to me occasionally whispered in English some translations of what was being said. When they stood, bent at the hip, then dropped down to touch the carpet with their foreheads, I was at a loss of what to do. A phrase came to my mind and I decided to focus on it as my own silent prayer - "God's love is in all people, and in all places." I kept this comforting thought in my mind throughout the service. At the end, my smiling friend took my hand again and squeezed it. I nodded a thank you - then we spontaneously embraced each other.
I had tears in my eyes as I left the mosque. This simple but emotional visit convinced me that I was right - Islam is an expression of God's love, not hate. My heart felt full of understanding, leaving no room for fear or doubt.
ago, lots of things have happened. As I write
this, the world waits for war. Words can't
describe the pain and frustration that I feel
about this. Bush refuses to hear the protests
of millions of Americans and people around
the world -- but surely God hears? Despite
this, I also have positive things to report.
Although I have not formally converted to
Islam, I continue to read the Qu'ran and find
comfort in its messages. I say "not formally"
but the prayers I heard at the mosque in
Istanbul continue to echo in my heart and in
my thoughts. After my visit to Istanbul, I had a
dream to organize a gathering for non-Muslim
people to learn about and understand -- not
fear -- Islam. I looked for a speaker and a
place to hold the event. It was more
complicated than I imagined. My efforts
seemed naive and futile. Again, feelings of
helplessness came over me, as I thought
about the war. I wondered how my idea could
even make a difference. I became
discouraged and I gave up. A short time later,
I unexpectedly found a Muslim speaker (wise,
warm and gracious) who gladly agree to give
the presentation. A few days later, I also found
a nice place to have the event (free!). I could
hardly believe this good fortune, this is NOT
just a coincidence. I am convinced that what
began in Istanbul continues to guide me. In
the worst of times, we can still find positive
things to take hope in. I am remain committed
to opening my heart and mind. Yours in
As-salaam-alaikum(Peace be with you).
I was really touched on reading your article.
as i wanted to tell u tht islam came in to existence to protect huminity & to worship only one God(ALLAH) & to follow under Prophet Muhammads guidence.
Islam is the only religion who gives you all kinds of right & freedom in a safe way.
i hope & pray to Allah that when u have so much experience about Islam & its practice you will feel much more comfort & ease when u will have those practice in your life.
Wishing & pray for the best.
Your article was lovely, it shows that you are amongst the people that the Quran refers to as the people of understanding. I would also like to apprise you that knowledgeable Muslims are aware that common Americans are friendly and caring people, that is why you are a great nation. The hatred towards America only arises out of its foreign policy which is in the hands of various lobbies and interest groups.
Thank you for sharing with us this story.
I am touched with the article on "Islam is an expression of God's Love".
My the grace of Allah our sister received Allah's love directly and make her understand Islam in a better perspective. I do deal with some converts and would be converts to Islam, and I am touched with their conversion, submission to the Islamic way of life.
I hope I can get in touch with the sister who wrote this article.
I wish her well, good health and strong will to live up as a muslim(if she has the intention).
best regards and peace
Thank you for sharing your experience with us and may Allah pave the way for you to expore His religion.
Honestly speaking, your search About Islam has just began and do not relent in your effort to search and pray for the truth. Prophet Mohammed encourages the seek of knowledge (truth) from the cradle to the grave. since you are interested in fine quatations it would be advisable you study the Hadith of Prophet Mohammed. There is one hadith that states that -Revere Allah whereever you are, and do righteuos deeds such that they over shadow the bad ones, and behave towards others in the best of manners.
I have a firm belief that Americans are neither anti-Islam nor Islam phobia but that they are ignorant about Islam. I have confident that when Americans get to know more about Islam, even though if they do not Islamize, they would have a change of attitude to Islam and Muslim.
May Allah bless you and enrich you in knowledge.
about my article! Even Hannah, who has her
right to disagree. I also received some
negative comments from American people
who read it. My mother had a favorite
expression -- "You can lead a horse to water,
but you cannot make him drink." ; )
I also enjoyed reading the many thoughtful
expressions, and I will remember them in my
daily life. For example, "A smile for a stranger
is an act of prayer..." from Fazal a khan.
I have a section on my computer screen
where I can write interesting or inspirational
quotes (the software program is called
Stickies -- makes a little note for writing on ).
During the day, it's refreshing to read positive
things. I remind myself that our world has
problems, but there are a lot of good things
Warm wishes from my heart to yours -
ITS A BEAUTIFUL THING.THANK YOU FOR AN INSPIRING
beautiful! She really did see the beauty of
Allah! Although I do not know if she converted
or not. I am a recently convert to Islam. I
converted to Islam May 2nd. I too have just
found the beauty of Islam, but nothing as so
great as that woman has had.
may allah bless you all.....ameen
Why do they not practise love and not hate forget about Islam is a peaceful religion it is a religion of hate and vengeance.
wake up before it is ti late
Thank you very much Patricia for your lovely and peaceful trip. It must have been a wonderful and emotional trip to take at a time of turmoil and displeasure. I am shocked to find your courge and strong feelings or opposition to your friends to visit Istanbul, Turkey. I do not know if you are a muslim yet or not, but i highly suggest that you think about your trip and take the opportunity to be part of a growing community that is centralized and organized religously and edaquatelly, two things that are hard to find nowdays. Look into the core of your conclusion and the title of your paper, they need actions and forwardness to reach them and move on. You need no farther explanation of Islam, you have seen enough and costed you money to find out how peaceful and innocent muslims are, take the time to utter two simple and lovely words, believing in the guidance revealed by allah and the practical example of Allah's words, mohammed(scw). I read the paper and it is fantastic and incredible. i would like to take the time to thank our brothers in islamicity for bringing us such lovely and interesting stories monthly, weekly, and yearly. They do encourage us to invite more people to islam and also look into what other people are thinking about islam. May allah reward all the workers of islamicity for their efforts for the broader muslim community with information and technology. Allahu akbar
Personally, I think what is most valuable from Ms Philbin's experienced was that she has had not only answers to the questions that been haunting her after the September 11 incident which most of non-Muslims Americans do, but, found the truth within which no amount of explanation could make her understand that 'Islam is a religion of Peace' only and only when an individual knows who ALLAH s.w.t. is. The Almighty Allah s.w.t shown the rays of light revealing the power of love to that individual would be beyond description.
The root word for "Islam", after all, means "peace" and/or "submission."
If one who calls himself/herself a Muslim doesn't project this image of peace and tranquility - through the triumvirate of Fear, Hope and Love with regrads to the one God - then there's something missing in his/her understanding of the deen.
This is my [hopefully-not-pretentious] opinion, and I hope nobody gets offended.
Thank you for your honest view about our faith in ONE and the SAME GOD that we all sheare and keep in our hearts!
a lot of misconceptions about Islam. But at its
deepest roots is peace, love and hapiness.
All the best, may you experience more exciting and
Your story is very close to mine. I went to the mosque near my house to learn arabic very skeptical and reassuring myself and everyone that I wanted nothing but learn the language. One day I went to the prayer hall out of curiosity and what I felt brought tears to my eyes and a sense of peace and love that I feel like if it was now.
That was the end of september 2001. I did all sor Ramadan an took shahadah on dec.16 the last day.
I'm crazy? not Nobody can tell me that islam is not the religion that God intended for man.
on reading you testimonial i remember god`s words in quaran which reads thus"christians are the closest to muslims and learned and just ones literally shed tears on hearing the truth and true message of islam.
my eyes swelled with tears on reading about your testimony,it was nothing but allah`s will who has given you the rational,impartial,analytical,and just mind.however my request is don`t just stop with this encounter, read islamic materials by islamic authors,and i am sure with your mind you will separate chaf from rice,will see reason from myth,difference between god`s religion and man`s.
The article only re-affirms that Islam was spread by example of good character and not sword.