Over a period of two and a half
years, this university student grew to take Islam very
Ex-Christian, Germany (part 1 of 4)
"… This day have
I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor
upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your
religion…" (Quran 5:3)
I was born 1967
in a small town in Sauerland County, Germany. My
younger brother and I grew up in the country, where my
parents and grandparents lived in a two-family house.
My grandfather used to be principal of a primary
school. My father would have liked to become a
forester, but instead he only became a teacher in
secondary school. He still does love nature very
much. But throughout the years he seems to have lost
His love for Jesus Christ, which was quite
disappointing for my grandmother, who has always been
a firm believer. She was a member of a small church
and all her life she participated actively in the
church and tried hard to set a true Christian example
for her children. My grandfather on the other hand
could hardly be called a believer; this was something
that my grandmother only found out after the wedding.
Steady church attendance turned out to be no proof of
faith. Till today after each church service my
grandparents engage in heated discussions about
Christian belief in general and the contents of the
last sermon in particular. This situation did affect
their three sons. Today only one of them is a church
My mother on the
other side comes from a family, where devotion to
faith was key. Belief was never subject to
discussion. Actually nothing ever was subject to
discussion. My mother, being the youngest child, was
never taken seriously. What else could be the use of a
daughter? Till this day she regrets that she wasn't
allowed to learn another profession. And again it was
taken for granted, that my mother was to marry my
father. Since he was the son of a teacher he was a
good match. The shared faith would guarantee a happy
But during the
first years the marriage became unstable due to
religions tensions. While my grandmother was elected
as first woman into the church's council of elders, my
parents one at a time left the church. And there came
a day, when they didn't have anything in common
anymore. So after 20 years of marriage and
uncountable tries to get along, both agreed on
throwing in the towel and in 1986 their marriage was
At that time my
brother and I weren't too attached to religion, which
added to my grandmother's dismay. We did join
Christian Youth groups and take Bible classes, but
neither of us became church members. Actually we
haven't even been baptized. The church my family
belonged to doesn't baptize children, but rather grown
up people, who consciously make a decision for
Christ. When we reached necessary age, we both
decided against being baptized.
Not that I
wouldn't have been interested in religion. Religion
always fascinated me. Christianity offers an
acceptable approach, the belief in one God, who
contacted mankind by sending prophets. In this way
God taught the people who they are and how they should
interact with each other and their environment. But I
was soon to notice that Christian values could so
easily be adjusted. What does Christian theology
teach? Every human being is full of sin; original sin
is burdening us from birth. God sent His son into the
world to suffer and die on the cross and save us from
this burden of guilt. A number of questions remained
unanswered for me; God's son, who was supposed to be a
man and at the same time the true God, was praying to
be saved from the crucifixion, but to whom did he
pray so ardently? His life became the turning point
of history, which divides people in "before" and
"after" Christ. Belief in him is the only way to be
saved. Didn't he say himself: "I am the way, the
truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father but
through me." (John 14, 6)
death the Hereafter lost its terror. Christianity
preaches that God is Love, so how can there be a
Hell? The devil, who used to be a mean of oppression
to keep church members in order, has been pensioned.
The values of contemporary Christianity are pretty
much limited to "Love your Neighbor". As long as I
don't hurt anybody, everything goes. Jesus says: "You
shouldn't think, I have come to dissolve the law or
the prophets. I didn't come to dissolve, but to
fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) The difference doesn't seem
to be too big in modern Christianity. Commandments
are out. Church goes with time. Though not fast
enough for some of its members.
The Bible hardly
has any weight anymore. Probably some truth can be
found in it, but who decides on what is truth and what
isn't? Who decides, what is valid and what isn't?
The church? The theologists? Or everybody for
himself? Doesn't everybody according to best
knowledge and conscience fabricate his own belief?
Let's be truthful and no longer call the result
Christianity. Let's call it "Brianity", "Susanity"
Christians will of course protest by now. They will
say, the common basis is there. Well, where is it?
The true revelation, the words God told Jesus from
Nazareth, where are they? In the Bible there wasn't
even one chapter dedicated to them.
sentences of Faith, that divide the church, have been
derived from historical reports and letters, decided
on during theological conferences or just called out
as State doctrine. And how many times did I hear:
"You can't understand this. You just have to believe
it!" I believe that God gave us our brains so that we
might use them. And I believe, that a message of God,
when it is questioned, has to offer more answers than
That's what I
told my religious instructor, when my high school
class spent a weekend in a monastery shortly before
graduation. "Days of reflection" that's what they
called it. The teacher surprised me with his answer.
He said: "God won't let you go. You'll see." At the
end he turned out to be right, though he probably may
have imagined it a little differently.
My interest in
God and religion again caught up with me, when I came
across Islam. After taking my high school diploma I
moved to a city, to take up studies of economy at the
university. At that time I thought that this field of
study would do me good in terms of finding a job. I
wasn't too interested in the subject, but I thought,
that my studies would come to pass very quickly, but
instead I was subjected to a very derpessin atmosphere
Crowded stuffy audition rooms, boring lectures by
boring professors. As students in these classes, we
were busy with other things. "Did you see what the
tall blonde in the third row is wearing today?" - "Do
you have a light?"
Student life on
the other hand was fascinating from the very
beginning. I had till that point in time lived in a
small town. Even during my year as an exchange
student in the U.S.A. I stayed in a small country
town that made it obligatory to visit the church on
Sundays! Now at university there seemed to be a new
world opening up for me. I got to know so many
different people and I loved to discuss God and the
world. Among my new acquaintances were a few foreign
students, who were born Muslims. So the subject of
Islam came up.
Generally I was
quite amused by the thought, that actually there are
still people around, who seriously follow a law from
the Middle Ages. But in reality everything looked
quite different from what I knew. The life of foreign
students in Germany doesn't have anything in common
with the tales of a Thousand and One Nights.
In the beginning I had still asked my Muslim neighbors
in the student homes kiddingly, why tomatoes don't
have to be ritually cut? Or why a Muslim, who
remembers God before he eats and thanks God after the
meal, doesn't do the same thing when drinking his beer
in the pub?
But the more I
learned about Islam, the less funny those jokes became
for me. Actually the Islamic religion wasn't that
strange to me, as I had always thought. I
rediscovered a lot of those components that I had
always liked in Christianity. For one, of course, was
the belief in God. Islam is strictly monotheistic.
There is only one God. God is in Arabic "Allah". The
expression really doesn't mean anything else but "the
God" and is also used in the Arabic language version
of the Bible.
Ex-Christian, Germany (part 2 of 4)
believes - like a Christian - that God has sent
prophets, to lead mankind on the right path. Names
turned up that sounded so familiar: Noah, Abraham,
Moses, Jonah, and also Zachary, John and Jesus.
I learned that
Muhammad, the son on Abdullah, may God praise him, who
lived in the 7th century A.D. in the Arabian
Peninsula, was believed to have been the last
prophet. He had been given the Quran and this book
was the foundation for all Islamic teachings.
I had a look at
that book, the Quran.
"This is the
book: in it is guidance sure, without doubt..." (2:2)
That is noted
there about the Quran itself.
interesting point that I came to realize at that time
was that Western scholars to a degree agree that there
are miraculous passages in the Quran. Even from a
pure literal and linguistic point of view, the Quran
is considered a miracle and it has set the standard
for Classical Arabic.
The contents of
Quran are as remarkable as is the form. It is in no
way a simple "Arabic History book", as a well-known
Orientalist described it in the media. On the
contrary, it contains astonishing facts on nature,
society and generally everything that concerns human
Already in the
first revelation it states: "Read, and thy Lord is
the Most Bountiful, He, who …taught man that which he
knew not." (96:3-5)
One of the
amazing historical facts that can be found in the
Quran relates to the ruler of Egypt. In the story of
Joseph the Quran talks about a King and in the story
of Moses it talks about a Pharaoh? The reason for
this was only known when the French Historian Jean
Francois Champollion with the help of the Rosetta
Stone succeeded in deciphering the old Egyptian
Hieroglyphic letters. It turns out that at the end of
the Middle Empire the Hyksos tribes, originating in
Asia, occupied the Northern part of present day Egypt.
A king ruled that area, this would roughly translate
to the time of Prophet Joseph. Under the rule of the
Hyksos he was raised to become the advisor of the
King. And under the reign of the Hyksos the people of
Israel migrated to Egypt, where they were welcomed.
In the 16th
Century B.C. during the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose, the
Egyptians managed to retake the country. The people
of Israel were hated on account of their cooperation
with the King that was ruling the northern area of
Egypt. That explains why the people of Israel at the
times of Moses were oppressed and enslaved. Quran
distinguishes between the terms "King" of the Hyksos
and "Pharaoh" of the Egyptians.
As we go further
into the story of Moses, we see that God says:
"This day shall we save your body, that you may be a
sign to those who come after you! But verily, many
among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!" (10:92)
This verse talks about the mummification of the
The Quran also
mentions scientific facts in relation to creation. God
says: "Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens
and the earth were joined together before We clove
them asunder? We made from water every living thing.
Will they not then believe?" (21:30) This fact
corresponds with the newest findings of science.
And did you
know, that according to Quran we do not live "on"
earth, but rather "in" earth? This verse speaks about
the atmosphere, which obviously is part of the earth.
Without it we wouldn't exist. Just think about the
high speed with which we are traveling through space
due to the rotation of the earth. Try to imagine the
wind resulting from the movement speed, which we would
have to cope with if it wasn't for the atmosphere.
describes phenomenon of nature such as the buildup of
clouds, embryology, chemistry of digestion and the
expansion of the universe. Up to now there haven't
been any scientific findings contradicting Quranic
verses. On the contrary, some Quran statements can
only be fully understood and appreciated with the help
of contemporary science. We find that throughout the
Quran, time and time again, the reader is asked to use
his faculties to recognize the truth.
With the help of
the Quran Arab Bedouins and traders managed to build a
society, in which not only science but also fine arts
were blooming. Europe at that time was still was
stuck in the period known as the Middle Ages.
On belief itself we
read in Quran: "There shall be no compulsion in
[acceptance of] the religion. The right course has
become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in
Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most
trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is
Hearing and Knowing." (2:256)
theology is as clear as the testimony: "There is no
God worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is His
In Islam there
is such thing as the original sin. God says: "…And
every soul earns not [blame] except against itself,
and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of
another…" (6:164) After Adam and Eve sinned, God
taught them repentance.
God's son? In
relation to this, God says: "Say, "He is Allah,
[who is] One. Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither
begets nor is born. Nor is there to Him any
equivalent."(Chapter 112) Jesus of Nazareth was
only a prophet of God!
A turning point
in history? Absolutely no. To the contrary, history
proves an unbroken continuity. From the very
beginning there was only one religion, which was to
submit to the one God, in Arabic: "Islam". This
religion was proclaimed by all prophets, including
Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Prophet Muhammad has been
the last of them, but still he was a human being like
you and me. The speech held by his friend Abu Bakr
Siddiq on the occasion of his death has been preserved
till today. He said: "So, who among you worshipped
Muhammad, may God praise him, should know, that
Muhammad is dead. But who worshipped God; truly, God
is alive and will never die." And then he
reminded the people of the following verse of Quran:
no more than a messenger: many were the messengers
that passed away before him.
If he died or were slain,
will you turn back on your heels?
If any did turn back on his heels, not the
least harm he will do to God; but God will swiftly
reward those who are grateful"
Ex-Christian, Germany (part 3 of 4)
There isn't any. No organization, no hierarchy, no
sacraments. Every Muslim can preach. Or contract a
marriage. Or pray the death prayer for a deceased.
of Scriptures? As far as central sentences of belief
are concerned, Muslims are united. God is God and the
prophets were human. Quran is the word of God, as
well as the books revealed to other prophets. Angels
are a reality and the resurrection is a reality.
Islamic scholars are - in contrast to their Christian
scholars- more concerned with the practical
appliancation of religious principles. They announce
religious opinions on the basis of Quran and Sunnah,
which is the example of the Prophet Muhammad, may God
praise him. Such an expert opinion is called
"fatwa". No scholar has in any form any God given
authority. A fatwa always does reflect the personal
opinion of the scholar that is based on textual
evidences. You can take it or leave it.
About 1 billion
people all over the world testify this belief. And up
to today Islam hasn't lost its attraction. The Arabic
word "Islam" has the same letter root as the word
"Salaam", peace. So the meaning of the word Islam
implies also to find peace, peace with God, the world
I learned and
understood. But still I wouldn't accept the truth. I
guess I was just too lazy to become Muslim. It looked
much too hard for me. Islam is something that enters
into every walk of life. Christianity on the other
hand tends to be a little bit ignorant of reality
these days. Well-measured piety, which is worn for
the church service like the Sunday dress is then
stored in the closet for the rest of the week.
began to try Islam out. I joined my Muslim neighbors
in the fasting of the month of Ramadan. That means I
didn't eat or drink between dawn and sunset. And
every evening we met to break the fast together.
Sometimes we even cooked together. An Egyptian
student by the name Mohamed turned out to be an
excellent cook. Mohamed took me aside some time in the
middle of the month and encouraged me to ask , so I
asked many questions and to each question he gave a
superb answer. In those Ramadan nights I also got the
opportunity to watch the prayers. And I tried to
imitate what I saw in the privacy of my home. I bowed
and prostrated. As I didn't know the words that are
said, I improvised by saing "Our heavenly father…" I
also began to reduce my consumption of alcohol and
pork. And once I even went for a walk in the city
wearing a scarf over my hair, just to try it out.
Finally I learned why the Palestinians in the student
homes put a bottle of water in the bathroom. For
Muslims it is normal to wash after using the toilet.
In Germany there are usually no hand showers or the
like installed in the bathrooms as there are in Muslim
countries. So a bottle of water had to do.
around me were wondering why I was interested in Islam
and the reality was that many of them weren't too
concerned with the Islamic regulations themselves.
Again and again I heard: "Of course I am Muslim. If I
would be living in my country, I would live according
to Quran. But here in Europe everything is
different. I am still young. I will have time enough
to be pious sometime in the future."
On the other
hand there were also few people that were trying hard
to live their faith properly. One of my neighbors in
the student homes belongs to this category. Mohamed,
the excellent cook during Ramadhan,had a Bachelors
degree in Biophysics from Egypt and had come to
Germany to do his doctorate degree. When I got to
know him he had been in Germany for 6 months only and
was still attending German language classes at
Islam, meant everything to him. He had already
acquired a broad knowledge on Islamic matters. Among
the Arabs in the student homes he was referred to as "Sheikh".A
nickname, that didn't seem to be fitting for a 24 year
old, sportive young man with curly black hair.
Mohamed himself didn't like the name. Once he told
me, the responsibility of it was too big for him.
everybody, who needed advice or help, came to the
"Sheikh". If a student needed a room, or if someone
needed to go to hospital or just wanted to sell his
used books they would all come to Mohamed.
In the beginning
our acquaintance developed kind of slowly, as Mohamed
tried hard to stand up to his image as a practicing
Muslim. He stayed away from any possible temptation.
And for a Muslim, women definitely belong in that
category. But soon his religious responsibility took
over. Is it possible to send someone away who is
interested in Islam?
To me he was
indeed an interesting person to talk to. Rarely had I
met someone as open minded as him. We spent our time
discussing Islam and the world; of course only at
"neutral" places..We learned a lot from each other in
that time and Mohamed became one of my most reliable
In the meanwhile
I had completely lost my interest in my economics
studies. Due to my poor efforts the last exams hadn't
turned out all too well and so I decided to study
Oriental Studies. I figured a good grade in this
subject would be more useful than a bad one in
economics. My studies were going a lot smoother.
Some credits from my economic studies could be
transferred for my new minor sociology. And the new
classes were so interesting to me. They offered a
whole lot of new subjects for discussions with
During this time
I finally began to support the Muslims. At university
I was more and more annoyed by the ironical way in
which Muslims were treated by non-Muslim Stuff. Still
I couldn't even imagine becoming Muslim myself. What
is good for Arab women isn't necessarily good for
German women. I thought to myself, how can a German
women live as a Muslimah? I did hear of such women,
but had never met anyone personally. At least that is
what I thought. Till shortly before spring break I
found out by chance, that one of the students in my
Arabic class was a German Muslimah.
It was still
winter and cold outside. Every time this woman left
the classroom, she pulled her long woolen scarf up
over her head. One day I asked her, if that had any
other reasons but the cold and she replied
Heide was a
teacher, married to a Muslim from the Lebanon. When
she became Muslim, she took the Islamic name Khadija.
She participated at the Arabic class to collect
credits for a graduate course in teaching foreigners.
From her I
learned that in our city there was an organization for
German speaking Muslim women. I accepted her
invitation to accompany her to one of the group
meetings. And from there on everything began to
change at high pace.
We agreed on a
day to go and Heide offered to give me a ride. So we
met in the city. This time Heide was wearing a "real"
headscarf that she had wrapped quite elegantly around
her head. I had brought a scarf with me as well. I was
getting a little nervous. How would I be welcomed as
a Non Muslim? What kind of women was I about to meet?
Heide comforted me and said that guests were always
welcome and there really wasn't any need for me to
wear a scarf.
Ex-Christian, Germany (part 4 of 4)
was still a quite new Muslim. Nevertheless she did
already know her way around the Islamic community in
our City. She used to do everything with full heart
and power. She was already being considered as a
teacher for an Islamic school. On our way to the
meeting she told me, what I had to expect:
consists of about 30 women of German and Turkish
origin. They meet once a week in the facilities of a
Turkish Islamic organization. The group leader,
Maryam, is a German Muslimah of about 50 years of
age. She has lived some years with her husband in
Turkey, where they both participated in a lot of
Islamic activities. Maryam, who by now is widowed,
does engage in Islamic activities in Germany as well.
She holds speeches on Islamic subjects and has founded
this women's group. During the meeting Maryam will
held a lesson on Islam, and then those women, who feel
like it, stay a little longer to chat. We bring tea
and cake along."
This week the
cake was Heide's turn. It took its time in the oven
and Heide had been a little late. So she was speeding
up. "Maryam isn't all too happy with people coming
late." Unfortunately we didn't find any free parking
space close to the building. So Heide just drove into
the yard. We were lucky. One of the parking cars was
just about to leave and a friendly man with Turkish
appearance gave us signals to help her get the car
into that free space.
The crowd was
fascinating for me. "All are going to the meeting?" Heide
laughed: "That would be nice." Of course not everyone
was going to the meeting. Heide explained to me, that
every weekend the place was that crowded, as the
Turkish organization held its own activities.
language meeting was held in a separate part of the
building. When we entered the hall, we were already
greeted tumultuous: "Hi, Khadija!" "How are you
today?" "Oh, did you bring one of your delicious
cakes?" "The others are in the kitchen!" "Maryam is
about to start the lesson!" Women with covered hair
and long dresses passed us. And again and again I
heard the Islamic greeting: "As-Salaamu Alaykum!" -
"May God protect you and give you security!"
I was included
in the friendly welcome and kissed on both cheeks.
Guests were welcome! The women thought it was great
that someone dared to enter the "lion's den" to see
for herself, what the Muslims are like. This meeting
appeared to be not only for German speaking Muslim
women, but also a contact group for women interested
in Islam. So I seemed to be at the right place.
We really were
late. The lesson started right away. Heide-Khadija
placed the cake in the kitchen, and then we entered
the lecture room. The long room was covered with gray
fitted carpet. There wasn't any furniture but a
little bookshelf at the wall. The women were sitting
in a circle on the floor. They had left their shoes
outside, as it is customary in mosques and Muslim
group leader, had placed several books in front of
her. She was a corpulent lady with bright blue eyes
that glanced friendly from under the simple white
scarf. This day she talked about the continuity of
history as documented in Qur'an. About the different
prophets, that all brought the same message over and
over. The lesson didn't contain too much news for
me. Islam recognizes most prophets of the Old and New
Testament. Some of the details of the stories differ,
but the basis thought is always the same. God sends
prophets to remind the people of his message.
to me than the lesson were the listeners, that more or
less concentrated followed the lecture. "Isn't it
surprising, that the message of God again and again
was forgotten?" For some of the women the information
seemed to be new. What surprised me? "In Qur'an there
is a chapter that puts the stories of the prophets
into an overall context. Who knows what chapter I am
talking about?" There were women of every age, many
of German origin, some Turkish girls, obviously still
at school that whispered in each other's ears and kept
leaving and reentering the room and this distracted
Maryam so she said: "If you don't want to listen, just
stay outside!" All women were covered. They were
wearing scarves in all colors and shades, simply tied
or elaborately wrapped, or decorated with lace. Some
had pulled the scarf down on the forehead. Others
were showing their hair. "Always when the people had
problems, they turned to God, and later they figured,
they wouldn't need Him anymore." Some women had
brought small children. One discovered the light
switch as a fun game and didn't want to play with
anything else. "Please, could someone take the child
away from that light switch?" Finally the mother took
the loudly protesting child into the kitchen, where he
discovered the cake, which kept him busy at least a
quarter hour. But when there came some phone calls
for several of the women and a Turkish girl wanted to
know how many cups tea and coffee she should prepare
and how long it would take till we'd finish, Maryam
had had enough. "We'll go on from here next week, and
now we'll have tea." So finally I got a chance to talk
to the women. They right away took me in. "After
all, we are all sisters." "Do you drink coffee or
tea?" "Have some cake!" "So, how did you like it?"
Soon we were in the middle of a lively conversation.
Of course everybody wanted to know, who I was, and
what brought me here to a Muslim meeting. Maryam
talked about how long it had taken her faith to grow.
"But I never have regretted my decision for Islam." Heide-Khadija
on the other hand hadn't known so much about Islam
when she became Muslim. But: "Till today I have been
only positively surprised." What had attracted her was
the "healthy Islamic way of life"; abstinence of all
kinds of drugs. Prayer and fasting as exercise for
body, mind and soul. Hygienic commands. All this
made sense to her as a teacher for biology and sport.
confirmed, that the regular prayers had done her back
a lot of good. And then she talked about her time in
Turkey and tried to explain to me Turkish history. A
subject I still don't know much about. At that time I
was hopelessly lost. On this day I got to know quite
a few women. And all told me their personal stories
about how they came to Islam.
Hamida after her
divorce had become friends with a Turkish couple and
on that way got to know and love Islam. Her
15-year-old daughter Nina had kept her Christian
religion, though not really practicing. She had
accompanied her mother to the meeting.
Fatima-Elizabeth, in her mid twenties, studying to
become a teacher, had some years ago worked on a
vacation job. She had worked in a factory side by
side with a German Muslima. Fatima-Elizabeth's family
was Catholic, both parents religious instructors.
They were quite shocked when they learned that her
daughter embraced Islam. The shock had faded away
during the last years and with goodwill on both sides
the living together worked out fine.
Fatima-Elizabeth's friend Sabine, a nurse, who came to
Islam through her husband, wasn't that lucky. Her
father rebuked her from the house because of her
headscarf. There were mothers, housekeepers,
students, a secretary, and a dental laboratory
assistant. The women were single, married, divorced.
Husbands if existent, came from Turkey, Lebanon,
Yemen, Morocco and other countries. Some women had
taken an Islamic name, others hadn't. Actually the
women had only one thing in common. And that was
their religion, Islam. But that seemed to fulfill
them, yes, to be the guiding line in their lives.
"Islam is the frame, in which we live."
That day I
learned two things. For one I discovered, that the
frame Islam sets isn't so narrow as I had expected.
There is no standardized Muslim. A Muslim is just a
person, who took a decision for God. These women had
embraced Islam. But they had stayed themselves.
And secondly I
realized for the first time, that you never finish
learning. Now I had met all these women that were so
faithful, though they didn't know "everything" there
is to know. Knowledge isn't all. The important thing
is to have firm belief.
"It was We Who
created man, and We know what suggestions his soul
makes to him: for we are nearer to him than (his)
jugular vein." (Quran 50:16)
Some weeks later
I took my personal decision for God and Islam. After
2-½ year of learning I embraced Islam. What finally
led me to this step was the thought: "If I die right
now and stand before God, how can I explain to Him,
why I haven't become Muslim?" When I couldn't come up
with a reasonable answer anymore, I decided on the
only logical thing to do and testified: "There is no
God worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is His