Indrani and Chandara, Ex-Hindu, Singapore (part 1 to 3)
Heralding New Muslims:
A Personal Account
Of Revert Muslim:
A Hindu girl marries a pious
assistant of a swami, but one who later looks to other
religions for enlightenment.
By Muneerah Al-Idros (Interviewer)
and Chandara, Ex-Hindu, Singapore (part 1 of 3)
(previously known as Indrani) and her husband, Brother
Rafiq (previously known as Chandara) shared with
Sister Muneerah Al-Idros, their path toward embracing
Indrani was 6
years old when her father died. Her mother stopped
praying as she felt that god had been unfair to make
her a widow with 5 little children. Indrani and here
brothers and sisters were brought up as nominal
Hindus. They had neither an altar nor pictures of
gods in their house, as many Hindus do.
When Indrani was
10 years old she began to love god. She collected
pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses and worshipped
them at home. She felt the need to pray and thought
it was odd that, unlike other Hindu families, her
family performed few Hindu rites.
teenage years, Indrani started going to temple thrice
weekly. She encouraged some of her friends to go to
the temple with her, as she quickly became more
interested in Hinduism.
in bhajanai (devotional singing) activities and became
a committee member in Ayyapan Group in Perumal Temple
for several years.
One day, Indrani
became very ill. She consulted several doctors but
was informed that there was nothing wrong with her.
However, her illness persisted. She later consulted a
Swami (a Hindu priest) so that he would clear the
sevanai (evil spirits) that she suspected were
dwelling inside her. The Swami and his assistant came
to visit her. The assistant was Chandara, who was
involved in her temple's religious rites, and who had
also organized religious trips to Malaysia for Indrani
and her friends.
Indrani was very
impressed with the knowledge the young man
demonstrated while assisting the swami.
visit, Chandara dreamt of his favorite goddess,
Kaliamma, telling him to take Indrani as his bride.
After much persuasion, his family asked for Indrani's
hand in marriage. Indrani and her family were
pleasantly surprised by the marriage proposal.
Indrani could not believe that her dreams of marrying
a pious Hindu had come true.
Chandara was brought up in a religious Hindu family.
On top of that, Chandara was the most religious in his
family. He would often slip into a trance, reciting
the holy mantras in praise of the gods and goddesses
who would [supposedly] possess him and speak through
him. In Hinduism, it is considered an honor to be
possessed by the gods or goddesses.
other members of the group often got together to
listen to the teachings of the swami. They would also
make house visits to chase evil spirits out of other
people's houses and bodies. This is how Chandara was
appointed to be the swami's assistant.
never entered into a trance but had seen Chandara
[supposedly] being possessed by the elephant god,
Vinayagar. Chandara would behave exactly like an
elephant, eating the fruits that the elephant ate.
When in a
trance, Chandara would be approached to solve
problems. Those who approached him would prostrate
before him, for they regarded him as "God". The
vibuthi (white ashes) used to anoint the forehead
would be brought to Chandara to be blessed.
this, Chandara did not feel complete. Dissatisfied,
he knew there was something not right in his life. He
failed to see the light and always felt that his path
was blocked by some kind of darkness which he wanted
to clear so he could reach the light. He knew that
were 3360 Hindu gods and he prayed to several of them.
Whenever he felt
confused, he would go to the library to find out more
about Hinduism. He learned from the elders but knew
there was still a lot more to learn. Many of the
Hindu priests did not want to share everything that
they knew; knowledge was their rice bowl, and they did
not want their source to be taken away.
It was difficult
to learn on your own about Hinduism, as most of the
writings were in Sanskrit. Chandara could not find
any holy books that satisfied his quest. All the
books were written by different authors and each of
them had different ideas about how and when Hinduism
started. Even the Bhagavat Geeta (which emphasized
more on Vishnu), Ramayana and Mahabrahta were very
limited. These holy scriptures were more literature
books, teaching that we should do good and pray to the
gods. Above all these gods is the female god, who is
the Aadhi Parasakhti. She controls the whole
universe. The essence of Hinduism is to strive at
getting a good reincarnation and to worship God and to
pray to God through demigods.
search for enlightenment, Chandara was approached by a
Christian missionary worker in Toa Payoh. He got
involved in Christianity in the hope of
enlightenment. However, he did not like Christianity,
mainly due to the behavior of the people in the
church; he noticed that young men and women were
behaving indecently. Christianity was not what he was
looking for and he withdrew.
and Chandara, Ex-Hindu, Singapore (part 2 of 3)
could no longer bring himself to pray to so many
gods. He could worship only one God spiritually and
worship the other idols physically, but he did not
know who the One God was. Chandara occasionally still
got into a trance.
curious Malay friends asking him about Hindu worship.
They did not tell him about Islam but they told him
that unlike him they pray to one God: God.
was the leader among his working mates, would go along
with Malays when they performed their Zuhr prayer,
waiting while they prayed. At the same time, he would
pray to God in his heart, and ask for the right path.
very impressed with the adhan, which had a soothing
effect on this. The adhan touched his heart so
deeply, especially when it was followed by the prayer
that his friends and other Muslims never failed to
fulfill. He felt like it was so simple to recognize
the true God. "Just worship him. Why does one need
all these idols and mediators?" It did not take long
before he felt it was Islam and God that he had been
marriage, his wife Indrani was still quite active in
her temple activities. She became puzzled when her
husband, a more pious Hindu than herself, used to hint
repeatedly at the existence of one Almighty God, about
praying to one God and that a true religion should not
have many gods. Her mother-in-law felt that her
previously pious son might have offended the gods.
marriage, Chandara continued his search for
enlightenment. He was trying to search for his One
God in Hinduism, trying to know the One God he was
praying to spiritually. He was no longer interested
in any of the temple activities, no longer got into a
trance. His mother, while in a trance, pointed out
that her son's change in behavior was due to his being
under a charm.
Chandara did not
know anything about Islam except that in Islam, God is
One. He would meditate daily and Uthrachamale (…
rosary) Usually, he would be chanting the various
god's names. However, this time when he called out
their names he felt something was wrong so he just
said in English, "Almighty God, Almighty God..." In
his meditation, he knew Muslims are praying to the
biggest problem in practicing Islam was Indrani. She
didn't like Muslims and was active with her temple
activities. He tried to influence his wife on the
teachings of Islam by turning on to the Malaysian
Islamic programmed on televisions, like "Pedoman."
Indrani would complain that it was not necessary for
her husband to take so much interest in Islam. He
took this opportunity to express to her that he no
longer believed in Hinduism, reasoning that it does
not have a holy book and a basis of belief. Failing
to find out how Hinduism started it merely seemed a
culture full of complexity brought down by their
He bought a
translation of the Quran by Yusuf Ali and was deeply
impressed when he read about the Prophets, of the
beginning of mankind and of heaven and hell. He found
many things that are necessary for every human bring
to know and he encouraged Indrani to read it. When he
read that idol-worshippers will be thrown to hell, he
had all the idols and pictures removed from their
concentrated on learning more about Islam from various
sources. He tried to learn more about Islam from his
Malay friends. However, they usually could not give
him answers to his questions. They suggested that he
should seek help from … a religious teacher).
bringing home books on Islam, as well as on
Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism, telling his wife
to read and make a comparison of these religions.
Indrani was not interested she was very satisfied with
her belief and with Hinduism. She told herself that
there no way he could influence her with his idea of
One Almighty God and swore in her heart that she would
bring him back to her way.
Indrani had no
intention of reading the books her husband brought
home. Yet when she had trouble sleeping at night,
something made her pick up the Quran and read it.
Again and again, when she could not sleep, it was the
Quran that she picked up and read. She felt so lost
because since her husband removed the Hindu deities
from their home, she could no longer pray to them.
Indrani began to
have dreams. During her first pregnancy, she dreamt
of the Kaaba. She related her dream to one of her
Muslim colleagues, who the related Indrani's dream to
her father. He told her that she was fortunate to
have dreamt of the Kaaba.
and Chandara, Ex-Hindu, Singapore (part 3 of 3)
She also dreamt
of Hindu gods giving her warnings and threats but she
had more dreams about Islam and pious Muslims. She
continued to pray to Hindu idols, but wondered about
her dreams. When she was expecting her third
daughter, she had another strange dream. She heard a
voice coming from the open window of the bedroom
window. The voice said, "I am Muhammad, the Messenger
of God. Follow my way and all evil will go away. If
you want to know more, ask your husband."
She awoke after
this dream but fell asleep again. She had a second
dream. In this dream, she saw herself telling her
husband about her first dream. She asked him what the
"way" was and he told her to look out the window.
When she did, she saw Yusuf Islam dressed like an Arab
giving a talk on Islam, surrounded by other people
dressed like him. Indrani had never seen Yusuf Islam
before but she had heard of him. Somehow, in her
dream, she knew it was him.
These dreams had
a very strong impact on Indrani's belief. She became
increasingly drawn toward Islam and wanted to follow
the way of Muhammad, the Messenger of God, may the
mercy and blessings of God be upon him. She recalls
that she wanted to accept Islam, but was afraid as she
was expecting her third child. She feared something
would befall her baby as she thought of the threats
the Hindu deities had made in her dream. After her
delivery, Indrani told her husband that she was ready.
They were told
about Dar-ul Arqam - The Muslim Converts' Association
of Singapore, where they could register their
reversion to Islam. Chandara initially refused as he
thought Dar-ul Arqam was affiliated to [another
strange organization]. They went to Jamiyah (Islamic
Theological Society of Singapore) instead, and
registered their names as Mohamed Rafiq and Nishani.
announced their reversion, they encountered many
problems. This was especially so when Indrani started
wearing the hijab. Their parents, siblings, relatives
and friends who used to hold them dear, now chided
them. All the friends Indrani guided to Hinduism now
refused to have anything to do with her, for fear that
she may succeed in bringing them to Islam. They were
especially surprised because Indrani used to dislike
Muslims more than they did. Indrani's parents warned
her that her husband must have a hidden interest in
having more than one wife.
Indrani and her
husband, ostracized by their parents, missed the
affection they previously received from them. Indrani
repeatedly told herself that since God loves her so
much, the sacrifice she was making in losing her
family was nothing. She knows that no one loves her
more than God Himself.
and gurus tried to bring Chandara back to Hinduism but
he turned them down politely. They then severed their
relationship with him. Indrani's family swore to see
that he children Nisha, Nafeesa and Natasha be brought
back to Hinduism when they grow up, refusing to
acknowledge their grandchildren's Muslim names. The
children, now studying at the Madrasah (Islamic
school), are very pleased with their religion.
Chandara encourages them to wear the hijab, even
though they are still young, with the intention of
getting them used to veiling. The parents observed
that the children like the hijab so much that they
themselves refuse to remove it.
rejected by their families, Indrani and Chandara never
gave up trying to improve their relationship with
them. Today, both Indrani's and Chandara's mothers
have expressed that they have a filial son and a
filial daughter. Alhamdulillah [All praise is to God].