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Truth struck me like lightning

Zahra Baintner is a German woman who traversed a turbulent phase of life to finally embrace Islam. In this second of her three-part story, Baintner says she was not lucky enough to be born in a Muslim community.

ON my way back home from school I was so shaken that I hardly knew where I was going. On one hand it seemed that Islam was the solution to all the spiritual perplexities I was confronted with, but on the other hand there was the extremely negative image of Islam, which is so prevalent in the west, which was also engraved in my mind. Back then, I was yet too young, too immature to distinguish right from wrong, guidance from error, truth from untruth, or even feeling the need to do so. After some time this upheaval lost its force and I again tried to find solace in praying to Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the countless ‘saints.’ Things, however, did not seem to be the same anymore, and slowly but steadily I distanced myself from my objects of adoration.
A couple of months later, in January 1992, triggered by what now seems to be a very trivial incident, truth struck me like lightning and I suddenly knew that I must become a Muslim, no matter what might happen. It happened thus that in the five minute break between the classes, a Turkish (read Muslim) friend of mine had shown a few pictures taken at a religious function of her younger brother. Seeing these snaps, showing her family so strangely serene and at peace with themselves instantly brought back memories of the glimpses of truth I had seen in that film not too long ago and which had stirred me so much.
At that time it was most probably not clear thinking which led to my decision of becoming Muslim, which I had made then and there in the classroom, still sitting on my chair. It seemed as though someone had taken hold of the very collar of my shirt, dragging me along, leaving me no time to rethink, consider or analyze the step I was about to take. I was too shaken to pay attention during the next forty-five minutes. The only thing I had on my mind was to talk to this Turkish friend of mine as soon as possible.
When classes were finally over I got hold of her and told her about my decision. She was greatly surprised, to say the least. However after having recovered from the first shock she was very helpful, advising me to first visit the little mosque in our town, to talk to the imam there, to read some Islamic literature, then, after having understood the basic principles and after accepting them from the bottom of my heart, she said I should make my final decision. She also expressed her pleasure at my interest in Islam, telling me that she will be there for me whenever I need her. She further told me also to talk to my mother, to take her permission and to ensure that I would not face any resistance from that side. I thanked her for her help and we parted.
On my way back I was almost bursting with excitement. I could hardly wait to talk to my mother, whom I hoped, no, rather expected to be as jubilant as I was. (This expectation of mine was not based on any factual evidence, as I had never heard any positive remarks from her about Islam or Muslims, at best she had passed some joking remarks, but since I had not yet regained the ability to think clearly, I was excusable.) When I was home at last, I rushed to the telephone to call my mother and to share my emotions with her. The telephone was probably not the right means to convey news of this kind, nor had I chosen the most opportune time, but I simply could not wait for her to come back home in the evening. Immediately after greeting her I burst out ‘Mammy, I want to become Muslim!’
There came no reply for what seemed to me like an eternity. My mother was not able to believe what she had just heard. After somewhat having gained her composure she asked me to repeat what I had said. I did, and against all hopes of mine, I had to face my mother’s fury. She was indeed fuming and fretting, questioning my sanity, lamenting her fate, calling me an ungrateful and stupid brat and so forth, and she would have most probably throttled me, had we not talked on phone but face to face. After this initial outburst she wanted to know the reason for my decision, but as I attempted to explain, she again was enraged. This time her anger was directed against Islam and Muslims.
She gave me the ugliest descriptions of Islam, of its being a false religion glorifying bloodshed, cruelty and war, of Muslim men being lecherous and perverted terrorists, of Muslim women having no rights at all, in short, whatever she said was nothing but a reiteration of the mean lies spread by the western media. Thereafter she broke into tears and hung up. I felt desperate and very, very helpless. Desperate because my mother’s reaction was so completely different from what I had expected and helpless because at that time I had no concrete knowledge to give a suitable reply to her objections, I merely felt that these stereotypes were simply not true.

( To be continued next week)

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