My name is Chearilea and this is my story.
Growing up it is clear that I was not surrounded by the knowledge of Islam. A lot of the information I received was negative and distorted by the media. I also had family members who had strong opinions on Islam and Muslims. Growing up with these opinions definitely has an impact on how you view the world and yourself, so I never regarded Islam as something I needed to pay attention to or care for. It wasn’t until I started to meet people from Islamic backgrounds where I began to develop an appreciation. I then began working when I was 16 and this was when many friendships began with Muslim women and I fell in love with how compassionate and caring they are for one another.
I remember being so interested in Ramadan and how they manage to fast each year and this made them stronger and more devoted to their faith. It was very admirable. It was amazing to be around so many women who placed their faith at the core of their lives. However I still didn’t see myself as becoming like these women I admired.
My parents separated when I turned 16. This impacted me quite a bit because it was a very messy separation and I didn’t see my father much. This took a toll on my mental health and I blamed myself a lot, I was very angry at everything. Having my job where I worked with these women helped me get through it because they supported me and showed me kindness when I needed it the most.
It wasn’t until university this year that I met so many new people and a few being Muslim that I became interested in Islam for myself. It wasn’t as easy as this however. Going to university, this was my first time away from home with my own rules and beginning adulthood. I began to drink a lot as this is what I thought was expected of adulthood. At this point Islam couldn’t have been further from my mind. I enjoyed drinking and going out with my friends or so I thought.
Drinking made me miserable, depressed and overall emotional. I have diagnosed depression and anxiety, so you can imagine that drinking would do such a detrimental thing. I began to hate a lot about myself and went through crisis after crisis. A friend encouraged me to look into Islam because it can help with how I’m feeling. At this point I didn’t take it seriously and in fact cried because I thought how can I become something I am so far from. It was so hard to embrace Islam because of the battles I was facing with myself and so I began to drink again and go out to distract myself from my messy life.
I then came back to the idea of Islam and I started to read an online version of the Quran. This is when I started to feel better, researching Islam gave me purpose. Even at this point I didn’t think I would convert but I enjoyed getting to know the religion and I found myself getting excited when talking about Islam with my friends.
I went home for the Christmas break last year (2019) and I was so excited to see my family. My mum was already aware that I was thinking about Islam but not in the detail I had been looking into. Christmas with my family was amazing, but I realised it wasn’t Christianity I admired it was the togetherness of family. For me Islam exclaimed the truth! With Islam I was able to piece together my life and understand the origins of everything and I hadn’t felt this way with Christianity. I celebrated Christmas with my family and I loved being with my mum because I had missed her so much being away at university.
A few days before I was to go back in the new year (2020) I called my friend and told her I had been thinking about Islam properly and I wanted to convert. She was shocked! I told her I had it on my mind for a while I just didn’t know how to explain it to anyone. She was so kind and told me that she was proud of me. I then began to tell some of my friends from my work and they were so happy, they asked me why I wanted to convert and I explained that I have never felt this feeling before, it was the feeling of purpose and I felt I had a reason to live. I said previously about my mental health issues that impacted my life, Islam gave it meaning. My friends encouraged me to learn more about Islam to see if this was the right religion for me. They told me to hold off converting as this is something that needs to be thoroughly thought through which is something I’d advise anyone thinking of converting as it’s so important to think about.
I agreed and even to this day I haven’t taken my shahada yet but Inshallah I will soon because I feel I’m ready to start this new chapter of my life, becoming the person my younger self would be proud of. I declare myself Muslim and I do wholeheartedly believe the message of the shahada, I just want to do it officially and learn more so I can pray. I can’t thank the people around me enough. They helped me understand the beauty and peace of Islam. I still get emotional at the mention of my story because it is one I have been on my entire life. It feels like every moment has lead up to this one and I am very proud of the path I am on Alhamdullilah. I’m far from perfect but with Islam I know I don’t need to be. Allah knows me for who I am. I learned that everything I have been through has made me who I am today through the power of Allah. Looking back, going to university and meeting new people opened my eyes to the beauty of Islam and I am so thankful Allah chose me to walk this path Alhamdullilah.
Update: I have since taken my shahada on the 22.4.2020 just in time for Ramadan! I completed my first fast yesterday and am doing my second today! Alhamdullilah!
Thank you for listening to my story!