Our sister’s name is Anh Nguyen.
She works in the finance sector. When working in Sydney, she receives a call from her husband who at the time was in Melbourne. “I found what we are looking for. You must come to Melbourne immediately.” In her own words, she was employed in the position of her dreams. From the excitement in her husband’s voice, she realises that he has found something that would allow them to understand and live Islam, which until that time had been explained as comprising of only a rulebook of lawful and unlawful actions. She resigns from her position and moves to Melbourne. Answers are given to both her and her husband. She is overwhelmed; this is what she has been looking for: The Risale-i Nur. We caught up with her for an interview after one of our weekly english classes where we first met. She explains her story of becoming a Muslim and Risale-i Nur student for readers of Yeni Asya…
Can you speak about how you were introduced to Islam?
I was introduced to Islam when I was in University and was studying my undergraduate degree and then I was introduced to the concept of God by a Christian group so I started to go to the Church and became involved in a lot of discussion surrounding the concept of God and it was when I met quite a number of students at university who were Muslim and I started hanging out with them and talked to them and asked them a lot of questions and one day one person actually told me that if I wanted to know the answer read the Quran and so I was given the Quran. I started reading it.
How was your experience of reading the Quran?
It was really hard because the translation of the Quran was not easy to understand but having said that I think God was really merciful towards me because I read a lot of bible stories before I read the Quran so I had some background knowledge, first of all. Second of all, I was given a lot of advice, for example to start from the smaller chapters then going on to the longer chapters and I was given quite a lot of support from my friends at university back then. For example back then at any time I could call them up and ask question and they were actually happy to meet up or just answer my questions.
How did you come to decide to become a Muslim?
It was just natural. It was not an easy decision, but thinking about it, it is not like, “Oh my God this is going to change my life!” It was pretty natural. I had been reading and researching and trying to know who God is. And one day it felt like it was full to the brim and it just happened. That’s why I think it happened very naturally and it was just a very logical step and I was in the right place at the right time.
How did your friends and family react to you becoming Muslim?
Not very positively. My parents still think that I made all the wrong decision s in my life because when I converted to Islam. Actually, let me word that more accurately: My parents think I am the perfect daughter except for the fact that I converted to Islam and then my sister converted. But having said that, because I am much more mature now in my approach to life and I actually started to become much closer to my parents and they see who I am. They have begun to become looser now. But at the start it was not something that they totally welcomed.
Did you feel any difference in yourself later on in the years compared with when you first became Muslim?
Yeah, of course. I always tell people that for me there were almost two conversions-two salvations for me in Islam. The first one was when I accepted Islam but to be honest at that time even though I was given a lot of knowledge, in that my friends could answer my questions, I felt it was always at a very basic level and I thought a lot of the law in Islam at that point because I was not really ready to embrace the practicality side of it. Becoming a practicing Muslim was really hard for a convert. So for a while I started to look at the practice of the Muslims surrounding me and actually question everything. Not question God but question the practices. I felt that it was so hard to be a Muslim in this world, I felt like I had to give up everything. My parents were not Muslim and then I felt like if I started to wear the hijab the way that was decreed I would not be able to find a good job which at that time was really important for me and so slowly doubts would creep in and it was really really hard to find our way back on track. That was when we were introduced to the Risale-i Nur. I think that it was everything we were looking for because we were searching for a form of Islam that we could practice and something based on understanding rather than blind faith. The Risale-i Nur is like a second salvation for me, as it actually brought me back to Islam and allowed me to embrace my faith in Islam and to really, actually be part of it, unlike before. Pre-Risale-i Nur, when I did not understand Islam properly, I would not actually tell people that I was Muslim. It was really that hard, because of all these misconceptions of people looking at me and thinking she is Muslim, she is weird. But after I understood who I am, through Risale-i Nur and opened up for me the way to understand Islam in a broad way. It made me very happy and comfortable with who I am as a Muslim and also searching for that identity a lot more.
What are the most important elements of the Risale-i Nur for you?
That’s a hard question. Because the Risale-i Nur is so comprehensive I feel that the way it equips me with a reasoning process and an understanding of faith and compassion, it is a very expansive approach so that I find that it can answer every question that I have about life which is really important. And that is what Islam is about. It is not one part that is particularly more important but I find that everything in the way it touches me is very very important.
Why do you think it is so significant for people to read the Risale-i Nur?
It is the safest and broadest way at the moment. For example in the Risale-i Nur it compares itself to the path of the sufi way. Throught the heart and the imagination and that can be highly dangerous in this day and age because there are so many conflicting ideas and arguments in this world. If you just rely on one path it is really dangerous. The Risale-i Nur is the broadest path, it equips you with belief in this world and it is actually the path of reality so you see this world and nature and you live as active members of your community and world. Because Muslims are meant to be the light of this world. The Risale-i Nur actually equips us to do that. It actually touches on the very fundamentals of Islamic understanding and Islamic practice in today’s age. We are confident Muslims today, if we do not have that knowledge and confidence we will become very much like some of the extreme Muslim groups where they deny everything such as Allah’s gift of the modern world, and one can become very negative and not participate in this world. The Risale-i Nur leads the positive way.
Interviewers: Nilufer Okur and Hayrunnisa Okur
For Turkish: Risale-i Nur benim için ikinci kurtuluştu