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Mary Wildes (Shukran Wahida)
There are still a lot of people who take a biased stance and attitude against Islam. They claim that this religion derogates woman, deals with her unfairly, and restricts her freedom. However, the language of numbers belies their claim every day. When one sees that the number of women embracing Islam is far superior to that of men.
Mary Wilds is one of these statistical numbers, an English girl who has been born into a religious Catholic family. She lived and studied in a boarding school for nine consecutive years. She has spent all these years, under constant supervision of the nuns in the church. This long period of time spent in a religious environment hasn’t brought Mary and her peers any closer to religion. They doubted their religion assertion, and questioned the practicability. One cannot be convinced of a religion that is based on formalities and rituals, an empty structure void of any substance and divested of any conviction.
Mary left the school housing looking for an abode for her heart and something that will satisfy her religious hunger. She was looking for an explanation to the meaning of her existence in life. She was searching for the gist of religion and the wisdom in faith. To sum up, the experience about her quest she says: “I was looking for substantial answers in life. I have lived with Buddhists, Sufis, and various religious and political people of all shades. I have often tried and done my best to ascribe to their ways, but to no avail. None of those beliefs and ideologies has answered my questions or the needs I feel they are necessary to determine my goal in life.”
Mary faced a shocking material reality engulfing the entire western life, tinted with selfishness, cruelty and violence. She hated her world, even the beautiful things in it. Earth seemed constrained to her despite all its spaciousness. In Sura Ta-Ha, verse 124, Allah describes the state of such people: “But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a miserable life.”
Mary has been introduced to Islam through her studies in the department of Turkish and Persian Literature at Durham University. During that period, she has read numerous books about Islam written by Orientalist authors. She has also attended many lectures and symposia. However, nothing has opened the locks of her heart except the series of the Letters of Nur. These have been written by the Turkish erudite Badi Uzzaman Nawrasi, who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. His Letters have made an inroad to understanding the purpose of human existence. “We have learned the language of the Qur'an from Badi Uzzaman Nawrasi. He has taught us-through pure faith-in the Nur Letters, what is the universe? What is nature? What are we? Why are these large numbers of creatures? What are their functions? Why they were created? To what fate are they destined? He taught us why Islam is an integrated religion? It talks to the mind of man, his perceptions, his subtleties and emotions… we see through the creation to the names of the Great Creator, and the Compassionate Wise.”
Mary’s journey of meditation and revision wasn’t a short one. After three years, Mary turned the page on her Christian life, and chose Islam. “All praise is due to Allah, who guided me to this path, and blessed me with Islam. I have escaped that black hole, where I have been captive. It’s thanks to the support of some Muslim friends at the university, the veils shrouding my mind started to lift off gradually. With their patience with me and their encouragement, I kept on the road to recovery. At the end of these long (three) years, a new world began to blossom in front of me. I seemed full of meaning, significance and harmony.”
With the help of his colleagues, Dr. Faris Kaya, a professor of Mechanical engineering and Mary’s colleague during her university studies in England, have convinced her about Islam. They helped her get rid of what she calls “the creed’s dumbness.” With unshakable conviction, she happily and willingly embraced Islam. She called herself “Shukran Wahida” and married the Turkish preacher “Mohammad Fanange” a companion of Sheikh Said Nawrasi in his struggle journey.
Quickly, Islam brought a dignified luster to her life, and touched her with its breathtaking beauty. “My previous life has been a journey downward. I was sinking lower and deeper into an abyss of darkness. I have been engulfed in misery, despair, and a sense of loneliness and alienation. Today I see myself -and the people around me-that we are armed with implement that will help us achieve the happiness in this life; as well as lead us to an eternal and everlasting happiness.”
Shukran wanted to give back some of the favors of the erudite Nawrasi. She has decided to take up residence in his country of birth, where she began translating his books and letters to benefit those who are seeking the truth. She has penned a book about Nawrasi titled it “The Author of the Nur Letters.” She has also written, “Islam, the West and Us.” Last but not least, she has recorded the chronology of the most prominent features of her journey to guidance in “My journey from the Church to the Masjid, Why?”
In her books, Shukran talked about her old religion, Christianity. She reminded her readers to the authenticity of monotheism in Christ’s teachings. Furthermore, she said that the Church, which considers itself a representative of Christ, has contradicted its beliefs and teachings. Therefore, the Church, out of fear of being exposed, has been forced to tighten its grip on the intellectual movement, and to prevent scientific advancement. It has also thwarted any attempts of knowledge development. All this has been achieved through its control over the cultural and intellectual life in Europe, since it has considered the calls for reform an abominable heresy.
Shukran responded to an anticipated question that may cross the mind of her readers. These will allege that contemporary Western civilization and technical expertise are part of some Christian intellectual creativity. Such claims are absurd. They would come only from those who do not know Europe’s history during the iron rule of the Church before the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Development and advancement took off after Europe escaped the clutch of the church and its vague religion. Europe took refuge to its ancient heritage of the Greco-Roman civilization. As Shukran pointed out Europe has derived new materialistic values and a philosophy based essentially on power, violence and egotism. Christianity, Europe’s religion at that time has been unable to provide them with any substantial additional morality. Although it has influenced its followers’ individual behavior, it hasn’t encompassed the collective values of the community.
Shukran Wahida, the Muslim western woman, took upon herself to enlighten her own people about Islam and its truths that encounter wide walls preventing its arrival to Westerners. One of the handicaps facing the spread of Islamic faith is the stereotyped image about it. They call it the “religion of the sword.” These thick curtains have been made -in the past- by the State and the Church to protect their interests and gain control. And for the same reason, the Orientalist enterprise, which is connected to colonialism, developed this concept. And with constant hammering, they succeeded in making tremendous breakthroughs into the occident psyche. Western mentality has been duped by Orientalist studies and research under pseudo-scientific claims of objectivity and impartiality.
Shukran doesn’t deny the negative role of Muslims that undermine their religion. Their behavior cements this erroneous perception in western mind. The conducts of the whole Muslim society, as well as individuals have compelled others to believe that our actions in the East and in the West as true telling. No sooner an event happens in any Muslim country; it will be broadcasted worldwide fast. Media outlets will compete to show the wretched images and pictures about Muslims and their religion in a flash.
Shukran said that Orientalist studies had given the position of women in Islam great importance. They have used their tactics and tricks to put off people from Islam’s legislation. They have meddled into a topic of women to which they have no inkling about. Social and cultural life in the west has been burdened with false claims about the alleged oppression of women in Islam. Their propaganda has been and still is the most significant barriers and obstacles that divided Westerners and Islam. How could a westerner believe in Islam with a head filled with misconception about it? In his head has nestled images of Muslim women captive and humiliated the way they falsely claim. These images are based on the alleged denigration of women in Islam, and her marginalization vis-avis to man. It is an act of contempt to her being. Shukran has lived as both a Westerner and Muslim woman. She sees an inverse picture; say, if you like: She sees the proper image without enhancement or make-up. «The reality of the woman in the West is very sad. Her role has been deactivated at home, and her femininity destroyed. She has become a victim of Western society. This system is based on exploiting women’s bodies for the purposes of advertising and publicity. It’s, however, that such transformations and developments have been portrayed as steps toward progress and the emancipation of women... The woman, in contrast, has been deceived and exploited badly. Their calls are not for the liberation of women, but for their enslavement. Hence, what they claim is in total violation of their nature; they represent absolute independence and free rein to desire without questions and accountability. »
In contrast to this humiliating situation of women, Shukran sees the Qur’an taken into account-in its legislation and provisions-woman’s femininity, mission and nature. Her house isn’t jail. It's her kingdom where the education of her children takes place. She is the maker of a useful generation. Her decent Islamic clothing is her protective armor against insatiable men and their desire to exploit her as a toy of excitement and entertainment. Shukran considers this to be the vilest types of insult to women. It is an affront to her dignity and disrespect and trivialization of her role, and killing of her character. However, it is above all a gross violation of her privacy. Shukran has always been wondering, what the western woman has achieved with the freedom and dignity she has acquired. She has been bared and stripped of any decency; a vulgar sex object exhibited in galleries like shoes and furniture shown in a shopping center’s window.
Furthermore, Shukran concludes that the West deals with human being, woman or man-away from his innate nature. Therefore, men and women have been carried away from this particular trait. They have involved women in affairs and issues contradictory to her nature. They have done so with man also, when they engaged him in issue contrary to his character. It is –so says Shukran- an abnormal, contradictory and temporary situation. It is a natural outcome; that after a journey of misery, man will undoubtedly return to the nature to which has Allah has prepared him for. Allah says in Sura Fatir, verse 43 the following: “But no change wilt thou find in Allah's way (of dealing): no turning off wilt thou find in Allah's way (of dealing).”
For these reasons, Shukran warns about plots hatched against women in the so-called (women's conferences and freedom). She sees in it as the « poisoned cup. Pour it on the ground, and pour a pail of water over it. It's an evitable doom that man walks in the wasteland without a guiding compass», Distal and proximal knew that the liberalization of women means only in substance lawlessness and a search for pleasure that will destroy the meanings of life in its wake. It will include individuals, families and communities. At the end, it will become a senseless nihilistic thrill involving fallacy, folly, and deviation.
We congratulate our sister Shukran that God has given deep insight, a heart drenched in light and uprightness of thought. We implore Allah to grant her and us steadfastness on Islam.
Dr. Munqith Bin Mahmoud Al-Sakkar
Researcher at Muslim World League
Translated by Sadok Salehi
Translator at Muslim World League