Tony Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth, broadcaster and journalist converts to Islam
Interview of Lauren Booth:
I thank Allah (swt) for giving me the chance to spend a month with the greatest Muslims alive in this Ummah today.
At the end of Ramadan, I went to a family home in Rafa one of the poorest refugee camps in the poorest areas, of the over populated city in the entire world. I had iftar with a family there who had about sixteen mats which were used at night to sleep on. In the middle of this tent area the mother places the meal if she has any for her children to eat.
This lady greeted me at the door and it was as if she was welcoming me to the Taj Mahal not a hell hole in the Gaza strip,"Sallam alaykum! she says" with a smile that light up the whole area. I asked her: "What is it like in Rafa at Ramadan with very little food?" She said: "Alhamdulillah!" with such joy I couldn't help but smile. And as I sat there on the floor of this home eating what little leaves that they had; a bit of hummus, a pita bread that was our Iftar.
I got angry; really angry! I thought what is this God that makes hungry people even hungrier? What is this God who creates a fast for the poorest of the oppressed people in the world. So, I turned to this sister and I said: " With all due respect I want to ask you, why does your God starve you in Ramadan? Why do you fast in Ramadan...sister, just explain to me? This lady who never owed a hand bag, whose children didn't have, never have shoes. Whose children I was sitting with didn't have pen or paper to do any drawings, she said to me: "Sister we fast in Ramadan to remember the poor" and a key went to my heart and unlocked it.
But of course Islam wasn't for me that was for somebody else so I put the thought of how great Islam was to one side and said so what I like the Palestinian people but it has nothing to do with Islam.
Then last year in Ramadan again I went to Iran as a journalist and I visited a mosque there, it's the Bibi Fatima Mosque and I made wadu because I knew how to do it and I put on a shadur and I made a simple prayer: Allah and I used the word Allah. "Allah don't give me anything. I have everything. Thank you for this journey, but Allah don't forget the people of Palistine." Then I sat down in this busy mosque with women feeding their children, pilgrams coming and going but when I sat down this emense feeling of peace came over me. Peace and tranquility that I never knew before, such a calm that the tention in my heart went, such a calm that the list we have, mothers we have a lists I a must do my children school list: have I got enough for next week. There was no sound in my head for the first time in my life as an adult just deep deep joy and calm. I sat there for a long time in this place of calm knowing that somewhere in the universe everything is like this. Over the course of that evening women kept coming over to me holding me by the shoulders and saying: "I love you." At one point a child came over and held my hand and just said in farsi: "I love you." I said to my friend Nadia, "Is this what it is like in the mosque?" She said, "Not really. I think something is happening."
I slept that night on the floor of the mosque with alot of other pilgrams and the next morning, Fajir sounded and I was inside the mosque and I prayed Fajir. Then I came outside and I had a cup of chai and the sun was coming up and I had one very specific thought. "O, no... not Islam, please not Islam."
I just want to say that a couple of strange things happened to me after that. I took the plane back to London from Tehran. As the plane was coming into London the pilot said: "Thank you for flying Tehran airways we'll be in London in 20min." and at that point every Iranian Muslima took off the hijab and made out like she was from Sex in the City even showing some cleavage. I thought great thank goodness, I could take off this stupid scarf and I went like this and my hands wouldn't take off the hijab. My hands wouldn't take off the hijab and I thought I was having a nervous break down.
Seven days later I said my Shahada in a London mosque and it was time for me to return to the Quran. This time I opened the Quran in Surah Al Fatiha said: Hello Sarah where have you been, welcome to the religion of peace, joy and tranquility and I couldn't put it down. Someone once told me and I feel much like that before Islam I had given up on God but God never gave up on me. Alhamdullillah.
The question everyone wants to know is how did your family or children react. My 2 daughters who are very practical made a list they are 8 and 10. They went and made a list and had 3 questions for me.
1-Mummy when your a Muslim willl you still be mummy?
I said: When I am a Muslim you know what, I will be a better mummy, they said: "Horrayyy!!"
2-Mummy will you drink alcohol?
When I am a Muslim I will never drink alcohol again and they said "Horrayyy!!"
3-When your a Muslim will you show your chest?
I said why would you ask such a question? They said when you come to the school and your chest is showing we are embarressed and we hate it and we want you to stop it.
When I am a Muslim I will cover all this area and to which they said: "we love Islam."
It was that easy. When you look at those 3 questions the basic female womanhood is summarized in those 3 quesions from the purity of children.
Question #1 will you be the center of our household? Can we rely on you as a mother to be there for us rather then putting your work, your colleagues/friendships or the bar in front of us?
Question #2 will you remain in the limits that Allah has discribed for all of us in behavior?
Question #3 will you be a modest dignified woman in Islam?
Alhamdulillah that is all I have to say. What I have learnt this year in being a Muslim is this, when you have problems don't tell to your friends or family ...if you can read the Quran every night or read 10 min. everyday your Imaan is much much higher. If you live in a non-Muslim country those of us who do it can go very low very quickly, you must read the Quran. Most of all your just not on the path of Islam if you come to Islam like me, if you're a Muslim you are on the path as well so make sure that you don't miss those signs in everyday life.
All praise is to Allah (swt).
This article is a translation of an interview. To listen to the entire interview, please click here.