The Pathfinding.

I woke up one day and I told myself, none of this makes any sense.

My grandparents were religious, at least my grandma was. She taught me a lot of stuff about Christianity. She was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran church. My great grandparents were a part of the Pentecostalism (Awakening) movement, and they were really radical. As for my grandfather, he never was actually religious, he was an atheist, he taught me to think always about whatever I’m told, and never take anything plainly as it is. I’m forever thankful for what he taught me, it came in so handy later on, it’s one of the reasons I found the right path.

My early years have been mostly around my grandparents and of course around my parents as well. I love them so much. And despite the differences between the characters of both of my grandparents, one being a religious Christian whilst the other is a doubting atheist, they never had any conflicts. He never stood against her beliefs and she never questioned his atheism.

She taught me how to pray, how to cross my hands in the evening before going to bed, staring with dear god, following with what my heart told me to say, ending it up with blessings to all creatures I knew basically, even my hamster, because my grandmother taught me to respect all animals, because despite they’re just animals, they still give us a lot.

I used to visit them a lot, I used to play with dolls with my grandmother, but it was different with my grandfather.

He always read bible to me when I visited, despite he was an atheist. He criticized some of the verses himself, for what he saw contradicting with other sources he read. He also always asked me what do I think about it, but what did I know, I was only 10 years old.

I asked him once, why did he read the bible whole 3 times even though he did not believe in it, his answer to me was that he wanted to know how to argue with those who claim its truthfulness, also because his parents were radical Christians, so he had no chance to ask nor to question anything.

I remember back in the day when I was 5 years old kid, my parents sent me to this one Christian preschool, I guess I was not preRy much liked there to be honest, I was considered to be, somehow, an outcast. You may be wondering why would a five years old kid feel like an outcast, why would anyone treat a child as so, and the answer is, I had too many questions, and they gave too few answers and some of these answers were just “be quiet”. I remember well that tree, how can I forget such memory, but it was unlike any other tree that comes to your mind. At the beginning of any school day, there was that cardboard tree hanging on the wall, with green leaves carrying all of our names on it, those who behaved well had their names hanging up there, and as for my name, it was almost all the time at the boRom of that tree, with the brown fallen leaves, because I had questions, a lot of them. to them, it felt like I was misbehaving. They always sent me to the “thinking carpet” to “think” about what I’ve done, but I never did actually, because I knew so well that asking questions was never a wrong act to do, at least that’s what my grandfather taught me, he told me “if you don’t know something, then just ask, or remain clueless forever”, but they just had no answer, so punishment was their only way.

2 years later I started school, and trust me when I tell you it wasn’t the brightest period of my life. The school back then was full of Laestadians who bullied me, a lot, just because I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t follow what they were following, I did not believe in their beliefs. They called me witch, they called me the daughter of the devil, and other magical nicknames, just because I was different. They kept threatening me that I’ll be thrown into a sea of fire for eternity. As stupid as it sounds, as a kid I actually got scared, and I took it seriously since I actually believed in god, and I couldn’t really know if they were right and I’m just wrong.

Until one day, my sister actually defended me against one of those boys. She happened to be there once when there was another boy trying to push me down the stairs, calling me names and bullying me, so, she just went to him, and just like Bruce Lee in one of his movies, she punched him straight to his face, telling him that if she ever hears him saying or doing anything to me, it will get even uglier. To be honest, that gave me some sort of a moral boost, I got some confidence, and later on I tried to stand up for myself and boy oh boy did I nail it. A kid, one time after, tried to bully me by calling me a witch, so I went to him and threatened to set him on fire while he’s asleep at night with my magical psychic powers. He actually believed it, and never again did he harass me.

Are you familiar with the movie Hunger Games? If so, you will like what I’m about to tell you. Few years later, I got 15 years old, and it was time for me to attend “Confirmation Classes/Camp” and if you are not familiar with those, let me explain to you the purpose of those classes. It’s a 6 months period classes, followed by a camp at the end of it, and then the true confirmation lastly. But what does the word “Confirmation” mean you may wonder. It’s a about what’s taught in these classes, they taught us things about life, faith, Evangelical Lutheran Church, marriage, testimony of faith (which was very long but we had to memorize it nevertheless), some specific hymns to be sung during those sermons every Sunday. They also assigned us to attend 20 Christian services, such as night mass, Christian funerals, Christian weddings etc. And after you finish all these assignments, you get to attend that one camp I mentioned before for a whole week, isolated from everyone and anything, except from those who are around you, you are not allowed to contact anyone at all.

During this one-week camp period, they spent time teaching us about the suffering of the Christ, the way he felt, what happened to him etc. It was during this camp week, that one last straw.

It was one morning, we woke up to some horrible noise, was really loud like someone was banging on the wall or smashing some pots and pans. We jumped out of the bed and they gave us those cloths, a blindfold we should cover our eyes with. AYer we put them on, they forced us to follow the trail of a rope, we grabbed it and walked aligned to it. Everything felt creepy and weird. They brought us some spoons filled with spicy substance which, until this day, I don’t know what it was. And they forced us to eat it, and whomever spits it had to eat it again. It was so disgusting, I felt scared and so uncomfortable with the whole situation. And then eventually they asked us, do we feel the same way Jesus felt, waiting for yes as an answer. Those whom they felt meaning it were let loose, and as for those who did not mean it, they were left with their blindfolds until they did mean it.

Finally, the camp week had come to an end, I went back home getting ready for what lies ahead, the confirmation itself that took place in the Church. They invited a lot of people, relatives, friends, basically everyone who knew us. And for those who don’t know what confirmation exactly is, it’s similar process to baptizing for those who weren’t baptized as babies, but as for those who were, me included, it was all about accepting Christianity as a religion, and Christ as my lord, confirming that I do understand what he went through, what he felt, and that I’m willing to follow his path, and to trace his footsteps, it’s about confirming your faith in Christ whole.

We stood in front of altar where there was a huge painting of what’s claimed to be the Christ. We were in white robes. They told us that we had to say the testimony of faith, which is ones’ believing in the trinity, the father, the son and the holy spirit. Believing that the Christ was crucified and that he died for our sins, that he later on was resurrected, and that he sits on a throne one the right side of god. It also said that Christ himself will be the one who judges the living and the dead. I did, I vowed, but deep inside of me, I never meant it, none of this made any sense. I felt horrible, I lied in god’s house, I believed in god, but not in their way, what they said was just so controversial. And then we took our first holy communion. And for those who don’t know what holy communion is, it’s basically leaning in front of the same altar I mentioned earlier, and there’s a priest behind it, holding a grail in his hand, containing wine, representing the blood of Jesus Christ, and aYer, they give you the holy bread (wafer), representing the body of the Christ.

It felt horrible must admit, I mean the wafer, it gets stuck easily at the top of your mouth. Funny enough they had a belief that those who get the wafer stuck to the top of their mouths won’t get married.

I must mention, since it played a major role in changing my life, my health problems. I was about to postpone my confirmation for a whole year, due to a major health issue.

I got diagnosed first with epilepsy, but since it did not match the symptoms and the medication did not help, they changed it after few months, and got diagnosed with Panic Disorder. I started therapy, but it never worked, it just made it worse.

Later on, I went to Oulu’s high school, just for the reason that I wanted to get out of where I was already since I got bullied badly. I started to study different religions there, I applied for five different voluntary courses about world’s religions. And that was the first time I got to meet Islam. However, things don’t go always as planned. I got sicker, and I had to drop off, I wasn’t able to go to Oulu anymore. But I did manage to finish my studies as home schooling, on my own. I had no teachers.

I reached the age of 18, and after a long religions’ studies. I woke up one day and I told myself, none of this makes any sense.

I went to the priest’s office, and asked him to remove my name from the church records, and cutoff any connection between me and the church. it never felt right to me, what they say and what they claim. How they practiced it. Nothing seemed to be correct about it.

The priest, that day, told me something I will never forget nor understand, he told me “if you leave the church now, you are leaving god” and I never understood how could this be possible, or even a thing. I oYen thought that god’s relation with us is between him and ourselves, it never should be aRached or connected to any sort of institution. What he told me that day, further proved my point. You can never judge a man’s relation with god based on which places he is registered to.

I tried to find god in other places, in new aspects. I had friends who happened to be Buddhists, I got interested in it, I was seeking the greater being behind all this. But once I got to see how they worship god, the rituals they followed. I never thought it was the right thing to do. I mean, what’s the point of offering food to a statue in altar placed somewhere in your house. This isn’t an actual act of worship, it’s basically idolism, which is heavily criticized.

I had a Jewish friend, which inspired me to read Torah, and to learn more about Judaism. The Torah felt way better than the bible did, but yet, it was not perfect, not even near. Which didn’t feel right to me. as a person who believes in god, I believe that a religious syllabus must be perfect, because it’s not a man made, it’s divine and that’s exactly how it should feel.

So, I knew that Judaism was not meant for me, and later on I figured out that Jews nowadays have this one rule which states, you are either born Jew, or you can never be one. Which is, to me, sounds so wrong and illogical, how can a religion be meant for specific people only. How can anyone be either born with this religion around them, or don’t have the ability nor the privilege to be part of it at all. None of this sounds right, none of this is true.

And now, when I’m finally older and saner, I figured out that my interest in these religions wasn’t because the religions themselves, but rather the attachment I felt towards my friends who practiced these religions. I wanted to know more about them and be a part of them because I looked at my friends with a loving eye. But once I got to know better what these things are, I chose to neglect them, because none of them clicked to me, none of them felt right.

Within my twenties, my health issues got real problematic, they got more serious. And despite I dropped off almost all religions, I never quit praying to god, I wanted a sign, I wanted guidance, I prayed and prayed for days, weeks, months, waiting for something to happen. I once tried to mail a monastery in north, I explained how lost I was, how ill and tired I have gotten, I needed someone to tell me what to do, I needed comfort, I needed tranquility more than anything else.

I took my religions studies further, and studied even more. My health issues got worse, and so did my psychological state. And it was this day, something weird, really weird, happened.

I woke up in the middle of the night, half asleep half awake, I couldn’t actually know what was my state precisely, I saw a man, with a beard, standing in front of me, he looked, kind. I sensed comfort around me, some sort of serenity. He told me in a weird tongue, never heard before, but I magically managed to understand “it’s okay, all people are born fated to one religion, sometimes it takes longer time for other people to find it, sometimes it takes less”

I took what he told me as some sort of promise, I took all what I saw as a true sign from god, that I will find what I’m looking for one day, it didn’t change much at all in its time being, but it definitely comforted me at that time.

Years passed, and I hit my 30th birthday. Believe it or not, I played a lot of video games, I grew up to it. I remember all the times I spent with my sister playing and giggling. All the hours I spent playing Mario on Nintendo 8bit Trying to rescue Princess Peach. Good old days. Anyway, it was that one night, I was playing an online game, it was near Christmas time, maybe by the end of November. And I met this one person. We kept chatting about the game and how it was, and after that one match we played, we got to chat a bit more, but about life generally, he seemed to be the kind of person who is willing to listen, the kind of person who could actually offer some solutions instead of being plainly compassionate. I talked, he listened. Until this one day we talked about religions, he asked me what was I, which religion am I following, I answered him that I don’t belong anywhere, he replied with an answer I can’t forget until this day “how can you not belong to a religion? How can you live like that?”. I really had no answer, because for me, I never saw someone caring about religion that much, never I had someone telling me that I just can’t live without one, to me it was just so normal, it was so common around me, but for him, it was weird, almost a taboo.

I had a lot of questions going on in my mind, he was a Muslim, so I asked him about Islam. I had my concerns about it, a lot of things I did not accept at first, due to my little knowledge of them. For example, I wanted to know more about polygamy, since it’s one of the main major things that comes to any woman’s mind when you mention the word Islam. It’s almost the only thing that concerns them when they think about it. He answered all my questons about it, he also explained its legitimately in Islam and why is it allowed.

What is Islam in general, how do Muslims see Jesus, what does the word Islam even means, how do we worship Allah. A lot of questions, a lot of logical answers, my doubts started to die, one by one. I felt I was heading towards the right way, it all started making sense in a way or another. A lot of people especially women, may view Islam as oppressing towards women therefore they instantly hate it despite the fact that it is not at all. Islam is not oppressing, Islam told us that we have different roles to fulfill. Something that I already believe in, and I’m pretty sure that this is the right order in this life. If we were to play the same role as one another, we wouldn’t have been born different from each other.

It took me about a month of reading and asking from this one man I met online, whole month of researching and seeking further answers. Until one day, and it was after Christmas. In January.

I asked him on chat “how do I join..?” he told me to say shahada. He quoted it for me, I never understood what it means so I asked him what it means, he said: “it means, that I believe that there’s only one true God which is Allah, and Muhammed SAWS is his prophet”. I sat on the ground, saying my shahada, and all I remember was that I started sobbing, non-stop crying.

Don’t get me wrong, it was the cry of relief, the cry you let out after dropping off a really, really, heavy burden. The feeling when you go to a warm shower after a really long day, the feeling you get when you were young the first day at summer after finishing your final exams. The feeling you get when you surrender yourself to a divine being that is way, way greater than you are. To accept that he is the only one who’s capable of doing anything, the only one who is capable of aiding me, a helpless human being.

Islam in Arabic means, to surrender yourself to your creator, and to accept that he is the almighty.

I’ve never felt more relieved in my life, I felt I was free. Free from people, free from any other creature, any fears and anything.

A bit by bit, he taught me a lot about Islam. The prayers, the Quran, Hijab (veiling) and many other things. He explained a lot of things to me.

Hijab can be intimidating to a lot of women, especially in west, because the culture is not familiar with it at all. But for me personally, I actually had no issues with it at all. What people actually don’t know that veiling was actually a part of Christianity as well as Judaism. I grew up to find both of my grandmas veiled. Not the Islamic way, but they did wear a scarf on their head, and they never showed any skin.

Took me almost two years, to know all the essentials about Islam. The path that I’ve chosen for myself. I never regretted joining Islam, or should I say, reverting back to it. I realized how amazing it is, how many dangers it keeps us away from, self-harming is not an option in Islam. To me, I found it to be the complete syllabus I was looking for, not just a written book, but a complete suitable lifestyle.

Within 3 months from now, I will be attending my 6th Ramadan. Time flies pretty fast must admit. My whole world changed since then, I lost a lot of fake friends, gained a bunch of good friends, found a purpose for my living, found the reason why I’m still here. I almost lost all the reasons at some point, due to my health issues which were misdiagnosed all along, times were really dark watching myself getting weaker by time, being hopeless can never help a physically sick person. Islam just came at me at the right time and the right period of my life, when I felt I was losing it all, it was the hand that lifted me up.

And here I am now, better than I ever was.

At the end, I just wanted to mention one thing. My atheist grandfather eventually wanted to die blessed, on his deathbed, he said that he might has been wrong all along, perhaps there was actually something bigger than us all..

A woman, 36 years old