Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Soul that remembered his promise a long, long time ago.

A Dutch Convert With Hopes and Plans

Interviewed By Radwa Khorshid

Nourdeen Wildeman, a Dutch Convert to Islam
Nourdeen Wildeman is a 26-year-old Dutch Muslim who converted to Islam "officially" on the 9th of December 2007. In his short period as a Muslim, he managed to launch his ongoing project "Find the Mosque that Fits You Best."

As a platform for European Muslim voices, we are interviewing Nourdeen not only on his project's experience, which gives useful information on Dutch mosques, but also on his daily challenges and opportunities as a Dutch Muslim convert as well as a positive role model for European Muslim youths.

Find the Mosque that Fits You Best

IOL: Would you please tell us more about your project?

Wildeman: It is an e-project aiming to profile all mosques in the Netherlands. Through this project, any Muslim can know all about the mosques there with full information about each mosque.

Al-Quds Mosque, The Netherlands.

Each mosque's profile features its ethnic background, address, postal code, telephone number, email address, picture of the mosque, overhead organization, language of the Friday sermon Khutbaah, bookstore, mosque's capacity for males and females, availability of bathrooms and place for ablution (wudu') both for men or women, and finally some general remarks (i.e. old building, no parking, special lessons, furnishing, also the mosque's prayer times according to its specific location).

Moreover, the user can know whether this information is 100% confirmed or not as I did visit most of them personally to prepare these profiles. So those which were visited by any one else rather than myself are labeled "unconfirmed."

Thanks to Allah, there are 350 confirmed addresses out of the project's 408 different ones. Based on the number of the confirmed mosques, I have currently 160 full mosque profiles on the website.

IOL: Can you now give us a glimpse of your journey into Islam?

Wildeman: I don’t really know when I became a Muslim; I started reading about Islam by coincidence four or five years before pronouncing the testimony of faith (Shahadah). I just wanted to know about that hot issue tackled a lot by the European media.

The first book I read about Islam was very academic and very difficult to understand. So I decided to get another book to understand Islam more, and I kept reading more and more. After reading many books, I found out that Islam was not as I expected. In fact, many of the Islamic opinions were similar to what I naturally believed in.
Most of the ideas that the media is disseminating about Islam as a religion for oppressing women turned out to be totally wrong.

Books are the main Islamic source for Wildeman.
I found Islam to be a very rational religion, it is pro-science. It encourages people to understand everything around them, to meditate, and it is truly a self-critical religion.

Before digging more into Islam, I had always thought that life of an atheist is very easy, in terms of being free to do whatever one wants, but personally I used to criticize such a lifestyle.

Then came a stage when I grew a certain awareness of God. This was emphasized by the truth I felt in both the holly Qura'an and the Prophet's (PHUB) Sunnah.

IOL: And what was your source for Islamic knowledge?

Wildeman: As a matter of fact, I did not contact any imam to learn more about Islam. I just read many books. Later on, I had good relations with some Muslim brothers and sisters, but my readings helped me so much that I, sometimes, knew more Islamic information than many of them.

IOL: What was your family's reaction to your conversion and how do you cope as a Muslim member in a non-Muslim family?

In my boss' view, I was capable of making difficult choices when I became a Muslim.
Wildeman: My religious background includes my father who is an atheist and my mother a Christian, so I mainly grew in a multi-religious environment. I did not tell them immediately that I will convert to Islam. Instead, I paved the way for it by asking them about their reaction if I turned to another religion such as Islam. They said that this is my life, and as long as I don't disturb anyone, then I'm free.

My mother suggested that it would be easier for me to be a Christian. My answer was that I'm not seeking the easiest religion, but the trustiest.

As for my father, I was so happy that he accompanied me to my Islamic statement ritual (Shahadah), and video-taped it. His concept in supporting me was that I'm part of him, and Islam will be part of me, then he will accept me with Islam.

In fact, many of Muslim converts face big family problems when they declare their Shahadah, and most of them are women. I even have more respect for women in my country who revert to Islam as it is more difficult for them because they have to wear veils. I knew some who were kicked out of their homes and their families didn't accept them any more. But I was lucky, Alhamdullah, with my family.

Welcome to the Dutch Muslim Community

After that, I got involved with some Islamic networks and forums through which I knew some Muslims. Then, I met with those Muslim fellows and asked them to show me how to pray. They encouraged me to pray in a mosque,

It took me a month to go to a mosque because that was so scary for me at the beginning. It is like going to a swimming pool as a young kid for the first time. It was my first time to pray before other people. Had I known that I'd be very much welcomed to the mosque as I'm now, I'd not have been delayed my prayers in mosques at all.

But now I have many friends who invite me to have lunch with them every now and then.

The greatest event that happened to me after I became a Muslim was organized by Brother Jacob. The Dutch Converts' National Day was a very important day for me and for all Muslims in The Netherlands who shared everything with me. It was just then when I realized that there are many Muslim reverts, ma sha’ Allah, and that they are having the same lifestyle I have.

"Not fired, I'd a Bonus!!!"

IOL: It seems that you have a very supportive family. But what about the professional part of your life, was it negatively affected by your conversion to Islam?

Wildeman: After I declared the Shahadah, I sent an e-mail to my boss telling him that I have become a Muslim and stating the following notes:

Will I grow a beard down to my belly? no
Will I shake hands with women? yes
Will I introduce myself to our costumers as a Muslim? no
Will I take feast days off? yes
Do I know when they will be? no

However and thank God, I did not get fired. Instead I got a bonus, at the end of the year based on my evaluation; my boss said that in addition to my good performance during the year I was also capable of making difficult choices when I became a Muslim. He said that I have the guts to take a difficult choice and that is also good for work.

IOL: Are you planning to do any further in-depth Islamic studies and what were the very useful books for you being a Dutch Muslim convert?

Wildeman: I read a book by Tariq Ramadan entitled In the Footsteps of the Prophet. This book helped me a lot as a European Muslim because it is written in a way suitable for western Muslims. The Arabic way of writing a story is different from the Western one, but he was able to convey the message using the western approach.

Nowadays, I am studying the holy Qur’an at Dar-al-'Ilm in The Netherlands. This place provides a full study of the holy Qur’an from the first to the last page using Ibn Kathir's explanation. I am also working on studying the rules of the holy Qur’an.

Some of the major themes busying me is the way we look at Allah, Al-Mighty, which I have been doing well in up to now.

Fatwa-Related Challenge

In my view, some fatwas issued in many Muslim countries cannot be totally implemented in the Muslim minority countries. Some modification should be made to them to suit the western circumstances. In the Netherlands, we are now on our way to know the methodology of implementing the Islamic rulings on a professional level.

Invitation: Are you a European Muslim? We cordially invite you to share your positive experiences with (IOL)'s audience through sending them to euro_muslims@iolteam.comto be published on the IOL's European Muslims Page.
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