I was born and brought up into a devoted catholic family. My father comes from a family whose members mostly turned out to become priests and priestesses, while my mother still has a certain aristocratic blood in her family.
My parents were blessed with five children, of which I am the only male and the youngest one. I never had anyone of them to play with since I was a child because of the quite significant difference in age; they were always occupied with their school tasks whenever I needed someone to play with.
As it turned out to be, I got used to spending my time with the maidservant and when I was bored, I simply went out to play. For that reason I was used to make friends with people outside of my family, people in my neighborhood who were mostly Muslims.
In my family, everything that has a “Muslim taste” in it was usually considered inappropriate. So every Thursday when the time was for the recitation of the Quran (we only had TVRI, the government’s station back then) the TV set was immediately turned off, that’s how my family was like.
When I got to school age, naturally my parents chose a catholic institution, as with all my sisters. Even so, I always found it easier to be friends mostly with people who were Muslim.
Perhaps it was because of my negative childhood image, that when I grew up to be a teenager my family always thought of me as being this troublesome kid. In other words, to them I was always the one to blame for everything; anything good that I did was practically nothing to them. Hence, I always tried to look up for answers of my problems through sources outside of my family. My academic records were also nothing special except for English language.
And so I started to contemplate with questions that I had in my high school year, I asked and kept asking, I read many books and literature, trying to explore everything about my faith then. But as it goes, the more I gained something, the more I felt that, “This isn’t it, this is not what I want.” What’s worse is that the more I involved myself with religious activities, the more I went further from what I expected, which put me down more and more.
What I always found in there was nothing but negative views on somebody else’s faith. Whenever I tried to give in another view, they put me down saying that I’m taking sides, I’m giving too much of a value judgement, so on and so forth.
Eventually I became more distanced from them, but interestingly (and this is what had always happened) I felt myself drawn closer and closer with my Muslim friends, they seemed to accept me without any sort of tendency to judge. They knew I didn’t share their faith but most of them didn’t seem to mind or be disturbed by it whatsoever.
My adulthood started when I entered college. I enrolled in a private college whose students were predominantly Muslims. Even so, I still tried to involve myself in religious activities with students of the same faith. In that community, the old conflicting trauma appeared afresh, even worse.
Eventually I lost my interest in it. As a college student, I felt more comfortable in my soul searching process. Naturally, I had more access to many references, times and places of interest, because I never felt home with my relatives, even with my sisters. And so I went on with my life as usual, until this deep spiritual experience happened. This is the story:
One morning, I don’t remember the date, but it was in 1993. I was abruptly awoke from sleep and just quickly sat down. Then unconsciously went up and washed my face, hands and feet, then got back sitting with my legs crossed. Exactly then the call to Fajr prayer started ..but very differently. I listened to it with an indescribable feeling and emotion, it was touching me so deeply, in short. I myself never could explain what really happened that morning, but so it did.
Ever since then I looked for answers and learned with a practicing Muslim friend, read books, started everything from scratch. The first obstacle for me naturally came from my family, especially my mother. I became uncertain again, this is the most difficult choice in my entire life. And so months I spent trying to think over my intention to become a Muslim. I felt that I had to make a choice. And of course I chose to become a Muslim eventually.
In early 1994 I declared my shahadah after finishing the Maghrib (evening) prayer in jama’ah (congregation). It was really emotional, friends from my faculty in college even made me work out a written statement with them as witnesses, how touchy it was. In short, I’ve lived my life as a new person ever since then.
After finishing my school, I started working. Even though my relationship with my family is falling apart, I try to pull everything together and be strong as to endure the hardships.
My new life was again put to a test when I was going to marry. Because I’m considered an apostate in my family’s view, I had to do everything by myself, the proposal, etc., everything. No wedding reception or any of that sort, just the obligatory ones. And then when my mother died, unfortunately I didn’t get to see her for the last time. Her wish, which of course I cannot comply to, was for me to return to my old faith.