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British Couple’s Journey to Islam

We believe that hearts find tranquility only in remembering Allah. The thing that gives meaning to all searches, brings peace to souls, and illuminates the paths is undoubtedly believing in Allah and what He has sent.” This time, we turn our eyes to the United Kingdom for the story of a couple who, in their quest to fill the gaps in their lives, found Islam.

I am a British Muslim and I am happy to be one. Islam provides explanations. The answers are always there.

Both Hanan Sandercock, a Welsh woman, and her husband John Smith, who grew up in Christian families, embraced Islam at different times. They believe that talking about their beliefs is crucial to fill the gaps in their knowledge about Islam, so the couple gave an interview to a Welsh newspaper.

Living a life in accordance with their faith, they celebrate Eid instead of Christmas, perform the five daily prayers, and abstain from consuming pork and alcohol. Since Hanan embraced Islam at the age of 28, she has been wearing a headscarf. They raised their four children as Muslims. Even though they come from similar backgrounds, their stories of converting to Islam are quite different.

The Quest Resulting in Embracing Islam

Musluman olma hikayeleri
Hanan ve John

Donna Sandercock, as she was known at the time, grew up in a small town. After completing her art education, she moved to Cardiff in the 1990s to look for work. In this city, which has always had a multicultural population, she had the opportunity to meet people from different beliefs.

“I was in my twenties, and I think I was searching. I wanted to find the meaning of life. I went to a Buddhist meeting, but it didn’t mean anything to me,” says Donna. She meets and befriends Muslims at her workplace and in social settings. “Religion was very important to them. They were strong people, and they had a different belief system than mine. I used to eat at their homes, and they served the best meals. They were hospitable, and they appreciated my interest.”

Donna visits a kibbutz in Israel in 1994, where she gains more knowledge about Palestinian and Islamic history and culture. A unique experience during this visit leads her to embrace Islam:

“I was walking with a friend in a valley, a deep mountain pass, during the hottest hours of the day, and we got lost. At that time, there were no mobile phones, and our water had run out. I prayed like I had never prayed before and said, ‘If we get out of this safely, I will become a Muslim.’ It was not something I had expressed before, but I realized that this feeling was inside me.”

When she returned to Wales, Donna researched Islam, read, and spoke with a Yemeni friend who kept asking her, “Are you sure?” Finally, she converted to Islam in the presence of the well-known late Imam Said, a recognized Welsh convert. Donna changed her name to Hanan. She immediately felt a great relief, found answers to her questions, and felt satisfied.

I became part of a society that embraces differences. I did not feel pressured to conform. I started wearing the abaya. Being a Muslim was an identity, and I wanted to show this identity.

She married an Algerian Muslim, had four children, but they later separated. After September 11, the atmosphere changed. Hanan became concerned about the safety of herself and her children, and she stopped wearing the abaya but continued to wear the headscarf.

Islam: Incredibly Rich in Religion and Culture

Around the same time, 35-year-old John Smith is also searching for Muslims but for different reasons. Born in Northern Ireland to a Protestant Irish mother and a British soldier father, John is shaken by the events of September 11, 2001, and cannot make sense of them.

“I met a Muslim university student and asked him, ‘How can Muslims do such a thing?’ He told me that the attackers had Muslim names but were not Muslims. He gave me a copy of the Quran.”

After reading the Quran, John follows the lectures of a Muslim cleric and returns to Islam. His story is a sudden change rather than a long search. Without much research about Islam, John says he took the Shahada, and he believes that the Islamic religion and culture are unbelievably rich. He thinks that learning about Islam is an endless, ongoing process.

The couple, who met through a friend and got married in 2017, finds extreme views in all communities, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, terrible. Hanan, who has witnessed Muslims being harassed and has experienced some harassment herself due to her faith, criticizes those who do not embrace differences. She is proud to be a ‘white British Muslim‘ and criticizes the opinion that Muslims should not be part of Western democracies by voting. Although she regrets that acceptance of differences is not universal, she and her family are happy with their identities.

They both consider themselves very lucky that their families accepted their change of religion and lifestyle. Hanan’s sister also converted to Islam. Hanan’s parents visit their children on Eid and celebrate Eid with their grandchildren, all of whom are Muslim.

Hanan works as a play leader at a school. She says she works with or teaches Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and non-religious people. She is pleased that the school, where her young children also attend, is a place where differences are accepted. However, she is saddened that this is not the case everywhere but emphasizes that she and her family are proud of their identities.

“I am a British Muslim, and I am happy to be so. When you first convert, you are shy and hesitant. But now I even make halal ‘pasties’ (a kind of meat pastry). This is my identity.”


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