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  • Raya Shokatfard


Updated: May 20, 2019

By Raya Shokatfard

Born and raised as a Muslim in Iran until the age of 22, I finally had my unimaginable dream come true. I was about to travel to California to study and complete the process of family migration to the US that took us about 15 years to complete — a dream that I never thought would come true; living in my dreamland with my family and having all the freedom I did not have in my homeland: Iran.

When we left Iran in 1969, it was still somewhat secular under the Shah’s regime and more modern than most Muslim countries then in terms of social, religious and lifestyle. Yet, the youth did not have the total freedom that their Western counterparts had. Watching some American TV shows always gave me the desire to become and act like them one day. Well, that desire was to be manifested soon.

A Princess — That’s What I Was

In the next 15 years in the US, I was busy being secularized by the society and by my own will. After working several years for the family business, I became a very successful owner of a clothing store. Later, I got my real estate license and became one of the most known real estate brokers in Manhattan Beach in Southern California.

During that time, driving a Rolls Royce, owning a home overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and leading a luxurious life gave me the image of a princess. I would not hesitate to buy anything I wanted, travel anywhere I wished, and have the lifestyle of a snob who looked down at everything and everyone because I thought I was better than the rest. Pride was my companion, and ambition was my driving force.

Busy Searching for God

During those first 15 years, I started to feel empty. What else did I want to have? Where else did I want to go? There must be more to life than this!

Well, perhaps what was missing was marriage and children. Having led a full life until then, I was ready to marry at the age of 32. Four and a half years later, with two children, I realized that was not the answer either. The marriage ended in divorce, and then I had two kids to take care of while I was on my spiritual journey. I was searching for God and almost had forgotten my Islamic background.

I joined Hinduism for some time and thought I wanted to be one of the Hindu. They had much peace. Yet, I found them worshipping many gods; they did not have the same moral standards that the Muslims had. Anything that felt right was right. I saw that the God I was searching for was not there, so I kept on searching.

I joined Buddhism, and I thought I found peace. They were great, and their meditation really gave me a good feeling, but they also worship Buddha and many other gods. Hence, I saw that my God was not there, so I moved on.

Ready to Be Baptized?

I joined Christianity for seven and a half years and that felt the best. The moral system was similar to what I was brought up to. I ignored the doctrine of the Trinity for all those years, but I knew that my God was not in that religion either. They worship Jesus as their God, and I was the only stranger there. But where could I go? I had moved to a small town in Northern California, and they were all I had to hang on to. Then the incredible event happened.

One day the pastor of the church told me, “Raya, you have been with us for so many years.

Don’t you think it is time to for you be baptized and become Christian?”

I said that there is no need for me to get baptized; Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet and I can be both, a Christian and a Muslim. Of course, I did not know much about Islam but I was just hanging on to the name because I was born into that religion. He said, “No, once you become a Christian, you will no longer be a Muslim. You will have to accept that Jesus is the Son of God, the God Himself, and accept the Holy Spirit as God as well — three Gods in one.”

I have known the concept well but, until then, I had been ignoring it, hoping it would go away if I did not pay attention to it. However, it did not go away. It was flashing before my eyes, and I had to make a decision soon.

 O Lord, How Could I Have Ever Missed You?

I told the pastor to give me a few days. I had an English copy of the Qur’an that I never opened. I bought it when I married my American husband. I knew Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men. Therefore, he had to become a Muslim to marry me. We bought a copy of the Qur’an before marriage but we never opened it.

I went away to the mountains and checked in at a secluded motel. I settled down and, for the first time, opened the English copy of the Qur’an and read Surat Al-Fatihah (the opening chapter of the Qur’an). As I started to read the verses, I thought I was going to die right then.

I realized right then that I had found my God in that short seven-verse surah. I could see the reality of God and how Merciful He is. He even showed me in the Qur’an how to pray and supplicate him and none but Him.

How could I have missed Him for so many years as I was searching? My shock threw me almost in convulsion. I started having heavy fever and thought I was going to melt onto the floor crying, “I found my God! I found my God!”

When I was strong enough to realize I was still alive and breathing, I began to read all the verses about Jesus. It was then that I felt Allah was speaking to me through those divine words. So many verses about Jesus point to the same direction:

{And say not, “Three.” Desist — it is better for you; Allah is only One Allah.} (An-Nisaa’ 4:171)

Back to Religion

I returned to the pastor a few days later and thanked him for asking me to be baptized. His face lit up with joy and said, “Are you now ready?” I said, yes, I have found my God, and I am now ready to return to Islam and embrace the religion that leads me to worshipping only One God!

It took me a few years of research to find why the two holy books, the Gospel and the Qur’an, are in conflict about the real God and who He is. My research led me to the fact that Jesus never claimed to be a god or the son of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity was adopted through the Council of Nicaea, which was ordered by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325 CE. At that time, the Christians who regarded Jesus only as the Prophet of God were forced to adopt the doctrine of the Trinity; otherwise they would be put to death. This was the basis of Catholicism, which spread worldwide.

Having made the same rigorous research about the Qur’an, I have become completely sure of its authenticity. As it was revealed from Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through Angel Gabriel, it was preserved from any change or distortion. It was compiled; a single word was neither disregarded nor altered, whereas the the Gospels written 30 to 90 years after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

I had finally found my God. My life changed dramatically. For the next 25 years, I found the real life through submission to Allah, humbleness, understanding, practice of religion, and inviting others to join the only religion that calls all people to the worship of no god but Allah, the One God Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in between. Almighty Allah says,

{Say, “He is Allah, the One! Allah, the Eternally Besought of all! He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.}(Al-Ikhlas 112:1–4)


Published on Sunday, 06 September 2009 00:00

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