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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Sinead O'Connor becomes Shuhada: Singer's conversion to Islam comes after a personal and artistic quest for peace

The Irish singer’s music always found her asking questions about faith and love

Irish singer Sinead O'Connor has taken aim at white people in her latest Twitter rant. Image via MagdaDavitt77 on Twitter
Irish singer Sinead O'Connor has taken aim at white people in her latest Twitter rant. Image via MagdaDavitt77 on Twitter

Irish singer and activist Sinead O'Connor has converted to Islam.

The 51-year-old, responsible for the hits Nothing Compares to You and The Emperor’s New Clothes, announced her embrace of the faith on her social media channels yesterday, in addition to changing her name to Shuhaida.

A video of her saying the shahada - the Islamic declaration of faith - was also posted on twitter on Thursday by the Irish Imam Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri.

Her new name, Shuhada, stems from the Quranic Arabic word “Shahid”, which in the holy scripture is used generically to mean “witness” and in certain passages to describe a “martyr”.

Regarding her conversion to Islam, O’Connor - who was controversially ordained as a priest in the late 1990s by Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church (an Independent Catholic group not in communion with the Vatican) – said that it marked a “natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey".

"All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant,” she said.

Songs of faith

Faith and spirituality abounded O’Connor’s three-decade body of work, with the singer taking her inspiration from various spiritual texts including the bible.

Her lyrics were often written from the view point of a seeker, whether it is for love, salvation and acceptance.

Her eclectic 2000 album, Faith and Courage, had her grappling with her beliefs in an increasingly cynical world.

In the gentle opener, O’Connor whispers over minimal electronic beats: “I have a universe inside me/ Where I can go and spirit guides me/ There I can ask oh any question/ I get the answers if I listen.”

While over the lush keyboards in Hold Back the Night, O'Connor croons “I want to walk into the light/ Day has turned cold/ So hold back the night”

O'Connor was more forthright in her acoustically driven 2007 album Theology, a collection of songs inspired by the Psalms of the Old Testament.

If You Had a Vineyard is based on passages from Isaiah and Jeremiah, while Whomsoever Dwells contains lyrics from her favourite, Psalm 91.

“Whatever I may say about religion I actually love religion,” she said in an interview with the website Cross Rhythms. “I'm very inspired by love in the different religions and so if I critique it, it's not from the point of not liking it - you know what I mean? But I think that sometimes the nature of the God character can be portrayed perhaps inaccurately, in a way which can be off putting to a lot of people.”

O’Connor's search for inner peace, which she spoke off in her work and which eluded most of her troubled life, began to bear fruit in her latest album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.

Released in 2014, it was by far her most optimistic and sprightly collection of songs in a decade with its lyrical themes of self-love and redemption. This was best encapsulated in her radio friendly single, Take Me to the Church, in which, over driving guitars, she declares a newfound artistic vision.

“I'm gonna sing songs of loving and forgiving/ Songs of eating and of drinking/ Songs of living, songs of calling in the night/ Cause' songs are like a bolt of light/ And love's the only love you should invite.”

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Read more:

Sinead O’Connor on controversies and women in the music industry today

Yusuf Islam talks about his spiritual memoir, living in Dubai, and new album

Lindsay Lohan opens up about studying the Quran and her take on Donald Trump’s stance on refugees

Ten famous Americans who turned to Islam - in pictures

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The success of that album resulted in O’Connor making her debut performance in the UAE in 2015.

In her interview with The National, which touched upon her music and controversies, O’Connor said despite the benign nature of her new songs, she remains a fiercely minded individual who means what she says.

This can, perhaps, put to rest any suggestions that her embrace of Islam is nothing other than a considered and deliberate decision.

"I think everything through before I act,” she said.

“I think it comes with being Irish – we are opinionated people and not the kind to keep our mouths shut, so it would be against my nature to not speak out.”

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