x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'I am at peace with myself'

A widowed mother tells of her joy at converting to Islam from Christianity.

Daisy Ida (now known as Fatima) inside the majlis of her employer's home in Satwa.
Daisy Ida (now known as Fatima) inside the majlis of her employer's home in Satwa.

DUBAI // Daisy Ida had wanted to convert to Islam from Christianity since 2009, but had no idea how to go about it.

Then, less than two weeks ago, she heard a guest on a radio show, a Filipino Muslim, tell both Muslims and non-Muslims they were free to call him with any questions about Islam and Ramadan. She noted down the number.

On Friday last week, Ms Ida, 28, recited the shahada, the testimony of faith, in front of a group of Filipino Muslims. Her Muslim name is Fatima.

"I feel overwhelmed whenever I hear the athan [call to prayer]," she said. "I'm at peace with myself and grateful to Allah."

A widowed mother of two, Ms Ida arrived in Dubai in 2005 to work as a maid for an Emirati family. Now working for another family, she converted while her employers were out of the country.

"I asked Daisy if she was allowed to leave the house," said Abulcair Capatagan, the president of the Muslim Overseas Filipino Workers, who facilitated her conversion. "She said her employer, who treats her like part of the family, won't mind."

On the day she embraced Islam, Ms Ida received a call from her female employer.

"I told her about the good news," she said. "She knew I had long wanted to convert and was very happy for me."

Her children - Daniel John, 15, and Divinagracia, 13 - remain in the Philippines and Ms Ida has not seen them since 2009. They had asked about her conversion.

"I told them, 'if you want, you can also convert'," she said.

Growing up in Sulat in Eastern Samar, about 575 kilometres south of Manila, Ms Ida was raised in a devout Catholic family. They regularly attended Mass on Sundays and recited the rosary at home.

She told her parents about her plans to convert during a visit home in 2009.

"[They] were not upset and told me they'll not stop me from converting," she said.

But Mr Capatagan made sure she understood the tenets and practices of the faith.

Conversion to Islam is a simple process that requires converts to profess their shahada in front of two witnesses. This is the first pillar of Islam. The other four are prayer, fasting during Ramadan, giving to charity and going to Mecca at least once for pilgrimage.

"But some women embrace Islam with the wrong intentions," he said. "Some would like to marry a Muslim, others want to land a better job or have an increase in their salaries, while the rest expect to receive some money if they convert."

Beira Makasi, 23, a Filipina who works for the same family as Ms Ida, taught her how to pray five times a day. "She's so happy and is interested to learn more about Islam," Ms Makasi said. "I'm so proud of her."

Ms Ida, who has yet to register as a Muslim at Dubai Court or at Dubai's Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities, has been reading brochures about Islam for the past three years. The group is to send her to Assahaba Learning Centre in Dubai to take an Arabic course and will invite her to Islamic lectures. "I know that I've made the right decision," she said.

rruiz@thenational.ae