An Austrian Scientist Discovers Islam
October 26, 2005
Born 1953 in the town Linz in Austria, I spent my childhood in Munich (Germany) until we moved to Salzburg (Austria) when I was 16 years old. I grew up in a conservative Christian way. My parents are strict Protestant Christians, which believe in the Bible and pray to Jesus as son of God. They educated me to keep a high standard of morals and ethics.
After I had finished high school, I started to study biology and in parallel, to work in a half-day job, both at the university of Salzburg.
Since I did not participate in any Christian activities of the Protestant church, my parents arranged for me to get in touch with an evangelic free church, the Baptist community (a very big and powerful Christian church in the USA). I became an active member and even a leader of a student group. I studied the Bible several times and believed in the dogmas of Jesus being son and part of God, and of the salvation of all people and the reconciliation with God only by his death on cross. At this time, I didn’t scrutinize the Bible carefully enough to recognize that this was not taught by Jesus in his gospel. But some years later, still in the same community, I was beginning to have my doubts and I could no longer accept this foundation of Christian faith and religion, which contradicted my reasoning. Although I was repeatedly told that this is God’s mystery and a matter of faith and not of intellect, I insisted that I could only believe that Jesus is a human being and a prophet with a special relation to God, who demonstrated the right way to God by his life and teachings.
I got married with a man from the Baptist church and I finished my studies achieving the doctorate. Two children and a divorce later I left the Baptist church, also due to my doubts concerning the foundation of Christianity.
I had to search for a full time job, since I was alone responsible for my children, but al-hamdu lillah I got a very good employment in research and student teaching in my field at the university of Salzburg. I was content to earn my own money to ensure financial independency from all other people.
I got married a second time and I started to deal with esoteric philosophies. I was still in search of truth. The second marriage was again turning into a disaster and I was divorced a second time. Similar as in the first case, the reason for divorce was that my husband took advantage of my position, money and my desire for harmony. He didn’t support me with any financial, practical or even psychological help or care for the children. But at this time, I was already independent with a sound basis in my life: I had a position as university professor and great responsibility for my work.
Since I had not found happiness in my private life, but was constantly overloaded with double work, job, children and household, I suffered form exhaustion depressions for some years. I only kept going in life due to my children and my work.
After the second divorce I lived together with a much younger man for 9 years without being married, as it is usual in the western world. When he left me for a younger woman, I started to re-arrange my life as single, without expecting to find a man again. I had a good job, grown-up children, a nice apartment, a car, and hobbies like mountain climbing or skiing and did not miss anything in practical life. I could stand on my own two feet. But I was not giving up the search of truth.
My knowledge about Islam at this time was only a bad prejudice generated by Christians and the media. I never got in contact with the religion and I didn’t want to get in touch with people from this—how it seemed to me—“frightening and rigid” religion.
This was the situation in September 2002, when I was persuaded by a friend to spend a week of holidays in an all-inclusive hotel. We had to book a last-minute flight and found a very cheap offer for Egypt. My intention was to relax, to return to my inner balance and maybe came closer to the truth. The only affair I was not at all interested in, was to meet a man.
It was on the first evening in the very beautiful hotel and I went to the buffet for dinner, when I saw Walid for the first time, a cook in the hotel and my later husband. When our eyes met, I fell in love. Walid told me later that the same happened to him. We didn’t communicate for two more days until Walid started writing letters. One of the first suggestions he proposed to me was that we should marry. The rest of the week I couldn’t make up my mind for my prejudices and many doubts in my head or for the deep affection in my heart. Then I returned home to Austria with not more than the handy number of one of his friends. I realized soon that the apparent barriers due to the differences between us (age, culture, religion, education and language) existed only in my head. This was the opinion of the society but not my own experience. I planned to return to Egypt two months later to give our love a chance. The only real problem was the poor communication.
Allah started now visibly guiding my life. Some days after my return to Austria, a woman from Egypt started working as guest scientist in my institute for the duration of one year. Two weeks later I began to visit an Arabic language course at the university offered by a professor from Egypt. Being good Muslims they taught me both a lot about Islam, their culture and the Arabic language, which I intended to learn for better communication with Walid.
Interested to know more about Islam, I bought many books and a good Qur'an translation (from Murad Hofmann, a German ambassador, who converted to Islam earlier). I was amazed how good my idea of God and the world was reflected by the holy Qur'an. I found extensive conformity with the “old testament” and in the “new testament” with the gospel of Jesus, but without the church-made dogma that Jesus is regarded as son of God.
At my second visit in Egypt, I found out that Walid is a very serious man from a large family of farmers, which we visited together. On the first evening, we married with a local but not international contract (Orfi), which protected us at least against the police and fulfilled the Islamic law that no common activity should be carried out between man and woman outside marriage. After this trip I traveled three more times to Egypt, until we could officially marry in Cairo, and again two more times until we had the visa for Walid. Now he could come with me to Austria, more than one year after we met the first time.
During this year I gradually learned things about Islam by reading books and by the help of my Muslim friends in Austria. Surprisingly I was also contacted by the Cairo University as a referee of a thesis work. Under the several Egyptian scientists, whom I met from now on each time when I visited Egypt, I won one good Muslimah as a close friend. I was impressed that many Muslims including young people—even those who are not very strict in their religion—speak openly and respectfully about Allah and Islam.
As soon as my husband came to Austria, we contacted the mosque in Salzburg and I received and bought more books. Two of them, the book of Maurice Bucaille “Bible, Qur'an and Natural Sciences”, which proves that all scientific statements in the holy Qur'an are in consents with the latest research, and the “Gospel of Barnabas”, where Jesus announces the prophet Muhammad and refuses to be revered as God, opened my eyes.
The holy Qur'an confirmed not only my idea about God and the world, but all his statements, e.g. about natural sciences, did obviously not contradict the reality. I was allowed and even encouraged to use my logic! I discovered that Islam is not a new religion, but a “re-animation” of the roots and the essential of the old religions of the Jews and Christians, with the first Muslim Abraham as the father of all monotheistic religions and with the same prophets, including Jesus. The last prophet Muhammad—not accepted by the other religions—was used by Allah to repeat the old truth again and to announce new regulations. The holy Qur'an must be God’s revelation and Muhammad his messenger! If this is the truth and I believe this, I have to accept the holy Qur'an as a whole including the law. I hesitated to make the step of conversion to Islam only, because I knew that this implies to keep the rules, accept restrictions for my life (e.g. no alcohol, no pork) and behave in a way not contradicting the holy Qur'an and the Sunnah [editor's note: Sunnah means the collection of the Prophet's deeds].
At the beginning of the past Ramadan 2004, Walid asked me, whether I wanted to do the last step and convert. I accepted to make this in my house. We invited several brothers and sisters and I spoke the shahadah [editor's note: shahadah means Testimony of Faith]. I had already learned how to pray and started praying as regular as possible. Of course, I was fasting in Ramadan.
I am very happy to belong to the Ummah of Muslims [editor's note: Ummah means nation]. I try to grow in faith for Allah and knowledge about Islam and to fulfill the law as good as possible.
Still two major problems are left. Although my parents know my opinion about Islam, I cannot tell them that I am converted. They are old and sick and the truth could do harm to them. The other problem: I cannot yet wear a veil in work and in areas, where I am known. Although in Austria Islam is an accepted religion, the society has problems to accept Muslims and especially the veil as symbol. Due to my public duties I would get many disadvantages and problems in work, affecting especially my working group in the university.
On the other side, I use each opportunity to talk about Islam. I try to live as a good Muslimah, to practice Islam and give a good example.
Allah finally helped me to find the right way in my search of the truth, al-hamdu lillah.