Copyright 2017 Michele Faehnle. All rights reserved.
One of my favorite things about writing for Catholicmom.com is that I have the opportunity to meet other amazing Catholic women who I would not normally have the opportunity to make a connection with. Last month when I saw an opportunity to receive a review copy of From Islam to Christ: One Women’s Path Through the Riddles of God (Ignatius Press, 2017), I jumped at it. I had seen this new book highlighted at the Catholic Marketing Network in Chicago this past summer and it was at the top of my “reading bucket list.” In her story, Derya tells her journey away from Islam to atheism, then to Protestantism and how she finally found her home in the Catholic faith. Her conversion was an intellectual odyssey, inspired by Christian friendships and lead by the Holy Spirit.
Once the book arrived, I dove in immediately and I couldn’t put it down. This was one of those book that I found myself still reading at midnight and up at 5:30 am to finish before I got out of bed to begin my day.
Some of my favorite parts to read were her reflections on the Eucharist. As Derya questioned her Protestant beliefs, she shared:
If the Eucharist was indeed the Flesh and Blood of Christ, then by not receiving this wonderful gift regularly, I was a bird that had clipped its own wings. As a Protestant, I strove to live a holy life, and I knew many other Protestants who lived truly remarkable and admirable lives. Yet, without the Eucharist we were still only walking, when with the Eucharist we could be flying.
Pretty awesome, right? The book was absolutely amazing, but the best part was I’ve had the opportunity to meet Derya online and make a new friend. As we emailed back and forth over the past few weeks, we’ve instantly connected as mothers, writers and Catholics, both trying to live out our faith and evangelize through our writing and speaking. Below is a short interview she shared with me. I hope you enjoy meeting Derya too!
1) Can you share briefly about your upbringing in the Islamic faith?
My parents were not very observant, so it was not a strict environment. But my brother and I still had to go to the local mosque to recite the Quran and memorize my prayers. I didn’t like having to do the ritual cleansing or having to wear long sleeves, maxi skirt and a headscarf in the heat of the summer, but the more I attended to these religious classes, the more faithfully I wanted to practice Islam. I remember coming home and telling my parents that I wanted to wear my headscarf all the time because I did not want to be tortured in hell for showing my hair. My parents were not happy! You had to be Muslim, but not too much. So, it’s their fault that I will be stabbed with a thousand swords because my hair is exposed.
2) The next part of your journey leads you to atheism and secularism, what lead you there?
My parents’ divorce ignited a sense of insecurity for me. If I couldn’t trust their love, why would I trust anything else they said or taught? Maybe, they even lied to me about Islam. Also, every time I tried to pray to find consolation, I felt like there was no one else listening. The combination of their divorce and that feeling of darkness led me to read about the faith of my parents with a critical eye. Once you start questioning Islam honestly, all the dominoes start falling.
3) You write in the book how you were drawn into the Catholic faith through a friendship. As the writer on a book about friendship, I found this especially profound. Can you share a little bit more about this?
Honestly, my entire life I found solace and support through friends. First it was the unwavering but truthful friendships of Protestants that led me to Christ. Then, a close friend of mine converted to Catholicism. I respected him deeply as we have been working together for a while. At the same time, I knew that he would not make such a decision lightly. Because of our friendship I was willing to trust him, and then I wanted to save him from the clutches of the Catholic Church. Little did I know that our precious friendship would eventually lead me home.
4) Do you think its possible for Catholics to form friendships with Muslims?
Of course, it is possible. However, it would not be the deep soul satisfying friendship you would experience with someone who shares your faith. There are different kinds of friendships, and the one with a Muslim friend is the best way of showing the face of Christ. Sharing the love of God and the Good News, after all, is the best gift one can give a friend.
I feel like finally I shared God’s story. I am the sidekick to His grace, so now I can watch and see how others are blessed with it. Also, I love making new friends because of the book. It is making my world much bigger.
6) Where can our readers connect with you?
Visit our Book Notes archive.
Copyright 2017 Michele Faehnle