DUBAI - Assisting new reverts in their first steps in Islam, an Islamic center in Dubai has hosted a gathering to welcome new reverts who have found Islam recently to offer them a better understanding of the faith and help them stay firm in their beliefs.
"I feel different now, for me Islam is peace," Fatima, a former Protestant receptionist who became Muslim on July 20, told UAE newspaper The National
"It was so difficult for me to fast but it also taught me patience. Being faithful and embracing Allah is everything for me," the new Muslim who fasted for the first time during Ramadan added.
Gathering with more than 250 converts from various faiths, Fatima was speaking during the New Muslim Retreat, an event organized by the Islamic Information Centre at the Dar Al Ber Society.
The event is the first in a series of lectures and meetings to help converts to better understand Islam.
Hosting reverts from various faiths, including Christianity and Buddhism, the gathering drew people from Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, India and Europe.
Like Fatima, many were encouraged by friends or colleagues and gained hope after taking the life-altering decision of becoming a Muslim.
"Deep inside I feel free, I know peace now," said Ibrahim, 25, once John Robert, an office messenger from the Philippines.
"Arab friends encouraged me and I read about Islam before I found myself," he said.
"My mother does not fully accept, but inshallah, she will also serve Islam someday."
The centre welcomed 1,950 new Muslims last year and 1,200 so far this year.
The event organizers hope it would allow reverts a deeper understanding of Islam and Qur'an.
"This is more a cultural gathering to learn their concerns and involve them in prayers," Rashid Al Junaibi, the director of the Islamic Information Centre, said.
"It will help complete their journey to Allah, answer questions, clear misconceptions about Islam. We ask them to concentrate on good manners, respect elders, practice Islam not just in name, be a good Muslim and give to charity if they have wealth."
Ahmed Hamed, an orator on Islam and comparative religion, said the aim was to help followers to stay firm in their new beliefs.
"It is important to keep them steadfast on the faith they have chosen willingly," he said.
"We hope to empower and counsel them. They will face many challenges, get asked questions, and we hope to revive and re-energize their faith."
In previous years, the event came as a turning point for some new Muslim reverts.
"I had an argument with two Muslim friends about who made the universe, and that got me thinking," said Abdul Rahman, 47, a security guard who was a Sri Lankan Buddhist named Kishen Ranila.
"My friend told me praying to Allah would change my life. And after praying five times a day my behavior is different, I want to live properly and not do any harm," Abdul Rahman, who accepted Islam two years ago, said.
"I have felt the power of Allah because after praying, my wife who was sick for a long time is now fine.
"I worshipped statues before but now I live a true life and can pray directly to Allah," he said.