My Journey of Discovery

This piece was inspired by the sentiments of our respondents who had witnessed the Marawi Siege that spanned from May to October last 2017. According to reports, over a thousand were killed in the Battle (with the majority of the casualties belonging to the terrorists’ side) and 1,780 hostages were rescued. 

I was blinded by my so-called ‘faith,’ and ‘faith leaders’. I really thought Islam was all about that. I was so wrong back then but now, I know better. Islam is a religion of peace, love, and harmony.

Back then, I listened to the teachings of our so-called leaders, and elders. As a child growing up, I followed everything that they said. At those moments, they spoke so beautifully I could have sworn there were flowers flowing from their lips. I believed myself to be a good ‘Muslim’ man, much like those around me. Looking back, it was not Islam that they taught. I remember when I was twelve years old, listening to our leader espouse his own version of God. Now I realize that if I looked closer, what fell alongside each of his words were the blood of those we despised. Back then, we did not see them as humans.

My remembrance next flashed to when I was older, chatting away with colleagues. I laughed at their jokes then, not knowing that their threats of violence held fragments of truth. How else was I supposed to react to their boasts of owning weapons and their want to use these against those who oppose us?

There came a point in my life where I said enough was enough. I gradually found the true Islam which is peace and love. I found it to be my duty to build up on it brick by brick throughout my lifetime.  I did my best to be kind and help those in need when I could — even if it would dent my savings a little. I devoted myself to the words of the Quran and tried to stick to its lessons day by day. But I soon realized how dark my former ‘faith’ was. 

They struck right after our afternoon prayer at 3 o’clock. I remember how the shock pulsed through my body as I watched the people around me panic and flee. 

How could this happen? 

How could these people think of bringing their hatred onto our holy grounds? Onto our homes?

How could they walk out of their homes with thoughts of harming people?

How was I just standing there, watching all of it unfold?

All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by a ringing in my ears, sounding almost like an alarm — as if my being just fully realized what I was formerly supporting. All at once, I could see where the darkness had tainted me and where work still needed to be done. 

May God forgive my transgressions. 

Then there was blinding light. My vision felt like it went on forever but when I finally came to, I realized that mere seconds had passed. I don’t remember much after that, actually, except that I felt like a weight was placed on my shoulders as I grappled with the reality of my former faith. These hateful people succeeded in their goal because of blind supporters like me. They took my God and molded an image of Him in their liking to lure people into their ranks and I once fell for it. I had always thought that I was working in accordance with the love and mercy of our God but it was clear that I was going against everything I thought I stood for. But now I know better.

To this day, I confess that I still struggle with my faith. But I’m glad to announce that I have made some strides. I know it’s hard, but I know that I can do it with the help of a loving and peaceful God, my community, and my family. It’s hard for me to admit to others — even to myself, actually — that I allowed myself to fall so far from where Heaven intended and that I had the audacity to think that what I believed in was good, but it’s harder to stay on that path of degradation.

I know better now; I just wish I could have stopped myself from straying from Him before. Regret and a guilty conscience can’t change the past but I can certainly stop others from making the same mistakes I made.

I believed I was a good follower; it took bombs and bullets raining on my community to make me realize that I wasn’t. I hope yours will not be the same case. Help is always available. Islam is love, peace, and harmony. Just like God is.