“I was living the high life; I had everything a young person could dream of.” Kristiane Backer, a presenter on MTV Europe who interviewed rock stars and enjoyed the red carpet, simply felt that although she had everything, something was still missing. She speculated that perhaps she was missing a romantic partner, but she soon realized that the inner void she felt would not be filled by any more fame, money, and even relations.
“It was a dilemma for me at that time; I was on stage with 70 000 person cheering, and it was as if I was on a cloud. But I felt lonely.” Backer did not acknowledge at that period of her life that what she really needed was being reunited by her creator. Kristiane Backer expressed this dilemma using the exquisitely beautiful lines of Rumi from “The Song of the Reed”:
Listen to the song of the reed,
How it wails with the pain of separation:
Saying “Ever since I was taken from my reed bed
My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.
I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation.
For only they understand the pain of this longing.
Whoever is taken away from his homeland.
Yearns for the day he will return.
The reed is a symbol of the soul and the reed bed signifies God, our Creator.
We long for Him, and wish to be united with Him, our Source.
She felt that despite the fact that she has read so many books, she failed to read herself. In the same breathe, she has reached the sky but failed to reach what is in her heart. This spiritual dimension was never pursued until her identity crisis culminated and become unbearably overwhelming.
At that moment, she was first introduced her to Islam; she explains: “not by a long- bearded Imam with a flowing robe, but by a sports star, Imran Khan.” Imran played Kristiane Sufi music and explained that the lyrics were addressed to the Ultimate Beloved; God.
Backer learned that Allah is Arabic for God, the Creator of the universe and the Center of our being. She found out that all the Muslims she had met were looking beyond themselves. It was faith that inspired them to spend time, energy, and even money to fulfil their aspirations and higher goals.
On her trip to Pakistan, she found that God played an important role in everyone’s life; and that “He was everywhere: in the beautiful architecture, in the music, and in the hearts of people.”
The generosity of Pakistani Muslims was overwhelming, and despite their miserable conditions, they were content. Kristiane realized that there was a stark contrast between the world from which she came, and the Pakistani culture.
Right after her trip, Backer attended the MTV music award in L.A. “The whole scene was so fake and superficial, I really missed the warmth and authenticity of the people I met in Pakistan.”
On the following years, Backer kept traveling back and forth to Pakistan. In addition to the humanity of the people and the culture, Backer was also captivated intellectually. Imran gave her books on Islam which they later discussed in depth. The doctrine of Islam was more logical to her: People worship one God, they are held responsible for their own actions, and that babies are born pure rather than sinners, and that this life is only a bridge to the Afterlife.
“I missed all this intellectual stimulation, there was so much to discover. Having worked at MTV, where it was a matter of leaving your brain at home and have fun at work.” To her surprise, Backer read about Prophets who were familiar. There were so many commonalities between the three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. After all, they all came from the same Source. “Islam is only a continuation of Christianity.”
Backer continued to ask questions about the purpose of life and the big questions were only answered in Islam. She even started viewing the entertainment industry with a critical eye; which brought her to the issue of Islamic dress code of modesty.
“On the issue of youth; women from the entertainment industry are going under the knife all the time in pursuit for eternal youth. But of course, no surgeon, no technology can prevent the passage of time. Only our soul is everlasting. Thus, it only makes sense to beautify that.”
Islam indeed values women for their characters rather than their physical appearance. Western women, in contrast to Muslim women, were under a lot of pressure to comply to the ideals presented in the magazines. “What a liberation it is to worship nothing but God, not money, not fame, not fashion.”
She believes that Islam has changed her life. And even at times when she felt that there is so much pressure, the Quran encouraged her; it says that God does not burden anybody more than they can bear.
Backer pronounced in public that even though she was not yet a convert, she was a Muslim at heart. However, she wanted to “smell the perfume of Islam, and taste its savory fruits.” Thus, she decided to get down at the prayer mat and ultimately converted.
Her career immediately ended, but she never minded it. She regarded it as a test from Allah; and she learned that suffering is a purification for the soul, and that those who accept it gladly, win Allah’s gratification.
In 2009 Kristiane published her acclaimed biography “From MTV to Mecca” in Germany. The book is currently translated into Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, and English. Kristiane is engaged in interfaith and intercultural dialogue and is a Global Ambassador for the Exploring Islam Foundation.