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Africa Changed My Life: Whom Should I Thank for My Privileges?

The first time I really came in contact with Islam was in my last years of High School.

One of my classmates had converted to Islam at the age of 16. We had lots of deep conversations and also became close friends. However, it never occurred to me to also become Muslim. I was a convinced atheist. I did not want to have anything to do with religion. Science was my way of life.

Traveling and Living in Africa

However, when I finished high school, I wanted to get out. Get out of Germany, get out of Europe. I wanted to see and experience something totally different. I have always been fascinated with Africa.

Africa was so different from anything I knew. That is why I decided to do a volunteer year in Tanzania. My time in Tanzania was a life changer. It was a door opener to a huge change in my life.

During my time in Africa, I did not really feel the so called culture shock that many people refer to when living in a different culture. Actually, I experienced a culture shock when I returned to Germany.

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A Spiritual Crisis

I had seen how people live in Africa. Back in Germany I could not pretend that everything was fine and go back to my normal German life.

One of the main questions that occupied me was: Whom should I thank for all the amazing material privileges I have in my life in Germany?

I knew now that running water or even clean water was not the norm. I saw how people had to struggle to make a living in Tanzania. I saw that education is not free for everybody.

Why did I have these privileges? Was it because of my parents? No, it wasn’t. Who gave me these luxuries? This seemingly simple question caused me a spiritual crisis.

Islam Made Sense

And this spiritual crisis caused me to turn to religion. I learned about Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. I also learned about Islam.

But as with the other religions, my aim was more to find something faulty so I could comfortably reject it as a possible choice for my life. But the more I read about Islam, the more it made sense. I did not have any rational counter arguments against Islam.

The emotional and cultural arguments cannot be applied when we talk about an objective truth. And I found that Islam is the objective truth. I looked at Islam through my scientific approach. The scientific proofs found in the Quran and Hadith convinced me that Islam was really revealed by God.

Accepting Islam

Having come to that understanding caused a huge dilemma for me. I had been a convinced atheist. How could I accept Islam? But I also could not return to my old life. And just pretend I did not find what I found. In February 2017 I spoke my shahada.

Becoming Muslim gave meaning to my life. My family was not happy about my choice.

Although they accepted my new religion and way of life, they would rather have me go back to my old life.

But this is impossible! I found the truth. I filled this empty space in my heart with light that I used to cover with my consumptive life style. I have no regrets!

By getting me out of my German comfort zone. By making me live one year in Tanzania, God opened my heart for His ultimate truth. I was looking for the One I can show my gratitude to. And I found God.

This is Yunus’ story. Born as Jonas, he changed his name to Yunus after accepting Islam in 2017.

About Claudia Azizah
Claudia Azizah is originally from Germany and mother of two children and writer. She served as Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia until August 2019. She is co-founder of the Ulu-Ilir-Institute in Indonesia. She regularly writes for the German Islamic newspaper. She is interested in Islamic spirituality, art and Southeast Asia. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: #clazahsei