I am originally from Laos, a small country in Southeast Asia. I had the privilege to finish high school and continue my education at university.
After graduation, I found a good job with an international company. Working for this company provided me with the possibility to travel to other parts of Asia. I traveled to Vietnam, Thailand and China. And one of my business trips brought me to Malaysia. That was fifteen years ago.
When I arrived in Malaysia, I noticed that people were not eating when it was time for lunch. I found that strange and asked about it. They told me it was Ramadan and that they were fasting because that is what Allah commands them to do. And they want to please Allah.
After some time, I noticed that they were also not drinking. I asked again and they gave me the same explanation. I was astonished. Who was this Allah that people abstained from eating and drinking for His sake?
Who is Allah?
When I asked my Malaysian colleagues, they brought me to a place where I was able to ask all my questions. There was also a group of students from different countries. They talked to each other in very good English. That impressed me. European, Asian and African students.
All of them fluently conversed in English. How and where did they learn it? Where do they study? I thought that they surely attend a very high quality education institution. I was informed that they were all students at an International Islamic university in Malaysia.
How can one study there, I asked. Was it very expensive?
Then one of the people who informed me about Allah, Islam and Ramadan, told me that if I become Muslim, I can apply for a scholarship. I asked how it was possible to become Muslim. And they told me that I just had to recite certain words, the shahadah. I was very excited. Was it possibly so easy to continue my education?
In retrospect I know that it was probably not the right intention to accept Islam but it was my way to become Muslim.
I spoke my shahadah right there and then. And I was told that I should cover my head now. I did. And they showed me how to pray. A few days later I applied for a scholarship and it was granted. I was helped by many people just because I was a new Muslim. I quit my job and continued my education until PhD. All financed by scholarships because I was a new Muslim.
During my Masters, I started seriously learning about Islam. I learned about Tawhid. I learned reading Quran. So, I became very grateful because what Allah had bestowed upon me. And with every day, I embraced Islam more.
I accepted Islam because I wanted an education, because I wanted a scholarship. But that was only the beginning. I understand now that this was Allah’s way of getting my attention. Allah knew that education was very important for me.
To provide the possibility for free education to Muslims and non-Muslims is extremely important. It should be offered as a service to humanity by our Muslim community. If it was not for education, maybe I would have never been interested in Islam.
Quite a few of my friends from Laos followed my example after I told them about this amazing opportunity. And all of them became good, practicing Muslims. Praise be to Allah.
There are many different ways to call people to Islam. Education and especially free education is surely one of them. There are very few Muslims in Laos and all of us Laotian converts would like to go back one day. We would like to contribute to our society and to the spread of Islam in a meaningful way.
This is Alina’s story. She is 40 years old and converted to Islam in Malaysia.