Nora Seghier-Naber (42), born in Nieuw-Weerdinge, the Netherlands, is a journalist and a teacher as well. She is now holding the position of the director of Islamic primary school. She also owns a company about educational toys for (Muslim) children. She currently resides in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. She embraced Islam in November 1989.
When and how did you start your journey towards Islam? Is there any incident which you can pinpoint?
I can say that my real search started at the age of 19. As a child I already believed in God, in angels, in an afterlife. When I was a child, I used to go to Sunday school where my mother was one of the teachers. I really loved the stories of the prophets. I was especially fond of the story of David (Dawud), who as a small and young boy stood up against the giant Goliath.
But as I reached puberty, I was rejected by my girlfriends which touched me deeply; my mind was directed to the opposite sex; my parents told me that they didn't really believe in God as Almighty. Conclusion: I was too busy with life in that period.
At the age of 19, however, I started to study journalism and as most of the youngsters, I lived away from my parents in a student home. There, I started to think about the meaning of life, I talked about religion with other students and I visited many churches. There was no church where I felt at ease. I asked a theology student: "I believe that God is Omnipresent, Almighty". She told me: "This is pantheism." Now, I know this is not true. It was Islam that I asked for.
When I finished my study, I went to France to broaden my horizon. I was working as an au-pair and at the same time, I studied the French language. There in Paris, I have met my husband from Algeria. I had never talked to a Muslim about Islam before. He was with his brother(s) and started to ask me questions about my belief in God. As I replied, he told me that he shared my view. I was astonished.
The turning point was that the theology student I was talking about and I corresponded about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I asked her how a student of Christian theology viewed this Prophet of Islam. She answered me that they thought he was not a prophet, but that God shone His Light through him. Than I knew that he must be a real prophet, because God only gives His Light to a man of Truth.
What was the process of conversion like? What becomes different in your life when you convert?
I really realized that my life would change forever. I would leave behind a certain freedom but I had regained another type of freedom, which is richness in my heart, a deeper knowledge. I was afraid of losing my family, because I knew that they wouldn't like the idea. I knew that I would have to change my way of dressing. Although I always was dressed properly, I had to cover up much more. I felt that the headscarf would change the way people would view me. I realized that possibly my career as a journalist would be destroyed. But I told myself: I am in a car and I will not drive backwards, so I have to go forward, I have to be courageous.
What were the milestones along the way? Were there new spiritual experiences? Did it consist of conversations with people, reading books, or some other kind of events?
The most interesting experience I had was a conversation or some conversations with a couple that also converted: the woman, a Dutch convert and the man, a Jew (originally from Algeria). They really brainwashed me: I was overloaded with information. I was ‘hungry as a wolf' for information about my new belief. They explained everything and much more. I was so impressed that the same evening I phoned up my future husband and I told him: I have to quit working; I have to wear scarves etc. It was way too much for me, but I accepted everything.
If there is one thing which you find most attractive in Islam, what would that be?
That I can communicate directly with My Lord. He is my Sustainer, my Friend, my Adviser. He always listens to my prayers and will never leave me in the lurch.
What about your early religious background (upbringing)?
It was the liberal Protestant church in which I was raised up, but my parents are no believers: they are humanists; they believe that the human being is ‘the creator' of the world.
Do you remember the first time you heard about a religion called Islam?
I don't recall this moment. But I have been reading in a cahier of High School when I was 13 or 14 years old that I have noted the five pillars.
How did people respond to you converting to Islam such as your family?
At first, my parents started yelling and crying. It was like a movie. They thought I threw everything overboard which they have taught me. But only after the birth of our oldest daughter they started to accept me as a Muslim. Last year, they have spent their holidays with us in Algeria. They were very happy. My parents always buy halal meat for us, so I think I am blessed.
How can you compare the notion of prophethood in Christianity and in Islam?
What seems strange to me that the prophets of Christianity all seem humans with a lot of sins. This idea I think is strange. If a simple believer doesn't have any difficulty in guarding his modesty, how can a prophet sleep with his own daughter, or drink too much wine, or kill many people?
What did you find closest to your heart about our Prophet? What was the most appealing thing about him?
That he always has been merciful towards the believers, even though they did wrong. He never asked Allah to condemn part of the Muslims.
How is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) perceived and received in the part of the world that you come from?
A lot of people see him just as a leader of the Muslims and the founder of the religion of Islam and the writer of the Quran.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in Islam?
Read the books about Islam, written by Muslims. When you read the Quran, start from the back. Read the Quran with footnotes or explanation.