New Muslim convert has her faith tested this Ramadan

From surviving a cardiac arrest to learning how to pray, Iman Parcia has had a trying first Ramadan

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 30 MAY 2019. My Ramadan on a new Muslim, Enam Parcia, who is celebrating her first Ramadan. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
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Iman Parcia has only been a Muslim for six months but in the past few weeks, during her first Ramadan, she has had her faith tested.

The Filipina, 50, entered a mosque for the first time four years ago, driven by curiosity to explore the UAE’s culture and traditions.

Today, the administrator, who lives in Dubai, is celebrating her first Ramadan as a Muslim — having converted with her husband in December last year.

For the mother of two, the journey to Islam was a slow one.

“I have been surrounded by Muslim friends for around 10 years and I kept listening to stories about the prophets and I really appreciated the knowledge,” said Ms Parcia.

While exploring Dubai’s streets in 2015, Ms Parcia walked into Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Jumeirah.

The Ottoman inspired mosque houses a centre where sessions are held, allowing visitors to learn about and practise Islam.

My faith saved me.

“The atmosphere at the mosque was very solemn and I started crying. I felt a change in me that day and it started from there,” said Ms Parcia. 

“Earlier, I focused on serving the community and was not very religious. I was a Christian and a politician and a community leader back home in the Philippines. We used to do a lot of activities for people regardless of religion.”

The change Ms Parcia felt would continue to grow inside her until she made the decision to convert to Islam. While her decision felt right, she said, Ms Parcia worried how it would affect those around her.

“I was scared of rejection from friends and the social impact of my decision of becoming a Muslim,” she said.

“Now, I can boldly say that I have accepted Allah as my saviour. I am proud of being a Muslim.”

This Ramadan, Ms Parcia began fasting in earnest — facing her first test of faith as a Muslim.

“The first few days of Ramadan, I felt dizzy and my lips were getting chapped. I almost had water but I was able to keep my fasts as I have shorter working hours,” she said.

As the days went on, she found her rhythm, until two weeks ago she went to see a doctor about a frozen shoulder she had developed.

The doctor recommended an injection into the shoulder, but within minutes of administering the shot, Ms Parcia had an extreme reaction.

She lost her sight, began convulsing and went into cardiac arrest. She was kept in hospital and is now slowly recovering at home.

She said the near-death experience has made her want to become more pious.

“My faith saved me. Two weeks ago, when I had my cardiac arrest, the only word that I could say was ‘Allah’,” she said. 

“At any minute I could have died and that made me realise that the only thing I wanted was a deeper knowledge of God.”

She said her experience of abstaining from food from sunrise to sunset each day has taught her to appreciate the essential things in life.

"Ramadan has changed me and encouraged me to embrace a simple way of living.”

Ms Parcia is now learning how to pray, saying she felt like something was “missing”.

With the help of her neighbour, she was learnt to recite Surah Al Fatihah, the first verse of the Quran, in a single day.

"This Ramadan has been full of challenges, but I am happy because I have Allah with me and I am not afraid of anyone,” said Ms Parcia.

"I had a frozen shoulder and I felt like I could not breathe but now I am better.

"The biggest reason I converted was that I believed that that being a Muslim will guide my life.

“Now, I have nothing to wish for but to be able to know God more and to continue understanding my faith.”