When 55-year-old Duris Newels, head nurse at Abdulkarim Bakr Medical Center, Jeddah, embraced Islam last week, it was a proud moment for the clinic and its staff.
Newels, now Dania Newels, was a Catholic Christian working at the center for the past five years.
"It is a proud moment for us. We are delighted to announce that our head nurse accepted Islam on her own wish and we wish her success. I also thank our Muslim staff members who helped Dania in understanding Islam in its right perspective," said Dr. Tawfik M.N. Rahaimy, CEO and executive director of the medical center.
"We at the center are not just staff members but are a small family," he added, thanking Mohammed Bakr, chairman of the board of trustees, and Dr. Zakiya Baker Muhandis for their "continued support to the clinic and staff".
Speaking to Arab News, new Muslim Dania said that although she had been a Catholic for a long time, she wasn't a practicing Catholic. She went to a Catholic school because her "parents told her to do so".
"My family and relatives call themselves Catholic Christians. So when you are born in such an environment, you have to accept whatever is around you, without ever knowing what religion exactly is," Dania said.
"In the Philippines, when I was young, we had a very negative conception of Muslims; we believed that they are bad people, traitors, and are always against us. We never dealt with or studied about faith; it was only in our mind," she added.
When Dania came to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to work, it was the first time she met many Muslims.
"I was shocked to know about Muslims, their religion and practices because I had never seen anything like that in the Philippines. I had never seen a mosque or heard the Salah. I gained all this basic information here," she said.
Dania describes her life as a 'roller coaster" with many ups and downs. She has hopped from one religion to another but none satisfied her, she said.
"When you are despaired in life, you always look for someone who can help you. I have been to the church but nothing satisfied me," she said.
Dania befriended several Muslims here but the thought of embracing Islam never crossed her mind until an incident that she says changed her perspective about life.
"Five years ago, I never thought that such a moment will come in my life. Life is very difficult. I started to ponder on what being a Muslim is like. I asked my Muslim friends about it and what they had to say, such as about the Day of Judgement, hell fire and life in the Hereafter, interested me. They told me that Allah SWT is the only Creator, Nourisher and Sustainer and there is none besides Him and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last Prophet. Belief in these principles makes one a Muslim; it is so simple," Dania said.
She further read books on Islam, watched videos on the life of the Prophet (pbuh). She read about the difference between the Bible and the Qur'an and compared the two religions.
"Though I understood many things, I still had doubts in my mind. One day we received a patient who was about to die. She was hospitalized for a long time due to a back fracture. I asked for a sign from God. I said to God that I will accept Islam if the patient, Sultana, is cured," she said.
Dania said she was not quite expecting Sultana to recover. "The same day Dr. Tariq informed me that Sultana had recovered and was doing well. I didn't know what was going on. I was sweating and didn't know what to say. I told Dr. Tariq about the sign I had asked God to give. That very moment I realized that I must keep my words and accept His true religion, the path He showed me," Dania recalled.
Dania went to Makkah to perform Umrah after she accepted Islam last Friday. "I only pray that Allah SWT will guide me on the right path and will be there for me always. I hope I am not late in discovering the light of truth," she said.
"Islam is a complete religion, which not only belongs to Saudi Arabia and the Arabs but it is the religion of the universe. In Islam, you are directly dealing with your Creator. It is not only for your present life but also for your life in the hereafter," said Chairman Bakr, congratulating Dania and praying for her guidance.