Why Indrani and Chandara embraced Islam
Sister Nishani (previously known as Indrani) and her husband, Brother
Rafiq (previously known as Chandara) shared with Sister Muneerah
Al-Idros, their path toward embracing Islam.
Indrani was 6 years old when her father died. Her mother stopped
praying as she felt that God had been unfair to make her a widow
with 5 little children. Indrani and here brothers and sisters were
brought up as nominal Hindus. They had neither an altar nor pictures
of gods in their house as many Hindus do.
When Indrani was 10 yrs old she began to love God. She collected
pictures of Hindu gods and godesses and worshipped them at home.
She felt the need to pray and thought it was odd that, unlike other
Hindu families, her family performed few Hindu rites.
During her teenage years, Indrani started going to temple thrice
weekly. She encouraged some of her friends to go to the temple with
her as she quickly became more interested in Hinduism.
She participated in bhajanai (devotional singing) activities and
became a committee member in Ayyapan Group in Perumal Temple for
One day, Indrani became very ill. She consulted several doctors
but was informed that there was nothing wrong with her. However,
her illness persisted. She later consulted a Swami (a Hindu priest)
so that he would clear the sevanai (evil spirits) that she suspected
were dwelling inside her. The Swami and his assistant came to visit
her. The assistant was Chandara, who was involved in her temple's
religious rites and who has also organised religious trips to Malaysia
for Indrani and her friends.
Indrani was very impressed with the knowledge the young man demonstrated
while assisting the swami.
After that visit, Chandara dreamt of his favourite goddess, Kaliamma,
telling him to take Indrani as his bride. After much persuasion,
his family asked for Indrani's hand in marriage. Indrani and her
family were pleasently surprised by the marriage proposal. Indrani
could not believe that her dreams of marrying a pious Hindu had
Unlike Indrani, Chandara was brought up in a religious Hindu family.
On top of that, Chandara was the most religious in his family. He
would often slip into a trance, reciting the holy mantras, in praise
of the gods and goddesses who would possess him and speak through
him. In Hinduism, it is considered an honour to be possessed by
the gods or godesses.
Chandara and other members of the group often got together to listen
to the teachings of the swami. They would also make house visits
to chase evil spirits out of other people's houses and bodies. This
is how Chandara was appointed to be the swami's assistant.
Indrani had never entered into a trance but had seen Chandara being
possessed by the elephant god, Vinayagar. Chandara would behave
exactly like an elephant, eating the fruits that the elephant ate.
When in a trance, Chandara would be approached to solve problems.
Those who approached him would prostrate before him, for they regarded
him as "God". The vibuthi (white ashes) used to anoint
the forehead would be brought to Chandara to be blessed.
Despite all this, Chandara did not feel complete. Dissatisfied,
he knew there was something not right in his life. He failed to
see the light and always felt that his path was blocked by some
kind of darkness which he wanted to clear so he could reach the
light. He knew that were 3360 Hindu gods and he prayed to several
Whenever he felt confused, he would go to the library to find out
more about Hinduism. He learned from the elders but knew there was
still alot more to learn. Many of the Hindu priests did not want
to share everything that they knew; knowledge was their ricebowl
and they did not want their source to be taken away.
It was difficult to learn on your own about Hinduism, as most of
the writings were in Sanskrit. Chandara could not find any holy
books that satisfied his quest. All the books were written by different
authors and each of them had different ideas about how and when
Hinduism started. Even the Bhagavat Geeta (which emphasised more
on Vishnu), Ramayana and Mahabrahta were very limited. These holy
scriptures were more literature books, teaching that we should do
good and pray to the gods. Above all these gods is the female god
who is the Aadhi Parasakhti. She controls the whole universe. The
essence of Hinduism is to strive at getting a good reincarnation
and to worship God and to pray to God through demigods.
During this search for enlightenment, Chandara was approached by
a Christian missionary worker in Toa Payoh. He got involved in Christianity
in the hope of enlightenment. However, he did not like Christianity,
mainly due to the behaviour of the people in the church; he noticed
that young men and women were behaving indecently. Christianity
was not what he was looking for and he withdrew.
Still, Chandara could no longer bring himself to pray to so many
gods. He could worship only one God spiritually and worship the
other idols physically, but he did not know who the One God was.
Chandara occassionally still got into a trance.
Chandara had curious Malay friends asking him about Hindu worship.
They did not tell him about Islam but they told him that unlike
him they pray to one God: Allah.
Chandara, who was the leader among his working mates, would go
along with Malays when they performed their Zohor prayer, waiting
while they prayed. At the same time, he would pray to God in his
hear, and ask for the right path.
Chandara was very impressed with the adhan, which had a soothing
effect on this. The adhan touched his heart so deeply, especially
when it was followed by the prayer that his friends and other Muslims
never failed to fulfill. He felt like it was so simple to recognise
the true God. "Just worship him. Why does one need all these
idols and mediators?" It did not take long before he felt it
was Islam and Allah that he had been searching for.
After their marriage, his wife Indrani was still quite active in
her temple activities. She became puzzled when her husband, a more
pious Hindu than herself, used to hint repeatedly at the existence
of one Almighty God, about praying to one God and that a true religion
should not have many gods. Her mother-in-law felt that her previously
pious son might have offended the gods.
Even after marriage, Chandara continued his search for enlightenment.
He was trying to search for his One God in Hinduism, trying to know
the One God he was praying to spiritually. He was no longer interested
in any of the temple activities, no longer got into a trance. His
mother, while in a trance, pointed out that her son's change in
behaviour was due to his being under a charm.
Chandara did not know anything about Islam except that in Islam,
God is One. He would meditate daily and Uthrachamale (zikr or rosary)
Usually he would be chanting the various god's names. However, this
time when he called out their names he felt something was wrong
so he just said in English, "Almighty God, Almighty God..."
In his meditation, he knew Muslims are praying to the true God.
Chandara's biggest problem in practising Islam was Indrani. She
didn't like Muslims and was active with her temple activities. He
tried to influence his wife on the teachings of Islam by turning
on to the Malaysian Islamic programmed on televisions, like "Pedoman."
Indrani would complain that it was not necessary for her husband
to take so much interest in Islam. He took this opportunity to express
to her that he no longer believed in Hinduism, reasoning that it
does not have a holy book and a basis of belief. Failing to find
out how Hinduism started it merely seemed a culture full of complexity
brought down by their ancestors.
He bought a translation of the Quran by Yusuf Ali and was deeply
impressed when he read about the Prophets, of the beginning of mankind
and of heaven and hell. He found many things that are necessary
for every human bring to know and he encouraged Indrani to read
it. When he read that idol-worshippers will be thrown to hell, he
had all the idols and pictures removed from their home.
Chandara now concentrated on learning more about Islam from various
sources. He tried to learn more about Islam from his Malay friends.
However, they usually could not give him answers to his questions.
They suggested that he should seek help from an Ustadz (a religious
teacher). None of them took the initiative to take him to see any
Ustadz until he met a member of the Al-Arqam group. This person
shared what he knew about Islam with Chandara. But Chandara found
some of his teachings misleading; contrary to the teachings of Islam
was the display of pictures of their leaders.
Chandara started bringing home books on Islam, as well as on Christianity,
Sikhism and Hinduism, telling his wife to read and make a comparison
of these religions. Indrani was not interested. he was very satisfied
with her belief and with Hinduism. She told herself that there no
way he could influence her with his idea of One Almighty God and
swore in her heart that she would bring him back to her way.
Indrani had no intention of reading the books her husband brought
home. Yet when she had trouble sleeping at night, something made
her pick up the Quran and read it. Again and again, when she could
not sleep, it was the Quran that she picked up and read. She felt
so lost because since her husband removed the Hindu deities from
their home, she could no longer pray to them.
Indrani began to have dreams. During her first pregnancy, she dreamt
of the Kaaba. She related her dream to one of her Muslim colleagues,
who the related Indrani's dream to her father. He told her that
she was fortunate to have dreamt of the Kaaba.
She also dreamt of Hindu Gods giving her warnings and threats but
she had more dreams about Islam and pious Muslims. She continued
to pray to Hindu idols, but wondered about her dreams. When she
was expecting her third daughter, she had another strange dream.
She heard a voice coming from the open window of the bedroom window.
The voice said, "I am Muhammad, the Messenger of God. Follow
my way and all evil will go away. If you want to know more, ask
She awoke after this dream but fell asleep again. She had a second
dream. In this dream, she saw herself telling her husband about
her first dream. She asked him what the "way" was and
he told her to look out the window. When she did, she saw Yusuf
Islam dressed like an Arab giving a talk on Islam, surrounded by
other people dressed like him. Indrani had never seen Yusuf Islam
before but she had heard of him. Somehow, in her dream, she knew
it was him.
These dreams had a very strong impact on Indrani's belief. She
became increasingly drawn toward Islam and wanted to follow the
way fo Muhammad, the Messenger of God. She recalls that she wanted
to accept Islam but was afraid as she was expecting her third child.
She feared something would befall her baby as she thought of the
threats the Hindu deities had made in her dream. After her delivery,
Indrani told her husband that she was ready.
They were told about Darul Arqam - The Muslim Converts' Association
of Singapore, where they could register their reversion to Islam.
Chandara initially refused as he thought Darul Arqam was affiliated
to Al Arqam. They went to Jamiyah (Islamic Theological Society of
Singapore) instead, and registered their names as Mohamed Rafiq
When they announced their reversion, they encountered many problems.
This was especially so when Indrani started wearing the hijab. Their
parents, siblings, relatives and friends who used to hold them dear,
now chided them. All the friends Indrani has guided to Hinduism
now refused to have anything to do with her, for fear that she may
succeed in bringing them to Islam. They were especially surprised
because Indrani used to dislike Muslims more than they did. Indrani's
parents warned her that her husband must have a hidden interest
in having more than one wife.
Indrani and her husband, ostracised by their parents, missed the
affection they previously received from them. Indrani repeatedly
told herself that since Allah loves her so much, the sacrifice she
was making in losing her family was nothing. She knows that no one
loves her more than God Himself.
Learned Hindus and gurus tried to bring Chandara back to Hinduism
but he turned them down politely. They then severed their relationship
with him. Indrani's family swore to see that he children Nisha,
Nafeesa and Natasha be brought back to Hinduism when they grow up,
refusing to acknowledge their grandchildren's Muslim names. The
children, now studying at the Madrasah (Islamic school), are very
pleased with their religion. Chandara encourages them to wear the
hijab even though they are still young, with the intention of getting
them used to veiling. The parents observed that the children like
the hijab so much that they themselves refuse to remove it.
Despite being rejected by their families, Indrani and Chadara never
gave up trying to improve their relationship with them. Today, both
Indrani's and Chandara's mothers have expressed that they have a
filial son and a filial daughter.
Indrani and Chandara's story was published in "Muslim Reader"
magazine. Aug-Nov 1995 Vol. 13 No. 3. This is a publication of the
Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore which is located at 21
Onan Road, The Galaxy, Singapore 424484