In early October 2017, iERA held their first ever International New Muslim Retreat in Lithuania. After successfully running the New Muslim Retreats in the UK since 2010, the iERA team working with local partners expanded the highly beneficial New Muslim Retreat internationally. The four-day retreat took place in Electrenai, a town on the outside the outskirts of Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius, where a group of Lithuanian New Muslims came together to take the first of our two-part retreat series – The Journey Of Life.
The retreat was also attended by three non-Muslims, Henryk, Igors and Andrew who were interested in learning more about Islam, travelled over four hours from the neighbouring country of Latvia to attend. (Spoiler: One of them embraced Islam at the retreat!)
iERA’s Global Outreach Manager Salahuddin Patel who is himself a revert from a Hindu background kicked off the New Muslim Retreat with an icebreaker session, where all the attendees and instructors got to know each other.
Over the course of the retreat, the attendees took part in a number of prayer workshops, classroom classes and breakout sessions and were fully engaged with the learning experience.
Each of the New Muslims had their own unique story about their journey to Islam:
From Drugs to the Deen
Mykolas, is originally from a traditional Christian background and reverted to Islam fairly recently. Mykolas shared details of his journey towards Islam to the attendees and how our beautiful deen saved his life! Growing up in Lithuania, living in a rural area with nothing much to do, during Mykolas’ teenage years was swept away with the wrong crowd who dabbled in petty theft and a life of drugs. Within his young lifespan he had overdosed several times and near enough died on multiple occasions. Such close brushes with death opened his eyes and as a result, a journey searching for the truth, where he found Islam to be the most felicitous out of all the belief systems, quenching his needs of peace and tranquillity. Mykolas singled out the prayer as the catalyst, which gave him the much-needed impetus he needed to turn his life around for the better. Now having found a new lease on life, with a sense of purpose and principles to abide by, Mykolas is contributing to Lithuanian society in a positive manner. He mentioned being grateful for iERA’s first ever International New Muslim Retreat as there is little access to Islamic Information for New Muslims in this region of the world. Mykolas also explained that the program taught him Islamic foundations and principles, which he was unaware of, before attending the program and now everything was clear and he had something positive that he could take away and apply to his transformed life.
Ernestas, another revert attendee, shared how Islam also saved his life. Having grown up on a rural family farm in Lithuania and living a largely secular irreligious and introverted lifestyle. Ernestas describes himself as having a shy personality trait, which made him an easy target for bullies during his adolescent years, resulting in severe melancholy. On such an occasion, Ernestas came to the conclusion he had enough of life and took the decision to climb onto a bridge, with the intention to jump and take his life. As he was about to jump off, he realised that in his pocket he had a filming camera that he borrowed from a friend. Even though he was about to end his life, Ernestas felt it was wrong not to return the camera he had borrowed, he climbed off the bridge and began walking back where at that moment a car pulled up and his mother just happened to be passing! The dishevelled youngster entered the vehicle and returned to his household. Upon entering his home, with the aforementioned coincidental circumstances still fresh in his mind, he had an epiphany that there was more to life, which he was currently predisposed to. Ernestas inquisitively began researching into the meaning of life and stumbled upon Islam, he was automatically attracted to the truth and embraced it immediately, transforming his life for the better and giving him a true sense of purpose. Ernestas thoroughly enjoyed the program and helping him to learn the basics and foundations of the faith, where he is now committed to giving back to the Ummah by helping produce online videos explaining and conveying the peaceful and compassionate message of Islam in his native tongue.
Non-Muslim Latvians on their Quest for the Truth
Igors and Andrew journeyed from their home nation to attend the program which they thoroughly enjoyed, they both were in
a consensus that they reaped immediate benefits from the prayer workshops, especially when purification was explained and demonstrated. They were truly astonished by the emphasis on both physical and spiritual purity within Islam. Both Igors and Andrew performed the purification ritual of wudu before every prayer, they exclaimed feeling physically and spiritually clean describing the process as the epitome of purity, which they have never felt before in their lives. When the Latvians went through the motions of the Muslim prayer; standing, bowing and prostrating, they both felt spiritually connected. At the conclusion of the retreat, Igors and Andrew made a sincere commitment to continue their efforts in learning more about Islam. They both felt that they are close to accepting Islam, as a result of attending the iERA New Muslim Retreat.
A Shahadah at the Retreat!
Henryk is a Lithuanian who comes from a practising Christian family. Throughout the program Henryk listened quietly and was a proactive participant in all of the activities by the end of the closing session, he shared his positive experiences of the Retreat. The Lithuanian was taken aback by the compassionate message for humanity and how Islam reveres Prophet Jesus as the Messiah, squashing claims that he is God and all acts of gratitude and worship belong to Almighty God alone. Henryk felt so connected and saw the positive impact of the retreat had on all the attendees and instructors, he felt compelled to accept the message of Islam and become a Muslim. (pic of shahadah?)
iERA’s first ever International New Muslim Retreat was an outstanding success, from laying the foundations by teaching the basics of Islam to a region of Europe in much need of a positive and tolerant message of Islam, to Henryk accepting Islam and the positive impact it had on two Non-Muslims from Latvia.
Welcoming, educating and empowering new Muslims is a core part of the Prophetic Mission.
If you would like iERA to deliver a workshop on how to take care of new Muslims in your community or even one of our educational retreats, simply get in touch by going to iera.org/retreat.