Irish singer Sinead O’Connor recently announced that she is converting to Islam and changing her name to “Shuhada” which means witness, or martyrdom in Arabic. O’Connor has been an avid critic of organized religion her whole life, and even ripped up Jon Paul II’s photo on live television in 1993. So, for many on the outside, this seems like a bit of a surprising leap. She claims that her decision to convert was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey.”
Yesterday, O’Connor uploaded a video of herself singing the azaan, the Islamic call to prayer. She apologizes in the caption for mispronouncing some of the classical Arabic words. Although the Quran is written Arabic and prayers are recited in Arabic, many Islamic followers are not fluent in the language. “Once I’ve practiced the Azan a hundred times I promise I’ll sing it much better than the one I’ve posted,” she tweeted.
Here is my 1st attempt at singing the Azan. I got some pronouncition wrong because emotions took me from my page… but there’ll be hundreds of others onstage to come … https://t.co/vDFyheqOOc
— Shuhada’ Davitt (@MagdaDavitt77) October 19, 2018
Umar Al-Qadri, the theologian at the Islamic Centre Ireland in Dublin, released a short clip of the Irish singer reciting the “Shahadah,” the profession of the Islamic faith that begins, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
The imam attempted to dissuade any criticism of this rash decision, claiming that “her coming to Islam has been a careful and informed decision and follows a lifetime of searching and study.”
World renowned singer Shuhada Davitt @MagdaDavitt77 (#SineadOConnor) has proclaimed the #Shahadah with me in #Ireland. She is so happy ! Masha Allah !#Ireland #Islam #SineadOConnorEmbracesIslam @SineadOconnorHQ pic.twitter.com/mBeHlcrgqW
— Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri (@DrUmarAlQadri) October 25, 2018
Al-Qadri explained O’Connor’s life journey and what led her to her current path. O’Connor has struggled with bipolar disorder and had attempted suicide when she was 33. She later claimed she was misdiagnosed, but she has long been a proponent of a more nuanced conversation on mental health.
“She has faced many challenges in her life. Where there is light, darkness has tried to envelope it, the greater the light, the greater the struggle with darkness.”
Al-Qadri affirmed that O’Connor chose the name “Shuhada” because “it refers to one who bears witness, as she hopes life and her voice will always remain a witness to truth, justice, and mercy.”
The public response to O’Connor’s conversion has been mixed. While her Islamic spiritual awakening may have enticed criticism from Islamophobic commenters, fellow Muslims online seemed keen to welcome her into the faith.
Imagine converting to a religion where as a women you have to cover yourself up, treated as a second class citizen, female genital mutilation, be with a husband where he can have multiple wife’s. I can go on all day but I won’t have enough character. Use to be a fan too Sinead 😩
— Dyer 🏴 (@321Dyer) October 25, 2018
“Salaam and keep up the good work,” said Immy Khan. “You have 1.7 billion brothers and sisters now.”
On Thursday, she tweeted:
“Thank you so much to all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have been so kind as to welcome me to Ummah today on this page. You can’t begin to imagine how much your tenderness means to me.”