The Story of a Muslim Girl Who Changed the Life of a Buddhist
By Rafique S. M. Ahmed
Los Angeles, CA
Of course, it was ‘love at first sight’ and this is exactly how Phyome Phyakul, a 24-year old Buddhist sales consultant felt when he first met a beautiful young Muslim girl, Sukathee (Chitri) Bin Gahal right after she had assumed the responsibilities of cashier at the Mitsubishi Isuzu manufacturing plant in Bangkok, Thailand in 1964.
Soon after, both Phyome and Sukathee became good friends and started to know each other better. Phyome wanted to settle down in his life and was extremely impressed by Sukathee, a girl of high moral character with a great sense of responsibility at work. Over a period of time, Phyome became absolutely convinced that Sukathee was the only girl who would make a great wife bringing love and happiness in his life. When he finally proposed to Sukathee, he was stunned in disbelief when she said, “I am a Muslim girl and Islam does not allow me to marry a non-Muslim man.” Phyome was heartbroken but was determined to marry Sukathee at any cost. He offered to become a Muslim instantly. Sukathee advised him not to make a decision in haste. She further advised him, “First learn about Islam and read the Holy Qur’an. Once you are convinced that Islam is the way to go for you and if you become a Muslim, I will wait and will marry you at that time.”
Phyome’s journey to Islam was an ultimate test in his life, but he was steadfast in his strivings to seek the truth about the religion and its teachings. The struggle consisted of many aspects in his day-to-day interactions in various functions and while taking food with his family. Many things are prohibited in Islam that he did not know before. Most importantly, it was a surprise and a big shock to his beloved parents, other family members and friends. It was a 360 degree turn from the Thai Bhuddist traditions, culture and social structure to something unbeknown to all.
Phyome spent three years in diligently studying Islamic history, culture and practice. He also sought to learn Arabic and the Holy Qur’an. Quite often, he asked Sukathee to get permission from her parents to be allowed to observe and participate in their family events at home. This would give him the opportunity to know more about her family’s lifestyle, expectations and her upbringing. A Thai Muslim girl is not allowed to date. Aside from working together at the same company during the day, the chances for being with Sukathee after work were none except to visit her home and be with her. Phyome was accepted well by her family members, although it was the first time ever that a daughter of this family (9 children with 2 boys and 7 girls) had invited a non- Muslim male to their home.
Phyome said that during the three years of his struggle, there were ups and downs in his trials in search of “ways of life in Islam”. On several occasions he almost gave up. But the more he learned about Islam in entirety, the oneness of Allah (swt) especially got rooted deeper in his belief. He said, “I have only one God to please and not too many gods to worship”. Although his past learning in Buddhism and going to Catholic school for two years could not sit well with him. He finally found Islam not by those whom he loved to faith, but “Allah (swt) guides whomever He wills”.
He not only accepted Islam, he also got the Islamic name Rahmat (Mercy from Allah) from the brother-in-law of his bride.
Shortly after getting married, Rahmat and Sukathee emigrated to the United States in 1967 and decided to settle down in the beautiful city of Monrovia, Los Angeles county in California. They were blessed with two beautiful daughters. Both Rahmat and Sukathee also became very active members of the Muslim community from Thailand settled in Southern California. Since the Muslim population was growing very rapidly and there was no Masjid/Mosque in their neighborhood or adjacent cities, both Rahmat and Sukathee started convincing the local Muslims to establish a ‘Masjid’ not only for daily prayers, but also for inculcating basic Islamic education and values in the growing number of Muslim children.
Br. Rahmat assumed the responsibility as a caretaker of the Masjid and the administrative functions to ensure all the daily services are performed diligently and professionally whereas Sr. Sukathee took over the kitchen and gardening responsibilities ably assisted by her two beautiful daughters. Two of their grandsons were also brought up in the Masjid environment ever since they were babies.
The converted property was pretty old, major repairs were often required creating financial burden on Br. Rahmat who used to go back to Thailand with his wife to dispose of some of their personal properties to take care of the major repairs of Masjid Al-Fatiha. They always tried to take care of the House of Allah all by themselves without organizing a formal fundraiser for Masjid Al-Fatiha.
Unfortunately, couple of years ago, Masjid Al-Fatiha started developing major and serious construction problems requiring a large sum of money to fix them. Since the Masjid was already running out of space to accommodate the rapidly growing number of attendees and considering the impending major repairs, it was decided to demolish and rebuild Masjid Al-Fatiha from scratch doubling the total capacity to hold 600 to 700 people at a time. Alhamdulillah, with the help and the generous financial support of the community as well as Br. Rahmat and Sr. Sukathee, the entire structure and major construction has been almost done. However, the Masjid still needs one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) to complete the entire reconstruction and finishing off of Masjid Al-Fatiha.
After two years and three months of this renovation project, the financial problems have taken a toll on both Br. Rahmat and Sr. Sukathee. Since they have already depleted their personal properties back home in Thailand over the years for Masjid Al-Fatiha, they are really desperate to raise the much needed $150,000 to complete the remaining work.
Under these circumstances, I would very humbly request all the brothers and sisters living in Southern California to make concerted efforts to generously help Masjid Al-Fatiha in the last leg of construction of the new Masjid. I would also request all the respected brothers and sisters living outside of Southern California to please help Masjid Al-Fatiha by mailing their tax-deductible and generous donations to:
PO Box 494
Azusa, CA 91702.
Out of thousands of people receiving this email worldwide, if only 1,500 generous Muslims donate just one hundred dollars each, that would raise the much needed funds of $150,000 to complete the job.
Your timely and generous help during Ramadan will not only contribute to the reconstruction of Masjid Al-Fatiha without further delay but also serve as a great tribute to sister Sukathee who brought a Buddhist to the realm of Islam, put him on the path of Allah, and turned him into a dedicated Muslim to serve the cause of Islam.
May Allah Almighty bless Sr. Sukathee, Br. Rahmat and their family. Thank you so very much for your kind support.
May Allah Almighty bless you all.