I’m starting Part 8 off with a bio on today’s Muslimah – here, in her own words, she tells us a little about herself and how she came to Islam. More to come from her tomorrow!
I’ve honestly never written my whole story or even really shared it with anyone because I never thought I, of all people, could be helpful to someone contemplating reverting/converting to Islam. Recently, however, I’ve found myself feeling more open and wanting to help anyone I could. Perhaps this feeling is coming from the blessed month of Ramadan or a simple realization that if I could touch even one person’s life, that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.
My story, as I see it, is probably pretty typical. I am American, born and raised in the Mid-West. My parents got together when they were pretty young, had my older sister and I, and for reasons still unknown to me, never married. Shortly after I was born (and thanks to my dad’s growing drinking problem) my parents chose to go their separate ways. Both would move on to marry other people; my dad just once married and divorced while my mom would marry and divorce 3 times. Due to the ever changing atmosphere of “family” during this time, I can’t say my childhood was filled with a lot of restrictions, teachings or even a lot of care. In nearly all aspects of life I think I pretty much raised myself as well as my 4 younger siblings. Despite this type of upbringing, I still respect both my parents to the fullest and am thankful every day that I was blessed with understanding and accepting parents (this definitely came in handy later).
I was raised Christian (Baptist) but my family just didn’t see going to church as a necessity. Over the years I noticed my mom would go through bouts of wanting to become more connected to God but nothing every really stuck. Honestly, I never understood her “need” to find her connection to God.
Move forward a few years and I moved out on my own, moved to a different city where I knew no one and had no one. I have to admit I did many, many things at that time that I am not proud of today but I managed to survive the best I could. Slowly, over the next few years I would feel much more disconnected to nearly everything I was doing. I no longer felt the urge to drink, party, have inappropriate relationships; even when I “tried” to make myself do these things and lose control, I just couldn’t…it never felt “right,” to me. I felt like there was no real reason for living. However, thanks to a sweet Muslim woman I worked with and her unexplained niceness towards me (she used to ask me in very broken English, “You Islam? You Islam?” and I honestly had no idea what she meant) I just felt like despite the hardships she had (health issues, poor working atmosphere, abusive spouse, no friends and an extremely restricted life) there is no possible way Muslim people are really what people assume they are; this woman was wonderful to me. Thanks to Google I was able to find answers to basic questions like: Are Muslims violent? Why do men control women in Islam? Are women forced to cover their hair and bodies? Why do Muslims Pray? Why don’t some Muslims pray?
I read and read and read some more. I found good information and I found extremely bad information. What I found in a general consensus is that Islam is a peaceful religion, not violent as portrayed by the American media. I found many websites about sisters who reverted/converted to Islam and how this changed their lives for the better. Seeing that, I just knew that I needed to know more. Once I found that accepting Islam wholeheartedly wipes away all past sins, I knew this was the path for me. I then visited the Mosque in my city. I was honestly frightened at first because I didn’t know what to expect. To me, this was the determining factor on whether I would be able to go through with converting or if this would be just another idea left in the back of my mind that I may, or may not have regretted later in life. When I entered the Mosque I could instantly see the diversity. I had never realized that there was such diversity in the religion but I was surely amazed at this! There were many Somalian women completely covered and in mostly black garments. I found it intriguing that not one of them look at me strangely, they all looked at me with smiles. I sat on the floor by the door because I didn’t know where to sit, how to sit or if I was offending anyone. No one approached me at first, and I have to admit I was too shy to approach anyone on my own. But, all of a sudden all of the women stood up and some of them started leaving, which I assumed meant they were done praying. I still sat on the ground and then decided to get up because I was worried I was in the way of them leaving. Then, as I turned around an elderly Somalian woman approached me with the biggest smile on her face and grabbed my hands and kissed them. I didn’t know at the time what this meant, but looking back I remember her saying “Alhamdulilah, Alhamdulilah.” This very action from this women, completely unknown to me, made all the questioning in my mind disappear and I KNEW at that very moment, I HAD to be Muslim.. On March 30, 2013 I took my Shahada and my life has never been better.
For the previous posts in this Finding Common Ground Series, see below: