I have been asked to write my story as to how I came to make the decision to convert to Islam. So, here is my story. I knew of Islam back during my college days in the mid-60s. Most of my roommates were dating Iranian fellows and it was during the gathering by an Iranian professor and his American wife that I had many a conversation concerning Islam in general.
Being raised a Roman Catholic for most of my formative years, I had been turned off behind the hyprocrisy that I noticed in terms of calling others “heathen” or “pagan” because of the physical idol worshipping some religions allow. For me, as a very young woman, I could not see the difference. I was not the usual child that most nuns would like to have in their class. I asked questions that either caught them off-guard or they were not willing to be bothered to answer. It appeared to me that this was a challenge to their authority and, afterall, they had my spiritual welfare at heart and I was to listen and obey, not question.
As a young woman in college, I became involved in being more open-minded about learning other religions and other things in life as well, but was not willing to make a change in any direction concerning what I had been raised in. In fact, as far as I was concerned, God was out there, but not sure exactly in what form.
As most children of the 60s, where so much turmoil, civil rights movements, Black Panther movement, the Vietnam Conflict, etc., there were too many other important things in my book and religion, much less God did not figure into it. I think for awhile I may have been leaning more to the agnostic angle of faith, but not totally disregarding some kind of spiritual source whatever you wanted to name it.
As usual, those of us who did not decided to go “flower childing,” and, instead decided to go mainstream establishment, married a gentleman who was from India and a non-practicing Hindu, which suited me fine. He was not like others from his family and/or environment where puja had to be done and other rituals observed. He was non-plussed, fine, if not, that was okay. Our children were not raised in any religious environment as I was. Unfortunately, things happen and the marriage fell apart.
Now, I was a single mother with two children and on my own. I later met a gentleman, an American, who likewise viewed religion as a sign of weakness and a crutch for those who depended on it. Needless to say, when I got caught up in the Evangelical movement, it was a shock to him (as well as a few other people) and it sent him into a tizzy.
So, the youngest two as well as their elder siblings from the previous marriage were now in the latest phase of Christianity. Deep down inside I needed something more substantive and faith was one thing that I needed the most and had the least knowledge about. Fate had another turn in my life and my second husband was killed in a car crash thirty minutes from home, leaving me with a 4 year old son, a 5-1/2 year old daughter, an 11 year old daughter and a 14 year old daughter to raise.
When I buried my husband, his family turned their backs on us and did not want the responsibility of worrying about four children, two from my previous marriage and the other two they felt we should not have had considering my husband was 20 years older than me and he was a fool to be a father. The last two children were his only children as three marriages before had not produced any offspring. So, here I am…… alone, my family disowned me from the beginning of the relationship into the marriage and then his deserted me due to their own fears, worries and hangups.
The church that I went to and had dragged sometimes four screaming, kicking children every Sunday, also turned its back on us. It seems that since I was not 60ish and not able to work to take care of myself, I was beaten over the brow with that scripture (text taken out of context) of what responsibility they had and where; it was not for me and four orphans.
Devastated and feeling all alone for real in every way, I went away from any form of organized religion. You even looked like you were going to preach to me and I tore into you in such a way that you backed off. For many years, I was a frustrated, angry and hurt person and so were my children.
Through the years, which it has been 16 years of widowhood, I have had to process in my relationship with God (my non-muslim title), including coming to terms with many issues and facing many problems in recovering spiritually, physically and emotionally from not only the experience of the death of my headship of the family, but from the rejection by so many sources. I came to understand much later as I was processing that this was how God had to reach me and prepare me for what yet lay ahead in my life.
There were times that I had no one to count on, but God, especially in the middle of the night when one of the children would be sick and I had no money for medicine, much less a way to get that child to a doctor. And I saw God do miracles for me and then I watched everything that happened. Little by little God was teaching me who he really is and what He is really about.
I am here today only due to his mercy and grace, and most of all his compassion and understanding for what and where I had been. It was not easy at times, let me reassure you of that. God gave me the strength to raise my four children to adulthood, tribulating and trials galore in that arena for any of you who have teenagers know what I am referring to, especially as a single mother at that time. But, my children were my inspiration to get up everyday and fight if need be to just get them through to take care of themselves.
When my eldest daughter was married, we again experienced a sudden death with the loss of my son-in-law who just was made a father three months before his death. This was hard on us, but not as hard as the first death we experienced. Based on what had happened earlier to us, my daughter knew she would make it, because I and God were there for her and my newborn grandson.
Time went on, children grow up (including my grandson) and the tree starts branching out………. Now, I am facing being single again. Well, before I ventured in this part of my life, I recognized I needed to change first spiritually. I would spend my lunch time and sometimes breaks searching the internet just to see what ever occurred in my mind to search. I just happened one day to enter “Islam” into the net and found a web site that I could download the entire Quran from. I did and then I found myself searching and reading, and getting hungrier for more. For once, it seemed to me that the answers I had been searching for had been in this one book all these years. All the questions I had and no one could give me any answers to satisfy that quest were now being answered. It was like a light went off and I was hooked.
As I mentioned earlier, I needed to re-evaluate my life since my children had their own families to worry about. I knew enough that change happens spiritually before the physical manifestation occurs. I agonized for weeks about converting; remember I was raised a Roman Catholic and any one who has been raised in that environment, you are viewed as a true traitor to everything sacred to turn back on your faith …. Apostasy they call it.
Finally, in order to gain some peace in myself, I decided that I had nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain by going forth with the truth as I knew inside my heart had been shown to me in the Quran. I contacted a gentleman who runs our Middle Eastern studies at the university I worked for and he put me in touch with the ladies. I contacted them, told them what I wanted and they set forth immediately to facilitate that request, not questioning me about the decision whatsoever.
I took my Shahada in August 1998 at my masjid, went home later after the Ladies' Quran study and could not sleep, not because I was disturbed, but because I felt so free in a way I had not experienced in a long, long time. I had a peace, a calmness that I had not found in anything else that I had searched for in all the other religions I was reviewing.
I am glad that I made that decision. For some people, it won’t be for them, but I did and it is for me. I have never looked back since that day nor doubted that what I had done was not thoroughly thought out. My spirit knew a truth and it ran for it. Yes, there are those who knew me prior to conversion who think it is a strange thing for me to have done as this was not my character in their eyes. I challenged and questioned everything, but this time, I agonized over truth, not arguing with it or challenging it…. Just trying to come to terms with a decision that meant a life or death meaning to me at this stage of my life.
I can now look back, way back and see how ALLAH (SWT) has taken this rebellious, angry, hurt, and broken child and led me down the twisted path in so many ways for me to be able to recognize Him in all the truth that is ALLAH (SWT).
Has my life changed? You bet! I still have to deal with certain issues as we all do, and life certainly has its ups and downs. I openly wear my hijab and jilbab in a university town (southern at that) and stand out as I walked to and fro in the community of non-believers. I am not ashamed of doing this and have no regrets nor will I make excuses for this. I am a muslimah and proud that ALLAH (SWT) gave me the grace and wisdom to see Him while I could and make a choice while there was still time.
I have much to look forward to in my life and believe that one day I will have a muslim husband who can be the other part of my deen; until that time, I learn everything I can to became more aware of my faith, pray and thank ALLAH every day for all my blessings. I would not trade a single day leading up to and since my conversion in all the world for all its wealth.
Whatever it took to get me to this point was well worth it and I have no regrets. How can I regret it? This was what made me ready for the truth, as painful and hard as it was. My prayers are now that as time goes by and my life is positively reflecting the outcome of my decision, whether it is trials or happy days, that my children will also come to know the peace, serenity and joy of choosing a faith that worked for me. No matter what happens, no matter where I am, nothing will separate me from the hands of ALLAH (SWT) nor do I or will I ever regret becoming a muslimah. Whatever I may suffer here, ALLAH (SWT) has made it better for me on the other end of the scale.
Whoever reads this, please make a decision today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and neither is the future. ALLAH (SWT) is the only way. What is yours?