My parents divorced when I was 9 years old. I think due to the divorce, my parents both began going through some sort of spiritual crisis. Every weekend, my brother and I alternated which parent we were with. Due to their searching, we went to many different churches, all Protestant Christian.
My mother brought us to a group of Pentecostals, where they spoke in tongues (an angelic language believed to be sent through them by God) and healed people by praying. I remember having to stand on the chairs to see over all the people to catch the action.
My father brought us to a Congregational church (the exact opposite of the Pentecostals), a Dutch Reformed (where my new step-mother went), and a group of divorced Christians that met for worship.
Eventually my mother worked her way back to the church of her childhood. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. For any of you that know anything about Lutherans, these guys are the strictest. They aren’t allowed to pray with anyone besides other Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, even other Christians, because they do not believe the same. I personally believe they are near cult status (though I would never say that in front of my grandmother!)
In that church I went through Catechism classes (where you are taught, once a week after school for 3 years, what the Church teaches) and was confirmed (graduation). But it all never added up for me. I was still searching.
In high school I made friends with other Christians who actually observed their faith (where I am from, everyone is Christian, they just don’t necessarily practice it). We met for Bible study and on weekends visited various churches. I studied every denomination I could looking for the Truth. Baptist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Unitarian, Methodist, Non-denominational, Snake handlers, World Wide Church of God, Shakers, Amish, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ. And the list goes on. I have either studied and met a member and/or attended worship in all of these (and more) denominations.
Then I found the Catholics. I was convinced I wanted to be a nun. I even went through the conversion classes. But something stopped me before I officially converted.
In college I was a Theology major with an emphasis in Comparative Religions. I made studying religions my life, not just my hobby. The more I studied, the more holes I found.
I went on and started to search outside of Christianity. I studied and/or practiced Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Neo-paganism, Witchcraft, Voodoo, Santeria, Ba‘haism and Judaism. About the only thing I have stayed away from was Satanism!
How I found Islam is a miracle brought about by the horrible tragedy of Sept.11. Before then, I thought, as many still do, that Islam was a controlling, misogynistic, violent religion. In all my religious studies, I hadn’t spent any more time on it then needed for my theology classes in college.
Though it still seems that the media doesn’t portray us in the kindest light, news reports and articles did begin to open my mind to a new way of thinking about Islam.
In a conversation with my mother-in-law, we began to discuss Islam. She made the comment “All Muslims, by the very nature of their religion, are violent”. Let me say, and I say this as fact, not as insult, that she is a very closed-minded person and does not educate herself on religions outside her narrow view of Protestant Christianity.
So when she made the comment, I didn’t believe what she said. But it did occur to me, that I was unable to agree or disagree based on any knowledge that I personally had. I felt the need to change that. In classes in college I had learned the Five Pillars, and that Muslims prayed toward Mecca because Muhammad was from there (textbooks don’t have to be correct do they?)
Soon after I had the chance to receive some free pamphlets about Islam from a web-site why-islam.org. I sent for them, thinking that if we were going to be at war with these people, I should know something about them.
The pamphlets came. I read them and was amazed. This religion was nothing like what I had previously thought! A volunteer from the web-site e-mailed me and offered me an English translation of the Qur’an. I thought “Why not?” I had read the Bible, some of the Hindu Vedas, much of the Talmud, and the Book of Mormon. So in the interest of education, I accepted the offer.
When the book came, I found that he had generously sent me two other books. An Illustrated Guide to Islam and Towards Understanding Islam. I read them first. Then I began the Meaning of the Qur’an. It was if scales had fallen off my eyes, and off of my heart. I felt in my heart that I had found how to please God.
I promised myself I would not take shahada until I had read the entire Qur’an. Even though I spent hours studying other aspects of Islam on the internet. There was nothing that I learned that turned me off the faith. Instead, there were so many ideas that I had believed already. It was if Allah had been leading me to Islam all of my life.
I prayed. I searched my heart. I tried to think of some excuse why I couldn’t convert to Islam. I thought about how my family and friends would take it. I thought about how hard it would be to wear hijab around here (and I felt that wearing hijab was fard). No matter what excuse I came up with, I knew they didn’t matter. Allah was calling me.
On the evening of August 15, 2002 I repeated after my internet friend, “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammadur rasoolu Allah (There is no true god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God)”. I was Muslim. I felt great! Now I had to break the news to my husband.
I actually hadn’t expected to convert so quickly. But when something is right, it happens.
I told my husband and he was supportive. We had some difficulty over the next couple weeks, but we worked it out. He was just worried about me. Worried about violence from people because of 9/11. Worried I was on an emotional high and would come down and feel I had made a mistake. He had watched me explore many other religions over the course of our marriage. He was afraid this was another of my “phases”. Of course, he didn’t say this all so bluntly. He was very kind and considerate.
I haven’t been a Muslim that long yet. Maybe this is another phase. But is that any excuse not to follow Allah? I had read an article on excuses of why women don’t wear hijab. One was because they were worried they would take it off at some later point and then would cause more harm then good. The response was that you cannot predict the future. Maybe you will take off your scarf.
Maybe you wouldn’t. Is that any reason not to wear it now?
So I feel the same about being Muslim. Maybe someday I will fall away. I pray not. But is that any reason to not follow Allah today?