Thursday, August 09, 2007

Three stories

I might have blogged about this before a little, but I'd like to elaborate on it if I have, or introduce it if I haven't.

Several months ago, my roommate, a friend of hers, and I all went to a local high school MSA meeting after school on Friday. It was a chance for them to listen to Muslims from the community, instead of their regular meetings (which I can only imagine were pretty boring...). I wasn't sure what sort of format would be appropriate, I didn't feel like giving a speech or anything since the environment was pretty relaxed, and I went first so...

I took a seat in the middle of the front of the room, and talked about myself for just a few minutes, then asked questions. Following my lead, the sisters after me did the same thing. All three of us were converts, I should add. We all got similar questions from the group, but one I think was interesting because of the diversity in our answers. They wanted to know when we started to wear hijab, if we started right away or not.

For me, the answer was no. I said shahadah then spent several months questioning my belief. (Don't most people do that before they technically convert? So I was out of order, happens sometimes.) I didn't pray, I didn't fast that Ramadan, I didn't even try to meet Muslims nearby. Not for several months. But I did eventually start to pray, start making friends, and start to wear hijab--in that order. For me, I had to gain a lot of confidence about being Muslim in public before I could wear it on my head. I had to have enough confidence in the religion (which I sadly did not have to start with) to reconstruct my life around it, and hijab was part of that for me. So it took several months (about eight) before I adopted the headscarf on a regular basis. I put it on as a challenge, to see if I was too afraid to keep it on--even then, I was not convinced that wearing hijab was an absolute necessity--and I kept it on, alhamdulillah. I was scared, I felt judged all the time, and it was difficult, no lies, to keep it on and continue life as normal knowing that people were questioning me, questioning the scarf, and were very confused. It took me time to develop that confidence, to feel proud wearing it.

The next sister to speak had spent several years (compared to my couple of months) studying Islam before actually converting. She worked with some Muslims, and little by little started to learn pieces of the religion. It was a long time before she read the Qur'an, but shortly after that she did embrace Islam. When did she start covering? Right away. How did it make her feel? She said it made her proud, right away. She was proud to be a Muslim, and more than happy to show it. And 10 years later she is still happy to wear it.

The last sister had been Muslim for about 5 years, and embracing Islam was a shock to her hard-core Christian upbringing. However, the rights and rulings of Islam she easily accepted. When did she start to wear hijab? Before she was Muslim. She was so convinced of the value of wearing hijab, not even being Muslim, that she started to wear it of her own choice (not religious obligation). It was only later that she realized she was confident that following Islam was a path of truth, that she embraced the rest of the religion whole-heartedly.

I have a lot of respect for both of these sisters, how they waited, though, and considered their choices before making them. I feel foolish in comparison sometimes--I jump in first, then try to get out as soon as the shock hits me, and then realize it's not so bad after all. They knew what they were getting in to, and so were ready to handle it. So I think when people choose to embrace Islam, they should as soon as they are ready... I can't determine whether or not I was ready. But I've seen people who weren't... and then they keep trying to get out. Every little step is a challenge because they didn't see it coming, they're blindsided by it, and let me tell you, when you feel that way, it's hard to trust the path you've taken, since clearly (it feels clear anyway) you were deceived of some of the consequences.

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