Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How I came to Islam (part 1)

Click for Photo CreditBecause I've been asked a few times in the last several days this question which comes up pretty often, I realized that I hadn't actually addressed the issue on my blog... and maybe people wondered!

I have been Muslim now for about 3 years, and my "journey" to Islam I roughly categorize into two basic parts--before I said shahadah (3-4 months) and after I said shahadah (6-8 months). The whole process took about 9 months to a year, but by the end I considered myself a practicing Muslimah without question. Although since saying shahadah is usually the point at which a convert will say he or she was actually a Muslim, I felt like I said shahadah far too early for me to consider even myself a Muslim, but I continued accepting Islam for a while afterwards--which is why I break up my story into two parts. So inshaaAllah I'll break up the post into two parts to cover both segments in detail.

Like many other converts, my story begins with me being an average, not especially religious person, who happened to meet some average, not especially religious Muslims. At the time I had just turned 21 and joined a sorority and had moved into a far more social and extravagant atmosphere than the more homely modest lifestyle I grew up in. I basically just started going out with my new swarm of girlfriends (the sisters of my professional/social engineering sorority), and meeting lots of new people. Among the people I met--a Muslim! Fancy that, from Morocco. No, I didn't really like him all that much but just getting to know him at all made me curious to study Islam.

Until then, I hadn't realized that my own knowledge and understanding of any religion (even my own) was very weak. So I began to research Islam on the internet through some wonderful websites devoted to that purpose--teaching Islam to people. I researched Islam and learned some very basic things--that Muslims believe in the "prophets" of the Bible (Old Testament specifically) and that they believed in Jesus as well but as a prophet instead of the son of God. I learned about the Qur'an, that Muslims actually believed it to be the word of God, revealed, exactly, in Arabic. It was a very interesting concept. I wasn't interested or converting or anything, I just found the entire religion very fascinating, and very... complete. Or comprehensive. Even the religious law was at the time very comforting to me since I struggled as a Christian to understand what was "God's Law" versus what was merely "Man's Law." Overall, to me, Islam seemed like a relatively benign and peaceful faith.

So while I was intrigued by Islam, and at the same time learning more about my own faith, Newsweek published something about the Qur'an being desecrated in Guantanamo Bay Prison. The big stink about it locally was that a church pastor actually fixed the sign outside his church to say, "The Koran needs to be flushed." So on the local radio news station that I listened to, there were a flurry of debates on the subject, with locals calling in to inform the audience of the evil hateful language of the Qur'an, and that it was instructing Muslims to kill everyone.

Now, since I had spent this little bit of time studying Islam, that claim seemed to me to be rather fanciful, but I decided that I wouldn't be able to find unbiased answers to the question, so I decided to just read the Qur'an for myself. Sure, the whole thing, why not? It was all available online anyway! So that's what I did. I just read it. And as I began to read I started to have some questions and I wanted to talk it out a little, so I joined a webforum I found of Muslims, and asked a few questions, and had them answered.

By the time I had joined, however, I didn't think I could consider myself a Christian. And that's because as I was reading the Qur'an I just found it so powerful, and one ayah in particular actually tugged my heart, resonated so strongly that even though I wasn't fully convinced of Islam, that one ayah pulled me out of Christianity. In case you're wondering which ayah, it's this one:

O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.
So I started to really question my long-held Christian beliefs, and when I joined the whyislam forum, I had other people questioning my beliefs as well. And then with a very short questionaire, one actually convinced me that I pretty much already did believe in Islam, and encouraged me to go ahead and say shahadah. This person is still very close to me, even though I do feel like I was somewhat pressured and rushed into accepting Islam.

So, on June 9, 2005 (or thereabouts... if memory serves) I said shahadah, and became a Muslim. At the time I had read most of the Qur'an (the first 50-60 surahs plus a few of the last ones) and I did believe it was the word of God, but still had many doubts about Islam, especially about the hijab and some ahadith. But there I was, late on a Thursday night, in tears on the phone, with no Muslims among my acquaintances here in Raleigh, and nobody to talk to about my situation, and not sure how to proceed.

To be continued...

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

12 comments:

Hepa3ymeH said...

I was born and raised a christian. My reasoning led me to question my own as well as other religions. Help me on my journey be reading my blog and commenting. I believe an open discussion with others will greatly help me on my quest. Thank you in advance...

Faraz said...

I always enjoy reading stories of brothers and sisters entering the faith. Looking forward to the rest of the series insha-Allah.

RUBA said...

sallam
this is my first time in your blog,looking forward for the rest of your story..
don't keep us waiting ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found your website, I had been searching for it for a while, because I'd originally ran across it from Brother Naeem's site (http://brnaeem.blogspot.com/2007/12/test-of-faith.html). And I'm happy to have come across your story of how you came to Islam, as it seems appropriate seeing as I have just recently discovered your site. I am working on my own blog and therefore wanted to see what you have included in your own in order to have an idea of what to write about. I look forward to diving into your older posts and learning more about your journey to Islam and your life as a Muslim.

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum!

Thanks to all of you for the nice comments. I'll try to have the next bit up soon inshaaAllah!

steph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Faris said...

As-salaamu Aleikum warahmutallahi wabarakhatu!

What a beautiful post on your journey to Islam!

I am right behind you -- on 9-Feb-2009, it will be 2 years for me as a Muslim!

Again, a nice theme to post on your blog -- perhaps, we will hear from more reverts and their reasons for choosing Islam. Lately, the secular media is given to portray the growth in Islamic reversions to an inability to deal with pluralism to the need to find a husband!

Wish you well in your growth in Islam towards scholarship and maturity!

LivingHalal said...

assalam alaikum

Masha Allah tabaraka Allah.

Thanks for sharing.

May Allah keep you strong on the truth.

Anonymous said...

Salam,

Mashallah. I also read the Idiot's Guide to Islam and liked it. Br. Emerick has a new Qur'an trans. out now that also reads like butter. I found it at amazon.

Humayun Rashid said...

﴿قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ﴾
"Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) 'Verily my Salat (prayer), my secrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists"

Anonymous said...

i must confess...Although i respect and admire your decision to come to Islam,I've met many other women who have also also embraced Islam- and they've all shared one thing in common. They met a muslim man and it was him who introduced them to islam-and they later converted,and married him.

I havent read enough of your blog-but i did see early on that you met a muslim man who introduced you to Islam. I wondered if you too pursued a relationship with this man?
Sorry i know its very personal.I married a wonderful muslim man,and I was drawn to him first-the religion second. However, marrying him meant I had to embrace the religion as well... and i admit if it wasnt for him,i probably would have never considered entering islam.

is it the same for you?

Amy said...

Anonymous--

Actually, my story diverges here from than narrative you're familiar with. While I did meet a "Muslim man" I wouldn't really say he introduced me to Islam. He wasn't really interested in Islam in the first place, or telling me anything about it.

I started researching Islam on my own through two routes--the first was through Arab culture. Curious about Moroccans and Arab speakers generally, I tried to find other Arabs online. The other route was a religious one--while I was curious about what my own faith said on certain issues, I started researching what Islam said on those same issues now for the first time, having been more openly exposed to it as a religion.

From there I mostly did research on my own. The more I studied it, the less interest I had in the "Muslims" I had met before, and by the time I was really into Islam, I had long stopped even talking to them.

I wouldn't say that the first Muslim guy I'd met introduced me to Islam because he never wanted to even talk about it. And the more I learned about Islam, the less interest I had in him--quite the opposite of pursuing a relationship.

I'm now married to a wonderful Muslim man whom I met several years after embracing Islam.