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