Friday, August 01, 2008

How I came to Islam (part 2)

Click for Photo Credit ...Continued from part 1...

After declaring my shahadah over the phone to a man I barely knew, I was crying. I couldn't explain why the tears just kept coming, as it was a quiet and personal experience, but the feeling was really overwhelming. I've heard some say it's the feeling of a person's sins being cleared and returned as good deeds. Frankly, it surprised me, especially as my attitude going in was more along the lines of "I might as well," instead of "Yes I must do this right now." As I mentioned before, I did feel pressured into saying it at that point. But I did say it, and I cried, barely comprehending the words that came next, "You should probably take a shower."

At the time I knew next to nothing about practicing Islam, so I obviously didn't wake up and pray fajr the next day. He basically gave me a few tips: no sex, no alcohol, no pork.

So the next day was a Friday, the day of Jummuah. I didn't even attempt to go to the weekly congregational prayer. But I did feel something inside me making me want to know what I should do. So, after work that day I went to the masjid. I knew where it was, but this was the first time I actually ever went there. I considered myself to be dressed somewhat modestly, wearing a loose 3/4 sleeve shirt and loose long pants, but I felt very uncomfortable and out of place. The first thing I noticed is that there were no women. Not one sister. Given the option, I would have gone up to a woman first instead of a man. As I walked towards the building, some time after 'asr, some men passed me but they wouldn't quite look at me. It made me very uncomfortable, feeling insulted actually. I walked inside and began to feel desperate. I really needed help so I finally approached one man, but even as I confronted him I could not bring myself to say that I had actually converted to Islam. I suddenly felt ashamed of having done so.

So instead of asking for the proper help I needed, I told the man that I was looking for information on Islam. I don't know what he thought of me, I began to be so overwhelmed I was ready to cry again (I don't think I did...) as he told me and I wrote down the phone number for the Masjid's Da'wah Committee. And then I felt I was being encouraged to leave this place, which was not welcoming me at all. So I left... and I never called the number.

I did not think of myself as a Muslim in any real sense. Even though I had declared my belief, even though I knew people actually did convert to Islam and I wasn't some strange anomoly in the world, I still felt like I was something fake, not a real Muslim, not even a real believer. In anything. As I went home, feeling rejected by the Muslims--after all, they wouldn't even look at me--I sort of figured I'd just go on through life knowing I believed in Islam but that be it.

I had, at the time, read most of the Qur'an, and I accepted the beliefs in Islam regarding Jesus, which was a hurdle for me, albeit not the biggest one. What I was stuck on, however, was the Islamic teachings about women. I figured they were inherently good but that they had actually been corrupted. In fact, I started to form the opinion that a lot of Islamic teachings had been "corrupted" and that the only thing I could really trust was the Qur'an. Not even the teachings of Muhammad in hadith--only Qur'an. But mostly since I wasn't intent on actually practicing Islam, it didn't matter. And I didn't practice it.

From then on I did stop wearing cute knee-length skirts to work, and low-cut shirts. I favored pants, and wore shorts less and less frequently as time went on, even though it was the summer. And I didn't tell anybody about my conversion, except those who knew about it to begin with, from the forum. I didn't reach out to Muslims at all and I didn't know any personally from either work or school. So my friend who I had said shahadah to decided to try to help me out by contacting the MSA where I went to school, to tell them about my situation and ask them to be friends with me. I wasn't very keen on the idea to be honest, and felt pretty shy about it, but I did talk via email a couple times with two sisters locally, though one was out of town. One actually called me on the phone at one point but I never met either in person (until later, anyway.)

My friend recommended that I subscribe to a mailing list of hadith from Riyadh-us-Saliheen, to help me overcome my aversion to hadith. He also recommended to me a site on the Science of Hadith to help me understand how scholars classified hadith and that not all were the same. These resources, which I initially approached without much heart, actually became very beneficial to me later on.

So even as the summer went on, I kept learning about Islam. I finished the Qur'an, I went on to read whole chapters of Saheeh Muslim, I kept up with the daily email from Riyadh us-Saliheen, and kept posting on the forum, asking my questions.

But then school started, I got very busy with school and my sorority, and Islam moved to the back of my mind. Sure, I still believed it, but I didn't think it was ever going to be possible for me to actually practice it. Just too hard I thought... so I went on with my life

Once school started, though, I didn't spend much more time researching Islam. I started to consider myself a closet Muslim, didn't socialize with Muslims at all and still had my doubts about Islam and certainly wasn't practicing, I still felt that in some way, before God, I was a Muslim. Ramadan came, and went, without my even attempting to fast, while I became busy with my sorority and its various activities--many of those activities I was responsible for organizing and coordinating. So even though I did tell myself I was a Muslim, I didn't pray, I didn't fast, and in fact I didn't even talk to any Muslims at all--Islam was really in the back of my mind, pushed further and further back by my busy schedule.

But it wasn't gone. In fact, I remember several times just trying to learn to pray--I wanted faith, I really did. Even though I wasn't practicing Islam, my heart still drew me towards faith. I once printed out a sheet explaining what to do in the prayer and (even though I didn't understand it) I stood myself facing which direction I thought was the Qiblah (and I didn't even get that right!) I wanted to learn, I wanted to talk to my Lord, but I didn't know how. So my face fell to the floor, in tears...

part 1 / part 2 / part 3


musafirfidunya said...

Ibnatalhidayah, capture intricate details like Sh Yusuf Estes. Have you heard his conversion story? InshAllah looking forward to the 3rd part.....

blue said...

I have witnessed so many brothers looking to rush poeple to saying shahadah, A da'ee should know better, a person who is interested in Islam must come to terms with what they know about Islam, I have witnessed a Young man who eventually disregarded what he had to say as shahadah and stayed the same as he is/was before shahadah, simply he was forced to say those words that had no meaning for him.

Amy said...

Salaam to Musafir fi Dunya -

I have heard his story... and I feel like I'm actually leaving out a lot of "details" that come to my mind but aren't specifically related. This lasted over a period of months, I didn't become a Muslim over night...

Amy said...

Salam Blue --

I actually agree with you, and I don't think a da'ee should push people to accept Islam, precisely for the reason you gave. I fell out of Islam about as much as I could, having days where I explicitly stated that I wasn't a Muslim. In a lot of ways it might have been harder for me because I didn't just wait until I was ready, whenever that would have been. It's possible that if I hadn't said shahadah I never would have been tied to Islam and never would have began to fully practice, so I don't have regrets on my part. But I don't like to see people pushed--it really bothers me, because I know I was pushed.

And in fact I know that it's not uncommon exaclty for a da'ee to be told to sort of pitch Islam like in sales and to sort of "close the sale" and push them to say shahadah. Because Islam is just sooo much for some people, they have to sort of be ready, and they have to (most importantly) have a network of Muslims around them who can help continue to guide them as they change their ways to line up with Islam. Nobody can change overnight--that's my philosophy.

Thanks very much for your comment.

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