My journey toward Islam took place two years ago, when my life was an absolute mess. At this time in my life, I was in a very abusive marriage and extremely isolated from my family, and I was very depressed. I was ashamed to tell anyone of the suffering I was going through.
I would go to church and pray, even offer prayers to saints, as most Catholics would do. I remember one day I had the urge to go to confession and put my problems before a priest. As I went into church I could see one of the priests getting ready to leave. I said, “Please Father I need to make confession.” He said, “You are late for confession; come again next time.” I was shocked, and feeling worse than ever. On my way home all I could do is think of dying, how I wanted my life to end. I had no support from my family. I was compelled to stay because my daughter was too young to be without a father. Breaking a family wasn’t a Catholic thing to do, so I started drinking heavily, hoping I wouldn’t wake up. But life couldn’t let me go; I would somehow wake up each day more and more depressed. I was alone with no comfort.
I remember heading to Jamaica Ave just to get away from the house for a little while. There was an herbal shop run by a woman who was fully covered, even her eyes, but she seemed of a gentle spirit. She seemed to see a certain sadness about me and asked me if I was ok and if I wanted to sit and talk. I couldn’t help the tears that began to fall. This stranger who didn’t even know me was so willing to take time to listen to my drowning heart. It touched me greatly and was far more comforting and helpful than the priest. As she listened to me, the woman advised that I hold on because God knows my suffering. He is there for me, even if I don’t see it right now and she even gave me some Islamic stories to read. I was reluctant and told her I was a Catholic, but yet I began to read them that night.
While my husband and I continued to have our problems, I began to try to ignore him by reading the pamphlets on Islamic faith. As I read, I began to cry and wonder why in my faith I wasn’t respected like the Muslim women are, and how men are commanded by God to protect women, not to abuse them. I read how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would stop what he was doing to aid women who sought his help and I thought about how I sought help from a priest and was turned away.
Once again I visited the Muslim woman from the shop. It was so peaceful to sit, talk, and be treated like a human being. She told me her name was Maryam, a beautiful name I thought. I began to question her on why women in Islam cover up. She began to explain how women cover themselves to protect their beauty and modesty for God, and how only their husbands and close relatives are allowed to see them. I thought, wow, here I was with my tight jeans trying to look appealing to a man who has no regard for me at all. She invited me to come and visit her masjid. I was worried about how I was dressed, but she insisted I come with her. I was welcomed and was amazed by how these women interacted with each other and how they were dressed.
The women continued to invite me to join them at their social gathering, and I went thinking that this is a good way to stay away from the problems at home. Little did I know how much my life would change. The more I got to know these women, the more I felt a sense of peace and calmness.
One night I remember just crying quietly to myself thinking of the kindness of these Muslim women. Here I was, dressing provocatively, wearing makeup, doing my hair nicely, yet I was treated like garbage.
As I continue to go to the masjid, I wanted to know more about Islam. I continued to read more and observe more, especially the prayer. I thought it was so beautiful. One sister asked me if I was thinking about become Muslim. I was scared, but I said maybe. That night as I lay in bed, I started thinking about why Catholics didn’t seek God directly? The more I thought about it, the more things just didn’t make sense.
When I went back again, I was asked by a sister if I would like to take shahada. I remember feeling scared, but this time I felt a sense of calmness and tranquility. Then I said yes. What a peaceful feeling that came over me as all the sisters embraced me. For the first time I was happy. When I visited Sister Maryam at her shop to let her know I took my shahada, we both embraced with tears of joy. I learned to let go of a bad marriage and the life style I was leading. From the moment of my shahada, there was peace with Allah, for I totally submitted to Him only and not priests, saints, or anything else. This is how Islam found me.