Conversion to Islam by Henry C.

Bismilah ir Raham ir Raheem

First and foremost, peace and blessings on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his family (may Allah be pleased with them all), and the righteous companions (may Allah be pleased with them).

As salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. My name is Henry Chelune, Jr. To give the reader some context, I was born and raised in New York City. My parents baptized me Catholic, and I was raised in the Methodist church. We attended the Methodist church because that was where the food pantry was. I grew up in an underserved community. I would frequent the church’s youth group on Wednesdays only for the free pizza. I was unwillingly active in the church routine of youth group meetings, Sunday school, communion, confirmation, and, of course, Sunday worship service. Due to this, I became somewhat versed in the Bible. I have always believed in God, so I had a genuine desire to understand what I was being taught. Even to this day, I am able to hold my own in a conversation on the Bible. I often questioned the Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders. Their answers never satisfied me. “It is the mystery of God,” they would say.

I NEVER accepted the concept of trinity; I knew that God was One with no partners. Even during my extremely wayward days as a youth, I viewed Jesus (AS) as a great man, and prophet. As I came to understand it, he was no different than the prophets from the Old Testament. What made that idea stick was that NEVER in the Bible did he refer to himself as the Son of God, but ALWAYS as the Son of Man. Rather than inspire hope in me, the crucifixion story scared me. It also made no sense; punishing someone for another’s sins is unjust. I knew that God is not unjust.

My first real exposure to Islam came in 1998 during a high school Global Studies course. This course gave me a very general and vague idea of Islam. The class discussed all world religions with no specifics on Islam. Islam would not reappear in my life until 2005.

In 2005, I was attending college for my Associates Degree, while struggling through my third bout of homelessness. It is in that school where I met some wonderful Muslims from Bangladesh. They were females; I not knowing the Deen or customs approached them. I never had the opportunity to ask practicing Muslims about their faith. I asked general questions. The questions surrounded the Islamic position on Jesus (AS). I asked if Islam believed in Jesus (AS), they replied “yes.” What about Mary (AS) being a virgin? They responded in the affirmative. The final question on Jesus (AS) blew my mind. I asked if Islam taught the Second Coming? They responded with “Yes we do believe Isa (AS) will return.” I was dumbstruck. I was under the impression that only Christians felt this way about the Second Coming. My last question was regarding the concept of trinity. They told me that God is Uniquely One. He does not have any sons, daughters, etc.

Some time later, they enabled me to obtain a copy of the Holy Qur’an. I read it thoroughly. It was the first religious text outside of the Bible I had ever read; I loved what was inside. Prior to this intense exposure to Islam, I had developed ideas on God. I always believed these ideas grew organically. I quickly realized that the tenants of Islam shared many of the concepts I often pondered about: the creation and role of Jesus (AS), the strict Oneness of God, praying directly to God, no crucifixion story, the Universe being created in six eons (not six twenty four hour days). There were times I had the Bible in one hand and the Qur’an in the other comparing and contrasting. As I read and researched, I soon learned there was no other option but convert to Islam.

I finally embraced Islam in January of 2006 at the Jamaica Muslim Center with Imam Shamsi Ali presiding over the Shahada. I did not change my name to an “Islamic name” out of respect for my father who is Henry Chelune, Sr. However, at a recent event at the Jamaica Muslim Center, I had the privilege of meeting renowned speaker Yusuf Estes, who conferred on me the name Hauron. I’ve since decided to use that name within Islamic circles.

I have now been a Muslim for seven years. I have yet to make Hajj (“anyone want to sponsor me?” in sha Allah) Since my conversion, I joined the United States Army, where I served one year in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I am currently a senior at Lehman College, City University of New York. I am applying to graduate school for Urban Affairs & Planning (please make duaa for my acceptance!). Allah has helped to turn my life around full circle.

This past summer, I started a daw’ah organization called the Ridgewood Daw’ah Project. My purpose is to invite the people of Ridgewood, Queens, along with Bushwick, Brooklyn to Islam with a bilingual approach. In addition to daw’ah, I am attempting to reawaken the Islam of the existing Muslim community. Since July, I have supplied non-Muslims with over 500 Qur’ans in both English and Spanish. In addition to Qur’ans, almost a thousand pamphlets on various topics in multiple languages have been distributed. If you or anyone you know would be interested in volunteering or helping out in other ways, please contact me!

Wa alaukum assalam

Contact info: Twitter: @RidgewoodDawah

Email: Ridgewood.Dawah@gmail.com

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/islam-in-nyc/x/5436067

 

By Anonymous

What brought me to Islam?

Maybe it was watching Muslims pray in Mecca on the National Geographic channel as a child that piqued my interest. Maybe it was my admiration of the recorded speech I heard as a teenager from the late El Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X) expressing the beauty of the worship he witnessed during Hajj.

I later learned that it was none of those things in and of themselves that led me to Islam. They are only physical manifestations of the religion; indications. It was Allah guiding my heart that brought me to Islam.

All praise and thankfulness is due to Allah for guiding me to accept, and not reject, the inborn nature placed in the human being to worship the One True God.

To be the only Muslim in my family and to watch very close and loved ones live and die as disbelievers, is a sign that should humble me every single day. I know that, if Allah willed, I could have remained in that state of disbelief or that I can return to that state.

I grew up in a Christian family but many of the beliefs I found hard to accept. For example, when someone would die, people from the church would say “so-and-so is in  heaven looking down on us and smiling or so-and-so has gone to heaven and has become a guardian angel.”

The religious books we read never mentioned any of this and there was never textual proof presented to support these sayings. If death is such a serious matter, I questioned “why are we making up these stories to make ourselves feel better rather than ponder on the realities of death so that we can prepare for it?” When I would approach a Christian about this, they would not want to discuss it.

I went searching for the truth. There were no masajid in my city but there were lots of  churches. I visited a new church every week. I did this for a while, but nothing grabbed me and I wasn’t satisfied.

I bought a translation of the meaning of the Quran from my local Barnes and Noble and read it cover to cover. I felt that I had found the truth.

I remember drawing a diagram comparing Islam to Christianity. On one side, I drew one  circle representing the oneness of God, on the other side, I drew three circles next to each other, representing the trinity. I said to myself, “It’s time to choose. What will allow my heart to be associated with?”  I could no longer follow the Christian belief. I choose the oneness of God.

I did not personally know any Muslims but I did some online research about taking the  Shahada. I took it one day, alone. I found an English transliteration of the Shahada and read it very slowly and I read its English meaning.

I instantly felt such peace, like a light shower of calmness descending upon me. Someone later told me that when a person takes their Shahada, their previous sins are  forgiven.

A few months later, I started college and my dormitory roommate happened to be a Muslim sister and we discovered there was another sister who lived in the dorm room right next door. Ourselves, and a few other sisters, all bonded that year, with a bond that still exists to this day. They became my new Muslim family. They taught me a tremendous amount about the religion including how to make the daily prayers and fulfill my other obligations as a Muslim.

I took this as a mercy from Allah and a sign that I was on the right path. Although I had taken my Shahada alone; I was not alone. Allah had brought people to me that helped  me grow within the religion.

Now, ten years after taking my Shahada, I find myself at MECCA. It is another part of the journey that Allah has decreed for me where I am able to sit and learn from  teachers educating us in traditional Islamic knowledge. I am grateful for the  administration, the teachers and volunteers at MECCA that give generously of  themselves. MECCA is like a light illuminating the path for me so that I can  walk in the right direction.

By Anonymous

I never wrote my shahada story before because I was afraid to be judged. Of course I gave my 20 second version of finding Allah (swt) to relatives, at sisters circles, to my Muslim friends who asked, but I never told them the real story of my conversion. I think a lot of that has to do with my reluctance to expose my old self, the person I used
to be before my conversion.  When I was asked by a sister at the Mecca Center to write my story, I reluctantly agreed.

You see, I came to Islam as broken and defeated. During my teenage years into my twenties, I looked for love in all the wrong places with all the wrong people. I used and allowed myself to be used by whoever wanted me—always noticing but never acknowledging that the hundreds of people that wanted me only wanted me temporarily. I prided myself in being a-religious. Instead of putting my faith and trust in God, I put that trust in humanity. Yet it was this very trust in humanity that left me empty time and time again.

The highest and lowest point of my life came when I was living in the Middle East. I was completely alone there, caught up in the glimmer and glam of the material world and all of the horrors it had to offer me. It was while I was there, at this stage in my life, that I
actively sought out Islam as a crutch– a possible savior I could turn to in order to get myself out of the mess I was in. While I was succumbing to the horrors around me, there were other sisters that lived right next door that seemed happy and content with their lives. They seemed like they had a purpose. I observed these women: as they prayed, as they spent time with their families, as they fulfilled their roles as mothers, sisters, and daughters.  I, too, wanted a purpose. I wanted to emulate them. I questioned their beliefs and their morality and decided that in order to transform, I needed to start over. I packed up my bags and left.

Upon coming to the U.S., I took my Shahada and became heavily involved in the Muslim community. I learned  how to pray and follow the basic Islamic principles. The first time I made ghusl I felt so pure and new. Sixth months after this transformation, I found a Muslim man who forgave me and loved me regardless of all my faults. I attribute my personal transformation to two things: maturity that Allah (swt) granted me and my pure love of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Without Islam, I would still be a broken woman—without love, without a family, and without purpose.

 

Conversion Story by Will Cheung

by Will Cheung

I grew up in a typical Chinese family where religion was not a major aspect of my life.  Like many immigrant parents, my parents encouraged me to go into medicine or engineering.  My years in middle and high school were filled with science classes where basics like DNA and mitosis were taught.  There was no mention of Allah in this secular and scientific environment.  My young mind didn’t question these facts.  I simply learned and memorized.

The first time my beliefs about faith were questioned was as a post-bacc student at a diverse city university.  I was taking a physics class to fulfill pre-med requirements when I became friends with a Muslim classmate.  She questioned me about my faith and I said that I didn’t have any.  I was a man of science and I fully subscribed to everything that it offered.  I remember going home that day and thinking how can Allah exist.  Coming from this scientific background, I needed proof in order to believe.  But deep down I felt there must be a higher being.  I can remember calling out to God as a kid if things weren’t going well in my life.  But I maintained my position with my new Muslim friend.  I would need something spectacular for my mind to be changed.

Being naturally inquisitive, I began researching Islam.  My opinion about the religion had to be informed so that my arguments against it could be valid.  However, the more I read about Islam, the more I admired it.  My interest also grew.  It represented many of the things that I personally believed in; things like peace, family and respect for all.  I remember watching a video of Muslims praying in Mecca during this time and hearing the Adhan.  The call to prayer transfixed me.  I didn’t know what the words meant at that time but I was drawn to it.  Yet I still could not believe in Allah.

The evidence for Allah came this past summer when I traveled to Peru with some classmates.  This was my first time outside of America and I was going to stay for a month with strangers in a strange land.  One of the travels involved a trip to Lake Titicaca where we stayed overnight on one of the islands.  The island was sparse, rocky and very minimalist.  There was a small village but there seemed to be more cows and chickens than people.  That night, there was a festival being held in the town square and we were invited.  When we stepped out of our room, we realized that the island didn’t have any road lights.  We would have to make a 25-minute trek in total darkness!  But it was in this moment that Allah chose to make his presence known to me.  As I looked out into the horizon, I could see traces of Allah; the pitch-black night with the full and glowing moon hanging mysteriously in the sky, the beams of moonlight bouncing off the gentle waves of the lake and penetrating the wispy, white clouds, the whistle of the wind as it passed by and the chill of the nighttime air.  I thought to myself, “How could science create this?”  This is too perfect and amazing to be a random act of molecules bumping into each other.  A higher being must’ve created this flawless view.  In that moment I thought about the enormity of the world and I felt like an ant.

When I came home to the States a few weeks later, I couldn’t shake the feelings that I had on the island.  I began to think more about the world and what my place in it was.  My life was insignificant compared to the vastness of this universe.  I must’ve been put here for a reason.  This was the beginning of my religious journey.  I started researching Islam again and I finally had the proof I needed.

 

Conversion Story by Noura E.

When I relay the story of how I embraced Islam, people rarely believe me.  I always get “you’re doing it for your husband” or “you don’t really believe in this” from many people.  I befriended a Kurdish Muslim in 2010 and he never pushed me towards Islam.  On occasion we would discuss our thoughts and beliefs on God and then we would move on to another topic without dwelling on principles.  After some time, I lost contact with him, but one day Khadija, a mutual “friend” on Facebook friend requested me.  Because I did not know who she was, and because I am somewhat paranoid, I googled her.

When I typed in “Khadija,” a Wikipedia page came up with the story of the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.  I started reading it, and although I questioned the reliability of all of the information, I continued reading.  I found myself riveted by her story.  I was truly fascinated by her, especially since she was a wealthy female business owner 1400 years ago, when history has always taught me that women didn’t have rights until the 20th century, and even then, they were underrated and underpaid.  In addition, the general consensus among non-Muslims was that Muslim women were not permitted to work and were almost always housewives.  When I read about how successful Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, was, and how strong and independent she was, I was absolutely drawn to her.

I read for hours at work, and as soon as I got home, I continued this preliminary research by reading stories about the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and then I started reading about Jesus, may Allah grant him peace.  I was raised as an Episcopal, and I used to go to church, but as the reverend at our church always said, “to be a good Episcopal, you need only come to church 4 times a year.”  Needless to say, I did not consider myself at all knowledgeable in Christianity.

The more I read, the more interested I became. I started seeking out Muslim friends for answers. I contacted two Arab friends and spoke to them about the religion regularly. One suggested I read the Qu’ran.  To me, that was ridiculous because I had not even read an entire page of the Bible, how could he think I would read the entire Qu’ran?  I ordered it and started reading, and I just became more and more interested.  I started questioning all of the decisions I had made in my life.  Although I lived my adult years with the idea of “you live and learn and regret nothing,” I found myself deeply regretting a lot of decisions I made.  I needed to speak to someone who understood my fear and confusion, and who understood my interest in Islam.  I needed clarification on what was happening to me.

I had no idea where the masjid was near me, so once again, I found myself putting my faith in Google, and started researching.  I found a few Masjids and Islamic Centers within 15-20 minutes from me, and I called all of them.  Most of the time no one answered, and if someone did answer, they told me they didn’t speak English and to call back another time.  After weeks and weeks of searching, I started to give up.  Maybe this was a sign that my journey to Islam was over.  Maybe I was supposed to educate myself and not take it any further.  I began to lose hope.  Then one day, I was searching something online, and all of a sudden a listing for M.E.C.C.A. came up.  I opened it without thinking, and I felt like my heart fell to my knees.  It was like an answer to an unspoken prayer: a place dedicated to the education of Islam with a focus on reverts.

I waited until they were open, and when I called, Fatima answered.  I had so much to say and so many things were running through my brain that I couldn’t actually give her a coherent explanation as to why I was calling.  She was very patient with me and invited me to sit and talk.  I went there two days later and asked her a few questions.  We talked for about an hour and I said my shahada.

Initially I was terrified to tell my parents, afraid they would think I was manipulated.  I tried explaining it to them to no avail.  I wasn’t comfortable wearing hijab at work either.  But whenever I went to M.E.C.C.A., I would wear hijab, and when I wore it, I felt safe and secure, as if a sense of peace was in me.  It’s something I can’t explain because I don’t completely understand it myself.  When I was unable to wear it, I felt uncomfortable and almost naked, but I continued to keep my faith a secret from family, friends, and coworkers.  Earlier this year, I married in Morocco.  While in Morocco, I was wearing hijab regularly and it was great.  When I returned home, I started wearing it to work, and then out with friends, and now I wear it all the time.

It was hard for my friends and family to accept my decision, because most assume that my husband “forced” me to do this.  What they don’t realize or believe is that it was Islam that brought my husband and I together.  It was my journey to Islam that made us connect in a way that we never had before, and our marriage only came after I had already accepted and embraced Islam.  Now, I am happier than ever.  I feel at peace, and I have been incredibly humbled by this journey.  My life has changed dramatically for the better.  I am thankful to Allah Most High for guiding me to this beautiful place in my life and bringing me into Islam.

 

Conversion Story by Anonymous

Out of all of the religions, of all the paths you could have chosen, why Islam?

My friend posed a valid question.  For a young woman that grew up in the Bible Belt (I was raised Protestant) where Islam was equivocated with hatred, falsehood, and fanaticism, why did I feel a deep and unquestionable calling to join THIS faith?

I sat for a moment, pondering all the reasons for my reversion I had shared with a few close friends and sisters.  Islam had aligned with many of my own personal convictions. Growing up, I had felt convicted to stop eating pork on numerous occasions, found beauty in the modesty of covering ones hair, and agreed with the scientific principles in the Quran.  I felt discontent with the institution I devoted so many years, feeling as though I was trying to please a panel of judges, waiting eagerly to see if my efforts were worthy of their time. I had researched Judaism and Catholicism in depth, but was unsettled when imagining myself as part of these congregations.

My friend kept pressing.  It was not an inquiry of frustration or desperation, but one of acuity.  She wanted the REAL answer, the one that I had yet articulated, because it was so deep in my heart.

I shared, in just a little over a week after reverting, I found a community of sisters who were genuine and loving.  I felt supported by so many individuals, whether it be in comfort for struggles in my daily life, the gift of a book that touched and protected their hearts, helping to further cultivate my spirituality. These gestures were not grandiose, forced, nor fake.  They were gestures of genuine love and kindness.  In fact, it was small kindnesses like this from a Muslim family that Allah put in my life years ago that gave me my first Quran over a year ago, and individuals in a Quran discussion group that profoundly outlined the traits of Allah and our daily choices to follow Him, that initially showed me the beauty of Islam lived out through simple, yet astonishingly touching actions.  This love they showed was not a love of self, but a love for Allah Subḥānahu wa ta’āla.

So that’s it.  It’s “LOVE”.  My friend was right.  A devotion to Allah, a love for Allah Subḥānahu wa ta’āla that penetrated into every part of these individual’s lives, be it in prayer, dress, speech, or action. They did not realize how powerful these examples were when they interacted with me, as it is so ingrained in them.  I saw it in these sisters, and I wanted that same love in my life.  A pure, humble, unabashed love for my God that would not just be reserved for the Sunday church service, but for each and every breath I live on, in sha Allah.  A devotion that is not just in part, but in the whole of life.

I took my shahadah July 16th, during this blessed month of Ramadan.  The peace I felt took my breath away.  The joy I experienced was greater than any gift I had ever received. I felt, for the first time in a very long time, I was exactly in the right place, where I belonged.

A brother said to me the day after I took my shahadah, “I saw you yesterday and thought that you had been Muslim for a long time.”  Though the spoken act had only happened hours before, Alhamdulillah, because of His grace and mercy, my heart’s desire to follow Allah had begun years ago.

My Reversion to al-Islam by Aishah Abdul Muhaymin Whitaker

My Reversion to al-Islam by Aishah Abdul Muhaymin Whitaker

When a Sister at the MECCA center requested that I share my story about my reversion to al-Islam, I was first honored and touched, then wondering how and where to begin. So here’s my story, and as al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X) said at the close of his Autobiography, “…All of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.”

I come from an African-American background, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY to two very loving and wonderful parents and am the eldest of four, with three younger brothers. We’re very close-knit and to ensure that we had a good education, our parents put us in private, Catholic schools. Unlike any of my friends and peers, I don’t have any ruler-happy nun stories to tell, and neither do my brothers, but I do remember one incident that stands out very clearly. It was Good Friday, I was in the 2nd grade, and our class had been taken to the half-lit church, where at the front was a huge statue of Jesus on the cross. We were lined up and told that he was our savior, the reason for us going to heaven someday, and to show our gratitude we were to kiss the statue’s feet. We were lined up in alphabetical order and because of my last name, I was last. Soon it was my turn. My classmates were waiting in the corridor to go out to recess. The nuns asked me to kiss the statue. I said no. They asked why didn’t I love Jesus? I said that I loved Jesus but the Bible tells us not to worship statues and I wasn’t going to make God mad. The dialogue between the nuns and myself was taking too long so they let my classmates go out to play and took me to the office and called my home. Unfortunately for them, they got my Dad and after hearing from him, they couldn’t wait to let me go out to play, and when I got home, both parents told me how proud they were of me.

I guess I always had spiritual questions but no one to show me real answers. When I read al-Hajj Malik’s Autobiography, it opened a world for me and it was the first time I heard about al-Islam and it really moved me. I count him as a real subtle influence on me becoming a Muslim.

When I was 26, I picked up The Holy Qur’an for the first time and the world finally made sense. All of my questions were being answered, and for the first time I really cared about a book of scripture and the words I was reading. On Ramadan 29, 1414 A.H./March 11, 1994, I took my shahadah at The Islamic Cultural Center of NY or the 96th St. Masjid as it’s informally called. In time, I would meet and know members of al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz’s family and deeply care for and about them. I legally changed my name from Roxanne Celeste to Aishah Abdul Muhaymin and kept my last name because it was my Dad’s, and it kept him with me, although he was deceased. Unlike so many of my fellow African-American Muslims, I had the full support and encouragement of my family. My mom, who initially named me, called me Aishah and became a Muslim before she passed. My brothers all call me Aishah and would come with me to the masjid and to this day have the utmost respect for al-Islam, in spite of the stereotypes portrayed in the news and not very positive actions they’ve seen from some Muslims, and all I can say is Shukran’Allah!

Allah has seen me through some rough times: a bad marriage, divorce, loss of our mother, etc. But through it all, He’s truly been my God, Friend, and Guardian. He’s truly al-Muhaymin to me. I’ve often wondered why He chose me from amongst my family to open my heart to al-Islam, but Allahu Alim–only He knows, It continues to be a journey, a real all-encompassing, life-altering one, and all I can say is what I say first thing every morning when He wakes me up and returns my soul to me–Subhan’Allah wa bi hamdihi–all glory is for Allah and all praises to Him.

Slow and Steady by J’nelle C.

BISMILLAH HIR RAHMAN NIR RAHEEM

Slow and Steady by J’nelle C.

I have a big imagination. Always have. From my days as a young girl growing up in Queens, NY reading Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and other books with no pictures (I really wanted to be like Belle from Beauty and the Beast). I lived in the dreams in my head. My beautiful and unapologetically Caribbean family provided the warmth, love, and boisterous laughter that made my childhood a happy one. I was raised Christian (United Methodist), and when I wasn’t in school or at some extracurricular activity, I could be found in my church where I sang in the choirs from childhood until college, went to Girl Scouts, took dance lessons and confirmation classes, and of course, attended Sunday school and regular church services. My life was full. The people at my church loved (and continue to love) me. They taught me an intense sense of community and to have pride in my culture and my heritage. Despite the fact that I no longer worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (I always had trouble wrapping my mind around that concept), I can never stop loving them. After all, if it had not been for them, I wouldn’t be a Muslim today.

In June of 2010, I spent some time traveling around Ecuador with a group of artists. For three weeks, we went from the hustle and bustle of Quito to the sandy beaches of Sua. Our travels took us to Posada de Tigua, a century old hacienda turned bed-and-breakfast in the highlands. All the dairy and vegetables are produced on site, and we all spent the day playing with giant dogs, milking cows, riding llamas and enjoying the delicious homemade food. That evening, some of us decided to take a stroll. Armed with two flashlights and someone’s iPhone light, we made our way past the pigs and alpacas, following the sound of a stream. After walking for what felt like an eternity, we took a break. I looked up and saw a full moon and a blanket of twinkling stars that felt close enough to touch. Remembering that we were on a mountain, I was amazed when I felt the clouds pass over us. I looked towards the stream and saw what I can only describe as a ‘moonbow’ – a moon rainbow. No colors, only the outline of something I’d only ever seen during the day. I stood there in awe and thought to myself “How could anyone think that God doesn’t exist?” It was the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had.

Before I knew the difference between deen (the divine path/religion) and dunya (earthly life), I would tell you that my life was wonderful. I had a master’s degree, a job in social justice, and was co-founder of an all women’s theatre company. It was fantastic. Amazing, even. What I wouldn’t and couldn’t say, though, was that I was wandering spiritually. I was searching for something, for truth. I went from church to church, finding nothing. Asking questions, looking for answers. Content with singing Christian hymns and gospel songs despite the curious feeling of not being sure that I believed in what I was singing. My relationship with Islam then was nothing more than a passing fancy. Before we were married, my husband, who converted 7 years ago, would tell me about Islam. I heard him, but I wasn’t really listening. I asked him questions and he would tell me what he knew but always encouraged me to seek more information (one of my favorite attributes of Islam – seeking knowledge and daleel, or proof of evidence). I like to research, and almost immediately looked into women’s rights in Islam and found a very different answer than what mainstream media tells us. But, it still took a whole year of patience and prayer for me to take the plunge. On December 30, 2012, at a mosque in Brooklyn, the teacher of the new Muslims class translated the adhan for me (words in parentheses represent the thoughts running through my mind during the translation):

Allah is greatest. (Yes.)

I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except for Allah. (Absolutely.)

I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. (I’m learning more about him, and he seemed amazing.)

Hurry to the prayer.

Hurry to success. (Wait, what? All this time I thought I was successful. I’ve recognized that there was more, but to be told how much more I have to strive for, five times a day? This is what I need.)

Allah is greatest.

There is none worthy of worship except for Allah.

After that, there was no reason for me to keep wandering. I took my shahada and have continued to learn and grow and, inshaAllah, I will succeed. In my four short months as a Muslim, I have been incredibly humbled. Often, I am at a loss for words. I’m a newborn-baby Muslimah, barely able to roll over, even though all I really want to do is run. In my extra-large imagination, I’m already giving lectures on the beauty of Islam and running my own Islamic theatre company for women! But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race, right?

by Frank Slauson

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11)

I know what I am supposed to say. I explain the circumstances of my life leading up to my decision to enter Islam. I talk about my frustrations with my family and friends. This is only half of the story, and it is the half that matters least. The truth is I do not know why I became a Muslim. I accept the irreducible truth that my choice to become a Muslim was not in my hands. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, is the most generous. In His infinite wisdom and

His boundless mercy, He remembered me long after I had forsaken hope; when I was lost and astray.
Looking back on my life, I am amazed to see that Allah has prepared the way for me. Little signs that seemed like personality quirks revealed themselves as clear guidance and protection. I was raised a Catholic. I was a choir boy, and for a time, even considered entering the seminary and becoming a priest. The more I learned about my religion, however, the further I felt from God. Even as a child, I was aware of the contradictions my religion presented as divine revelation. Core Catholic beliefs would not reconcile with what I felt, and when I turned to answers from my parish, I was told to stop asking questions. I drifted away from the church, though my belief in God remained. I felt like an orphan abandoned to the whims of the world.

Then something happened I did not expect. Years later, in a college philosophy class of all places, the professor asked whether God existed. Suddenly, the issue that had tormented me, this struggle that I had carried and buried since childhood, was thrust back into the moment. A Muslim student in the class explained to our group that we were all Muslims from birth. These words had a profound effect on my mind. I understood what she meant: She was not proposing that people were born practicing Islam, but rather that mankind is born in a state of peace and submission to the one true God. I wanted to know more, and she asked me if I had ever considered reading the Qur’an. Not once in my twenty-four years as a Catholic did anyone—even a priest—suggest I read the Bible. And so I read.

I read the Qur’an day and night as if the words alone sustained me. When I learned that the first word revealed to Muhammad, peace be upon him, was “read,” my hunger increased. Knowledge and reason were fundamental to Islam; no longer was I being told to blind myself in order to believe. Islam told me to open my eyes and bear witness to the miracles of Allah. It was summer now, the month of Ramadan. I remember waking for the dawn prayer in the dark before sunrise with fear in my heart. I did not yet know how to pray, but I stood in the still morning and waited for something, for anything. I opened the Qur’an and traced the letters with my finger and pleaded, “God, are you there? God, can you hear me?” There was power in this book. There was Truth. The verses of “The Thunder” brought me to my knees, and I saw the path I was meant to walk. Part of me worried. Part of me resisted the dawning realization. Then, I let go of my anxiety and placed my trust in Allah.

Between dhuhr and asr, the congregation at Medina Masjid in the East Village heard my shahada just three months after that morning. Five months later, I still have not processed my emotions that day. I remember best the moment just before, a moment of solitude on the second floor of the musalla while I waited to tell the imam what I planned to do. I sat against the wall and stared out the window. There was a veil between the world outside and my solitude. I saw the progress of pedestrians and cars, listened to the bedlam of that late summer afternoon, and it seemed so fleeting. Even though I was the only person in the room, I felt a connection and a unity I had never experienced out there in the throngs of hundreds of people. I was complete.

At the time, I may not have understood what was happening to me, but today I know why I am a Muslim, why I remain a Muslim, and why each day I submit myself more and more to the will of the Creator. I cannot recognize the life I lead even a year ago. My shahada humbled me. The challenges I face today, many a direct consequence of my Islam, are worth confronting. And I never face them alone. Though knowledge was paramount in my journey, I did not know everything about Islam before I offered my testimony. Instead, I took my first step into the unknowable with faith.