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.