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.

by Anonymous

In the world around us it seems that everyone is searching for happiness and meaning in this life, and some kind of purpose.  At some point, I too started searching for these things. As I was getting older I started seeing the world more clearly. It was a time when my elders were no longer shielding my eyes from the realities of the world, and I was contemplating this world more and more and asking myself questions about it and its inhabitants.

I was raised in a Catholic family that didn’t practice much, but used to attend Church on holidays or rare occasions, and I went to a Catholic school from ages five to thirteen. After so many years, one would think I might have gained a lot of knowledge about my prior religion; however, this was not the case.  When I was very young I didn’t think much of religion or understand the concept of it.  My friends and I would joke around and whisper to each other during a Church mass or try to sneak outside–such is the nature of being a child.

Though the members of my immediate family were not practicing Catholics, I always thought of the existence of God from time to time, and as I got older I wanted to find Him, to know more about Him, and to be closer to Him. I would often be staring up at the moon and the stars, and finding evidence of His existence in the beauty that He created. When I was around fifteen, I decided to go to Church on my own. I marveled at the splendor of the art within large Cathedrals such as Saint Patrick’s in NYC, or the old Churches in Europe, which I was able to visit during trips to Paris. Even the sound of the organ, seeming powerful, would fill the entire space up to a ceiling almost one hundred feet high, and would shake not only the walls within the Cathedral, but my very being. At the time, this in itself was enough to grasp my attention, but as time went on, I began to think more deeply about what exactly was involved in these masses. What was being said? How much truth is behind each story? And the most distressing question in my mind— How can someone be the son of God?

I remember meeting Muslims throughout my life, and especially during my childhood, with whom I have very sweet memories. They were either neighbors, parents of friends, or babysitters who took care of me when I was little. It wasn’t until high school though, that I actually started gaining some knowledge about Islam. My closest friends happened to be Muslims, so I was indirectly introduced to Islamic lifestyle through my daily conversations with them, and when visiting their homes. What struck me the most was their hospitality and generosity. I admired the modesty of my friends, not only in their dress but also in their actions. I found with Muslims a way of being that I searched for in others for a long while but could not find.

It was one Friday afternoon, four years ago and in my junior year of high school that set into motion a domino effect that changed my life. That day I planned to meet with my close friends after school. They told me they couldn’t leave right away because they were going to an after school meeting held by the school’s Islamic club, and asked me to join them so that I wouldn’t have to wait outside alone.  I agreed to go, but I had no idea what to expect, and I feared that I might feel awkward and out of place. Contrary to what I thought, I felt very comfortable, and welcomed. From the minute the teacher of the club began to speak about the topic being covered that week, I was hooked. Every other minute I was thinking to myself, “That makes sense, I agree,” and from that day on I attended meetings for the next year, and then after my high school graduation, I decided to convert.

Although I wish I could say my conversion to Islam was a smooth transition, it was a very bumpy road before things started to get on the right track.  Firstly, my parents did not approve of my conversion, but thankfully, the support and kindness of my friends and their families helped me get through the chaos and conflict I was experiencing with my family.

I also did not have a full understanding of what was and wasn’t Islamically correct. I was told by a few people to be careful right after converting, because shaytan would try to change my mind and scare me out of the situation…and it was probably true because I could really feel it. The actual moment of saying the Shahada was wonderful and I felt peaceful, as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. But a short time after, I started having all kinds of worries and doubts, and hid the fact that I converted from my parents for over a year. I wondered if I had made the right decision. When things started going wrong in my life I started to become depressed and my faith weakened. I turned away from Allah (swt) instead of running towards Him for help. For a few months I stopped practicing, but I never stopped thinking of Allah, and from time to time I would still speak to Him.

Then one summer when I was away from home, I found Islam again. One night I was overtaken by the sudden desire to start praying again. It was a sudden impulse that to this day I don’t fully understand, but for which I am grateful. I prayed Isha prayer, and was filled with an amazing feeling that I had not felt before. For the first time I prayed for the sake of Allah (swt) only, with no one else’s opinion involved and not to please or fit in with other people, but only to please Allah (swt.) That night I felt that I had really become a Muslim, and that this time I could do things right insha’Allah. The more I tried to be close to Allah (swt.), the more I felt that He was closer to me. Though I did not always feel that He was close to me, I took these times as a test to see how I would behave when I thought He was far away.

At present, I still have much more to learn about Islam, and most likely I will be increasing my knowledge about it for the rest of my life, insha’Allah. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found Islam, and I dread the thought of how my life might have been without it. SubhanAllah, I have no doubt that everything happens for a reason, even when we don’t understand it.

-Anonymous

 

by Ron Smith

The earliest memory I have of Islam is from the ninth grade. I remember watching CNN in passing. The channel was showing women covered in black, holding machine guns and marching down the street. The host mentioned something about Islam. This image stuck in my head, and I remember thinking “that is one crazy religion.”

I was born to a mother who was originally Jewish and then became a born-again Christian. My father was a Montaukett Native American. When I was 10 years old, I would visit different churches, interested more in the stained-glass windows and the smell of myrrh rather than the message. I do not remember my father practicing any religion, so I took it upon myself to learn about my Native American beliefs. I knew the Montauketts believed there was One Creator of everything in the World, and that Man has to have a balance with nature in order to survive. I was always taught and believed that life is a precious gift. We share this earth with everything else that God has created. Yet, I still asked myself, how this life was created, where did it begin, who was the artist behind this beautiful masterpiece?

A few years before 9/11, I started reading the Qur’an and the Bible, comparing the messages each book relayed. I was one of those people who doubted God’s existence on the outside, but secretly prayed on the inside. I knew deep in my heart that God was real. I just didn’t think it was “cool” to show it. For me, I just couldn’t piece together the concept of the trinity in the Bible; God, the son, the spirit–it was too confusing a concept to grasp as a reality. This confusion actually helped me see how Islam made more sense, and eventually, the only sense.

Then, the day came when two planes flew into a building and the world stood still. Newspapers were filled with headlines and articles calling Islam the ‘evil Muslim religion.’ I remember reading and thinking, I hope people are not taking this seriously! Unfortunately, some were taking it seriously as I heard people saying we should bomb Muslims! I told myself I had to find out the truth. I continued reading more about Islam, even re-reading parts of the Qur’an. What a difference it makes when you start searching for the truth and using your own mind. At that point, I wasn’t following a religion, or looking for membership. It was around this time that I met my future-wife at a local bookstore that I frequented. There was a light about her, something that just captured my attention. Immediately, my conversations changed from talking about celebrities to discussing the importance of God in one’s life and how Islam can fulfill this need.

In 2005, my life took a dramatic turn. My parents were returning from visiting the doctor to check on my dad’s cancer. He passed out while driving, and they crashed into a parked car. At the hospital, the doctor told my mom she needed triple-bypass surgery. After the operation, she was having difficulty recovering. The doctors had to keep her sedated. Fourteen days later, we were told one of her legs needed to be amputated. The surgery did not go well. My family was told we had a few minutes to say goodbye to her. Standing in that room, seeing my mom hooked up to tubes, I kept thinking of our mortality. My dad was one the battling cancer, but my mom was the one who would die first. After my Mom passed away, my dad’s cancer worsened. I believe that he did not want to fight anymore without my mom by his side. My father passed away later that same year.

I struggled with my understanding, but I also started to see the wisdom of God in everything that happened. Every second of our lives is willed by The Creator. Learning about Islam in books and through the teachings of scholars, the knowledge started to take root. I visited a few mosques and I remember being very nervous. However, those feelings would be alleviated by everyone’s welcoming and inviting nature. Still, the prayers seemed “foreign” to me. Later on that year, I went to the Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan where proud American Muslims marched along with many booths were set up for spectators. And there it was — the bright yellow booth with the words M.E.C.C.A. (Muslim Education and Converts Center of America) inscribed across the canvas. I found out that the organization’s aim was to help new Muslims, born Muslims and those who are just curious about the faith. I remember thinking, finally, a place that can show me step by step how and why to pray and help me understand this religion!

I signed up for the center’s New Muslim Program. Nervous the first day, I was surprised to see young brothers and sisters teaching the class, and students of all different backgrounds. I entered not knowing that I would become a “roadside conversion” story. I asked the teacher, “What does one have to do to become a Muslim?” He asked that we talk about it after class. Driving back to Long Island, I realized I had forgotten to follow up with my teacher. As I was driving, my teacher called. He apologized and explained the first step a person has to take to become a Muslim. For some reason, I was ready at that moment. I took my testimony of faith over the phone.

Looking back, I realize that God was showing me this new chapter in my life because I pulled the car over and said, “Ok, I am ready!” These words brought wonderful changes in my life.

That was five years ago. Time is indeed fleeting. I stand today with a wonderful wife, a precious two-year-old daughter, all praise be to God. I still get up every day and struggle with life. I am far from perfect. Sometimes I get lost in the constant roller coaster that comes from being a convert and an American. For one, I can never discuss foreign policy without Islam coming up in conversation. There are times when frankly, I don’t want to know about who is killing who, I just want to know about our Lord. I have learned that my actions is what will show others just how wonderful this religion is, and to not get sucked into racial and cultural stereotyping. Nations and cultures were not created to separate us, but to bring us all together. It says in the Qur’an that “God made us into nations so that we may get to know each other”–not hate each other. We will only find the Love of God by loving what He loves.

 

 

 

By Zainab Ismail

It’s hard to believe how different my life was just 3 years ago. Alhamdulilah Allah (SWT) blessed me by guiding me to the straight path. My story was written by Allah (SWT) and happened solely by His will.

In early 2009, I attended a wedding at a Catholic church, subhanAllah, I don’t know what it was about the wedding ceremony, but I walked out of that church that day knowing that I no longer wanted to be Christian. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew I didn’t want to be Jewish because I knew the conversion process was very lengthy and involved.

I had an Egyptian Muslim friend during that period who I spent a lot of time with. I witnessed the unity of their family during Ramadan and it was something that really stood out and appealed to me. I sat at my computer one day and I googled “what does it take to become Muslim,” and to my surprise, all it took was saying a few words!

I told my Muslim friend and family that I wanted to be Muslim and they were very excited. I was given a Quran, but truth be told I didn’t really read it much. I did know, however, that I wanted to take my shahada before Ramadan of 2009.

It all happened one June day. I was on my way home from a trip to Los Angeles and I was walking to my car, and at that moment I was overwhelmed with a feeling of absolute, one hundred percent certainty, that I was ready to take my shahada. I really didn’t know much about Islam at that point, but it was implanted into my heart at that moment that I was ready to become Muslim. The next Friday I took my shahada. I didn’t know how to pray until my first day of Ramadan 2009. Fortunately, after that Ramadan, at the end of October, I found the M.E.C.C.A. Center and the New Muslims Program. It has been an amazing journey since, and the rest is history! Alhamdulilah.

Return to Islam

By Talal Abdullah

I was born a Muslim and remembered that was so.I experienced this realization
weeks ago before taking my shahada.

Be just and compassionate to others, strong in deed, manifest integrity and maintain appreciation for the creation in the heavens, to realize that there is a force or light as the prime mover in the universe: this was knowledge I understood long ago. I lived according to nature’s flow and learned principles of many spiritual traditions. I felt inherently connected to spirituality, gaining knowledge and talent application, and experienced that “something” watching over me many times, guiding me and providing me with a strong inner compass. I felt like a teammate was always with me.

During my undergraduate years, I began this internal investigation into the nature of that “something,” and it was a great epiphany to feel how Islam gradually and gracefully filled my vision, the Straight Path.

I attended several seminars on Islam and developed friendships with Muslims prior to my acceptance. Each experience with my friends and the knowledge from the events touched my curiosity on an intellectual level and made an instant connection spiritually. It was as if the inner cultivation I experienced throughout my life prepared me for this
acceptance. This is why Islamic principles and values feel natural to me, of the fitrah, and accepting Islam felt like I took my first bite of the most nutritious fruit. I learned how the Qur’an was a Book of Wisdom and the most beautiful Book of Remembrance in my view of Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala.

My parents took the decision well; they did not debate, challenge or stand in the way of my decision. I informed them of what I chose and they accepted. My sense was they’ve seen my decision-making over the years and had little to worry about. So if I made a choice such as this, I believe they recognized I knew how serious it was and they supported it, as they have always supported my decisions. I will always love them and how they applied the method of peaceful support. Perhaps, by demonstrating the
example, I can inspire them to take on the Straight Path as well.

To me…

Qur’an is a book to remember

That following the principles
Allah created Will reap great benefits,

Just as the bee will by living According to its bee nature,

And the wolf according to its nature, And the bird according to its
nature.

To remember that the planets do not float randomly,

They move in harmony and in  alignment with

Invisible forces like gravity and electromagnetism:

Allah’s design.

To remember that humans were endowed

With intelligence capable of building ships and civilizations,

Creating art and producing elevating music,

We are designed to gain knowledge and use it to

Live in harmony with other life, Have reverence for Allah.

To remember that every experience
occurs Because Allah willed it so, and
therefore it is In our nature to acquire wisdom
from it.

This is my remembrance of the
ancient ways that Allowed us to be blessed with optimal
health, strength, Creativity and happiness while
living in the dunya.

 

 

 

By Anonymous

Bismillahi Rrahmaani Rraheem,
I was born to an independent, compassionate, heavily supportive, loving mother. Baptizes in Trinity Church, an Episcopal parish in New York City, much of my upbringing was centered on the church family. My mother encouraged development in music and art, much of which was derived from church activities. Church is filled with mostly fond memories of community, one of a diversity that I take for granted. Activities varied from choral music or theater programs to social activism and mission outreach. Trinity was a family in no way contrived in and out of the church.
During Middle school, after the loss of some of my revered mentors I plunged in to a period of intense anxiety. I would awake perplexed about God, existence and afterlife. Imagining a heaven of fluffy white clouds and angels with white wings disturbed me.
In a period after losing close family, the tone of my life changed while in High School. In addition I attended weekly youth Bible studies where I would pose provocative questions to our teachers. The answers I received exposed holes in the creed leaving room for more questioning – the loss of meaning in translation; the loss of central scriptures, institutional politics in biblical cannon and compilation; arbitrary rejection of scriptures; the death of Gnostic thought to pure speculation; the free innovation in religion and worship to fit the contemporary context; the end of the vigor of the early church; an overwhelmingly Muslim Egypt and Holy Land – sending me diving into the mystery to find the missing link.
While in the University of Colorado, I became intrigued with the non-canonical books and Gospels; some scripture being too eccentric, while others I felt were more grounded and acceptable. I came to a realization that if I were to explore non-canonical books, why not read the Quran. It amazed me that the original words of revelation were intact. As I read the English interpretation, fear came over me. The threats of the words were real. I therefore forsook the book until I could accept it fully.
Within this period were profound experiences of God consciousness using meditation or “medication”. The latter of which induced a period of existential speculation and contemplation coupled with depression and disillusionment. My perceptions were changing and I sought comfort with self in harmful places and ways. The concept of trinity I would try to conceptualize and I would reference the Gospel of John and the Gnostic gospel of Thomas regularly. By this time my perception of Jesus’ nature, purpose and personality developed a broader mystery.
Unintentional inherent racial prejudice in interpersonal relationships made brotherhood impossible. My sensitivity to the subject became an overbearing distraction, pervading my consciousness. I am uncompromisingly unwilling to accept the social construct of race as Truth, and to be forced to live and speak as though it is. Obliviousness in the absence of color plurality amplified this distraction in college. The writings and speeches of Malcolm X, articulating the brotherhood of Islam therefore deconstructing imperial racial Ideology implanted in me a seed of hope.
After graduation I sought career opportunity in architecture, language acquisition and God in China. Leaving myself open to the disposition of people allowed me to recognize different perspectives and reanalyzes my social position in the global context. During leave from teaching English I traveled from east to west within the region becoming increasingly interested in the plurality of culture and language. I spent extra time in the Uyghur homeland visiting families there. The character of the people and their way of life began to break down my New York chauvinism. I only vaguely attributed their kindness and brotherhood to Islam but I felt solidarity in their belief in God.
I carried that experience with me to Singapore, where I interned at an architecture firm gaining experience. I did not fulfill my spiritual goals in China due to limited time, money and direction. At the conclusion of my internship, I intended to be in a state of total devotion to God truly walking in the way of Jesus. I saw true success, as being with God, how to make that journey was an enigma. I even contemplated moving to a monastery in Egypt. That is when I revisited the Gospel of Thomas, dug out of the sands of central Egypt and read the words again that had now resonated with me for years:
1 And he said, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”2 Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]”.(G.O.T)
I needed to revisit the truth I recognized in the Qur’an. My Muslim landlord gave me a Qur’an and recommended that I study at Darul Arqam, Singapore. I learned the basic tenants of Islam, reinforcing my Christian education and expanding my knowledge of God. The irrefutability of the Qur’an made Islam irresistible. Islam did not deviate from my current beliefs but only wiped away the speculation and dogma. The Sunnah of Mohammad made following in the way of Jesus possible. Islam was not a religion or an institution, but the guideline for success. I bore witnesses that Allah is the only god and that Muhammad is his messenger, making me a member of the brotherhood and sisterhood of those who bow down in submission. Alhumdulillah (all praise is due to Allah)

Conversion Story By Abdullah Castro

I remember quite vividly as if it were yesterday walking with my grandmother to the local florist to pick out a handful of fresh flowers, and then continuing on with her up to the highest point of town to the burial site of her youngest son.  I was only 6 years  old, still a very timid, shy and modest soft spoken boy.  My grandmother assigned me the task of cleaning the tomb while she diligently replaced the previous day’s batch of flowers with the sorrows of a new day’s loss.  It was a humbling offering and one which we performed every single day, but it did not culminate there. A couple of yards beyond the gates stood an architectural wonder, the church where I was baptized under  the feet of massive  blood stained idol  that always gave me the creeps, as well as an opportunity for my grandmother to find some temporary solace.

As we carefully traveled back down from the burial site the view was such that I could see all that the city had to offer.   From such heights things seem so clear — but even more evident was the fact that religion and death had claimed a profound part of my mind, and while one left no doubt the other left me confused.

That same year on Easter Sunday I watched my first movie, Jesus (peace be upon him) of Nazareth. It captivated my soul. It appealed to my heart and all my senses, and the more I watched the more I fell in love with this extraordinary human being, son, and prophet.  In the end it left me disturbed in a wave of tears and with a litany of questions.  I didn’t want to believe in an unjust God, I just wanted to know why He would sell Jesus out to a pack of wolves that supposedly tortured and killed him under the watchful eyes of his family, after building him up to such degree. I couldn’t even imagine the worst criminal let alone God doing such a great injustice.

It was my 9th birthday and I still didn’t possess the mental fortitude to make sense of it nor did I understand why I was boarding a plane in my mother country of Portugal headed toward New York.  When I arrived I was greeted by my parents who I hadn’t
seen since I was two, who worked vigorously to lay a foundation in a land that imprisoned them to a life of working instead of working to live. As a consequence I was opened to unbounded freedoms manifesting many bad habits, which corrupted my judgment ultimately staining my higher morality. I knew my lifestyle was ill but I didn’t have the medicine to cure myself.   What I did know is that God did not intend this life for me much less the life of the affluent which my father would encourage me to follow as we painted their prestigious homes.What purpose does their money serve if it can’t compel them to smile or even offer a glass of water to my father?  Rich or poor this life didn’t move me for I knew that God had created me for something greater.

I would always contemplate deeply but after failing to come up with the answer I would go back to the life I knew until I purchased my first Quran.But then my father at the age of 49 died unexpectedly and my search was put on hold for another ten years until the
birth of my first child. At that moment when I looked in her eyes I felt a tremendous amount of urgency that was suffocating – the thought of her ending up with someone like me gave me nightmares, and the thought of meeting my Lord gave me visions of a humiliating punishment. I thought of the best example for my daughter and I came up with Mary, I gravitated to God and came up with the only religion I knew–Christianity, and as I read through my bible for the first time looking and asking for guidance I grew even more frustrated with all the contradictions.When I sought answers from priests I was told I was losing my religion, another one told me I had no religion and a third said “how dare you”.  I thought that if the priests can’t answer my questions then maybe I’ll go back and seek out a rabbi, or two, or three.  But they were no help either, I just lost even more time with individuals who were pained to even accept Jesus (peace be upon him) as a Prophet.

A few months later I had a talk with a good friend of mine, who introduced a name I had
never heard before, “Muhammad” (peace be upon him). A few moments later he was
insulting, degrading and belittling that very same name, and I still don’t know what compelled to come to the defense of someone whose name I didn’t even know.  But for some reason I just had to, and that conviction led me all the way to a Queens masjid. When I entered the people in the masjid saw a man who was in no mood for excuses, fairy tales, or blind faith, so what did they do? They invited me to lunch. Are these guys
clever or what, I thought, or do they really have something?  Indeed they had something I had been waiting to hear since I was  six years old , something I was ready to accept. Unfortunately, I was hurting with guilt  telling them that I didn’t feel I could live up to my Lord’s expectations the way He would want me to, the way I knew I should.  But they said “if you walk out today and die you will meet your Lord as a believer if your heart truly believes, but if He lets you live, then know that you can come back to your Lord right now and work on earning his pleasure day by day.” So I became a Muslim, saying “I testify that there is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger and final prophet”. I thank God I am a Muslim.

A revert’s story

By Princess Glover

Growing up, Islam was something I was barely– if at all– aware of. It was an obscure concept that I knew existed somewhere in another country, where the people and customs were completely alien to me and so far removed from my frame of reference. My ignorance was a product of my mostly typical American upbringing. I say ‘mostly’ because even though I come from a strong southern Baptist background, by the time I was 7, I’d spent the majority of my formative years traveling around Western Europe. I was what most people would call a “military brat,” a somewhat crude term of endearment for those who were subjected to the nomadic lifestyle of a parent (in my case, my stepfather) in the United States military. Even so, life on the base and living in a place where most people spoke English, wasn’t too much of a culture shock for me at the time. By the middle of my 2nd grade year, we settled in San Bernardino, California where I would live for the next 17 years. It was during this time that my mother and stepfather divorced and some semblance of religion became part of our lives.

While abroad, I can’t ever remember going to church or participating in anything remotely religious other than Christmas, which the majority of western Europeans celebrated without question. It wasn’t until we returned to the States that my mother took it upon herself to make sure we were in church at least a few Sundays out of the month. Going to church could only be described as drudgery: a compulsory ritual that didn’t contain much meaning to me, except for the fact that we were Christians and that was what Christians did on Sundays. What I did know about my religion was that Jesus was supposedly God’s son and he died for our sins. Anything beyond that seemed like conjecture, as I was never too keen on the details of my faith and what was expected of me as a Christian. There were never any clear guidelines to how I was supposed to act, except that which fell within the basic rubric of social etiquette, like saying “please” and “thank you”, respecting your parents, and being kind to others, etc. As I got older, there were intermittent trips to bible study with the neighbors–an environment of entertainment and levity that served more as a social gathering, than a place to gain deep spiritual knowledge.

Going to church and identifying myself as a Christian was becoming less and less important as I began to identify more with what society deemed acceptable. By the time I was in college, I was worldy in every sense, taking my cues from magazines, music and television. Being religious was irrelevant, yet I still believed in a Creator and that there was an existence beyond what was evident. I even prayed most nights before bed, a habit I had a hard time shedding. In fact, it was the only thing that I did in which I felt a sense of spiritual connectedness to God, and allowed me to feel just a little bit grounded even though I was immersed in a culture of chaos. Islam still hadn’t been on my radar, except in the form of men in suits and bowties selling bean pies and hawking strange-looking newspapers in malls. I knew these people to be members of The Nation of Islam, which seemed more like a cult than a religion to me. I can hardly remember ever seeing actual Muslims, let alone paying them any attention. There would be rare moments when I would see a woman covered from head to toe in a swath of fabric, and all I could think of was how hot she must have been given the harsh southern California climate. Even after the events of September 11th, at the risk of sounding completely out of touch with world events, I was still mostly unaware of the political furor surrounding Muslims and Islam. Maybe it was because the day it happened  also happened to be my first day of college and moving into my new dorm while experiencing adult freedom for the first time seemed much more important than any bombing. As the years went by, my outlook on life became more and more secular, even though I still believed that there was a force out there that had a hand in the what took place in our lives, if only on a cosmic level. In 2009, I moved to New York City to pursue a career in the fashion industry. A month later I would get a job that would change the course of my life completely.

About a month after I began my life in New York as a stylist and sales associate in a high-end retail shop, I would meet my future husband. I was immediately drawn to this tall, brown-skinned man who seemed reserved, yet possessed an easy-going gregariousness that radiated from his large, brown eyes. I wanted to know him and fortunately for me, he wanted to know me too. Coming from California, I had a much more relaxed approach to life, which was something we both had in common. I found out that he was of Latino descent, his parents both immigrants from Central and South America and that he was, surprisingly, a Muslim. He’d converted 6 years earlier after marrying his first wife, whom he’d recently divorced. At the time he wasn’t practicing, but he strongly believed in the teachings of Islam and that it was the one true faith. It wasn’t something we discussed too frequently as we began to develop a closer relationship. We became inseparable and soon I found myself coming to the conclusion that I would one day marry this man. Then one year, as Ramadan was just around the corner, he made up his mind to fast during the Holy month, as he hadn’t for quite some time. He was in a place where he felt he needed to reconnect spiritually with the faith he had accepted years before, and was now making the effort to commit to what was expected of him from God.  During Ramadan, I watched him fast from sunrise to sunset and even took to making him his pre-dawn meal a few times. I was moved by his perseverance and his sheer willingness to give up certain habits that weren’t conducive to Islam. At the same time, we’d listen to the Qu’ran, and he began to tell me more and more about what it meant to be a Muslim. It never once crossed my mind that I would actually accept the faith myself, but nonetheless, I was open to learning. I’d read books, watched documentaries on the history of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and met other people who were also Muslim, people who I found to be extremely warm, friendly and open-minded.

Then as Ramadan was drawing near its final days, he asked me if I would consider accepting Islam. It was a scary question at first, only because even though I wasn’t a practicing Christian, it was the only faith I knew and was somehow a piece of my identity. To consider leaving it behind was like having a rug swept up from underneath me. However given the small amount of knowledge I’d accumulated over the past twenty-something days, I saw no other reason why I could not accept Islam as my faith. Everything just seemed to make sense. Not only that, but the fact that I still could not wrap my head around the idea of the Holy Trinity and worshipping Jesus alongside the Creator, and that Islam shatters that notion completely, was enough to make me say “La ilaha il-Allah, Muhammad ar-rasulillah”. To this day I can’t thank Allah enough for leading me down this path, for my wonderful husband whom I love so much, and for giving me the motivation to learn as much as I can about Islam. I’m one happy slave.