Fall of 2005, I decided to embark on a five month excursion to London, England with the exclusive goal of expanding my academic experience, immersing myself in a foreign culture, and utilizing the designated time to welcome needed clarification and growth in my life. I was blessed to return from abroad with all my goals accomplished but surprisingly, I returned with an unexpected blessing that greatly exceeded my planned accomplishments. I returned as a Muslim with the beautiful gift of Islam.
I was initially introduced to Islam years before I became Muslim. My first exploration of Islam came through reading the ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X’. This remarkable memoir thoroughly gave me insight into the life journey of El Hajj El-Malik Shabazz(Malcolm X) and how Islam guided him out of the midst of ignorance and despair and into a state of mental and spiritual enlightenment. The book gave me a vivid, front row depiction of the transformation that took place in the mind, heart and actions of El-Hajj El-Malik Shabazz that occurred as a result of his embrace of Islam. The book opened me up to the beauty of Islam and its ability to make phenomenal changes in the lives of diverse individuals and societies. I concluded the book with a strong respect and attraction to Islam but at that point, I didn’t want to become Muslim.
Much of my resistance was attributed to fear of breaking family tradition. I was raised as a Christian from a well-known family recognized for their religious leadership. Despite being raised in a strong Christian family and receiving years of Christian education, I grew up having conflictions about many of the basic beliefs of Christianity. In spite of my conflictions, I persisted in representing much of what I didn’t believe because it was a family tradition that no one broke or challenged but unquestionable followed.
My second exploration of Islam came my freshman year of college. The college’s core curriculum required that all students take several courses in religion. One of the courses was titled ‘Faith and Critical Reasoning’. This course allowed me to critically explore and analyze the major religions. The learning atmosphere granted the comfortability to question and intellectually converse about the basic tenets and beliefs of different religions. I completed the course with a greater respect and attraction to Islam but I still was not quite ready to convert. There were still many elements of self- resistance and fear that continued to operate as a barrier.
My sophomore year of college, I choose to study abroad in London, England with hopes of exclusively engrossing myself in a rich academic and cultural experience. While there, I lived within walking distance of the London Centre Mosque. One evening, I felt strongly inclined to enter the mosque and speak with someone about Islam. I followed my inclination and entered the mosque with the intention to learn further about Islam. I spoke with an Imam for an extended period and at the end of our conversation, he provided me with some literature and a Qur’an. Within a week, I read through all the provided literature, memorized Surah Al-Fatihah, and began to regularly read the Qur’an.
Shortly after, my heart and mind confirmed to me that it was time. Time for me to profess that there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. On the fourth day of Ramadan, I said my Shahada at the London Centre Mosque. It is difficult to capture in words the feelings I experienced upon my embrace of Islam. All I can express is a clear confirmation received within my heart and spirit that Islam was the way of life for me. The sincere generosity and mentorship I received from many of the Muslim sisters I met in London was nothing less than a blessing from Allah. Immediately upon my embrace of Islam, these sisters treated me with remarkable kindness and helped me begin to practically implement Islam into my life.
When I returned home from abroad, I was met with mixed emotions from friends and family regarding my conversion. My immediate family was supportive and really tried to accommodate many of my changes but Alhamdulillah, with time and patience, my family became more supportive and really encouraged my practice of Islam. I received some criticism from other family members and friends that initially bothered me but I found solace in the words of the Qur’an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
It is now almost four years since I took my Shahada and upon my journey, I have been blessed with many positive people and institutions that have strongly encouraged my growth in Islam. Allah has blessed me with a good group of Muslim friends and links with strong Islamic organizations. One of those organizations that provided me with support and encouragement coupled with strong Islamic education is known as M.E.C.C.A.
M.E.C.C.A has provided me with several facets of help and assistance. The Center not only assisted me in dealing with many issues that are unique to convert Muslims but, the Center truly helped me to become a strong, positive and knowledgeable member of the community. For their help and assistance, I am truly grateful and I pray that Allah rewards the organization for their work. I am grateful to Allah for blessing me with the beautiful gift of Islam and I pray that HE continues to Increase me in knowledge and wisdom and makes me among those whom HE loves.