Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
A spiritual journey is a journey and a quest to seek a deeper divine connection. On every journey there’s a defining moment that brings it all together. In that moment, you’ll discover it’s really about all the events that occurred along the way that got you to that pivotal point. Here is my journey that has led me to Islam.
I’ve always been searching for Allah (Subhana wa’talla) ever since I was a young teenager. I was raised in a Hindu home and I tried very hard to follow Hinduism to know and praise my Creator. As I tried to teach myself the Hindu faith, I started to find many questions unanswered and many inconsistencies in the way one individual practiced the religion from another. Since I couldn’t find the answers I was seeking here in New York, I decided to hop on a plane and go to India to experience the religion first hand in a country where millions practice it widespread. I went for what I thought would be a spiritual journey that would make me firm and strong in my faith. I ended up coming back from my trip more lost and confused as I saw some practices there that contradicted the very teachings that I had studied. It left me looking for answers elsewhere.
Before my trip, the dreaded 9/11 attacks occurred right in my backyard. I was born and raised in NYC and would see the towers from my window every day. I started getting a lot of hateful emails with false information about the Quran. Instead of falling for the propaganda, I researched it. Of course the emails were false but it raised my curiosity of God’s holy book and my thirst for knowledge quickly grew.
Along my religious journey, I met a wonderful Muslim woman who, Alhumdulillah, is now my wife. She exemplified the beauty of Islam by her kind actions and personality. We would have healthy discussions on religious topics and she would share with me the Islamic view on things. I was motivated to research the topics and my curiosity jumped into high gear. In an unrelated event, a friend who I knew for years and didn’t know was Muslim, gave me The Holy Quran after I told him I was researching and questioning the faith. The Holy Quran he gave me sat on my table unread until a non-Muslim friend of mine came over and saw the book on my coffee table and asked in a concerned tone, “What are you doing with that book!? Don’t read that book!! It makes people convert!!” That made me ponder, “What’s so powerful about this book that it makes people convert?” I started to read it little by little and things started to make sense to me. It also answered a number of questions I had that my previous faith didn’t clearly address.
One day, I was watching CNN and saw Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf speak about 9/11. He spoke positively about Islam and its condemnation of terrorism. I looked up information on the Imam and saw he was giving a khutbah at a masjid in Manhattan, which I attended. When the khutbah ended, I quickly tried to make my way to the exit. As I made my way to the back to leave, the brothers started to make room for me to pray in a tight space since the mosque was very full. “Here, brother” is all I heard when I was being ushered to stand in the line to pray. I was too overwhelmed to say, “I don’t know how”. The prayer began and I started to follow everyone by carefully spying on the person next to me. Once we were done praying, I’m not sure what came over me but I had such a strong feeling of serenity, peace, and a calmness that to this day, I have yet to experience that feeling again. Subhan’Allah, it was as if I was floating.
From that point forward, it was nonstop studying and searching. I was an avid listener of Imam Khalid Latif’s weekly podcasts from the Islamic Center at NYU and learned a great deal from his wonderful khutbahs. I took a chance and emailed him to see if I could meet him to talk about my interest in Islam. I wanted to know how to learn and memorize the prayers. I was already fasting some days during Ramadan but didn’t know how to pray yet. I went to visit him at NYU and he introduced me to a sister named Amber who recently took the Shahada. She told me about her journey to Islam. It was the first time I met someone who was going through similar experiences as me. It was very comforting. I continued my chat with Imam Khalid and he asked me one question that struck me hard “What if you die tomorrow?” He was right, what if I do die tomorrow? I wholeheartedly believe in Islam and put into practice all that I know of the religion. So right then and there, I took my Shahada and proclaimed my faith! After I professed the beautiful words “Ashadu an la ilaha illa Allah wa ashadu anna Muhammadu Rasul Allah”, it felt like a thousand pound weight was lifted off my shoulders. It’s truly amazing what those words do to a person. It’s truly transformational.
Coincidentally, the MECCA Center was having a “New Muslim” course upstairs at the same location. I soon signed up for the next offering and have been taking classes and attending lectures at MECCA ever since. For many new acceptors of Islam, a support system is invaluable but unfortunately not readily available so they often feel alone and overwhelmed. The MECCA Center provides comfort and support for us new Muslims and Alhumdullilah, I’m grateful to have this organization to turn to.