I recall making arrangements years ago for a family member who had passed away, when my religious family arranged prayers for the sake of alleviating their sadness and asking for God’s mercy on the soul of the departed.
My heart just wanted my dear one to transition into a peaceful place through God’s mercy and blessings. In that state, I felt much discomfort about supplicating saints for help. This is what my loving family did in congregation at the wake, funeral, church, and each other’s homes. I understood their main intention, which was, to ask a saint (a pious soul) to bring their prayers to God. The hope was to increase the efficacy of the prayers.
At some point I made mention that I wasn’t comfortable praying like that because it didn’t seem right. That, instead, we should pray to God directly and not a saint. This wasn’t well received. Later, in the years that followed, I would learn it was one of several of my beliefs that coincides with the logic and purity of Islam.
A few years later I began my career in the financial district at one of the World Trade Center buildings. By my fifth year working and spending ten hours every weekday there, it had become a second home to me. Five days a week I’d navigate the World Trade Center and its surrounding buildings by running errands, shopping, eating, strolling, enjoying concerts, meeting with friends, reading, and relaxing.
One afternoon, at the financial center, while standing between the indoor palm trees and surrounded by the sunlight shining through the glass wall, a coworker and I got to talking about religion. I opened the conversation by sharing some of my personal views about God. That it wasn’t logical to me that God would have a gender, an image, fallible qualities, or that He would have any partner. He shared that his religion held the same beliefs. He was Muslim, and the first I had ever been able to speak to on a casual basis. We needed to head back to the office and that was the end of our brief conversation.
At that point, like many others folks do, I had looked into various religions. Through patchwork, I attempted to somehow mend the discrepancies that I felt the religion of my upbringing had. Still, I continued to feel that some things just weren’t right. Although I respected my family’s perspective and I had learned valuable information, the religion of my upbringing wasn’t hitting home for me. It wasn’t satisfying my heart and mind. I had not yet looked into Islam – the short discussion with my coworker marked the beginning of my interest in it.
After our conversation I returned to my busy office and busy life and hadn’t looked much further into what finally “clicked” with some of my beliefs. On Friday, September 7, 2001, I tied up some loose ends at the office in preparation for a short leave that I was beginning that following Monday.
On Tuesday, September 11, I was due back two blocks away from my office for a dental appointment but wasn’t up to commuting the work route on my second workday off. I called very early that morning to reschedule my appointment and the receptionist informed me that they were just about to cancel all of their appointments for that day because something happened at the World Trade Center. She wasn’t sure exactly what, but one of the buildings was damaged.
Minutes later I turned on the television. Confused and shocked I watched the Twin Towers collapsing, dust overwhelming the screen, and the distant images of people dropping from the buildings. I thought, “What could have caused two planes to crash into each building”? It didn’t make any sense. Not long after, the confusion and panic began to unravel as the news conveyed that these were terrorist attacks.
The focus was that they were Islamic terrorists. Then the news was inundated with coverage of the extremism of Islam.
Despite the grief of watching my “second home”, my workplace, and the lives of others being mercilessly destroyed, leaving behind loved ones, humans and pets, I felt that this wasn’t Islam. Islam, from what I had learned, was a religion of submission, and caring for neighbors, to say the very least. As I witnessed the negativity and blame from the media and individuals increase as the days went on, I knew that Islam was being unjustly blamed for the hateful and ignorant acts of man.
The following month I converted. It has now been over ten years since I connected with the light of Islam. I’ve finally found the religion of my heart and mind.