I had been considering Islam for a couple of years before I found out about M.EC.C.A. Center. Over those couple of years, I felt like I was slowly becoming closer to God and becoming Muslim. I spent plenty of time with my Muslim friends and learning from our many conversations and shared experiences. I knew that my religion was very personal to me (like everyone else), and my friends constantly reminded me of that. “What do you make du’aa for?” “What’s the best part about fasting? What’s the hardest part?” “What does God mean to you, and why are we here?” From the smallest questions to the largest, it was clear to me that I was attracted to Islam because of its open-ended nature. I continued the search for some answers in myself.
But I felt like I was missing something. Almost all of my Muslim friends had grown up in Muslim communities of some sort, from all different backgrounds. Islam itself is communal by nature: people pray together, celebrate together, and live in a world in which no man is an island. I’ve always felt this to be a very practical way to look at things. My friends suggested I go to the M.E.C.C.A. Center for some extra help. They recommended the classes there, the welcoming and understanding vibe, and the helpful teachers.
When I first arrived, it was exactly that description. The New Muslims Program provided me with a chance to brush up on the basics I had begun to learn from my friends. I worked on elements of practice – wudhu, prayer, tenets of faith, treatment of others, and understanding of the world. But I also got to work on the bigger picture. I got to ask many questions – no matter how embarrassing. My teacher (and the other students) really did provide an atmosphere in which there was no “stupid questions.” This can’t be taken for granted! Many local mosques around New York City, for example, consist of very specific communities – whether Arab, Bengali, Nigerian, or any other. While they might be friendly once you get to know them, walking into a large, unfamiliar community can be daunting no matter what the occasion, and it becomes an even bigger problem when it’s an important matter like one’s faith and social life. After a couple of years of considering Islam, and a few months in the Program, I was welcomed into the community of Muslims.
The M.E.C.C.A. Center made perfect sense for me, and it was everything I’d hoped it could be. Staff, teachers, and students were friendly and helpful. They never pressured me, and always encouraged me to ask questions and to move at my own pace. They provided answers to the simple questions, and helped me ask the bigger questions of myself that I knew only I could answer. I’m thankful for my great experience here, and it will always be a community in which I know I can feel safe, comfortable and confident.