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)
Bismillahi Rrahmaani Rraheem,