In the world around us it seems that everyone is searching for happiness and meaning in this life, and some kind of purpose. At some point, I too started searching for these things. As I was getting older I started seeing the world more clearly. It was a time when my elders were no longer shielding my eyes from the realities of the world, and I was contemplating this world more and more and asking myself questions about it and its inhabitants.
I was raised in a Catholic family that didn’t practice much, but used to attend Church on holidays or rare occasions, and I went to a Catholic school from ages five to thirteen. After so many years, one would think I might have gained a lot of knowledge about my prior religion; however, this was not the case. When I was very young I didn’t think much of religion or understand the concept of it. My friends and I would joke around and whisper to each other during a Church mass or try to sneak outside–such is the nature of being a child.
Though the members of my immediate family were not practicing Catholics, I always thought of the existence of God from time to time, and as I got older I wanted to find Him, to know more about Him, and to be closer to Him. I would often be staring up at the moon and the stars, and finding evidence of His existence in the beauty that He created. When I was around fifteen, I decided to go to Church on my own. I marveled at the splendor of the art within large Cathedrals such as Saint Patrick’s in NYC, or the old Churches in Europe, which I was able to visit during trips to Paris. Even the sound of the organ, seeming powerful, would fill the entire space up to a ceiling almost one hundred feet high, and would shake not only the walls within the Cathedral, but my very being. At the time, this in itself was enough to grasp my attention, but as time went on, I began to think more deeply about what exactly was involved in these masses. What was being said? How much truth is behind each story? And the most distressing question in my mind— How can someone be the son of God?
I remember meeting Muslims throughout my life, and especially during my childhood, with whom I have very sweet memories. They were either neighbors, parents of friends, or babysitters who took care of me when I was little. It wasn’t until high school though, that I actually started gaining some knowledge about Islam. My closest friends happened to be Muslims, so I was indirectly introduced to Islamic lifestyle through my daily conversations with them, and when visiting their homes. What struck me the most was their hospitality and generosity. I admired the modesty of my friends, not only in their dress but also in their actions. I found with Muslims a way of being that I searched for in others for a long while but could not find.
It was one Friday afternoon, four years ago and in my junior year of high school that set into motion a domino effect that changed my life. That day I planned to meet with my close friends after school. They told me they couldn’t leave right away because they were going to an after school meeting held by the school’s Islamic club, and asked me to join them so that I wouldn’t have to wait outside alone. I agreed to go, but I had no idea what to expect, and I feared that I might feel awkward and out of place. Contrary to what I thought, I felt very comfortable, and welcomed. From the minute the teacher of the club began to speak about the topic being covered that week, I was hooked. Every other minute I was thinking to myself, “That makes sense, I agree,” and from that day on I attended meetings for the next year, and then after my high school graduation, I decided to convert.
Although I wish I could say my conversion to Islam was a smooth transition, it was a very bumpy road before things started to get on the right track. Firstly, my parents did not approve of my conversion, but thankfully, the support and kindness of my friends and their families helped me get through the chaos and conflict I was experiencing with my family.
I also did not have a full understanding of what was and wasn’t Islamically correct. I was told by a few people to be careful right after converting, because shaytan would try to change my mind and scare me out of the situation…and it was probably true because I could really feel it. The actual moment of saying the Shahada was wonderful and I felt peaceful, as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. But a short time after, I started having all kinds of worries and doubts, and hid the fact that I converted from my parents for over a year. I wondered if I had made the right decision. When things started going wrong in my life I started to become depressed and my faith weakened. I turned away from Allah (swt) instead of running towards Him for help. For a few months I stopped practicing, but I never stopped thinking of Allah, and from time to time I would still speak to Him.
Then one summer when I was away from home, I found Islam again. One night I was overtaken by the sudden desire to start praying again. It was a sudden impulse that to this day I don’t fully understand, but for which I am grateful. I prayed Isha prayer, and was filled with an amazing feeling that I had not felt before. For the first time I prayed for the sake of Allah (swt) only, with no one else’s opinion involved and not to please or fit in with other people, but only to please Allah (swt.) That night I felt that I had really become a Muslim, and that this time I could do things right insha’Allah. The more I tried to be close to Allah (swt.), the more I felt that He was closer to me. Though I did not always feel that He was close to me, I took these times as a test to see how I would behave when I thought He was far away.
At present, I still have much more to learn about Islam, and most likely I will be increasing my knowledge about it for the rest of my life, insha’Allah. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found Islam, and I dread the thought of how my life might have been without it. SubhanAllah, I have no doubt that everything happens for a reason, even when we don’t understand it.