How simple... and simply beautiful
Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam ‘ala Rasulillah; As-Salaam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu
”Who believe in the Unknown, and fulfil their devotional obligations, and spend in charity of what We have given them; Who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed to those before you, and are certain of the Hereafter. They have found the guidance of their Lord and will be successful. As for those who deny, it is all the same if you warn them or not, they will not believe. Allah has sealed their hearts and ears, and veiled their eyes. For them is great deprivation” [2: 3-7 Al-Qur’an translation by Ahmed Ali].
Although there are far more interesting stories of people becoming Muslim during the times of the Prophet (SWA), I feel that it is critical to recount to other Muslimahs and non-Muslimahs a story that can be easy to relate to given our current times and circumstances. Let me first give a comprehensive history of who I am, where I came from and who I was before Allah showed me the right path.
I was born in 1975 to an upper middle class Christian family living in the farmlands of Eastern Washington. I lead a very happy carefree childhood full of swimming in the lake during the hot desert summers, ice-skating and snow-mobiling in the winters and many boat and horseback rides in between. My life was full of more leisure than worship, as I barely remember
going to Church. Except for a few Easters spent looking for money in haystacks at the Golf and Country Club and ripping through piles of presents stacked around the Christmas tree, my understanding of God was limited to such experiences. It was not until many years later that I even realized what the religious reasoning was behind such holidays.
In 1982, my reality became abruptly severed due to the divorce of my parents. The world that I had known became a thing of the past, and I spent a lot more of my time crying and feeling angry than I did frolicking with friends as I had done before. It felt as if my parents had deceived me, and I started to become very unsure about life. New town, new schoolmates, new neighborhood, and new stepfather! Change is an inevitable way of this life, but it was still very foreign to my young mind.
During my first few years on the Island, I was fortunate enough to live in the neighborhood where the only Muslim family lived. Since Mariam was my age and her younger brother, Adam, was my sister’s age, we spent many afternoons after school playing in the woods and digging for sea life on the rocky beaches of the north end. I even remember Mariam showing me her Qur’an and explaining to me what it meant to be Muslim. Even at the young age of 10, I found it fascinating, as I have always been very intrigued by other cultures and religions. She also told me cool stories about her dad’s life as a Sonics basketball player. All in all, I enjoyed spending time with them.
Not too long after that we moved to another part of the island, my close friendship with Mariam and her family dwindled. I became friends with a different group of kids and our lives started to separate. Even though I was not spending time with her, I still considered her a friend and would often defend her when immature kids would make rude comments about her hijab and other Islamic customs. I almost prided myself on understanding her belief, although not at all extensively.
Living in such a small town as I did, made it easy for me to begin associating myself with people and activities that were less than wholesome. Entertainment being scarce, most kids turned to drinking, smoking, sex and experimental drug use. Although I was not as quick to follow the crowd and have always considered myself a leader, I soon followed suit. I was never too wrapped up in the group’s mischievous behaviour, but as my father always said, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” It became hard to disassociate myself from the group. I even remember walking out of school in 1990 when we declared war against Iraq during Desert Storm. I knew nothing of the politics of the war and demonstrated in the streets in protest against our involvement in it. I knew nothing of the heinous crimes committed against the Kuwaiti people. I was merely going along with the crowd. God was always in the back of my mind, but I lost myself in my own selfishness and bottled-up hurt from my parent’s break-up. My relationship with my mother worsened as my days in high school continued, until she finally kicked me out at age 17. My father whisked me away to Bellingham that summer before senior year to set me straight in school and life in general. Hemd’Allah (thank God) that he was there to support me and heal some of those emotional wounds.
That fall, I started at Whatcom Community College fulltime. One of my classes that quarter was Middle Eastern History. I wrote a lengthy research paper on Ancient Egyptian Civilization and learned the truth about many stereotypes and falsehoods relating to Islam and Muslims. The idea behind men as the head of the household and women being modest to avoid the strong sexual desires of men really made sense to me. I also learned from an American Muslim man that lectured the class that Muslims believed in Jesus and did not say that he was the “Son of God” as Christians do. The fact that Muslims believe that Allah is above the mortal qualities of having children really
clicked with me.
From that point in late 1992 until early 1998, I had little if any other encounters with Islam, Muslims or the Middle East in general. During a break-up with a boyfriend of mine at that time, I met a Kuwaiti guy at the gym I had been going to. It was fairly innocent, as my personal trainer introduced him to me. I thought he was handsome and friendly, but he seemed too good to be true and I automatically labelled him as a player. When I found out he was Muslim, I became even more turned off. Even though I had more knowledge about Islam at that time than most Americans, I was still blinded by my prejudices.
After a little coercion, I finally agreed to eat falafels with him at a local Arabic grocery store granted it was a “friendly” meeting and not a romantic one. I thought he was “nice”, but he was not GQ enough for my liking. My shallowness inhibited me from seeing his truly caring, unselfish and respectful attitude. We slowly became friends over a few months period and he found his way into my heart. He was always there for me emotionally and spiritually while I coped with my financial difficulties and rocky relationship with my mother and sister. His number one interest was always making my life easier and not complicating it with frivolous temptations and desires.
He slowly introduced me to the concepts of Islam and stories of Prophet Muhammad (SWA). He even prayed in front of me until I felt comfortable to talk openly about my misconceptions of Islam, especially the role of women. Everything that he related to me, I saw in the actions of him, his brothers and their friends. I began to realize that all the time I spent worried about partying, drinking and hanging out with my supposed “guy friends” was all a waste. None of these things were going to get me any closer to feeling truly happy about myself and about life as a whole. “...As for the life of this world, it is nothing but a merchandise of vanity” [Al-Qur’an 3:185].
It might be very difficult for non-believers to accept that I chose Islam and was not forced to or persuaded to by “man from Kuwait”. My acceptance of Islam was not a prerequisite of our relationship’s potential future, as some have thought. I did not automatically adhere to anything or believe everything I heard or read. It was a slow process of learning and “man from Kuwait” was perfect about telling me the right thing at the right time. He never started out by telling me what was haram (forbidden) and the punishments for that on Judgement Day. On the contrary, he first explained to me why he did what he did. What was the spiritual significance of Hajj, praying at certain times, refraining from the consumption of pork, etc? Every tradition in Islam (submission to God) prescribed by Allah has significance; it is not mere cultural customs passed down from generation to generation.
Some of the hardest things for me to accept included Islamic attire for men and women, Polygamy, prohibition of alcohol, etc. Not to mention I wanted proof...logical proof and reasoning to understand why “man from Kuwait” felt obligated to pray, fast, abstain from drinking and sex, etc. At first I saw it as so many “don’ts” and so few “dos”. Some of these topics required a lot of in-depth discussion, so “man from Kuwait” turned me to Ahmed Deedat to pick up where he left off. The acceptance of Islam, the belief in Al-Qur’an and Allah as Creator of everything was a natural concept and Deedat reasoned this to death in my mind. I tried to logically refute these ideas internally, but I couldn’t. It was simply not possible!
My hardest internal struggle was revealing these ideas to my parents and family. What would they think? Would they disinherit me? How could I tell them? Well, the truth of the matter is that I am in the process of this right now. The stronger my faith becomes, the less worried I am about what non-believers think. The number one idea I have to rid my family of
is the incorrect belief that women have a subservient role to men in Islam. From an American perspective, these ideas are easily confused with reality, especially since many Muslim countries have gone astray in inhibiting women an education or right to work.
I always relate the story of the Prophet’s first wife, Khadija. She was a rich woman who not only owned her own business, but also successfully raised her children. So many seem to skip over this fact, and Muslims alike. People also forget or misunderstand the acceptance of polygamy. This is not a preferred way of life according to Allah’s word, but an option. Al-Qur’an reiterates this, by stating that it is impossible to treat multiple wives equally, so unless you can, then just marry one woman. Before I understood Islam, I always assumed that multiple wives was the suggested way of life according to the teachings of Islam, and relying on media influence made me blind to the truth. What really hit it home for me was that the Prophet (SWA) was married to a much older woman for 25 years, and it wasn’t until after she died that he re-married. He was allowed more than four wives in order to teach people how to treat different wives, whether much older, much younger, Jewish or Christian. He showed us that marrying women of other heavenly religions was accepted and that marrying women of other ethnicities or ages was good in the eyes of God. Far too many people today, refuse to marry women of different colors and cultures. Prophet Muhammad (SWA) showed us that these prejudices should be avoided. Furthermore, he married a couple of these women because their husbands had died in war, and he wanted to provide means and a father figure for their children. It was not based on sexual desires. In fact, Islam prohibited the conduct of many men (Christian and Jewish) of that time who had hundreds of wives and concubines, thus the max Islam allows is four and that having relations with someone other than
your wife is considered adultery. I have even read in history books (written by non-Muslims) that the reason the Catholic Church outlawed multiple wives, was because men did not want to be legally responsible financially for providing for more than one. This allowed more free conduct on the part of men to gallivant with women outside of the marriage and not be tied down buy so many legitimate children.
Differentiating between the true faith of Islam and the wrong doings of people, whose actions do not reflect Islam, can prove difficult, especially to non-believers. Many people throughout time whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim have tried to base their anti-religious actions on the supposed teachings of that faith. This factor in accepting Islam influenced me in taking more time to believe. Every time I heard or read about some questionable act that a Muslim had committed, I immediately ran to my Muslim friends for proof explaining or denying the correctness of that action. “man from Kuwait” always shows me Quranic proof for such actions or against them.
I still remember all the times people have said, “Haven’t you seen the movie Not Without My Daughter?” How ignorant for someone to base his or her beliefs of another culture or religion on an American made movie. This is precisely why so many non-Muslims have negative stereotypes about Islam. When I first introduced my parents to “man from Kuwait”, there was a lot of turmoil in the family. I remember all the questions: is “man from Kuwait” going to have a harem of wives, what if he steals your children, what if you move to Kuwait and they hold you captive, etc? It took so much explaining to even justify why I was interested in a Muslim man, let alone explaining to them why I have become Muslim. Insha’Allah (God willing) Islam will bring me closer to my family as I have seen it helping me mend my friendship with my sister. She has been Christian for years, and now that I believe in one God, Allah, we many times
have religious and spiritual discussions about God. It seems we have more in common now, then ever before.
After about a year of knowing each other, I really started to believe all that I heard and read about this great deen (religion). Even though I had not uttered the words, “Esheduana la illaha ilallah”, I believed that there was no other deity except for Allah, and without a doubt that Prophet Muhammad (SWA) was the messenger of Allah (Esheduana Muhammadan rasool Allah). It was not until about six months later that I finished reading Volume one of “The Choice: Islam and Christianity” by Ahmed Deedat. I had never read anything more convincing that was directed toward an American point of view. I immediately asked “man from Kuwait” how I actually could become Muslim. Was there a ceremony or did I have to make a blood oath? I was surprised that all I had to do was utter those words and truly believe it in my heart that there is no other deity except Allah and that Prophet Muhammad was the messenger of Allah. How simple...and simply beautiful.
Sometimes, I have small insignificant doubts, but they quickly pass. I just remember that it is probably the Shetan (devil) trying to influence me, like when your mind wonders during prayer. I still believe, and I have never thought that I chose Islam because of my interest in “man from Kuwait”. I told my mother that even if he disappears tomorrow, I will remain Muslimah - Insha’Allah until I die.
My friends and co-workers have been extremely supportive and respect my choice not to drink, eat pork, etc. I have even taught Islam to some of my co-workers. Many of my friends usually ask my opinion on their life controversies and hardships. I always give them Islamic advice, and they appreciate that. My roommate is not Muslim, yet she respects my beliefs and does not drink around me or try to force me to go bar hopping with her and her friends. What my friends think never influences me
to change my opinions or beliefs. I listen to other peoples’ perspectives, but I am Muslimah and Insha’Allah that will not change.
Becoming Muslim was the best choice that I ever made and I thank Allah everyday that he gave me the openness in my heart to accept it and love it. I have read and learned from various people so much about this deen and it seems that I just cannot learn enough. I continually search for more proof of Islam and take every opportunity to teach others about it.
I have faith in the Hereafter and realize that no matter what others say or think their blindness will not hinder nor help me on the Day of Judgement. Allah does not accept excuses like “I did not know any better” or “I do not believe in Islam because my parents were Christian”. If these excuses worked than the people of Mecca would have gone on worshipping idols like their forefathers had and not have embraced Islam with the Prophet (SWA). “Do the unbelievers think they can make My own creatures their protectors against Me?” [Al-Qur’an 18:102].
Insha’Allah one day, Allah will let the light of Islam into the hearts of my parents and sister. “It is true thou wilt not be able to guide every one, whom thou lovest; but Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance” [Al-Qur’an 28:56]. Everyday, I think about the blazing fire that awaits those that do not believe and my eyes fill with tears of horror for those close to me who do not understand the signs that Allah has made clear for all of us. I never question that which He has made nor the reasons why He has lead me to Islam and not my family. I just pray that Allah will lead them as well. “Creation of the heavens and the earth, alternation of night and day, and sailing of ships across the ocean with what is useful to man, and the rain that Allah sends from the sky enlivening the earth that was dead, and the scattering of beasts of all kinds upon it, and the changing of the winds, and the
clouds which remain obedient between earth and sky, are surely signs for the wise. And yet there are men who take others as compeers of Allah, and bestow on them love due to Allah; but the love of the faithful for Allah is more intense. If only the wicked could see now the agony that they will behold (on the Day of Resurrection), they will know that to Allah belongs the power entirely! And the punishment of Allah is severe” [Al-Qur’an 2:164-165].