A time comes in everyoneís life, or at least I hope it comes, when they realize that they have to not only believe what they believe in, whatever it may be, but get out there and proclaim it to the world. Luckily, that time came early for me. I am 17, and Islam is the belief that Iím proclaiming.
I was raised Catholic. Not internally as much as externally. I went to Catholic Sunday school, called CCD, but the Catholic view of God never played a major roll in my childhood. It was a Sunday thing. Anyhow, I started to enjoy Mass around 7th grade. It made me feel good to do the right thing. I was always a rather moral person, but I never really studied the fundamentals of Catholicism. I just knew that I felt good worshipping my creator.
I really liked Catholicism, but I always saw it as us (the Catholics) with Jesus worshipping God, not us worshipping God and Jesus as one. I saw Jesus (peace be upon him) as my example on how to be a good follower of and submitter to Godís will, but not as God himself.
Before I was confirmed in 8th grade, in the fall of 1999, I learned a lot about what Catholicism was. The Catholicism of the Church had a lot on viewing Jesus as God in it. Nothing like my ďundivided God being worshipped by me with Jesus as an exampleĒ train of thought. It was like they just opened up a can of cold, illogical confusion and tried to feed it to me. It didnít feel right.
I continued with the Catholic church, and kept on worshipping. But I talked to many in the church about my feelings that Jesus wasnít God but more of a Prophet, an example. They told me that I had to accept him as God and as a sacrifice, and so on. I just wasnít buying it. I tried to buy it but I guess God withhold the sale for my own benefit. There was a better car out there for me. I continued at the church.
Sometime in mid-December of 1999, for no reason that I can recall I started reading up on Islam in encyclopedias. I remember making a list of bolded words in the entry for ďIslamĒ in an old 1964 Grolier World Book that I found in my closet, and studying them. For some reason I was amazed by this faith and that it was all about God and that it was everything that I believed all my life - right here. Previously, I had accepted that there was no faith like I felt inside of me. But I was amazed that I had found this faith. I found out that ďmyĒ faith had a name, and millions of other adherents!
Without ever reading a Qurían or talking to another Muslim, I said shahada (declaring your belief in no god but God) on 31 December 1999. As the months passed, I learned more. I went through many periods of confusion, happiness, doubt and amazement. Islam took me on an enlightening tour of me, everyone else, and God.
The transition was slow. I was still attending Mass five months into my change of faith. Each time I went, I felt more and more distant from the congregation, but closer and closer to Prophet Jesus and God.
During Ramadan 2001, the second time I fasted (the first year, I converted during Ramadan and did not fast), I went to the library during lunch period. It was better than sitting at a table with my friends, because I got work done in the library. I swear my grades went up. I started talking to the only other Muslim at
my school, John. We talked about Islam a little more each day. Heís an awesome brother and he took me to the mosque on the last Friday of Ramadan. Going was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. God really answered my prayers this time. I thought I would be nervous, but I wasnít at all. It was the most natural thing I ever did in my life. I felt home. I realized something before leaving. As I sat there on the floor, praying to God, I realized that the room was full of others but it was OK. See, at home when someone asks me what I am doing, I never say I am praying. I never admit it to anyone. It is too awkward. But there, at the masjid, I was praying to God in front of a score of other Muslims and I felt perfectly fine. Better than fine! I felt natural and safe. It was the most liberating thing since I accepted God into my heart that cold New Yearís Eve almost two years ago.
I never told my parents right out. In fact, I donít plan to. The most significant clue that I gave came around 1:00 AM on 16 December 2001, when I finally told my dad I was going to the mosque in the morning with a friend when he asked me why I was setting my alarm. He chewed me out, to say the least. I never told them straight out because I figured it was best to test the waters by revealing clues bit by bit; I didnít want to send a shockwave through the family. I can only imagine what my dad would do if he knew I was actually a practicing Muslim. I understand that my dad is a depressed man, so I donít really hold this all against him. I mean, it is his fault for thinking himself so smart that he doesnít need God. That thought is what got him so depressed. But I donít think he realized how hard oneís heart can be when you deny your human need for a relationship with your Creator. So I donít hold it all against him. He didnít know what he was getting into. My mom doesnít know that I am a Muslim, but at least she hasnít shown her anger over me going to the mosque. As God commands, Iíll
continue to try my best to be nice to my parents as long as they donít attempt to take away my Islam. The best thing that I can do for them is to be a good example so that maybe one day, inshallah, they can see that there is a better way of living than living in the dark world of God-denial.
Iíve never been to the Mid-East, but I am studying Islam every day. I read books from every point of view. Sufi, Shia, Sunni, books on the Qurían alone... The Muslims view sects as haram, so no matter what you believe you are always a Muslim and nothing extra. You may have completely different views than another Muslim, but as long as you both believe that there is no god but God, you are both Muslims and thatís that. I read a lot on-line, and discuss a lot with other Muslims on-line and on the phone. Iíve met some really great people on-line who have taught me a lot about life, Islam and God.
Right now, I am 100% a Muslim and that will never change, inshallah. I thank God that Iíve gone through so many periods of doubt. When I look back I see that it was not God leaving me but God telling me that it was time that I asked myself how much I loved God, and what I was willing to go through to understand my faith. A week of crying, depression, prayer, reading to the extreme, and ignoring most other things in life sounds harsh...but the reward - knowing so much more about yourself, God, and the relationship between you (Islam) - is worth more than any material things. Through my interrogation of Islam I gained Godís most precious gift - Islam, or surrender to the peace. Iíve heard Christians say that with Christianity you ďknow God on a personal level.Ē In Islam, your relationship with God is so much deeper than that. God is with me every moment, guiding me, teaching me, loving me, protecting me, liberating me, enlightening me, comforting me... Alhamdulilah for Islam!
Islam has done a lot for me. More than I could have ever guessed. And every day, it just gets better. At first it was like Allah was turning on lights where it was dark. Now, He is shining light into places that I never KNEW were dark! It is just total enlightenment and consolation at the same time I feel like Iím getting the warmest, truest hug. I went from living my life on a trial-and-error basis to embracing guidance, and now knowing what the best choices are for me to make. From seeking who I am and spending a life in confusion, I am being guided. I canít find the words to say what its like, but Iíll try again: God reveals to me what life is. I donít have to guess anymore.
Sura 93, ďThe Morning HoursĒ
By the morning hours
By the night when it is still
Your lord has not abandoned you
and does not hate you
What is after will be better
than what came before
To you the lord will be giving
You will be content
Did he not find you orphaned and give you shelter
Find you lost and guide you
Find you in hunger and provide for you
As for the orphan, do not oppress him
And one who asks, do not turn him away
And the grace of your lord -- proclaim
That is what I went through, what God did for me - what I am. So here is my proclamation to the world. Islam is more than you think it is, in fact more liberal than most would wish it to be. But do not only listen. Study all views for yourself...and come to your own conclusion. God says ďlet there be no compulsion in religionĒ because faith in God is a choice made by the heart, and it canít be forced.
Holy Quran 2:185