Alhamdullilah I came from the darkness to the light as they say and at the age of 19 became a muslim. How I decided to be a muslim and the long road I travelled is often a subject I am asked about so inshallah I shall try to explain here and my hope is that my story will be one of inspiration to others.
I grew up the typical American girl, born and raised here in the US in a middle class family which was composed of my parents and one younger sister. My father was in the military so we moved around quite a bit but eventually we settled in Virginia and this was where I grew up primarily. My family had a Christian background and tradition, but my parents, both of whom worked full time did not have the time to take us often to church. It was confined mostly to holidays or whenever we would visit our grandparents. I remember vividly attending sunday school as a small child, I remember being taught about Jesus and various other Christian virtues. However life being so fast as it is as I grew up into a teenager these principles and ideas began to seem foreign to me and I didn’t acknowledge them or implement them in my daily life at all.
My first introduction to Islam was in the 9th grade when my world history class went to Washington dc and toured the Islamic center there. It was a gorgeous spring day, all of us were wearing shorts and T-shirts of course and I remember being stopped at the entrance at the mosque. The woman told us, “You cannot enter Allah’s house dressed like this” I remember we all laughed, especially the boys because a moment later the woman
returned with long white skirts and scarves and insisted we wear them in the mosque. How strange I remember thinking to myself, what’s the big deal??? We were given a brief talk by someone who couldn’t speak English very well, needless to say it didn’t leave a great impression, but as a carefree teenager, at the time religion was the furthest thing from my mind.
Approximately a year and a half later a family from KSA moved in next door to my family. One night shortly after they moved in I was walking my dog. When Umm Ali noticed I was walking towards the house next to hers, she immediately approached me. She insisted in a very kind way that I come and eat dinner with them. Now it was summer time, very hot and humid and before me stood this woman covered from head to toe, a complete stranger and suddenly she was insisting that I come and eat with her. At first I completely refused, but she stood her ground and eventually convinced me. When I asked her why was she so persistent she replied “Islam teaches us to be respectful and kind to our neighbors, you are my neighbor now and I must extend to you this courtesy”.
Well I was quite shocked by this but somehow it put me at ease I felt that there was a real sense of sincerity in this gentle woman. From that evening on Umm Ali & I became the best of friends. It was a new experience for both of us, she had never had a close friend who wasn’t muslim and I had never had a muslim friend so we enjoyed our differences and respected them. She had a great sense of humor and we used to laugh a lot, and I adored her children and used to care for them as if they were my own nieces. From time to time we used to discuss religion, but it was never in a forceful way. I used to ask her about her prayers, about her dress, during Ramadan she invited me every night for iftaar (though I wasn’t fasting). Much of the dawah she made to me was through her actions, not her words. I began to respect and adore her so much as a person, woman, wife & mother. It
was very obvious to me that she was at peace with herself. At the time I was still quite young but I felt something starting to stir, it was more than a curiosity or an affection; I was starting even though I didn’t know it quite yet to really take Islam seriously.
Once I started studying in the university I began to really think seriously about my life, its direction and purpose. What was my main objective in life?? Why was I on this planet, to do what, to serve whom??? I reflected upon my Christian roots but they seemed so alien to me at that point, so I started to search.
I looked at Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, so many “isms” but I found a flaw in every one of them. Umm Ali was still with me at this time, she knew I was troubled and needed guidance but as was always her loving way she didn’t force me in anything. She was there for me, to listen to my frustrations and fears, always kind and always caring. It was a time of great turmoil and then one night I had a dream. In the dream I was surrounded by darkness from all sides and in the distance I could see a great light and under that light was my dear friend and she was calling me but I could not go to her. When I woke up I was startled by this dream, what did it mean??? After many long nights I realized the meaning; the darkness was my life as I was living it and the light was Islam. I then decided to make shahadah, I went first to Umm Ali and shortly after that to the masjid to make it official.
My life since that time has taken a drastic change for the better. I no longer feel frustrated or confused, I know what the meaning of life is and my purpose here in this world. I used to waste my time always going out, going to the beach, long hours in the cinema or at concerts. Now I see how frivolous that all was. My main goal now is to serve Allah (SWT) whereas before my goal was to serve myself and my selfish needs. I am now 27 years old a bit older and much wiser, I married nine months after I
became a muslim and I now have two lovely daughters. My life now is complete and since that great night I decided to be a muslim I have never looked back. The road was long and it was not always easy, but my faith & trust in Allah (SWT) has always sustained me.