"Those whom Allah in his plan willeth to guide, He openeth their breast to Islam."
Surah 6, aya 125
Until recent years, if you had asked me about Islam I would have said, "what's Islam?" I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and almost all of my friends were also Catholic. Those who were not Catholic were Christians of another denomination. I was never exposed to any other religions, so I never had any reason to question my beliefs. On an intellectual level, I knew there were other religions, but I never really thought about it.
By my teenage years, I didn't want to get up on Sunday mornings for mass. I wanted to sleep late, so that's what I did. Although I still believed in God, and still considered myself a Catholic, I had no interest in the church. What did interest me was parties and bars. Religion was of no concern to me. The most important things on my mind were what bar to go to, what to wear, and who would be there. I really believed that there was nowhere to meet other single people and figured that not everyone who goes to a bar is only looking to pick someone up. After all, I was not looking to picked up, so I figured there had to be others like me.
As the years went by, I found myself still alone, and with nothing in my life except work and an occasional night out at the bars. One by one my friends were settling down, getting married and having babies. I stopped attending weddings and other parties because I always felt out of place. I would always be the only one without an escort (at least that was how I felt) and I couldn't help wondering what was wrong with me. I had boyfriends, but I had very bad judgment when it came to choosing them, and the relationships always left me doubting.
My self esteem was virtually non-existent at this point, and I became very depressed. I was desperately unhappy and felt that if this was as good as life gets, then I was ready to check out now. More than one time I took out every prescription bottle I had and would line them up and try to decide if there were enough. Then I would start wondering how long it would be before anyone missed me, and the thought of my cats being here alone with my dead body, and how distressed they would be was what would stop me. I began to see a counselor and realized that what I really wanted was just a normal happy life. I just didn't know how to go about finding it, so I took a good look at how I was living my life and decided that it shouldn't be such a surprise that I was not happy.
I began to take an interest in world events, an was particularly drawn to the conflict in the Middle East. It seemed like every time I turned on the news, there was some story about "Islamic Terrorists". I had attended a college course on world religions that had one chapter on Islam, but I didn't remember reading anything about "Jihad" (which the media interpreted as "holy war"), and I could not comprehend that a religion would direct people to commit acts of violence.
Since I knew next to nothing about Islam, I decided to do some research and form my own opinion. I read books and spent a lot of time on the Internet. I was very surprised at the similarities to Christianity. For example, I don't know who I thought "Allah" was, but I never thought he was the same God I believed in. I was very impressed that the Qu'ran is still intact in it's original form. Gradually I began to find myself wondering if Islam was the "correct" religion. The hardest thing for me to accept was the idea of Jesus as a prophet rather than the son of God. But then I though, "Do I believe he is God's son because my heart tells me it is true, or do I believe it because that's what I was always told?"
I was really confused, so I began to seriously pray (something I had never really done) to god to help me and guide me to the truth. With each passing day, my thoughts were more and more on Islam, and I knew this was God's answer to my prayers. I knew that Islam was the truth but now what? How do I become involved in the Muslim community? I looked in the phone book for Mosques, but still didn't really know what to do. Could I just walk in the door? Should I call first? Would a Christian woman wanting to become Muslim be welcome? I decided to call and that same day I visited the Mosque for the first time. I was quite nervous and it took me several minutes to get up enough nerve to go inside. The woman who spoke with me assured me that I was welcome and directed me to a class that was for new Muslims. Again, I was very nervous; and almost didn't go to the class, but after prayers to God for strength I found my courage. I found that going to the Mosque made me feel good about myself, so I knew it had to be right.
I didn't think anything could be harder than making that initial visit to the Mosque, but I was wrong. Telling me friends and family was very difficult at first. It did get easier, but I didn't know how people would react. I had not been actively involved in religion for nearly twenty years. At first my mother didn't have much to say about anything. Then it was, "Well you're not going to convert to that are you? Look how they treat their women!!" When she realized it was not just a phase, she decided "I guess it's better than no religion at all". Now she says she has accepted it and "I know you thought I'd be upset, but I'm not, I'm really not!". I think that deep down inside, she does not understand how strongly I believe, but she is trying and I think she sees that I am so much happier. My brother has never said one work one way or the other. I did lose some friends in the process, we just drifted apart as I realized that they were bar buddies, not friends. I find that most people don't say anything, I don't think they know what to say. There are a few of my old friends who ask questions and have commented on the change they see in me, and they are happy for me. I have made so many new friends, and I have a sense of inner peace that was not there before.
During Ramadan this year (1998), I stood with five others and publicly declared my belief that there is no God except Allah, and that Mohammed was his prophet. I left the mosque that night as a Muslim, knowing in my heart that God was with me.
"He it is who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that he may bring you out from the depths of darkness into the Light".
Surah 33, aya 43