Path To Islam
Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah.
Since I have started reading and posting on this newsgroup
a few months ago, I have noticed a great interest in converts
(reverts) to Islam: how are people introduced to it, what
attracts people to this faith, how their life changes when
they embrace Islam, etc. I have received a lot of e-mail
from people asking me these questions. In this post, I hope
insha'Allah to address how, when and why an American like
myself came to embrace Islam.
and I'm sorry for that, but I don't think you can fully understand
this process from a few paragraphs. I tried not to ramble
on or get off on tangents. At times the story is detailed,
because I think it helps to truly understand how my path to
Islam developed. Of course, there's a lot I left out (I'm
not trying to tell you my whole life story - just the pertinent
interesting for me to look back on my life and see how it
all fits together - how Allah planned this for me all along.
When I think about it, I can't help saying `Subhannallah,'
and thank Allah for bringing me to where I am today. At other
times, I feel sad that I was not born into Islam and [thereby]
been a Muslim all my life. While I admire those who were,
I at times pity them because sometimes they don't really appreciate
reading this can help you understand how I, at least, came
to be a Muslim. Whether it gives you ideas for da'wah, or
just gives you some inspiration in your own faith, I hope
it is worth your time to read it, insha'Allah. It is my story,
but I think a lot of others might see themselves in it.
I was born in San Francisco, California, and raised in a Bay
Area suburb. My small town (San Anselmo, pop. about 14,000
last I checked) was a mostly white, upper-middle-class, Christian
community. It is a beautiful area - just north of San Francisco
(across the Golden Gate Bridge), nestled in a valley near
the hillsides (Mount Tamalpais) and the Pacific Ocean. I knew
all of my neighbors, played baseball in the street, caught
frogs in the creeks, rode horses in the hills, and climbed
trees in my front yard.
My father is Presbyterian, and my mother is Catholic. My father
was never really active in any church, but my mother tried
to raise us as Catholics. She took us to church sometimes,
but we didn't know what was going on. People stand up, sit
down, kneel, sit again, stand up, and recite things after
the priest. Each pew had a booklet - a kind of `direction
book' -and we had to follow along in order to know what to
do next (if we didn't fall asleep first). I was baptized in
this church, and received my First Communion at about the
age of 8 (I have pictures, but I don't remember it much).
After that, we only went about once a year.
lived on a dead-end street of about 15 houses. My grammar
school was at the end of the street (4 houses down), next
to a small Presbyterian church. When I was about 10, the people
of this church invited me to participate in their children's
Christmas play. Every Sunday morning from then on, I walked
down to church alone (no one else in my family was interested
in coming). The whole congregation was only about 30 older
people (past their 50's), but they were nice and never made
me feel out of place. There were about 3 younger couples with
children younger than me.
I became a very active member of this church down the street.
When I was in 6th grade, I started babysitting the younger
kids during the service. By 9th grade, I was helping the minister's
wife teach Sunday school. In high school, I started a church
youth group by recruiting 4 of my friends to join me. It was
a small group: me, my friends, and a young couple with kids,
but we liked it that way. The big Presbyterian church in town
had about 100 kids in their youth group and took trips to
Mexico, etc. But our group was content to get together to
study the bible, talk about God, and raise money for charities.
friends and I would sit together and talk about spiritual
issues. We debated about questions in our minds: what happens
to the people who lived before Jesus came (go to heaven or
hell); why do some very righteous people automatically go
to hell just because they don't believe in Jesus (we thought
about Gandhi); on the other hand, why do some pretty horrible
people (like my friend's abusive father) get rewarded with
heaven just because they're Christian; why does a loving and
merciful God require a blood sacrifice (Jesus) to forgive
people's sins; why are we guilty of Adam's original
sin; why does the Word of God (Bible) disagree with scientific
facts; how can Jesus be God; how can One God be 3 different
things; etc. We debated about these things, but never came
up with good answers. The church couldn't give us good answers
either; they only told us to "have faith."
people at church told me about a Presbyterian summer camp
in Northern California. I went for the first time when I was
10. For the next 7 years, I went every summer. While
I was happy with the little church I went to, this is where
I really felt in touch with God, without confusion.
It was here that I developed my very deep faith in God. We
spent much of our time outdoors, playing games, doing crafts,
swimming, etc. It was fun, but every day we would also take
time out to pray, study the bible, sing spiritual songs, and
have `quiet time.' It is this quiet time that really meant
a lot to me, and of which I have the best memories. The rule
was that you had to sit alone - anywhere on the camp's
200 beautiful acres. I would often go to a meadow, or sit
on a bridge overlooking the creek, and just THINK. I looked
around me, at the creek, the trees, the clouds, the bugs :)
- listened to the water, the birds' songs, the crickets' chirps.
This place really let me feel at peace, and I admired and
thanked God for His beautiful creation. At the end of each
summer, when I returned back home, this feeling stayed with
me. I loved to spend time outdoors, alone, to just think about
God, life, and my place in it. I developed my personal understanding
of Jesus' role as a teacher and example, and left all the
confusing church teachings behind.
believed (and still do) in the teaching "Love your neighbor
as yourself," fully giving to others without expecting anything
in return, treating others as you would like to be treated.
I strived to help everyone I could. When I was fourteen, I
got my first job, at an ice cream store. When I got my paycheck
each month (it wasn't much), I sent the first $25 to a program
called `Foster Parents Plan' (they've changed the name now).
This was a charity that hooked up needy children overseas
with American sponsors. During my 4 years of high school,
I was a sponsor for a young Egyptian boy named Sherif. I sent
him part of my paycheck each month, and we exchanged letters.
(His letters were in Arabic, and looking at them now, it appears
that he believed he was writing to an adult man, not a girl
5 years older than him.) He was 9 years old, his father was
dead, and his mother was ill and couldn't work. He had 2 younger
brothers and a sister my age. I remember getting a letter
from him when I was 16 - he was excited because his sister
had gotten engaged. I thought, "She's the same age as me,
and she's getting engaged!!!" It seemed so foreign to me.
These were the first Muslims I had contact with.
from this, I was also involved with other activities in high
school. I tutored Central American students at my school in
English. In a group called "Students for Social Responsibility,"
I helped charities for Nicaraguan school children and Kenyan
villagers. We campaigned against nuclear arms (the biggest
fear we all had at that time was of a nuclear war).
invited exchange students from France into my home, and I
had penpals from all over the world (France, Germany, Sweden,
etc.). My junior year of high school, we hosted a group called
`Children of War' - a group of young people from South Africa,
Gaza Strip, Guatemala, and other war-torn lands, who toured
the country telling their stories and their wishes for peace.
Two of them stayed at my house - the group's chaperone from
Nicaragua, and a young black South African man. The summer
after my junior year of high school, I took a volunteer job
in San Francisco (the Tenderloin district), teaching English
to refugee women. In my class were Fatimah and Maysoon, 2
Chinese Muslim widows from Vietnam. These were the next Muslims
I met, although we couldn't talk much (their English was too
minimal). All they did was laugh.
of these experiences put me in touch with the outside world,
and led me to value people of all kinds. Throughout my youth
and high school, I had developed two very deep interests:
faith in God, and interacting with people from other countries.
When I left home to attend college in Portland, Oregon, I
brought these interests with me.
Lewis & Clark College, I started out as a Foreign Language
(French & Spanish) major, with a thought to one day work
with refugee populations, or teach English as a Second Language.
When I arrived at school, I moved into a dorm room with two
others - a girl from California (who grew up only 10 minutes
from where I did), and a 29-year-old Japanese woman (exchange
student). I was 17.
didn't know anyone else at school, so I tried to get involved
in activities to meet people. In line with my interests, I
chose to get involved with 2 groups: Campus Crusade for Christ
(obviously, a Christian group), and Conversation Groups (where
they match Americans up with a group of international students
to practice English).
met with the Campus Crusade students during my first term
of school. A few of the people that I met were very nice,
pure-hearted people, but the majority were very ostentatious.
We got together every week to listen to "personal testimonies,"
sing songs, etc. Every week we visited a different church
in the Portland area. Most of the churches were unlike anything
I'd ever been exposed to before. One final visit to a church
in the Southeast area freaked me out so much that I quit going
to the Crusade meetings. At this church, there was a rock
band with electric guitars, and people were waving their hands
in the air (above their heads, with their eyes closed) and
singing "hallelujah." I had never seen anything like
it! I see things like this now on TV, but coming from a very
small Presbyterian church, I was disturbed. Others in Campus
Crusade loved this church, and they continued to go. The atmosphere
seemed so far removed from the worship of God, and I didn't
feel comfortable returning.
always felt closest to God when I was in a quiet setting and/or
outdoors. I started taking walks around campus (Lewis &
Clark College has a beautiful campus!), sitting on
benches, looking at the view of Mount Hood, watching the trees
change colors. One day I wandered into the campus chapel -
a small, round building nestled in the trees. It was beautifully
simple. The pews formed a circle around the center of the
room, and a huge pipe organ hung from the ceiling in the middle.
No altar, no crosses, no statues - nothing. Just some simple
wood benches and a pipe organ. During the rest of the year,
I spent a lot of time in this building, listening to the organist
practice, or just sitting alone in the quiet to think. I felt
more comfortable and close to God there than at any church
I had ever been to.
this time, I was also meeting with a group of international
students as part of the Conversation Group program. We had
5 people in our group: me, a Japanese man and woman, an Italian
man and a Palestinian man. We met twice a week over lunch,
to practice English conversation skills. We talked about our
families, our studies, our childhoods, cultural differences,
etc. As I listened to the Palestinian man (Faris) talk about
his life, his family, his faith, etc., it struck a nerve in
me. I remembered Sherif, Fatima and Maysoon, the only other
Muslims I had ever known. Previously, I had seen their beliefs
and way of life as foreign, something that was alien to my
culture. I never bothered to learn about their faith because
of this cultural barrier. But the more I learned about Islam,
the more I became interested in it as a possibility for my
my second term of school, the conversation group disbanded
and the international students transferred to other schools.
The discussions we had, however, stayed at the front of my
thoughts. The following term, I registered for a class in
the religious studies department: Introduction to Islam. This
class brought back all of the concerns that I had about Christianity.
As I learned about Islam, all of my questions were answered.
All of us are not punished for Adam's original sin.
Adam asked God for forgiveness and our Merciful and Loving
God forgave him. God doesn't require a blood sacrifice
in payment for sin. We must sincerely ask for forgiveness
and amend our ways. Jesus wasn't God, he was a prophet,
like all of the other prophets, who all taught the same message:
Believe in the One true God; worship and submit to Him alone;
and live a righteous life according to the guidance He has
sent. This answered all of my questions about the trinity
and the nature of Jesus (all God, all human, or a combination).
God is a Perfect and Fair Judge, who will reward or punish
us based on our faith and righteousness. I found a
teaching that put everything in its proper perspective, and
appealed to my heart and my intellect. It seemed
natural. It wasn't confusing. I had been searching, and I
had found a place to rest my faith.
summer, I returned home to the Bay Area and continued my studies
of Islam. I checked books out of the library and talked with
my friends. They were as deeply spiritual as I was, and had
also been searching (most of them were looking into eastern
religions, Buddhism in particular). They understood my search,
and were happy I could find something to believe in. They
raised questions, though, about how Islam would affect my
life: as a woman, as a liberal Californian :), with my family,
etc. I continued to study, pray and soul-search to see how
comfortable I really was with it. I sought out Islamic centers
in my area, but the closest one was in San Francisco, and
I never got there to visit (no car, and bus schedules didn't
fit with my work schedule). So I continued to search on my
own. When it came up in conversation, I talked to my family
about it. I remember one time in particular, when we were
all watching a public television program about the Eskimos.
They said that the Eskimos have over 200 words for `snow,'
because snow is such a big part of their life. Later that
night, we were talking about how different languages have
many words for things that are important to them. My father
commented about all the different words Americans use for
`money' (money, dough, bread, etc.). I commented, "You know,
the Muslims have 99 names for God - I guess that's what is
important to them."
the end of the summer, I returned to Lewis & Clark. The
first thing I did was contact the mosque in southwest Portland.
I asked for the name of a woman I could talk to, and they
gave me the number of a Muslim American sister. That week,
I visited her at home. After talking for a while, she realized
that I was already a believer. I told her I was just looking
for some women who could help guide me in the practicalities
of what it meant to be a Muslim. For example, how to pray.
I had read it in books, but I couldn't figure out how to do
it just from books. I made attempts, and prayed in English,
but I knew I wasn't doing it right. The sister invited me
that night to an aqiqa (dinner after the birth of a new baby).
She picked me up that night and we went. I felt so comfortable
with the Muslim sisters there, and they were very friendly
to me that night. I said my shahaada, witnessed by a few sisters.
They taught me how to pray. They talked to me about their
own faith (many of them were also American). I left that night
feeling like I had just started a new life.
was still living in a campus dorm, and was pretty isolated
from the Muslim community. I had to take 2 buses to get to
the area where the mosque was (and where most of the women
lived). I quickly lost touch with the women I met, and was
left to pursue my faith on my own at school. I made a few
attempts to go to the mosque, but was confused by the meeting
times. Sometimes I'd show up to borrow some books from the
library, and the whole building would be full of men. Another
time I decided to go to my first Jumah prayer, and I couldn't
go in for the same reason. Later, I was told that women only
meet at a certain time (Saturday afternoon), and that I couldn't
go at other times. I was discouraged and confused, but I continued
to have faith and learn on my own.
months after my shahaada, I observed my first Ramadan. I had
been contemplating the issue of hijab, but was too scared
to take that step before. I had already begun to dress more
modestly, and usually wore a scarf over my shoulders (when
I visited the sister, she told me "all you have to do is move
that scarf from your shoulders to your head, and you'll be
Islamically dressed."). At first I didn't feel ready to wear
hijab, because I didn't feel strong enough in my faith. I
understood the reason for it, agreed with it, and admired
the women who did wear it. They looked so pious and noble.
But I knew that if I wore it, people would ask me a lot of
questions, and I didn't feel ready or strong enough to deal
changed as Ramadan approached, and on the first day of Ramadan,
I woke up and went to class in hijab. Alhamdillah, I haven't
taken it off since. Something about Ramadan helped me to feel
strong, and proud to be a Muslim. I felt ready to answer anybody's
I also felt isolated and lonely during that first Ramadan.
No one from the Muslim community even called me. I was on
a meal plan at school, so I had to arrange to get special
meals (the dining hall wasn't open during the hours I could
eat). The school agreed to give me my meals in bag lunches.
So every night as sundown approached, I'd walk across the
street to the kitchen, go in the back to the huge refrigerators,
and take my 2 bag lunches (one for fitoor, one for suhoor).
I'd bring the bags back to my dorm room and eat alone. They
always had the same thing: yoghurt, a piece of fruit, cookies,
and either a tuna or egg salad sandwich. The same thing, for
both meals, for the whole month. I was lonely, but at the
same time I had never felt more at peace with myself.
I embraced Islam, I told my family. They were not surprised.
They kind of saw it coming, from my actions and what I said
when I was home that summer. They accepted my decision, and
knew that I was sincere. Even before, my family always accepted
my activities and my deep faith, even if they didn't share
it. They were not as open-minded, however, when I started
to wear hijab. They worried that I was cutting myself off
from society, that I would be discriminated against, that
it would discourage me from reaching my goals, and they were
embarrassed to be seen with me. They thought it was too radical.
They didn't mind if I had a different faith, but they didn't
like it to affect my life in an outward way.
were more upset when I decided to get married. During this
time, I had gotten back in touch with Faris, the Muslim Palestinian
brother of my conversation group, the one who first prompted
my interest in Islam. He was still in the Portland area, attending
the community college. We started meeting again, over lunch,
in the library, at his brother's house, etc. We were married
the following summer (after my sophomore year, a year after
my shahaada). My family freaked out. They weren't quite yet
over my hijab, and they felt like I had thrown something else
at them. They argued that I was too young, and worried that
I would abandon my goals, drop out of school, become a young
mother, and destroy my life. They liked my husband, but didn't
trust him at first (they were thinking `green card scam').
My family and I fought over this for several months, and I
feared that our relationship would never be repaired.
was 3 years ago, and a lot has changed. Faris and I moved
to Corvallis, Oregon, home of Oregon State University. We
live in a very strong and close-knit Muslim community. I graduated
magna cum laude last year, with a degree in child development.
I have had several jobs, from secretary to preschool teacher,
with no problems about my hijab. I'm active in the community,
and still do volunteer work. My husband, insha'Allah, will
finish his Electrical Engineering degree this year. We visit
my family a couple of times a year. I met Faris' parents for
the first time this summer, and we get along great. I'm slowly
but surely adding Arabic to the list of languages I speak.
family has seen all of this, and has recognized that I didn't
destroy my life. They see that Islam has brought me happiness,
not pain and sorrow. They are proud of my accomplishments,
and can see that I am truly happy and at peace. Our relationship
is back to normal, and they are looking forward to our visit
next month, insha'Allah.
back on all of this, I feel truly grateful that Allah has
guided me to where I am today. I truly feel blessed. It seems
that all of the pieces of my life fit together in a pattern
- a path to Islam.
sister in faith, C. Huda Dodge
(O Muhammad S): "Shall we invoke others
besides Allah (false deities), that can do us
neither good nor harm, and shall we turn back on our
heels after Allah has guided us (to true Monotheism)?
- Like one whom the Shayatin
(devils) have made to go astray in the land in confusion,
his companions calling him to guiddance (saying): 'Come
to us.'" Say:"Verily, Allah's Guidance
is the only guidance, and we have been commanded to
submit (ourselves) to the Lord of the 'Alamin
(mankind, jinn and all that exists).
Surah (Chapter) Al-An'am
(The Cattle) Qur-an - 6:71
From : http://www.islamicweb.com