Compiled by: Abdurahim bin Mizhir Almalki
If anyone were to ask me when I became Muslim, the only feasible answer would be that I was born Muslim but just wasn't aware of it. We are all born into a state of Islam, but what is unfortunate is that many people never recognize this fact and live lost in other circles of religion and lifestyles. I was horribly lost, and I suppose this was a good thing, because Allah felt my suffering and reach out to me.
My first introduction to Islam was through a course at my university where, during Ramadhan, we were invited to Jumu'ah prayer. It was here that I met a wonderful Muslim sister who invited me to her home for study and food; although I had initially declined because at the time it seemed too foreign to me. I had built up so many stereotypes that I was not willing to open my mind to anything surrounding Islam, even an invitation to knowledge.
The next message Allah sent me came by my friendship with several Arab Muslims at one of the technical colleges near my home. This is where I was exposed to the Islamic lifestyle. I was amazed by the fact that they refused to drink alcohol and invitations to wild parties. How could they pray so many times a day? And fasting for a whole month, what had gotten into these people? I thought I was the American authority on Islam, but in actuality I knew nothing. I was oblivious to the fact that I was miserable. I was successful in the material aspects of life, but my mind and heart were uneasy.
I was so weak in spirit that I tricked myself into believing that the material things that lay at my feet were enough to cushion any hurtful blow that life dealt me. I was wrong. My mother died when I was twenty-three, and all the money, my home, my education, cars, jewelry – they all meant nothing. I tried to go on with life as though her death was just another event. But it was at this point that I could no longer ignore Allah. I began to hunger for knowledge, and I opened all of myself to Allah. It is almost too difficult to describe what it is like for someone who begins to feel Allah in his heart. Islam means so much more than rituals, language, culture or country.
While observing, listening and opening my heart, I slowly began to understand. Allah presents himself to people in different ways, and Allah impacts everyone's life differently. I had to come to an understanding of what Allah meant to me, and why it was necessary that I follow this path of life. I began to learn the meaning and significance behind the rituals I had only before observed at a primitive level. I began to read the Qur'an for hours at a time. Allah began to reach out to me and fill the vast hole that was in my heart. For when an individual does not follow the path of Allah, he is in a constant search for that missing element.
When you become a Muslim it is the beginning of a new path, a new way of life. Everyday Allah reveals Himself to me in some way. Sometimes it is with a new piece of knowledge, or He may grant me patience or understanding. Some days it is perseverance or a peaceful state of mind. No matter what the case, I am always aware of the blessings that Allah presents to me, and I continuously work to live the way He has intended all of us as human beings to live, in submission to His will.
I have also struggled throughout this search. My family is not accepting of my new way of life nor of my Muslim husband. I had a coworker ask me one time, "How can you abandon Jesus, I love Jesus?" My response confused her, I am sure. I simply explained that in Islam we abandon nobody. And in fact, it is only now that I can read and understand the true significance of Jesus. Islam allows the follower to study the messages that Allah has sent throughout the ages, through the teachings of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them).
My struggle is far from over. Western culture is not readily accepting or understanding of Islam, and it is mostly out of ignorance that this is so. Many people think that we are fundamentalists or terrorists or some other form of monster intending to wreak havoc in a peaceful Christian world. The way in which I combat the unkind comments and glares is through kindness and understanding. I remember the point when my understanding was so limited that I closed my mind and heart to anything that the Muslim community had to say. And to think that if they had turned me away because of my ignorance, |I would not be where I am today. So it is up to all Muslims to have patience and compassion for those who do not understand our way of life. Eventually, Allah reveals Himself to those who seek true knowledge and understanding.