Real & Wonderful Stories
Compiled by: Abdurahim bin Mizhir Almalki
I grew up the typical American girl, born and raised in the U.S. in a middle class family, which was composed of my parents and one younger sister. My father was in military, so we moved around quite a bit but eventually 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 time to take us often to church. It was confined mostly to holidays or whenever we would visit our grandparents.
My first introduction to Islam was in ninth 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 of the mosque. The woman told us, “You should not enter Allah’s house dressed like this.” I remember we all laughed, especially the
boys because a moment later the women returned with long white skirts and scarves and insisted we wear them.
“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, and as a carefree teenager religion was the furthest thing from my mind.
Approximately a year and a half later a family from Saudi Arabia 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 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 extent to you this courtesy.”
Well, I was quite shocked by this, but somehow it put me at ease, for I felt a real sense of sincerity in this gentle woman. From that evening on Umm Ali and I become 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. 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 never in a forceful way.
I used to ask her about her prayers and about her dress. During Ramadhan she invited me every night for iftar (even though I wasn’t fasting). Mush of the da’wah she made to me through her actions, not her words. I began to respect and adore her so much as a person, woman, wife and 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; even though I didn’t know it quite yet, I was starting to Islam seriously.
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 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. In the distance I could see a great light, and under that light was my dear friend. She was calling me, but I could not go to her. When I woke up, I was startled. What did the dream 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 mosque to make it official.
My life since then has taken a drastic change for the better. I no longer feel frustrated or confused. I know the meaning of life and my purpose 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 (subhanahu wa ta’ala), whereas before my goal was to serve myself amd my selfish needs. I am now twenty-seven years old, a bit older and wiser. I married nine months after I became a Muslim, and now I have two lovely daughters. My life is complete. Since that great night I decided to be a Muslim, I have never looked back. The road was long and not always easy, but my faith and trust in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has always sustained me.