I was aware of Islam from a very young age as I grew up with children who were Muslim, I remember being invited to their houses when they were breaking the fast and I remember how excited everyone was and the food looked delicious.
It was not until I was a teenager that I started asking more questions about their religion like why does your mum put a scarf on her head? Why do you fast? Why don’t you drink alcohol?
Most of the time I did not follow their reasoning or explanations as they were linked to having faith. When people have faith they will accept when something is allowed or not allowed they don’t need to question it because they trust in the one who has commanded it not because they cannot think for themselves but because they know there must be a good reason for it either on a personal or community/world level.
My questions about Islam with my friends surrounded the obvious differences between my religion and theirs but one day when talking about Christmas and why they didn’t celebrate it. I was told “you are not the only ones that believe in Jesus (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) you know!”
I was completely thrown as in all our discussions that were usually about practices and the most visually obvious things headscarves, fasting, praying etc. We had not talked about what did they actually believe. They told me they believed in the same God that I did but that they called him ‘Allah’ and that they believed in all the prophets that we did: Adam, Noah, Moses, Job, Joseph, Abraham, Jesus and the others (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on them all).
I decided then that I needed to go to the source to find out about this faith that I had thought foreign to mine so I borrowed a copy of an English translation of the Quran and over the summer holidays I started reading it.
|it was a strange experience to not eat or drink when you had the ability and the means to do so if you wanted to, but actually it felt good ...|
What struck me were the similarities to the Bible. I then went back to my friends for further explanations to clarify points but they were not really able to help so I had to find people with more knowledge. It was not in my mind at this point that I would consider changing my beliefs or religion I was just interested as to why so many of my friends followed this religion and held it in such esteem and how it could be so similar but different to mine.
Ramadan was fast approaching and I decided that if they could do it then so could I so I tried to fast for one day and it was difficult but my friends said one day is not hard you should try it for the whole month. I said I would try it for a week; it was a strange experience to not eat or drink when you had the ability and the means to do so if you wanted to, but actually it felt good to set a target and then accomplish it, so I thought of it like a personal development activity.
Although I had respect for Islam and I had a better understanding of it I was not sure I believed it. I read more pamphlets and books about other areas of Islam including Science, Politics etc. These were nothing heavy not on an academic level but gave me further insight. I started to think about if my religion Christianity speaks about another prophet to come before Jesus comes back to the world then could this Muhammad (peace be upon him) be the prophet that it refers to? It was clear from the things I had read that he was a very wise and respected person, but did I believe that he was a prophet over that of just being a good person and leader?
|I went to my bedroom, kneeled down of the floor, and said in Arabic ‘I believe there is only one God and that Muhammad is the last messenger from God.’|
I went on holiday with my family and September 11th happened we were so shocked and upset and did not understand what was going on or why. The news was reporting that initial reports were that there were Muslim terrorists behind the attacks. I rejected this and had an argument with one of my family members who used to live in Saudi about it. I said that I have read the Quran and I understand about this religion and this just would not be allowed! You cannot just kill innocent people and I quoted a line from the Quran about killing one life being as though you had killed all of humanity and vice versa in saving one.
I felt really hurt about the things that were said because I did not believe that the things that were being said were true and that Muslims could have done this. I went to my bedroom kneeled down of the floor and said in Arabic ‘I believe there is only one God and that Muhammad is the last messenger from God.’ I realized at this point that I believed in Islam but I still was not sure how I would reconcile it with adapting the way that I lived.
I thought ok so I believe in one God and I believe that Muhammad was the last messenger but I am not sure that I will wear a headscarf and I am not sure about giving up alcohol because yes of course things in excess are bad but what if I just drunk on special occasions? So I set myself another task let’s stop drinking alcohol and see how it changes my life. The same with pork and eventually I then only ate meat that had been killed in the prescribed way and done so in the name of Allah. Giving up these things was not hard but these are not the important things to think about regarding Islam it is first the beliefs and the faith, the actions are secondary to these.
Then came the task of telling my family that I am a Muslim now with all the stereotypes that follow that. They did not take it well because of all the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims and there were some difficult times but nothing major and not for very long. My mum said to me “you can believe all these things without becoming a Muslim you know you don’t need to change your religion, you can still be a good person” but I said it is because I believe these things that makes me a Muslim, all I am saying is that I believe in one God which I had done before and that I also believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last prophet. They were not really concerned about my beliefs but more about how it would change my life and how people would treat me.
|Islam is a way of life and generally you can understand it if you apply common sense ...|
My Mum had grown up witnessing and being a victim of racism she knew how hard it was and she wanted to protect me from this. But I had decided so I arranged to visit a Mosque with a group of my friends (minus my family) and make my declaration of faith what I had l already said to myself over 10 months before. I decided that I would put on the head scarf straight away as I thought this is already difficult so I might as well get it all over with at once, plus how would anyone know that I was a Muslim if I didn’t put it on?
It has been a learning process ever since, I am constantly learning new things and I have been blessed with the help of my friends and now the support of my family I have been able to develop and grow as a Muslim. One of my good friends said to me when I first told her that I was interested in Islam that – Islam is a way of life and generally you can understand it if you apply common sense, when you cannot find the answer to something ask someone of knowledge who will explain it to you with evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah (Things the Prophet Muhammad said or did), if you are not happy with this explanation apply common sense in the spirit of Islam until you can study and understand this matter yourself.
My journey to Islam was gradual over about 3 years and it was in 2002 that I converted/reverted to Islam when I was just 19 years old. That was 8 years ago and I feel blessed that I was given the opportunities to understand Islam and chose it to follow as a way of life.