Hi. My name is Melinda Baily.
I converted to Islam almost three years ago.
And Iíd like just to discuss some common questions that I have been asked about how I had found out about Islam.
Originally, I moved to South Carolina from Buffalo, New York. My grandparents and my great grandparents had lived there, and they were Catholic. My parents were both born Catholic. My father is Polish and my mother is Italian. They had met a man and ended up converting from Catholicism to born-again Christian. We were in a non-denominational Church in Buffalo. And then we moved down to North Carolina about 8 years ago now.
My Sister's Story
We were still going to church, and then my sister met somebody and she said he was Muslim. They were getting into a serious relationship. We didnít know anything about Islam. We were really dedicated to Christianity. My sister had started researching, and so we welcomed him into our family with open arms. We were really curious to learn about his views, his religion and such stuff. My sister ended up getting married to him.
My sister later decided that she really wanted to research the religion before they had children. She wanted to make a decision about what she wanted to raise her children as, because she didnít want to introduce her children to a religion that she didnít believe in. She wanted them to support something that she believed in. So she had started researching, and she researched for about 2 years. Then she ended up converting to Islam, and she told our family that she didnít believe in the trinity anymore, and that she had done a lot of researching about Islam. It was really scary at first to us because we had a lot of common misconceptions about the religion, and it was really scary to see a big change in her; her belief system, the way she acted, and the way she dressed.
|I really wanted to research myself and decide what I believe and what the truth is for me|
I wasnít really interested in Islam at the time. It was really scary to see my sister go through a lot of changes in her ideas. But eventually, my family had stopped going to Church, although they didnít stop practicing Christianity and believing in it. At that point I was young and I was going through high school. Eventually I became confused about what I really believed in. My parents were saying one thing, and my sister was saying another thing. So I really wanted to research myself and decide what I believe and what the truth is for me, and not just accept the religion I was born into. I believed my search would either make me stronger in Christianity or stronger if I wanted to convert to Islam. So that was my goal that I planned to achieve, but I really never actually had encouragement to do it because I was busy being a teenager and doing other things.
Then my sister had moved oversees, and every time she came back to visit us like for the summer time she was a lot more religious and a lot more strict in religion. It was very scary to see these changes. Then she introduced me to somebody that was also a Muslim, and I started a relationship with him. Before we got serious, we decided that we were going to separate and not see each other, and that I was really going to research about religion and then decide what I really wanted to believe before I started a serious relationship with this person.
So then I started to research the religion. My motivation was to decide whether I am going to continue the relationship with this person and have a serious relationship with him because that was a big step. We are having somebody from a different religion in a cross-cultural marriage that is difficult enough as having two people marrying who were practicing different religions. I really wanted to research before I made a decision.
When I started researching, the first thing I researched was womenís rights in Islam. The truth is that I had heard a lot of rumors. We used to see a lot of things in the media and I had a lot of misconceptions that I wanted to find out what the religion actually practices. So I had a lot of misconceptions about what the rights of women were in Islam. I thought before that women were forced to cover, they had to walk behind their husband or something out of respect, and they have to sit at the backseat of the car, and such kinds of common misconceptions.
When I actually started researching, I found a lot of things that I was really surprised, that there was a lot of rights that I agreed with in the religion, and a lot of rights they had given women. For instance a woman has the right to hold her own property and have her own business, and be in charge of her own money and make business deals and stuff without any male influence from her husband who doesnít have any right to her money, any right to her inheritance and her father doesnít. She is able to hold property and make business and stuff on her own. That was something I was really surprised to hear about because they were some of the misconceptions that people normally have.
So I kind of agreed with a lot of points. So I continued researching about what the religion was actually saying. One of the big things was what Muslims worshipped. I didnít really know what they actually believed in. I thought maybe they worshipped Muhammad and they didnít believe in Jesus and didnít believe in God. When I actually researched I found out that they do believe in Jesus and they do believe in God, but they donít believe in the trinity.
|We have stories about Abraham, Moses and Noah and so many things are exactly the same. But the thing that was different was the trinity|
Some of the stories in Quran made it very easy to research Islam because I was so used to many of the ideas and many of the stories because there were so many similarities between Christianity and Islam, especially that I was born and raised Christian I used to hear similar stories and they were the same ones. We have the same prophets. We have stories about Abraham, Moses and Noah and so many things are exactly the same. But the thing that was different was the trinity.
Jesus in Islam
Muslims donít worship Muhammad (peace be upon him) but Muhammad was a prophet and he was the last prophet. Their relationship with Jesus is that they believed he was one of the most well-respected prophets, but didnít believe he actually is God but believe he is a man and a prophet of God and he told people to worship God as One. A common thing which was a big debate between Muslims and Christians was that the Muslim standpoint is that worshiping Jesus as a God in place of the father is considered as associating partners with God.
So when I started to research the ideas of Jesus in Islam, a lot of things made a lot of sense, because when I researched what the trinity really was I realized, personally to me, that it didnít make 100% sense to me. It was something I was used to practice and believe in but I didnít really question because I thought it was wrong to question things about my religion. So I had the idea that it was really wrong to look for something else or have any reasons to do so. I was comfortable with my beliefs and practicing Christianity.
I found also that they believe in the virgin birth. And a lot of points I was researching like the difference between the points that the Christians made about Jesus is that Jesus is the son of God and that he is God, compared to what the Muslims said that Jesus is a prophet of God but he is not God himself and that you have to worship God and tell people to worship God only and he didnít ask people to worship him.
So researching the whole different points that Muslims had made and points that Christians had made, and doing it open-mindedly and freely. One of the things I had liked about Islam was that it is OK to ask questions and research if something doesnít make sense, and it should scientifically, historically or logically make sense. That was really one of the things I enjoyed about Islam, that there is a lot of the scientific points in the religion that were proven to be true. There are a lot of common grounds that the most closely related religion to Islam is Christianity.
But one of the points when I did my research that really had personally hindered me when I really thought that Muslims had valid points and that this was a good belief system they had, what I heard about in the media and what I heard about from different cultures. There are so many different Muslim countries and each of them have their own cultural influences in their practices, that is not the actual religious practicing. Islam is a religion thatís almost 1500 year old. Countries have been introduced to the religion, but they changed some of its practices through their cultural habits.