When I relay the story of how I embraced Islam, people rarely believe me. I always get “you’re doing it for your husband” or “you don’t really believe in this” from many people. I befriended a Kurdish Muslim in 2010 and he never pushed me towards Islam. On occasion we would discuss our thoughts and beliefs on God and then we would move on to another topic without dwelling on principles. After some time, I lost contact with him, but one day Khadija, a mutual “friend” on Facebook friend requested me. Because I did not know who she was, and because I am somewhat paranoid, I googled her.
When I typed in “Khadija,” a Wikipedia page came up with the story of the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. I started reading it, and although I questioned the reliability of all of the information, I continued reading. I found myself riveted by her story. I was truly fascinated by her, especially since she was a wealthy female business owner 1400 years ago, when history has always taught me that women didn’t have rights until the 20th century, and even then, they were underrated and underpaid. In addition, the general consensus among non-Muslims was that Muslim women were not permitted to work and were almost always housewives. When I read about how successful Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, was, and how strong and independent she was, I was absolutely drawn to her.
I read for hours at work, and as soon as I got home, I continued this preliminary research by reading stories about the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and then I started reading about Jesus, may Allah grant him peace. I was raised as an Episcopal, and I used to go to church, but as the reverend at our church always said, “to be a good Episcopal, you need only come to church 4 times a year.” Needless to say, I did not consider myself at all knowledgeable in Christianity.
The more I read, the more interested I became. I started seeking out Muslim friends for answers. I contacted two Arab friends and spoke to them about the religion regularly. One suggested I read the Qu’ran. To me, that was ridiculous because I had not even read an entire page of the Bible, how could he think I would read the entire Qu’ran? I ordered it and started reading, and I just became more and more interested. I started questioning all of the decisions I had made in my life. Although I lived my adult years with the idea of “you live and learn and regret nothing,” I found myself deeply regretting a lot of decisions I made. I needed to speak to someone who understood my fear and confusion, and who understood my interest in Islam. I needed clarification on what was happening to me.
I had no idea where the masjid was near me, so once again, I found myself putting my faith in Google, and started researching. I found a few Masjids and Islamic Centers within 15-20 minutes from me, and I called all of them. Most of the time no one answered, and if someone did answer, they told me they didn’t speak English and to call back another time. After weeks and weeks of searching, I started to give up. Maybe this was a sign that my journey to Islam was over. Maybe I was supposed to educate myself and not take it any further. I began to lose hope. Then one day, I was searching something online, and all of a sudden a listing for M.E.C.C.A. came up. I opened it without thinking, and I felt like my heart fell to my knees. It was like an answer to an unspoken prayer: a place dedicated to the education of Islam with a focus on reverts.
I waited until they were open, and when I called, Fatima answered. I had so much to say and so many things were running through my brain that I couldn’t actually give her a coherent explanation as to why I was calling. She was very patient with me and invited me to sit and talk. I went there two days later and asked her a few questions. We talked for about an hour and I said my shahada.
Initially I was terrified to tell my parents, afraid they would think I was manipulated. I tried explaining it to them to no avail. I wasn’t comfortable wearing hijab at work either. But whenever I went to M.E.C.C.A., I would wear hijab, and when I wore it, I felt safe and secure, as if a sense of peace was in me. It’s something I can’t explain because I don’t completely understand it myself. When I was unable to wear it, I felt uncomfortable and almost naked, but I continued to keep my faith a secret from family, friends, and coworkers. Earlier this year, I married in Morocco. While in Morocco, I was wearing hijab regularly and it was great. When I returned home, I started wearing it to work, and then out with friends, and now I wear it all the time.
It was hard for my friends and family to accept my decision, because most assume that my husband “forced” me to do this. What they don’t realize or believe is that it was Islam that brought my husband and I together. It was my journey to Islam that made us connect in a way that we never had before, and our marriage only came after I had already accepted and embraced Islam. Now, I am happier than ever. I feel at peace, and I have been incredibly humbled by this journey. My life has changed dramatically for the better. I am thankful to Allah Most High for guiding me to this beautiful place in my life and bringing me into Islam.