By Sara Bokker
To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.
How Sara Bokker reverted to Islam
I am an American woman who was born in the midst of America’s “Heartland”. I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated on the glamour of life in “the big city”. Eventually, I moved to Florida and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life”. Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from others. I worked out rigorously and became a personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer and was able to attain a “living-in-style” kind of life.
Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my “feminine appeal”. I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.
As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually realized it all was merely a painkiller rather than an effective remedy.
As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who was pursuing a better world for all, my path crossed with that of another activist who was already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of reform and justice for all. I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among others. Now my new activism was fundamentally different. Instead of “selectively” advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals such as justice, freedom, and respect are meant to be and are essentially universal, and that own good and the common good are not in conflict. For the first time, I knew what “all people are created equal” really meant. But most importantly, I learned that it only takes faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.
One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West–The Holy Quran. Up until that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in “tents”, wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the Quran and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Quran to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or pastor.
Eventually, I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam where I could live in peace as a “functional” Muslim.
I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim woman’s dress code and I walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or “elegant” western business attire. Although the people, the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct: the peace at being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on people’s faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my hair done, and working out. Finally, I was free.
Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call “the most scandalous place on earth”, which makes it all the more dear and special.
Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom activists condemning the Hijab (headscarf) as being oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian official called it -“a sign of backwardness.”
I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when some people and so-called human rights groups rush to defend women’s rights when some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such “freedom fighters” look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear the Hijab.
Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again. To enjoin good -any good – and to forbid evil -any evil. To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our right to wear Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just as important to carry our experience with Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance to understand what wearing Hijab means to us and why do we, so dearly, embrace it.
Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of “dressing-in-little-to-nothing” virtually in every means of communication everywhere in the world. As an ex Non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.
I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person.
Today, Hijab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation to find who she is, what her purpose is, and the type of relationship she chooses to have with her Creator.
To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from http://www.islamreligion.com
By Marilyn Adamson
But the concept of God was something I couldn’t get off my mind… Was he there? Does he exist? Maybe there’s a God…
It seemed to bother religious people when I’d ask them, “How do you know that God exists?”
Perhaps they wondered about my motives. Or maybe they had no idea how to answer. Most of their responses were, “Well, you just know.”
I wasn’t trying to be difficult. But I certainly did not “just know.” And I was hoping someone did!
After many months of this, I thought, “Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!” It was like learning the truth about Santa Claus. It seemed obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God but clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion…God did not actually exist.
I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered me that someone that intelligent could believe in God.
She talked about God like he was her closest friend. She was convinced he deeply loved her. I knew her life well. Any concern she would take to God, trusting him to work out a way or care for her in some way. She would tell me, quite candidly, that she was merely praying that God would act upon her concerns. For over a year, I regularly saw what seemed to be answers to her prayers. I watched her life through a myriad of circumstances, and her faith in God was unwavering.
So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn’t believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn’t make it true.
During this time I was developing a personally built philosophy.
I tried something that I’m not sure many people do. Every few weeks, I would study a particular philosopher’s take on life …Nietzsche, Hume, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Plato, etc. and then try to apply it to my own life I was looking for the perfect, workable philosophy for life. I found over and over, that either their philosophies seemed lacking, or were too impractical to actually implement. But I kept searching.
I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, “you have to believe.”
I saw some evidence for God that was solidly logical. The parts particularly convincing to me were the chemical properties of water and the earth’s position to the sun. It was all too perfectly designed, too perfectly put together. My faith in “nothing behind it all” seemed weaker than the possibility of God. I had fewer reasons to be certain of nothing, and more reasons to conclude that God might be there.
I then encountered a situation that fully challenged my current philosophy on life. What I had been putting my faith in proved to be completely insufficient. It shocked me to see that I was at a loss for an approach to life that was fully reliable. However, the situation resolved itself and I moved ahead. I have a pretty steady personality. Throughout my life, I never really felt “needy.” No on-going crisis. No big gaps or struggles. And certainly nothing I felt guilty about.
But the concept of God was something I couldn’t get off my mind….was he there? Does he exist? Maybe there’s a God…..
One night I was talking to my friend again, and she knew I had all the information I needed. She knew that I had run out of questions to ask. Yet I was still trying to debate. In one clear, abrupt moment, my friend turned to me and said, “You know, I can’t make this decision for you, and God’s not going to wait forever.”
And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either ask God to come into my life, or I was going to end the subject forever and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.
So, for the next three or four hours, I reviewed everything I had read and observed. I evaluated it all.
I concluded that the evidence for God was so strong that it made more sense to believe in God than to believe he wasn’t there. Then I had to act on that conclusion.
I knew that just intellectually concluding God existed, was way too light. It would be like deciding…airplanes exist. Faith in an airplane means nothing. However, if you need to get somewhere and an airplane is the way, you have to decide to act and actually get on the plane.
I needed to make the decision to actually talk to God. I needed to ask him to come into my life.
After a few hours of thought I addressed God, “Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you’d like.” (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)
I went to bed and the next morning wondered if God was still there. And honestly, I kind of “sensed” that he was. One thing I knew for sure. I immediately had a huge desire to get to know this God whom I now believed in.
I wanted to read the Bible. When I did, it seemed that God was spelling out who he is and how he viewed this relationship with him. It was amazing. What really surprised me is how often he talked about his love. I hadn’t expected that. In my mind, I was simply acknowledging God’s existence. I had no expectations of him, but as I read the Bible, he chose to communicate his love to me. That was a surprise.
Now, my basic, skeptical nature was still there. The first few months or year, I would ask myself, “Am I really believing in God? And, why am I?” And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. So my “faith” in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.
To me, it’s like the foundation of a building. The facts/reasons support my faith. It’s like someone driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. They can feel whatever they’d like about the bridge. But it’s the construction/design/materials of the bridge itself that allows them to safely get from one end to the other. In the same way, the objective reality of God–the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don’t seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The substantiating reasons for God’s existence mattered to me.
Further Evidence of God
Since that time, now that I’ve been a Christian for a number of years—-why do I now believe in God? What reasons do I have for continuing to believe in God?
I’m not sure any of these are going to be believable to you. But I’ll try to put that concern aside and be candid with you. Previously my questions were about God’s existence. After beginning a relationship with God, I saw additional evidence that God is real. Such as…
- When I have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to me through the Bible. What he shows me is always perfectly suited to my question, and a better, more satisfying answer than I expected. Here’s an example.
One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do first?
So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.
I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I read it again. Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list…to God. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, and he’s capable.
I choose that example because it’s brief. But I could cite hundreds of examples where I was asking God a question and he perfectly, thoroughly answered me. It probably is the characteristic of God that I most appreciate and value–that he is willing to answer my questions.
This isn’t something I learned from other Christians. It’s just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to….to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn’t right, to show me where I’m not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.
- Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don’t believe he cares what toothpaste I buy, or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life or what he wants to accomplish through my life…I think he cares.
When has God given me clear direction?
One time I needed to decide about a trip to the Middle East. There was risk involved, and I was willing to go only if God wanted me to go. It was important to me that I knew what he wanted.
Two different times I asked God about a job. Both times his leading on it was so clear, that anyone watching would have concluded the same. Let me try one thin slice of an example.
During my senior year of college, I had decided to take a job with a Christian organization after graduation, that would require a move to California.
It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering who I could talk into moving to California with me to be roommates. One person named Christy, came to mind, who had already graduated and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she’d be the perfect roommate, but I hadn’t talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later, at my parents home, Christy calls me on the phone.
Her first sentence was, “I heard you are taking a job with this Christian organization.” I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.
Her next statement was, “Ok, I’ve got the pots and pans and dishes.” I said, “WHAT?!” She was moving to the same town in California and was calling to see if I would room with her.
Ok, so you see my point.
You might ask, why such a big deal, to even need God’s help in this decision? I knew that my parents would be completely opposed to this job. I thought it might cost me my relationship with my parents forever. So it was not a light decision. I asked God to guide me toward what he wanted. And he did. There were about ten other events related to this job, just as clear.
Other reasons I still believe in God…
- In terms of explanations about life–why we’re here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for–God has better answers than anything I’ve ever read anywhere. I have studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. What I read in the Bible, what I see from God’s perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle fit.
There is still a lot I’ll read in the Bible and close the Bible saying, “I don’t get it.” So I don’t mean to suggest I fully understand everything in the Bible. Instead, I’m saying that life only makes sense from the perspective of what God has revealed. It’s like reading the operating manual to life on earth, only we are not left to merely follow the manual. The inventor is explaining to us how it all works, and then offers to personally guide us through it, on a daily basis.
- The intimacy with God is deeper than intimacy with any human being. I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He’s incredibly gracious. He takes me right where I’m at, and as I said, speaks to me. He intervenes with actions that leave me amazed as the observer. He is not a belief or doctrine. I see him act in my life.
- He has done more with my life than I would have done on my own. This is not a statement of inferiority or lack of self confidence. I’m speaking in terms of accomplishments that far exceeded what I ever had in mind. He provides ideas, direction, solutions, wisdom, and better motives than I could aspire to on my own.
Well, there is more, but I think that gives you enough. I’m not sure any of it is believable to you, but I’ve been as honest as I know how to be.
This article which relates the story of this former atheist was taken with slight editorial modifications from http://www.everystudent.com/.
By Truth Seeker Staff
I went into Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. I searched everything I thought, everything.
I was asked about why I converted and I’m sure that a lot of my old high school pals who have searched me and found me on Facebook were like “What?” because this Hijab that you see now is not definitely what they saw back then.
And it is not just the covering. It’s all, that I have faith because I was a very outspoken atheist back in the day (I’m so old now, I can’t believe how old I’m getting!).
So I guess how did I come to this?
Let’s see it would be in high school, and I had my boyfriend at the time who was really great for me, wasn’t he?!
Anyways, it wasn’t the best relationship. He was kind of a dungy! But it is what it is. Anyways, then I got pregnant and dropped out. And I gave my baby up for adoption and blamed God for how horrible my life was. So I turned my back on Him, and what can you say?
So then I healed a little bit I guess in myself and I started searching.
Searching for the Truth
I was raised as a Lutheran. I was baptized as a Lutheran. I remember watching Laura and Grint Welder at the little house and I was excited because they went to church and I wanted to go to church and I asked my Mum why we don’t go to church and she said – I’m sorry mum!- “Because we are Lutherans, we only go to the church for weddings and funerals”
I know that that’s a lie! But I believed her and looking back at it now, that is really kind of funny. But anyway that’s what we went to church for: weddings and funerals, and that was it.
So I found a Lutheran church and I went to it and it was OK and got the bible and read into it and I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel what I saw these people around me feeling and so I looked elsewhere. I went into all the ‘isms’.
I went into Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. I searched everything I thought, everything. I searched all kinds of faiths and all religions of the world that I could find and nothing hit home for me. And so I gave up and I was like OK that’s it, if these things aren’t right and I can’t find anything that’s right then that’s it. There’s nothing for me, there is no God.
So I went back to that sort of Atheism, but still searching. I guess that is not really atheist if you are searching for God, but whatever.
Then one day I was working with a born-again Christian girl, and this is nothing against born-again Christians but she was one of those born-again Christians that was like ‘woho, off-world cookie!’- and she was talking about it. And I was very good at doing “Aha, Aha, Aha!” when people are talking to me because I really half the time don’t care.
Anyways, she was talking to me and then she said “When I make love to my husband, I’m making love to Jesus Christ!” And I was like “What?!!” I’ll let you digest that for a little bit because it took me a moment.
And I was like “You are off your rocker! You got to be kidding me! How psycho are you. You are nuts” and I went to say that because I somehow formulated in my mind probably back when I was 10 or 11 years old that I could not believe that Jesus was the son of God.
I just thought “He is God. Why does He need a son? He is God. Is He going to die that He needs a son? And Jesus walking around on earth and eating and pooping?! That’s very ungodly to me.”
So formerly I had this kind of basis in my mind I guess to begin with and so I had said that to her. And she didn’t like that and we kind of had a spat, nothing violent, but just verbal clashes back and forth with my somewhat atheist views against her very strong born-again Christian views.
And then along came my boss who happened to be Muslim. He set me aside and said “You have some interesting ideas. I’m going to bring you some literature.” So the next day he came back, I don’t know if he went to the mosque or whatever, and he brought some pamphlets about Islam and I gobbled them up, I could not read them fast enough.
And then he brought me back a Quran and I read it. I didn’t read the whole Quran! I read the very first chapter. It’s called the Opening Surat Al-Fatihah, which is very similar to some of the things I guess in Christianity, but when you are faced with the truth it’s absolutely undeniable and that was undeniable to me. I knew it.
It’s literally six or seven verses, doesn’t even take up a quarter of a page, but I knew that I had found the religion that I have been searching for.
And then I was scared because even back then, almost 13 years ago, Islam was pretty much synonymous with terrorism. And I thought how can I know that this is the right faith for me when you are hearing about suicide bombers and hijackers and all these things?
But the more I studied and the more I read into it, and I certainly didn’t just take the information from my boss, I have a brain. I used my brain and I studied. The truth is the truth, no matter how many ways you try and turn it and spin it and wrap it, it’s what it is. And I knew that that’s what I needed to do… and I became a Muslim… and then I married my boss!
That’s my story so I hope you all found it interesting, or it answered some questions…
Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.onislam.net.
But my life as a materialist couldn’t last long.
My journey to Islam began twelve years ago, and about eight months after the beginning of this beautiful journey I found my true way in life by entering the blessed religion of Islam, alhamdulillah.
Having lived the difficulties of a convert and having seen a lot of other new converts or people who desire to convert to Islam, I thought about writing down my story, with the purpose of making it somehow easier for the brothers and sisters in humanity who wish to accept Islam as their way of life.
My Previous Life
About my religious upbringing, there is not much to say. My parents were average Italian Catholics, not very religious, who sent me to the religion lessons in the church every Wednesday afternoon, just because all the other families did the same. But the thought of God had not much influence in our home: my parents never told us a word about life after death, or about the necessity to have faith in God. They just gave me very good moral values, derived from a secularized contest.
That’s why, when I decided to leave the religion lessons, and later decided not to go to the church anymore; my parents didn’t have anything to say. So, since I was fourteen, I lived without thinking of God, even if I don’t remember having explicitly denied the very existence of a Creator.
Anyway, even if I could live without faith in God, I could not live without asking myself what purpose my life had. I was very concerned with the injustice in the world and I looked for a possible theory that could help the world to be a better place. When I studied Marx’s theories in high school I thought that could be the solution to most of the world’s problems, and I was convinced just for a while, that all the injustice has been derived from disparity in wealth, and all the spiritual phenomena were no more than consequences of the material condition.
But my life as a materialist couldn’t last long. Towards the end of high school some deep problems affected me, I felt it was my soul that lacked something, and this didn’t have anything to do with the material conditions of my life, which were very good.
Searching for the Meaning of Life
Asking for a sense of life I decided to study philosophy at the university. It was a big shock for my parents. I finished the scientific high school with very good results and I could be admitted to every faculty I wished. So they wanted me to study something that could assure me a good job for my future, something like medicine or engineering. But I was tormented by the questions about the meaning of the universe; human beings, life, and death, and I decided that just studying philosophy I could find some answers.
If I thought I could find much ‘‘intellectual food’’ at the faculty of philosophy, then I was wrong. Most of the students there had decided to study philosophy just because they thought it was the easiest, or one of the easiest, between the many faculties.
And the students who really tried to answer “philosophical” questions were soon kept in an atmosphere of false intellectualism, that was no more than showing off how much knowledge about literature, music, films, figurative arts, and wearing “alternative” clothes to be different from the good kids of the middle class. Since my personality wasn’t very strong at the time, and I didn’t have the courage to make a “real” alternative choice, I adapted myself to that atmosphere.
Of course, I was not happy and I didn’t like my life, but sometimes I came to the extent to think that nobody is really happy, and especially the most intelligent and sensitive people had to be sad. I can say that during the five years of my studies I met many people, but just one girl became a real friend (and she’s the only one with whom I still have contacts). One special thing in this girl is that she wasn’t afraid or ashamed to tell she was a believing Christian, and I thought she should have courage, assuming the prevailing atheistic contest of the faculty of philosophy.
The only thing that made me really happy was traveling, and I traveled much indeed, despite the little money I had in my pockets. That’s why I couldn’t miss the possibility to spend a study-year abroad. I worked very hard because a lot of students wished the same and the number of places was limited. With the help of God, I got a place for 6 months in Germany. Many “errors” occurred in the selection of the city and dormitory where I was going to stay: now I know they were no errors, no tricks of a blind casualty, but just the will of God.
Making the Change
My perspective of life changed with my new condition, especially because I had the fortune to live in a dormitory where not many European students lived. Some of them came from poor countries and they had to work to support their studies, and some had to send some money to their families abroad. This changed my perspective of life, and I started thinking that much of my “spiritual” problems derived from the fact that my life was very easy and I didn’t have many material needs, so I had to make it difficult somehow with other burdens.
It was during the first months in Germany that I came nearer to God. As I mentioned, I never denied His existence, but I thought of Him like an original power who “created” the universe (anyway without a “will” similar to the human one) and constantly maintained it, and maybe one day everything would collapse in Him again. Yes, I knew there is law and order among all the units that comprise this universe.
Everything is assigned to a place in a grand scheme, which is working in a magnificent and superb way. I admired the whole “project”, but of course, I couldn’t pray to this “physical” God, no more than I could pray to gravity force. He was too great and too abstract in my conception and I found it stupid to think that He could listen to us, or judge us, or fulfill our wishes if we pray to Him.
Then I became friends with a girl who attended the functions in the Catholic Church of the city we were living. I started going to the church with her with the purpose of improving my German by learning new words, which actually I could listen just in the church. Anyway, I started liking attending the Mass?
Because it reminded me of my childhood, and because yes, I started thinking of the meaning of praying and having a close relationship with God, who maybe wasn’t just an absent power like I figured it to myself. Anyway, I found the Catholic ritual like a sort of big theater, maybe beautiful to see, but superfluous to a true adoration of God.
If my Creator was so near to me, why did I need so many things to communicate with Him; like a priest, a statue of Jesus, the ceremony of the holy bread and wine, the remission of the sins by a human being like me, who committed sins as well and then the music, the pictures…?
In the same period, I came close to a Muslim man who was living in my same dormitory. I found him very intelligent and I liked discussing with him; in fact, we could talk for hours and hours without getting tired, even if German wasn’t our native language. Our discussions were not only about religion, but it was an important part of it. I must admit that, although at the university I had learned so much about Christianity and western philosophy, I had almost no knowledge about Islam.
I had learned something about Avicenna and Averroes, anyway just as commentators of Aristotle; I realized my education was very Eurocentric, and the philosophical theories, which had often their roots in Christianity, were just a limited possibility of the human thought, even if they were presented to us as “universal”, or “human” in general.
I learned the basic points of Islam, and the differences between Islam and Christianity: from the very beginning I realized that the absolute Oneness of God made more sense to me than the Trinity of God, the purely human nature of Jesus was more logic that the “double” one and the absence of priesthood, Church hierarchy, and Pope was absolutely in accordance with my own ideas about religion. Once the absolute Unity of God without any partner or plurality in his essence is admitted, the other points can easily be settled.
The Trinitarian branch of the Christian school had exhausted all the brains of its saints and philosophers to define the essence and the person of the deity. And what have they invented? Athanasius, Augustinus, and St. Thomas Aquinas, “fathers of the church”, have stated the unity and trinity of God’s essence as a dogma, a dogma which cannot be understood by reason and, at the same time, is like a puzzle and paradox for our understanding.
Anyway, when I spoke with him, I always tried to defend the Christian dogmas, not because I was really convinced of them, but because I was used to the dialectical contraposition in dialogue and I couldn’t accept so easily that he “won” almost always, through his simple, direct, logical arguments.
Even if I didn’t admit it, it was the influence of Islam on every action, even the smallest one, that impressed me most of all. I understood Islam to be a practical religion. Achievement of purity is through action. Good behavior, avoiding bad actions, and being strong and assertive in making correct choices is the practical way to self-development. So easy, so beautiful.
Another important point was the perfect balance between the material and the spiritual side of life.
In my opinion, the exaggerated asceticism of some currents of Christianity was against human nature, but even excessive hedonism or materialism cannot fulfill the needs of our soul. My Muslim friend explained to me that, through Islam, we should renounce materialism and give priority to the afterlife, since the Hereafter is better than the material world. But, at the same time, we are not asked to withdraw from life and to make no contribution to the building of a material civilization. Neither does it mean refusing to enjoy the bounties that God put on earth for the benefit of humans. It simply means belittling materialism and having a correct relation to material goods as things to be used by humans in the fulfillment of their duties to God and not as masters who control human behavior.
One evening I heard my neighbor reciting the Quran: a sort of irresistible power drove me to his door, and I stood there and listened to those words, which I cannot understand, but had so much power on me. My emotions were very strong, and I remember having written an e-mail to a close friend of mine to narrate to her the fact of the previous night as very important to me, even if I could not understand the real meaning of it.
When I went back to Italy, I was sad and bored with my “old” life. I started reading everything that I could find about Islam. The first books that I could get were all written by non-Muslims and dealt just with the material history of Islam and Islamic countries. The only book which was really interesting had been given to me in Germany; its topic was the relationship between the Old and the New Testament and the Quran. The author was a very well-educated Christian scholar, who had become a Muslim after having studied for many years the Bible and the Gospels in their original language.
This book left me no doubts about the divine origin of the Quran, and I felt I had just one step more to do, the most important one: reading it! Actually, I should have done it first, but maybe it was good to read it after having gained some general knowledge about it. On a hot day in June 2002 I visited a friend in the beautiful medieval town of Bologna, and during the afternoon we looked for some refreshment in a bookshop.
There I found an Italian translation of the Quran, translated by an Italian journalist who had converted to Islam many years before. I didn’t know there were Italians who converted to Islam and I was very surprised. I bought the Quran and I sat on a bench in a park, practically ignoring my friend… it was not very polite, but I was so captured from those words, that I couldn’t stop reading. My friend read a couple of pages and was fascinated as well. Then I read the Surat An-Nur, the Light, and the famous “verse of the Light”:
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories: and Allah doth know all things.” (An-Nur 24:35)
Well, I had no doubt that God couldn’t have described Himself in a more appropriate way than “Light upon Light”, and the allegory came from God. I can individuate that moment as the one in which I was really convinced of the truth of Islam.
More than twelve years after that moment, I cannot say that “my journey to Islam” has reached an end: indeed, I wish to learn more and more till the end of my days, inshaAllah. The acceptance of Islam changed many things in my life, all in a positive way. Of course, I have had some difficulties with my parents, and I still have most of all as I decided to wear hijab. But I’ll not give it up, because I feel it as a blessing from God to women, to protect their dignity and their honor, and now I couldn’t live without it.
My family also has problems with my husband—the same, wonderful man, who introduced me to Islam. For the first time; I cannot stop thanking God for having given him to me, and I hope and pray that one day my parents will accept him and all the beautiful things of my new way of life.
Sometimes I ask myself how my condition was before submitting myself to the One God. I think I was already submitted to Him, like every other part of the universe, I just needed to recognize it. This universe and all the created beings in it are in thrall to God, whether by choice or by force. Even though my mind was alienated from my Lord and failed to worship Him, the atoms of my body and everything in me were worshipping Him and glorifying Him, like everything else in the world:
“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving.” (Al-Israa’ 17:44).
Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
Nura is the author’s name after she converted to Islam. The author has requested that her real name not be revealed for fear of repercussions from her family.
An American Police Officer Discovers Islam
By Linda Delgado (Widad)
One day, I asked them if they had an extra Qur’an. I wanted to read what it had to say.
About five years ago, I was fifty-two years old and a Christian.
I had not become a member of any Christian church, but all my life I had been searching for the truth.
I attended many churches and studied with their teachers. All fell short and I recognized none as being the truth about Allah.
Since I was nine years old, I had read the Bible every day of my life. I cannot tell you, over the many years, how many times I searched it for the truth.
During the long years of my search for the truth, I studied with many religious faiths. For over a year I studied two times a week with a Catholic priest, but could not accept Catholic beliefs. I spent another year studying with the Jehovah Witnesses and did not accept their beliefs either.
I spent nearly two years with the LDS (Latter-Day Saints, i.e. the Mormons) and still did not find truth. I had a Jewish friend and we had many discussions about the Jewish beliefs. I went to many Protestant churches, some for months at a time, trying to find answers to my questions.
My heart told me Jesus was not God but a Prophet. My heart told me Adam and Eve were responsible for their sin, not me. My heart told me I should pray to God and no other. My reason told me that I was responsible for both my good and bad deeds and that God would never assume the form of a man in order to tell me that I was not responsible. He had no need to live and die as a human; after all, He is God.
So there I was, full of questions and praying to God for help. I had a real fear of dying and not knowing the truth. I prayed and I prayed. I received answers from preachers and priests like, “This is a mystery.” I felt that God wanted people to go to heaven so He wouldn’t make it a mystery as to how to get there, how to live life accordingly, and how to understand Him. I knew in my heart that all that I was hearing was untrue.
About four years ago, I retired after twenty-four years as a police officer. My husband also retired as a police officer. The year before my retirement I was still a police sergeant/supervisor. Police officers worldwide have a common bond, which we call a law-enforcement brother-sisterhood. We always help one another no matter what police department or country.
That year I received a flyer asking for help with a group of Saudi Arabian police officers who had come to the United States to learn English at a local University and attend a police academy in the city that I live in. The Saudi police officers were looking for homes to live in with host families in order to learn about US customs and to practice the English that they would be learning.
My son is raising my granddaughter as a single parent. We helped him to find a house next to ours so that we could help in raising her. I talked to my husband and we decided that it would be good to help these police officers. It would be an opportunity for our granddaughter to learn about people from another country. I was told that the young men were Muslims and I was very curious.
An Arizona State University Saudi interpreter brought a young man named Abdul to meet us. He could speak no English. We showed him a bedroom and bathroom, which would be his when he stayed with us. I liked Abdul immediately. His respectful and kind manner won my heart!
Next Fahd was brought to our home. He was younger and shyer, but a wonderful young man. I became their tutor and we shared many discussions about police work, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Islam, etc. I observed how they helped each other and also the other sixteen Saudi police officers who came to the USA to learn English.
During the year they were here, I came to respect and admire Fahd and Abdul for not letting the American culture have any impact on them. They went to mosque on Fridays, said their prayers no matter how tired they were, and were always careful of what they ate, etc. They showed me how to cook some traditional Saudi foods and they took me to Arab markets and restaurants. They were very kind to my granddaughter. They showered her with presents, jokes, and friendship.
They treated my husband and me with much respect. Each day, they would call to see if I needed them to go to market for me before they went to study with their fellow Saudi officers.
One day, I asked them if they had an extra Qur’an. I wanted to read what it had to say. They sent to their embassy in Washington DC and they got me an English Qur’an, tapes, and other pamphlets. At my request, we began to discuss Islam (they had to speak English and this became the focus of our tutoring sessions).
My “foster sons” were to return home to Saudi Arabia, I planned a family dinner with all their favorite traditional foods (I bought some because I didn’t know how to cook all of them). I purchased a hijab and an abaya (long Islamic gown). I wanted them to go home remembering me dressed appropriately as a Muslim sister.
Before we ate, I said the Shahadah (public declaration of faith). The boys cried and laughed and it was so special. I believe in my heart that Allah sent the boys to me in answer to my years of prayers. I believe He chose me to see the truth by the light of Islam. I believe Allah sent Islam to my very home. I praise Him for His mercy, love, and kindness to me.
Many Changes Happened
My Saudi boys returned to their homeland about a week after my reversion. I missed them greatly but was still happy. I had joined the local mosque as a member almost immediately after my reversion and registered myself as a Muslim. I was anticipating a warm welcome from my new Muslim community. I thought all Muslims were like my Saudi boys and the other young Saudi officers whom I had met and spent time with during the previous year.
My family was still in a state of shock! They thought I would stick with this new religion for a while, become disgruntled, and move on to another religion as I had done all my adult life. They were surprised at the changes that I began to make in my daily life. My husband is a congenial man, so when I said that we were going to be eating halal foods and eliminating haram (forbidden) foods, he said, “Okay.”
Next, I wrote a letter to my non-Muslim family telling them about my reversion and how it would and wouldn’t change our family relationships. I explained a few of the basics of Islam. Still, my family kept their own counsel, and I continued to work on learning prayer and reading my Qur’an. I got active in sister groups on the Internet and this facilitated my learning about my new beliefs.
I also attended a “Fundamentals of Islam” class at the mosque when I could get away from my work. I was still a state police sergeant and it was difficult – no, impossible to cover. This became a source of real discontent and concern for me. Just eight months and I could retire, so I asked for and was granted the right to telecommute from my home three days a week doing planning and research projects.
After the first six months had passed, sisters at the mosque that I attended still hadn’t warmed up to me. I was disappointed. I began to feel like an outsider. I was puzzled and concerned. I tried to become active in community services with a few sisters who had been friendly towards me. I looked for the kindness, friendship, and best of manners that were practiced each and every day by my Saudi boys.
I made many mistakes at the mosque, such as talking in the prayer room as I tried to get up and down from the floor. I went to a community celebration and ate with my left hand; I wore clear nail polish on my trimmed nails and got scolded. I did wudu (ablutions) incorrectly and was frowned at. I became very discouraged.
Then one day I received a package in the mail from a sister-friend who I had met on the Internet. In the package were several abayas, hijabs, silk stockings, and a warm and friendly note welcoming me as her sister in Islam. She lives in Kuwait. Next, a dear sister sent me a prayer robe and prayer rug she had hand-made herself. This dear sister lives in Saudi Arabia.
I got an email that had a statement that I always remember at times when I get that “outsider” feeling. The note said: “I am glad that I became Muslim before I met many Muslims.” This is not an insult. It was a reminder that Islam is perfect and it is we Muslims who are imperfect. Just as I have shortcomings, so may my sisters and brothers. I also began to understand what I personally believe to be one of the greatest gifts that Allah gave to the Muslims: the sister and brotherhood in Islam.
Over the past four years, my life has changed dramatically. My family has come to accept with generosity and tolerance that I am Muslim and will remain Muslim. All thanks be to Allah for sparing me the trials of so many reverts who must deal with beloved family who strive to dissuade them from Islam.
As my health continued to fail and I grew weaker physically, I had to discontinue community service work and became more isolated from the local Muslim community. I continued to work hard on my prayer, having great difficulty with the Arabic pronunciation but not giving up.
My Islamic teacher made some cassette tapes, and a sister brought them to my home to help me. After two years, I had learned to recite four Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an. This may seem like a small number to most Muslims, but for me, it was a very big accomplishment. I set about learning the words for the other parts of prayer; another two years of struggle.
During the early part of my third year as a Muslim, I suffered a heart attack and had heart surgery. It was a sad time for me, as I knew that I would never again touch my head to the floor when praying, but would forever have to sit in my chair and pray. It was at this time that I truly understood the provision from Allah that Islam is the religion of ease. Praying while seated in a chair is acceptable; not fasting when one is sick is acceptable. I did not have to feel that I was less a Muslim because of these circumstances.
After visiting several mosques and observing that they were like mini-United Nations, I began to see that the small groups within the mosque were mostly formed because of language and culture and not because of liking or disliking any person. I felt good that regardless of these differences, I could always count on a smile and an “As-Salaam Alaykum!”
After a while, I began to gravitate towards sisters who are reverts to Islam like me. We have much in common – we experience many of the same trials, such as non-Muslim family members, difficulty pronouncing Arabic, being lonely on Muslim holidays, and not having a family member to breakfast with during Ramadan.
Sometimes our reversions meant losing life-long friends who just couldn’t accept our new habits, or it was because of our discontinuance of activities common to non-Muslims, such as dancing and mixing in groups.
As I grew less able to do community services, I searched for some way to contribute to the greater Muslim community. I continually asked Allah for His help in this. One day, my young granddaughter suggested that I write books about my Saudi boys, Islam, and my family’s experience with Islam. I decided to write the books and also include stories about a group of young girls, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who were friends. The stories would include the young girls’ problems encountered at school and at home and I would use my knowledge of Islam as a guide for these book characters.
I began writing a book series that I called Islamic Rose Books. I created an e-group for sister authors and aspiring writers and this developed into the creation of the Islamic Writers Alliance. The Alliance is an international organization created to provide support for female Muslim authors and aspiring writers.
Our main goal is to help each other promote our works to readers and publishers. I also decided to help two Muslim food banks by creating databases that help them to track their inventory, clients, and contacts and to create reports necessary for funding purposes. I decided that I would spend a large portion of my profits from book sales to buy books for Islamic children’s libraries. I have discovered that many such libraries have lots of empty shelves where Islamic books belong.
I still have much to learn about Islam. I never tire of reading the Qur’an and one of my favorite pastimes is reading about prominent, historical Islamic figures. When I am unsure about something in Islam, I look to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). I see how he responded to situations and use this as my guide.
My journey in Islam will continue, and I look forward to many new experiences. I thank Allah daily for His Mercy and Love.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
Linda (Widad) Delgado is a Muslim, lives in Arizona, is married, and has three children and eight grandchildren. Mrs. Delgado is a graduate of the University of Phoenix and is a retired State Police Sergeant. She is the Director of the Islamic Writers Alliance www.islamicwritersalliance.net. She is also a publisher: Muslim Writers Publishing www.MuslimWritersPublishing.com and author: 2005 AMWA Excellence in Media, Literary Art Award for Islamic Rose Books. Click here to read her journey to Islam. You can reach her at www.widad-lld.com.
By Danielle LoDuca
A friend of mine once began ranting about how God in Islam is angry and vengeful. I came to its defense without even realizing it, opening it up and easily flipping to one of the many pages that said, “Surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
I never aspired to be a Muslim.
I didn’t even want to be a Christian.
The whole concept of ‘organized religion’ was distasteful. I sought to use my mind, not resort to some ancient book for assistance in living my life.
If you had offered me millions of dollars to join one faith or another, I would have declined.
One of my preferred authors was Bertrand Russell, who maintained that religion is little more than superstition and generally harmful to people, despite any positive effects that it might have. He believed that religion and the religious outlook serve to inhibit knowledge and promote fear and dependency, in addition to being accountable for much of our world’s wars, persecution, and misery.
I remember laughing out loud while reading “Hey, Is That You God?” By Dr. Pasqual Schievella, in which he derided the concept of God through satirical dialogue. It all seemed so logical. Thinkers like us were surely above religious devotees, I thought smugly.
But, for me, it wasn’t enough to just think I was better off without religion. I wanted to systematically prove religions were no more than a hoax. I purposefully set out to do just that.
Yet, here I am. Muslim.
Sure, I made the declaration of faith, but the choice I had was really no choice at all. Essentially, I was compelled – forced to accept Islam.
Interestingly, in my talks with followers of religions, especially those other than Islam, I have often noticed that they clearly desire to believe. As if, no matter how many contradictions or errors are pointed out in their scriptures, they brush them aside and maintain their unquestioning faith.
Rarely do I ever find that the scriptures themselves convinced them, but rather they decided to have faith, and then the studies began after that decision, if at all. They knew what they believed, either by having been raised upon it, or like a friend of mine told me, “Islam seems foreign, so I never looked into it. Christianity is more familiar and convenient because most of the people around me are Christian. So when I was seeking God, I chose Christianity.”
Personally, I never considered myself to be seeking God, but if I had, the last place I think I would have looked would have been in an old book, or a building, or a person.
Some people, who decide to believe in something at the outset, may then develop selective vision when it comes to learning the faith they’ve chosen. I had also decided to believe something; I chose to believe that religions were simply fabricated delusions of grandeur.
In actuality this notion was not built on hard facts, it was an assumption. I had no evidence. When I undertook reading the religious books, I was not biased towards them, but my intentions were to look for flaws. This approach helped me manage to maintain a fair amount of objectivity.
My paperback translation of the Qur’an had been acquired for free. I didn’t even stop to chat with the MSA students standing at the table stacked with books. I curtly asked, “Is it free?” When they replied in the affirmative, I grabbed one and continued on my way. I had no interest in them, only the free book to assist me in accomplishing my goal of debasing religions once and for all.
But, as I read that Qur’an; as its cover became worn and its pages tattered, I became more and more subdued. It was distinct from the other religious books I had also collected. I could understand it easily. It was clear.
A friend of mine once began ranting about how God in Islam is angry and vengeful. I came to its defense without even realizing it, opening it up and easily flipping to one of the many pages that said, “Surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
It was if the Qur’an was speaking to me directly – responding to my life. It was an “old book” but somehow, it was entirely relevant. Something about its cadence and imagery and the way it communicated to me intimately; It was an exquisite beauty I hadn’t really felt before, reminiscent only of the moments I had spent out west, staring out over a seemingly endless desert landscape. I found it exhilarating; comparable to the way it felt running barefoot in the sand under the stars with powerful waves crashing at my side.
The Qur’an was appealing to my intellect. Offering me signs and then telling me to think, to ponder and consider. It rejected the notion of blind faith but encouraged reason and intelligence. It directed humanity towards goodness, recognition of the Creator, plus moderation, kindness, and humility.
After some time, and life-changing experiences my interest intensified. I began reading other books about Islam. I found that the Qur’an contained prophecies, as did many of the hadiths. I found that the prophet Muhammad was corrected several times in the Qur’an. This seemed strange if he had in fact, been its author.
I had begun walking down a new path. Led by the amazing Qur’an, paired with the beautiful paradigm of devotion; the Prophet Muhammad. This man showed no signs of being a liar.
Praying through the nights, asking forgiveness of his oppressors, encouraging kindness. Refusing wealth and power and persevering with the pure message of devotion to God alone, he endured unfathomable hardship.
It was all so uncomplicated, easy to understand. We’ve been created; all this intricacy and diversity could not pop out of nothing. So follow the One who created us – Simple.
I remember the warm artificial lighting in my apartment and the weight of the air on the night I read this verse:
“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We split them asunder and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (Al-Anbiya’ 21:30)
My mind was split asunder when I read this. It was the Big Bang – suddenly not just a theory… And every living thing from water… wasn’t that what scientists had just discovered? I was astonished. It was the most exciting and yet frightening time of my life.
I read and studied and double-checked book after book until one night I sat in my library at Pratt Institute, staring wide-eyed at the piles of open books. My mouth must have been dropped open slightly. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I realized I had in front of me, the truth. The truth I had been so sure did not exist.
There were only two choices and one was no choice at all. I could not deny what I had discovered, ignoring it and going on with my life as before, though I did consider it briefly. That left only one option.
I knew I had to accept it because the only alternative was denying the truth.
Danielle LoDuca is a third generation American, raised in a homogeneous, white, suburban community. Although raised as a Catholic, she considered herself agnostic and was disdainful of religion in general until she chose Islam in 2002.
Danielle is an artist with a BFA from Pratt Institute, as well as a wife and mother of five. She welcomes questions and invites everyone to read and interact with her by commenting at The Muslim Next Door: http://youramericanmuslimneighbor.com/. She can be reached by email at: [email protected]