My Journey to Islam
I’ve been planning on writing about my journey to Islam for several months now. It’s challenging because the feelings that my soul feels are hard to express in words. Many people assume that I converted to Islam for my husband or that my family already practiced Islam. My best explanation is that I felt like Islam was calling me. I believe that I was always destined to be a Muslim, “a submitter to God.” I grew up in a multi-religious home. My mother and her family were Methodist Christians. My father and his family were Sikh and Hindu. I never grew up with one religion. I always remember believing in God. I celebrated all the religious holidays and said prayers at night with my mom and recited Sikh prayers with my Indian grandmother.
In 4th grade, I started calling myself a Christian after attending a Christian private school. Unfortunately, the school was not a very good representation of the Christian faith. They mixed a lot of political ideas with their interpretation of Christianity. They also made me feel inferior because my father’s side of the family was not Christian. I moved to a public middle school and continued to identify myself as a Christian. Yet, I became very distant from God and praying. I didn’t put much thought into God until my last year of high school. I suddenly became very interested in studying cultures, religions, and women’s issues. This led me to check out a lot of books in the library about women around the world. This influenced me to major in International Studies and learn Arabic in college.
College was the first time that I was exposed to Islam or Muslims in person. When I was younger I never heard anything positive about Muslims or Islam. I first heard about Islam through the conflict between India and Pakistan. My elders used to tell me upsetting stories about the conflicts between our family, who were Sikh and Hindu, and Muslims. My religious studies professor took our class on an educational trip to a local mosque. That was the first time I learned about Islam from the actual source. I learned that many of the things we believe about Islam are based on culture and not what the religion teaches. I was fascinated with how Islam was against female infanticide and how Islam gave women a high status before most of the world did. I was impressed to learn that Jesus was a prophet in Islam and that Mary was very respected. I was impressed with seeing people of all races and praying shoulder to shoulder. I was impressed by Islam’s comprehensible version of monotheism. I left the mosque that night deeply moved. Something inside of me changed that day in a beautiful way.
I Converted on November 1,2011
I immediately started doing more research into Islam. I started studying the biography of the Prophet Muhammed. I was impressed with his life and how he promoted justice and fairness. I learned that many of the claims people make about the Prophet Muhammed are false. During my junior year of college, I studied abroad in Morocco. I can’t explain the way I felt hearing the call to prayer for the first time. I remember waking up to the dawn call to prayer with chills all over my body. It felt very surreal. Every time I heard the call to prayer I would tell myself, ” I know that I am going to be Muslim one day.” I bought several translations of the Quran and started making many Muslim friends. My heart was searching for God and everything just started adding up like a puzzle for me. I was convinced that Islam was the answer to what I was searching for in life. It kept pulling at my heart for a long time. I ended up saying the said the declaration of faith in my room and became Muslim on November 1,2011.
Trying to navigate some of the cultural practices that have been confused with religion was difficult at first. Trying to explain to my family and friends that many of the things they believe about Islam are not true was exhausting. Also, learning which sources and speakers to follow was a challenge too. There are many people online who are fundamentalists or just spread false information in general. These obstacles can be found in every religion, no matter what you follow. I believe God is perfect but people are not. Many people misuse religion; I believe this is all just part of the imperfect struggle of this world.
Clarity and Peace
I remember how beautiful life felt in the early days of converting to Islam. I felt like my true self for the first time in my life. I learned the five daily prayers from watching video tutorials and writing them down on an index card. I was so eager and excited to wake up at 4am to pray. I ordered numerous books and stayed up late watching Youtube videos from other converts and inspirational speakers. I formed a new way of looking at life. I began to notice the small details around me. I was eager to start practicing good deeds and perfecting my character. Islam has given me so much meaning and purpose in my life. Over the years I’ve gone through ups and downs but my understanding of God continues to grow and mature.