Often when people ask me
‘How did you come to Islam?’, I take a deep breath and try and tell them the
‘short version’. I don’t think that Islam is something that I came to
suddenly, even though it felt like it at the time, but it was something that I
was gradually guided towards through different experiences. Through writing this
piece I hope that somebody may read it, identify with some things and may be
prompted to learn more about the real Islam.
I was born in 1978 in
Australia, was christened and raised ‘Christian’. As a child I used to look
forward to attending church and going to Sunday School. Even though I can still
remember looking forward to it, I can’t remember much about it. Maybe it was
getting all dressed up in my best clothes, maybe seeing the other children,
maybe the stories, or maybe it was just that I could look forward to my
grandmothers’ famous Sunday lunch when I got home. My family wasn’t strict
about religion at all - the bible was never read outside church from what I
knew, grace was never said before eating. To put it simply I guess religion just
wasn’t a major issue in our lives. I can remember attending church with my
family sometimes, and as I got older I can remember getting annoyed when the
other members of my family chose not to come. So for the last couple of years I
attended church alone.
At the time that I attended
primary school ‘Religious Education’ was a lesson that was given weekly. We
learned of ‘true Christian values’ and received copies of the bible. While I
wouldn’t admit it at the time, I also looked forward to those classes. It was
something interesting to learn about, something that I believed had some sort of
importance, just that I didn’t know what.
In my high school years I
attended an all girls high school. We didn’t have any sort of religious
classes there, and I guess to some degree I missed that because I starting
reading the bible in my own time. At the time I was reading it for ‘interest
sake’. I believed that God existed, but not in the form that was often
described in church. As for the trinity, I hoped that maybe that was something I
would come to understand as I grew older. There were many things that confused
me, hence there seemed to be ‘religious’ times in my life where I would read
the bible and do my best to follow it, then I would get confused and think that
it was all too much for me to understand. I remember talking to a Christian girl
in my math classes. I guess that gave me one reason to look forward to math. I
would ask her about things that I didn’t understand, and whilst some
explanations I could understand, others didn’t seem to be logical enough for
me to trust in Christianity 100%.
I can’t say that I have
ever been comfortable living with a lot of aspects of the Australian culture. I
didn't understand for example drinking alcohol or having multiple boyfriends. I
always felt that there was a lot of pressure and sometimes cried at the thought
of ‘growing up’ because of what ‘growing up’ meant in this culture. My
family traveled overseas fairly often and I always thought that through
travelling I might be able to find a country where I could lead a comfortable
life and not feel pressured like I did. After spending 3 weeks in Japan on a
student exchange I decided that I wanted to go again for a long-term exchange.
In my final year of high school I was accepted to attend a high school in Japan
for the following year.
Before I left Australia to
spend the year overseas I was going through one of my ‘religious stages’. I
often tried to hide these stages from my parents. For some reason I thought that
they would laugh at me reading the bible. The night before I flew to Japan my
suitcase was packed however I stayed up until my parents had gone to sleep so I
could get the bible and pack it too. I didn’t want my parents to know I was
My year in Japan didn’t end
up the most enjoyable experience in my life by any means. I encountered problem
after problem. At the time it was difficult. I was 17 years old when I went
there and I think that I learned a lot of valuable lessons in that year. One of
which was ‘things aren’t always what they seem’. At one stage I felt as
though I had lost everything - my Japanese school friends (friends had always
been very important to me, even in Australia), my Japanese families, then I
received a phone call saying that I was to be sent home to Australia a couple of
months early. I had ‘lost everything’ - including the dream that I had held
so close for so many years. The night that I received that phone call I got out
my bible. I thought that maybe I could find some comfort in it, and I knew that
no matter what, God knew the truth about everything that everybody does and that
no amount of gossip and lies could change that. I had always believed that hard
times were never given to us to ‘stop us’, but to help us grow. With that in
mind, I was determined to stay in Japan for the whole year and somehow try and
stop the ridiculous rumours. Alhamdulillah I was able to do that.
From that year I came to
understand that not only is every culture different, but they both have good
points and bad points. I came to understand that it wasn’t a culture that I
was searching for.. but something else.
I attended an all girls
Buddhist school in Japan. We had a gathering each week where we prayed, sang
songs and listened to the principal give us lengthy talks. At first I wasn’t
comfortable attending these gatherings. I was given a copy of the song book
along with the beads that you put over your hands when you pray. I tried to get
out of going to them at the start, but then decided that I didn’t have to
place the same meaning to things as others did. When I prayed, I prayed to the
same God that I had always prayed to - the One and Only God. I can’t say
that I really understand Buddhism. Whenever I tried to find out more I met with
dead ends. I even asked a Japanese man who taught English. He had often been to
America and he said that in Japan he was Buddhist, and in American he was
Christian. There were some things about Buddhism that I found interesting, but
it wasn’t something that I could consider a religion.
In a lot of ways I picked
what I liked out of religions and spiritual philosophies and formed what I
considered to be my ‘Jenny Religion’. I collected philosophical quote after
quote in high school, read into things such as the Celestine Prophecy and Angels
when I returned to Australia, and still held onto the Christian beliefs that
made sense to me. I felt like I was continually searching for the truth.
When I returned to Australia
from Japan I had grown closer to a girl that I went to high school with. She was
always somebody who I considered to be a good friend, but wasn’t in ‘my
group of friends’ whom I sat with in class or for lunch. Some of the people in
that group I haven’t heard from and haven’t seen since I returned. I
realised that this other girl and I had a lot more in common than I had first
thought. Maybe this was because I had changed a lot in Japan, or maybe it was
because I had learned that being ‘socially acceptable’ and popular wasn’t
important because the people that are making those judgements are not always
morally correct. I didn’t really care who was my friend and who wasn’t
anymore, but I did care that I was true to myself and refused to change to suit
other people. I felt like I had found who I really was by losing everything that
I had previously considered important.
The girl that I had grown
closer to was Muslim, not that I thought of it at the time. One night we sat in
McDonalds, taking advantage of their ‘free refill coffee’ offer and talked
about religion, mainly in what way we believed in God. She was the one asking
the questions mostly, about how I thought God to ‘be’. I enjoyed the
discussion and felt somehow that I might be making some sense to her with my
‘Jenny Religion’. When we got home she got out the 40 Hadith Qudsi and read
them for herself. She read some of them to me which ofcourse got me interested.
I asked to borrow the books from her so I could sit and read them all too, which
I did. Reading the books in some ways was frightening. To me, examples of Islam
could be found in TV news reports and in books such as ‘Princess’ and ‘Not
without my daughter’. Surely, I thought, the Hadith were just a good part of
it, but the bad part was there too.
From there I moved back to my
university for the start of semester and couldn’t really get the books from my
friend anymore so I started looking on the Internet. I had already ‘met’
some Muslims on the IRC but I considered them my friends too and that they
wouldn’t tell me the ‘truth’ about Islam. I thought that they would only
tell me the good parts. I did ask them some questions though and Masha’Allah
they were a great help. I still remember asking a Muslim guy whether he believed
in angels. Angels were a part of my ‘Jenny Religion’ and I certainly
didn’t believe that a Muslim guy would admit to believing in the existence of
Angels!! My limited and ignorant understanding of a Muslim male was one who beat
his wife, killed female babies and was a terrorist in his spare time. This sort
of person couldn’t possibly believe in angels I thought.. ofcourse I was
shocked when he said ‘Ofcourse I believe in angels’. From then I was
interested to know what else Muslims believed in.
I often think that I
initially continued reading about Islam through the Internet to prove it wrong.
I was always looking for that ‘bad part’. Everybody couldn’t have such a
bad view of Islam if there was no reason for them to. I had always found a bad
or an illogical part to every religion that I had read into.. so why would Islam
be different? I remember finding an Islamic chat site for the first time and
expected to see suppressed females just reading what the males were saying. I
expected them not to have an opinion, I expected the ‘typical Muslim girl’
that I had always felt sorry for. To my shock I saw girls happily chatting, with
opinions that they were allowed to express. Muslim girls that were somehow more
liberated than I felt.
My learning about Islam
through the Internet continued through chatting to lots of people and printing
out homepage after homepage. The more I learned the more scared I was. I
didn’t tell any of my friends that I was reading about Islam, not even my
best-friend. At first it was because I didn’t want them telling me only the
‘good parts’, and then even when I came to realise that I wasn’t going to
find any of the bad parts, I didn’t want them to get their hopes up about me
reverting to Islam. I wanted this ‘decision’ to be one that I made on my own
- without pressure.
This ‘decision’ that I
refer to wasn’t really a decision at all. I am often asked ‘What made you
decide to become Muslim?’, but when something as clear and logical as Islam is
put in front of you, there is no choice. This is not to say that it made the
decision to say Shahadah any easier. There were many things that stopped me at
first. Firstly I didn’t think that I knew enough about Islam... but then it
didn’t matter because I knew that I would never find anything that was
illogical or ‘bad’. I came to realise that saying Shahadah is not the final
step, but the first. Insha-Allah throughout my life I will continue to learn.
The other thing that made me hesitant, was turning the meaning of the word
‘Islam’ from all the bad things that I had linked with it. I always thought
that I couldn’t possibly be Muslim!! To then learn that my ‘Jenny
Religion’ and beliefs for example of God being One, was actually Islam was
hard at first. Islam brought everything together, everything made sense. To me,
finding Islam was like one big bus ride - I had stopped and had a look at all
of the stops along the way, taken a bit from all of them, and continued on with
the journey. When I found Islam I knew it was the ‘last stop’ of my long
In October of 1997, my best
friend came with me for me to say my Shahadah at an Islamic Centre in Melbourne
(Jeffcott st). I was still scared at the time, but after one of the sisters
going through the articles of faith, and me putting a mental tick next to each
of them, I knew that there was nothing left to do but to say it with my mouth. I
still cry when I think of the moment that I said ‘Yes.. I’ll do it’. I
finally dropped the mental wall that had been stopping me. I was to repeat in
Arabic after the sister. With her first word I cried. It is a feeling that I
can’t explain. My friend was sitting beside but a little behind me, I didn’t
realise it then but she was already crying. I felt so much power around me and
in the words, but I myself felt so weak.
Sometimes I think my family
wonder if this is a phase I am going through.. just like my other phases. I was
even vegetarian until mum told me what was for dinner that night - a roast.
There is still so much for me to learn, but one thing that I would like people
to understand is that I know Alhamdulillah that Islam is a blessing for mankind.
The more you learn, Insha-Allah, the more beauty you will see in Islam.
sister in Islam,
I am a new Muslim. I am writing to tell you 'why' I converted to Islam, but
it's going to be more like 'how.'
Last year, at the age of 23, I was trying to open an import/export company to
sell children's books overseas. Much thought went into my decision to work with
Saudi Arabia above any other country. After contacting the Saudi Arabia
Commercial Office at the Royal Embassy in Washington DC, I learned that all contracts with my sponsor
must be in Arabic to be binding. That prompted me to study Arabic so I would
know what I was signing. I went to a local language school where I took classes
a private tutor named Suad. She was one of the nicest people I ever met as well
as one of the most religious. All the books, tapes, and videos that I studied
from centered on Islam (Ifta Ya Sim Sim, etc.), so without realizing it I was
learning about Islam all along!
I was not brought up with any religious indoctrination. I knew the basics, but I
had never gone to church.
The same time this was going on, I was having the hardest time in my life. I
was on the east coast and my family was on the west coast, the friends I had
were not acting like the 'quality' kind of people I knew I needed to hang around
with, and I had really difficult money problems (who doesn't). I was crying
almost every day. I never felt more alone in my life. It was affecting my job
and my Arabic classes. Suad noticed, and she was always there to listen. She
gave the best advice (Islamic), and she was always right. She told me that if I
just submitted myself to God completely, he would take away all the pain and
loneliness I was feeling. That was on a Thursday. That night, I asked God to
help me, when I woke up the next day I felt completely relieved of all my pain.
I could say "God will take care of it" out loud and mean it. I spent
that weekend talking to Suad about Islam and I learned that I knew more about
Islam than I thought! On Sunday I did my Shahada at an Islamic Women's Group
meeting. The next Friday, January 20, 1995, after the noon prayer, I did my open
Shahada at the Masjid Dal Hijrah in Falls Church, Virginia. Ramadhan started
shortly after that, and I went to Mecca for Umrah at the end of Ramadhan (last
10 days). It has been the best thing I ever did in my life and I never looked
experiences with Islam have shown me that if you follow God's direction (awkward
to call it law because it's much more than that) you will have everything you
need and often what you want, enshallah. Faith in Allah is the best advantage
anyone could ever give themselves!
I grew up in the United States, Philadelphia Pa. I was raised as a Christian in
the Baptist Church. My mother made me go to church every Sunday and on that day
the only music that was allowed to be played was Gospel. I never liked church
very much, it always seemed to me, to be a place for a fashion show. You had to
wear you very best outfit and sit and check out everybody elses as they came
through the door. I would see people nudging each other as they seen the people
come through the door and gossiping about them or looking at them with their
noses in the air. I noticed some were very uncomfortable about what they had
on,because they knew they would be discussed after the service. I never liked
Then it came time for the service, now was the preacher's time to show out.
He would start slow and easy with the preaching and it would build up as he went
along. Soon he would grab the Bible and start preaching and jumping up and down,
sweat running everywhere. The people would get happy with him and start shouting
and carrying on. And it never failed, when the people became excited like that,
that they would pass around the money container,and out of being so fired up
they would give all they had without even thinking about it. I never could
understand why, when the preacher got excited, so did they. It never hit me like
that, and I use to wonder why.
So I use to go home and start reading the Bible. I was sure I would find my
answer in there as to why I wasn't like the rest of the Holy people. I really
thought I wasn't doing something right. But as read the Bible, I never noticed
any of their people in there ever jumping up and down and getting happy. I
remember reading when Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas and
he(Jesus)went behind a mountain to pray. I can remember thinking, who is God (ASTAGHFIRULLAH)
praying to? I knew something was wrong then. So I asked about this to my mother
and grandmother and they would tell me he is praying to the Father. Well that
threw me into total confusion and I went on that way until I was a teenager and
concluded that church just wasn't for me. So I never was a religious person.
I use to notice the Muslim sisters walking along or on the bus, they stood
out to me, I wanted to know what they were all about, but I didn't know how to
approach them. I had a friend and she told me to greet them with assalaamu
alaikum. So I said the next time I see a Muslim sister I would say that. She
told me the Muslims have a book called the Holy Quran and that they don't eat
pork. Neither one of us understood why they covered like that, but thought it
was kind of neat. It made them stand out, and they always carried themselves so
One day I was on the bus going downtown and a Muslim sister got on the bus,
and I greeted her with assalaamualaikum and she greeted me back,so I asked her
where could I get a copy of the Holy Quran and she told me. The very next day I
went and got one. When I started to read this book, it gave me a good feeling, I
could understand it and I couldn't put it down.
I decided to go into the military and I took the Quran with me and continued
to read it and told my army buddies about what it said. This continued for three
years and I re-enlisted for two more years and went to Texas. My roomate was a
Buddhist and I use to see her do her thing at a little box and she would chant
and ring bells in front of candles. I told her I was interested in Islam and
about what I was reading. One day she went out and when she came back she handed
me a sheet of paper and said: Maybe you would be interested in this. It was
about Islam and where they met at on Fridays. I took it and threw it in my
About a day or two later I decided to go to this place and see what Islam was
all about. I went and listened to the khutbah and liked very much what I was
hearing. He was talking about the people and their behavior,and how the women
dressed, and sex before marriage. It left a good impression on me and the
sisters were so nice to me. They didn't try to convert me, but they invited me
back. So that next friday I went back again and again I love the khutbah, what
he was saying was a reality, it was true. The sisters told me they would be
having a picnic at the park that next week and would like for me to join them
and I accepted the invitation.
The next week arrived and off to the park we went. We arrived in the
afternoon and I watched while the brothers covered the ground with white sheets.
I thought to myself, this is where we will sit and eat. While the sisters and I
were sitting on a bench a brother got up took off his shoes and stood in the
middle of the sheets, put his hands up to his ears and started singing (at lest
that's what i thought) and I said to myself: What on earth is he doing? I asked
the sister close to me what was he doing and she said this is a call to prayer.
Then I watched them as they made the Sunnah prayer. While one was standing up
another was bending over and yet another had his face to the ground. I sat and
observed. When they all had finished another brother came and called again to
prayer, but this time everybody got up and made lines like we did in the army.
One man was in front, while all other made were behind him in rows, just like we
did in formation. The women were in the back farther away. And they started to
pray. I had never seen anything so amazing in my whole entire life, I was so
overwhelmed when I saw that.
I knew right then and there I wanted to be a Muslim. When the day was over I
told them I would come back the next week and I did, but this time I told the
sister I wanted to be a Muslim and they told their Imam and I took the shahadah.
That was the happiest day of my life. All the sisters hugged me and
congradulated me, I felt like I had been lifted into a new world and I never
felt any difference until this very day. Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil 'alamin.
May Allah (SWT) guide us all to accept His decree. May Allah (SWT) make us
all strong in following, practicing and accepting this great deen in its
entirety, and may Allah (SWT) give us the strength, faith and support to fight
our desires. Ameen!!!
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