We sometimes refer to today's Converts as Modern Day First Muslims because the challenges that people confront in seeking, choosing to convert and becoming Muslim are often as monumental, arduous and unrelenting as those faced by the first Muslims in the early days of Islam. Part of our mission is to support, empower and create a space for those who have been blessed and burdened with the gift of choosing Islam, and who choose to live as empowered and enlightened human beings in our current time as Muslims. What follows here are videos, reading recommendations and stories to educate, inspire and uplift converts in their unique journey, as well as born-Muslims who perhaps wish to learn their faith anew from the lens of a modern day first Muslim. In addition, Director Grace Song regularly speaks about her experiences and reflections as an American Muslim convert here, and in her introductions to the Usuli Halaqas (see the Intros section).
Executive Director Grace Song invites her two exceptional convert friends to an engaging conversation about the convert experience. Josef Linnhoff is the Editor in Chief of the Project Illumine tafsir project at The Usuli Institute and edited the new book, The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam by Khaled Abou El Fadl (www.usulipress.com). Wietske Merison is pursuing her doctorate in law at UCLA and performs two of her original pieces in this session @50:30 and @1:48:52 and performs the adhan @1:53:37. Recorded at The Usuli Institute, 14 August 2022.
The Usuli Institute and the Hub Foundation hold an intimate and personal Q&A with Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl and Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the introduction, Grace Song, Executive Director of The Usuli Institute, invites the audience to exercise their right to ask any question of their faith, and shares her experience as a convert and the importance of the right to ask difficult questions as a liberating and empowering force in her development as a convert. She invites the audience to consider Islam through the lens of a convert, and its implications and importance for the future of Islam. Dr. Abou El Fadl addresses questions regarding the role, place and treatment of converts and conversion, historically and in the current age; schisms in modern day Islam; honesty in confronting the challenges and the mindset of a "defeated" people; the impact of Islamophobia; understanding the responsibility and weight of knowledge in addressing questions like "the beating verse" and modern day issues; and much more. Moderated with Zachary Markwith, Executive Director of The Hub Foundation. Held at Hub925, Pleasanton, CA, October 27, 2018.
In her second interview with Adee Simon Macdowell for his podcast "Becoming Muslim," Grace Song, Executive Director of The Usuli Institute, answers questions and gives advice to new converts and those interested in becoming Muslim. This is the full interview. The edited podcast version is here: https://untoislam.com/podcast/extremely-beautiful-version-of-islam.
In the introduction to the second halaqa of the Usuli Institute, Director Grace Song begins speaking in greater detail about her conversion experience and the costs, sacrifices and hard work involved in the difficult decision to convert to Islam in our times. She shares why it is important for those who are "born-Muslims" to have a better understanding of the convert experience and why converts represent a divine opportunity for the future of Islam. Delivered 6 January, 2018.
In the introduction to the Usuli Institute halaqa on Surah 101: al-Qaria, Director Grace Song shares her surprising observations about the people who convert to Islam, discusses what they experience in the early stages of conversion, and gives insight as to how to survive the early experiences of being a Muslim convert. She tells the story of how Dr. Abou El Fadl answered her question about the necessity of hijab when she was a young convert. Delivered 12 January 2019.
In the Usuli Institute halaqa on Surah 110: Al Nasr, Director Grace Song shares personal stories and reflections on the journey of praying and prayer as a Muslim over time. She discusses her ideas about prayer before she became Muslim versus afterwards, and how her feelings about and during prayer evolved from her early days as a convert to the present day. Most importantly, she emphasizes that prayer is the critical lifeline to the divine that should never be severed regardless of the circumstances. Delivered 15 September 2018.
In the introduction to the Usuli Institute Halaqa on Surah 97 Al Qadr, Director Grace Song shares more about her personal story and the serious tests she confronted when she first converted to Islam. She speaks about the challenges of her family's acceptance of Islam, and the estrangement from her family for 8 years, and the journey from darkness to light. She explains why she fell in love with Islam and why she continues to believe in the transformative power of Islam after so many years. Delivered 18 May 2019.