Converts, like the very First Muslims, have amazing stories of strength, perseverance and faith. The journey to Islam, while blessed and wondrous, can also often be a difficult and lonely journey. It is a unique experience truly understood by those who have labored through its stages, its ups and downs, and its divine challenges. Yet, there is much to share, much to learn and much to explore, whether you are entering the faith, or looking to the conversion experience to gain a fresh perspective. This space is dedicated to sharing those stories for knowledge and empowerment, and collectively elevating our wisdom as human beings seeking the divine from whichever paths we have come.
Can you please share as much as you feel comfortable about how you came to be interested in and ultimately converted to Islam?
How long have you been a convert?
What do you wish you had known when you converted, were in the process of converting, and/or long after you converted, that would have helped you?
What wisdom would you share with others—other converts, born-Muslims or even non-Muslims—about your experiences?
I had been, for my entire life up until discovering Islam, an atheist (28 years). I had come to realize that I was allowing myself to be closed off and narrow-minded while proclaiming to be open minded and "sensible". So I began researching and reading and learning as much as I could about religions, faiths, God. Trying to understand how different people see the world, how they think about humanity's place in all of this. I was reading a book on Buddhism when a co-worker of mine (A Somali man, a Muslim, a friend of mine) started talking to me about it, and was saying that it sounded like I was talking about the Sufis. Realizing that I actually knew nothing about Islam at all, I ordered a copy of the Qur'an on the internet then and there (An annotated translation specifically written for Americans with no knowledge at all about Islam or the Middle East, or the history of that part
of the world by Yahiya Emerick). It came in the mail, I started reading it, and I felt like God had grabbed me and shook me. I just felt this incredible.......... something....and I knew that I was a Muslim. (Or I should say that I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to be a good Muslim.)
I don't know the exact moment that it happened, but "officially" I walked into a mosque during fajr prayer on a January morning in 2014 (it was Mawlid, or one of the dates purported to be Mawlid), there were only a few men there, they seemed confused by a white guy walking in and asking about declaring the Shahada on a weekday morning. Normally I wouldn't put stock in such things, but I just felt like I had to do something dramatic and "serious" to draw a line between who I was, and who I was going to be.
Muslims are human beings, and trying to get closer to God is a lifetime's work.
More importantly, that many, many, many people are Muslims (or Christian, or Buddhist, or any faith or belief system) because they were born into a culture that required it of them. Their Islam is not from the Qur'an, but from a nationalist vantage, and mosques (in North America) tend to be divided along national, political, and linguistic lines. They are not
"houses of God" or places of worship, but community groups and immigrant gatherings. You will not be welcome. You will be told that you aren't truly a Muslim because of your nationality (I was born in the US), your skin color (I am white), the language you speak, etc, etc.
I wish I had known just not to listen to people, not to take things personally, not to give in
to despair because of racism, xenophobia, and all of the things that are so vital to some people's version of God yet which don't get mentioned much in the Qur'an.
"There is no god but God" is vital to hold on to. There is NO OTHER GOD than God himself (herself/itself). Not scholars. Not historical figures. Not books of quotes. Not imams. Not political leaders. Not nation-states. Nothing, no one, no anything is above, equal to, or even close to God. Period. Don't get dismayed by how much or how often Muslims appeal to authorities that well and truly do not matter.
WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR STORY!
Please send your submissions to FirstMuslims@usuli.org.
(If we publish your story, please let us know if we can use your name or initials, or if you would prefer to remain anonymous)