For me, I always felt that connection with God.
Within the trinity, looking back, I think my connection was with the “father”, like you know you want to go to the highest authority.
So with the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit you go to the highest figure, so I always had that connection.
And you know, my favourite part of church always was coming back after the communion and you pray, and you say like “bless my Mummy and my doggy and everything”. And so I felt I always had that spiritual connection.
When my family left the Catholic church after the scandal with the Catholic priests and the boys, a friend in high school introduced me to Islam. Then as I had just entered my freshman year in college in Virginia, I was actually invited by some friends I had met at the MSA (Muslim Student Association), I was a non-Muslim, but it was Ramadan and everyone was fasting and they took me at night to the masjid (mosque) for laylatul-qadr (the night of power in the last 10 days of Ramadan).
I had never been in a masjid before, and walking in I could feel the power of that night. I went into the kind of dark room, and everyone was praying and a lot of people were crying, and I didn’t know what was going on. And I walked in, and some lady pulled my arm and pulled me in-line, and so I was just like mind of … okay … , and then I would hear something again and again, Allahu Akbar, and then I followed and I would do the next thing.
But that night and that feeling definitely stood out to me, and that kind of pushed me to take the next step to further my own education for myself about Islam.
Two Turning Points
I always tell people that there were two types of turning points: there was laylatul-qadr which was like me feeling that spiritual connection, and then there was my education.
Imam Zaid Shakir has a “Back to Basics: Islam 101” set of DVDs. It goes through everything: it talks about the pillars, the articles of faith, and it addresses things that often make non-Muslims shy away from Islam, like what’s the deal with Ossama bin Laden, what’s the deal with the Taliban, … all those issues, and he addresses them, and just the way he talks Ma-Shaa-Allah he’s a great speaker.
You can tell he is so at peace with his life and his Creator, so that really educated me on everything. And that was what pushed me to say OK, I am a Muslim, I need to take the next step to say the Shahadah, so I did that at the masjid.
Al-Hamdulel-Allah, I’m not one of those stories where my parents wanted to kick me out. My parents saw that I was happy, while at High School not so happy. So when they saw that I was actually finding something that made me happy, of course they want that for me.
My parents weren’t that happy about the hijab, they did not want me to wear thehijab, but they’ve got used to it, Al-Hamdulel-Allah as I did not think that would happen. I just graduated from college and I’m home, they don’t really make any more comments, it’s just they now accept it Al-Hamdulel-Allah. And my mother and I are very close and she has actually started buying me hijab, so Al-Hamdulel-Allah.
All the nights in Ramadan, not only laylatul-qadr, after fasting and everyone goes to the masjid and you can feel that power of the night of praying taraweeh, that’s the most special part of Ramadan for me, as well as the discipline in the day, as I never realized I was so not disciplined.
You really don’t realize how much you take food and water for granted until every time you go to get some you realize you can’t. So that discipline I feel is very important for everyone.
I would love just to be able to sit down and really talk from my heart about how happy I am. I know everyone whether they say there is no God, or if they say I don’t care if I die that’s it, you have those questions, and I think everyone has those questions about what happens when I die, and I know there must be something else going on, and for me to find that peace, I would love to give that to them through Islam.
What I found for myself is that we think we have control when things are going good, but when something goes bad that’s when people say O my God, or they cry out to God, and that moment of realizing that God is the One in control, I think that humbling effect is what can really change people’s lives and lead them to realizing that God is in control.
There is One God.