All I knew about Islam was what I saw in the media: terrorism, oppression of women and restricted lifestyle. I came from a Catholic majority country in South America. Very little Muslims live there.
Honestly, I did not really care about Islam or Muslims. The bad news was not making me fanatic to the point that I wanted to oppose Muslims or anything like that.
However, when I went to the United States to brush up on my English language skills, I came in contact with quite a few Muslims. They did not only have Muslim names but they were proud to be Muslims. And they challenged me and my religious belief.
The Issue About Supplication
I was never really into Catholicism. I was Catholic because my mom was. She told me everything about the holy Mary and how to make supplication to her. I did not visit church every Sunday. But whenever I had a problem, I would ask the holy Mary to, ‘please ask God to please help me.’
I never questioned this order of making supplication until one of my Muslim co-students mentioned that Muslims make dua directly to God. That was the first seed of doubt sown in my spiritual consciousness.
I Could Not Explain My Religion
Whenever we were free from our English classes, we would try to communicate. Sometimes I spoke in Spanish and my friends spoke in Arabic but we usually seemed to understand one another. I am not really sure how though.
They often asked me about my religion. Honestly, I did not have answers for most of their questions. They, on the other hand, seemed well informed about their religion. I felt bad that I was not able to defend Catholicism. I promised myself that I will do my homework once back in my home-country.
Talking Directly To God
However, back in Colombia, I actually started reading more about Islam. I stayed in contact with my Arab friends and they continued to tell me about Islam. That is why I started to read about Islam on the internet. I also tried to read a Spanish translation of the Quran but it was difficult to understand.
I have always believed in God. That is why I started to talk directly to Him. I skipped the holy Mary and made my supplication to God. It felt strange at first and somehow I felt like a traitor towards the holy Mary. But then I tried to calm myself with the thought that I just use an express way to the Receiver of my call. When I started communicating directly to God, everything started to change.
Muslims in My Town
I started looking for Muslims in my home-town. I found two different Islamic centers but I did not feel welcome in any of them.
The first one seemed to cater to one particular nationality and the other one was too pushy for my taste. When the brother in the second mosque told me all the things ‘I have to do now’ and all the things ‘I am not allowed to do anymore’, I was not interested anymore to know more about Islam and Muslims. However, I continued talking to God directly and I guess He was listening.
Not Just Dos and Don’ts
One day I was walking through the streets and I noticed a sign that I have never seen before. It read Quran learning center. I stopped, then walked and returned. Then I decided to go inside. The lady inside was extremely friendly. She did not ask anything but invited me for tea and cookies. We just sat down. It was a beautiful relaxing atmosphere with exquisite calligraphy on the walls and beautifully decorated.
Later her husband joined us. And I finally told them that I was interested in Islam. They were pleased to hear that. But instead of telling me the Dos and Don’ts, they asked me what I wanted to know. And without being fully aware of what I am saying, I asked them how one can become Muslim.
A Life Long Journey
The Muslim couple told me that it was easy to become Muslim. I just had to recite certain words. However, becoming Muslim is a process, they told me. It is a life long journey of learning, and improving oneself.
I was surprised about their answer but it attracted me to the faith. A few weeks later I returned to the Qur’anic learning center and recited my Shahadah. My new teachers in Islam instructed me to take it easy. They told me to take one step at a time. Islam is supposed to be easy and was not sent to create difficulties for the one accepting it. I took this advise to heart.
It has been six years now that I have embraced Islam. Alhamdulilah. It is certainly an exciting journey. I am still taking small steps in becoming closer to Allah. One step at a time. And I try to make sure never to reverse.
This is Michaela’s story. She converted to Islam six years ago in her native country Columbia after encountering Islam in the United States.