Hi. My name is Melinda Baily.
I converted to Islam almost three years ago.
And I’d like just to discuss some common questions that I have been asked about how I had found out about Islam.
Originally, I moved to South Carolina from Buffalo, New York. My grandparents and my great grandparents had lived there, and they were Catholic. My parents were both born Catholic. My father is Polish and my mother is Italian. They had met a man and ended up converting from Catholicism to born-again Christian. We were in a non-denominational Church in Buffalo. And then we moved down to North Carolina about 8 years ago now.
My Sister’s Story
We were still going to church, and then my sister met somebody and she said he was Muslim. They were getting into a serious relationship. We didn’t know anything about Islam. We were really dedicated to Christianity.
My sister had started researching, and so we welcomed him into our family with open arms. We were really curious to learn about his views, his religion and such stuff. My sister ended up getting married to him.
My sister later decided that she really wanted to research the religion before they had children. She wanted to make a decision about what she wanted to raise her children as, because she didn’t want to introduce her children to a religion that she didn’t believe in. She wanted them to support something that she believed in. So she had started researching, and she researched for about 2 years.
Then she ended up converting to Islam, and she told our family that she didn’t believe in the trinity anymore, and that she had done a lot of researching about Islam. It was really scary at first to us because we had a lot of common misconceptions about the religion, and it was really scary to see a big change in her; her belief system, the way she acted, and the way she dressed.
I wasn’t really interested in Islam at the time. It was really scary to see my sister go through a lot of changes in her ideas. But eventually, my family had stopped going to Church, although they didn’t stop practicing Christianity and believing in it. At that point I was young and I was going through high school. Eventually I became confused about what I really believed in.
My parents were saying one thing, and my sister was saying another thing. So I really wanted to research myself and decide what I believe and what the truth is for me, and not just accept the religion I was born into. I believed my search would either make me stronger in Christianity or stronger if I wanted to convert to Islam. So that was my goal that I planned to achieve, but I really never actually had encouragement to do it because I was busy being a teenager and doing other things.
Then my sister had moved oversees, and every time she came back to visit us like for the summer time she was a lot more religious and a lot more strict in religion. It was very scary to see these changes. Then she introduced me to somebody that was also a Muslim, and I started a relationship with him. Before we got serious, we decided that we were going to separate and not see each other, and that I was really going to research about religion and then decide what I really wanted to believe before I started a serious relationship with this person.
So then I started to research the religion. My motivation was to decide whether I am going to continue the relationship with this person and have a serious relationship with him because that was a big step. We are having somebody from a different religion in a cross-cultural marriage that is difficult enough as having two people marrying who were practicing different religions. I really wanted to research before I made a decision.
When I started researching, the first thing I researched was women’s rights in Islam. The truth is that I had heard a lot of rumors. We used to see a lot of things in the media and I had a lot of misconceptions that I wanted to find out what the religion actually practices. So I had a lot of misconceptions about what the rights of women were in Islam. I thought before that women were forced to cover, they had to walk behind their husband or something out of respect, and they have to sit at the backseat of the car, and such kinds of common misconceptions.
When I actually started researching, I found a lot of things that I was really surprised, that there was a lot of rights that I agreed with in the religion, and a lot of rights they had given women. For instance a woman has the right to hold her own property and have her own business, and be in charge of her own money and make business deals and stuff without any male influence from her husband who doesn’t have any right to her money, any right to her inheritance and her father doesn’t. She is able to hold property and make business and stuff on her own. That was something I was really surprised to hear about because they were some of the misconceptions that people normally have.
So I kind of agreed with a lot of points. So I continued researching about what the religion was actually saying. One of the big things was what Muslims worshipped. I didn’t really know what they actually believed in. I thought maybe they worshipped Muhammad and they didn’t believe in Jesus and didn’t believe in God. When I actually researched I found out that they do believe in Jesus and they do believe in God, but they don’t believe in the trinity.
Some of the stories in Quran made it very easy to research Islam because I was so used to many of the ideas and many of the stories because there were so many similarities between Christianity and Islam, especially that I was born and raised Christian I used to hear similar stories and they were the same ones. We have the same prophets. We have stories about Abraham, Moses and Noah and so many things are exactly the same. But the thing that was different was the trinity.
Jesus in Islam
Muslims don’t worship Muhammad but Muhammad was a prophet and he was the last prophet. Their relationship with Jesus is that they believed he was one of the most well-respected prophets, but didn’t believe he actually is God but believe he is a man and a prophet of God and he told people to worship God as One.
A common thing which was a big debate between Muslims and Christians was that the Muslim standpoint is that worshiping Jesus as a God in place of the father is considered as associating partners with God.
So when I started to research the ideas of Jesus in Islam, a lot of things made a lot of sense, because when I researched what the trinity really was I realized, personally to me, that it didn’t make 100% sense to me. It was something I was used to practice and believe in but I didn’t really question because I thought it was wrong to question things about my religion. So I had the idea that it was really wrong to look for something else or have any reasons to do so. I was comfortable with my beliefs and practicing Christianity.
I found also that they believe in the virgin birth. And a lot of points I was researching like the difference between the points that the Christians made about Jesus is that Jesus is the son of God and that he is God, compared to what the Muslims said that Jesus is a prophet of God but he is not God himself and that you have to worship God and tell people to worship God only and he didn’t ask people to worship him.
So researching the whole different points that Muslims had made and points that Christians had made, and doing it open-mindedly and freely. One of the things I had liked about Islam was that it is OK to ask questions and research if something doesn’t make sense, and it should scientifically, historically or logically make sense. That was really one of the things I enjoyed about Islam, that there is a lot of the scientific points in the religion that were proven to be true. There are a lot of common grounds that the most closely related religion to Islam is Christianity.
But one of the points when I did my research that really had personally hindered me when I really thought that Muslims had valid points and that this was a good belief system they had, what I heard about in the media and what I heard about from different cultures. There are so many different Muslim countries and each of them have their own cultural influences in their practices, that is not the actual religious practicing. Islam is a religion that’s almost 1500 year old. Countries have been introduced to the religion, but they changed some of its practices through their cultural habits.
So a lot of things like women are not being allowed to drive, is not Islamic, but it’s the culture of that specific country. So it’s really hard to look at things so openly and really research what the facts are of things when there are so many different prejudices as everybody has prejudices. There are so many prejudices and so many misconceptions.
One of the points that the religion does make is that God sent a prophet to every nation to preach and say that there’s only one God that you should worship. Prophets were sent to people of different nationalities. So having this concept that we have prophets that we do know and others that we don’t, and some of them had books like we believe that Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon had books.
We believe that over time people have changed the religion, and that original documentation is lost and that it’s not in the same form and the same practices that it has originally been. The reason why there was a need to keep sending prophets and books of guidance is that men had changed their wording and made alterations for cultural reasons.
So one of the points that Islam made was that when prophets were sent, some people wouldn’t look at things optimistically and truthfully because of our own arrogance. It’s because this is someone from a different race, from a different color or from a different country and a different culture. It’s because of our own arrogance and prejudices. But God doesn’t view men in the same way that we view men. So that’s why we won’t accept those ideas even if it’s the truth because of our arrogance in our own hearts.
That was one of the things that really helped me to look at things optimistically, and one thing that really did hinder me from converting was that it was so socially unacceptable to be Muslim.
It’s really difficult to be in a country and be in a minority that’s associated with so much prejudices, so much bad attention from the media and so much false ideas. I remember when I was first considering I was going to get married and convert, it was very hard to tell my family after generations where some are Catholic and some are born-again Christian and this is a Christian country.
It was really difficult to hear and face all these prejudices and misconceptions that people had to say to me and just be a social outcast because of my religious beliefs and being different. So it’s really a big sacrifice to go against what the norm of the culture is.
For example, when you are covering and practicing a different religion you get a lot of prejudice. I think that’s really something that hindered a lot of people from researching and accepting the truth because of the misconceptions and the way people will be socially perceived and because you do a lot of sacrifices and you have to face a lot of prejudices.
I remember when I had originally started telling my family that I will become a Muslim, especially my grandparents who were very old, like 75 years old. They were Catholics all their lives and their great great grandfathers were Catholics. I told them, and it really scared them and really prayed for me and felt bad for me.
There are a lot of misconceptions, and it is really hard to face once you believe that this is the truth. That’s what really prevents people from researching and looking at things optimistically that there are so much prejudices you face and so much misconceptions.
Alhamdulellah, I ended up getting married, and converted and started practicing the religion…