I was born to American Christian parents in the southern state of Arkansas in the United States and that is where I was raised. I am known as white-American to my Arab friends but Alhamdulillah, Islam knows no color, race, or nationality.
I was raised in the country on a farm. My father worked on our farm and also preached in our local Baptist Church. Baptist is a sect of Christianity such as Catholics, Methodist, etc. They just have different doctrines. But basically they believe in the trinity and that Jesus (peace be upon him) was God’s son. My mother stayed at home as a homemaker. I am an only child.
The town I was raised in was completely white-Anglo and all-Christian. There were no other religions or races within 200 miles of us for years, so I was never exposed to anything outside of our little town.
I had always been taught that we were all created equal in the eyes of God. Later I found out that this was not really how my parents, family, or friends felt. But as long as these ‘other people’ didn’t bother them, then these were very easy words to speak. This would soon change.
The first time I ever saw a Muslim was when I attended the University of Arkansas. I stared at the strange clothing the Muslim women wore and could not believe that they covered their hair. Being a curious person, I introduced myself to a Muslim girl in one of my classes the first chance I had. It was a meeting that would change the course of my life.
I will never forget her. Her name was Yasmin and she was from Palestine. I would sit for hours and listen to her tell me about her country, culture, family and friends that she loved so much, but even more was the love that she had for her religion, Islam.
Yasmin had an inner peace about her like no one I had ever met. She would tell me stories of the prophets (peace be upon them) and about the Oneness of Allah Almighty. This was when I learned that they didn’t worship some other ‘God’; it was just that in Arabic, Allah meant God.
Everything she told me made so much sense to me and was so pure. Even though I had never voiced this to any family or friends, I had never believed in the Christian concept of the trinity and why I had to pray to Jesus (peace be upon him) and not to God directly.
Yasmin convinced me that Islam was the only true religion and also a way of life. The most important thing to her was not this life but the Hereafter and that someday she and I would meet again in paradise.
When Yasmin left to go back to Palestine we knew that we would probably never see each other again here on earth and she cried and begged me to continue to learn about Islam so we could meet again, in Paradise. I can still hear her words in my ears. Yasmin had called me Amirah the first time we met. Amirah means princess in Arabic. So when I embraced Islam, I chose this as my legal Muslim name in her honor. I am not a real princess, but Islam makes me feel as though I am.
Two weeks after Yasmin returned to her country, she was killed by Israeli soldiers outside of her home. My soul mate was gone and I felt like a part of me had died. With Yasmin I had made friends with Muslims from all over the Middle East and I came to love the sound of Arabic. It was so beautiful, especially when I listened to them read the Holy Quran. I still love having someone read the Quran to me or listen to Quran tapes.
Most of the time I have no idea what is being said, but in some way it still touches my heart and soul. I am learning to read Quran and write Arabic, and with time and practice I will, InshaAllah.
After I left college and returned to my little community, I didn’t have the honor of being around Muslims any longer. But the thirst for Islam and the Arabic language never left my heart. This upset my family and friends greatly.
Years later, Allah Almighty brought someone across my path that was a wonderful example of Islam and once again I began to ask questions and read everything I possibly could about it. For many months I read and prayed and finally on April 15, 1996 I embraced Islam. It wasn’t one thing in particular that convinced me. It was everything about Islam that did and I will never give my Islam up.
When my family and friends discovered that I was studying about Islam they became enraged and rarely spoke to me. But, when I embraced Islam (converted) they totally disowned me and even tried to have me committed to a mental hospital. They were convinced that I was crazy. They didn’t succeed, Alhamdulillah.
All of this was very destroying to me as I loved my family and friends with all my heart, and still do. Occasionally they will call and wish hell on my head, but even these calls have become less frequent. I just thank Allah Almighty that my Iman (faith) was strong.
I spoke to my family two days after the bombing in a Muslim country. They called to tell me that my uncle had been killed and that me and my terrorist friends were responsible, and that his blood was on my hands.
I cried for days and days, but again my faith stood strong and I continued.