Here is my reversion story. I wrote this a number of years ago for my very first blog, which sadly does not exist any more.
My journey to Islam started at the tender age of 15, in Dayton, Ohio, USA; the city where I grew up. As a sophomore in high school, I engaged in all the usual activities, school, sports, and friends demanded most of my time. I stayed at my mother’s house; my parents had been divorced for a number of years. I had very little to do with my father and I would, often, go six months to a year without seeing or even speaking to him. In many ways, I was a typical American youth; moreover, I was a staunch American nationalist; I loved America and dreamed of joining its armed forces. Islam would change me; free me from the burden of prejudice and save the world from one more egotistical American. The key events which lead to my reversion, took place when I had not yet heard about Islam or Muslims.
During the summer of ’96, my mother made an announcement; she would no longer hold the belief that Jesus was the son of God; she adopted a strange mix of Taoism, Hinduism, and new age beliefs. This profound statement affected me deeply and played a crucial role in igniting my conscience. Although, we considered ourselves as a Christian family – we celebrated Christmas and Easter, my father would send us off to the occasional Sunday school, and my mother would, from time to time, drag the whole family to a night service – Christianity had little sway over us outside of the church. As my siblings and I grew older, our church attendance gradually decreased. Until, finally, after an exceptionally long and boring Easter sermon, we stopped altogether. My brother became and unashamed atheist – Although, I can now say as of last year, 2005, Alhamdulillah, he has accepted Islam and joined the ranks of the believers. My sister retained a belief in God; however, she shunned the establishment of the church and organized religion. Prior to my mother declaration, I had given little thought to God or religion and I cared even less.
My mother’s abandonment of Christianity, though I’m not entirely sure she seen it as that, sent me on a quest for the truth. I asked myself if I even believed in God; I often thought religion would be discovered by future generations as mythology only fools could believe, much in the same way we did with the gods of Rome and Greece. Is there any truth to religion and how could we possibly know what the real truth was? After all, a wide variety of ideas and assumptions are masqueraded around as truth, certainly, not all of these “truths” could be true. Thoughts of God and religion began to consume me; they invaded my conscience, whenever I had an idle moment.
After a short time, I went to my mother with an amazing task, I would find out the truth about God! She encouraged me and allowed me to borrow her book titled “Taoism”. I chose that book first because Taoism had prompted my mother’s apostasy from Christianity. I had to know what was written on those pages that changed my mother so dramatically. I read it eagerly and finished it in just a few sittings. I could not, however, find a single sentence of any value in the entire book. I was disappointed but not discouraged.
The next logical step, I decided, was to re-explore Christianity; it was the religion I grew up in and to which my father still belonged; I owed it to Christianity. Shortly there after, a minister from a southern Baptist church – the same denomination as my father – knocked at my door; inviting me to church. This was exactly what I was looking for, plus he offered to take me to and from church every Sunday, it was a deal I couldn’t refuse.
Upon learning of my intention to go to church, my mother warned me not to believe everything just because the preacher says it; sound advice for everyone. She also encouraged me to seek my own truth; a silly notion really, as if there can be more than one truth, which she undoubtedly got from her new age ideology. However, this little encouragement would, later, give me the strength to enter the fold of Islam and then to announce it proudly, because it allowed me to be free from the reproach of my mother, after all, she told me to “seek my own truth”. Just this past year, I learnt that she only meant that I should find out which Christian denomination was the truth. I find that odd, owing to her refusal of the trinity and even the Day of Judgement. Knowing that would not have made a difference in my acceptance of Islam, however my ignorance of it allowed me to openly practice and propagate my new beliefs.
I attended church regularly for months. I was baptised. I played softball. I went to many functions. I listened to countless lectures about Jesus and how he would bare all my sins. I also read the bible quite often. I practiced Christianity to the best of my ability, hoping in some benefit. My mother, I was told, was secretly scared I was becoming fanatical. Although, I’m sure she would say the same about me now, perhaps worse! Christianity, despite my best effort, failed in bringing me any benefit. Thinking back, I don’t know if I ever believed in the Christian ideology and I certainly wasn’t convinced of its superiority.
During my adventure with Christianity and unknown to me, my sister began dating a Palestinian Muslim she met while working. Soon after, they were married, they had to be married in a mosque, he gave her money, and all the women covered their heads. That was my first introduction to Islam. I lived 15 years before I had even heard about it and nearly four more years would pass before I became one of its followers. My sister’s husband quickly became my best friend. Through him, I learned: Jesus was counted among their prophets, they didn’t eat pork, they fasted one month each year, and many other basic practices. I never gave much thought to Islam and I even mocked some of its beliefs, until, I seen the high regard and esteem that Muslims hold the Qur’an. My brother in-law suggested that I read it but prevented me from touching it until I had a religious bath. I never seen the bible respected and honoured in such a way; it was at that point I began to think seriously about Islam.
I continued going to church, although, I began to feel disconnected and distanced from it. My brother in-law successfully caused me to doubt many core Christian beliefs. My attendance steadily declined, until my eventual break with the church and all things Christian, provoked, oddly enough, by a boxing match. Mike Tyson (a Muslim) fought Evander Holyfield (a Christian), in a Saturday night main event. Holyfield turned it into a battle between Islam and Christianity; Tyson was thoroughly beaten. After the fight, I was astonished by the grace and piety of Tyson. I know that sounds ridiculous given Tyson’s recent past, however, on this occasion he just sat in his corner and calmly tried to explain that he didn’t know what happened. He then praised God, Almighty. Holyfield by contrast was arrogant and full of himself. He declared that his victory was because his God was better than Tyson’s God. My observation was obvious: Tyson’s religion taught him to be grateful in times of defeat and Holyfield learnt nothing from his religion. The following morning, the preacher picked me up for church. On the way he began discussing the fight with me, he was excited and proud and was especially impressed by Holyfield’s statement. He urged me to agree with it, but I didn’t agree with it. I remained silent. I felt angry that this type of arrogance was condoned by the church. I told myself that this was my last trip to church and that I too would become a Muslim.
My decision to become Muslim was a moment of clarity for me, I instantly felt my worries melt away. I was happy, content, and satisfied. God made me aware at the moment of my decision that it was the correct one, despite my limited knowledge of Islam. I wish that I could do it all over again just for that feeling, the feeling of God’s approval. I turned to my brother in-law, without telling him what had transpired, with a desire to learn more about Islam. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to help me in the way I needed. Perhaps because he didn’t know I wanted to be Muslim or I didn’t know the right questions to ask. This deterred me from accepting Islam, until I became distracted with my worldly pursuits.
A considerable amount of time passed, including a year I spent studying in Europe, before I returned to learning about Islam. I even joined the army for a few weeks. It was only due to the re-emergence of Islam in my life that I got out of it before it was too late. I shiver every time I think that I could have been associated with those murdering criminals. I, finally, rejoined my quest in the summer of ’99 at 18 years of age. I still didn’t know any other Muslims besides my brother in-law; therefore I turned to the internet to fill the gap. Among the things that I read, I was most impressed by the way Muslims singled out God, alone. All worship is for God and He has no partner, what so ever; not even Muhammed, salallahu alayhi wasallam, had a share. Calling on God alone is not something a Christian is accustomed to; however, I found the complete reliance on God refreshing.
In the next few months, I implemented some of Islam’s practices in my life. I stopped eating pork, drinking alcohol, and stayed away from girls. I also stayed aloof from my friends, preferring the quite solitude of the library over the school cafeteria. I prayed to God for guidance; I believe it was due to my sincerity that God opened my heart to Islam, all praise and thanks belong to Him.
I formally entered Islam in December 1999 by pronouncing my Shahadah in the mosque after Friday prayers. After my reversion, many people asked me what caused me to accept Islam. Regrettably, I was never able to give them a proper answer; I would just say because it is truth and I liked how Muslims prayed. This was, obviously, not a satisfying answer. Now I can answer that I came into Islam because of the feeling I got, the day I preferred Islam over Christianity and Islam’s strict monotheism convinced me of its truth. The wonderful sound of Suratul Baqarah and the beautiful image of Muslims praying in unison were bonuses.