August 14, 2009

PART IV: Soy Musulmana Conversion/Reversion ( VERY LONG POST)



I am 20 years old and enrolled in my sophomore year at a Jesuit University studying biology and history and taking classes on religion as it is part of the core curriculum. I am lonely and I am looking for more meaning in my life besides the $5.50 an hour I make, plus the frequent hospitalizations for near kidney failure that bring me back to life or the peanut butter sandwiches I ration because am broke. One of the most painful experiences I endured was getting potassium through my IV. It BURNS. It actually made me cry. That is HUGE because I rarely cry.

Crying to me back them was for weak people and I am wasn't weak. I would cry the whole 5+ excruciating hours it would be slowed dripped into my wrist. Then I would get 2-3 hours of rest and the process would begin again. The IV would make me go pee, the medicines would make me go pee, and whenever I moved the pain from the IV was so unbearable I would just cry. Turns out Potassium is very reactive and when it touches your blood it BURNS. I am not exaggerating. IT BURNS.

Subhanallah some of my most honest, earnest and intense prayers were done while the potassium burned me. Strapped to my hospital bed I contemplated God, life and suicide.

During this time I was seriously considering converting to Buddhism because it was more of a way of life that I agree with. I also decided not to go further with West Point (even though I love that place) because I didn't want to be responsible for some one's death. I don't want to be an instrument of destruction. Every person you hurt, there is a family you have butchered. What if they had children? or the sole bread winner? I just wouldn't be able to live with myself and knowing that I would never be able to pull the trigger or give the orders to fire I had to let it go. It wasn't fair to the people whose lives would have depended on me as their leader.

I am monotheistic so I knew my only real choices were Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I studied Christianity first as I need to understand what I was leaving behind or if it fit me. I discover that everything I believed in actually took me out of Christianity. For starters I didn't believe Jesus was God. I didn't know what he was but he wasn't God. I thought he was somebody very important and commanded respect but again, I didn't believe he was God. I rejected the trinity as well so even though I would call myself a Christian and identified as a Christian I really wasn't.

During my second semester of religion (first semester, fall of 05, was Christianity exclusively) my teacher a Christian theologian (she was pretty awesome) when the week came to discuss Islam she brought a stack of books. Her whole desk was covered in books about Islam. Being a history major I got really, really excited. You see I LOVE to read history and I LOVE original sources. I reject secondary and tertiary sources if the original source is readily available. So Islam bashing begins, I actually don't mind as I am not particularly fond of a religion that I perceived to be oppressive. What did bother me though was the lack of sources. All of her sources were not Muslim and not in Arabic. To me that was unacceptable. When I wanted to learn about Buddhism I didn't go to my Jewish friend, I went to the Buddhist temple to find out about it from them. When I researched Christianity I went to Christian theologians (readily available in my school), and Jesuit priests (also readily available) both confused me thoroughly by the way.

Anyway she had such hatred for Islam that it interested me. I mean she was a woman who was practical. She loved to think about things, she gave us an example of her decision to get married. When her husband asked her to marry him she didn't answer right away and instead did a pros and cons list and realized there was more pros so she married him. One of the things she kept repeating over and over and over again was when the Prophet (saw) conquered Mecca in a bloodless take over. She would emphasize that it wasn't bloodless because 6 or 10 people died. If just one person dies it still wouldn't have made it bloodless. I really don't know why that bothered her so much.

She would play this video about Christianity where there was sand dunes and a narrator saying, "The most dangerous words ever uttered against Christianity" and then you would hear in Arabic "ASH HADU ALA ILAHA ILLA ALLAH." Just the phrase sent chills up my spine and I was hooked on the video. I wanted to know more and I wanted to research her claims which were serious by the way.

My professor put together a symposium titled something like "a Common Road: The Three Monotheistic Religions" I was one of the first people to arrive to the symposium. The panel consisted of 4 Christian theologians (not from my school), One imam James D. Pavlin (convert from Ireland, part time professor in Rutgers) and a female Rabbi. The Christian theologians went first and I missed nearly everything they said. I think they forgot who their audience was. It was a conference hall full of college students peppered with a few theologians. They were speaking to the theologians so the rest of us actually didn't understand. The Rabbi was pretty awesome herself, me being a feminist was totally happy with how well put together and eloquent she was. Her audience? College students, I understood her. Then came the imam and I wanted to take shahada on the spot. He told the story of zam zam it was very simple to the point and it underlined some of the core beliefs of Islam and I agreed with it. He spoke to my inner 5 year old who loves stories.

He was actually rushed because the 4 theologians by sheer number had taken more than the allotted time yet he still managed to get his point across. After the lecture the speakers were being rushed from the hall in to the banquet hall and of all the speakers the imam had the most college students surrounding him. I approached him and he gave me his card and spoke about his conversion with a charming Irish accent. The Christian theologians must have been a success as well because they were surrounded by my teachers (fellow theologians). The rabbi had the least students so I approached her because I wanted to know how a woman was a rabbi. I mean I was told by the Rabbi I had approached before that I couldn't become Jewish because I wasn't born Jewish and here was a woman who not only converted but became a rabbi.

So I went home to my rented room and thought about everything, my old life, my mom, my new life, do I want to change it? why? after a while I just fell as sleep. When I woke up I had no thoughts actually it was more of feelings. That is the best way I can think of explaining it. F e e l i n g s. I felt that I was Muslim, their beliefs and my beliefs were nearly identical. So why not become one? I answered with a yes and also decided that I would not cherry pick what I would follow. I will wear the scarf. I felt so at peace and just knocked out again.

A couple of days later on April 11th 2006,I went to work teaching literacy at the public library and I phone my brothers. I tell them I am going to become Muslim and if I should tell mom? I also ask them what they think and they answer with, I don't like it. My middle brother (I am the oldest) asks me if there are other religions I considered? I run down the list of religions I considered and why I am rejecting them and we end up with Islam again. He sighs and wishes me luck but tells me NOT to tell my mom as she would just make me feel like crap and probably stop me.

I consider their advice but decide to call my mom anyway. I phoned my mom and that was unusual as my mom and I would go up to 6 months without talking or when I would call her she would say "Can't talk, don't have any minutes." and I would be like WTF??? this is a LAND line woman a LAND LINE! Just say you don't want to talk to me instead of making some bs excuse. She picks up the phone and before she has a chance to say anything I tell her that I am changing religion. She asked me what will change? so I tell her, no clubbing (I would be dragged to clubs), no smoking, (I didn't smoke) no drinking (I hated drinking) and no dating. Her response? GREAT! when are you converting? I tell her on my birthday. She wishes me luck and I hang up with a WTF just happened? WOW! did I just have a civilized conversation with my mother? NO FREAKING WAY!!

So anyway this was in the beginning of April and NJIT had Islamic Week ( I used to go to NJIT for ROTC training). I attended out of curiosity and the event that day (April 11th) was wear a scarf for a day and raise $ for charity. A couple of non Muslim women wore hijab for the day and raised money for charity and afterward they spoke of how they were treated by fellow students, teachers and anyone else they came in to contact. For the most part they liked the experience as they immediately were salaamed by sisters and they loved it. One of them mentioned it was better than a sorority. I was like what are you smoking lady? it's a scarf not a built in community.

The speech was about "Unveiling the veil" or something to that effect and the speaker was a PUERTO RICAN!?! I was like there are spanish people who are Muslim? So after the speech I approach her and a crowd of Muslims surround us. She is asking me questions and I already know the answers so she is impressed. She asks me why don't you take your shahada? and I am like "NO! I need to learn Arabic...I need to learn how to pray...I need to do this and that and go to the moon" and she tells me, you can learn Arabic as you go along and praying as well.

THE REAL reason I didn't want to take my shahada.....short shorts. Don't judge me. You see I had spent the whole winter working out (nothing unusual) I was really in shape and I wanted to show off my hard work. I randomly chose my birthday because it is smack in the middle of summer so I would have had the chance to get the short shorts out of my system. BUT DANG IT. That woman was good and I decide to take my shahada.

The crowd cheers, there are tears and the Puerto Rican's MIL is crying, her husband who is ...ECUADORIAN and Muslim! is pretending that he is not tearing up. I half expected for him to wipe his tears with his beard, I was like please use your beard! please use your beard! Sadly, he didn't.

Then the crowd asks me, "do you feel any different?"

my answer: no.

And that was the truth. The real conversion happened days before as I woke up and had that realization of who I was. This was just a public declaration of faith. I went home a public Muslim. With my dreams of short shorts in tatters. I do what I thought was wudu from what I had researched and prayed my first prayer in Islam. Isha.

The next day I pray fajr, dhur and asr on time using an english translation and lifting the book to read it and placing it down when going to rukuh and sajda. I take the train back to NJIT for the second day of Islamic week and somebody gives me a hijab. One sister asked me, why do you want to wear hijab? and I answered with "Because Allah says so." So somebody ran to their dorm room and donates a hijab to me. May Allah swt reward her with what is best in this life and the hereafter. Ameen. I wore that thing from that day on.

April 13th comes along and I show up to class rocking a hijab. My Christianity teacher and mentor glares at me and is visibly upset. After class she asks me while pacing from one corner of the room to the other why? why didn't you tell me? I could have counseled you. All this time I am thinking but you did. If it hadn't been for you I would have never considered Islam.

Sometimes the best callers to Islam are those who oppose it the most.

There is NO God but Allah.


*samra* said...

your tagged :)

Queen said...

wow! that was so amazing..... is there more? i love reading reversion stories so much!

AlabasterMuslim said...

omg omg This post totally had me tearing up! I don't know you but i'm just so PROUD of your decision! lol. You seem to have a hard life, but mashallah you also seem to be making the best out if it. So you have been muslim for three years?

.::Tuttie::. said...

@ every one jazakallah khayr for the kindness.

@*samra* i will check it out

@ firdous. exactly. You start wondering especially when their feelings are strong. I wanted to research and understand why she felt that way and ended up becoming Muslim.

@ Queen. Of course there is more. a lot more as shaytan rarely rests

@ alabaster Muslim. Yes I have been Muslim for 3 years.

Zee said...

"Sometimes the best callers to Islam are those who oppose it the most." Simple yet truly amazing!
I was on a vacation this weekend and was so eager to come back and follow up with you. Thanks for sharing your story. You had me in tears sis. May Allah SWT protect u always:)

NtN said...

*sob* <3

MashaAllah Tuttie, beautiful story. SubhanaAllah al Azim. InshaAllah you and your family are still doing well, inshaAllah you have all the happiness that's found in this world (while still being tested, but with iman in your tests, of course) and inshaAllah you and your family get Jannah firdous, ameen.