Aslaam Aleikum! Striving For Clarity has started a new collection titled “Convert Perspectives”. The goal is to begin an ongoing collection about converts. Each month iA, we will have a few questions that we will ask several converts to answer. We will then share these on the 'Convert/Revert' section of the site. By learning about other people's experiences, we can gain wisdom and build connections. Every month(or less if we get an influx of responses) we will we changing the questions asked in order to offer you various viewpoints on various issues. If you would like to contribute to the next series in the "Convert Perspectives" collection, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION #1: ABOUT YOU: WRITE 1-3 PARAGRAPHS THAT INCLUDES INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND, HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN A MUSLIM, WHAT INITIALLY PEAKED YOUR INTEREST IN ISLAM, AND THE REACTION OF FAMILY/FRIENDS TO YOUR CONVERSION.
Amina Panama: Bismillah. When I was 6 years old I saw a muslim woman and I asked my mother “why they wore a veil?” She didn't know so she told me “you can use one if you want to, nobody will know that this its you.” Time went on and I forgot about the veil. I was Catholic and i used to practice as much as I could, I used to be in all of the activities of the church and I helped a lot. Finally one day, I told my mom that it was so silly to pray to people and not to God, so at the age of 16 I stopped participating in church activities and dedicated all my time to sports. At the age of 16 my life was empty, I was an international athlete and I studied a lot in high school but without friends and my parents working all time, it was so hard for me and I started looking for love in others and eventually got my heart broken many times. I was so lost and I decided to stop everything and have a normal life without sports. One day a friend of mine gave me her phone and I saw her contacts and I asked what about this guy and she said “He is Arab and Muslim but you know what they are so cool because we are always together.” So I took his number and he invited me to go out but five days before going on our date I started reading about his religion and I fell in love with Deen. Eventually before our date I told him “it’s haram for you to date me so stay away”. As time passed, and I used to cry all night reading all these amazing stories about women in islam and three months later I said to myself “this is what I want for my life” and decided to revert. My parents hate it a lot and hate who I am now, my friends love it and protect me. Overall, my reversion was great with friends but I lost my family, I have now been Muslim for three years Alhamdulilah.
Julius Allen: Assalaamu Alaikum! I'm a former Christian who accepted Islam in 2011. Islam and other religions were never the topic of conversation during my upbringing. Any knowledge of different faiths was a personal endeavor and this never really took place with anyone in my family. We had our faith and that was the end of discussion because if it was good enough for our elders than it was for everyone else as well. My faith was more of a cultural practice than a religious one because everyone I knew usually spoke of religion on Sundays. I had my beliefs but I lived my life the way I saw fit rather than defining myself in light of my Christian faith. I've always been intrigued by other faiths but never to the point of converting. However intrigued I became with other faiths, I was always interested in the "one path". I figured it was "one path" that catered to the commonalities of humanity and truly emphasized on what united us rather than what divides us. I never truly made an effort to engage in religious talks or research other religions. My interest was just wishful thinking and if the opportunity presented itself, I would then move forward on learning. Islam came to me in a special way that took my curiosity to the next level. I was interested in Islamophobia and the western narrative of Muslims. I then began to spend time with Muslims more than before because I wanted to know about their faith for general knowledge. I made it clear that my intent was to learn because my experience contradicted the western stereotype. I immediately began to rethink my Christian faith while researching Islam. I saw gaps in my faith that Islam filled and soon after I would go on to revert to Islam. Since then, my faith has become a defining factor in my life and more than just a one day a week conversation.
Julia: Hi, my name is Julie and I am from Australia. I was raised in a strictly NON-religious home where religion was outwardly condemned. Being in a predominantly Christian country I was raised with traditions such as Christmas, Easter, etc. and was exposed to some of these teachings at school. As a teenager I was attracted to alcohol, drugs and sex and felt very lost. I attempted to go to church in my late teens in my search for religion. This experience was mostly ok except for a few instances which turned me off religion myself. I then went down the path of partying, drugs and alcohol until I had children at 23. After 2 children and a divorce I found myself on the dating scene again at about 28 years old where I met my now husband who was born Muslim. He was living here and was originally from Jordan. We realised very early on that we loved each other and wanted to make the relationship official for us to move in together and begin our marriage. We got married at the mosque even though I was not yet muslim and I even went to Jummah sometimes and did A LOT of reading about Islam including reading some of my translated Qur’an. I finally converted almost a year after my marriage began(approximately one year ago) and I have become the happiest person I have ever been. I gave up smoking and drinking as soon as I started even reading about Islam and now feel I am content with who I am and feel less pressured from external things including what is 'socially' acceptable. It took me a long time to come out to my family and some still don't know. My mum was the first one I told and she was at first a little apprehensive about what it meant for me and the kids. However, she just went to Jordan to visit my in-laws and she has come back truly loving Islam Alhamdulillah! I live in a small town where there are no other muslims which makes my next step a lot harder. My next step and goal is to start wearing hijab. I really want to make this step but feel worried about the persecution which may also come with it. I am a teacher and feel my work prospects may be tarnished... time will tell, the calling to wear hijab is getting too strong. Inshallah, this will eventuate soon.
QUESTION #2: IF YOU COULD TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AND SPEAK TO YOUR NON-MUSLIM TEENAGE SELF, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
Amina Panama: Don't listen to what your family wants, especially if they are telling you to disobey Allah. I spent two and a half years without hijab and praying in secret because my family they didn't let me, so my advice: Be strong and do what Allah says, this is always the best for you.
Julius Allen: I would tell myself to be proud of who you are and take initiative
Julie: Where do I begin HAHA I would say... Have some respect for yourself you silly girl! You don't need boys and men to abuse your body to feel beautiful and loved. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing or saying and be yourself. Be happy in your own skin, when you have respect and love for yourself only then can real people will come into your life. To be honest though, I wonder who I would be now without these experiences? As much as I regret them and would love to go back in time and change them I don't know if I would be as grateful and content now if I hadn't have taken my previous path. Allahu Akbar, Allah knows best and has given me this path for a reason and for that I am eternally grateful!
QUESTION #3: SINCE ACCEPTING ISLAM, WHAT IS ONE ISLAMIC PRACTICE THAT HAS BEEN EASY TO ADOPT? WHICH ISLAMIC PRACTICE HAS BEEN A STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN?
Amina Panama: The easiest practice was learning about Islam and continuously reading Qur'an. The hardest is the Hijab.
Julius Allen: The do's and don'ts of Islam was an easy transition, regarding pork and alcohol for example because I rarely drank prior to reverting and stopped all pork consumption in 2007. The biggest struggle was Dawah and how to properly engage in it.
Julie: For me being a good, generous and caring person has come easily as I always felt this way but lacked a true avenue to express myself. Also, since I have truly become this person I have now been surrounded by like-minded people (Muslim, Christian and Non-religious) which is reassuring further making this a practice easy to continue. One of the hardest things for me is all 5 prayers. With my 2 young children and my husband overseas I sometimes get too busy around the house or too tired to get up for Fajr. This and wearing hijab are my main focuses and inshallah will soon be perfected.
QUESTION #4: IS THERE ANY THING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US? ANY STORY OR EXPERIENCE RELATED TO YOUR LIFE AS A CONVERT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE US TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Amina Panama: The first time that I went to the mosque they didn't accept me and said to me I'm so young to be Muslim and I would give them problems with the police and that news stations would come there ask why they brainwashed such a young lady. So I decided to talk with people on the internet and met lots of sisters from around the world. I took my Shahada in my room with my laptop and with all my heart. Nobody knows when we will die so don't waste time and start living as a Muslim. Allah will do the rest. Inshallah
Julius Allen: No
Julie: The one noticeable difference for me since being a Muslim is the lightness in my heart. Before I always felt heavy in the heart, by my sins and the big hole. But Alhamdulillah this has all been removed and I can now say that I am truly happy with me, my family, my life and my afterlife. Allahu Akbar!!
JazakAllah Khairun to those who responded. May Allah continue to guide you onto the sirat-ul-mustaqin, may He continue to provide you with hidayah.
Welcome to our "Convert/Revert" section. This section of Striving For Clarity is dedicated to articles and stories geared towards those who chose to enter Islam later in life. If you would like to contribute to this section, visit our Guest Contributor page.