Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu. First I’d like to let you know that I am by no means a scholar. I am a revert who, just like many of you, is learning new things every day. I pray that Allah keeps my words and intentions pure and that He blesses them so they can help someone else.
I am an American revert. I was called by Allah since childhood, but didn’t learn about Islam until after 9/11. I received my first Qur’an, which was in Arabic with English transliteration, in 2002. I had grown up Christian but always felt there was “more to it all”. Things I learned in church just didn’t make sense to me. I never found the peace that everyone always proclaimed to receive after accepting Jesus (Isa), peace and blessings be upon him, into my heart. So as a child, I remember raising my hand in church when asked who accepted Christ, peace and blessings be upon him, into their hearts every week because I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, and that was why I didn’t feel this so called “peace” in my heart.
I always had this emptiness inside me. I remember crying and crying to the neighbors’ horse about all my woes and issues. How no one really loved me. I felt like an alien and knew deep down there must have been something wrong with me because I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t “popular”, in fact I got teased a lot in school. I am overly sensitive and this didn’t seem to help me much. My poor mom was always worrying why I was crying this day or that.
As a teenager I knew “right from wrong” but I still had this feeling of emptiness. So I turned to others to try to fill that void. Rebellion, ignorance, confusion and a longing for “real love” is a dangerous combination for a young teenage girl. My mom had told me that “sex is something you do with someone you love”. She meant of course in marriage, as that is all she had known in her generation, but not a good thing to say to someone looking for love and believing that others tell you the truth just because you’re truthful. Teenage girls tend to “fall in love” at a drop of the hat, and I ended up pregnant at the age of 16.
My parents of course were upset, my mom embarrassed and hurt, feeling she had failed me somehow. But in reality I had failed myself. And it didn’t stop there. I kept looking for love in “all the wrong places” and ended up getting hurt, hurting myself, hurting my family, my children and my faith. I’d try so hard to be a “good Christian” but would fail and then fall into the “I don’t deserve Gods love” way of thinking and I’d get good and lost again.
All this time I still had this longing; this feeling that there was more to God than what they taught in church. I loved God…truly. I wanted to be so good for Him but always seemed to fail. And many times my friends and family would make “light” of my mistakes and deep down that just made me feel even more worthless and unworthy of anything “good” or of Gods love.
I almost died after giving birth to my first daughter. I became very depressed after having her and a year later I was in a car accident that I “know” I should have died in. There are so many times I’ve thought, “I should have died just then”, but I didn’t. So I got it in my head that I didn’t die because even God didn’t want me. Alhamdulillah that I was wrong.
I won’t go into every sordid sin, but if it’s a sin, big or small, I think I’ve done them all. I also delved into other religions trying to find the solution to my emptiness. Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American beliefs and even Wicca (witchcraft) and ended back with Christianity, but still this aching void was always there.
During this time, I had moved many times. I decided the best thing for my 3 children, at the time, was to NOT have me in their life. I had done such a good job of ruining my own life, I worried I’d just ruin theirs as well. So I gave them to their dad and moved away. I ended up in one failed, haram relationship after another. This really made my self esteem which was already so low, go even lower. If no one wanted me in their life for long, how could God want me? This went on for a few years with me moving over 12 times across the country and then back.
I ended up at the age of 30 doing the SAME STUPID thing as I did when I was 16 and found myself a single mother again with my fourth child. I moved back home and did okay for quite a while. Still had bad relationships and didn’t live a “good life”. I’d try and succeed for a few months, maybe even a year, and then I’d literally LEAP from the wagon and fail miserably again. It was during my pregnancy that 9/11 occurred, and I remember that morning thinking “how can I bring a child into a world that’s so ugly?” I almost got an abortion and thanks to Allah, He guided me. Looking back, even at my worst, I always find that He’s guided me and pulled me from the pit that I’d inevitably fall into.
After 9/11, something changed in me. When I’d hear anyone talk negatively about Muslims, I’d get this burning in the pit of my stomach. I HATED it, especially when some of the most hateful and evil things I’d hear would come out of the mouths of Christians. Keep in mind, I didn’t know any Muslims, didn’t know anything more than bits of rumors; they were people in the “Middle East”, wherever that was, and they worshiped someone called Mohammed, peace be upon him. But despite this fact, I’d get in fights with co-workers, friends and family about their mistreatment and condemnation of Muslims. I knew I didn’t know anything, so how can I criticize something I knew nothing about. I remembered a friend of mine I had known 12 years earlier was Muslim because I had remembered his dog tags said that his religion was Islam. So thanks to the internet I tracked him down and asked him about Islam. He gave me my first Qur’an that I still have, Alhamdulillah, and I remember in the middle of reading the second Ayat a light bulb went off in my head and I just KNEW! THIS was what I had been looking for and that THIS was the truth. It wasn’t even close to what I had heard about. There were no verses stating “kill all the Americans”. In fact it was much like my Bible. I KNEW these stories. I had gone to a Christian school as a child and memorized many books of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. I felt like I had come “home”. It took many years from the first time I started reading that Qur’an until now to really “get” Islam. And Alhamdulillah, I’m still learning.
I have struggled since reverting in learning to forgive myself for my past. I see how my life choices have affected my children, how they live and their well being today. I pray for forgiveness from these things all the time. One of my daughters has not spoken to me in over 4 years. I understand why she’s upset, she feels abandoned, and that I have “turned my back on God”. Because my family doesn’t understand Islam, and only know what they hear via media sources and chain emails, they are not very receptive to my reversion. My father no longer speaks to me either as he feels I’ve turned my back on my “family religion”, although he hardly went to church and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a prayer out loud. May Allah forgive us all, inshaAllah. I love my family and keep the lines of communication open, even though I now live in Egypt.
I have met many people who were “Muslim” but weren’t practicing. And because I didn’t understand my new found religion, I didn’t know how to find reliable information on the internet (if you asked one question you’d end up with at least 10 different answers that mostly contradicted each other) or what was truly “right or wrong”, so I was easily misled. But in all this, I felt pulled to go to Egypt. I got swayed away by distractions that actually lead me farther away from the right path, because even though I believed in Islam, I still thought of religion the way I always had as a Christian…. Sin, pray for forgiveness, sin again, go to church, ask for forgiveness and so on and so forth. God was a one day a week thing, my life was the other six days.
So one day I just decided to listen to Allah. I had asked Him to give me signs that this was what He wanted and He did. Alhamdulillah. When people asked why? I told them what I knew. “I don’t know. I just know Allah wants me there, so I’m going”. I knew deep down I would “lose” my family, especially my youngest daughter. She had become my universe in the 9 years since I had her. In a way you could say I “worshiped her” and it was not good. But I cheated and took her with me to Egypt. Again I got distracted, and I married an Egyptian. I believed him to be a good Muslim as he was so knowledgeable of Islam. Shortly after we married, the Revolution occurred. We started having problems about this time, and I blamed them on the stress of the country. He would urge me to send my daughter home, and his family didn’t much like her. I started fearing for her safety but knew I needed to stay in Egypt as this was where Allah had told me to go. So four months later, she flew home to be with my parents of her own free will. She never liked Egypt and truthfully, based on what she saw, she hated it. Time passed and I saw more and more that my husband was not happy with me. I once again blamed myself. I got eBooks on how to be a good Muslim wife, I tried to learn Arabic. I did everything I knew to make him happy and it actually seemed to make things worse. After flying home a year later when my oldest daughter had her first baby 4 months premature, I came back to find that I didn’t feel “at home” in his family home. I found things on his computer that he had downloaded while I was gone, which was only 3 weeks, that were very haram and hurt me deeply. We ended up fighting and he beat me when I confronted him about this. We ended up divorcing and again Allah had watched out for me. He had put people in my path on Facebook in Egypt, when I was visiting the States. The whole year and a half in Egypt, I had NO CLUE there were others like me here. I’d lived out of Cairo and I never saw any other foreigners there. I was able to get the help of these sisters, so I could leave my husband, get a job and support myself. The divorce became very ugly and I found that he had really only wanted to marry me for a visa and when he realized I had no intention of going back to the States that’s when the facade ended.
Part two of this story will be posted in a few weeks inshaAllah.
This article was written by an SFC Guest Contributor.
Salsabil is a revert from California, US. She started her journey to Islam in 2002 and has been a revert since then, but a "newbie" without much knowledge except her Qur'an. She moved to Egypt in October of 2010 and it is now her permanent home, insha Allah. She is married to an Egyptian who is her best friend, mentor, and life support system. Alhamdulillah. She has always loved writing and has published articles relating to Egypt to share with the world all the misconceptions, we in the US, have of the "Middle East" and Muslims. She looks forward to sharing her thoughts, ideas and lessons learned to help others that may be struggling as she has, and to save others from making the same mistakes, inshaAllah.
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.