Many people are very interested in hearing about the conversion stories of Muslim converts, including other converts. Why are stories important? Are stories important because they allow us to relate to another person? Are they important because they allow us to look deeper within another person’s life? Well, I think these are questions that only us can ask individually. However, I am not the type of person to say that I have a story of conversion that is set in stone. As one of my friends told me, “Our conversion stories never end. As long as we live and we grow we will have an ever-evolving story to tell”. And I thought to myself, “she is right”. So, why do we listen to conversion stories and think they are somehow finished after the person tells us about them? What do we seek to gain from them if you don’t know that person’s ending in life? Will the conversion story even matter if that person didn’t die upon submission? These are all questions that I continue to ask myself as people ask me about my own conversion story. Somehow we are very much looking at someone’s beginning and leaving their middle and their end. We only hear about someone’s beginning and not necessarily about the other parts that are constantly being formed and reformed by experiences and new found knowledge.
My conversion to Islam came about six years ago in high-school. I was young and wishful in thinking. I was going through a bad patch in my life. I was naiive. I was molded by my friends and parents. I was very much dependent upon others in the way I thought until I chose to convert to Islam. I had to break that mold of being as others would expect me to be and to become independent in every way possible. This step I took in converting to Islam came with its consequences- good and bad. Of course, I had to deal with friends and family members being opposed to this decision, but I got through it like the next convert. I had to understand that anything new to people can be scary and confusing, especially when there is a lack of knowledge about a thing. In school I learned about Islam in the most simplistic of ways. I knew about the five-pillars and how Islam was a way of life versus just a religion. I had Muslim friends, but they never really spoke to me about Islam. Many of my friends wore hijab and I respected it even though I didn’t know why they wore it. They held a close bond between each other that I didn’t see between other groups of girls our age. I was only 15 or 16 years old, so I was still developing as an individual at that point. And at that point in my life, I saw many things happening to myself, friends, family-members and others. I saw this repetitive cycle of emptiness. Everything was very much superficial. People would race to collect wealth, to accumulate material items and to stand before each other as status-symbols. I was one of them. I was seeking to obtain everything that my society wanted me to obtain even though I had no means in doing so. I was seeking happiness in temporary things. And I knew these things were temporary, but like most people…I didn’t really care. The world that I chose to be in was one that exposed me to materialism. I was forced to choose between living this way or another way that had added meaning. For many days, I was fighting this feeling of conversion since I knew it would be a major change in my life. I ended up converting to Islam after fighting back and forth about the consequences to my action. However, I knew I really didn’t have a choice and just made the leap of faith. Maybe that’s inappropriate since Islam never tells an individual to just believe blindly. Upon converting to Islam, I immediately began covering. I went through different phases of covering due to my own struggle in deciding in how I wanted to present myself as a Muslim and as a woman. I started with a hijab wrapped in a bun, then with the traditional hijab that covered everything except for my face and hands than the face-veil. Over time, I found myself wearing the hijab and the niqab. I guess I was trying to figure out which one I wanted to do in the long-run. I tried niqab for a few months, but ended up staying with hijab. So, this outward sign of faith was one of the many things that signalled something to my parents that I became Muslim. After some time, I told my parents about my choice. Of course, this became the start to the next few years of living a rocky life. My father would always sit with me and listen to lectures about Islam. He found them enlightening since it spoke about a way of life different from his own. He had questions and would vocalize his concerns. We would talk and work through them as I was new myself and had unanswered questions. However, my mother was totally against this idea of having a Muslim daughter. This only meant I was apart of this cult that oppressed women by the men. We had a strained relationship for a long time upon my conversion, but we eventually strengthend our bond by having talks. Over time she saw I was still the same daughter she had before but better. Alot of bad habits that I had would soon leave me as my character changed. My extended family was suprised that I had chosen this religion over Christianity. They couldn’t understand why I had chosen this “foreign” religion which hails from a “foreign land” when in reality the Abrahamic religions first started to spread in the East. I would soon distant myself from family-events and from anyone that led a lifestyle that would take me back to the old ways of before. I started to learn about Islam on my own originally until I saw the various roadblocks in my way of truly gaining some sort of understanding. I became confused and found many books written from a slanted perspective with an agenda. So, I started taking online classes on a regular basis on Tawheed (oneness of Allah) and Ahadith( narrations on the prophet Muhammad), so in turn I began growing in faith and understanding. Along the way, I found myself liking and even loving Islam because it presented to me a way of life. I found myself attending the mosque, going to other women’s homes, attending Islamic events and reading various rulings on different issues. I immersed myself in the Muslim community and in Islam. I soaked up everything.
However, It’s been a few years now and I have found myself developing in various ways. However, I have found different ways in looking and practicing Islam. I believe I practiced Islam in a very fanatical way at the beginning of my early-years due to how I thought Islam should be lived out. I was around many people and saw Islam lived out in different ways, so I have found myself sorting through many things in the religion. Alot of things are clear now to me. In many ways, I find Islam as being extremely liberating because it exposes you to thinking independently. Islam is philosophical, scientific, vast, logical, and etc. There’s so many different facets to this way of life. Islam doesn’t tell us to leave who we are unless who we are can become better by Islam. Allah says in the Qur’an that he has made different tribes and people so that they may know one another not despise each other. So, when I think about this I am very much humbled. I find myself wanting to learn and understand people more. On top of that, I’m learning how to take what I know of Islam and apply it. Not only apply it, but make meaning of it because I see many people that do things, but not really do them with meaning. And many of my friends are very supportive of living Islam in a way that has purpose and meaning. It’s not legalistic. It’s not fanatical. It’s meaningful. The one thing I had to drag myself from is practicing Islam in a very legalistic and fanatical way. I didn’t think there was space for flexibility. However, as I learn and really reflect on Islam there is plenty of room to be human. You just have to gain knowledge and be around people that understand that Islam is about being a mercy instead of a burden. We sometimes create burdens for ourselves, but isn’t that just being human? Maybe. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would never do anything hard if there was an easier option. Of course, he would stay clear of sinning. So, this whole notion of doing what is harder isn’t really Islamic. It’s the antithesis. So, I’m at a place in which I am living Islam in the best way I know how. I’m not perfect, but I am better than I was a few years ago. I have found peace in this way of life. I have found joy in it too. In many ways, Islam have saved me from myself because the human-being is weak. We all are weak and we are all in need of direction which Islam has provided for people. In addition, I have found myself becoming more merciful because I understand that mercy is a character trait that one should have especially if one is expecting mercy from Allah. Futhermore, Islam is very much realistic. It’s practical, but only if you’re really to understand that. Some people are very much focused on the legalistic aspects of Islam when Islam is a full way of life.
In developing as a Muslim, I am constantly faced with re-evaluating myself in all matters of life. I look at my ibaadah(worship), my khuluq( character), my relationships, my personal life, and etc. As a Muslim, you really are forced to do this form of deep and self-reflection because Islam calls you to ihsan(excellence). As a Muslim, you should strive to be good and to do things in excellence. You should be an example. You should be that guiding light. However, this doesn’t mean you should strive to be an angel because we weren’t created to be angels. We were created to be human-beings and this is the one thing that I am understanding. Allah is most forgiving and He is constantly there. So, we shouldn’t feel hopeless or feel like He isn’t listening to us. He is forever there. I find this very beautiful and reassuring especially when dealing with issues in life. Many people that knows me will say I am always asking philosophical questions. Maybe I am like this because of Islam? Possibly. I just think that once you look at Islam deeply you have to ask those big questions. You have to ask yourself about the world around you. It’s not good enough to just say I am me and I only worry about me. No, not really. And in my conversion to Islam, I am constantly having to figure out how I can become a better me while trying to make the world around me better. I know I don’t have all the answers, but who do? No person has all the answers because all knowledge is with Allah. We are just blessed to get whatever Allah bestows upon us, alhumdulilah.
So, my conversion story isn’t done. It’s still a work in progress. It’s never going to be the same. The way I tell it and the things that are apart of it will forever evolve. Sure, the start of my story may be the same but the middle and the end may not since there’s not a set ending until my death. So, of course I can’t necessarily write my ending. It almost seems comical to think that a conversion story is ever done. Why do we ask for conversion storys anyways? What do we want to hear? Do we want to hear the happy part about someone coming to Islam? This was already decreed by Allah before we were born. However, these conversion stories always end at the point in which an individual converts. There’s never that middle and end? There’s never any real conclusion. It’s like an unfinished story. It’s forever being formed and reformed. Is it fair to even have a conversion story to tell if you’re constantly adding more parts to it? Maybe it is because we, as people, are constantly changing. Maybe not everyone though. However, many of us are evolving…for the better. So, this is not your typical conversion story. This is a story about some parts of my conversion, but not all of it. So, maybe you can find something to take away from all that I have said. Maybe not. Everyone’s take on a conversion story is different, but just know that a story of conversion is never finished nor set in stone.
So, to end this post I wanted to share a poem that I can truly relate to in many ways. In many ways, we know many things from experience and form others. And in our experiences, we come to realize that we are more alike than different. We are apart of a bigger community and that is the human-community. And Islam should be something that we use in making ourselves and the world a better place and a better place of understanding. Aja Monet, a poet, really got me in this piece of poetry. I think this poem just tells us how we are just very much unfinished individuals. We are never a finished piece of work until we die. And even then, are we complete?