…learned about Islam before I met muslims. It’s a phrase that has become popular among some converts in recent years, and this weekend, it was more evident to me than it has been in a long long time. I just celebrated another year as a muslim last week, and sometimes, it seems like nothing has changed.
When I began to investigate Islam, I ordered a Quran from half.com. I picked another up from the local new age store in my town. I got another free from the Saudi Embassy, and rescued two from the “books we wanted to sell back but the bookstore wouldn’t take them” box at the university bookstore. I was on a spiritual quest, and knowing some muslims on a social level at school led me to include islam in my search. I was picking up sacred texts from other religions as well, but there was something unexplainable in the Qur’an that kept leading me back to it, compelling me to aquire as many as I could find.
I branched out, checking out every book on Islam that the university library had to offer. Farid Esack’s On Being Muslim had a profound impact on me. I read through every article on the Modern Religion and Islam for Today.
Oh, I interacted with muslims too, mainly online. But the main push towards my embrace of Islam came not through my conversations with them, but instead came from my reading of the Qur’an. Here was what I had been looking for. I lost faith in Christianity after I studied the history of biblical composition my freshman year of college. I could no longer hold that collection of books as God inspired. They’d been messed with too much, disperate pieces taken and mashed together, books chosen by a council of men, rather than something given by the son of God.
In my search, I wanted a text that was revelation, something that was from God and that had been preserved. I found that in the Qur’an. Here God had revealed a text to a man who, I would later find, set an excellent example for man’s conduct with one another, with God and with the earth. That text was memorized and passed down, perfectly preserved until this very day. Alhamdulilah, thanks be to God, I had found my path!
After I converted, it was a few more months before I had an opportunity to interact with muslims in the real world. I transfered schools, and while at the summer orientation, I plucked up the courage to visit the islamic center near campus. I attempted to put a scarf on, akwardly, and walked through the front door. big. mistake. A big burly man with a bushy beard rushed towards me, arms waving, sisters through the back, sisters through the back!
I stumbled out the door, tears clouding my vision. I made my way around to the back, only to find the sisters door locked. I sat dejected next to the door until a woman came up and punched in the code – without saying a word to me. I entered after her, hastily prayed zuhr and got the heck out of dodge.
I’d like to say that this was an isolated incident and that my experiences with muslims from then on only helped to strengthen my iman and help me to learn the deen. Alas, it was not to be. Although I’ve had stints of activity in the muslim community, for the most part it’s just been me, my books and the internet. Oh, and the husband :)
This past Saturday, a local masjid had it’s grand opening, a whole day of lectures with 20 imams and sheikhs. The husband and I went about halfway through the day. I was reluctant to go, as I’d been to the masjid a few months earlier and wasn’t a fan of the sisters’ accomidations – a tiny room in the back, accessable only by going around the back and taking off your shoes in a garage. Despite my misgivings, I bucked up and went. MashaAllah, it was both a mistake and a blessing. Sisters were packed wall to wall, talking and yelling at each other across the room. I tried to make my way to be near a speaker, but it was hopeless. I couldn’t hear a word of the lecture. Some sisters were trying to quiet the others by hssst-ing at them. Eventually, I got so frustrated, I got up and shouted, sisters, please, please be quiet so we can hear! Didn’t work. I left, dejected once more.
I called the husband and told him I was going to sit in the car and wait until he was done eating so we could leave, which I did. Alhamduililah for my ipod and Sh. Hamza lectures. At least my time wouldn’t be a total waste. Just as I settle in, what to I see out my window? A small somali child, running bare foot up the middle of the road and almost getting run over by a car! I leapt out of the car and tried to call the child to me, but he ran right past. I hurried after him (not an easy thing to do in a skirt and clogs), and eventually coaxed him into my arms. Meanwhile, a guy at the laundrymat had seen the kid run by and had called the police. I knew the kid was from the mosque, so I sent several sisters who walked by to find his mother while we waited. 5 minutes pass…no one came. 10 minutes pass…no mom. 15 minutes…the policewoman arrives. I explain that I think I know where the child came from and she says that she’ll walk us over to the mosque to find the child’s mom.
So off we go, child drooling fruit juice all over my shirt, a non muslim man carrying his laundry and a police woman. As I enter the sister’s section, someone snatches the child from me and runs inside without a word. Umm, hello? Don’t you want to know why I have this child? No thank you? I ran in after the sister and told her that her brother (still no mom to be found) had almost been run over and that she needs to watch him more carefully. She looks at me blankly and slips away.
Now I turn to the brothers doing security outside the masjid and try to explain what had happened and that could they please watch for any children escaping outside? What did I get? Yelled at, that’s what. Dude, I know the sisters need to watch their kids, all I’m asking is that since you’re out here, please just watch for kids, since this one obviously slipped past you and almost became a road pancake.
At this point, I return to the car and call the husband. The tears begin to flow and he dashes out to find out what happened. Blubbering, I tell him the story, and he stalks back to the masjid. A few minutes later he’s back, with the imam of the masjid in tow. The imam apologizes for the guard’s rude behavior and begs me not to judge the masjid by this one incident. I try to smile and tell him that inshaAllah I’ll come to another event in the future.
But, deep inside, I know that it will be a long time before that happens. I don’t blame this masjid. It’s not their fault. It’s a general disease infecting our ummah. Thank God I found Islam before I found muslims. I can’t imagine if I was a non muslim and had gone to the mosque on Saturday to learn about Islam. I would have booked it out of there so fast and probably never looked back. I can’t imagine what the non muslim man who called the police when he saw the child running down the road must think about muslims and Islam. I know what some non muslims think when they see muslims rioting in the street, burning embassies and commiting acts of terrorism.
Alhamduililah I found the Messenger of Allah (swt) before I found those who claim to follow his Sunnah. Thank God I have the life of the beloved Meseenger (saws) to look to when I need a role model in my faith.
Thank God I found the Allah (swt) before I found those who claim to follow Him (swt). Who knows what I would be now if that had happened?