I left Wisconsin, my birthplace, in the summer of 2001, being at the time the age of 19, with the intention of searching for spiritual meaning in my life.
I set out alone, finding no companion to cheer the way with friendly intercourse, and no party of travellers with whom to associate myself. Swayed by an overmastering impulse within me, and a long-cherished desire to visit those glorious sanctuaries, I resolved to quit all my friends and tear myself away from my home…
…ok, ok, so I didn’t actually leave Wisconsin, but I did log onto the world wide web and began the online spiritual journey that I still find myself on today. Also, I didn’t actually dump all my friends. In fact, I found quite a few new ones along the way (one of whom I eventually married, but that’s a whole nother story that I probably won’t tell. He’s not a big fan of his personal life splashed all around the internets).
Anyways, back to my narrative:
Despite what some may claim (that a christian who converts to islam never really knew Jesus, was never really a christian), I was a strong christian during my teenage years. In my family, God was only for Sunday, and more specifically, only for church. I wanted to be more involved, to participate in the extra activities outside of Sunday school, but that was too much for my parents. Despite the fact that my father was at one time the vice president of our congregation, we only prayed before a meal at Thanksgiving, and never did anything God oriented as a family.
I wanted more. I could feel God calling me towards Him. I joined church committees and threw myself headlong into confirmation classes. For a period of time, I even contemplated going to seminary. Coming from a mainline protestant church, we did not have “born again” experiences, but my confirmation was just that – a conscious choice, confirming of my commitment to Christ and his church.
In August 2000, I found myself at a Lutheran University, enrolled in the honors college. Little did good lutheran parents know, but the curriculum taught to smart little freshmen often had a very negative impact on their faith. I wasn’t the only one who began to question and reconsider their beliefs. Throughout the school year, my faith gradually weakened to the point of near shatterable fragility.
In the midst of this all,I signed up to by a counselor at a youth camp I had frequented as a child…a christian youth camp. Freshman year ended, and off I went, faith dangling by a thread. Lots happened, and the little faith I had left in Christianity and the Bible shattered. I still felt a longing for the Divine, and began my restless search. At the local new age bookstore and from half.com, I picked up a number of religious texts, including a copy of the Qur’an.
I returned to the lutheran university for my sophomore year and threw myself headlong into the world of online religious content. I explored buddhism, universalism, christianity in it’s myriad of forms, the baha’i faith, wicca, assorted brands of paganism, you name it, I probably read about it. I signed onto ICQ and yahoo chatrooms, and met people of a wide variety of faiths. I began to take more courses on religion, and would eventually become a religious studies major.
Along this journey, I found myself sticking more and more to one particular branch in the road – Islam. In my heart, I knew that there was the Divine, a singularity who was meant to be worshipped. I longed for direction from this Divinity on how best to know Him. In the church of my youth, we had hymns, bible readings, sermons, and prayers. But how did we know that this is what God asked of us?
In Islam, we have a single Divine Being, known to us by 99 names. He sent us His word in the Qur’an, and gave us the best example to follow in His Prophet Muhammad (saws). Worship in Islam is directly from God. Allah (swt) gave the Prophet (saws) the directive of salat Himself. Remembrance of God should constantly be on our tongues and in our hearts, every second of every day.
When I listened to the Qur’an being recited, my heart was strangely moved. It tugged at my heart strings and brought tears to my eyes. These were the words of God, and I was hearing them as they had been heard for 1400 years. This was beauty. This was faith. This was how we were suppose to know God.
At a certain point in my study of Islam, and in my conversations with muslims, I knew in my heart that I believed La ilaha il Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah, that there is nothing worthy of worship except God, and that Muhammad is His final messenger. There wasn’t a single aha moment where everything crystallized and I knew I was muslim. It was more of a gradual realization and understanding that Allah (swt) had opened my heart to His call and to the religion of Islam.
People will often ask converts “why?” There is no simple answer to that. I normally laugh, stutter a bit and say that it’s the concept of revelation and that it would take a year and a day to actually explain it all.
Unlike many converts (at least judging by their conversion narratives), I never had a problem with christian doctrine. I didn’t have a hard time accepting the trinity – divine mystery? Not a problem. Jesus as son of God AND God at the same time? Okie dokie. My pastor (whom I’m still on friendly terms with) described it best – even with all you learn and know, at a certain point, you have to take a leap of faith. The learning builds you up, but you eventually reach a gap where you just have to jump and trust God. My problem was that the more I learned, the further away from that gap I got. At a certain point, no amount of leaping and jumping would take me to absolute faith anymore.
Although the bible is an important text to christians, it isn’t the Word of God, preserved for all time. Rather, it’s the Godly inspiration of dozens of authors that were later collected by hundreds more Godly inspired men for canonization.
Islam, on the other hand, has a book that IS revelation. The Qur’an is THE WORD of God, no ifs, ands or buts. It was revealed to a man who immediately passed it on to his followers, who memorized and preserved it.
And just as we learn from teachers who present to us texts and knowledge, Allah (swt) provided us with a teacher and example in the person of the Prophet Muhammad (saws). The more I read about the life of this man, the more I love him and feel drawn to his teachings.
But even beyond all of that, why does a girl from small town midwest america, daughter of a democrat mother and a republican father, a proud self declared liberal and tree hugger, embrace a religion that seems so foreign? In the words of the Lord:
Verily, you guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided 28:56
In the end, it is not through my own actions that I came to Islam. Rather, it is because I was guided by my Creator towards tawheed, the absolute monotheism that is fitra.
One of the reasons I’ve never submitted my conversion narrative to any of the miriad of websites out there is that I feel that my narrative is an ongoing and developing story that changes as I mature and progress in my faith. Please do not copy and paste this anywhere else without my express permission. You may link back to this page, so that any changes I make will be reflected everywhere.
In the dunya, I’m a Star Wars fanatic who has nearly ever star wars novel ever written. I am also a crazy cat lady who is very much in love with my squishy, fuzzy and talkative feline, Squeaky the Cat. Although I used to fancy myself a runner, I’m more of a chronic on again, off again exerciser who has an immense love for the natural food movement. I figure, if I gotta cook, I might as well enjoy it.
and my blog
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
In the traditional sense of the word, a rihla is sacred travel in order to gain knowledge. Throughout Islamic history, students and adventurers traveled to the ends of the earth in order to gain knowledge and improve their deen.
On occasion, these travelers left behind journals detailing their adventures. Perhaps the most famous of these chroniclers was Ibn Battuta. His journals available today, online and in print. His Rihla was required reading for my Islamic History class at Madison, and I still have it on my bookshelf today.
Today, people still take these sacred journeys, but now, we have more options. Students of knowledge still travel to sit at the feet of scholars, but rihlas now are also made on television and documented online.
My intention is to one day make a real, physical rihla, inshaAllah. Sheikh Hamza Yusufof the Zaytuna Institute and many other fabulous teachers have been leading a rihla of mainly american seekers of knowledge to the City of the Beloved, Medina, for a few years now. inshaAllah ta’ala, I hope to join them someday.
For now, however, my rihla will be made from my computer. I hope that this blog will serve as my journal of my journey through the online ummah. SubhanAllah, there are a ton of fantastic resources out there for muslims. I spend plenty of time surfing the web as it is, so why not create something beneficial from it, inshaAllah.