Assalamu Aleykum my brothers and sisters in Islam,
I've been Muslim just a few months and I've had many questions and even doubts, but at the same time I sit and listen to my heart when I talk to Allah and ask him to continue to guide me in my deen. Alhamdulellah I am still here working hard to strenghten my faith and perfect my deen.
I was lost in darkness. I was born and raised fully Christian (Catholic). From the time I could make the sign of the cross with my hand I was praying, very very young. I read the bible in Spanish by the age of 7 or 8 and later in English. My grandmother was my mentor, my counselor, my best friend my teacher in life and religion above all she was more than my mother. She was a devout Catholic till her last day. I don't regret at all being born and rasied Christian, I am one blessed person to have had a person such as my grandmother teach me the word of God who also taught me the life of Jesus (pbuh) to use as a guide in my life. I learned about piety, modesty, forgiveness, compassion, and all the wonderful traits of our beloved Jesus (pbuh). I guess the only thing I had questions and problems with was the "man-made" portion of the religion... confession, confirmation, first communion and such...I didn't take too well to the veneration of saints, although I think Mary deserves to be honored as the mother of our great prophet Jesus (pbuh).
As I got older, past being an adult, I would ask my grandmother why do we do this and that in our religion? Where is it in our bible? Why do we have to talk to a priest about our sins in order to get God's forgiveness??? She would always encourage me to pray every day, at morning and at night at least, if not more and she would tell me to continue to read the bible and to go to mass. But when I would push her to answer my questions, she would tell me, "Look, we are no one to question God's religion, we just have to do it and that's that. Just do it with the intention of pleasing God and he will bless you always." Part of me was saying ok... my grandmother has done it all her life and she is a complete person, full of love, life, peace and faith and she is always finding ways to teach us all to be better "Christians." But then the other part kept poking at me... no... this or that doesn't make sense... why can't I get answers... just clear answers. Still I kept with my religion and continued to pray.
As my life got harder and harder I seemed to forget about my faith more and more. I became a very bitter woman at the early age of 20 with two sons and starting a divorce. Life turned completely upside down for me. I suddenly found myself in the real world having to work to support myself and my kids. My ex husband totally disconnected himself from his sons so it was all up to me. I struggled for at least 4 years... I would pray yes, but not regularly and my actions were not of a person who was raised as a Catholic and certaily not by my sweet grandmother. But still, I pushed forward and kept going.
Soon I was living the married life again "minus the certificate" and had two more children. In the span of 12 years, I lived a lot of bitter moments. I did have good moments, I won't lie, but overall my life was pretty bad. Before my third son was born, I realized his father was not the man I needed to be with. I was lacking a spiritual connection with him and he did not see religion as important. I tried to come back to my faith and practice it. I baptized all my children. Went to church, now and then and prayed often. I had three children now, it was time I got serious about my relationship with God. Well I stuck it through with my live-in boyfriend and decided to keep trying. Soon after I had my daughter. I felt from the moment she was born, I was born again and needed to show my appreciation to God for giving me this little angel at this moment in my life when I felt so empty. I loved my boys terribly, but my daughter was like a direct extention of myself and i wanted her to be so much more than I have been. I wanted my boys to see her grow up to be a great woman with goals, dreams and above all strong faith in God. So I started to get more into my religion... pray more, but didn't go to church as often as I was expected to. I wanted to strenghten my relationship with God above all. It seemed to work for a while... but somehow got lost again.
The rebirth of my relationship with God came after 9/11. Four years ago today... as I sat in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours at a time. I couldn't stop watching and I couldn't stop crying and I couldn't stop praying. I asked God to give those that survived this event the strenght to continue, to seek Him and to show the world that nothing in this world could break that bond with Him, not even this horrendous act. I asked God to make this event one that would make the world WAKE UP!! For the world to know that without God we are nothing. Regardless of the reasons why this happened, the most beautiful thing to see on TV was people running around helping one another and comforting one another. Praying together and holding candlelight vigils. The most moving moments were seeing all the religions of the world being represented at the most important events to honor those that died trying to help others and those that died while they were just doing their work in their offices. My heart beat uncontrollably when I saw Muslims, Jews, Chrisitians and other religious people stand together in prayer, asking God to protect us all and to make us strong in light of all of this tragedy.
So this event took me on a mission. I wanted to learn more about Islam and why it's name was all over the news when the subject was terrorism. I started to buy books and read and investigate... my live-in boyfriend would look at me like, "Is she losing her mind because of all the TV she's been watching?" He eventually just told me, "Hey, you're getting out of control, stop reading about that stuff and pay attention to your kids and yourself."
He was right, so I did what he said. But in the back of my mind I was still wondering and every chance I got I would read or I would pay attention to any documentaries. But my life was way tooooo busy for me to be able to digest everything.
Eventually I seemed to have more time. During the past 2 years I've been reading about Islam and made friends on the net who taught me directly about the religion and it's practices. I became more and more intrigued by it all and couldn't get enough of it. I bought books again and began to read and ask questions. I wasn't ever satisfied with the simple answers I was given, but I continued my endeavor to learn more.
Anyway, 2 years later we moved to a city far from where we were. I had to commute more and eventually our relationship suffered the consequences. We separated, peacefully. The kids, house, car and bills stayed with me. So my life was more busier than ever. Eventually, I fell apart. I lost it... needed medication to function well enough to work, commute and raise my 4 kids.
In December of 2003 I lost my grandmother, my greatest treasure and in August I lost my grandfather, whom I didn't have much contact with, but I adored. So around that time I had about 3 meltdowns and cried endlessly for days. Stayed in bed for days, surprised I didn't lose my job. The bills were not getting paid and I was at risk of losing my home... I was physically and mentally exhausted and my spirit was at its lowest ever. I was like in a coma... I didn't want to eat, talk or do anything with my kids. They fed themselves, basically raised themselves during this time. I was dead inside... I was empty and I was ready to give up. I swear I even contemplated suicide, something so terrible for me being raised a Catholic. I had made a promise to God to always do my best if he would bless me with children and would never think for a moment to leave this world by my own hand (suicide). I thought at that time, while I was very young and naive, that it was a good way to ask God for anything... now I know it was not, but either way, I kept my promise. Then that moment came... the kids were with their dad and I was home alone... crying again... my soul was pouring out and I felt my spirit flatline... that was it... I was done and I felt I didn't even have the strenght to ask God to help me. I laid on the floor crying my last tears and fell asleep... the next day I was a zombie... again didn't eat, didn't talk, didn't answer the phone or the door... I sat here at my computer and read the Quran online... after about 4 hours or so of reading, I had the urge to ask God to help me. So I got down on my knees and asked God to please give me the strength to pick myself up for the sake of my kids at least. I needed Him more than ever and I needed to feel alive again. I asked for Him to forgive me for straying and for not being a good person in the last years... for forgetting my religion and my faith. I was at my darkest moment and I felt I had not hope.
I prostrated and prayed to God... I remained this way for a long time and closed my eyes and just said... "God, if Islam is my salvation, increase my knowledge and strenghten my faith. Make me see the truth in it all and help me to accept it if it is what I must do. I was raised by my grandmother, a wonderful woman with the strongest faith I have ever know. I want to be like her and better if I can. I want to honor you always as she did and give knowledge of Islam to my children, grandchildren and great grand children as she did with me, my siblings and cousins. I want to be a humble servant of yours as she was and I want ensure that I come home to you when I leave this world. Amen"
The next day I got online to check on my friends and that day I met a wonderful person who said hello to me and I didn't pay attention, but he left my window open by chance and before I logged off I said hello to him and goodnight, but he answered and said hello again. We had a simple but very nice conversation... I felt at peace talking to him. Didn't feel he was a weirdo trying to sweet talk me.
After a few weeks of talking to him, I knew more about Islam than I had even read. I knew through him firsthand the beauty of being a Muslim. Ramadan had begun and he taught me about the fasting and how the people all fasted together and how everyone helped one another to fast and later to break fast at the right time... sharing meals and conversations... prayers at everyone's homes or at the mosque... I learned about the most important night of Ramadan and the Eid, about Hajj and Umrah. I got so much insight of Islam through him. I can honestly say, he is a great example of a good Muslim. He shared everything and anything about Islam... he never strayed from the subject as others did at times... bored with that type of conversation and my constant questions.
It was during those days that I was almost 100% ready to take my shahada... I felt at ease and at peace in Islam and it felt so right... My spirit was growing once again... I was smiling, I was loving, I was living and I was happier than ever... I stopped medication... didn't have anymore depressed days... didn't cry anymore.
My good online friend was always there for me and made me a better and stronger person through Islam. Alhamdulellah for him!! I know for sure this was Allah's way of answering my prayer from that night. I now knew Islam was for me and I was going to live my life as a Muslim always striving to please Allah and make my life complete.
I call my good online friend "my light". He was like an Angel who guided me back to the light of Allah... I truly feel if I had not found him, I would have eventually either lost complete control of my life, or would have taken my life.
In December of last year, I traveled to Egypt, to meet my good online friend and his family and friends. From the moment I stepped foot on that land, I felt at home and when I finally met him, I felt my life had made a complete circle. One week later... we were married. That day we went to the mosque... it was my very first time in a mosque. I sat in the middle of the courtyard and looked up to the sky and said, "Alhamdulellah, I am home now! Thank you Allah, for giving me another chance and for giving me this much happiness, Thank YOU ALLAH!"
I came back to the U.S. 2 weeks later and continued to read the Quran and learn more about Islam... a few weeks later I took my shahada and I can only say... I'm home, this is where I belong. Alhamdulellah!!!
That is my story!
May Allah Bless you always and keep increasing your faith, Insha'Allah!