Coming to Islam was difficult for me. I had long sensed the truth in principles like Tawheed, the ‘Oneness’ of God, and in the veracity of the Holy Qur’an. Yet I was a product of my environment and therefore privileged, selfish, and self-absorbed. I thought only of the things I would lose when I converted: friends, love affairs, respect from colleagues, and of course reading a book in the dark corner of a bar while nursing a cold beer on a hot day. These things were part of what I based my identity on, so I felt I would be losing myself if and when I became Muslim.
Somewhere inside this bundle of self-absorption focusing on loss was the very real fear that even when I did declare myself a Muslim, I would never live up to others’ expectations. After all, the group of Muslim friends I was blessed with seemed to shoulder their responsibilities with no effort at all. I felt I could never project the dignity and self-assurance they did when going into a masjid. Most of all, I felt like I couldn’t live up to what Allah subhanahu wa ta`la (exalted is He) expected of me.
Though Islam teaches us that the deen (lifstyle) is the perfect balance between asceticism and sensory overload, I knew that praying five times every day and fasting during the month of Ramadan would be unbelievably challenging. If I were so sure about Islam being the truth, then any hesitation I had in jumping in headfirst, would prove my lack of dedication and love for Allah (swt) and his Messenger ﷺ , peace be upon him. I mispronounced an important part of my prayers for almost a year, and when I discovered my mistake I was inconsolable. If I cared so much, if I were really a Muslim, then why couldn’t I do everything perfectly or at least put in the effort to not make such a silly and awful mistake?
When I finally did take my shahadah (declaration of Muslim faith) and began to share this with friends and family, the response from some loved ones was harsh and alienating. I felt myself slipping into despair. How could I ever balance my obligations and not lose everything as a result? My identity was in turmoil.
The turning point was when I stood in front of an Israeli soldier holding my passport. I had travelled hours with my friend through the West Bank in order to visit the Holy Sanctuary in Jerusalem and pray at Al-Aqsa. As Jerusalem is under military occupation, there are several checkpoints to enter the area. It was a long and sweltering journey, but I had little reason to complain – my Palestinian friends who lived in Nablus and Ramallah hadn’t been allowed to visit Jerusalem in years, and I felt guilty that I had the privilege just because of my nationality. Yet things were not going to be so easy after all! Here I was with my friend Urmy – who I had just met the day before- stuck at the last checkpoint within sight of a flashing gold dome. The soldier looked at the passport and then at my face with amused skepticism. “You are Muslim?” he asked.
“Alhamduillah, yes.” I answered.
“Was your father a Muslim?”
I answered in the negative. He laughed, tossed my passport back at me, and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. I had been to Palestine before and calmly faced Israeli soldiers with composure in nearly every sort of stressful situation, but never like this. I was glad that I was wearing sunglasses, because as he waved me away and motioned for the line to move along, the tears came quickly of their own accord. I was dumbstruck. I covered my mouth with my hand to hide my anguish and tried not to collapse where I stood. And Allah listens to those who pray.
“Wait, wait – you can’t do that!” my friend Urmy immediately swept in, armed with righteous anger. She had been born into Islam and we hardly knew each other, but her hand on my back and firm confidence in her voice helped me remain standing. “She’s a Muslim!”
“Her father is not Muslim, so she is not a Muslim,” the soldier said with a smile.
“How dare you!” she cried, putting her arm around my shoulder. “Who gave you that kind of authority?” As her voice rose, a crowd began to gather. Muslims from all over the world had come to visit the Holy Sanctuary and pray at Al-Aqsa. They were all from different backgrounds and spoke different languages. To my wonder and astonishment, they began to argue with the soldier on my behalf.
“Can’t you see how upset you are making her?” chided a south-Asian man.
“Let her go instead of me!” said another with an accent from West Africa.
“You can’t decide who is and isn’t Muslim!” a woman cried.
Someone pressed a tissue into my hand and I wiped my face. The soldier was looking nervous as the crowd began to grow larger. He was arguing loudly with all of them, but another soldier thought it wiser to get an official from the Waqf – the Jordanian delegation that manages the area – to come out. He arrived and said in a very kind voice, “Will you recite the shahadah?” I nodded yes and blurted it out between sniffles. He turned to my friend and asked her the same, and she too recited it for him. He gestured for us to pass the checkpoint. Urmy trembled with frustration, but I felt as though I had lost a giant weight off my shoulders.
I will never forget the incredible kindness emanating from my fellow Muslims that day. It is not easy to find the courage to stand up for what is right, but for these upright strangers, it seemed effortless. I felt as though Allah swt had bestowed upon me an incredible mercy and blessing with this lesson. I had been afraid that my history and privilege would not only keep me from being accepted by Allah swt and his Ummah, but would also keep me from accepting myself as a Muslim.
I see now that it does not matter whom my parents were, what color my skin is, or what my passport says. So long as I witness that there was no god worthy of my worship but God and Muhammad is his Messenger, I am a Muslim.
This incident set me on the road towards self-acceptance and finding my place in Islam. The relationship between Urmy and I has deepened into sisterhood, and I found more and more support from the Ummah as I went along. That support is heaven sent and has greatly helped me develop as a Muslim. I would never say my character flaws have been ironed out because of my conversion, but I can more easily pinpoint them as sources of suffering and find that Islam offers the perfect tools needed to tackle my nafs.
I was afraid that I had to be perfect to become Muslim. Now I realize that balancing this struggle is at the root of submission to God. As long as I make the effort, I see the rewards tumble into my life threefold. It takes perspective and patience to interpret the blessings sometimes, as I still struggle through Ramadan and my five-daily-prayers, but I am beyond grateful.
I once thought that Islam would mean me losing things – now I see that I have gained countless blessings in this life and the key to paradise in the next.
Loved the article, sob7anallah it brought tears to my eyes
SUBHANALLAH. really heart touching story. what ever non Muslim plan to do with us if we Muslims are united then no one could to us to be successful free and have freedom with grace and honor the only thing we all Muslim have to do is united.
very correct!!!! ALAHU AKBAR…..
All praise belong to ALLAH THE GIVER THE TAKER THE REWARDER! THANK YOU for that story for it truely touched my heart. No one gives up on the mercy of ALLAH but a fool! As salaamu alaikum!
Subahanallah … great read…
Jazakallah khair for sharing your beautiful story with us! I really enjoyed reading it!
SubhanAllah. Thank you so much for sharing us sister!
Mashahallah beautiful story. As a convert, I totally related to many of the things you talked about here: the fear of losing your identity, the self-imposed pressure of trying to be perfect. But in contrast to all that, the beauty of faith and the love of our brothers and sisters. Jazakallah-khair for your story. Salam Alainkum.
Beautiful article sister, gave me shivers as I was reading it.
SubhanAllah Sister. Welcome to Islam and the true joy it brings.
Salam, I am so happy to see you have accepted Islam and ask Allah swt to always keep you happy and know that the only way u could have ever found true happiness and can gain the keys to jenna is with the belief that there is no god but Allah swt and Mohammed( saw) is the messenger of Allah .know that far or close the Muslim ummah will always give the helping hand we are as bricks stuck together to keep the house standing.we must be one when one Muslim is hurt we all are hurt .I ask Allah to guide all Muslims and help them find there way back.their are many who are lost especially in the west we must stand together. A word od advice from a sister always keep strong don’t ever doubt who you’ve become because it’s the best decision you have and could have made in ur life and I tell u even I’d thwre hardships take it as Allah may love you he wants to purify you in the dunya this world instead of the ahkerah the next world. Hardships is a sign of love from Allah so be patient for his sake .may Allah grant all Muslims Jenna ameeen ya rab ameeen and make nabeyaena habeeboona Mohammed IBM Abdullah (saw) ummah larger than ever and continue to add to it with great people like you.
sA Beautiful story. JazakAllah khair for sharing!
allahu Akbar!!! What a beautiful and inspiring story…Barak Allahu feeki…it truly touched us all…alhamdulilllah you are part a big family(ummah)…May Slah make evrything in your life east for you, inshallah.
Wow, mashaAllah sister!! You are very strong!!
Salam..this article brought me to tears. Being born Muslim, I never had that strong urge to be accepted, but reading this , I realized how truly blessed I am to be Muslim and will strive to be a better Muslim. May Allah show us the right path..
AS Salaam O ALaykum sister,
MashaAllah ! by the will of Allag (swt) you have transformed yourself twice which isn’t easy.
I have been muslim for 6 years but now strguling with perfection.
May Allah (swt) always keep you and us all firm on His Deen Ameen
Beautiful story! May Allah keep you strong on His path sister 🙂
MashaAllah, what a fascinating read. As a born Muslim, I have never taken my Islamic identity for granted once I came to the realization of what an incredible gift it is. Having said that, however, I would not want a camera to follow me around to witness my shortcomings, my occasional inability to practice what i preach. I would recommend that everyone hear pick up a copy of “The Butterfly Mosque” by G Willow Wilson, an American convert who chronicles her journey to Islam by way of Egypt. Whenever I read stories of peoples’ struggles, whether it has to do with Islam or otherwise, I am reminded of Allah’s declaration that he has made every generation before us struggle, and that is what we must do as well.
What a remarkable story! May Allah strengthen you and smile upon you always!
Thanks so much for the great article! I have so many imperfections and make a ton of mistakes, so it’s good to know that other people are going through similar struggles.
JAK for sharing sister, very heart warming.
This is beautiful <3 JazakAllahkhair for sharing
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Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! MashAllah. Thank you so much sister for the read. This brought a river of tears to my eyes. I was born into a Muslim family and I find the same struggles while growing up in America, not wanting to leave my friends and the american ways. Reading your article is extremely refreshing and a great push to continue to follow the path of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) continue you to bless you with a strong will.
Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone.
subhanallah sister your story has really touched me ,it has truly made me understand:Whatever grief we go through, whatever hardship we endure, we must understand that we are never alone. Even if we feel abandoned by the world and those closest to us, Allah is there. He reminds us in the Qur’an
by :sister jinan
and when a hardship beholds a person thats a sign of allahs love for that persond
alahmudallah raab alimain and welcome to islam sister
Ma’sha’allah, what a touching and beautiful story! May Allah (swt) Grant us the opportunity to pray salah at Al-Aqsa and also help us grow into better Muslims through our struggles, as the sister in the story was able to do.
Jazak’Allahu khairan and of course, wishing this sister well in her journey onwards.
Love the story, sist.. Stay strong!! May the blessing of Allah SWT will be upon you and the rest of our fellow moslems always. Amien.
Jazaakallahu khairan for the beautiful story sister.
Sister, thank you for the story.
Again, it confirms that Allah is the best teacher ever. Subhannallah. What a great pedagogy. Subhannallah!
Difficulties in our life are nothing but means to make us think, see things, understand things. And, Allah knows the timings, the way, the means to give those tests. Subhannallah.
Allah Akbar. We should be more than proud to have Allah as our Creator. Alhamdulillah.
May Allah make us understand His religion and makes us the way He wants us to be… there is such sweetness in that alhamdulillah.
i have seen with my own eyes the great fear of losing a prior identity and all that one knows about how to live, if one were to really convert. converts – particularly from ‘safe’ societies, 1st world countries – have incredible courage. it’s so easy, as i’m witnessing, to backtrack, to tell yourself that maybe you were mistaken, this can’t be true, so that you can go back to what you know and not have to learn a new life like a newborn baby.