Iman was finally at peace, she had found the way to God. Picture©Microsoft.com
To read the first part of Iman’s story, click here.
One day I found myself alone in the house. My daughter was with her father and my mother and brother were off somewhere. In the silence of my bedroom, I felt a strong urge to pray. But how? I stood in the middle of my room not even knowing where to begin.
I stood as if listening, trying to find some guidance in this simple matter of how to pray. The idea came to me that to talk to God, I must be clean. As if overtaken from a force beyond myself, I headed to the bathroom for a shower. I bathed from head to toe.
Returning to my room, once again I stood, waiting for something — or Someone — to tell me what to do next. Again, I was guided towards the answer — I felt the need to cover myself — completely.
Donning a long-sleeved, ankle-length robe was not enough. I felt I had to cover my hair as well. I wrapped a long scarf around my head and stared into the mirror, feeling strangely comfortable with my appearance. And even though I had no idea what a Muslim was or how one dressed, there I was, basically wearing the hijab.
Anyone who knew about Islam would have thought I was a Muslim preparing for prayer. But glory to God, at that time, I still knew nothing about Islam.
So there I was dressed for prayer, yet still having no idea what to do next. I turned towards the window and just stood there, looking outside on that sunny day. What next? I didn’t want to kneel down — that was too much like church.
I felt I needed to humble myself before Him. I wanted to be in a position of complete submission to my Creator (remember that word submission — it’s important). The only idea in my mind was to lay flat on the ground.
Again that conjured up images of the church, when would-be priests and nuns taking their vows lay themselves out flat on the floor, arms extended at their sides, basically in the shape of a cross. As much as I wanted to totally humble myself in front of my Creator, I had no idea how to do it.
Finally the thought came to me that I must kneel down on my knees and put my face on the floor. Before I did that though, I realized the floor might not be clean enough, even though my bedroom was clean, I felt the need to prostrate on something I was sure was pure.
Beside me on my daughter’s crib was a small blanket I had crocheted for her stroller. It was, I realized later, exactly the size of an Islamic prayer rug. And it was freshly washed! So, I took the blanket and laid it out in front of me on the carpeting.
And amazingly I would later learn that was the exact direction of the Kabah, the direction Muslims face for prayer. Satisfied that all was well, I dropped to my knees, then lowered my upper body onto my hands, and placed my face on the floor.
It brings tears to my eyes and a shiver runs through me as I remember that day. I picture myself in that room, in that position, and see that I was clearly dressed and praying like a Muslim. Subhan Allah how merciful was God to guide me this way.
In that position, feeling as if I had finally connected with God, I cried and begged Him again and again to show me the way He wanted me to believe… the way He wanted me to live.
The tears would not stop. I finally felt as if I had found a major truth that day. I just needed to fill in the blanks. And thanks to the guidance and mercy of my glorious Lord, I would soon find all the answers.
Since my mother was still considering a nursing home for my grandfather, and I was still forced to look for a new place to live, Thanksgiving came upon us and I was yet at home.
My mother became busy with holiday preparations and somehow, outwardly, the days passed peacefully. But in my mind, I never forgot for one minute my quest to find my religion.
After Thanksgiving, the usual round of Christmas parties began, and I was invited by a girlfriend to attend a gathering of college students at a local restaurant. We were a large group and at dinner I found myself seated next to a man from Nigeria, who was working on his doctoral degree at the University of Pittsburgh.
I was fascinated by his dress — Nigerian native garb — his head covered in what looked like a larger version of a Jewish yarmulke. He had a kind face and bright smile, and we began to talk about school.
When it came time to order dinner, he asked if I would help him with the menu. “I can’t eat pork or alcohol,” he explained, and I gladly consented. After ordering our meals I asked him why he didn’t consume pork or alcohol. “Because of my religion”, he responded, smiling.
“And what religion is that?” I wondered aloud. “I am a Muslim,” he replied.
Lights, bells and whistles went off in my head. That’s one I hadn’t heard of before, I realized. I was very anxious to hear more. Already having searched and studied every belief under the sun, I knew exactly what I wanted to ask.
“Tell me please, if you don’t mind, what is the cardinal belief of your religion? What is the one point you would say describes your religion the best?” Without hesitation, he smiled again and said “We believe there is only one God. God is not part of a trinity, nor does He have a son. He has no partners. God is One.”
It sounded so simple. I had no problem with that. I told him that made sense to me. Again he smiled. I then asked him how his religion viewed women. What was their status in his beliefs?
Having suffered as a woman in a society where my religion provided little guidance — or respect — for women, I held my breath waiting for his response. I so wanted to hear something that satisfied me!
Again he was quick to answer. “Women in Islam are equal to men. They have basically the same status and obligations as men. And they take the same rewards and punishments. However, being equal does not mean the same. Men and women were created differently from each other. They are equal but different.”
I wanted to know how the differences manifested themselves. He responded. “In marriage for example… while a Muslim woman has many rights — perhaps more rights than a man — to be provided for completely, she is also required to obey her husband.”
“Obey her husband? Hmmmm. What does that mean?” He started to laugh. It was clear he had been down this path before. “It means”, he explained patiently, “that if a decision must be made for the good of the marriage or family, while a man must consult his wife and ask her opinion, in the end the final decision is his.
Look at it this way — as if marriage is a ship sailing in the sea. A ship can only have one captain who is ultimately responsible for its welfare. A ship with two captains will sink.”
He sat back and awaited my response. I couldn’t think of any argument against what he said. It made sense to me. I had always felt, deep inside, that the husband must take final responsibility for the family. I was pleased — more than pleased actually — happiness slowly turned into elation as I asked more and more excited about Islam.
Everything he told me made perfect sense. And amidst the extreme joy and peace I felt, I also wondered how it was that I had never known of Islam before? Subhan Allah, everything happens in Allah’s time.
I asked him how I could learn more about this religion and he kindly offered to put me in touch with Muslims at his mosque who would give me a Quran and answer any questions I had. He took my phone number and promised to call me. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait! That was Friday, December 3, 1982.
Next Monday morning found me on the steps of the local library, waiting for it to open. I took out every book there on Islam, which sad to say in those days were few, and not very accurate either, but I didn’t realize that at the time.
When I opened the first book, the introduction began “Islam means submission to the will of God…” Amazing! There’s that word “submission”! Exactly the word I used myself before I knew anything about it.
I only knew complete and total submission to God’s way was required if I was to attain peace. In that very instant I knew I had found the truth. I devoured the books and waited on pins and needles for Ahmad — the Nigerian man — to contact me again. And true to his word, he did.
I was given the number of the mosque and a contact name. Shaking with excitement, I dialed, praying someone would answer. And someone did. The man who answered my call said in a very thick foreign accent the one I was asking for was not there at the time.
Undaunted, I explained that I was very interested in learning more about Islam. Immediately, he welcomed me and gave me the address, inviting me to come to come right away to speak with him and receive a copy of the Quran!
I was excited beyond words. I made an appointment for later that day, and eagerly got myself and my daughter ready for the meeting.
I laugh now to think of myself that day. I wanted to appear my best. So I put on a pantsuit, curled my hair, applied make-up and perfume, and dressed my 1-year-old daughter in her cutest outfit!
I knew we were embarking on a new life. My daughter and I — together — we were a team! When I arrived and entered the building the first person I met was a Muslim woman wearing niqab. I found her exotically foreign looking and beautiful. I told her I was there to meet a man named Abdul Hamid.
She graciously directed me towards a staircase. “You’ll find him in the office at the top of the stairs,” she said in perfect English, which surprised me. I had yet to learn Islam was not a “foreign” religion, or that it was the fastest growing religion in the world. There was so much yet I didn’t know. But one thing was for certain, I was sure I was on the right track.
When I entered the office all heads turned in my direction, then all eyes were lowered. No one looked me in the eye. But everyone did start smiling! Warm, happy, sincere smiles.
One man walked towards me, speaking in a strange language. Later I found out he was saying “Masha’ Allah, masha’ Allah” as he came and took my daughter from my arms. “How beautiful she is” he exclaimed, and proceeded to introduce her to the other men.
For some reason I felt no fear of this strange person taking my daughter. He sat her down on top of a desk and handed her pens and pencils and a stapler — anything he thought might amuse her, all the while laughing and trying to get her to talk. The other men gathered around her as well, and finally Abdul Hamid came to greet me.
I offered my hand but he pretended not to see it — ah, there was still so much to learn about Islamic etiquette between the sexes — and began asking me how I had discovered Islam. I told him briefly about Ahmad the Nigerian, and he proceeded to explain the basics of Islam to me.
At least an hour passed, and then he gave me a copy of the Quran, asking that I take it home and shower before opening it. I quickly agreed. He told me that it would soon be time for prayer so he needed to prepare himself.
I thanked him but had one final request. I wanted to watch the prayer. Having been married to an atheist, for some reason I was very interested in watching this man pray. I always felt a man was not truly a man unless he prayed to God.
Abdul Hamid told me I could watch the prayer from the back of the mosque but to please not make a sound. Again I agreed and we went downstairs were he placed me in the rear of an empty space decorated only with beautiful lush carpeting and a niche in the wall. That niche, I would learn, marked the direction for the prayer.
As I watched the men enter, I was startled by a loud noise — it was the call to prayer. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar! As I listened I felt as if ice water was running through my veins. It was as if my whole being was awakened by this loud and magnificent call.
Although I didn’t understand a word, I felt it speaking to me. Tears filled my eyes and I began to shiver. I crossed my arms and hugged myself, in an attempt to warm myself and calm down.
The tears flowed as I watched the men first bow, and then prostrate themselves in prayer, just as I had done so long ago that sunny day in my bedroom. I was in awe. I was thrilled and moved beyond words. More than that… I was home!
Over the course of the next few weeks, I met more Muslims at the mosque and took lessons in Islam. I began to sew Islamic style clothes for myself, although I wore them only in my bedroom when I attempted to pray alone.
I began to change. I gave up drinking alcohol and refused to eat pork. My personality changed. I became quieter and calmer. I was at peace. My mother asked about the change in me. She thought I was depressed. “You never laugh anymore”, she said. I tried to explain to her that I was very happy — just in a quieter sort of way.
I finally found the courage to tell her about Islam. I even showed her the clothes I had sewn and modeled an outfit for her. She became furious. She hated the clothes instantly.
My mother was always a high-fashion kind of woman. She ridiculed their simplicity and the fact they were loose. She thought they looked like sacks. Her unkind remarks hurt me but did not dissuade me. Nothing would separate me from Islam.
My last Christmas before I said the Shahadah was a nightmare. Even during that time I knew this was Allah’s way of sending me out of the darkness of false belief with no good memories. Still they were difficult days.
My mother was angry with me for not participating in the holiday, and my brother, drunk as always, destroyed some of my belongings in a fit of rage and threatened to kill me.
Previously he had entered my room and saw me dressed in Islamic clothing. Although not religious — he didn’t even go to church — he too was furious with my decision to become Muslim.
The more they raged, the more certain I became I was doing the right thing. I simply no longer wanted to live the lives they were living.
After a few months time, I made my profession of faith. One Friday evening in the spring, I became a Muslim. I gratefully and humbly accepted the gift of Islam.
My mother insisted I leave her house. But Allah in His infinite mercy had arranged a home for me. The night I took Shahadah, one Egyptian man who witnessed it asked about me for marriage.
My wali — the man who had taken my daughter from my arms on my first trip to the mosque — asked my opinion. My only concern was that he be a good believer. My wali had already checked. He was.
Within 10 days I was married and living with my daughter in my new home with my new husband. He raised my daughter as his own, and alhamdulilah, we had two sons after that.
It’s been over 26 years now that I have been blessed to live my life as a Muslim. The years have passed so quickly. They have not been always been easy, but they have been blessed nonetheless.
Allah tests those He loves. But as He says in the Quran…”with hardship comes ease.” And it has proven true.
In the meantime, my mother — who separated herself from me for many years — is now living with me in an Islamic country and wearing the hijab voluntarily! I have hope she too will accept Islam one day soon, insha’ Allah.
Despite the difficult times, I can not imagine living my life in any other way. I thank Allah every day for the mercy of His guidance. And for this miraculous journey from darkness to the light of Islam.
…………..read more about JOURNEY TO ISLAM ……………and reach Jannah