American Horse-Rider’s Journey to Islam

(Part-I)

My name is Jenifer. I converted to Islam about three years ago.

I grew up in a Christian family; my father was a minister, and my mom travels a lot in doing missionary work. They’re a very strong Christian family, and that was the path that I followed when I grew up as a child. I went to church and watched my dad preach, and this would have been my faith before I was Muslim.

I grew up in a foundation of believing in God, but throughout high school and college I got really distracted and lost; I was just following the crowd like most Americans do. For most part I had a great childhood, I was a happy person, but…

I always felt that there was something that was not there.

Becoming a Muslim was a long journey for me, I did study on my own; I read a lot. I listened to youtube videos and debates, because it was hard for me to say I wouldn’t be Christian anymore. It is not easy on my family and so this is a big decision I wanted to be sure about, so I studied just to see what there was to offer in this religion.

When I was in college, I hadn’t really heard of Islam very much although I did go to journalism school, and 9/11 happened when I was in college. So this is my first big impact that there are Muslims and the religion Islam out there, and I really didn’t know anything about it other than what the media portrays. However, I didn’t show a lot of interest at that point.

After college I followed my passion and joined a job basically riding horses, and during this experience I got to travel a lot.

I worked closely with two Muslims, I just wondered why they aren’t eating or drinking during the day, yet they were riding horses and they were working just as hard as I was. So, this sparked my interest a little bit because these two individuals were very respectful, very nice gentlemen, and also very professional. So it was something that was opposite of my previous stereotype that I had had in journalism school…
After a few years, it was time for me to go on and to do something else with my life, and for some reason I kept thinking of this religion that I had been introduced to; and so this was what stimulated me to start to study.

During the time that I was learning about Islam and fasting during Ramadan, the only person that I knew was actually now my husband. So, I would call him occasionally to ask questions but for the most part I did most of this on my own.

When I did read and got excited to share something in the Quran that really moved me, I would tell him about it. But other than that I didn’t have anyone to explain it to me. I was afraid to tell my family at that time. I didn’t think that they would understand the journey I was going through. And so for the most part I really didn’t have anyone to talk to, throughout this time, except for Redda, my husband…

I wanted a support system; someone that knew more than I did about the religion; someone I could talk to about it, and grow together and to get closer to Allah; for having both of us work through life together and have the same goals and the same aspect on life, so it was very important to me.

It’s not an easy life change, so if we weren’t really motivated then why make this big change? Why get up for fajr (dawn) and wash and pray if I really didn’t want to know this religion and to do it to please Allah…

Reading Quran is something important to me and learning to read Arabic is important to me as well. That’s where I decided to start; instead of starting with the language I decided to start with the Quran, because I feel that was more important, then I hope the language would come…

I thought I could do one week fasting, and after a week it just became easier; I really felt proud to not eat or drink all day, and my intention was to please Allah. Fasting reminds the person of Allah all day long, so it was really a blessing to have this time when I could read the Quran.

I wanted to know how to pray but I didn’t have anyone to teach me. I witnessed the prayer when I went to the mosque one day for maghrib (sunset) prayer. I wanted to see how Muslims pray. They were very nice people, they noticed that I was just a visitor; but they took me in and pulled a chair for me and let me watch the prayer.

Through the interaction with them it just made me feel very welcomed, and then I decided that I wanted to come to the mosque more often for the evening prayers during Ramadan.

I started to cover with the scarf just to go to the mosque, and I would stand with the other ladies, and I just would mimic their motions. I didn’t know what to say but I felt the urge that I really really wanted to pray. I did learn “bismillah” (in the name of Allah), so I said bismillah and I just prayed with them.

I did feel the joy of prayer, the humility that you feel is really indescribable, it is nothing that you can get from another religion. Through this whole experience, through fasting, I told myself I would try to read the whole Quran during this month because I had heard this was a good idea. Towards the end I couldn’t read anymore because it really just made me sob. I was crying for what I was reading, and I knew at that point that this was the religion for me.

The day before Eid, I went to the mosque for maghrib(evening) prayer and I prayed with the ladies, then I just asked the sister next to me if I could stand and say my Shahadah. She got very excited of course, she thought I was already Muslim because she had seen me there very often because I was going to the mosque every evening.

I met the Imam(Scholar) and I had witnesses around me and the Imam said the Shahadah with me that was a beautiful experience, and of course afterwards everyone was so happy for me and they came and kissed me, congratulated me, and they just took me in…

Converting to Islam has affected my life in a good way, definitely. But then again I feel that I was also the same before in some aspects…

Islam brought to me a lot of structure, organization, and focus, I believe. And it also motivated me to educate myself more because every day I learn something new about Islam, and that is just one of the wonderful things about it…

But there was still another step to take …

( … to be continued In-Shaa-Allah …)

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