My Road to Islam is a journey of sister Heather to Islam in her own words
My childhood and God
I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Texas called Childress. My family and I didn’t go to church together or pray at home. I began going to a Christian church when I was in middle school for the youth activities. Mixed in with socializing, I learned about Jesus and God. I believed in both, but really didn’t think much about religion.
I am introduced to Mary
In my 20’s, a co-worker invited me to her Catholic church. The quiet structure of mass was comforting to me and I began to attend regularly. The importance of Mary impressed me and I felt I could relate to her. She was so strong through all the trials of her life. I related to her stuggle and embraced Catholism for over 20 years, becoming a lecture and teaching religious education classes.
I also had my struggles during this time. Including my husband leaving me after seven years of marriage. I lost my home, my car, my insurance and my savings. I went to my priest in tears. After hearing my story, he wanted to know how soon I would get a civic divorce because the annullment through the church was the next step and he quoted me the price for this process. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t even think about that. I was told that me or my newborn child could not take another step in our faith until this was completed. I I felt like I was completely alone.
I was working as an adminstrator at a child care center and one day, my director asked me to give a family a tour. I asked her why and she said she couldn’t. I looked and saw a woman and her husband. The woman was wearing an abayah and her face was covered. I asked what the problem was and she said, “I don’t know what’s under there.” I was so enraged by this remark! I said, “IT’S A PERSON! A mom, just like you and me!” After the tour and the family was gone, we had a discussion about it. She threw many stereotypes about Muslims at me. I decided that I was going to find out for myself. That weekend I went to a book store and bought a copy of the Holy Quran and I began reading. I didn’t understand all of it, but I didn’t see any justification of the stereotypes I had heard.
I finished the Holy Quran after several months. I had proven my point and, I had opened my mind to a different way of worship, a different way of life. I did not let anyone make any negative comments about Muslims. I began to talk to as many Muslims as I could. They were from many different countries but they all had the same peaceful manner about them. They were kind, generous, sincere, loving, patient and happy. I realized that the common thread was Islam. I began to read about Islam online. During this time, no one pushed me to convert. I had a very nice neighbor, named, Sultan. His daughter and my son attended same school. I shared Islam with me and I answered all his questions about America, Texas and English. I would visit them and in their home, his wife was not covered in hijab. She wore regular clothes and her hair was stylish. I enjoyed these visits so much! When they had their third child, Wessan, I was invited to the hospital. What an blessing to hold that newborn baby and be included in their miracle. One day, I saw him at the market and he said suddenly, “my wife and I are worried about you. We are worried about your soul. You should become a Muslim.” I was surprised because until that point, I had been just been investigating Islam. I tucked that idea away in my mind. Then, I met a wonderful couple named Ali and Waad. They were so kind to me. When I looked a Waad with her hijab, she looked like my idea of the blessed mother Mary. I never agreed with the alabaster skinned Marys we see most often. Mary was from the Middle East and she was very young at the time of her miracle. Looking at Waad with her sweet nature and gentle smile, I could see Mary. They invited me into their home and again, I saw a family just like another other, caring for each other, raising children and praising God. I became very conflicted about the media’s portrayal of Muslims and what I was actually seeing.
I began joining Islamic pages on Facebook and accepting friends just so I could ask them questions. I no longer thought of those stereotypes I had heard, I never saw even a hint of them. Everyone I talked to said basically the same thing, “you are welcome in Islam and Islam is easy.”
I was searching for something in my life, some kind of peace. I was unhappy with my job, my friends and myself. I changed jobs and went back to teaching. My new director is a faithful Christian. I moved to a new apartment and I began to distance myself from friends who were negative. Things were looking up for me and I began to feel better about my life. I felt great because I felt like “I” had made all these changes myself. I have always carried the weight of my responsibilities around my neck, sometimes making myself physically sick with worry. But, again, I believed I had improved myself without anyone’s help. I didn’t realize it, but the journey wasn’t over, Allah had a plan.