A Revert Story
I have been asked by many people to tell my personal story about coming to Islam. I used give a very nice account that people liked but didn’t really answer the question. In my ignorance, I thought that it was my superior intellect and ardent search for truth that brought me to Islam. I now know that I never had a choice but that it was Allah, swt’s divine plan that could only be fulfilled at his pleasure despite my desires.
I have attempted to write my story many times and had become thwarted in my efforts many times over. As a professional writer and editor it seemed to me that the task should have come easy but because of my background I expect stories to read with a certain beauty that evaded each attempt. I wanted to write something uplifting to make people smile and feel joy as they read but that unfortunately is not true to my story. I am still not satisfied with the form and style that this piece of writing has taken and it seems there is little that I can do, even with all of my expertise, to make it look or sound the way that I expect a professional work to look and sound. So, please gentle reader do not find offence in these pages rather find peace in knowing that the wisdom of Allah, swt. can never be wrong and hold stead fast to him in times of joy and adversity. If these papers can do anything to unify the umma and cause it to take its rightful place as stewards of this earth caring for all that Allah, swt has put under our care perhaps he will pleased with me for sharing this very personal condensed biography.
In these pages you might find reason to say or think badly about America. For those of you who might be tempted to use this document as proof of a negative stereotype, I ask you to stay yourself and realize that there is good and bad everywhere.
Growing up religion wasn’t a large part of our family’s priorities. Although I vaguely knew that Christmas was a celebration of the birth of Jesus, PBUH. I never earnestly associated the rituals with religion. I associated the ritual with birthdays. I didn’t know what Easter was until I had been living on my own for quite some time and prayer was a sweet thing that clean little well to do children did before meals and bed. While in households such as mine the name Jesus was only invoked when someone, usually one of kids, had angered one of the adults in the household. We knew that there was trouble when we heard the name especially if we heard what we thought to be his first and middle name “Jesus Christ” lo if we heard “Jesus Christ Almighty” our only hope that was that our named wouldn’t be summoned next. Because if an adult in the household cried, “Jesus Christ Almighty, Annie!” I was sure to be in for a lashing. Now the word God was a bit more precarious. We would hear thank god, for god’s sake, and the every ready goddamn. The mention of god in our house usually meant big trouble. And if one of us kids said one of these phrases we would be punished the same as if we had cursed the vilest of curse words.
My earliest memories involve church. Intermittently between the ages of three and four my mother’ s third husband, Tony, made a big show of Sunday morning services. I intensely looked forward to those Sundays. I would get to dress up in pretty dresses and shiny shoes with ruffled socks and my mother would make her face up to be beautiful while my brother donned his little suit. There would be no yelling and the constant look of fear would leave my mothers face for the entirety of the day. Tony wasn’t the big scary stranger who made my mother cry out in the night and awaken with big blue bruises on her face. On these Sundays he was all charm and smiles with good smelling aftershave and extra money for ice cream.
The church was a sight for me to behold with big columned arches, long benches, and velvet covered kneepads. So many people would talk to us and say kind things about Tony, how blessed we were to have such a great daddy and as he sprinkled the sweet smelling water from the shiny stone basin, I wished that everyday could be the Sunday that came only occasionally even though it seemed to me that the man in the fancy robes giving his speech was talking some inexplicable language that only sounded like English and that dead guy hanging on the wall was rather disturbing.
I was a very introverted little girl with an aloof exterior who didn’t give people much cause for endearment. I have no memories of hugs and kisses except between my siblings and me. I spent much of my time admiring and exploring nature; a pursuit that has endured and comforted me throughout my life.
My mother had me tested for retardation at the age of four years old, though I had already taught myself how to read with my brother’s kindergarten books. I don’t remember any unusual behaviors on my part but mother later said that I refused to walk and talk, even though I clearly remember walking around the hospital and chatting up the nurses. The doctor told her that there was nothing wrong with me. “Only lazy”, she says he said.
In my fifth year my mother along with myself and my brother and two baby sisters moved in with my grandmother after her husband had beaten her senseless in our presence. I wouldn’t see the inside of a church for three years. I don’t think that my grandmother was atheist; I just think that she had had a hard life. At the tender age of fourteen she enlisted and served on a US warship in the south of France and returned home as a war bride to my Grandfather who divorced her after the tragic death of the second of their seven children. She never remarried.
In my eighth year, I was selected along with six other top students from my third grade class, to spend the day at my teacher’s house. The main portion of the day was to be spent bar-be-queuing and swimming but since it was Sunday the morning would start at church were my beloved teacher, who would later die of sickle cell anemia, was the choir director.
This place wasn’t like the church of my earlier years. I was rather surprised that it was a church at all. It was a plain building consisting of one large room with chairs instead of benches. There were no candles, no kneeling pads, no special water, their choir didn’t wear robes nor did the preacher and no man hanged from a cross in sight. I immediately liked the place. Everyone was genuinely kind and welcoming. The women were the type of women that I always adored looking at but knew that unlike my friends that I would never be able to look like. But that didn’t matter because I simply basked in their beauty. I didn’t understand this preacher much better than the other. But his deep resonating voice soothed and excited me all at once. He taught me an amazing thing; that God loved me, and that even if no one else in the world cared about me God would take care of me. And the most exciting part was that he already knew me and loved me and he was just waiting for me to love him.
The next couple of years were a wild hodge podge of religious or should I say Christian experiences. Incidentally, it was in that same period that I heard the word Muslim. There was a very beautiful exotic lady on the television news. She was wearing a lacy square of fabric on hair of which such luster I had never seen before. My grandmother began railing to no one in particular that they claim to be so liberated yet she’s the queen but can’t even appear on television without that thing on her head. I didn’t know what grandmother was talking about, the cloth on the queens head looked much like the little doily cloths that the old women wore in the church that my mothers husband used to take us to. After seeing that queen, every time I heard the word Muslim on the television news, I would plant myself right in front hoping to see her again. But all I saw were hooded hostages and some guy name Momar Khadafy. I thought Muslim was a nationality like American and that if I ever were to get on a plane that the Muslim would steal me away and sell me back to family. I was scared because my family didn’t have any money. I vowed to stay away from airplanes.
It was at this time that I also heard the word Jew. I had to research a guy named Hitler because apparently these Muslims wanted to do to me what that guy did to those people. I also thought that Jew was a nationality. Which I learned later was the general consensus of all good white Christians. I remember when I was about twelve or thirteen walking into a ‘Religious’ Book Store. I asked the clerk after looking around, “Do you only sell Christian books or do you have books about other religions?” She politely replied in the negative but another customer said, “What do you mean other religions? Aren’t they all Christian?” This lady was very earnest in her question and was much intrigued to learn that there were real religions not mythical ones like the Greek myths other than Christianity.
Between the ages of nine and eleven I was exposed to virtually every Christian sect out there – well not really there are so many that would be quite impossible but enough to know that they were not all the same giving me cause to know that they couldn’t be right. I had an aunt who went from Methodist to some tongue speaking sect to Mormon in quick succession and she dragged as many of her nieces and nephews along with her as she could. The Mormons dunked me in a pool of icy water and congratulated me because now all my sins were gone – I was relieved because I didn’t know that I had any. I also learned that I was dunked for no good reason because the coffee that I shared with my grandmother every day was full of sin as well as tea and soda. I just couldn’t deal with that and decided to go to hell with my grandma.
When my aunt wasn’t around my mother would send us to whatever Holy Roller church bus happened to be recruiting that month. They bought our attendance with candy and prizes until I heard about the “murder” of Jesus. The murder of Jesus wasn’t so shocking to me. I knew that something terrible had happened to him that caused him to be nailed on a cross but the revelation that he was God’s true flesh and blood son was surprising and I was shocked half out of my little wits to hear that his dad only had him so that these people could kill him and that he loved them more than his son. I personally had very little experience with fathers and from what I had I felt it was safer to be without them but this was God we were talking about; the one that loved me just for being born. This news was unacceptable and I told that sweet little Sunday school teacher as much in a tantrum that led them to ask my mother not to send me again which was fine by me since I had been baptized enough times to cleanse my soul of every conceivable crime that I might commit no matter how unwittingly.
Despite my objections to the churches I was enamored with the concept of God and in my twelfth year I read the bible with a strong sense of deception. It was a very conflicting thing because there were parts that I knew to be true – truths that somewhere in me I was born knowing and other things that just felt like lies. That same year I wrote an award winning paper about Greek deities but received marks off for using the bible as a reference. First Genesis tells of the nephelium which were the children born of the union of women and jinn, whom I had mistakenly thought to be angels code named ‘sons of God’ in the bible. At this point I still had no concept of Satan being anything other than a lone fallen angel who was now a serpent and enemy of women. I began to rebel against my teachers who I felt were intent upon feeding me lies. I developed a serious mistrust for institutional education because I was forever getting points off for citing unpopular historical facts; such as Columbus’ involvement in the slave triangle. In those days it was fashionable to place kids in residential treatment centers for the slightest hint of independent thinking. On the advise of a teacher I spent my summer in residential care with drug abusers and suicidal teens and despite having spent all but my sixth grade year in the Gifted and Talented Program, I was denied admission to the Gifted middle school program because I was not able to conform to district standards.
That same year my mother married a man who apparently married her for her four young daughters. I was just coming into my womanly body and was often the subject of his attention, which resulted in severe beatings that for whatever reasons my mother turned a blind eye to. I left home and my grandmother sheltered me though unknowing the full situation. During this time we had many long discussions about her belief in God and disenchantment with the religious community and their lies. Although the police for being a run away and beyond my parents control as well as a truant sought me out, that year was soft, gentle and easy as my Grandmother tried to reconcile herself with God in her last year.
My grandmother left this life on my thirteenth birthday (my youngest sister believes that my mothers husband killed her on her hospital bed but none would listen to sobs of a distraught six year old.) That very night I lost my purity and nearly my life to that same man. I hid in my shame of that event so not to upset the funeral the next day. And I said the Lord’s Prayer for days in a dazed stupor that was attributed to my beloved grandmothers death. No one asked about the bruises on my neck and ears.
I left home again when a big row ensued where I attempted to tell my mother what she must have already known but found myself beaten out of the front door. I was homeless and wanted by the police as an incorrigible runaway. My friends couldn’t hide me out for long so when the weather turned cold I walked into the juvenile detention center and turned myself in where I was remanded with prostitutes, drug dealers, and murderers for six months. I was only released because another inmate and I hatched a plan and told our attorneys that we were drug addicts. I was placed in residential rehab, went on a walk off from there and had my first taste of alcohol as well as my first and last experience with marijuana. I was kicked out of there for that and was again admitted into residential treatment. I wrote letters to God many times per day. I was released thirty days later and labeled a recovering addict.
Now living with my once church hopping aunt, excelling at school in an award winning alternative school. My aunt’s daughter and I were like sisters but I was in constant worry over my baby sisters. I went to prom with a very gentlemanly Roman Catholic boy, Julian, who I thought that I would marry and became fast friends with his cousin Nick. Life was on the mend and I saw how lovely these good Christian boys lives were and sought to create the same peace that their families had. But Allah would take me away from the path that would have placed me in a ‘good’ catholic marriage.
My desire to see my little sisters overcame my fear of my stepfather. I began to visit them frequently. He was careful to stay away from me until his opportunity arrived.
The weather was really nasty and my usual ride was unable to pick me up my mother said, “We can take you home.” I still hadn’t divulged what her husband had done to me. She called for the girls and we went out to the truck. I sat with my youngest sister on my lap. As my mother was about to get in he said to her that it wasn’t safe with the roads like this to because the girls would have to sit on laps. “So,” he suggested to my mother, “why don’t you stay with the girls? I’ll be right back.” She agreed and before I could do anything she had my sister out through the window and he was pulling off.
I knew within blocks that I was in trouble due to the driving directions. I started screaming at him and he backhanded me with a tremendous blow. I opened the door of the truck, tucked my head and rolled onto the street heedless of oncoming traffic.
I woke up eight days later in the hospital, heavily sedated and on suicide watch to see my mother and her husband. I took to screaming, demanding that he be removed from my room and arrested. My nurse sedated me quickly. When I was cognizant but quite full of drugs the psychiatrist came to talk with me. He had already been told my history of my “social and behavior problems” and determined that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was an attention seeker.
Once released I left home again and a family member gave me use of a studio in her home but my mother had decided that she was going to move to Arizona with her husband and demanded that I come also.
I was enjoying my freedom in my little apartment with no adult supervision. Julian, Nick, Susan, and I saw each other less frequently as I made a new set of friends in the neighborhood and looked for a way out of accompanying my family to another state.
One late night the opportunity arrived. A neighborhood boy later known for taking advantage of the neighborhood girls via the not yet recognized crime of date rape hid in my bathroom as my friends were leaving. It was extremely hot that night and I was not dressed at all properly when I crawled into my bed. I awoke several hours later to see this boy sitting in the chair by my bed. I moved to cover myself but he moved much quicker grasping my wrists and pinning my body beneath him I struggled against him but was pinned down in an empty house. As he moved against me he said the stupidest thing; he said, “don’t worry I won’t get you pregnant”. Something in me shifted. In a split second I saw the answer to my dilemma, a means of escape. Suddenly I wasn’t fighting so hard and it was done before I knew it. But it wouldn’t be as easy as all that.
The plan to become pregnant in order to fully escape my mother’s husband probably wasn’t the best but it was all that my troubled mind could come up, with and so it became so. Of course it broke Julian’s heart who was still unaware of my situation. My mother, also purportedly unaware, moved to adopt the child before she was to be born and thought the pregnancy was a lock for getting me to Arizona. She decided that she could adopt the child and I would live with her as her sister.
I was beside myself since I had planned for emancipation and began looking for other avenues. Nick offered to marry me in order to help me gain emancipation; he was eighteen years old. This was a tricky under handed somewhat illegal move that we made but with the help of one of my mentors, who thought that the child to be born was Nick’s, we were able to get a marriage license and thus my emancipation.
I was now fifteen years old, mother of baby girl, and having completed my high school credentials starting college on an academic scholarship. The marriage was never consummated and my mother, with the support of his family, soon obtained an annulment but was unable to lift the status of emancipation. Even so Julian took a keen interest in our welfare and kept us under his care and protection until his death four years later.
It was in college that I first saw a Muslim person in flesh. The word Islam would come many years later. There were no Muslima’s in the school that I knew of but it seemed the tables at the rear of the commissary were reserved strictly for these beautiful exotic young men and their occasional bombshell American consorts. My study friends would snicker disdainfully about these girls. “They are so stupid”, my friends said. “I don’t know why those guys lead those girls on. Almost all of them are already engaged or married and most will have to go home and serve in there countries military.” I just thought that they were the most handsome and refined young men ever.
At age sixteen I had become sort of the campus mascot often toting my little daughter to various study groups and commitments. Nick and I became friends with a young man, who I thought was a Muslim, that had bumped into me in the hall one afternoon when I had my little girl in tow and made sweet with her offering her ice cream and such. Eventually I agreed to go out with him. Omar was tall, handsome, and kind. Soon we became a regular couple. He was also an Islamaphobe. His father was a Kuwaiti diplomat who had taken a second wife deeply hurting the ego of his American wife who took such a move as a direct insult. Omar could not get enough of trashing his father’s name, country, customs and all things Muslim while regaling us with descriptions of marble courtyards and Kuwaiti wealth. One night he declared to me that he was in love with me. I declined his advances and he disappeared along with a photo book of me and over three hundred pieces of writing that I had written over the years.
My mother and her husband had moved back to the city but her husband stayed clear fearing that Nick would kill him with the slightest provocation. Out of the blue, my mother called me up and asked if my eldest sister, five years my junior could stay at my apartment for summer break. Of course I agreed and we had a great summer. The three little women neighbors called us. My sister swore that nothing was wrong at home that she just wanted to spend some time with me. That was easier for me to believe than the truth that I should have known. She went home at the end of the summer breaks with the promise to come to me whenever for any reason. The winter and spring were spent easily with friends, school, and getting reacquainted with my sisters until a late night call left me utterly alone and bereft. A drunk driver had killed Nick.
That year spiraled into the pain of my childhood most fantastically. I attempted to commit suicide twice, once by pills another by gas – strangely I set the cats out when I attempted to gas myself to sleep.
I had to take a night job night because although I held a degree in literature I no longer had a means of support and I saw my daughter little. Unbeknownst to me my mother’s husband had endeared himself to my landlady doing odd jobs on her properties that gave him access to the master keys.
One early afternoon I awoke to find him hovering over my bed. I could not believe the sheer audacity of it. This was different than my childhood. I was a grown woman supporting myself in my own apartment. My mind raced. I opened my mouth to yell out and was met with a fist to the face. A huge battle ensued in which I didn’t appear to be the winner beaten within an inch of my life and completely unrecognizable but it ended with his flight and my modesty in tact.
The investigation that followed revealed that he had in fact abused at least one other of my sisters and that my youngest sister had witnessed the abused and reported it to my mother and that he was wanted in Arizona on similar charges.
I never got over the guilt of knowing that my silence allowed my sisters to be at the mercy of this monster. I didn’t even contemplate my mother’s silence, as I was so intent on redemption for my own. I never viewed this event as punishment but did recognize it as something that had to happen in order for the silence to broken and for these little girls to have a chance at life.
I helped my mother find a home and moved in with her. My brother had already left home by this time so we were a house of seven little women. This was a golden time for us all and a time of introspection and redemption. I studied religion fervently when I wasn’t working or enjoying my family. I still couldn’t quite get with the bible but knew that there were hidden truths mixed in with the fiction of man. I attempted to read the Bhagavat Gita. I mean no offence or disrespect but this book I couldn’t read. Each time I attempted to I was overwhelmed with an indescribably frightened sensation until finally I just had to get rid of the book. I read the Book of Mormon, obtained bits of Buddhist doctrine from my photographer who practices that doctrine, and studied every sect of Christianity that I could discover hoping to find the truth about God and my reason for being but mostly in search of obtaining a peaceful existence. Having discovered the Greek Septeguent and Orthodox Christianity, that is more an extension of the Jewish doctrine whereas other forms of Christianity seemed to supplant the Jewish, I was almost finished with my quest. I had almost put aside my issues with the crucifixion, because orthodox Christianity puts the blame of the crucifixion at the feet of man not God as well as placing Jesus in the position of Son of Man rather than Son of God. What nearly had me was their doctrine of the oneness of God. This is what I had always known to be true. But when I sat on the cool ground in the warming sun surrounded by the beauty of the natural world contemplating, I felt that I did not have the whole story just yet.
Just after my nineteenth year, near Christmas time, I was engaged in a discussion with a colleague who was Catholic from Columbia, South America and used the term Holy Days instead of holidays. I began questioning her about this wanting to know what her views and doctrines were. I learned that although Catholic the people from South America have a slightly different version.
There was a particular vendor that was working near by us and we took up the question of religion with him, my colleague expressing my doubts to him. This man blew me away. He said, “I never could get with the trinity or the doctrine of supreme sacrifice found in the crucifixion.” Everything that he said thereafter about his growing up in whatever Christian faith was completely lost on me. Here was someone standing before me, someone who appeared to be reasonably sane telling me what I had suspected all along. I felt transported to some other place. There was always a running joke with me. People had always said that they wished they could live in my world because (despite everything) I was overwhelmingly optimistic about my future and the sincerity of humanity. I felt as though this person had just come from ‘my world’. Later, before he left, he asked if I would be open to him giving me a book. He was very careful to ask my permission and not infringe upon me. Well. Of course he could bring me this book! Two days later he placed a small book typed in English entitled “Explanation of the Holy Quran”. I was happy to receive the gift but was also a bit mift. “Explanation?” I asked. He explained that the true Quran is in Arabic and that this is an English translation so can only be called an explanation. “If you like this one, we’ll see about getting you a better one.”
It’s really amazing how forces come into ones life at the most critical of times and not always with the desired results. I read that book cover to cover in one sitting and I knew with each verse that I had found the truth. I read it over and over trying to find something that I could argue with, a small snippet that didn’t ring true or that could dissuade me from its truth but I could find nothing of controversy. All that I found was pure truth. But, Allah it seemed wasn’t ready to take me in just yet. I used to explain to people that I wasn’t ready; I was living a good life; a super star at work, lots of friends, parties, and fun. I know now that the choice was never mine and certain events had to happen that wouldn’t have happened had I embraced Islam at this time.
When I first read the explanation of the Quran I still didn’t know any Muslim and the brother who had given me the book was transferred. I did however start questioning people, which upset quite a few. I would say for example, “Why are you catholic”, or whatever they were. No one seemed to know. In the mean time a lady had transferred to my store who although Christian had a mountain of Muslim friends through her previous job. This lady had a lot of good but misinformation to share with me. Incidentally at the same time my favourite cousin was managing a restaurant for the company that my coworker had come from. For some reason a lot of Muslims work for this company usually while completing grad school.
Summer was fast approaching and my cousin often closed the restaurant well after midnight. Rather than get my daughter up early, she often went to my mothers at bedtime leaving me free from about nine pm until work in the morning. That summer my cousin took full advantage of that situation and sleep came in small snippets. One night she called me up and invited me to the restaurant for an after hours dinner party. It always took some cajoling and she would usually have to send someone to pick me up but I always relented. This night however was special. She wanted me to meet her co-manager. “He’s a bit older than you,” she said. “And not your usual pretty boy but I just know you two will get along great”. That’s when I met her Jordanian co-manager. She was right. He wasn’t the classic beauty that I usually went out for but he was mature, engaging, disarming, and devastatingly handsome standing next to his Mercedes with the top down and in his avatars. Not to mention the way his eyes lit when I wrapped my scarf over my hair to protect my hair. I spent every free moment I had that summer with him. We never talked about religion. I wanted to but something held me back. I had mentioned to him at a two am breakfast where everyone besides us two were drunk beyond repair that I had read the Quran. I became shy and lost for words in describing my thoughts on it and he said, “I know it’s like you already knew before you knew it.” I fell in love that morning. The summer went by in a blaze of bliss. I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I had never met any of his friends outside of his restaurant job nor that he dissuaded me from going to the local Jerusalem restaurant when he was helping his friend who owned the place. He would simply bring the food home to me. The silver band on his right hand didn’t interest me either.
Fall had come and he was preparing to go home. My cousin warned me that when he came back things wouldn’t be the same. “I’m sorry”, she said. “I thought that he would be like all of your other toys and that you would have tired of him by the time he went home”.
That evening timid and afraid to ask questions that I didn’t want answers to I played with the band on his right hand and asked gently, “Does this ring have any significant meaning?” He looked crestfallen and answered softly that it does. Tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I stated, “You’re going home to be married.” “Yes”, he whispered. “I never knew that someone such as you existed.” “I only agreed to meet you because you were her cousin…. I didn’t know that you, that I would….” “But, do you have to? It’s only an engagement.” I didn’t know about the four-wife provision or I would have surely made a case for that. And I didn’t know that for most Muslims an engagement is as good as married as far as the promise is concerned. For American’s an engagement is more like a trial run. “It’s impossible”, he said. “My father would disown me.” He pressed his forehead to my brow and our tears fell together.
He left and I found ways to amuse myself through education, my daughter and work. I didn’t read the Quran anymore and had few thoughts about religion. I never became angry with God as some people do. I guess you could say that I turned my face from him but never on a conscious thinking level. But, as usually he was busy plotting my path.
A young colleague of mine was in trouble. He was a sweet young man five years my junior who reveled in listening to a young female co-worker and me go on about our exploits with the guys. Since Mudar’s departure I had become quite ruthless with my suitors. I don’t think that I personally paid for a single salon visit, pair of shoes, clothes, accessories, or even a single lunch or dinner for the rest of the year. I had a lunch date everyday as well as an early dinner, which I would make the gentleman purchase a take out meal for my daughter nearly every night of the week. My pager blew up with non-business related calls and my colleagues inquired as to how I kept so many suitors at bay. “Never let them in the front door”, I would say in earnest. My signature line at that time was ‘a girls gotta eat’. My young male colleague thought that these exploits were hilarious and couldn’t get enough of mine and my young friend’s tales of malicious heart breaking. Personally though I was extremely lonely inside and needed attachments with substance. It would be almost a year before the full extent of my young colleagues troubles would reveal themselves and change my life forever.
Suddenly he got suspended and then fired or rather he simply walked off of the job. I thought it was strange but he was very young. A couple of weeks after this he called me at home sounding very strange. He asked me if I loved him and told me that he didn’t want to talk to anyone else and could I come break him out of there. He was in the hospital. I called his mother who invited me for coffee and told me that he had been diagnosed with a disorder and explained it all to me. I knew from somewhere that I don’t know, that this particular diagnosis is a blanket diagnosis and I told her that she get a genuine diagnosis before allowing him to be treated as this. She would not allow me to visit him but did get a new diagnosis. Meanwhile, I had contacted an old high school mentor who specialized in these things and with his information I pushed her to have more evaluations because the symptoms didn’t fit the new diagnosis. Finally after much prodding the diagnosis turned out to a treatable physical condition as opposed to the manageable psychological condition.
He was treated and released home but still needed to readjust from the psychological trauma caused by the condition. I was the only person that he would engage in meaningful conversation while in the hospital and he took to calling me occasionally when he returned home. I came over to his house to check on him and found all three of his family members watching television as though in a coma while he sat alone in the dark at the dining room table looking completely bewildered. I sat with him and played a round of chess while he made small talk that was a bit disconnected. Over the months I frequently visited him along with my daughter starting with board games, and then getting him outside until he began to resemble his old self and everyone in his extended family assumed that we were a romantic couple.
I had no thoughts of romance with him at that time. In the interim Omar had called declaring his sorrow and undying love going so far to drive two states away to see me again. I let him waste the fuel and sent him home without an answer to whether or not I would come away with him to live in his trailer that was as strong as any house. I had only sought to retrieve my writings but he had lost them.
One evening after dinner and a bad day for Joseph, I passed through the hallway I heard his mother talking in a low voice to his brother. “I wish that he would just move in with her so we don’t have to deal with him anymore.” After hearing that, I knew that he would never fully recover while living in that household. So I did the unthinkable. He started staying overnights at my house until eventually he was living there. Once he left his familial home his recovery was swift and sure. His family tries to be a good family in most ways but they simply weren’t equipped to deal with his condition having other very devastating family issues that may have attributed not to the onset of his condition but to the exacerbation of his symptoms that ironically saved his life through the diagnosis.
Once he had recovered he began questioning our future together. I at the time had no intent to become romantically linked to him until first I received a letter from Omar telling me how mean and nasty and utterly cruel I was because I didn’t even have the heart to feel anything for him. Secondly, I had encountered Mudar and his wife at a wedding that I was a guest of and he was an usher. And I decided that I might as well marry Joseph.
My family and friends were shocked. Now that he was whole and hale, it was obvious to everyone but us that we were completely incompatible. And even more alarming to them was that his family and I was incompatible. Although, I came to love his brothers and sister as well as their children my relationship with his mother was always dependent upon her son’s satisfaction with me. I never believed her when she said that she loved my daughter or me. And my daughter and husband were to be rivals for the duration of my marriage. I was now twenty-four years old.
During my marriage those old questions about religion began to crop up. There was always tension in the spring because I absolutely reduced to take part in Easter knowing what it stood for. It became increasingly difficult for me when one or another of his family members would advise my daughter to pray to Mary because it was raining or to some other saint about some such nonsense. But since I quickly became pregnant, I held my tongue and my heart for the sake of this little family that I wanted to make perfect. Not knowing what perfect was but wanting with all my heart to have it feel perfect. Over the next couple of years I would read and find solace in the Quran not knowing that there was a method of conversion, some say reversion but since I never accepted the religions laid on me I tend to think that I have always been living in submission to Allah, swt.
Things unraveled fast in my marriage, my relationship with my daughter was strained, my career was no longer satisfying, and I was increasingly bouncing between anger, disappointment, and depression. I had a daughter aged twelve going through the roller coaster of puberty, a daughter of two extremely jealous of her six month old brother, and a husband who found every means possible to escape the pressures of this family. I felt conflicted in every area of my life.
On a rainy morning in March in my twenty-seventh year, I read the Quran again and resolved to find out what I was missing. I spent three days tracking down a Masjid was denied entrance into two of them; the first I believe was Nation of Islam, the second I don’t know. I was told that a meeting was taking place within and that if I would go to this place the sisters would help me. Uneasy I didn’t follow the door guards advise. Finally, I found the Islamic Society.
I wasn’t dressed very proper though conservative compared to my friends and relatives. Slacks, short sleeve skirt, scarf designed to accessorize not cover but I was welcomed with no word of my state of dress. A sat in a halaqa, chatted with some sisters, and was then escorted to a talk at a sister’s house. I didn’t need to be asked if I wanted to say shahada, I was there to be told what I needed to do. And took the shahada that very day.
I returned home feeling light and uplifted. I told my husband what I had done but by now he was as disinterested in my pursuits as I was of his opinions. In reality I suppose one could say that I was weekend Muslim. I lived a secular life at home and attended Masjid on the weekend sometimes toting the children along.
I made a point to mention that my marriage was in trouble, fishing for an answer that I hoped would give me an out. The next week I heard a halaqa about how much Allah, swt. hates divorce. I was also told at some other time that Islam doesn’t break up marriages and assured that my marriage was okay. It seemed rather odd and abrupt hearing this because I hadn’t asked or thought that my religion would somehow affect my marital status. I later learned that since at that time it was almost unheard of for a married woman to enter into Islam without her husband the leaders at the Masjid had specifically asked a visiting scholar about this because of my case and the scholar advised them to advise me such. It would be another three painful years for everyone in my household before I knew of the gravity of this mistake.
One day my little daughter said to me, “Mommy, it’s hard to be nice when everyone is always yelling around you.” She was four years old. I knew that I had to get out. My husband and I had already separated twice and somewhere I thought that I learned that three separations resulted in permanent divorce for Muslims. So I initiated a third separation and hired a divorce attorney. I don’t know if I was wrong or not but I believed that my husband was seeing another woman based on telephone calls received to my home and after being separated for a while I began to pursue an online relationship. During this time a great battle of wills broke out. He began diverting my emails to his inbox, I considered myself divorced and behaved as such even though he had decided that he would move back into the family home until the judge ratified the divorce. I got a job and kept my distance from him while trying to be civil while unbeknownst to me he was trying to find a loophole in my religion that would keep me bound to him. After learning the proper procedure that we should have taken upon my becoming Muslim I was convinced that we had been committing adultery for most of our marriage. He consulted with someone at the masjid who assured him that this was not the case but yes it was true that a Muslim girl cannot remain married to a non-Muslim man.
I don’t know how long after his consultation it was that I came home from work and he began informing of his rights as a Muslim man and my husband. I don’t know why but I was devastated. I had been unhappy for so long when if having had the truth I would have been able to avoid it by either him becoming Muslim before I lost all trust in him or by a much earlier mandated divorce. Allah’s laws are truly righteous; even when they don’t appear to be by good intentioned people.
I couldn’t believe that he accepted Islam for Islam. I felt that he was making a power play and I was intent on being the victor in this situation which in my mind to be free of him. I simply could not overcome the hurt and disappointment of the previous four years. I desperately wanted to be loved not owned. I don’t begrudge that marriage at all or the way that it went on because out of it came three more Muslim than there might have been and because of that I have glad heart.
We had bought a house in the first year of our marriage. I inherited that house along with the mortgage upon my divorce. I knew that the Quran admonished against usury but in American English usury translates as exorbitant interest so I didn’t see having a home mortgage as a conflict. Directly after my divorce I began a strong renewed study of Islam and one of things that I learned was that the actual language of Quran said that any type of interest was illegal. I quite the brokerage business shortly after taking the shahada because I was told that life insurance was illegal because Allah, swt. alone determines your life, death, and sustenance. But, was never told that mortgages were illegal.
I was divorced in my thirty-second year. Initially I stayed away from the Masjid after my divorce because of the misinformation that I received, renewed and expanded my study of Islam.
The summer directly after my divorce was final I visited Pakistan to work on a research project concerning the orphans of Kashmir as well as orphans throughout Pakistan and also spent time in Dubai. I fell in love with traveling abroad. People were generous and graceful wherever I was and I felt accepted and appreciated in ways that I never had before. People talked with me and listened to me with no regard to what I might be able to do for them.
I began traveling around the US, visiting various Masjids during the children’s times with their dad and raising them during their school months while working at home as a writer.
Over these years I have come to know that every experience that I have is a part of something so much bigger than me and I feel the strength of Allah’s care not only for me but his entire creation and yet I also feel grave pain from recognizing how difficult it is for the Muslims to come together and fulfill their destinies as the khalifa’s of this earth due to the many and deep divisions in our community as Muslims disenfranchise their brothers and sisters by having the audacity to claim to be the one group that is righteous. .
Learning about the divisions and sects within Islam sincerely broke my heart more than any other event in my life. I think that giving ourselves titles such as Salaf, Sufi, Sunni, Shia and all those in between is the most dangerous of all bida’a because it invites the umma to separate and divide even excusing the killing of those who say laillahiilAllah by those who say laillahiilAllah.
I have been recently wary of
close association my area Masjids for fear of being aligned with a sect. Yet, I
have this deep desire to attempt to find ways to bring the ummah together in a
manner that is pleasing to Allah, swt. I often waver between being content with
being alone with Allah, swt. and the need to be a part of a caring and
supportive community but I know as always my present condition serves Allah’s
purpose for the future and I am confident Allah, swt. will guide us toward
sincere brotherhood/sisterhood that is pleasing to him. I am now nearly thirty
seven years old.