Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Story

I was born January 9th, 1982 during one of the worst blizzards to ever hit Kentucky and its surrounding states. My Mother still tells the story of when she went to the hospital to deliver me they pulled all the hospital beds as far away from the windows as possible to keep all the patients warm and hung heavy curtains along each window to act as insulation. The only way I was able to get home was because my Father had a 4X4 Chevrolet pickup truck that was able to power over and through the snow drifts. My first home was a small house on a dairy farm where my Father worked, as the snow continued to fall through the rest of the winter blocking the roads so badly they were impassible for vehicles my Father would walk over a mile to the nearest gas station to buy me the milk and food that I needed to survive.

Soon we left the dairy farm and moved to a large beef production farm where my Father made his living by partnering with the farm owners to raise and sell cattle along with growing crops such as tobacco and corn. Since I was the only child I too helped work in these crops and with the livestock. I kind of had the best of both worlds really, some days I could wear dresses and play with dolls and other days I could run through the fields and climb on the hay bales or ride on the tractors. I think all farm kids whether male or female have enjoyed playing in the mud or wading in the creek to catch crawfish, minnows and other small fish and aquatic life. If you can imagine a narrow country road with a little white church on the side of the road, lots of open fields and open spaces that's the kind of place where I grew up. Our closest neighbors were over a mile away. Growing up on a farm that used to be a southern plantation teaches you a lot about history, animals and yourself. The house was built in the 1800's and so large that we only used half of it. In the backyard there was a slave house built of stone so early in my life I became familiar with the plight of slavery and the horrors that it caused to the Africans that were brought here. There were still items in the slave house like the old iron stove they had used to keep themselves warm, unfortunately for me my cats always thought this was a good place to hide and have their babies. Every time a storm or heavy rain came I would climb over the rocks of the fallen wall and into the slave house, round up the kittens so they wouldn't drown and put them in a box as fast as I could so I could climb back out of there because I believed the ghosts of the slaves would get me for what their owners had done to them!  Even as a child I felt sadness for those subjected to slavery, all I had to do was look in my backyard and know that the shackles and injustice was real and not just a dramatic movie aired on TV at night. It saddened me that those slaves were buried out in the woods instead of having a proper grave in the public cemetery, but even to this day that cemetery is segregated with the white families buried in the main part and the African American families buried in a separate field close by. 

Growing up my favorite hobby was always my pets. During Christmas time my Dad and I would even go out in the woods and cut down a small Christmas tree that we would put inside our screened in back porch just for our pets and I would wrap them presents such as new collars and cat and dog treats that I would open and give them on Christmas Eve. My first dog was a Collie like Lassie that I named Popcorn and my first cat was a black and white one that I named Halloween. I really don't know why I chose those names except for the fact that I may have had a very active imagination. we also had other cats, dogs, orphaned calves that would would feed with huge baby bottles and raise as pets, chickens, ducks and a Tennessee Walking horse named Lady.  I would spend a lot of time reading, my favorites were the Jack London novels White Fang and Call of the Wild. I would sit for countless hours watching Reading Rainbow and nature shows on PBS and almost always fell asleep with a book or magazine in my hands. Another one of my favorite things is when my parents and I would get in my Father's truck at night, taking a blanket with me so I could stay warm and my Dad would drive around the fields shining his lights so you could see all sorts of wildlife that comes out at night such as foxes, coyotes, and deer. This was important because not only did it keep newborn calves safe from being attacked by coyotes it also gave my Dad a chance to catch people that would climb over the fences and hunt deer, raccoon or turkeys illegally because my Dad was never the type to hunt the animals and didn't like anyone else killing them for fun either. My Dad is so brave that he would walk up to the hunters holding their shotguns while he was unarmed and tell them to leave and he would make them walk back off the farm while he drove the truck behind them to make sure they left. Can you imagine doing that today? The way people act now they may shoot you just to get you out of their way so they can go hunt some more. 

I was raised Presbyterian so weekends meant church and Sunday School, even back then I didn't spend much time with other kids. instead I would sit with some old ladies that knew my parents and they would have me read Bible scriptures to them. I went for years without missing a single Sunday and the Preacher and his family would give me gifts ever so often. One was a doll based on the women of the Bible and she was wearing a gold colored scarf over her hair and a maroon cloak over her clothes. Now I look back and see that all those years I was playing with a doll in abaya and hijab. One year I was Mary on the Church's float during the towns Christmas parade and wore a scarf over my hair, little did I know that one day I would want to do that everyday. I also became fascinated with nuns, I would see them walking in town and always thought the way they dressed was so beautiful. For the longest time my aspirations were to be either a veterinarian or a nun. 

During summers I would go to Bible school at 3 different churches. I had so much fun learning the stories and doing crafts. This soon came to an end though. To make a long story short and because I was young and don't remember the details the Preacher got into some legal trouble over sexual misconduct so I never went back to that church again. over time my parents and I started to attend the church my Mother's family went to. The first thing they did was baptize us,  which is usually a happy time but to me it didn't feel right. Instead of it being a spiritual time I remember feeling embarrassed because everyone was gathered around laughing and making jokes about how we might need to be baptized again because we may have been so sinful that once wasn't enough. Their methods of worship were also different, I  had always prayed to God but they ended their prayers with 'in Jesus name, Amen'. I started to question them about this and other things that had started to confuse me, and trust me when I say questioning is one of the worst things you can do in a church because they automatically jump to the conclusion that you are against them and maybe even possessed. 

I had always had a hard time in school, I didn't have many compassionate teachers that cared whether I was learning anything or not. Other kids had always made fun of me because of how I looked, everyday they would call me 'jew' 'jewface' or a goth because my hair was always so dark or ask me what was wrong with my nose to make it so big. Even teachers would get in on it some days and question me about why I liked to wear dark clothes and why I always liked to wear a black quilted jacket that I would wear almost every day. The truth was that it was soft and comfortable and kept me warm but they couldn't understand that and saw me as being 'suspicious' thanks to the reports passed around the school systems after the school bombings and shootings in other states that told teachers to watch out for students that were quiet and wore black clothes because they may be in a cult or be planning a school shooting of their own. Male classmates would treat me violently, one even punched me in the back of the head during the middle of a class and as I sat there at my desk crying from the pain while all the other students laughed at me the teacher and principal decided that I was making the whole thing up so I could get attention and nothing really happened at all. 

It was around this time that I started to think that God hated me and I couldn't understand why because I had never been a bad kid, I lived so far out away from the city that I never got into the drinking and partying lifestyle that so many teens fall into and while my classmates were out having wild weekends I was at home on the farm reading books and spending time with my parents and animals. This went on for several years and I would continue to find things in the bible that confused me. I started to get really aggravated by the Bible's injustices against women and girls such as in the book of Deuteronomy where the bible demands that a victim of rape must marry her rapist, and yes there are Christians who believe in that and will try their best to make it happen. 

Every year in Kentucky the spring time is exciting because it means it's time for the running of our most popular and beloved horse race, the Kentucky Derby. Horses have always been very important to me and I loved all the different breeds and learning about the countries and cultures each breed originally came from. The Kentucky Derby is an all day event on our TV  it was during one of these Derby specials that I first saw HRH Sheikh mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He was walking across a bridge wearing a kandoora (or thobe/dishdasha if that's what you prefer to call it) and it was the first time I had ever seen someone wear that  in at a horse race and I became intrigued and wanted to learn more about his horses, family and country. At the time I never imagined that someday I would be actual step my feet within his country. 

Years were passing by and I was still struggling with the Bible so much that I had started to dislike going to church. I felt so out of place within this church even though my parents and other family members were sitting right beside me. I've always been a very sensitive person, maybe even too emotional at times and it showed while the congregation sang hymns or prayed because every time I heard these things tears would well up in my eyes. It did cause a lot of people to stare, laugh at me and ask what was wrong but how can you really explain that you feel sad and are crying because you love God but you don't know why he hates you and keeps causing bad things to happen to you? When 9/11 happened people started talking more about Islam and Muslims and in the bigger cities I would see news reports of Islamic learning centers and mosques receiving bomb threats and other threats of violence and pretty much made out to be the Big Bad Wolf. I couldn't understand why people were targeting the people of this particular religion that from what I had been reading seemed to be a peaceful group that even had rules on how you should respect animals based solely on the actions made by some extremists in other areas, to me that was like blaming all Christians for the actions of those Christian extremists that bomb clinics or shoot the doctors they suspect for allowing abortions. 

The next place we moved to was a thoroughbred farm that raised and bred racehorses. I was surrounded on every side with Kentucky's racehorse history and straight across from my front door was a farm that had raised and raced Kentucky Derby winners. I had started to miss the extra money that I had been earning while I had worked for a dog breeder and started searching for a new job. I found one another county that I could commute to at a factory that made automotive parts. When I began my job there I was just a regular assembly worker making minimum wage and doing the most basic and simple jobs on the production floor, but when the factory eventually shutdown I left as the Administrative Assistant/Maintenance Buyer over the entire molding side of the factory. My parents and even my Father's bosses still to this day talk about how proud they are of me because every job I've had I have been able to advance myself. During my time working at the factory my boss put me in charge of working with the Japanese managers and engineers from Gambia because I was the only one that would be patient and work with them to solve things despite the language and cultural barriers we sometimes faced. My coworkers from Gambia were Muslim so that gave me a great chance to question them about their faith and lives while we worked on projects together. For the most part they didn't mind my questions but when I expressed interest about spending some time with the women because I was interested in joining their religion they were quick to tell me that they didn't think that would be a wise decision for me and my life would be better if I continued being Christian and anyways their mosque was over an hour away since they lived futher away from the factory than even I did. 

During the economic downturn when the automotive industry was hit hard the factory where I worked was shut down and moved to Thailand so the parts could be made cheaper. Unless you have been involved in a mass layoff yourself you can't really understand the sorrow that is involved when you and hundreds of people that you've spent everyday working with lose your jobs in the blink of an eye. A loarge nmber of my coworkers had to settle for unemployment and struggle to try to find another job, while others moved to different statesfor employment or went back to their home countries. I took the severance pay the company gave me and planned a trip to Finland. I know Finland is a strange choice but I had been researching online about the safest destinations in Europe to travel to and I really, really wanted to see a reindeer farm and Alaska was out of the question because of its high female assault rates. I wanted some time to compose myself and gather my thoughts because I had just lost so much. My job was my way of paying for college so I had to quit and I was also in the process of buying a house and had to give up on that as well because without a job there was no way I could make payments to pay for a home of my own. Finland wasn't as helpful as I thought it would be, although it was peaceful and I did get to do some fun things like seeing a real castle and visiting a cathedral for the first time I felt out of place in their culture which predominantly revolved around getting drunk.

They even had boats dedicated to the purpose that people could get on them and get drunk while they float around the river that ran through the town and into the ocean. Luckily they are very weary of outsiders so if you look different to them not even the drunks will bother you as you walk around or take the ferry to cross the river. Out of my whole trip the memory that stays with me the most is when I was sitting at the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark waiting for my flight watching people busily milling around the shops and food stations out of the corner of my eye there was a lady in a black abaya and niqab pushing her baby in a stroller. This was my first time seeing a lady wear niqab in person and I thought she looked beautiful, not scary at all like the media tried to lead me to believe. I looked her way and smiled before she disappeared into the mass of people and went back to reading my book. I felt the shadow of someone walk up and stand next to me, when I looked up it was her! She handed me her ticket and pointed at the numbers, she was lost and couldn't find the direction of the gate she needed to be at so I found the direction she needed to go in and sent her on her way. Looking back now I don't think it was just a coincidence that she came to me, I think she and her baby were meant to come close to me so I could admire their beauty and help them. During my whole trip she was the only person who approached me in any way, I believe there  is a significance in that.  

When I came back home I started researching Islam more deeply online and signed up on one of the websites that sends free copies of the Quran and pamphlets to Christians who are interested in learning more. I was pretty excited when I got my copy of the Quran and put all the other books I was reading on hold and delved into the Quran right away. Being unemployed I had plenty of time to read the Quran day and night and I would also read articles online and watch videos on youtube. I started asking around to find Muslims that would talk to me and a friend introduced me to some that were visiting from somewhere else but they were more concerned about my ethnic background and whether I could get them a greencard than they were about my burgeoning interest in Islam so I cut ties with them and started trying to network online. I too was once a user of the website most of us have left behind now, Myspace. It was through Myspace that I found a group in Saudi Arabia that said they were experts at helping people that wanted to revert to Islam. I signed up for their newsletter and started to correspond with one of their representatives but it quickly turned sour. I was not prepared for how demeaning and judgmental these conversations would be, they wanted to know every little detail of my life thus far and would frequently tell me things that discouraged me such as my parents were going to hell unless I made them revert and that I would never be able to pray for my parents again and must act as if they are dead to me unless they embrace Islam. I became so upset by the things they were telling me that I cut contact with them and started searching elsewhere.  

I started to become really discouraged and unsure if I sure pursue my interest in Islam or not, I decided that I had nothing better to do so I continued to read things online in my spare time and noticing the similarities between the lives of Muslims and mine, plus I'm really stubborn. I voluntarily stopped eating pork after reading about how nasty it really is and because the reasons the people gave me at church on why we can eat it even though the old Testament says not to didn't make any sense to me. Plus I have been scared of pigs my entire life. To me there is nothing scarier than a farm animal that can actually kill you and eat you, my fear may have partially come from scars that my Dad had before they faded away from where he was attacked by a pig and it injured his arm. When I would go to livestock auctions with my Dad walking across the catwalk that goes over the pig pens was always my least favorite part because I was scared I would fall over into the pen where the pigs were and they would eat me. 

Time kept passing by and every person I would talk to about Islam and converting turned out to be a dead end. Just when I was about to give up I gained a friend that would take the time to answer my questions and explain the facets of Islam that I did not yet understand. My interest was peaked again and in January of 2011 I found myself making a voyage to Abu Dhabi. As soon as I stepped off the plane I could feel how different the atmosphere was, with each breathe that entered my body I felt as if I was breathing in the air of a holy land. It was there that I heard the athan the way it was supposed to be. I had heard the words spoken in the past by reciters and acquaintances but those could  in no way compare to the feeling you get when the beautiful voice of the muezzin is projected over a load speaker and surrounding you on all sides.  As I stood looking at the majestic beauty that is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque I felt like there was a storm brewing inside me. I felt the tears in my eyes but held them back. I felt a deep urge to run straight into it and beg for their help but I digressed and stood outside admiring its beauty, after all I did have to try to act normal. You really don't want to embarrass yourself or those around you when you are visiting a new place. 

When I came back home I asked even more questions and finally got an answer from my friend on how to revert. They told me that first it must be done within your heart and mind and then you go to a mosque and you revert officially with an Imam. I entered a time of deep thoughts and evaluations that coincided with a lot of family drama that my cousin decided we should all be involved then. It was at this time that I realized that the feelings I have that I'm not like my Christian relatives wasn't just in my head. I really was different. I had different thoughts, behaviors and values than they did. That was the moment I decided I was going to embrace Islam on my own. Their were tears, this time not out of sadness but out of happiness because I realized that all those years that I thought God hated me he had actually loved me deeply and was only testing me to see how strong I could be. During the bad years, through the periods of depression and hopelessness I had never stopped praying before I went to sleep at night. In that moment of clarity I understood why. 

I kept my decision to myself at first and continued to study on my own and started searching for an Imam to take my shahadah with. I entered another series of traumatic and stressful events; my Father was injured by a horse so badly that it nearly took his life, I lost other loved ones, several family members developed severe health problems and even the death of pets took its toll on me. I took my official shahadah May 13, 2011. 

In many ways I'm still just a farm girl from Kentucky. I still like to go fishing, run free in wide open spaces and I'll always prefer sitting on the ground playing with baby chickens to spending all day in a store staring at fancy things that cost more than normal people earn in a week. The only difference is that now I understand life and I know I have a deeper purpose for myself and to everyone else I come in contact with. 

Holidays

As I sit writing this it is Thanksgiving and I'm watching one of the staples of every American's Thanksgiving, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year I have been paying closer attention to all the groups and floats that are included in the parade and although I am happy to see they included a beautiful Native American Indian float and singer to represent their people and culture but another minority group came into my mind, where are the Muslims? I didn't even see one along the sides watching the parade as the cameras panned around to show the audiences lined up along the sidewalks. Maybe i just missed seeing them?  I do not believe it is haram for Muslims to celebrate Thanksgiving because in essence it is not a religious holiday but a cultural holiday founded in America to instill a day within the population to stop, take a break, and be thankful for what God has given them and everything around them.  You have to put your mind and heart in the right place and see that Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to spread love, promote unity and offer charity for God.

Growing up I enjoyed all the major holidays that are celebrated here Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were always a time when the whole family would gather at my grandparents houses and my parents would be the ones cooking for dozens of people since they were the only ones in my family that were skilled at cooking, and thank God my parents never minded cooking because if I'd had to eat some of the things others tried to cook I may have starved, nobody wants to eat anything burned or covered in cat hair!

These family gatherings over the holidays were highly anticipated and usually started off fun but by the end of the day there would always be family drama, arguments and at least one person saying they weren't going to come to any family functions ever again. Both my grandmothers passed away when I was around 17 and that brought an end to our family holiday gatherings and since then each branch of our family have gone their separate ways.

Since Thanksgiving is the only mutual holiday my parents and I share now it is important for me to use this day to be with them and show them how much I care for them and to tell them I appreciate them for everything they do for me.  It also must be said that you don't need a holiday to convey these feelings and thoughts to your parents and you should do it everyday but if you don't have a habit of doing that already then today may be the perfect day for you to start.

I still have the duty of caring for my parents and making them happy because Islam encourages all Muslims to be kind and compassionate to their parents whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. Regardless of her religion your heaven is still at your mothers feet so you must respect her, keep her happy and do everything you can for her.

'Keep their company with kindness in this world, and follow the path of him who turns to Me. Then unto Me will you return, and I shall tell you what you did' Luqman 31: 15

Treating them with kindness means that we as reverts are allowed to participate with our parents if they are celebrating Christmas as long as we do not eat or drink anything that is unlawful to us and as long as we have the right intention, which is that we are participating to keep our parents happy and show respect to them because they are people of the book,  not because you are worshiping Jesus as any form of deity.

As for the Islamic holidays I am left alone. During the Eids and even Ramadan I have no Muslims that are nearby to celebrate with so my fasting is done alone and I have no mosque to go to hear an Imam on holidays or other special days.  I had read that the first year after accepting Islam would be the most emotionally difficult and hard to adjust to. In some ways that was true, after all I did spend 29 years as a Christian observing their beliefs and practices and even now during my second year as a Muslim I still find that I am reprogramming myself in some ways.

One of the hardest things about trying to learn how to observe the Islamic holidays is not knowing what you should be doing. I still have to ask countless questions to others about what they do during these special times and I read every book I can find on the subject but there are still times when I stop and ask myself  'Am I doing this right?'. It can be hard because this time you cannot look towards your parents for guidance and moral support like you did as a kid observing the Christian holidays.  During Ramadan when I wake up early to cook I do fix more than I can eat and share it with my parents when they wake up, they may not participate in Ramadan but they do appreciate having some warm food for their breakfast.

 Sometimes it can be hard to grasp why there isn't more support for new Muslims to help them adjust to their new life, the first couple months after reverting a couple of Islamic learning centers and helpful people sent me a plethora of books and dvds but after that they left me alone. I must add that none of those who sent me things were even from America and I am very thankful that even though those groups were in another country they took their time and money just to be able to send me things.

Aside from wondering if I'm observing special times correctly it is also hard for me to look at photos or videos of communities and families breaking fasts or celebrating the Eids together because I have never experienced that. It gives you a deep feeling of being left out. You yearn for the closeness and happiness that these people have and you wonder if they realize how lucky they are to have someone to do those things with. Although when I was a child I enjoyed Christmas very much when I look back now I feel sadness and would give all of those Christmases up just to be able to enjoy the Eids and Ramadan with my family the way they are supposed to be.

I have no advice to give at this time to others that may be facing the same difficulties, just do your best to keep yourself occupied by reading any books you can find on the subject and if you have Muslim friends try to engage them in a conversation and explain what you feel and are going through. There is also this article that explains a little about supporting reverts.

Becoming Something New


Everyone has a different story of how they accepted Islam and how their life has changed after doing so. Instead of telling the story of how I reverted I am going to share with you some of the thoughts and difficulties I have faced and continue to face after embracing this beautiful religion.

The biggest step isn't the act of starting to feel the faith and belief of the Quran, Allah and the Prophet(pbuh) in your mind and heart because those things come naturally as you learn, the biggest step is facing fear. Not fear of Islam itself but fear of society, friends, family and even a fear of other Muslims  So you keep all of your thoughts, feelings and questions bottled up inside you. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and as the months go by you start to feel a happiness and peace within you that you've never felt before. People start looking more beautiful and you feel an urge to tell the people in your life how much you love them and that you feel they are a blessing from God... but you can't because then you would risk telling them your deep secret that you have joined a new faith and you would risk losing them so you keep your mouth shut and go on like everything is normal and nothing has changed.

I kept my decision hidden for months, I never told anyone for fear of losing them and the possibility of rejection. When I finally did have a breakdown and let it out to a person I cared very deeply for I immediately felt the wall of rejection and guilt suffocating me. Yes, guilt. Admitting my truth made me feel so guilty, as if I had done something terribly wrong.

I would read stories about how reverts were readily accepted with open arms and immediately found their place within the ummah and pretty much lived happily ever after. Why wasn't this happening to me? My first experiences were people freaking out and telling me I was doing it all wrong, that there was a system I needed to follow. I still to this day do not know what system they were talking about because no one ever offered any assistance to help me learn about a system even when I asked for their help.

In the beginning I always made the mistake of asking other Muslims questions and mostly got the answer 'Go Google it.'. Thankfully I eventually found a few people that would answer my questions and not treat me like I'm a burden on them. I will forever be thankful for them and appreciate them more than they will ever know. I was discouraged everyday, even now I still have moments where I am surprised I have not given up.

The biggest hurdle for me as a revert is loneliness and isolation. Every time I think I can jump over this hurdle I'm not quite high enough and end up slapping myself into it face first. I fully understand now why a revert is considered an orphan under Islam. My parents are aging, both have health problems and I fear everyday that one or both of them will pass away. Then where will I be? I'll be stuck in an area where you have to drive for miles to see another Muslim  and even then that Muslim is probably going to treat you like an outsider because you do not come from the same culture as them or for various other reasons. The cultural divides are a big problem, sure you'll meet Muslims from all over the world and some will be very kind and treat you like a brother or sister in every way possible but the majority for me has been that they see me as an American first and then a Muslim second. When I reverted I willingly gave up whatever man made traditions or ideas I had followed in the past to try my best to fully embrace the sunnah and Quran the best that I can. When Aisha was asked about the culture of the Prophet(pbuh) she would reply by saying his culture was the Quran, to me that's all I needed to hear to try my best to break free from the cultural womb that I had grown in to develop myself into a better person and live my life the way Allah meant for me to live. You will meet alot of people that are their nationality and culture first and then Muslim second, it's best not to get into discussions with these people because it will only leave you feeling even more isolated and wondering if you made a mistake by choosing this way of life because they make you feel as if you will never fit in because you   were not born a Muslim or born a certain nationality. It isn't necessarily people who may be living in a different country either, I have repeatedly tried contacting mosques and Islamic learning centers within my state for various things such as to meet other ladies I could talk to and for counseling but I am repeatedly brushed off or ignored which makes the Outsider feeling set in even deeper.

For years I thought that I loved Muslims, now I see that was not the case. All those years I was really loving Islam and the values that it held within it, the beauty in its words and the peacefulness that it will put within you. I know now that I have to view the Muslims and Islam as two different aspects because the behavior and actions of some Muslims have no place or justification in the way of the Sunnah and Quran. Some will look down on you for being a revert as if you are a novelty they can watch for a while until they see you break and go back to your old ways. Prepare yourself for questions like 'What man are you trying to impress?', 'Are you doing this so someone will marry you?' and comments like 'Just go back to being a christian and live your life, this is not for you.'. At times I feel like I am being persecuted as if I am a witch just for being a single white woman who accepted Islam. Should I be put in a museum or a circus sideshow?

The fear is still there everyday. You have to be careful at home thanks to the media, don't leave your books or magazines laying around where everyone can see them. Especially if they have the words the media like to misuse like 'Jihad' written on them anywhere. Although my parents are more accepting, my aunts and cousins are not. They are devout Christians that follow Baptist like ideas and they view Muslims as terrorists that wake up every morning just to cause civil unrest and war. It's because of these things that I have to hide when I pray. Those born to Muslim families have probably never experienced this and don't know how emotionally sad and hurt it makes you feel when you have to wait till everyone is gone, working or asleep just so you can grab your prayer mat, lock your door and hope that no one knocks or yells for you to do something while you're in the middle of a prayer. Many days and nights I have spent on my mat after a prayer crying because I don't want to be hidden anymore, I want to live my life openly spiritually and physically as a Muslim everyday.

I have to be careful where I go, what I say and especially what I wear. My first year as a revert I was verbally attacked and harassed by a family friend so badly that I had to get my Father involved just so they would leave me alone. My first Ramadan I was harassed by people who lived in a neighboring county that would tell me to 'Go back where I came from' because they did not believe that someone born and raised in this area could actually become a Muslim. After explaining to them that I am a born American the harassment didn't stop, I was told to go back to where my grandparents or great great parents originally came from because there is no place for people like me in America because I am not a "real" American. Going back to where my ancestors came from in Sicily actually doesn't sound like a bad idea when it means it will get me away from this type of hatred. I also had threats of being beaten and threats of having pigs blood dumped on me, thank God these were only threats. This year the worst I have had is people yelling things at me in restaurants while I sat eating with my parents just because I was wearing hijab, and one clever little kid that took one look at my black hijab and abaya, pointed and repeatedly yelled 'Look mom, she looks like Darth Vader!!!' Although the latter was quite embarrassing at the time I can have a laugh about it now cause in the end Darth Vader is actually pretty cool, some people probably live their whole lives wishing they could be compared to him.

It's because of these things that I can only wear hijab at certain times and certain places. I'm lucky enough to have a Father that never lets me go anywhere alone if I am wearing hijab and/or abaya so that has kept conflict at a minimum. I do get a lot of stares, people that make sure their kids don't walk anywhere near me and adults that will stay far away from me even if I hold the door open for them out of courtesy and respect for elders. Some tell me to just give up wearing them but I feel it is important for me to try to wear hijab as much as possible and abayas or jilbabs are much easier to wear than piling on layers of clothes and then double checking to make sure nothing is too tight, nothing is showing that shouldn't be etc..

I've probably put half of those reading this to sleep by now so I will stop and give you all a chance to ask questions, leave comments or make suggestions of things that you think may help me get through my struggles. Everyday I still feel like it's an uphill battle but in the future enshallah it will get better.


P.S.

I had to take this post down for a while due to family difficulties over my decision. Here are the comments that were left the first time I posted it:



Salam Alaikum dear sis.
This was very well written and as a revert myself really touched my heart. I too have found myself extremely isolated and lonely. I have grown well accustomed to it now and actually don't mind, I always feel closer to Allah in my solitude, aH.
I had a bit more support then you, but I see how very strong and blessed you are MSA, that you are able to hold on to your faith. I found myself making dua for you and know you are very blessed, MSA. In our isloation we are close to Allah (swt) through our continual, non-stop connection, interaction with Him. Keep making dua to Him to help your grow in strength, and rise above peoples ignorant based, biases. I face many of the same issues. I always remind myself, that I am the one who is guided, and they are the ones lost, aH. They don't know they are sleeping and I have to try and wake them up. Allah takes as much as we give Him, aH. I am so proud of you and you really touched my heart, MSA. I wish we lived closer, I'm in MI. May Allah (swt) make what is hard, easy for you and may He place much comfort, ease and love into your heart, IA. I'm always here, I'll always support you the best that I can. You are an inspiration and truly, very, very blessed, MSA. Much love to you always, you are in my dua. :) <3

As Salamu Alaikum sister fear Allah and put your trust in Allah this is a trial and a test of faith you just have to show how sincere you are to Allah from what I have read you seem to be very sincere Alhamdulillah don't worry about those that dislike the fact that you are Muslim because those are the ones that know nothing about Islam and worry less about the ones that are of other cultures that are Muslim that won't accept you I have the same issue too because I'm African American I remember one time a brother that didnt really like me yelled at me so arrogantly that he made me shed tears while I was making salah Astagfirullah we can only make Du'a and ask Allah to increase our Imaan and to keep us away from the evil doers.

Im kinda speechless right now.My beautiful strong sister You are a special soul and im ashamed that you felt that muslims saw you and treated you in the ways you experienced..as a born muslim its quite sad to hear some ppl would ever feel such arrogance when in the eyes of the Most Merciful we are the same.Remember ignorance is due to lack of knowledge and we pray that Allah swt heals those who feel such ways.Remember also shaytan has a role to play in making some act negative and in making us feel certain ways about their actions and we seek refuge from his whispers.

I too wish i knew you and that you were in London where from what im reading has a far more tolerant attitude to muslims than where you are.But sister stay patient and know that Allah swt tests those he loves and if possible try to move or relocate to somewhere you can practice your religion easier and please do not despair for verily the Quran tell us that after every hardship comes ease.I love you for the sake of Allah swt my sister and i feel humbled by your story.xxx

Salam alaykoem,

May Allah make it easy for you. Read the following beneficial article:

http://www.bakkah.net/articles/LifeIsAFitnah.htm

My beloved sister, I just want to tell you that you are not quiet right about this behavior towards you only. It is that I am born in a Muslim family and raised among Muslims, although when I started practicing Islam in the west i was labelled as an extremist by my own. After severe boycott from everyone in the environment and their constant claims me being extreme terrorist etc.. I moved to an Islamic country leaving everything behind. Arriving in the gulf countries, the Muslims seemed welcoming until they took all my money, and means, I have come to know that it was even worse when they knew what I was escaping from, they were friendly just to gain trust then they have done so much evil we even can not imagine. My advise to me and you, if you want the true path of the prophets, the righteous inheritors of the paradise, then this is what we will face. Know that sometimes we dislike a thing and its actually good for us, and sometimes we like a thing and its bad for us, we can take an example of a child getting an injection, the child will see it as an evil being done to him, though in the long run it will prevent him from a certain disease.

  1. As someone who was raised a Muslim...I feel very proud and touched by new reverts, who put most of us to shame with your sincerity, dedication and consideration to the basis of faith: something most Muslims nowadays seem to forget.

    It's worth pointing out that you are not strangers to this religion. You are the true bearers of the message, the true practitioners, the true believers by choice. You have used your mind and heart to embrace this religion so dearly, that you have sacrificed literally everything for it. You continue to use your gifted heart to survive through the storms of an unjust and temporary world, and InSha'Allah will reap the benefits of your patience and trust in God's wisdom, in this life and the hereafter. I feel humbled towards you and all great brothers and sisters who truly represent islam's ethics, Belief, and practice, far better than most Muslims who know more about tabloids than basic Islamic teachings. Thank you for carrying Islam the way it deserves. May Allah reward you for your patience, and guide us all through the right path. Amen