We Believe by Faith and not by Sight… What?
From my earliest memory, I thirsted for the knowledge I could never find. I found myself bored in church, in school, and in extracurricular activities, mostly because being raised in a devout Southern Baptist setting, my surroundings were Christian and made no sense to me. I asked questions and got the same answers– “You will never understand some things,” “Believe by blind faith,” “Go by faith but not by sight,” and so on. The Bible Belt is not the best place for a young girl to ask questions, especially about the Christian faith, so I suppressed my religious anxiety until I could answer the questions on my own, with my own knowledge.
My Introduction to Arab Culture and Islam
Having a father who worked in the oil field meant a lot of moving for my family; this travel included several trips to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, living in compounds and living among people. The Arab culture mesmerized me in every way, the prayer calls so beautiful, even though I had no idea what they meant. I saw the women as enigmatic as they shopped, flocked together like dark crows, their eyes lined with kohl and their abayas scented with oudh. I wanted to know more about these women and the men, as well, so I tried my best to educate myself on the Arab ways of life.
Discovering Islam as a Part of My Life
The obvious must not have been so obvious to me at the time, because I bypassed Islam in its entirety; maybe I wasn’t ready for it at the time or maybe I was afraid that it would ring out as truth, I will never know, but I drank in every bit of Arab literature and cultural facts I could. I felt as if I knew these people, even when I lived in America, once again. I couldn’t ignore Islam forever, though, and two summers ago, my husband and I decided we might travel to the Middle East and teach English. He had never traveled out of the States and I yearned to go back to the place I knew so well as a child. As we planned out our trip, we decided we should buy a Qur’an to better understand Arab religion and culture, and we were floored by the beauty. We couldn’t ignore the truths, the scientific facts, the fact that this religion was exactly what we had been seeking our entire lives, but we remained quiet. Weeks later, my husband told me he thought he might be Muslim, and it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. I could breathe, and faith had given me that breath. I had someone to hold my hand and go through this huge change with me, and I knew that everything was perfect.
Declaring my Islamic Faith
My husband and I, as nervous as we were, began searching for the closest Islamic Center. Little did we know, there was a mosque just five minutes away from our home, and we went that week. My husband spoke to the Imam and some other male members and I spoke to a sister who had an Islamic Studies degree, and that night, we declared our faith in taking the shahada. I felt immense joy and peace. I was also pregnant at that time, alhamdulliah, my son was born six months later, and my husband whispered that same declaration into his tiny, velvety ear– “la illaha il Allah, Muhammad u Rasulullah,” and he slept gently in that same peace, knowledge, and understanding that guided me to Islam.
Today, as I write this, I do not know how I survived before Islam. All the questions I once had are answered in the Qur’an. My life has a purpose, to worship the one and only God, and I will never question that again. It is very tough being Muslim in the deep south, but through Allah and his mercy, I have made it, and, insha’Allah, I will continue to learn and teach others about the peace, understanding, and value of life I see in my faith every day.