By Themise Cruz
In the Name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful
If anyone were to ask me when I became Muslim, I guess the only feasible answer would be that I was born Muslim, but just wasn't aware of it. We are all born into a state of Islam, but what is unfortunate is that many people never recognize this fact, and live lost in other circles of religion and lifestyles. I was horribly lost, and I suppose this was a good thing, because Allah felt my suffering and reached out to me. (al humd dulilah)
My first introduction to Islam was through a course at the University where during Ramadan we were invited to Juma prayer. It was here where I met a wonderful Muslim sister who invited me to her home for study and food. I declined at the time because it seemed too foreign to me. I had built up so many stereotypes that I was not willing to open my mind to anything surrounding Islam, even an invitation to knowledge. The next message Allah sent me came by my friendship with several Arab Muslims at one of the Technical Colleges near my home. This is where I was exposed to the Islamic lifestyle. I was amazed at the fact that they refused invitations to wild parties and drinking alcohol. How could they sit and pray so many times a day. And fasting for a whole month, what had gotten into these people? From that point forward, I thought I was the American authority on Islam. But in actuality I knew nothing. The height of my confusion hit at this point. I was an observer, but never had any understanding of what it all meant.
So, when I became a Muslim it was like Allah found me and gave me the answers to all the confusion that ran around in my head. It is so mind boggling to me that I was oblivious to the fact that I was so miserable. I was successful in the material aspects of life, but my mind and heart were uneasy. I was so weak in spirit that I tricked myself in believing that the material things that laid at my feet, were enough to cushion any hurtful blow that life dealt me. I was wrong. My mother died when I was 23, and all the money, my home, my education, the cars, jewelry, they all meant nothing. I tried to go on with life as though her death was just another event. But it was at this point that I could no longer ignore Allah. If I went on in my current state of mind, then my mother's life had been in vain. What purpose did she serve here on this earth? To what greater significance did her life have in this world? I could not believe that she meant so little. It was at this point that I began to hunger for this knowledge, and I opened all of myself to Allah.
It is almost too difficult to describe what it is like for someone who begins to feel Allah in their heart. Islam means so much more than rituals, language, culture or country. Islam is a glorious state of being, and it is a fundamentally different experience than what I had previously been learning. My husband taught me much of what I know about Islam today. While observing, listening and opening my heart, I slowly began to understand. Allah presents himself to people in different ways, and Allah impacts everyone's life differently. I had to come to an understanding of what Allah meant to me, and why it was necessary that I follow this path of life. I began to learn the meaning and significance behind the rituals I had only before observed at a primitive level. I began to read Koran for hours at a time. Allah began to reach out to me and fill the vast hole that was in my heart. For when an individual does not follow the path of Allah, they are in a constant search for that missing element. And once I stopped refusing the knowledge of Islam and opened my heart to my fellow Muslims and the teachings of the Koran, the transition was as easy as eating a piece of pecan pie.
Since then I have had contact with the original Muslim sister who I met in my university class. Many of the Muslim sisters get together once a month for study, prayer and informational sessions. I also visit the Masghed during Juma prayers and any other time that my schedule permits. Of course my husband and myself study Koran and Hadith, and are on a constant quest for knowledge. When you become a Muslim it is the beginning of a new path, a new way of life. Everyday Allah reveals himself to me in some way. Sometimes it is with a new piece of knowledge, or maybe he grants me patience or understanding, and some days it is perseverance or a peaceful state of mind. No matter what the case I am always aware of the blessings that Allah presents to me, and I continuously work to live the way he has intended all of us as human beings to live, in submission to his will.
I have also struggled throughout this search. My family is not accepting of my new way of life, nor are they accepting of my husband. I had a co-worker ask me one time, "How can you abandon Jesus, I love Jesus?" My response confused her I am sure. I simply explained that in Islam we abandon nobody. And in fact it is only now that I can read and understand the true significance of Jesus. Islam allows the follower to study the messages that Allah has sent throughout the ages, through the teachings of Jesus, Abraham and Mohammed. (Peace and Blessings be upon them) Because of this fact, as Muslims, knowledge is never hidden from us, and we are free in our search for truth and closeness to Allah.
My struggle is far from over. Western culture is not accepting or understanding of Islam, and it is mostly out of ignorance that this is so. They think that we are fundamentalists or terrorists, or some other form of monster here to wreak havoc in a peaceful Christian world. The way in which I combat the unkind comments and glares is through kindness and understanding. I remember a point when my understanding was so low that I closed my mind and heart to anything that the Muslim community had to say. And to think that if they had turned me away because of my ignorance, I would not be where I am today. So it is up to all Muslims to have patience and compassion for those who do not understand our way of life. Eventually Allah reveals himself to those who seek true knowledge and understanding.
Written February 27, 1997.