My story begins in the fall of 2003. I was taking a writing class in college and was assigned to write a paper on a controversial issue. I chose “Religion and Women's Rights.” I chose this topic mainly to annoy my evangelical writing instructor. At first I was going to write only about Christianity and women's right as I felt I was familiar with that religion and could write a convincing paper showing that Christianity and women's rights are not compatible. Indeed many of the Christian doctrines teach that women are the source of evil and deserve a lesser status.
After some thought, I decided to include not just Christianity, but Judaism as well. After all, Judaism is the predecessor of Christianity. Of course, Islam was in the news a lot because of the Afghan war. So, I thought; "Heck! I will add that, too, since Islam an Abrahamic faith as well".
I should say that during this time I was in an extremely abusive and controlling marriage. I had to work and turn over every dime I made to my then-husband. He was very critical of anything I did whether it was my studies at the university or the dinner I cooked for him after working, studying and taking care of our disabled son all day. Needless to say, I had quite a bit of pent-up rage and frustration. Like many people, instead of facing my situation and improving my life and my son's life, I chose to blame God. Astaghfirullah (God forbid!). The research paper seemed a perfect way to vent my frustration and deflect responsibility for my poor decisions in life away from myself. My attitude was, "Hey its God's fault that my life sucks!" Astaghfirullah (God forbid!).
As I began researching for the paper, I became obsessed with proving that Islam was the worst of all religions. I still don't understand why. I deliberately avoided any research that would put Islam in the slightest positive light. I actually went to google and typed "bad stuff about Islam" in the search bar. I found many examples of cultural indignities against women and spun in it to show how Islam was to blame for the atrocities. Astaghfirullah.
After I wrote the paper, I presented it to the dean of admissions so she could proofread it before I gave it to the instructor. She read the paper and told me, "This is a very well written paper, one of the best I have seen. However, it seems you have some anger against God." Maybe you might want to examine your reasons for attacking monotheist religions. Are you having marriage trouble? God wouldn't want you to be miserable."
I started thinking about what the woman said. I had always considered myself fair minded and not a person to make presumptions about anything. I decided to calm my guilt about my anti-Islam bias by researching Islam again. In the back of mind I had the idea that I would prove myself right about my first conclusions about Islam. So, I bought a paperback Qur’an and reading portions of it over and over again. I kept telling myself, "Don’t worry girl, you will find the mistakes in it. Just keep reading it."
So, I kept reading and reading but I couldn’t find any mistakes. Instead, I found answers to questions I had since I was a teenager. I read that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet of Allah. That Allah was One God. There was no ambiguous Trinity. I read how Allah commanded that female infants not be killed. I read how Allah created males and females from "a single soul". There was no story of a woman being made to serve a man as a subservient helper.
I read hadeeth (sayings of Muhammah) how the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) stated that paradise was at the feet of the mothers. I went online to Islamic message boards and read posts by Muslimas (Muslim women). They were doctors, lawyers, and mothers at the same time. They didn’t have to apologize for their choices for being a stay at home mom or for working outside the home. It was their choice. It amazed me. This was not the Islam I saw portrayed on television. These women didn’t have to display their bodies to get acceptance from society. They were recognized for their intellect and their unique talents and personalities; not the size of their chests.
After several months of researching and praying to GOD to show me the truth; I began to wish that I was Muslim. But fear of my then-husband’s reaction and my in-laws’ held me back. I did start to make changes though. I threw out my cut-off jeans and tight t-shirts. My ex was furious. Partly because he wouldn’t be able to show me off (his words) and partly because he would have to give me money for new clothes. I bought some loose cotton pants and long sleeve tunics. I started wearing scarf tied behind my head, country girl style, like I did when I was a young girl.
My in-laws thought I was having nervous break down. They yelled at my ex that his mistreatment of me had finally pushed me over the edge. My ex became more belligerent and controlling but a strange thing was happening to me. For the first time in the marriage and perhaps in my life, I started standing up for myself. When he would call me a bitch, I would tell him that he shouldn’t speak to me that way in front of our son. I started returning hellos from the neighbor ladies. Before I would just put my head down and say nothing like he had always wanted me to. I started to feel like I was worth something. I told my ex that "God loves me and made me for a reason and I don’t think that reason was to be mistreated by you." He stopped yelling at me and just stared. That was the first time I had ever "back talked" him.
I stopped feeling responsible for his problems. No longer did I believe the Christian pastors that had said his anger and porn addiction etc., was my fault for not being submissive enough.
I decided that I was going to be Muslim and be a servant of Allah if Allah would have me. My days of being a man's slave were over. I contacted the mosque and asked if there was any women I could talk to about being Muslim. Suddenly, out of the blue, I began running into Muslims at the Wal-Mart. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) for Wal-Mart. It became like a mosque for me almost. It took a while for me to get the nerve to approach them but finally I did. I gave them my phone number and asked if any of them had some sisters I could talk to. One of men gave my number to a brother in Michigan. He called me and gave me some websites to look at. At the same time, I saw a post from a brother offering to help new Muslims. I began corresponding with him via email. Immediately, I felt like I had a long lost brother. He began to urge me to do what I could to get in a safe place with my son.
At this same time, the imam's wife from the mosque called me one night. My ex picked up my cell and when she told him she was the imam's wife, he went berserk. He started cursing her and cursing Allah. It was horrible. He called the numbers of the Muslims that was on my cell and started cursing and threatening. He starting throwing stuff at me and pushed me out of the house in the rain. I ran and got in the van and locked myself in it. Our son ran outside and started crying. A neighbor called the police. That is when the ex was later picked up by police laying down by the railroad tracks outside of town. I called the brothers that my ex had sorely verbally abused and started to apologize. They told me I had nothing to be sorry for. I had never heard that before. All the other times he had done something, I had been told how it was my fault. How, if only, I would try harder to be better wife he wouldn’t have to get angry etc. Then the brother in Michigan asked me if I had ever said the shadaha (professing belief in Islam). I told him I said it to myself in English and I believed that there was ONE God, Allah, and that I believed Mohammed(pbuh) was the final prophet of Allah. So, he told me to say " LA ILAHA ILLALLAH MUHAMMADUN RASUL ALLAH. That was on July 12, 2004.