, by ZAINAB MORROW
I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, and quite a few ideas did not make sense to me. It did not make sense to me to pray to saints to get answers to my prayers. I always had trouble with the concept of Trinity. I was searching for a direct and meaningful relationship to Our Creator.
Throughout the years, I had looked into other spiritual paths such as Buddhism and Hinduism, but again these paths did not answer those fundamental questions. Despite the misconceptions conveyed by various media outlets, I started being curious about Islam around the end of January 2006.
I began to read books that dealt mainly with an introduction to Islam. Through my readings, I found there were differences between Islam and Christianity but there were also similarities.
Both religions descended from Abraham. Both are monotheistic religions, but the main difference is the status of Jesus. In Islam, Muslims worship only one God, Allah. I was surprised to find that the Qur'an mentions several prophets that are also found in the Bible. Islam considers the prophets all messengers of Allah. None of them is more important than the other. In Islam, spirituality and faith are fully integrated into daily life.
I started reading the Qur'an around the same time as the introductory books. I was amazed to find that the Qur'an has not changed in 1,400 years. It has remained the same as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be with him). The message of the Qur'an is clear and contains no contradictions, unlike the Bible. The Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be with him) who had to memorise each revelation, as he was illiterate. The Qur'an could not possibly be the work of a human.
In March 2006, I finally contacted the Islamic Centre close to the area where I live. I was referred to a university professor who has since become a mentor to me. I had several questions to ask him. I could have found the answers in books and on websites, but I wanted to listen to someone who truly knew about Islam.
In our first meeting, my mentor explained to me the basics of Islam. I learned there are five pillars in Islam. I also found out that women were given rights 1,400 years ago. The first pillar of Islam is saying the Shahadah. Obviously, I was not ready to say it the first time we met. I came back home with lots of information feeling a little bit overwhelmed but vowed to continue this journey despite the challenges I would face in the future.
I had never been to a mosque before. One day, I made up my mind and decided to go to the Islamic Centre and check their resources. I was apprehensive, as I did not know how things would go. I met the person in charge of the library. I felt welcomed and I was told to ask for any information I needed. I could not have anticipated that one day, I would go to the centre to pray.
I continued in my search for the truth for several months before I was ready to say the Shahadah. Through my mentor, I was able to access reliable websites and read about different aspects of Islam. I thought it necessary to consult my mentor, as it can be overwhelming the amount and kind of information on the web.
Sometime in the fall, I had another meeting with my mentor and wanted to learn more about wudu' and how to perform the prayers correctly. We discussed the different steps to perform ablution and how to prepare for prayers. I was also told that wudu' is used to purify oneself and be ready to pray to Allah.
Afterwards, my mentor and his wife prayed and I was able to witness firsthand how to pray correctly. Again, I went back home and started to learn Al-Fatihah and tried to perform the five prayers throughout the day. It takes a lot of discipline to pray five times a day at prescribed times.
Around December 2006, I wanted to go to the masjid and pray with other sisters. I first went on a Saturday for Zhur Prayer (Noon Prayer). My mentor's wife took me to the sister's area and explained to me what I had to do upon entering the prayer hall. I felt quite nervous but was glad to have a sister's helping hands to guide me. I feel it is really important to have someone to guide new Muslim converts.
The only thing I had left to do was declare the Shahadah. In January 2007, I felt ready. I wanted some sisters to be present for such an important event. A good friend of mine, another sister I met at the masjid, organised a social gathering on a Sunday afternoon. She invited four other sisters to be part of this special event that would change my life forever.
I was very nervous when I arrived at my friend's place, but as I was the first guest to arrive, I had the chance to share my apprehensions with this wonderful sister. Then, the other sisters arrived bringing food and gifts. We first talked about my interest in Islam with them and about the journey I was undertaking. I finally declared the Shahadah just before Asr Prayer (Afternoon Prayer). It was a very moving experience. I received gifts from the sisters who shared this special day with me.
As a new convert, there are some aspects of my life that have changed, such as performing wudu' and praying five times a day. I know that some days I am better at it than others. Only a few friends know about my conversion. I want to grow in my faith before I can be more open about it. I know Allah will be there to guide me in this new path.