THAT’S RIGHT, you see it correctly: “I hate Islam.” And no, you were not having hallucinations. I meant to type that heading. If I am right, your mind must be racing with thoughts of, “How did this article get into an Islamic magazine?” — or you are thinking maybe, “I need to contact them and tell them about this misprint.” No misprint, just a sad feeling that goes way back.
I expect the title caught your eye and you immediately wanted to know what this narrative is about. I for one do not blame you, because I would have done the same thing seeing such a bold title. Are you thinking to yourself, “How could anyone hate such a beautiful way of life?” Well, if you would have asked me three years ago, the answer would have been easy to conjure up. Every year many people flock to this amazing way of life and one year I became part of that group. I would have certainly put my life on it that I would by no means follow such a hindrance to my mental, emotional and physical well-being. So you may ask, what changed my mind? Actually it is more like who changed my mind, and for that answer you will have to read on.
Living in Baltimore, Maryland I had just finished high school at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High (a trade school). Those who have reverted remember their pre-Islamic college days as a time to explore, date, and learn about yourself. Growing up in my household there was no dating, no boys, no parties, and no going out late.
Turning 18 was my breakaway point. This was the time to get to do all the things that I did not do in high school. Needless to say I waited for this moment. I was a small fish in a big pond at Baltimore City Community College at the time I had enrolled. I basked in the freedom of leaving class when I pleased, staring google-eyed at the male specimens who often skipped class and lounged outside. I started to think, growing up has its advantages! Of course keeping in contact with my good friends of high school we often explored campus life by going to what they call “the game room.” It was a room of people who I deem today “the people who will fail class” — all they did was socialize and play games. To me, the room was my golden ticket to being a big fish.
In my free time I often checked in and mingled to the best of my ability. There was this one day I didn’t partake in any game room hysteria and my friend had gone out without me. Trying to find her on campus, I searched and searched with my sister. Not soon after a long search I stumbled into the game room. My friend (who shall remain nameless for privacy’s sake) came to me and my twin sister talking about how she met a boy who was reading to himself quietly.
Who would have known this was the day my life would change forever! Allah knew. My twin sister and I were introduced to the young man, named Ayyub. At the time he was 16 and almost turning 17 (yes, in college). My sister and I thought nothing of it until we started to ask him questions about his religion: “You cannot date, then how do you get married?!” — “What do you mean, Jesus did not die for your sins!?” — “Jesus is not the son of God?” –“No trinity?!” We would ask these questions in exclamation.
Could it be possible for someone to actually not believe Jesus died for all our sins? My sister and I judged it impossible and we went on our never-ending quest to convert this young man. In our eyes he was a soul that needed saving; we didn’t know it was the other way around!
My twin sister Angeletta, more so than I, came at him with every “fault” she could find with the Quran. And Ayyub took these alleged faults and never slandered our religion; he just quietly did his own research. Angeletta, frustrated with our ongoing tussle on religion, yelled one day in the hallway of the school, “I hate the Quran!!!” Ayyub’s face that day was a look of anger and disbelief. The disbelief that someone could hold in their heart such hatred about what they knew nothing of — and anger at the rash thinking.
I silently agreed with Angeletta: I hated Islam; she and I continued to “fight the good fight.” We, learning more and more about Christianity, realized that as Ayyub was such a good Muslim, we would like to be better Christians. We read in First Corinthians, chapter 11 in the Bible about covering our heads, and from that day on our heads were covered like nuns. We received a lot of stares but we knew this was right. On the bus to school people would begin to preach about Jesus, thinking we were Muslims. Is this the treatment Muslims tolerate? Then we read in Leviticus: no “swine” (pork), so the next thing you knew, we stopped eating swine and swine byproducts.
Our enthusiasm for converting Ayyub diminished, and we had to accept that he might not change, though we still had hope. Our friends –who were all non-Muslim– noticed a change in us and decided it was time to intervene with some tough Christian love. They took it upon themselves to teach Angeletta and me what their pastor had taught them.
My pastor at the church came to my twin and me after a church service and asked, “Why do you cover your heads?” When we told him about the 1 Corinthians 11 passage, he laughed and told us that this scripture was for their time and not for us now. Then he boldly instructed us to go out and stop studying so much and to even date.
Needless to say, we never came back to that church. My mother had a feeling we were not going down the right path but she kept quiet. Ayyub’s mother came around and had given us khimars for our heads and after seven or so months Ayyub’s mother invited us to Al-Huda School for a banquet. So many Muslims, I thought, “What if they speak to me in Arabic? What would I do?” I was apprehensive and defensive. Angeletta and I accepted the invitation, feeling like it would not hurt to just visit and look at another religion out of respect.
There was a pause in the banquet for Isha Salah, so Angeletta and I went outside. A brother came to me and said, “You have to go inside the school while everyone is making Salah.” I thought to myself, I am pretty hungry and I hope this Salah tastes good. I thought it was a meal they were preparing. Three years later I still have to sit back and laugh at that idea of Salah as a meal.
Later that night –Allah knows if it was at the same time or not– the same thought entered both our minds: “This is the right way for me.” Angeletta and I decided to take our shahada, despite the verbal lashing we received at that idea –from our mother, friends, and family. We thought: Who could be a better choice to give the shahada to us than the young man who had endured months of us beating up on his religion and attempting to change him? Ayyub.
I can now say that during the time I spent in college, I never did date, or run loose like I wanted. Instead I got my soul right and I ended up marrying Ayyub’s older brother Ammar and having a baby girl named Assata delivered by their mother Asma Hanif. Ayyub ended up, now 20 years of age, marrying his wife this past August. Funny how things work out, right?
Today as I type these words on the computer, who would have thought I would be telling the story of my life-altering decision? I often run into sisters who have been Muslim all their lives and they say to me with looks of admiration: “You gave up doing anything you wanted for Islam, that is amazing.” And I tell them with a big smile, “Islam lets you do anything you want that is good, so why do things that could end up hurting you later?”
People are frequently in awe of how anyone could leave a life of temptation to be “oppressed.” I have to say to them that Islam emancipates. I am not bound to the ways of the dunya, conforming to the styles of dress and wild parties.
Someone once said and I agree wholeheartedly: “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.” Islam is still new to me, but with any change you have to grow and adapt. Next time you hear someone say, “I hate Islam!” think of me and remember that any mentality can change, by the will of Allah.