Darn you Shobz.. I thought I could cram everything into part 3.
From the outside Islam does seem like this huge monolith especially if you only educate yourself based on mainstream American news ie. CBS, FOX, CNN and MSNBC.
Its really difficult to find basic information about Islam even in your local library – trust me I tried. Not to even mention information with regards to specific questions such as wearing Hijab or even just a decent translation of the Qur’an.
Once you delve into trying to understand Islam via the internet – its a question of who is a reliable source and what is the potential bias of the individual sharing or writing an article or research piece on Islam?
So I did my best with what I could find until I moved down to San Diego,CA in the fall of 2006 as a transfer student into San Diego State University. Ironically it was a a seemingly chance meeting of a Muslimah at a local breakfast spot – the Daily Grind Cafe that led to the deepening of my knowledge of Islam and ultimately my conversion.
The Muslimah in question was the librarian for the Islamic Center of San Diego aka Masjid Abu Bakr. She invited me to come out, visit the masjid and check out a few books. I actually due to my own nervousness didn’t take her up on the visit until a couple of months later with a class I was taking at San Diego State.
In the end I overcame my nervousness and found that even I was able to overcome the stereotypes I had in my mind about specifically Muslim women. Oh how wrong the media is about Muslim women being oppressed especially in America – I haven’t met more outgoing, friendly, educated and moxie filled women in many other communities I have encountered.
It made me feel good about learning about Islam and considering it as my potential faith to know I didn’t need to gag myself or bottle up my essential personality to become a Muslim that was my biggest concern.
Eventually I became such a feature at the Islamic Center’s library that people who didn’t know I was there to study – would ask me questions about Islam or assume I had already converted as out of respect for the religious space I was in wore hijab, long sleeve shirts and pants.
By that point, I had also made good friends with the receptionist and the librarian – and I was constant asking the Imam questions about parts of the Qur’an I had read and other research I had done.
My new friends kept asking me- so are you ready to convert? No..? Why not? I would give some flip answer on some days – like I still love Bacon! and others more seriously say – I need to finish reading the Qur’an and I still have more questions!
My serious reservation had to do with my family and how Islam views individuals who are homosexual. So I asked the Imam at the masjid. He said Islam would never ask me to reject my family for that would be forbidden and anyone who would suggest such a thing – should be avoided because they don’t know what they are talking about.
I was also worried that my family would view my acceptance of Islam as a rejection of themselves. Which – I can say we have had rough patches over but we have come out with a better understanding on both sides.
Until the day before Ramadan- my friend the receptionist asked a very simple question to me – when I still said to her – I need to know more.. and have all my questions answered.
She asked me – Do you think you can know the answers to everything you would ever like to know about Islam?
I had to stop for a second because overwhelmingly the answer was no. She then asked me – Do you think that the Qur’an is the true word of God? And Mohammad (pbuh) is the final messenger of God? I said yes I do.
So what is really keeping you from taking Shahada? she asked. And I told her that I don’t want to enter into an agreement I can’t keep and that I am bound to make mistakes in. She said – That’s ok. The beauty of Islam and the five daily prayers is you get five oppurtunities a day to seek forgivness from God and that God created us to be imperfect and have to seek forgiveness from him.
I looked at her and said – Ok.. so wheres is the Imam? I want to take my Shahada!
So I took my Shahada on August 27, 2007 with my good friend the receptionist in the Islamic Center of San Diego office – the day before Ramadan started.
I will say this – if I had been strategically thinking I might have held off till the end of Ramadan because boy – can fasting when you haven’t ever done it before be super duper hard in addition to learning to pray correctly and get up for Fajr (the dawn prayer).
I also will share with you that practicing Islam and working on developing good character in Islam takes time. As does finding a balance between Muslim community pressure of the Islamic ideal and the reality of your life, family and friends. Its a process of purification.
In the end – I always pray to die as a rightous Muslim, stay on the straight path, do good deed for the sake of the good and honor my family as best I can.
If you want to read the rest of my muddled story – click on the links below!