I was a Pentecostal Christian when I was first introduced to Islam. Pentecostalism is a movement within Christianity that places special emphasis upon a personal relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and my particular church was based strongly upon reading the Bible and understanding the Word of God. So at that point in my life, I had been reading the Bible regularly and was familiar with what the Bible says concerning faith and righteousness. I had stopped eating pork because the Bible said that it was forbidden in Leviticus 11:7, I had begun praying every day, usually three times a day and I had even begun experimenting with covering my hair based on my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:5.
I was first formally told a little bit about Islam after I had taken a leave from college to birth my son when my husband, who was still in school at the time and also a Pentecostal Christian, had come home one day and told me that he wanted to embrace Islam. Up until then, the most I knew about Islam was from what I had learned by reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and I had not really formed an opinion. My husband began by explaining that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was not opposed to Christianity and then gave me a copy of the Quran to read for myself before forming an opinion or making a decision.
I accepted the copy and began reading right away. I discovered that much of what was written in the Quran corresponded with what I was reading in the Bible which was heartening, but I also discovered a beauty and depth to the Quran that I had not ever encountered in anything that I had ever read before that moment or since. Several verses brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face; it was truly amazing and enlightening. A few weeks later when my husband informed me that he wanted to make the shahadah and that he wanted me and our 1 year old son to go to the mosque with him I was excited. We re-married Islamically at the mosque and I took my shahadah as well. That was more than thirteen years ago and life has only gotten better and brighter since then, alhamdulilah.
And although the sparkle of my youth has dimmed a bit, the tug at my heart towards Islam has not waivered. There is a beauty in the religion that not everyone has the patience to discover but it is always there, ready to be revealed; ready to shine upon those who would seek it’s treasures.
I realize now in retrospect that there is a movement or rather, a current that has swept through my reality and quickened my spirit. When we are young and adventuring out into life on our own for the first time, we feel it, we sense it and are buoyed by it. Throughout recent history you can see the evidence of it: the student movements and civil rights changes of the 50’s and 60’s, the Rock the Vote movement of the late 90’s and early 21st Century.
For me, the movement has reminded me of my duty and responsibility to first myself and then to others and with it comes the understanding that, in addition to witnessing and experiencing the beauty that is and belongs to God, I must do more than be the change I want to see in the world. I must also want for my brethren that which I want for myself. I must live knowing that my life is not only mine but part of the collective life of mankind. And although I can rehearse this and have heard others rehearse it, it is the living of it that tends to slip out of our grasp. Islam helps me to hold fast to this ideal with a strong handhold that does not, or shall I say, has not, failed me.