Monday, 15 April 2013

Search for meaning of life bought me to Islam: Candice

Candice A. Pep, a 27 year old married sister from Houston, Texas, USA, studying Paralegal course reverted to Islam recently on March 22, 2013.
Before Islam, she never really followed any religion or sect, but believed in Bible and Jesus (PBUH). She has an interesting family background and story of her reversion to Islam. Please read further, her story in her own words.



 I was born in Houston, Texas. I come from a racially mixed background. My mother was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic boarding school and my father was raised Pentecostal in a way you could say. My dad’s father became a Pentecostal preacher when my dad was a teenager. My childhood was difficult. I have experienced a lot of things in my life as a child that have affected my life in a negative way. But I can’t complain really because those things led me to where I am now. My parents would take us to Catholic Mass on Christmas Eve and we would celebrate Christian holidays and birthdays, but my parents were not religious. My dad especially wasn’t a religious person, maybe because his father was so hard on him. My parents didn’t go to church. Although sometimes I would go to a Lutheran Church with my neighbors by myself cause their daughter was my friend. I have always been the kind of person that asks why. I wondered why are we here, what is this life for, what’s the purpose? I was always interested in learning about different people and cultures and religions. My dad believed that the Bible was written by man and that it couldn’t be trusted. I think that he believed in a God but not that there was written evidence of one. But I kept searching. I wasn’t a good kid. I acted out a lot. I did drugs, partied, lied, and had premarital sex, everything you could think of. I was a very unhappy kid and didn’t care much for myself whether I lived or died and never thought about the consequences of my actions. I would say that the turning point during my childhood which was right when I legally became an adult; was when my dad passed away from Cancer. When he died, it was like a light bulb came on. I started to realize that “hey this thing that we are doing, this thing called life, this is real, and one day we will die, and it’s not a game.” That’s when things started to change and I really began to start searching for spiritual truth.

 How did her interest In Islam started?
Well, I have had a few bouts with Islam before I really became interested in it. I had  a professor that was trying to teach me about it once. He was a Muslim and I remember him giving me a handout but I kind of blew him off. What really started my interest in Islam was a friend of my husbands named Sam. Sam is from Jordan and he and my husband both were truck drivers for the same company. One day we all went to eat lunch together and because of my genuine interest in always wanting to know about different cultures, people, religions, etc; I asked him about Islam. He told me was I really genuine in asking him about it because he won’t say anything to me if I just want to argue with him. I said no, I really just want to know. So he explained it to me and it did peak my interest. A few weeks or months later we met up with him to exchange paperwork and I asked him some more questions about Islam. I can’t remember what it was that he said but I decided that I was going to buy an English translation of the Qur’an. I am very knowledgeable about the Bible because I studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for about two years. So when I began to read the Qur'an, I realized that it was in line with what I believed the Bible was teaching especially when it would hit the subject that there is only one God and how he alone should be worshiped. That Jesus was his messenger. It just confirmed for me that everything that I believed the Bible was saying, that actually wasn’t being taught by Christendom, was true. It was an affirmation. What also attracted me to Islam was how Muslims would pray so often and seem to be at peace.

Her defining moments when she decided to revert to Islam?
The defining moment when I decided to revert to Islam was when I had gotten drunk and caused a lot of problems by acting very mean and rude and not like myself. I then realized that I don’t need to hold off converting to the religion that I believe in and then I began to get back into asking questions and praying etc. I met a friend online who sent me a YouTube video of an Imam talking about Muhammad in the Bible. I had always had doubts about Muhammad and I think that that’s what kind of kept me from reverting. But I watched this video with my bible and my eyes were opened. I knew then that Prophet Muhammad was the messenger of God and that I should revert. I called my friend and asked her if I could go to Friday prayers with her and she said yes. I decided to buy a Hijab and take down my pictures without them. I have said Shahada to myself at home in prayer but when I went to the convert to Islam page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/iconverttoislam) , I saw a posting of a woman who had given her Shahada. Those made me think that I had to give my Shahada at the Masjid and make it official and officially commit. I called my friend and asked her if I could say my Shahada at the Masjid when we went and she said she will try to get it set up for me. When we went to the Masjid, after the service and prayers, I said my Shahada.

On reaction of her parents/friends/spouse/relatives?
Well, I haven’t celebrated Christian Holidays since I started studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and that was over five years ago. Last year when I started to read the Quran and was really into it I told my mom that I am going to be Muslim. She was fine with it. About a week ago she asked me what I was going to do for Easter. I said I don’t celebrate Easter and she got mad and said “Oh yea, you’re a Muslim now.” It kind of hurt my feelings but I just reminded her that I haven’t celebrated Christian holidays for over five years and that was way before I began to read the Quran. When I took down all my pictures of myself without a Hijab off of Facebook and posted a picture of myself with a Hijab on, my mom shared my photo on her page and said some really hurtful things about it and said that it was not good. But I got some good advice from the convert to Islam page and really good advice from my friend who went with me when I said my shahada. She told me that my mom was probably really shocked seeing me like that because I didn’t inform her beforehand about my decision to begin to wear a Hijab. She told me to talk to my mom privately so I did. I called my mom and explained to her why I posted the picture and why I want to wear the Hijab and she said is your husband fine with it? I said yes. And she said well as long as yall are happy and he is fine with it that she didn’t care. So that was a big relief. When I called my mom and told her that I said my Shahada at the Masjid she was happy for me and congratulated me. I would say that my husband has always been supportive. I actually didn’t think that I would get a lot of support from family and friends after I told them that I said Shahada but they have been supportive. Now, I haven’t come into contact with them physically, with the Hijab, and those seeing me go off to pray, so I’m not sure how that might go yet. My husband has a lot of Muslim friends, so he supports me but he is not religious. In Sha Allah he will be guided and we can submit to Allah together. I have told my sister in law and she supports me but I am afraid to tell my in-laws. I don’t think that my father in law will be very supportive. He is a practicing Christian, so I guess we will see in the future how he reacts to it.

Challenges at your work place or cultural or with any other people?
I have had some stares from people when I go out wearing the Hijab and being covered. Some people have said why are you wearing that scarf are you a ninja now? I wore my Hijab for the first time last Monday to class and my professor was talking about legal fallacies. He gave an example saying that if a Muslim says that all Baptists are going to hell then that is a fallacy. I doubt he would have said that if I had not gone to class wearing a Hijab. Also, some class mates ignored me but I made them acknowledge me, I want people to know that I am still me. I was shopping at Academy and a woman and her child were near me. The little girl must have been around four or five years old and told her mom that she wanted to wear what I was wearing. Her mom said no and the little girl said why and her mom said because that’s not cute. I just ignored it. I noticed, with the Hijab on that most people don’t speak to me unless I speak to them first, especially at stores.

Level of support help did she got from the Muslim community or Muslims?
I got a lot of support from the Muslim community and it was all positive and very helpful. I think that being in contact with Muslims helped me to realize that it was time to make a change. I think one way Muslims can improve on helping people is to not speak so much about gaining your good deeds or gaining good deeds by helping you learn about Islam or revert. It makes you feel like they aren’t helping you for the sake of helping you, but that they are doing it to help themselves.

Her future plans or how do she sees  Muslim Ummah in the future.
I plan on going to the Masjid every Friday In Sha Allah for the prayers and also for classes in the evening times In Sha Allah. My plans are to be the best Muslimah that I can be. To submit myself fully to Allah and to help people understand what Islam is. I plan to make sure that I deal righteously with others and always remember Allah In Sha Allah. My major plan as a new Muslimah is to die a Muslimah In Sha Allah and to try to make everyone that I love and care for and come into contact with who are genuinely interested to die as a Muslim as well. In Sha Allah we will all die as Muslims submitting to Allah and as nothing else. I am also going to study Arabic and learn to read the Qur'an in Arabic and learn to recite it In Sha Allah.