As a child I grew up in a Christian household, went to Church every Sunday, and lived a relatively normal life. While that may not be the thrilling story everyone wants to hear, it surely is the truth (or to what I found to be normal). I remember my first interest in the news was in the fifth grade, the 9/11 attacks on the world trade centers happened and I could not understand much of what was going on. I tried reading articles in the newspaper about it and came across a page that had been covered in scribbles of ink and scratched into shreds. I did not understand the extent of what happened on the day of 9/11 but my dad told me the guy he had cut up the picture of from the newspaper was a very evil man. I remember seeing the words of ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ appearing on many news channels as well as papers, but with the innocence of my age I did not make the connection of these words to what was seen as the terrorists. I have always grown up being taught by my mother there is no such thing as a bad person, only their actions are bad. Evidentially this somewhat changed once I heard that these were bad people. It had always been a side thought, but nothing I was ever concerned about. People (even within my churches) have stated that Muslims are terrorists or even just dangerous people. I listened to this for many years; never fully accepting or rejecting these statements.
By August of 2002 my parents had decided to get divorced, I remember of me and my two sisters I was the only one who went and cried when I heard the news. I remember being so young and as immaturity brings about irrationality, I was so upset I had actually thought of killing myself. These thoughts came and went but thank-God they were never feelings strong enough to drive me to such a point. As a child, I was the one who struggled the most with my parent’s divorce. I used to build things up, never tell anyone how I felt about anything. For grade six my mother, two sisters, and I moved into my grandma’s attic for a year. These years from grade six until part way through high school were a blur. I did not get to see my dad too often, it began as every Sunday, then every other week, then sometimes months in between, but when I did see him this was the only time we would go to church now. I didn’t like going to church because it took away almost half of the day I had to spend with my dad. It was not until grade 10 that I actually started going to church with my own initiative.
By the end of grade 6 and throughout grade 7 I began to hang out with the druggies at my different schools. I myself had never touched any drugs but I felt I was hanging around the ‘cool kids’. My friends were the type who were constantly in trouble with the police whether it be for stealing, drugs, breaking into vehicles, arson, spray painting, ‘eggings’, etc. I would hang around as they did such things and it was entertaining to watch but at least my morals told me not to participate. By the end of grade 7 I had angered two of my friends for being the ‘middle-man’ between their arguments and came to school one day where I was knocked to the ground, hit and kicked. I went into the school shaking and had to sit part way through the national anthem because it hurt so much with my knee black and swollen. The teacher asked why I was sitting and I explained to her the reasons, which she did very little for. After weeks the two of them only had been suspended for approximately a week. Grade 7 also earned me a stab in the back of the neck with a pen (once again the teacher did nothing), and several head bashings off the lockers…all by ‘friends’ who I would go and be nice to by the next break. Stuff like this I have hidden from my mother, I did not want her to see the bruises. I decided to change schools and go to an alternate one where I do not remember much of the year other than being alone, one kid getting others to call me gay, being threatened to be killed with peanuts (sounds odd but I have a ‘deathly-allergic’peanut allergy), skipping classes so I wouldn’t have to be in this place that made me feel so horrible. I brought lunch to school but always left to the river, outside an old church, or sneak into my grandmother’s backyard and sit on the ground and eat. For second semester I went back to the other school I was at in grade seven which was relatively good with new friends (most other friends were required to change schools). This semester also brought many arguments over girls and other immature arguments.
I was always thankful for having such a great family, I preferred spending most my childhood around family rather than friends. I spent grade 9 living back at my grandmothers again, I grew accustom to living here as it was much preferable than any other place. Grade 9 I cannot recall much of but actually had some decent friends who were against drugs and alcohol (who are currently druggies or alcoholics). The only issue with grade 9 was having a teacher laugh at my peanut allergy then blew into my face after having a Reese’s pieces (which nothing was done for once again). Also, the one part that stung the most was friends stating that I would grow up to be a serial killer because I am so shy and tend to stare a lot. This enraged me quite a bit but it was better to keep quiet.
Grade 10 I remember the least of, I had absolutely no friends, only people I spoke with. Grade ten I considered my career path to be leading me to joining the army. Nothing eventful happened in grade 10 as far as I am concerned. However, this is when I first started drinking with the intent of getting drunk. I also began going to church and youth group once again as earlier mentioned.
From Peterborough, Ontario we moved to London, Ontario for grades 11 and 12. These grades never had any bullying of any sort, but I did begin to drink and get drunk at many more parties. I made many friends in these grades but our form of entertainment usually involved alcohol regardless of where we went. I couldn’t wait to go out and get drunk with friends because it allowed me to be more free and often heard that I was more fun when I was drunk. Drinking led to many mistakes; from girls, loss of morals, riding on top of cars, drinking so much I don’t remember getting home, blowing things up in the woods, and many other stupid acts. Once again the church activity became limited to when I went to my fathers (although I still went and drank there). Friends were more important than any religion or future though (but the one thing I really hated was when people made fun of Christianity). With friends, many racist jokes were constantly made and jokes about Islam and Muslims were notorious.
As I was unsure as to what I wanted to do with my future I had decided to take an extra year in high school (in Newmarket, Ontario) which had turned out to be a life-saving decision. I only took a few courses and began going to church again on a regular basis. Since most of my life was in ignorance as I grew up mostly in ‘white’ cities, I knew very little of Islam. I still had the concept I had from when I was in grade 5 and had grown to add parts to over time (such as hearing of ‘Muslim’ men beating their families and killing others, ‘Muslims’ were the people our countries were fighting against so they must have been bad people right? I constantly heard how Muslims are scary people, how it is barbaric, male-dominated, women are oppressed, your regular Islamic stereotypes. I must say, I am sure I was an Islamophobe myself. The one thing that began to change my perception was a ‘sister’ who was in my classes both semesters who wore a hijab. Due to this (something I rarely ever saw) I began to ask many questions and state my assumptions about Islam. I attempted to push my belief in Christianity upon her but here responses were surely more logical. I constantly rejected what she had stated and said that this is what Christians believe, this is what we follow, and this is what is normal.
I had a copy of the Qur’an which I opened a couple times but disregarded anything within it. I only had this due to a bunch of free.books I was given when cleaning out an elder German man’s house. I continued to go to church and asked people from church what they thought of Islam and this information was surely biased. It was portrayed to me in such a poor manor, but the one thing that stuck with me was the fact that Muslims followed the rules and laws they were prescribed by God. I had never known Islam of all religions was also another Abrahamic religion. I accepted the Christian statement that Jesus is God but never really comprehended how this could be logical. In my heart I had always wondered why Christians reject the old testament (where many rules are), and that my sins were forgiven by a human being. I grew up a Protestant Christian so the rules were fairly liberal as well. Had I known what I know now about Islam I would have desired to become a Muslim many years ago. I still rejected everything that was given to me about Islam and repeated to this sister that it does not make sense that Jesus is only a prophet, he has to be God. I continued to reject such ideologies for the rest of grade 12 (in 2010).
Once Ramadan began I decided I was going to fast for each of these days as well to see what exactly it was like that everyone else was doing during this time. I would fast during the day but come time to break the fast I still ate pork and drank beer. People often laugh when I tell them this part but my intent was to see what the fasting was like. I fasted during the day, ate alone at night, did not realize people woke up to eat and drink before starting to fast again, and had absolutely no problem making it through any of these days during Ramadan. I began University in September for my degree in Business, and the most unexpected events occurred. It is weird to look at a school picture of myself when I was young and say, “This kid right here will grow up to be a Muslim”. I never expected that within the first month of University that I may find who I truly am, that I may find the truth of Islam that I was soon to become a Muslim. There had been a brother who was outside on Dundas square, Toronto daily handing out free books on Islam and free copies of the Qur’an. I walked by him daily and after about two weeks I grabbed a copy of the Qur’an (I had lost my other older copy) and a couple books on Islam. I brought them home and set them on my headboard (at this point living at my aunt and uncle’s house) and they remained there barely opened a crack. In high school I would take passages from the Qur’an and ask how this makes any sense, or take parts completely out of context. I had kept the Qur’an and a copy of the Bible in my locker. Only about two weeks later I began asking the brother basic questions about Islam to clarify my various concerns or doubts and actually get the perspective from a Muslim person (which I learned now to ask these questions to Maulanas and not ask many Muslims the same thing in my heart told me I needed to. I kept walking by him daily and one day once I got to school I felt such a strong feeling telling me to turn around and go speak with him because at that moment there was absolutely nothing more important than this. I hesitated and kept walking but the overwhelming feeling persisted and caused me to go back. I spoke with him for three hours with the above mentioned details. Three hours standing in the street speaking to this Muslim brother (who has since become a good friend). Three hours is what it took for me to finally ask the question…”How do I convert to Islam?”. I thought it may require many rituals like a majority of other religions. Had I known how to convert, and the requirements for the belief of a Muslim I surely would have done so before Ramadhan. When told what was required to convert I became so happy on the inside, but the outside did not show it. On this September 29th of 2010 I left Christianity and became a Muslim. The words I recited were “Ashhadu Alla Ilaha Illa Allah Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammad Rasulu Allah” or “I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and that Muhammad is his servant and Messenger”.
The background information was stated as more of a general upbringing towards finding my faith. I grew up with some poor choices, but considered myself Christian. I was never what would be considered a bad child according to Canadian standards. I was actually a pretty well behaved child for the most part. I came to Islam after realizing that everything I was doing, everything I was following, it was leading me nowhere. I am the one who had boldly stated to the sister in my last year of high school that I would never convert to Islam and that I would always be Christian. I am so thankful to have a family that tried their hardest to allow me to grow up in a better environment than many in their households. The reason the different events in school was mentioned was because despite the minor bullying I have felt or experience is only what makes you stronger. Several times in the past have I contemplated suicide but It is the thought of God that keeps me grounded. I have to remember to thank God at every possible moment I can, for giving me the life he has given me, and for revealing me his words of guidance. Sometimes it feels hopeless in what you are doing and everything you try turns out wrong, but no matter how often you are down…at some point God will pick you back up and give you a fresh start. Never will you be put through more than you can handle, if you have faith in God you can never be tried more than your limits can bear.
This is a brief excerpt of what has led me to Islam with so many details left out that are probably very important to explain everything that has occurred in my life. The thoughts that flow through your mind as you write are on such a large scale that they could never possibly all be written in the way you remember your life. While this may not explain exactly why I became Muslim to the extent that I personally know, I hope it allows for a grasp of the idea of what has brought me here. It is a completely different story for my experiences in Islam after this point but this would lead to many more pages. Jazak Allah khair for all of those who have helped me before I reverted to Islam and to all of those who have helped me since this date