Wednesday, 24 September 2014

How I came to Islam: Carrie

How I came to Islam
By Carrie

Assalamu Alaikum brothers & sisters. I am a new revert to Islam and live in an area where there is not much of an Islamic community so I’m reaching out on the internet to connect with other Muslims. It has not quite been a full year yet since my conversion and I still have a lot to learn but this first year has been an amazing journey already.

If I may, I’d like to share the story of my coming to Islam. In’Sh’Allah, others may be inspired by my experience or learn from it in some way.

Thinking back, It makes perfect sense that I would be called to Islam as my chosen religion. It’s been right in front of me my whole life although I’m only now seeing it. You see, my life’s career has been as a professional performer & teacher of Middle Eastern dance. For 20 years I have worked within the Middle Eastern communities throughout the United States, performing in Mediterranean restaurants and at functions such as wedding receptions and various other special occasion celebrations many times with live musicians from the Middle East. I have always loved middle-eastern music, art, architecture, fashion, jewelry and of course the dance. My life has been very influenced by Middle Eastern culture and many of the people I have worked with over the years have been Muslim.

I have always been a spiritual seeker and have been very dedicated to my spiritual path for my whole life but never felt comfortable claiming myself to be any one particular religion because with all of the religions I had studied, I never found one that really felt in alignment with the spiritual beliefs of my heart until I started learning about Islam.

In my life I’ve studied everything from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism to Bahai and even Paganism. With all of my searching, I never considered that Islam could be a path for me so I never studied it. I don’t know why I assumed that without knowing anything about the religion but SubhanAllah, Allah found a way to guide me to the path anyway.

My interest in learning about Islam first developed thru a friend that I have who is Muslim. My first curiosity about the religion arose because of the quality of character I saw in my friend. He was always so mannerly, friendly, kind, generous & just an overall good person. I knew that he was a practicing Muslim and being the spiritual seeker that I am, I wondered if these good natured qualities I saw in him were somehow cultivated thru his religion. So I began researching and learning about Islam out of curiosity

I started my research in March of 2013 by doing internet searches on “Islamic spirituality’ which first led to me watching documentaries about Islam online and eventually led me to discovering & taking an online video course on Islamic Meditation . As a watched the first few documentaries and took the course, I felt so much excitement & amazement because I was discovering that that so many of the natural spiritual beliefs in my heart are at the core of the spiritual teachings of Islam. I was intrigued by what I was learning and wanted to learn more and more. I even started watching videos on youtube about people from all walks of life who had converted to Islam. Everything I was learning made total sense to me and made me want to keep learning more. In everything that I was learning, I could not find anything that I disagreed with.

As Ramadan of 2013 was drawing near, I had decided that I was going to read Quran and do the fasting for Ramadan and then assess my experience afterward and make a decision on if I wanted to convert or not after Ramadan. This plan changed when on the night before Ramadan I watched another documentary on Islam called “Islam for Dummies’ . Something about the way the information was presented in this video left me feeling like I didn’t need any more convincing (by this time I had watched many documentaries, took a 6 week online course & watched hundreds of conversion stories) and I felt in my heart that I wanted to convert. I watched the same video again the first evening of Ramadan, told my friend that I wanted to convert to Islam and said the shahada to myself that night.

I did read the Quran cover to cover during Ramadan and did the fasting as best as I could. Once I read the Quran I knew for certain that my choice to convert was right for me. I felt like it was the only choice to make, knowing what I learned from the Quran.

I started learning about & practicing wudu and the prayer during Ramadan too. I learned the wudu online and for the prayer I followed along with videos on youtube.

About 6 weeks after Ramadan I was invited by my friends family to attend their mosque with them for prayer and so I did. This is the day I officially took my shahada with the Imam of the Mosque and my friend’s family there with me as my witnesses. They even had a party for me at their home afterwards to celebrate my conversion. Words can’t describe how much joy I felt in my heart that day. It felt like coming home after being lost for a long time.

I feel so happy & blessed to have been guided to Islam. The prayers make me feel so closely connected to Allah and everything I am learning about the core spiritual teachings of Islam feel totally in alignment with my hearts truth. That right there is a huge blessing. I want to live my life based on the spiritual teachings of Islam in the best way I can. It’s taken me 8 months but Alhamdulillah, I have the prayer memorized in Arabic now and can recite it without having to follow along to videos anymore.

The main struggles I am facing now with my growth in Islam have to do with the fact that I do not have a Muslim community in my home town. The closest Mosques are 2 hours away in Phoenix, AZ ( I live in Sedona) and so I have very little support with my growth in Islam. I do intend on visiting some mosques in phoenix when I can but right now I am primarily having to learn thru my own self guided study and I wish I had more Muslim friends around me for support and to develop friendships with. I do want a Muslim husband too and so feel unsure as to how that will happen.

My closest friends and my immediate family members all know that I converted to Islam and subhanAllah they are all very supportive of my decision so I am happy about that.

These days I am taking some time to integrate all that I have learned in the past 9 months as I am step by step deepening my understanding of Islam and refining my practice of prayer and Islamic lifestyle. I hope to meet and make more Islamic friends within the next year. This first leg of my journey has been a bit of a whirl wind so I am looking forward to getting more grounded and balanced with it in moving forward.

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