I get asked pretty regularly why I reverted to Islam, and while commenting in the group on a Ted Talk on leadership and beliefs it really hit me that I needed to share this. As I was listing all the things I believe in, I remembered something vital to helping anyone who wants to understand how deeply our beliefs affect us, when we live in alignment with our beliefs we are at peace. Why did I revert to Islam? Here it is, I already believed what I believe now being a Muslim, learning this and choosing to live this brought me tremendous peace. It is that simple, reverting did not require me to change my beliefs one bit, it suited them.
Before Islam I never felt any religion believed, and acted in ways, that aligned with my beliefs. I struggled with hearing how we should do x or y from “religious” people who lived so far from that x and y. Worse was I had questions, lots of questions about things I had read in the Bible, that should be directions for living and why we were not living them, the excuse as to why this was and why we were not in fact being taught to live like it said we should was the “well times have changed and we have to adjust to the times.” I am sorry, times have changed? Really, do you not think God in all his knowledge and capabilities could not have accounted for how things would change? I mean that made no sense and is rather insulting to our creator in my opinion, even with the limited knowledge I have. How could he not provide us with something to stand the test of time, I could not wrap my head around this nor fully accept this.
After a very difficult time I was feeling somewhat lost within myself and decided to revisit my beliefs. To see what I believe in, in all genuineness, and to remove the beliefs I had because I felt I ought to have them, not because they were truly what I believe in. I created a living list of the things I believed, it was rather lengthy and grew over months. I will spare you the full break down, but it ranged from things like I believe in Angels, to I believe there is one God, it included things like I believe that we should be kind even when unkindness is visited upon us, that I believe God is merciful and forgiving, I believe that I can “speak” to God directly for guidance, help, and even forgiveness, I believe there is more to life than what I now call Dunya (this worldly life), and I believe God loves us all. I had this list of beliefs I held dear and knew in my heart and soul to be true. I wanted to surround myself with people who believed this too, I felt an urgent need to be part of a community of people I could share these beliefs with.
I looked at a few different religions, spoke to believers, watched the leaders, attended services, read religious books, and every time I thought “hmm well there are a few of my dear beliefs here, this is promising” I was then met with the reality that it was just a few and way too many that I could not agree with. There were moments I negotiated with myself and tried to convince myself well maybe you don’t believe that really, and you could accept this, right? I was desperate for that community, the feeling of belonging and safety I was sure could only come from this religious community. I ignored the obvious for a while, that the belonging and safety I craved, despite what anyone said, could be had and would always be found from God the Almighty alone. All things are from the Almighty, everything. Alhamdulillah
To be honest, at this part I got tired and frustrated and decided that I could have my beliefs on my own and not need anyone to share them with. I accepted God was all I needed, well mostly I did, although part of me felt somewhat reluctant to not have anyone who agreed wholeheartedly. So, I got on with life, I busied myself with work, and further definition of my beliefs. I tried to make sure all my beliefs were aligned with my daily actions, and correct them for myself when they were not. I spoke to God often, I asked questions, I pleaded for guidance and direction. I asked him to give me a home for my beliefs and felt selfish doing so because deep in my heart I knew all I really needed was him. I just really wanted a community of people I could share my love for him with.
After some very interesting sharing of beliefs with someone, it was suggested I read about Islam, no mention of anything more. So I did. I read, and I read, and I read. I could not stop reading. I think I read through the whole Qur’an in a matter of days the first time. I read about the Pillars, and beliefs and what it means to be a Sunni Muslim. I just kept reading and thinking, “I believe in that”, “oh, I believe in that”, “yes, absolutely!”, “that is correct”, over and over. Of course I took out my list of beliefs, and each time I read something supporting one of them I checked it off. By the time I was done my whole list was checked off. It was then I realized I was Muslim. I have been Muslim all along Alhamdulillah, but how do you explain this to people who have known you as Catholic? Well you revert of course!!
I knew I wanted to revert right away, but was cautioned to be sure as it was a big decision, although to me it didn’t feel big in a negative way, it was big in the “Finally!!!!” sort of way. But I decided ok, let me let others be sure too, so I spoke to people who were knowledgeable, I was quizzed, I was questioned and no apparent flaws or detachment from reality could be found in my reasoning. Not that I needed this, but I wanted to be sure that my reasons were genuine, as the mind can play tricks and I had made some bad decisions in the past. November 11, 2012 came, and from the moment I woke up I knew this was the day I would take my Shahada. (A declaration of faith. “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammad, may peace be upon him, is the messenger of Allah.”) The moment the words left my mouth, I felt a beautiful wave of peace come over me like I have never experienced before. It filled every inch of my being with love and happiness, it still does. I felt light as a feather, I felt the embrace of a home I had been missing all along. I felt my need to believe what I was told I should disappear, fully accepting my beliefs are acceptable the way they are. God loves me, I felt forgiven and accepted in my wholeness. Alhamdulillah.
So, you see, my beliefs have never changed, I may have learned better ways to put them into daily practice through the Qur’an, and Hadiths, but my core beliefs are well and truly as they have always been. I learned how certain behaviors I used to do, were not truly representative of what I believed, but more what I was told was acceptable for an expression of my beliefs, you know times changing and all. I learned and am still learning to better align my beliefs with my actions, and changing these actions was difficult at times, and can still be, only in how the world perceived these actions not recognizing them as a better outward representation of my inner beliefs but that they thought it meant what I believed changed. Things became so obvious to me, it was as if I could finally see. The things I could not understand growing up, and questioned receiving answers akin to “well the times change” will never be acceptable to me again, in sha Allah. I felt shame for my ignorance and believing that any of it was acceptable before, when now it was so clear it was not, and it never was, yet simultaneously experienced such a love and forgiveness unrivaled. Alhamdulillah, Allah is merciful.
The biggest difference in my life is that I now have a thorough guide book for living, a book that is clear, that it is meant to guide me through all of life, that nothing will fall outside it’s purview. What a magnificent gift. SubhanAllah. May Allah bless each and everyone of you reading this, and give you the peace he has given me. Ameen. May Allah be pleased with me, and if I made any mistakes or misrepresentations, forgive me as that is not my intent.
I end by asking you to never judge Islam by the actions of individual Muslims, because we are not perfect, but Islam is. Being Muslim does not guarantee I will always do the right thing, or follow the guide I have been given to live a good life by Allah, but it does mean I will try and I will ask forgiveness when I make a mistake knowing that Allah is merciful. It also means I love you all for the sake of Allah, and wish you the best always. May peace be upon you.