Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving is going to be practically none-existent for us, but that is alright because we actually have LOTS to be grateful for, and we certainly don't need a turkey and all the trimmings to remind us to give thanks.

So that actually leads me to ponder... Why do many wait around until the day of Thanks-giving to give thanks? Should we not be giving thanks on a daily, even moment-by-moment, basis?

As Muslims, we are told that we need to be giving thanks and showing gratitude continually. I remember our teacher told us several weeks ago in class that we must always remember that even how great our hardships are, there is another who has even greater hardships; and for that reason, we must be grateful and give thanks to Allah (swt) that our struggles are not as difficult.

This Thanksgiving also comes on the four-month anniversary of my Dad's passing. So I also have a few mixed emotions on that aspect. While it is still difficult for me, I give thanks and gratitude that I had my Dad as long as I did, when many lose their father's very young. I give thanks and gratitude that my Dad lived to see his 88th year, and that he lived a vibrant, amazing, and extraordinary life.

I even give thanks and gratitude that he died in the way that he always wanted, without pain, without fear, at home, in the arms of his beloved wife (my mother), and in his sleep, quickly. So while my heart yearns for him, for his hugs, to hear his voice, to see his physical being; my heart also soars at the amazing amounts of blessings that Daddy had, and the gratitude and immense amount of thanks for the life he gave (and showed) us all, for shaping us to be the people we are today. And I pray that he will be regarded for all his amazingly loving, kind, caring, and good deeds and that he will attain Firdaus.

My Dad used to tell us to always be thankful and grateful to Allah (swt) for all that we had. If we did not have something we wanted, we had to see was what we DID have; we had a home, our family, our love for one another, we had food on the table and in our bellies, we had our health; and most of all, we had the knowledge and the love of Allah (swt) - what greater gift could we, as mere humans, have?

So, while there won't be a turkey gracing our table this year, or all the fixings that go along with it; we don't need to limit ourselves and our thanks-giving to just one day out of an entire year. I am filled with gratitude and thankfulness constantly.

I wish all my friends, family, and readers a wonderful, blessed, Happy Thanksgiving; but I don't just limit those wishes to tomorrow, I wish this as a constant to you always.

As'salaam alaikum.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Double Take, 'No Survivor'

Double Take, "No Survivor" 

A good friend of mine originally posted this to Facebook, and it was SO funny I had to share it here with you all. Its a great parody. And after the seriousness of my last post, a little light-hearted fun is always good. Enjoy! :) 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Journey Out of The Mormon Religion

Here is an update that is long overdue, and will explain things to a fair few people who have been asking.

At the risk of continually repeating myself, I felt it more pertinent to write this blog post and make my explanations here.

While I understand that this may shock and offend some reading it, it is not my intention to hurt anyone. This is simply my story, my experience. I still have many friends who are members of the church, and I love them dearly (even if they chose to no longer associate with me, my friendship will always be open to them); and to them I only wish love and happiness.

To a fair few, I may be looked upon as a "traitor" to my faith, and an even greater sinner for "luring" my husband away from the Mormon religion, and thusly I will burn in the depths of hell for eternity.

To you, I will only say that I wish you peace; and that if you decide to continue reading, you do so with an open mind and heart. This is nothing but MY story and MY experience. How I have envied those of you (over the years) who have your faith so firmly planted, who have not continually been seeking, how I have wanted to BE YOU, with your peace and your confidence steeped deeply in the church's teachings. But alas, that was not my journey.

To start at the very beginning, I have to go back to the end of May/beginning of June 2010..

Two weeks after we were sealed*, I fell into a deep depression which seemed to come from nowhere. I mean, we'd just been sealed in the temple right? It should have been the happiest time in our lives and I should have felt elated and on top of the world, in a new "honeymoon" period. But instead, I felt myself withdraw deep inside, I wanted to see no-one, I wanted to speak to no-one, and I became a literal hermit in the privacy of my home.

As the time was leading up to our sealing, excitement was exchanged for almost dread and fear. These emotions were so incredibly far from the dream of the 16-year old girl who had first learned about being married for "time and all eternity". A dream I had held on to for 20 years, like some fairytale, and kneeling across an altar from my "Prince Charming" as we made a solemn and eternal vow to each other.

I tried to dismiss the feelings as "pre-wedding jitters"; the only thing was, Ben and I had been married for 7 1/2 years already by that time. Then I dismissed it as Satan trying to step in between us, and the more I had these feelings, the more "right" I tried to make myself believe what we were planning to do was. I mean it had to be according to Heavenly Father and against what Satan wanted for it to be so difficult right? That's what I had always been taught in the church. This was going to be a "testimony building" experience, and that's what kept me going forward with it all.

Originally, my dream was to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, I mean, that is the "princess - fairytale - castle/like" temple right? It is THE temple that is synonymous with the Mormon faith. So we tried every which way to make it up there, even having a huge garage sale over two weekends to raise capital to make the trip. But we fell way short. My dream of Salt Lake City was slowly dissolving into thin air. I exchanged my fairytale castle temple, for a "shoebox" temple.

I wondered if my disappointment was clouding the fact that I was going to be "sealed" to my husband for time and all eternity? Was I simply acting like a spoiled-brat in my mindset and protruding bottom lip?

And we were fighting more and more often too. Neither of us were at a point where we even wanted to go through with this any more. We turned to the young missionaries who had practically made this their "second home", and were assured that it was nothing more than Satan interfering, but we had to persevere and once we were sealed, "everything would change".

On the way to the temple the afternoon we were to be sealed, I was almost sick to my stomach, I did not feel like this when we married the first time; what was different? I had to wear my mask and dismiss the nerves as nothing more than excitement; show our guests a 'good face'. I was excited too, I can't deny it; but it just felt "weird".

Afterward, we did feel the "glow" of the experience, and in realising that we had been connected and joined together as a husband and wife for all of time and eternity. That idea does still give me somersaults in my stomach, but I no longer believe that it is something that man can divide, and I know with every ounce of me, that we WILL continue to be together forever.

I wanted to go back to the temple immediately and do a "session". To be with my eternal companion for the first time together in the celestial room, AS eternal husband and wife. But Ben kept pushing that notion away. He felt he was not "ready", and this lead to the fighting again... not even a week after we were "re-married", the honeymoon was "over". He told me that if I wanted to 'go to the temple so much' he'd drop me off, but that was not the point. I had worked myself into a place of that fairytale romance that would now (finally) begin our eternities and I wanted desperately to be together in the Celestial Room with him to experience that "sealing" of our eternal union.

He could not understand his feelings, but he kept resisting.

We never did return to the temple.

After my Dad passed, the very next morning I had a most profound experience, which I learned later in the day, my Mother too had a most profound experience and that they both happened at the exact same time concerning the same thing - she on the east coast of Canada, and me here in the South-western part of the United States!

It lead me to want to learn more about Islam and in it gain a better, and deeper, understanding of my Dad; and in doing that, learning about my history and who I really was. What I did not reckon on finding were the answers I had been seeking for most of my life. And therein, I found a deep seated peace and a belonging; I finally felt that I had found "Home".

When I learned that Islam was more a way of life than a religion, that the word Islam simply means to "submit" and is from the Arabic root word for "Peace"; and a Muslim is simply "one who submits to Allah [God]", I felt every ounce of myself KNOW that this was truth. While man-made religion dictates so much, in Islam the relationship lays between an individual and God. In the end, it ONLY matters what is in a persons heart and Allah knows best.

This began my journey into Islam and my "coming home".

On September 13th 2010, I reverted back to the religion of my birth, the religion of my father, and the religion that is locked deeply within my very Be-ing.

While the video of my conversion/reversion was posted to You Tube, and I have had 'witnesses' to my reverting from all over the world, I did not feel any need to go and tell people from the church, or my bishop. I was "inactive" and that was pretty much where I was happy to let it stay.

After my husband's journey, and final reversion to Islam, the cards began to stack against us as far as friends from the church began to seep out and verbally, and openly, attack us. We kept our respect for one and all, and we kept a level head.

This past Sunday (November 14th 2010), we received a surprise visit from the bishop of the ward; he wanted to know if the "rumours" he had heard were true in that we were studying about Islam and were we doing it for knowledge sake or the reason of conversion. While Ben did not tell him that we'd already reverted he did admit that he was looking at it for the reason of conversion. At which point, the bishop immediately demanded we turn over our temple recommends and when I came out to give them, he told me that we had to write him a letter asking for our names to be removed from the church records and if he did not hear from us, we would "hear from" him in no uncertain terms (in other words if we do not willingly resign as members of the church, he will convene a church court to excommunicate us). To which I responded "that's the only time we ever hear from you people".

Over the years, we have had a myriad of issues with this bishop; and while some can be claimed to be misunderstanding, there is a definite "dislike" for us on the part of this man. And he has been trying for years to find ways to get us to "disappear" and out of the church/ward.

He has burdened us with abusive words over and over again during our years with this ward. While he has been somewhat "pleasant" on the one hand, on the other, he has been emotionally, verbally, and psychologically abusive.

In the past, we have gone inactive because he has pushed us away, and in the time that we were gone from the church (one was a 2-year absence), he only ever came to our door one time. I recall the date freshly in my mind, July 4th 2004. I had borrowed a sewing machine from the church and had not been at church to return it, so he came round on that day simply to pick it up. He did not bother to stay or to even ask how we were doing, seeking after our welfare as a bishop... the "father of the ward", should be doing as he "tends to his flock". This bishop would rather lose two of his flock than to search, seek, and bring those he has lost back.

We have several Muslim friends who were born and raised Mormon, a couple have successfully completed full-time missions for the church and NONE of them have been asked to have their names removed from the church records. They have simply been allowed to be, and are classified on church records as being "inactive".

While this week has brought a myriad of emotions, most of which have been anger at this person, and finally releasing and letting go of that which was deep within me; I am trying to also find the peace and harmony of this release. I have been a part of the church for 21 years, and I fought SO hard to BE a member and then to STAY a member, but I now have to look back and wonder what all that stemmed from and what was the "fighting" really for? Was it the need for a 16-year-old child to feel wanted and to be a part of something, to simply belong? Or was there more to it?

It has been a week of learning, knowing, releasing, and then be-ing; only to return and complete the cycle once, twice, thrice more.

The biggest feeling of relief has come in, for the first time in my life, finally feeling free to be me. No airs, no graces, no masks, no "double life"; no conforming into what those in the church deem to be appropriate. I have finally shed that thick layer of skin that I created in conforming to being the person that they dictated me to be. The burden is released, and the reaction has been fantastic on my psyche.

Many have felt that the main reason we left the church has solely been because of the people and us having had a "bad experience" with the church. I have to make a correction here, while we have had a terrible and devastating experience with the WARD we were in, and the bishop; what I consider my "home ward" was/is wonderful. The people were true as we read in the wonderful "fairytales" that we are taught about in the history of the church, or in the monthly Ensign. The people in my ward in Ottawa, Canada are living the gospel as it is supposed to be lived. They are welcoming, inviting, engaging, and loving. You must understand that I have been seeking, for years, many answers to questions, and I could not find within the walls of the Mormon-faith. The people had a lot to do with how easy it was to look outside of the faith, and to continually push me/us away, but the only reason why we left had nothing to do with the people, it was much deeper than that.

But yes, my experiences here were devastating to me who had grown to know the members as being a strong foundation of what was my world, and my faith.

It was devastating when the very first time that I attended the ward here, NO ONE bothered to say "hello" or "welcome", I was observed like a freak at a side-show. The woman with whom I shared a pew sat staring at me in a freakish way the entire Sacrament meeting (I only spoke with her for the very first time in 2009 when someone introduced us, and this after 6 years of being members of the same ward). Then, at the close of that first Sacrament meeting, she literally climbed over my lap/legs to "get out". As I got lost in the maze of corridors trying to find Sunday School, no one stopped to ask if I needed any help or was I new, I was left completely and totally alone.

Later, in a meeting with a counselor in the Stake Presidency, I brought this experience up and suggested that more needed to be said from the Stake Presidency to the members of the Stake in making people feel more welcomed, and that members truly DID need to live by the motto of President David O. McKay "Every member a missionary". The counselor answered me by saying that my husband and I could be that example in leading the way as we attended our meetings. That there would be no address from the stake presidency and that if we wanted to see the change, we had to be the change and example for others to follow.

As I sat amongst "my people" those who are supposed to by my "brothers and sisters", I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life; and I would say that for me, this is when the first stirrings of questions began to enter my psyche. But, as a "member in good standing" Mormon, those questions had to be pushed as far away as possible.

But the problem with opening Pandora's box is that the flow is continual. Not only was I now pondering, questions that I had lingering from years prior began to intermingle with new questions.

When I sought answers to the questions, many were never answerable in the church. I was told over the years to pray more, fast more, read my scriptures more, go to the temple more. So when none of that gave me answers, I was then handed off the standard, "well we'll find out the answers when we die and are in the Celestial Kingdom."

More and more I questioned my faith, my beliefs, the very things that I had held on so strongly to over the years and what eventually brought me back to the church time and time again from inactivity and seeking questions from outside of the religion.

I wanted SO hard to believe and understand everything. I wanted SO hard to be a part of a religion that I loved, that I did fight so hard to join; that had embraced me, but also abused me; and eventually, abandoned me.

It was a classic cycle-of-abuse, and it kept drawing me back time and time again. And each time, I wore down a little more and a little more; but I still could not find the answers I so desperately sought. At one point, I was even told that I had not found answers because I was not asking "the right questions" or asking them in the "correct way"!

When Dad died, it literally took the ground out from under me. The morning after he died, I had a very profound experience. That experience was the beginning... Over that very busy, and emotion-filled week I had a very strong feeling that after the funeral and celebration of life service we were holding, I would start to look into, and study the religion of my birth in an effort to understand and know my Dad on a different and more deeper level, and maybe begin to understand myself more too.

Through the week of planning, things came up that made this decision to learn become more solidified in me. I never expected that it would lead me to a new path and eventually finding my peace and my truth.

It was almost as if Dad was orchestrating things from the other side, as more and more opportunities were presenting themselves to me.

As I delved more into my past, learning, absorbing, seeking and then finding, I found ALL the answers that I had been seeking in Mormonism. I could deny it no longer, this is where I belonged.

It was an amazing, and releasing feeling, stepping back onto the path that I had been born onto, but my inner-turmoil regarding the church did weigh heavily in me. I did not feel that I had to officially "leave" the church and never felt that I should write to have my "name removed from church records". However, interestingly enough, a friend of mine had contacted me and asked me how she would be able to do that. After some searching on the internet for her, I found her the information. I never thought that I would be the one having to use the information I provided for her.

In speaking with my Muslim friends (sisters) who reverted from Mormonism, I found out that they never petitioned the church for their names to be removed from church records; and, like me, never wanted to.

So, last Sunday, when this man stood at my door telling me that this was what he "required" of us to do, the sting was swift and painful. It was somewhat amazing to me that he so easily "let us go". There was no questions as to why, or what could they possibly do to work with us to help us come back, to ask what it was that caused us to want to leave the church, just simple cut and dry "you're gone".

This bishop has wanted us out of the church for years, but he never was able to find anyway to do it, well now he has.

In this action, if there was ever a remote possibility that we might potentially ever consider returning to the church, aside from the teachings which we no longer believe or adhere to, it has nipped it in the bud completely and totally.

As the bishop stood outside our front door, in his overbearing and manipulative way, attempting to psychologically torment us in the manner that he is so good at; to make us feel "guilty" and chase back after them, plead and make our case for him to shut us down in a final, glee-filled slap-in-the face; something inside of me snapped and instead of the submissive person he had always dealt with, with each lash of his tongue, instead he met with "Me". ME who is filled with balls and who has NO problems speaking my mind (a person he has never met before because in the church's conformity, is not   "proper"), and in a single sentence "That's the only time we ever hear from you people"; this foreboding man cast his eyes downwards and the small glimmer of defeat and shame crossed his face.

To the counselor who requested a hug after my being kicked to the side like some dirty rag, came my reply; a simple, but absolute "NO", shock as he quickly followed up by telling me that he and his wife "loved" me, and my reply "that's nice".

It was an ending. And they knew they had no more room to budge, wished me "the best of luck" as I unceremoniously closed the door on them and the religion, for the last time, forever.



Ben and I right after he had taken his Shahada and converted to the Islamic faith

* In Mormonism, a sealing is an ordinance (ritual), performed in temples by a person holding the sealing power. The purpose of this ordinance is to seal familiar relationships, making possible the existence of family relationships throughout eternity.Sealings are typically performed as marriages or as sealing of children to parents. They were performed prior to the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. (the main founder of the Latter Day Saint movement), and are currently performed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Faithful Latter Day Saints believe civil marriages are dissolved at death if they are not later solemnized with a sealing, but that a couple who has been sealed in a temple will be married beyond physical death and the Resurrection if they remain righteous. This means that in the afterlife they and their family will be together forever. An illustrative difference in the marriage ceremony performed in LDS temples is the replacement of the words "until death do us part" with "for time and all eternity".

The LDS Church recognizes other monogamous, heterosexual marriages, both civil and religious, although they believe that such marriages will not continue after death because "Eternal Marriages" must be performed by Priesthood authority. However, "Eternal Marriages" are also performed vicariously for the deceased so that once all the prior temple ordinances are completed for a deceased individual, couples who were not sealed during their life may accept the proxy sealing to each other and their children. [Source]


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making Waves in the Media

The other afternoon, I watched a very interesting documentary called "30 Days - Living As A Muslim". The premise behind the documentary is that people from all different walks of life in America, volunteer to live for 30-days in an environment that is completely different from anything they have known before. In this particular episode, a young married father, white, Christian, from West Virginia agrees to live 30-days as a Muslim and with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan.

I won't go into a rundown of the show, and you can definitely view the entire episode in five parts on You Tube; the reason I am writing this is because there was something in the show that really bothered me. I felt overwhelming sadness at the ignorance to the truth of Islam. And the way that people react to Muslims and to our beliefs and way of life.

How badly we have been portrayed in the media that a single word association game will produce such images in the minds of those who simply know us (Muslims) as what has been portrayed to them in the media. So when a person mentions the word "Terrorist" in such a game, the first word that passes through their mind is "Muslim". And when the word "Muslim" is presented, the first word that crops into peoples minds is "terror", followed by "fear", and "scared" and then of course the ever present, "terrorist".

So how have we, people whose entire religion is one that is steeped in peace - the root word of Islam itself is Salaam, which we know means "peace"; how have we become to be known as a people who will strike fear and loathing into the hearts of complete strangers?

One word, Media.

Sadly, over the history of our most modern times, media has reported individuals who are Muslims, doing evil and extraordinary acts of cruelty, as being WHO we are, NOT acts perpetrated by men (and women) who are Muslim by religion and not our religion perpetrating that what they have done.

September 11th 2001 changed our world, and it took the notion of people who did things and who happened to be Muslim, to suddenly this radical belief that ALL Muslims have the potential to perpetrate such atrocities. While we, who live on the other side of that fence think that is a preposterous notion, the media use of verbiage such as "Radical Muslim" and "Muslim extremist" keeps the association of Muslim together with the negative and therefore perpetrating us all to be cut from the same cloth.

Does this make me, and every other Muslim sister who chooses to wear hijab and pray five-times a day, who chooses to live life in accordance with the teachings of our prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and the Quran; and who live a prayerful, spiritual, and peace-filled life in remembrance of Allah (SWT) suddenly mean we are now terrorists and someone to be taunted and spat at and abused in the streets?

How does it turn from who we truly are, peace-filled beings, to suddenly being labelled as "scary"?

I am a simple woman. I proudly wear hijab, I continually have a prayer in my heart, and I hold my head up high and look in people's eyes and I smile into their faces, and I say "Hello" with a friendly nod to people who stop and stare at me. Can I truly be seen as someone to be feared?

In all honesty, since I began to wear hijab over the past couple of months, I have not once had, or felt, any discrimination. I may have had people stop and stare; one particular lady stopped dead in her tracks in Costco one day, and what was my reaction to that? I walked right over to her gorgeous child in the cart and said "Oh aren't you the most adorable little guy?!" To which her entire demeanor changed and we engaged in a simple conversation about her child. I guess her sense of "fear" had been diminished as we connected as women gushing over her child.

Is that something that is difficult for us to do? Being friendly, being kind, being charitable, showing love, and being human?!

If this is the case, what can we then do to begin to create fresh media reports of POSITIVE actions rather than negativity and reports that show us continually in a bad light?

I was spurned to action when I was looking for photos to share on my Facebook page and simple did a Google image search under the key words "Peace Islam". What turned up was something that was horrific, painful, and lasting that is now etched in my psyche forever. There were pictures of severed heads, terrorist madmen with covered faces holding up the severed head of an executed American, young childrens severed heads, severed heads in boxes; amongst these were radical hatred photos of Muslim demonstrators calling for beheading with the caption "Is THIS Islamic Peace?"! Intermingled amongst these heinous photos were a scattering of the beauty that I was seeking; but who sees those in a sea of hate, horrendous imagery, and negativity?

My action... my proposal is to unite Muslims throughout the world to gain much media attention for us doing GOOD WORKS, where we are shown serving our fellow-man, helping, being kind, loving; and doing it as HUMAN BEINGS as opposed to being Muslim. In other words, doing in with the intent of Allah (SWT) and zakat in our hearts, but without spouting off Quranic verses (which will fuel a fire) or trying to teach about our beliefs (unless specifically asked), but rather showing and proving to the world that we can be people... humans, just as they are with the same concerns, the same hopes for peace and brotherly love, acceptance, and the same potential for charity and giving as the next person.

I have read/seen/heard arguments from people who claim that the desire and goal of Islam is to create a global domination and force all of man-kind to be converted to Islam, or face the sword. They truly believe this! So, when we are out and spouting off our beliefs into crowds, people see us as being this stereotypical enemy who is seeking to convert otherwise the sword is going to be produced. It is an incredible "Paul-ine" way of thinking (ie Paul formerly Saul of Tarsus); convert or die. Maybe this is the Christian belief because it is so steeped in their teachings and has now been transposed over to us. However, when we do the kind of dawah where we are preaching in the streets, we are falling into the stereotype that the media and these so-called "Christian" ministers are making their flocks believe.

Wouldn't being known as a people who work to make peace, NOT 'force' peace, make a better statement and dawah? Wouldn't showing that we are just people who have a concern and a vested interest in humanity and the countries we live in, a better message for us to be embraced as Americans (or Canadians, or Australian, or English, or German... etc... etc...) better than as terrorists?

It seems to me, no matter how much we kick and scream and try to make people believe that WE suffered just as the next person in 9/11, no one wants to believe that WE are not all responsible for the atrocities that took place. We must now find find a way of re-creating ourselves and in the way that people view us.

Along similar lines as the world-wide "Free Hugs" campaign, I put forth an idea, which I pray insha-Allah will become a movement; that we organize a gathering of Muslims within our cities to rally together in providing service to those who are in need. Maybe that is donating time at a food kitchen, or a food bank, or making sandwiches and distributing them (and a bottle of water) to the homeless in your cities - or just to people in general. Maybe wrapped in the sandwich paper will be a little and simple note that says "You are loved" and left at that, NO long Quranic phrase or quote from Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), just keeping it simple. Do this during a lunch hour, you never know who may not have money to buy themselves lunch.

If we can gather together to make this happen, maybe if we were to organize it on the same day, throughout the world, it WILL be a movement. We are not doing anything other than giving.

The more we are PRO-PEACE and PRO-LOVE, and just "Pro" the more positives we will draw to ourselves.

I will end this with a quote from Mother Teresa: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Shahada Video

On September 13th, 2010; in the privacy of my home, I made the decision to revert to Islam. OK so maybe it is strange for a person who is born into a Muslim family to be undertaking her Shahada, and to do it to a video camera, to be uploaded to You Tube and viewed by hundreds of witnesses around the world. Well, from the beginning, I have never done anything that could be perceived as "regular". So, this was not so unusual for me...

But why would a woman, born to a Muslim father and a revert-to-Islam mother be taking her Shahada? Quite simply, I was not brought up in the faith. My father was very private about his religion and while he was a very proud Muslim, he never enforced his beliefs on us. Rather, he left it up to us to decide our path. I know, for most Muslims, that is so unconventional, but we never were what anyone could consider "conventional".

So, that being said, it was such an emotional experience when I took my Shahada. Yes, even in the privacy of my living room, sharing a deeply private and spiritual emotion with the world, but yet being completely alone in the act; and maybe it was even more emotional in that environment.

I know that my father's prayer over the years were that we would come to find Islam and embrace it, but sadly he was not alive to witness it or experience it. I only pray, that Dad somehow found himself here with me that night, and that he witnessed the intensity of the moment, the beauty, and the joy that flooded me and seemed to seep out into the room and into the video.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why On Earth Islam?

Very soon after I took my Shahada (conversion) on You Tube, I received an email from an individual telling me how awful living under Iranian law was, that they were forced to live as Muslims or suffer death. This individual continued on to tell me all the horrible ways that life was for people over in "Islamic" countries, and "why on earth" would I "choose this life" for myself. Emphasis on "choose". They further asked what was this "new thing" that I found that I was calling a "peace" within Islam.

OK, so let me start at the beginning; I was born to parents who were Muslim. My father, and his father, and his, and his... so on were all Muslim. My mother, converted (reverted) to Islam prior to her and my father's marriage. So by all rights and purposes, I was a Muslim.

However, as life would have it, my father was not a strict Muslim and my mother also did not adhere to the teachings past her own conversion; so it was not something that was taught in the home, nor forced down my throat. In fact, as I entered my school years and had the day off for the Eid celebrations, I had no idea what or why I had the day off, just that I did and I was able to spend it together with the family. It was also the only times of year that we prayed together as a family. Something I loved, something I craved, and something I missed when, after attending high school, I was no longer taught to stay home and continue this tradition with my family.

Were my parents wrong? I don't think so, I think they may have been fraught with a belief that allowed me to find my own path in life and to follow it.

However, in this openness and permission to seek out my own path, I found a life filled with confusion as I traversed a path which I made very well-trodden, looking for religion and faith.

At 16, I was introduced to the Mormon church, and was baptized into the faith at 18. Within 9 months, I was "inactive" and stumbling through a darkness that was overwhelming me. Was I simply not "strong" enough to stay, or did I simply allow myself to fall in line with the religion to "fit in" and be a part of something that seemed "cool"?

I remember praying about the religion and receiving an overwhelming testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel, but if it were so true, how come it was just as easy to fall out of the religion? Of course, many would tell me that it was Satan and his cunning ways, but I also had a choice in the matter, and as staunch and stoic in my beliefs as I was, how then could I just as fast and just as easily, begin falling away?

Over the years, I studied and aligned myself with many faiths, yoga practices, kundalini, meditation, chanting, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Krsna, Hinduism, Mysticism, Kabbalah, Spirituality, Indian gurus, even going as far out of the realm as possible with Paganism. And intermingled with these years, I would return back to the church for a "stint" and then leave again.

I had questions, but the gospel, and the members, could not provide my answers. I wanted SO hard to believe; even going to the temple and expecting such an overwhelming clarification, but to be sadly let down. Each time I asked a question which was not on the "standard books", I was told to pray harder, to fast longer, to read the scriptures more, attend the temple more often; but still never an answer came.

When I married my husband in 2002, he had no idea that the next eight years would find him tossed and turned on the tempest sea of religion and faith finding, as I dragged him along on every roller coaster ride of emotion and faith-seeking. I felt that we shared this journey together, but what I did not take into consideration was the turmoil it was creating within him.

Then, on July 25th 2010, my Dad passed away suddenly and the pain of his loss was overbearing and overwhelming. I had already been going through a depression which started the week after my husband and I were "sealed" (married) for time and all eternity in the highest ceremony that the Mormon church offered its members. In being sealed, we were assured that our marriage would transcend and cross from this physical mortal existence, into eternity; where, if we are faithful and loyal members, that we would inherit worlds and reign upon them as Gods and Goddesses.

The day we were sealed, was a dream come true for me, since I was 16 years old and first introduced to this concept of "forever marriage" and "forever love".

So, one week after this beautiful ceremony took place, the fact that sudden questions were rising inside of me, and depression was taking hold baffled me. I no longer desired to go to church or be around the people from church. I hid myself away in a self-imposed exile of confusion and questions that seemed to have no answers.

After Dad died, and kind members offered their condolences and love and support by telling me how lucky I was to "have the knowledge of the gospel and the plan of salvation"; however, instead of feeling comfort, I felt increasing resentment towards them, and cynicism about their precious "plan of salvation" and their humanoid God. NONE of that would bring my Dad back, and the pain that it brought me, dug its heels in deeper and caused me further resentment towards the church, their teachings, and the people who followed so blindly.

The questions I had burning me so deeply were now finding their way to the surface, and for the first time I began to acknowledge them and ask them.

In the 24-hours that followed Dad's death, an experience that I had was one that would change my life and begin to set me on a path to finally understanding, finally finding and placing the pieces which had been missing.

Over the next several weeks, I began to embrace the teachings of Islam and found within the very answers to the questions that I had been on a lifetime journey seeking.

Eventually, there was no more denying the truth, or the path that I had to take. On September 13th, 2010; I set up my camera, and before it (and eventually the world) I took my Shahada and reverted to Islam.

When I received the email from the individual asking me "why", I had to answer honestly; I simply picked up the Qur'an for myself and began to read it with an open mind and an open heart. The message is so clear, so concise, and the message that the Qur'an brings is more often, NOT in line with the way that many countries living under Sharia Law and Ayatollah law, mis-guided law, and cultural diversity, teaches.

Islam itself stems from the root word in Arabic for Peace. In greeting one another, Muslims will utter "A'salaam alaikum" which translated means "Peace be unto you".

So in reading, in studying, in delving; I found an inner peace that I had never experienced before. If I felt the "testimony" I received regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was strong, the testimony and the witness I received about Islam, went even deeper. Inside of me, I found something awakening; whether it had been there all the time and was, for the first time experiencing oxygen and life, or whether it was something that had been there and then was placed aside by my self-consciousness, I don't know. But what I do know is that finally, I came home; I AM home. Alhamdulillah, the salaam (peace) I feel inside me, outside me, coursing right through me, is one so different from the experiences I have ever had on this long and arduous journey.

THIS is right, and it is right for me.