Sunday, October 24, 2010
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.