Interviews with American Women (Part-1)
The extracts provided herein under are from the book, Daughters of Another Path, by Carol Anway. It showcases, in brief, experiences of different American women, who, in their own peculiar ways and for their respective reasons, reached out to learn and understand Islam and its revealed text – the Qur’an – and which exercise, in turn, would change their lives forever.
Searching to Fill the Spiritual Void
Many of the respondents (new converts) were searching for something in the spiritual area to fill the void in their lives. It was through this openness that many began to receive the pull toward Islam. This need is reflected in most of the descriptions the women give of their conversion experience.
They may have come to the conversion point from a variety of situations, but most were receptive because of the need within themselves and the gentle persuasion of the Muslim person or resource which touched their hearts and souls:
New Muslim 1:
“I married someone who was not a Christian and we both were non-practicing in anything religious. I still thought of myself as a Christian. ‘What else is there?’ I thought. I still held my belief of God and his creation of the earth, but wasn’t sure of the other beliefs I was taught growing up.
“The year after my divorce, in I990, I started thinking about what I needed, about what I believed. Early in 1991, I started checking books out of the library and reading about Islam, more because I was curious about it than any thing.
“I slowly read books on it, but also lived my life as I had been living it. It wasn’t until the fall of I992 that I decided I had to do something about it: either get serious about studying it or forget about it. I found several American Muslim sisters in Manhattan, twenty miles from where I lived in a very small town. I studied with them and learned the practical aspects of what I had read for the past year and a half. I took my Shahaadah (testimony of faith) in December I992.”
New Muslim 2:
“My struggle began many years ago with my search for self-identity. Growing up in America as a black presented meaningful challenges to me during the 1960s and 1970s. After rallying around certain racial issues and feeling the pressures of early integration in Mississippi and Texas, I began to question my ‘role’ in life as a black woman.
“I was a successful professional, but my personal life was a mess. Bad marriage, poor relationship with parents and siblings, discontented with church and God – these all led me to question who I was, and why, and what I could do to improve relationships with these people and the world in general.
“I began to seek out answers by researching black history. I was amazed to find out that most African people came from Islamic states. I later met some Sunni Muslims who shared very impressive information about heaven and hell that touched my heart. I was teaching speech and drama at a Catholic high school in Washington, D.C. at the time.
“I became Muslim in I974. I was asked to resign at the end of the year because several students also converted to Islam. Islam cooled me out. It helped me to find God without all of the hang-ups and guilt I felt as a Christian. I’ve always loved God, and knowing that I could talk directly to Allah (swt) was a welcoming treat.”
New Muslim 3:
“I was first introduced to Islam at the age of fourteen, but because of family conflicts, I was not able to learn or practice. After leaving home to go to college, I had the freedom to pursue the religion.
“The biggest change I had to make (besides the obvious ones of dress, diet, etc.) was to put some distance between myself and my family and former friends. I did this as a protection for myself that would allow me to grow stronger in my religion without distractions. I had little sense of loss because I filled the void with new-found Muslim friends, and later, my husband.”
Sensing the Authority of the Qur’an
Many of the women have expressed their growing respect, and love, for the Qur’an, which is considered the final, and literal, Word of God. For some women, the Qur’an was an important part of their conversion experience.
New Muslim # 4:
“My conversion began as the result of a challenge by a Muslim to read the Qur’an in order for us to have a debate on the position of women in Islam. I held the stereotyped view of Muslim women as being oppressed and in a bad position relative to their Christian counterparts.
“I was nominally Christian, raised in a Catholic environment, but was not practicing the religion and really only bothered to label myself a Christian in order not to appear too rebellious in front of my extended family (my family was also really only Christian in name, not ‘in reality’).
“The reading of the Qur’an and of Hadith of the Prophet is what captured me. I went through a very odd experience whereby, for the whole week it took me to read the Qur’an, I couldn’t sleep and seemed to toss and turn all night in a feverish sweat. I had strange and vivid dreams about religious topics, and when I would get up, all I wanted to do was continue reading the Qur’an. I didn’t even study for my final exams which were happening at the same time!”
New Muslim # 5:
“I began a course in Middle Eastern History, which immersed me further into the study of Islam. When the professor read passages from the Qur’an to illustrate how powerful a ‘tool’ it was in spreading Islam throughout the world, my heart sang. I knew I had found the TRUTH!
“I had been searching for God since the early ‘80s. At this point, I knew I would someday be a Muslim. After the class was over, I continued my investigation into Islam. I bought an English translation of the Qur’an and read it daily. I was living at home at the time; so hid most of this from my family. I got together often with my new friends and my total lifestyle began to change.”
New Muslim 6:
“My conversion was a long process. I left Christianity while in junior high school. I was raised Methodist. My father had been a Minister one time and was rather strict when I was a child. My parents left the church – mother went the American Indian Lakota way and father just left.
“I looked into a number of faiths, but nothing attracted me. I was raised to look at other cultures from a point of understanding to try to step out of my own culture to view others.
“The Iranian revolution sparked many questions for me. I decided to learn more about the people and culture and began reading the history of Iran which led to history of Islam – an area not even touched in school. This led to my reading the Qur’an.
“I hit an emotional crisis when a relationship (with an Arab) fell apart, and I found myself turning to the Qur’an. I realized a need to rely on something other than people. My mother was dead, my family far away. I didn’t know who I could turn to, or trust.
The Qur’an touched a chord. I got in touch with a Muslim women’s study group and they were very supportive and informative. I especially liked Islam’s base of logic. It took me a year to finally take Shahaadah.”
(To be continued)