New American Muslim sister, Lisa, shares her struggle with the hijab and how she converted to Islam.
I come from Michigan. I’m 31 years old, married. But I come from a Christian family, like most of us converts. My father’s side is Catholic, and my mother’s is very conservative Christian Baptist. So me converting was a very big deal for my entire family.
However my mother comes from a very large family as she was the one child out of six that may rebound and then she embraced Christianity. So she raised me quite differently. She raised me to be very open-minded, very liberal, politically and religiously. So, I embraced all her values and morals of thinking, but I never really embraced the way she thought about religion.
From a very young age I actually was very attached to Christianity, and on my own; nobody pushed me because my grandparents were already around pushing me into Christianity. But I just willingly entered into that religion. So I started going to young life and Christian camps; really trying to get involved in the religion as much as I could. I believe I was 15 years old when I went to Christian camps.
At Christian camps, you have amazing time but they have you staying up and have you claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and that exactly what I did. I did it but a kind of blindly as I was 15 years old. As such, you aren’t really researching as much as you should be, you are just following what people are telling you to believe. You don’t really question. I went ahead with that, but I had questions about my life.
I always had in my mind just what kind of what my mother would always be putting in my mind …for example, what about all the children who haven’t heard of the Gospel? Aren’t they going to Hell? Is that what they teach you? And so I’d be battling this; arguing within myself like… no I believe in Jesus, but my own mom is telling me something like how can anybody just tell you that a random person that they are going to Hell?!
And so I never really faced that question. Then after going to college and through Freshman year I met somebody who helped me exploring the world. I met some Muslim friends, some of them were from Morocco. A friend of mine was the grandson of the director of the American Language Center of Tangier, Morocco. And it seemed like there was an opportunity for teaching English there, he asked me “Do you want to go? And I said “yes, definitely.”
I went there, and, Alhamdulillah, I was able to live with that Moroccan family. So I did that and I was like, hey! I’d like to dress like you are dressing. Can I try that scarf! So, she gave me the scarf and I wore it. And I asked from where did you buy it? I want to buy one. So, for three months I’d wake up before Fajr. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d put my hijab and I didn’t know why, but I was just excited. It’s a new dress!
By time, I had found Morocco an awesome experience, but I never questioned anything I did. I spoke English, and they spoke Arabic. I started to learn a little Arabic, but we couldn’t communicate. So, it was just an awesome experience.
Back at Home
I came home. Back to my life, I graduated from college. I worked at a bank. And here the irony comes in. Even though I lived in a Muslim country, I had no idea about Islam. And yes… I worked at a bank, and I was dealing with interest and basis, and something told me to quit.
Something within told me ‘this is not right”, and so I didn’t want to do it. Now I know what this thing was, but at the time I couldn’t explain it. I just knew I was not doing what I supposed to be doing. I was on the wrong path.
So, I’ve always wanted to be a photographer. I needed to be in a creative field. So, I quitted everything. I dropped everything. I moved to Florida. And I went to a photography school.
At the same time, I decided to join a project on town. So, I met tons of Muslim friends- one of them named Nadeen. She is an awesome friend. And at that time they asked me at photography school to do an assignment; a documentary on my choice.
So, I decided to do it on hijab. I lived in Morocco, and I had worn this for three months, and yet I still have no clue why they wear it. So I asked Nadden, “Can I please interview you?’ and she said “Absolutely.”
So we went ahead. I did an interview asking this question- just general questions I asked all the time: ‘why do you wear hijab?’ ‘Do people judge you? Is it hot?
These obviously were just ignorant questions because I had no idea what they were talking about. And so when she started speaking to me, she opened up my eye asking me: ‘you are a Christian, right? I said, ‘yes’.
She continued: ‘You know! It is in the Bible- specifically, in Corinthians chapter: 11, verse: 6, that a woman should wear a hijab. I said: ‘What? ‘Really?’
In that way she opened up my eyes, and it is one of the things I live about Islam; one of the beauties of Islam; such a feminist religion. And I grew up as the biggest feminist, fighting for women’s rights. And what of the things I learned is the rights Islam does give to women. This is what I really loved about it
And so I started listening to her. Getting that other point of view that you never thought of, you think that most of these women they don’t really have a career, they are just there for their husbands, and all the stereotypes that are always out there. They really are there. And she opened up my eyes as like: ‘Just look around! Look at the magazine aisles… nothing is sold without a woman’s body being put next to it”. I remember her saying: “Can you even sell a pack of chips without having a naked woman next to it!” And I thought l “Oh My God! That is not feminism. That is oppression.”
I’ve been living in an oppressed society, and I without even knowing it. I asked myself: “why do we have to feel so self-conscious about our bodies all the time?
And so, I really started thinking about it. I went home. I looked for that verse of the Bible. And Wow! It was really there!
From there I got so interested, and I looked into the Qur’an and see what the Qur’an said about the hijab. And, surprisingly, when I read the Bible’s verse of the hijab it was actually very demeaning for women. I don’t know if many of you may read it. It says:
“If it is a shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” (Corinthians chapter 11:6)
That seemed to me very demeaning way. But, on the other hand, the Qur’an talks how beautiful the woman is that she should be covered. And that’s why I just started looking at things differently.
So then I just was so interested I couldn’t get my hands of converting to Islam. So then I read many books. I read the Qur’an. I watched YouTube videos. Yusuf Estes is one of my favorites. I watched all his YouTube videos.
I did this for about three months. And at that time I knew I was going to become Muslim. But I felt I was not ready to take the Shahadah, but ready to put my hijab on. So I actually put the hijab on before I took my Shahadah. And I didn’t put it full time. I traveled to New York and decided to put it on just because I felt comfortable to do so. And remember flying back . I remember going to class and I remember just being so nervous (crying).
And Alhamdulillah, I cut through it. You have to answer everybody’s question: “why are you wearing that?” “You came in and you were not wearing it.”
I know it’s minuscule now, but at that time it was so hard; I had to explain it to everybody, it took so much strength. But Alhamdulillah I’m so proud to wear my hijab now.
And then three months later, I kept researching and researching. And I found “yes! This is the real religion for me. I’m ready to do this”.
And I remember being alone. It was July 29th, 2011. It was the Friday before Ramadan. And I used to go to the mosque for Jum`ah (Friday) Prayer, but I was not yet a Muslim. But I remember sitting this day next to a lady and she said “I think you should convert before Ramadan starts. There’d be so many blessings. So I thought more about it. I got my car and thought “yes. I guess this is what I want to do. I’m ready”.
Since then it has been a journey, definitely a journey. I believe I-before taking the Shahadah- really was on the wrong path.
I wasn’t really praying. No one is there to guide you. You are trying to do things on your own, i.e. you don’t know how to pray, so you watch YouTube a video and try. You just do the best you can.
I’m supporting myself, living in an apartment alone; I even thought the fast began at sunrise not Fajr. So, you do things wrong but you do the best you can.
Me & My Hijab
My family, and particularly my Mom, took it very hard. And there was a kind or irony about it; she’d told me my whole life to be open-minded and to accept everybody, though it was so hard for her to accept this.
But though I has a very easy convert, comparing to other converts. My mom after a while-Alhamdulillah, accepted it. But she’d always say “why do you have to wear the hijab? Can’t you just take it off?”
So, I went through this struggle. Even if this (hijab) what let me to Islam, I’d take it for my Mom. I went home to Michigan, and I took it off. So, you feel like you’re in a battle; I’m trying to be Muslim, but I’m trying also to please my family. It was truly a struggle.
Now I’m on the right path, praying five times a day- Alhamdulillah. And I’m still learning.
And this is my story.
Watch Sister Liza tells of her touching journey to Islam in this video…