This American lady, a former radical feminist and Southern Baptist from Oklahoma, studied the Qur’an, Sahih Muslim and fifteen other books on Islam in an attempt to convert the Arabs in her college class to Christianity and ‘save those poor ignorant heathens from the fires of hell’. But guess what happened!
The Introduction and Decision
I was completing a degree in Recreation, when I met my first Muslims. It was the first year that we had been able to pre-register by computer. I pre-registered and went to Oklahoma to take care of some family business. The business took longer than expected, so I returned to school two weeks into the semester (too late to drop a course).
I wasn’t worried about catching up my missed work. I was sitting at the top of my class, in my field. Even as a student, I was winning awards, in competition with professionals.
Now, you need to understand that while I was attending college and excelling, ran my own business, and had many close friends, I was extremely shy. My transcripts actually had me listed as severely reticent. I was very slow to get to know people and rarely spoke to anyone unless was forced to, or already knew them. The classes I was taking has to do administration and city planning, plus programming for children. Children were the only people I ever felt comfortable with.
Well, back to the story. The computer printout held one enormous surprise for me. I was registered for a Theatre class; a class where I would be required to perform in front of real live people. I was horrified! I could not even ask a question in class, how was I going to get on a stage in front of people? My husband was his usual very calm and sensible self. He suggested that I talk to the teacher, explain the problem, and arrange to paint scenery or sew costumes. The teacher agreed to try and find a way to help me out. So I went to class the following Tuesday.
When I entered the classroom, I received my second shock. The class was full of ‘Arabs’ and ‘camel jockeys’. Well, I had never seen one but I had heard of them.
There was no way I was going to sit in a room full of dirty heathens! After all, you could catch some dreadful disease from those people. Everyone knew they were dirty, not to be trusted either. I shut the door and went home. (Now, there is one little thing you should know. I had on a pair of leather hot pants, a halter top, and a glass of wine in my hands…but they were the bad ones in my mind.)
When I told my husband about the Arabs in the class and that there was no way I was going back, he responded in his usual calm way. He reminded that I was always claiming that God had a reason for everything and maybe I should spend some time thinking about it before I made my final decision. He also reminded me that I had a scholars’ award that was paying my tuition and if I wanted to keep it, I would have to maintain my G.P.A. Three credit hours or ‘F’ would have destroyed my chances. For the next two days, I prayed for guidance. On Thursday I went back to the class convinced that God had put me there to save those poor ignorant heathens from the fires of hell.
I proceeded to explain to them how they would burn in the fires of hell for all eternity, if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior. They were very polite, but did not convert. Then, I explained how Jesus loved them and had died on the cross to save them from their sins. All they had to do was accept him into their hearts. They were very polite, but still did not convert. So, I decided to read their own book to show them that Islam was a false religion and Muhammad was a false God.
One of the students gave me a copy of the Qur’an and another book about Islam, and I proceeded with my research. I was sure I would find the evidence I needed very quickly. Well, I read the Qur’an and the other book. Then I read another 15 books, Sahih Muslim and returned to the Qur’an. I was determined I would convert them! My studies continued for the next one and half years.
During that time, I started having a few problems with my husband. I was changing, just in little ways but enough to bother him. We used to go to the bar every Friday and Saturday, or to a party, and I no longer wanted to go. I was quieter and more distant. He was sure I was having an affair, so he kicked me out. I moved into an apartment with my children and continued my determined efforts to convert the Muslims to Christianity.
The, one day, there was a knock on my door. I opened the door and saw a man in a long white night gown with a red and white checkered table cloth on his head. He was accompanied by three men in pajamas. (It was the first time I had ever seen their cultural dress.)
Well, I was more than a little offended by men showing up at my door in night clothes. What kind of a woman did they think I was? Had they no pride or dignity? Imagine my shock when the one wearing the table cloth said he understood I wanted to be a Muslim! I quickly informed him I did not want to be a Muslim. I was Christian. However, I did have a few questions. If he had the time!
His name was `Abdul-`Aziz Al-Shiekh and he made the time. He was very patient and discussed every question with me. He never made me feel silly or that a question was stupid. He asked me if I believed there was only one God and I said yes. Then he asked if I believed Muhammad was His Messenger. Again I said yes. He told me that I was already a Muslim!
I argued that I was Christian; I was just trying to understand Islam. (Inside I was thinking: I couldn’t be a Muslim! I was American and white! What would my husband say? If I am Muslim, I will have to divorce my husband. My family would die!)
We continued talking. Later, he explained that attaining knowledge and understanding of spirituality was a little like climbing a ladder. If you climb a ladder and try to skip a few rungs, there was danger of falling. The Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) was just the first step on the ladder. Still we had to talk some more.
Later that afternoon, May 21, 1977 at `Asr (afternoon), I took Shahadah. However, there were still some things I could not accept and it was my nature to be completely truthful so i added a disclaimer. I said: ‘I bear witness that there is no god but God and Mohammed is His Messenger’, ‘but, I will never cover my hair and if my husband takes another wife, I will castrate him’.
I heard gasps from the other men in the room, but `Abdul-`Aziz silenced them. Later I learned that he told the brothers never to discuss those two subjects with me. He was sure I would come to the correct understanding.
The Shahadah was indeed a solid footing on the ladder to spiritual knowledge and closeness to God. But it has been a slow climb. `Abdul-`Aziz continued to visit me and answer my questions. May Allah reward him for his patience and tolerance. He never admonished me or acted like a question was stupid or silly. He treated each question with dignity and told me that the only stupid question was the one never asked. Hmmm…my grandmother used to say that.
He explained that Allah told us to seek knowledge and questions were one of the ways to accomplish that. When he explained something, it was like watching a rose open – petal by petal, until it reached its full glory. When I told him that I did not agree with something and why, he always said I was correct up to a point. The he would show me how to look deeper and from different directions to reach a fuller understanding. Al-hamdu lillah!
Over the years, I had many teachers; each one special, each one different. I am thankful for each one of them and the knowledge they gave. Each teacher helped me to grow and to love Islam more. As my knowledge increased, the changes in me became more apparent.
Within the first year, I was wearing hijab. I have no idea when I started. It came naturally, with increased knowledge and understanding. In time I even came to a proponent of polygamy. I knew that if Allah had allowed it, there had to be something good in it.
Glorify the name of thy Guardian – Lord Most High, Who hascreated, and further, given order and proportion; Who has measured, and granted guidance; and Who brings out the (green and lush) pasture, and does make it (but) swarthy stubble, By degrees shall We teach you (the Message), so you shall not forget, except as Allah wills: for He knows what is manifest and what is hidden. And We will make it easy for you (to follow) the simple (path). (Al-A`la 87:1-8)
When I first started to study Islam, I did not expect to find anything that I needed or wanted in my personal life. Little did I know that Islam would change my life. No human could have ever convinced me that I would finally be at peace and overflowing with love and joy because of Islam.
This book spoke of the One God, the Creator of the universe. It described the beautiful way in which He had organized the world. This wondrous Qur’an had all the answers. Allah is the Loving! Allah is the source of peace! Allah is the Protector! Allah is the Forgiver! Allah is the Provider! Allah is the Maintainer! Allah is the Generous One! Allah is the Responsive! Allah is the Protecting Friend! Allah is the Expander!
Have we not expanded you your breast? And removed from you your burden, which did gall your back? And raised high the esteem (in which) though (art held)? So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief! (Al-Inshirah 94:1-6)
The Qur’an addressed all the issues of existence and showed a clear path to success. It was like a map forgiving, an owner manual for life!
To be continued…