By: Carolyn Erazo
Here’s how and why I became Muslim….
Over the next couple of months I continued reading everything I could get my hands on, I just had to know more. This religion made sense, nothing in what I had already learned made me doubt the truth within it.
These horrible Muslims weren’t horrible at all. In fact they were better than us. I now had a better understanding of who they were and what they weren’t. Islam wasn’t bad, though some Muslims are.
After learning a lot I knew no Muslim would ever do what we claimed they had done. There’s just no way the rules written in the Qur’an would allow that. Real Muslims couldn’t possibly have caused the 9/11 terrorist attack that rocked the United States. The price would have been too high, in this life and more importantly the one after.
My desire to convert was overpowering me. But I couldn’t. How would I explain it? No one would understand. The opinions around me lead me to believe I didn’t fit the profile. Yet again I didn’t fit in. The problem was I couldn’t fight fate and/or my faith. I found it and I wasn’t letting it go. I needed to believe and Islam poured the truth giving me exactly what I asked for. God finally touched me. My heart and mind were open but still I couldn’t convert.
I immediately found a hundred reasons for why I couldn’t. Ramadan was one of them and definitely approaching and I feared that obligation. Women have a hard enough time dieting I would never be able to fast. I distinctly remember what `Abdul told me as I voiced my fears “sister, Ramadan shouldn’t scare you it should please you to do it for God”.
A few weeks later he said, “I guarantee you will want to convert before Ramadan ends”. I dismissed it knowing I just couldn’t see myself doing it. My family would be outraged.
Two weeks into Ramadan I couldn’t believe that I had been doing so well. It was something I never thought possible but yet I was half way through it. Something within me knew that it was God allowing it and His comforting presence gave me peace within myself to accomplish the impossible.
I was half way through my day at work when I just knew. Tonight is the night. I called `Abdul and told him how important it was for me to take my Shahadah (Declaration of Faith to become Muslim). He laughed a little and said he knew it would be before the ending of Ramadan. He was right.
How It Feels to “Be” Muslim
As I approached the mosque I felt so nervous I wondered how was I ever going to be able to do it. I had just learned that day you have to recite the Shahadah in Arabic. I got through it although not sure the words I said were accurate, either way I was Muslim. I declared that there is no god but God and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of God. I did it.
I made my choice and was barely out of the parking lot before I cried. The feeling within me was indescribable. But now how do I explain this? I guess I didn’t realize the full extent of what my decision would bring. I had resistance in every direction and at times it was simply unbearable. I couldn’t figure out how my religion impacted anyone, leaving everyone with a bad taste in their mouth.
My happiness for my new found faith was increasingly becoming a problem for most people I knew and the ridicule would enrage me. I found myself in defense mode all the time refusing to allow anyone to stereotype Muslims around me.
The worst part came when they took notice of the rules I was abiding by: no pork (Ridiculous!), fasting (Seriously? What for?). Yet with each question I had an answer and it also made me want to learn more, I wanted to always have an educated response to anything thrown at me.
What Has Islam Done out of Me?
June 2015 made 3 years since I converted and I find myself sometimes asking “Did I really need to convert or was I always Muslim?”. Born into a Christian family does not make you Christian and I’m living proof of that. I have seen many changes, obvious changes, within myself. I think I finally got it.
I understand now why this journey of faith was a necessity. A person can’t live without beliefs and faith. It’s impossible. I was able to let go of the anger of years of unanswered questions and prayers. What has becoming a Muslim done for me? The answer is simple and can be summed up with one word: acceptance. God’s acceptance.
We will never know why God puts us through trials. But what we do know is that it’s purposeful. God gave us an instruction manual for life. He gave those instructions to live a life that will inevitably lead us to our deserved place in either Heaven or Hell.
What’s wrong with people who question such religious guidance? Is it so bad that no one should follow? What I’ve learned so far is that many who object to “the rules” are really against the Religion itself. I’m not sure why people discriminate against a religion as opposed to individuals. Why are we so against each other when ultimately we’re the same?
God created us all. We are equal yet share different beliefs. Is it rational to hate Islam because of the actions of some Muslims?
If that’s the mindset then why not blame all Christians because of some terrible man who used bombs and took many lives? Within the denominations of Christianity let’s look at the Catholics, should all of them be considered child molesters? Its apparent all the religions have bad people but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. I failed to find truth in Christianity.
My choice was easy because truth is exactly what I found. And it is my sole reason for becoming a Muslim. Ultimately it’s an individual choice and in my opinion there was only one way to go.
I initially sought to write a letter to find its way into the right persons hands. I just have this overwhelming need to try and fight this war of the misrepresentation and discrimination against Islam.
Learn & Educate
I am a mother of a United States Marine. I am the mother of a son willing and prepared to fight for his country. But are we willing to do that? We all are so consumed fighting each other over misunderstandings of religion. We don’t need to fight against Islam we need to fight for it with truth and clarity so that people can see it for what it truly is and not a distortion based on ignorant, discriminatory opinions.
I have worked very hard over the course of the last three years even with resistance hitting me from every direction to teach my children about what I am and why. I am Muslim. My children are not but it’s the responsibility of myself to educate and provide them with guidance. I can’t force them just like no one had forced me. But my intentions are there and that’s my job. It’s also our job as people of faith.
Yet real education requires a commitment to truth and not discrimination. I’m not looking to change the word as my voice is not loud enough to allow everyone to hear me. I’m also not looking to have every person abandon their own religious beliefs because as a Muslim I know that all religions should be respected.
What I am looking for is simply to bring awareness to the poor unfortunate souls that can’t distinguish the truth from the lies they’ve been told.
For the Sake of God
Many have said that this awareness crusade I’m on will be fruitless. They say it’s a crusade many have fought unsuccessfully. I say so why stop trying even with the possibility of failing again and again. If we can change one person’s heart wouldn’t that make a difference? To diminish one person’s distorted view by offering truth? Changes happen one person at a time and we have that capability to make those changes a reality.
I want to make a difference by standing up for what I believe in. One woman can do it. She just has to be willing and prepared to keep at it for the sake of God. Segregation was also a crusade fought for decades unsuccessfully but one woman changed that with standing and refusing to accept what was.
So should we just accept defeat without a continuous fight? My answer is no. I have history proving one person can make a difference and now that one person could be me or you.
Read Part 1 here.