I was raised a Catholic, and did my best to follow it the way it was intended. My issues started when the church would change something. I thought, “Wait, God didn’t come down here and say ‘Change this’ so why are MEN changing what they claim to be God’s final word?”
I decided, after visiting some Christian churches (which were NOT for me) to become “spiritual”, since I believed in a higher power. I also investigated quite a few religions, but Islam was only on my radar because I had a few co-workers who were muslim and I’d just ask random questions about their beliefs, most of which were just blown off. I never seriously even thought of it.
After 9/11, I was in a stupor, as I’m sure so many people were. My father died in March 2002, and afterward, life and death were foremost in my mind. I decided once and for all to see where in the “Muslim holy book” it said that killing innocent people was an act that would get them into heaven. I had to see with my own eyes where their God said it was a great deed. I never found it.
Once I started reading the Qur’an I knew it was the truth, but wasn’t ready to take my shahaada. I had major anxiety about the hijab, and wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready to wear it.
About 1 year and a half after first realizing “this is IT! this is the thing I knew was out there but wasn’t sure what IT was!” I walked into a small little masjid, armed with questions, and left a Muslim. I had said a prayer about a month before my shahaada that I knew I’d probably never get married, and even though I knew I’d be lonely, that was okay, just please don’t let me struggle financially all the days of my life, Subhan’Allah, about 4 months after my shahaada, I met my husband. I had never thought I’d marry, since I was almost 38 years old when I embraced Islam, but Allah is the best of Planners. We just had our 10th wedding anniversary in August, may Allah always preserve it.
For the converts out there, I say take your time. Do not let ANYONE force anything down your throat, simply take their advice, smile, say “thank you” and look into it later when you are ready for it, mentally. So many “born Muslims” act as if it’s just a cake walk to fundamentally change everything in your life. It isn’t. Things that come natural and seem normal to them are so different for us. Those who embody Islam are patient and kind and not aggressive and forceful. Seek out other converts to help you through difficult times doing things that are new to you.
I had to read my prayers from a piece of paper when I first started praying, and to anyone who says “HARAM!” I say, “How old were you when you learned Al Fatiha? Did your friends and parents become distant and in some cases hostile or hateful when you did?” Be patient with those who are new, our beloved Prophet (saw) was always patient and kind, even to his prisoners of war, which is why so many of them embraced Islam. Not because they were threatened or admonished, but because they were treated kindly and given better than the Muslims had. May Allah help us all, and guide us on the straight path.