From my earliest childhood, I have always wanted to accomplish important and significant things. Above all else, before my death I wanted the assurance that I have not wasted life in sinful deeds or worthless pursuits. All my life I have been intensely serious-minded. I have always detested the frivolity which is the dominant characteristic of contemporary culture.
My father once disturbed me with his unsettling conviction that there is nothing of permanent value and because everything in this modern age accept the present trends inevitable and adjust ourselves to them. I, however, was thirsty to attain something that would endure forever. It was from the Holy Quran where I learned that this aspiration was possible. No good deed for the sake of seeking the pleasure of God is ever wasted or lost. Even if the person concerned never achieves any worldly recognition, his reward is certain in the Hereafter.
Conversely, the Quran tells us that those who are guided by no moral considerations other than expediency or social conformity and crave the freedom to do as they please, no matter how much worldly success and prosperity they attain or how keenly they are able to relish the short span of their earthly life, will be doomed as the losers on Judgement Day. Islam teaches us that in order to devote our exclusive attention to fulfilling our duties to God and to our fellow-beings, we must abandon all vain and useless activities which distract us from this end. These teachings of the Holy Quran, made even more explicit by Hadith, were thoroughly compatible with my temperament.
My increasing sympathy for Islam and Islamic ideals enraged the other Jews I knew, who regarded me as having betrayed them in the worst possible way. They used to tell me that such a reputation could only result from shame of my ancestral heritage and an intense hatred for my people. They warned me that even if I tried to become a Muslim, I would never be accepted. These fears proved totally unfounded as I have never been stigmatized by any Muslim because of my Jewish origin. As soon as I became a Muslim myself, I was welcomed most enthusiastically by all the Muslims as one of them.
my family managed to argue me out of becoming a Muslim. I was warned that Islam would complicate my life because it is not, like Judaism and Christianity, part of the American scene. I was told that Islam would alienate me from my family and isolate me from the community. At that time my faith was not sufficiently strong to withstand these pressures. Partly as the result of this inner turmoil, I became so ill that I had to discontinue college long before it was time for me to graduate. For the next two years I remained at home under private medical care, steadily growing worse. In desperation my parents confined me for 2 years to private and public hospitals where I vowed that if ever I recovered sufficiently to be discharged, I would embrace Islam.
After I was allowed to return home, I became Muslim on May 24, 1961 at the Islamic Mission in Brooklyn, New York and changed my name to Maryam Jameelah. I investigated all the opportunities for meeting Muslims in New York City. It was my good fortune to meet some of the finest men and women anyone could ever hope to meet. I also began to write articles for Muslim magazines.
I did not embrace Islam out of hatred for my ancestral heritage or my people. It was not a desire so much to reject as to fulfill. To me, it meant a transition from parochial to a dynamic and revolutionary faith.
In Islam, my quest for absolute values was satisfied. In Islam I found all that was true, good and beautiful and that which gives meaning and direction to human life (and death); while in other religions, the Truth is deformed, distorted, restricted and fragmentary. If any one chooses to ask me how I came to know this, I can only reply my personal life experience was sufficient to convince me. My adherence to the Islamic faith is thus a calm, cool but very intense conviction. I have, I believe, always been a Muslim at heart by temperament, even before I knew there was such a thing as Islam. My conversion was mainly a formality, involving no radical change in my heart at all but rather only making official what I had been thinking and yearning for many years.
Maryam Jameelah went on to write thirty books on Islamic thought, culture and civilization. They are:
- Why I embraced Islam
- Islam and modern man : the prospects for an Islamic renaissance, the call of Islam to modern man
- Islam and Modernism
- Islam and orientalism
- Islam and the Muslim woman today
- Islam and our social habits : Islamic manners versus Western etiquette
- Islam versus Ahl al-Kitab: past and present
- Islam versus the West
- Islamic culture in theory and practice
- Islam face to face with the current crisis
- The Holy Prophet and his impact on my life
- The resurgence of Islam and our liberation from the colonial yoke
- Three Great Islamic Movements in the Arab World of the Recent Past
- Modern technology and the dehumanization of man
- Western civilization condemned by itself; a comprehensive study of moral retrogression and its consequences
- Western imperialism menaces Muslims
- A manifesto of the Islamic movement
- Ahmad Khalil: the biography of a Palestinian Arab refugee
- Is Western civilization universal?
- Memoirs of childhood and youth in America (1945-1962) : the story of one Western convert's quest for truth
- Shaikh Hassan alBanna & al Ikhwan al-Muslimun
- Shaikh Izz-ud-Din Al-Qassam Shaheed : a great Palestinian mujahid, (1882-1935) : his life and work
- Shehu Uthman dan Fodio, a great mujaddid of West Africa
- The Generation Gap - Its Causes and Consequences
- Two great Mujahadin of the recent past and their struggle for freedom against foreign rule : Sayyid Ahmad Shahid ; Imam Shamil: a great Mujahid of Russia
- Westernization and Human Welfare
- A great Islamic movement in Turkey: Badee-u-Zaman Said Nursi
- A select bibliography of Islamic books in English
- At home in Pakistan (1962-1989) : the tale of an American expatriate in her adopted country
- Correspondence between Abi-l-A'La Al-Maudoodi and Maryam Jameelah