|Posted on July 10, 2011 at 3:22 PM|
I was born into a Christian family and educated at Christian schools through grade 12. My parents went to church, so I went to church, because that was what we did. I never really paid much attention to it though; being a kid, I was more concerned with other things. Church was always a bit boring to me. I always found myself thinking about the latest video game or something similar.
School was the same way. We were required to take courses in the Bible and in Christian concepts, and I never really enjoyed those classes. It was a classic oversaturation syndrome. “I’ve heard all of this before. Why do I have to keep hearing the same things over and over?” I began to get bored with everything.
I knew very little of other religions. I had heard of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, but knew very little about them. What little I did know came from my teachers at school and church. All I needed to know was that Christianity was the truth and everything else was a lie. That was what I had been told and that was what I believed.
Still, I was curious. I have always been an inquisitive person, and especially so in my youth. I read the Bible myself and found some things I did not understand and did not agree with. I would ask my teachers about these things and they never could or would answer. “That’s just the way it is and you need to have faith and accept it,” is what they would tell me. I grumbled and complained, but went on with my life.
My teenage years were hard, as they are for most kids. Girls didn’t like me, I wasn’t popular, and I was a skinny kid with braces and glasses. I was socially awkward (I still am to a degree) and I wasn’t helped by the fact that I had low self-esteem. Even at a Christian school, I still was made fun of and socially outcast. It also didn’t help that my best friend at the time was one of the most popular guys in the school. All the girls liked him, he was good at every sport he played, etc. Compared to him, I was nothing.
I turned to video games and poetry as my solace. I spent most of my time at home, only going to school when I had to (and sometimes not even then). I barely said three words to anyone back then, which of course just confirmed to everyone else that I was a dorky loser. I even contemplated suicide, and almost attempted it once before I chickened out and backed down. “I don’t want to die yet, but I can’t go on living anymore..”
I finished high school and got into college and things didn’t get a whole lot better. Being a sheltered kid from Christian school, I was totally unprepared for college life. Alcohol and drugs were new to me. My friends in high school never drank or did drugs, so it wasn’t long before I was partying nearly every weekend.
It was around this time that I became an atheist. I already mentioned that I was disillusioned with Christianity. I still went to church for a while during college, but all I saw around me were hypocrites. The same guys I partied with on Friday and Saturday night were the same guys I saw on Sunday and Wednesday. Eventually I realized that I too was a hypocrite, and that is one thing I cannot abide, so I quit going to church. It didn’t feel right sitting there praising God on Sunday when I was getting drunk and high and chasing girls every other day of the week.
“God, you don’t exist. If you did, you would not have created me, would you? I am useless; therefore, you don’t exist.” That was how I justified my atheism. I was angry at God, angry at myself, angry at everyone and everything around me. I hated myself and I took it out on the world. I even stopped going out and partying and was sitting at home getting drunk almost every day. My “friends” eventually quit calling me, and I was all alone in a world of anger and self-hatred.
I considered joining the army when I was in college and started taking military history classes. I figured that was the perfect place for me to take out some of my anger; shooting people and blowing stuff up. I was 22 years old, angry, and ready to destroy the world. My parents surprisingly thought this was a good idea. They figured I would get some discipline and structure in my life. They didn’t really know about my anger issues (and even today they still don’t know just how deep those were).
Now I must mention my attitude at the time towards Islam. By this time I knew a bit more about it because I had studied it some in college. I am a huge history nerd, so through taking history classes, I learned a bit more about Islam. What I learned I did not like. “Oh, those are the guys that strap bombs to themselves and kill infidels in the name of Allah. They eat crappy food (what do you mean they don’t eat bacon?), live in crappy desert countries, hate dogs, can’t drink alcohol, and make their women cover themselves out of jealousy. No wonder they blow themselves up.”
That was my general attitude towards Islam. I would have gladly killed innocents had I been in the army at the time and thought nothing about it. Mashallah, I failed the mental and physical test and was rejected for admission into the army. This made me more angry at the time, but now I see it as a blessing from Allah. He knew I would not have made it very long in that environment. This was in 1999, so had I gone into the army, I would have ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11/01 happened, and it’s very likely that I would not have made it back to be telling you this story.
Anyway, 09/11 happened and of course Islam became very much at the front of all news stories. I have already told you my attitude at the time, so I was all for the “War on Terror”. I wanted nukes dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan and be done with it. My father is a Vietnam veteran, so we talked many times about how this was going to be my generation’s Vietnam. Again, mashallah that I was not over there in the middle of it. I thank Allah that I was not admitted into the army.
By this time in my life, I was back to believing in a God, but I didn’t really know who or what He was. My studies of astronomy and biology led me back to belief in a God, because there is simply too much order in the universe for it to be just a divine accident. So I knew that there was a God but I didn’t know much else.
Let me fast forward a few years to my early 30’s, when I finally moved out of my parents’ house and bought my own place. I was depressed for weeks when I turned 30. “Why am I still single and living in my parent’s basement? What has my life come to? All this for nothing?” I felt really sorry for myself again for a while and drank heavily. Finally near the end of my thirtieth year, I decided that the time was right to move out of my parents’ house. It was time to be my own man and choose my own path in life.
I still didn’t know what that path was though. I had my own house now and felt more independent, but other than that, my life didn’t really change. I still drank nearly every weekend and I still grew angry when I was drunk and questioned God once again. “Ok God, I have a house now, and a job, and a car, so why am I still single at 30whatever? There are guys worse than me with girlfriends and wives and I’m sitting here all alone. That’s not fair.”
As you can see, I put a good deal of emphasis on finding a relationship and being with a woman. I had had a few flings here and there, but no real relationship, and it made me feel like I was a loser because of it. I blame part of this on society and part of it on me giving in to my human desires. I was putting my heart in the wrong place, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
Fast forward to February 2011, during the Egyptian Revolution and the overthrow of Mubarak. Once again, an Islamic country became a big front page story, and it made me take a closer look at the religion itself. I wanted to know why Muslims believe what they believe, and why I believed what I believed. I thought I knew what Islam was, but I wanted to make sure. So I went to a local masjid and got a copy of the Qu’ran.
The more I read it, the more surprised I was that it makes sense. Being an intellectual, this was huge for me since I didn’t have to blindly follow something I didn’t really believe, and I really began to study Islam as much as I could. I started taking some Arabic classes and studying online, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.
Of course, my friends and family could not understand this new fascination with Islam. “Why do you want to study that stuff for? That’s the Devil’s religion. Stick to the Bible.” I tried to tell them otherwise but they wouldn’t listen, so I quit trying to convince them and just kept on studying. Eventually the new fascination faded and I put the Qu’ran down and quit studying Islam and Arabic for a couple of months. I began making excuses not to do it. “I’m not going to Arabic class today. I’m too tired/hungover. I’ll never learn it anyway so why waste my time?”
Anyway, not long ago, there were some bad storms in the state I live in, and a lot of people were killed. A good friend of mine’s mother lost her house to one of the tornadoes from these storms and she was injured. She is OK now but she lost almost everything in that storm. That really made me sit up and realize that we don’t have all the time we think we do. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I realized then that I didn’t know where I was going. If that had been me that was killed in one of those storms, I would likely be in Hell right now.
So I went back to the Bible, and started going back to church. I read the Qu’ran here and there, but I never really paid it much attention at first. All I knew was that I was not happy with the man I had become, and I needed to make some big changes in my life. I didn’t know how I was going to do that, but I prayed that God would show me the way.
All the while I was going back to various churches, something in the back of my mind was telling me to take another look at Islam. I met some good people at church, but I wasn’t really feeling the message nor did I feel any closer to God. I remember something my mother told me when I told her I was going back to church. She had told me to keep my heart and mind open and let God lead me where He would. Now I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean Islam, but I remembered her advice and started reading the Qu’ran again.
Once again, the more I read, the more I wanted to learn about Islam. A few weeks went by where I was studying Islam and going to church, but even while I was at church, my mind kept coming back to Islam and the oneness of Allah. That one thing made more sense than anything else. The Trinity in Christianity has always bothered me. Even when I was a practicing Christian it never made any sense to me, but I accepted it because I didn’t know any better.
The divinity of Jesus always bothered me too. I believed that He was the Son of God but only because that’s what I was taught in school and church. “If Jesus (pbuh) is the Son of God, why is He praying to Himself? Can’t He just get off the cross and be done with it?”
Islam is a simple religion, and there is a beauty in that simplicity that I can’t really describe. The only thing I knew was that it felt like I was being led that way, and I felt at peace with that decision. In spite of everything I had ever known up to that point I still found myself drawn to Islam and felt closer to God (I wasn’t calling Him Allah just yet). That frightened me, so I prayed about it. “God, if this is the true path, show me. Let me be at peace with this if it really is the way.”
The more I prayed, the more I felt led to Islam, so I quit attending Christian churches. It didn’t feel right to me to be going to a place and pretending to believe something that I didn’t. I kept praying, kept studying, and kept reading the Qu’ran. Eventually I got the courage to visit the local masjid to have some lingering doubts addressed and some questions answered. That story you already know.
The biggest issue I have now that I have taken shahada is going to be my family. They will not understand why I have done this and why I feel it is right for me. I have decided not to tell them, but rather to show them that I am becoming a better person so that they may see what good Islam can do. I pray every prayer that Allah will guide my family, open their hearts and their eyes, and allow them to respect my decision if they won’t accept it. I also pray that He will allow me to become a good witness for Him and for Islam through my words and deeds.
I know it won’t be easy, but I finally feel more at peace now than I ever have in my life, mashallah.
Written by brother Mike.
Categories: Stories of Reverts
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