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Tue, 24 Jan 2017 19:19:02 GMT (Rabia Thani 26, 1438) Updated:2:46 am
Home » Guided Atheists » A Horse-Rider’s Journey to Islam

A Horse-Rider’s Journey to Islam

July 22, 2015 12:24 pm by: Category: Guided Atheists Leave a comment A+ / A-

By Truth Seeker Staff

Converting to Islam has affected my life in a good way, definitely. But then again I feel that I was also the same before in some aspects...

Converting to Islam has affected my life in a good way, definitely. But then again I feel that I was also the same before in some aspects…

My name is Jenifer. I converted to Islam about three years ago.

I grew up in a Christian family; my father was a minister, and my mom travels a lot in doing missionary work. They’re a very strong Christian family, and that was the path that I followed when I grew up as a child. I went to church and watched my dad preach, and this would have been my faith before I was Muslim.

I grew up in a foundation of believing in God, but throughout high school and college I got really distracted and lost; I was just following the crowd like most Americans do. For most part I had a great childhood, I was a happy person, but I always felt that there was something that was not there.

Becoming a Muslim was a long journey for me, I did study on my own; I read a lot. I listened to youtube videos and debates, because it was hard for me to say I wouldn’t be Christian anymore. It is not easy on my family and so this is a big decision I wanted to be sure about, so I studied just to see what there was to offer in this religion.

Knowing Islam

When I was in college, I hadn’t really heard of Islam very much although I did go to journalism school, and 9/11 happened when I was in college. So this is my first big impact that there are Muslims and the religion Islam out there, and I really didn’t know anything about it other than what the media portrays. However, I didn’t show a lot of interest at that point.

After college I followed my passion and joined a job basically riding horses, and during this experience I got to travel a lot.

I worked closely with two Muslims, I just wondered why they aren’t eating or drinking during the day, yet they were riding horses and they were working just as hard as I was. So, this sparked my interest a little bit because these two individuals were very respectful, very nice gentlemen, and also very professional. So it was something that was opposite of my previous stereotype that I had had in journalism school…

After a few years, it was time for me to go on and to do something else with my life, and for some reason I kept thinking of this religion that I had been introduced to; and so this was what stimulated me to start to study.

During the time that I was learning about Islam and fasting during Ramadan, the only person that I knew was actually now my husband. So, I would call him occasionally to ask questions but for the most part I did most of this on my own.

Support System

When I did read and got excited to share something in the Qur’an that really moved me, I would tell him about it. But other than that I didn’t have anyone to explain it to me. I was afraid to tell my family at that time. I didn’t think that they would understand the journey I was going through. And so for the most part I really didn’t have anyone to talk to, throughout this time, except for Redda, my husband…

I wanted a support system; someone that knew more than I did about the religion; someone I could talk to about it, and grow together and to get closer to Allah; for having both of us work through life together and have the same goals and the same aspect on life, so it was very important to me.

It’s not an easy life change, so if we weren’t really motivated then why make this big change? Why get up for fajr (dawn) and wash and pray if I really didn’t want to know this religion and to do it to please Allah…

Reading Qur’an is something important to me and learning to read Arabic is important to me as well. That’s where I decided to start; instead of starting with the language I decided to start with the Qur’an, because I feel that was more important, then I hope the language would come…

Fasting Ramadan and Learning to Pray

I thought I could do one week fasting, and after a week it just became easier; I really felt proud to not eat or drink all day, and my intention was to please Allah. Fasting reminds the person of Allah all day long, so it was really a blessing to have this time when I could read the Qur’an.

I wanted to know how to pray but I didn’t have anyone to teach me. I witnessed the prayer when I went to the mosque one day for maghrib (sunset) prayer. I wanted to see how Muslims pray. They were very nice people, they noticed that I was just a visitor; but they took me in and pulled a chair for me and let me watch the prayer.

Through the interaction with them it just made me feel very welcomed, and then I decided that I wanted to come to the mosque more often for the evening prayers during Ramadan.

I started to cover with the scarf just to go to the mosque, and I would stand with the other ladies, and I just would mimic their motions. I didn’t know what to say but I felt the urge that I really really wanted to pray. I did learn “bismillah” (in the name of Allah), so I said bismillah and I just prayed with them.

I did feel the joy of prayer, the humility that you feel is really indescribable, it is nothing that you can get from another religion. Through this whole experience, through fasting, I told myself I would try to read the whole Qur’an during this month because I had heard this was a good idea. Towards the end I couldn’t read anymore because it really just made me sob. I was crying for what I was reading, and I knew at that point that this was the religion for me.

Shahadah the Day Before Eid

The day before Eid, I went to the mosque for maghrib prayer and I prayed with the ladies, then I just asked the sister next to me if I could stand and say my Shahadah. She got very excited of course, she thought I was already Muslim because she had seen me there very often because I was going to the mosque every evening.

I met the Imam and I had witnesses around me and the Imam said the Shahadah with me that was a beautiful experience, and of course afterwards everyone was so happy for me and they came and kissed me, congratulated me, and they just took me in…

Converting to Islam has affected my life in a good way, definitely. But then again I feel that I was also the same before in some aspects…

Islam brought to me a lot of structure, organization, and focus, I believe. And it also motivated me to educate myself more because every day I learn something new about Islam, and that is just one of the wonderful things about it…

But there was still another step to take …

I eventually told my parents that I was studying about Islam, and I told them things that I liked about it. It was a shock for them because I kept it from them while I was studying.

I wasn’t really sure myself, and so I didn’t want to tell them and have them worry and get disappointed in me, until I knew that this was the path I’m going to be taking and it is going to change my whole life…

The initial reactions of my family members were quite different actually. My mother is emotional, so she would cry when I spoke with her. My brother, on the other hand, was a little angry.

My father, who was a Minister; his take initially was very soft. He loves me no matter what, he would say, and he just wanted me to be happy. He said, “If this makes you happy, then I want you to do it.” But then, he would kind of change his mind a little bit and he would preach to me just as a protective father.

But now my father has met my husband; and al-hamdulillah (praise be to God) both of my parents are very supportive for both of us and they just want to see us more, they want us to come visit them and just call them and so we do that. My father just sent us gifts recently, just out of the blue…

I do feel supported by my husband throughout this journey in learning Islam, he is very patient with me, if I do go through a hardship, if I might be on the phone with a family member and I might get upset over something that was said… My husband supported me and tried to help me cope with things, usually he would tell a story or he would change the subject to make me feel comfortable and he would just remind me to be thankful that I’ve been guided, and this makes me feel better.

Wearing Hijab

I think the concept of wearing hijab is a very beautiful thing in Islam, of course because it came from Allah (SWT) and He’s asked us to cover, to be modest, and it really is something special that I didn’t realize before.

Before I became Muslim, I spent an hour fixing my hair, wearing makeup, clothes; just having everything right to go outside…

I started wearing the veil when I started working at an Islamic school, and this was something that was required by all the staff to wear a scarf. At first, I was a little nervous about it: I wasn’t sure how I would work with it, because it was extra clothing, extra fabric and I thought I’m going to get hot; it is not going to be very comfortable.

Those first months that I started wearing it weren’t for the right reason, it was really just for work and I used to take it off after work. But then the more I learned about Islam the more I loved the religion, the more I loved Allah, the more I realized that this comes from Allah, and that I do need to wear it.

Occasionally, you get some odd looks, I just really ignore them usually, when I’m going shopping at the market, I’m just paying attention to what I’m doing, I’m not looking for people of how they are looking at me. So when you think about this when I did get married; it is a beautiful thing to come home and take off the veil and to fix your hair to put makeup on and to wear nice clothes for the man that is really close to you; it is something that you could share together, something special…

Algerian Cuisine

Before I became Muslim, before I got married, cooking wasn’t really a priority of mine. I just like cereals, fruits and quick food and sometimes eating outside. Now I have much more motivation, I work with many different diversities of women, they have really great food and I love getting recipes from them; and when I got married it was more important to me to be able to cook well and have dinner with my husband when he comes home from work. And so, I try my best to cook things that he might be used to from back home…

I have met my husband’s family in few occasions; we travelled to see them in Washington DC, I think I met everyone except for one sister who lives in Algeria; so in sha’ Allah we’ll get to go visit her very soon…

For me, it was important to bring some of Algeria home to him, here in California. Even though I’m American; I do try to make food, more sauces, he likes to have his bread, kuskus (a dish that is famous in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and other countries) and a few other things…

As an American Muslim I feel like the veil is not an obstacle for me at all. I enjoy all kind of activities like biking, running and I can go to the beach and even swimming. Most of all, I love horses and I love riding horses, and so I found a way to enjoy my hobby and still be covered.

I don’t think being an American contradicts being a Muslim at all. Especially here, Americans have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. We are protected here more than other people are in other countries. So I do feel very fortunate and blessed to grow up in a society where I feel like I can be whatever I want to be…

Helping New Muslims

Since I became Muslim, I took some time to learn the prayer. For me, I’m a very visual learner and I needed to write down pieces of the prayer in order to help myself memorize them.

Since then I have had this idea to help other new Muslims through this process faster, and so I have created cards that are intended to walk a new Muslim through the prayer step by step. The Arabic is broken down into English transliteration, and then there is a translation for what you are saying, because I feel like in order that you have sincerity during prayer, you really need to know exactly what you’re saying in your native language…

I feel like there is a great support for the Muslim community here in Southern California. In other places I might feel more like a minority, where I used to be the majority… But in this particular community there is a lot of support, we have a lot of friends… There are Halal stores that you can buy meat from and other businesses that support each other.

The mosque is very active in the community, it has a lot of interfaith events and a lot of classes where you could go and educate yourself; you meet a lot of people through that, as well as working at Islamic schools…

When I got married we met with the Imam and he asked us this very question that if the contradictions in the traditions and cultures would make it difficult for us. There are some times that are really difficult, for my family and perhaps his family too, because I wish I could speak their language especially with my mother in law and my father in law.

Come Closer to God

In Islam everything is meant to bring you closer to Allah; when it is prayer you are getting closer to Allah, when you make wudu’ (ablution), or even greet someone and saying salam; I love this greeting because you are blessing someone and you are remembering Allah at the same time, and this is something you don’t get in other religions…

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.

 

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