By Ann Spaulding
08 June 2013
I love to read revert stories.
It is amazing to me how people come to know about the love of Allah and the way of life in Islam, and how many come to the conclusion that Islam is the Truth out of many different ways of life. This is a miracle of our faith.
I would like to tell you how I too found the Truth. Part of this was written when I moved to Virginia around December 2002.
I was born and raised in West Virginia in a Christian family. My father was a Jew. Needless to say we never talked much after my reversion to Islam, not that we really talked much before then. My father and mother divorced when I was only 1 year old. My older sisters said it was because I was born a female, and he had wanted a male. I think he was a man that could not handle the responsibilities of his actions. So he left my mother with four daughters to raise and support without his help. Thus, we grew up very poor.
My father died in July of 2003 as a Jew. He refused to talk to me during those last few years since I reverted to Islam. We did talk a little before then. I am afraid that when I was older and met my father, I did not like him as a man. My mother believed in God but also was a scientist of some sort. But, al-hamdu lillah, she believed in charity and in helping others. I came from a mostly Christian family that knew fear of God and practiced it to the best of their ability. In the area where I grew up, people did even know what a Muslim was, and they certainly never saw a woman walking down the street wearing hijab!
I started playing the flute when I was only five and became a professional flute player when I was only 12. I also played many other instruments, such as the oboe, the saxophone, and more. I even made good money playing in jazz groups and symphonies. My family never really had time for me. I was dropped off at my grandparents' house a lot, and because my grandfather was bedridden, my grandmother never truly had time to care about what I did. Fortunately for me, I never sought out bad things. I was just busy with my flute and music. This was my life and my only love in life.
My mother was a social worker; she was out saving the lives of many children who were handicapped or had mental disabilities. She got them out of abusive homes and placed them into safer homes. I was proud of her for that. But when I needed her as my own mother, she was just not there. I guess she could not save all the children in the world, so someone had to be left out. I basically raised myself.
The only thing that gave me love in this world was my flute, my music, and my many music teachers. I led, I am afraid, a life of no love and of not being wanted. My older sisters didn't have time for me or time to even care. They had their own issues to deal with. My immediate elder sister, who was only a year older than me, and she was always saying to me that it was my fault that they all had to grow up without a dad. It was thus not unusual for this one sister to beat on me a lot. Consequently, this caused me, I think, to grow up as a very shy and timid person.
This truly hurt me. I knew I was just a child, and that it was not my fault that I was born a girl. I now say "al-hamdu lillah" when I hear a daughter is born because I am a mother now and have a grown-up daughter who is a blessing to me. I loved knowing how Islam prohibited burying the female infants. Given my background, this itself made a big impression on me when I came to read about that. Daughters can and will bring a big blessing to you. This is very true. My own daughter has been a blessing to me in many ways.
I joined the US Navy when I was 18. At that time, I had an excellent memory of what I read and saw, which was very useful to our government. However, I came out disillusioned, disabled, and mad at the world.
I then played the oboe and flute in a symphony orchestra. I got married a few times and divorced each time, mostly due to abuse. I was looking for something but didn't know what! I even went blind for two years, which was not fun. But looking back, I can say "Allah Akbar!"
Those years did teach me compassion and patience. Allah was there all the time — I just didn't seek Him as much as I needed. I also broke my ankle very severely and was in a wheelchair for almost a year, then used a four-legged walker, then a three-legged cane, and then finally a one-legged cane again, Allah sent me lessons to help me learn patience. These were tests from Allah. Allah was there for me all the time, but it was during my blindness when I truly started to seek Him by studying various beliefs and ways of life. It was during this blindness that I could truly see!
Involvement at the Church
About 6 years ago I started going to a fundamental, independent, Baptist church. This is the strictest type of Baptist one could be: high morals and no short skirts. I was already wearing long skirts before I reverted to Islam. Many times I had asked our pastor a lot of questions concerning God. When I asked some questions and told him I wanted to study other religions, he said that it would not be a good idea and that Satan would use it to draw me away from the church. He said that studying other religions showed a lack of faith. Notice that he said "church" and not "God."
Anyway, he could never answer my questions to my satisfaction despite having a PhD in theology! I am not putting down the Christians or Jews when I say this. I am just explaining what was going on around me at the time. I know many good Christians and Jews, and I pray that someday they will learn about Islam and this truly great way of life.
I was a part of the music ministry at the church. One day I walked into the back of the church to the music room and found two people backbiting me. They said that since I was divorced I should not be up front playing music, even though I was very good at it and people loved to hear me play. Who was she to judge me, I wondered. I had been a very moral woman — I didn't drink, smoke, go out with men, or do anything of that nature. This was a turning point in my life. I was divorced but I did have very high standards. Please understand that not all American women have loose morals. I am afraid the TV portrays us this way.
I didn't remarry after my last divorce due to religious reasons at that time. According to some Christian beliefs, if one gets a divorce without it being due to adultery, then it is advised to never remarry unless the man dies. If one did remarry, then that would be considered a form of adultery. I never wanted to have that title in life, and so I didn't marry again. I did try to practice my old religion to the best of my ability. I never dated since then either and lived a good, clean life. I worked hard and supported myself and my teenage daughter. Al-hamdu lillah, she is now 21 and married, and I have a wonderful grandson from her named Jibriel. And another grandchild is on the way. Allahu Akbar.
I quit playing the flute at that time in front of people. I would sometimes pick it up to keep up the practice, but no more on a professional basis. After my conversion to Islam, I never played the flute again. But the flute did save me from harm while I was growing up as a young child and then a young adult as I was involved with it instead of doing other harmful things. So in a way, it led me to an Islamic way of life. I also quit going to that church and stayed away from it. I continued to check out many books from the library on religions and studied them. Some of these were actually audio books because I could not see enough to read.
Reversion to Islam
About that time also, I met a Muslim lady who had moved to our town. She gave me a few pamphlets on Islam which I read. Although I did not revert, she did open up a door for me to the inside life of a Muslim. I liked how she practiced her faith by being nice and honest to all. She not only talked about Islam but also walked Islam! I am thankful to her — may Allah reward her greatly.
My daughter was in college at that time where she met some friends. After visiting Minnesota, she loved it there and liked the college where her friends went. Consequently, we also moved to that area. She moved first because I was in the middle of classes at my own college (I went back to school when I had her almost raised and she did not need me quite as much). She met some Muslim people from Sudan, Pakistan, and the UAE and started studying Islam. By then, I too had been looking more and more into Islam. It was one of the religions I was studying. For one reason or another, I kept coming back to studying Islam and the Qur'an again and again until I came to realize Islam to be the truest religion. I never told my daughter that I was studying Islam those past years. I kept it to myself. At that time I was truly a Muslim but did not confess it.
One day my daughter came to me and asked me if she could revert to Islam. She had a very scared look on her face as she knew that I was a strong Baptist woman.
I only said, "Oh! Why?"
She told me that the lady she had been talking to told her to ask my permission because of what the Qur'an states about the importance of the mother. I questioned her to make sure she knew what she was talking about. She just sat there with a very scared look on her face, afraid of what I might say! Sure enough, she understood Islam very thoroughly. I then confessed to her that I had also been studying Islam. This came as a surprise to her.
A few weeks later, after she had introduced me to her Muslim friends, we took our Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) together. We said the statement of faith in front of a group of 12 ladies at a friend's house. Allah Akbar! It was July 2001.
It is amazing how many people take different journeys and end up at the same place.
Trials of September 11
Being Muslim has not been easy. As a white, I was part of the majority where I lived. Now, as a Muslim, I was a minority. My mother instilled in me very well the belief that colour has no meaning. It is the heart of people that count, not their colour.
Unfortunately, as a new Muslimah, I received a hard time from some Muslims about certain things, such as wearing Hijab. Hijab should come from the heart! I wish more people would study Islam and look at their hearts. I have known Muslim women who wear Hijab to the mosque or social gatherings and have great hearts, and I have met women who wear Hijab and even full Niqab [editor's note: Niqab means face veil) but who have don't have much affection for Islam. Some thought that I should dress like them and act like them. I say that these women looked beautiful in their native dress. But I was just me! I wore a blue jean skirt, a Hijab, and a long-sleeved blouse. The imam at the mosque told me not to worry about what some people said to me. To him, I looked properly dressed for prayer.
After being Muslim for less than two months, another incident happened. On September 14, 2001, a young man attacked me in a grocery store. Motivated by his hatred for Muslims, he jammed his cart into me so hard that it cut my back, ankles, and one of my legs. The force pushed me into the shelf of cans, causing one of the shelves to fall down on me. As the cans hurled down, they cut my head and hands. Some of the cuts later required stitches. The aisle happened to be in the view of the store security camera, which captured the man as he was about to run away. The authorities soon caught him. He stayed near me and didn't run far. I think he was truly amazed at what he himself had done. He later said that he thought I was an Arab, as if that was a reason enough to hurt someone. He was surprised that I spoke clear English. He was further amazed when he came to know that I was a disabled American veteran.
He was facing serious charges. I gave him the choice of either going to jail or attend lecture on Islam in ten one-hour sessions. He chose the lectures. I made sure that if he did not come to the lectures, then I would retain my rights of recourse with the court system.
That very morning, I had just read a hadith about our wonderful Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who had trash dumped on his head every morning. One morning he was not treated this way and he went to check on the neighbor who was found to be sick. He had compassion for this person. Having read this on the same morning of the incident, what else could I do? I too had a daughter about the same age as that 20-year-old man. One mistake could ruin the life of this young man. Would I not want compassion for my daughter if she did something like this? He had been a good college student and was just young and had not received any education about Islam. Sometimes when one does not know about something, it can be scary.
He continued with the classes and actually studied Islam longer than he was required by the contract. About six months later in February, 2002, he declared the Shahadah. I was so very happy when I got that e-mail from him. I had moved out of the area where he was living. He then joined the local Muslim Students Association and engaged in da`wah (inviting people to Islam) work. Allah Akbar!
Every day, I look at the scars that I received from that attack, and I feel happy. I remember where they came from and I thank Allah for allowing this to happen.
My Third Year As a Muslim
I finally feel at home in a mosque and at home in my heart as a Muslim. And I finally feel as if I am praying more normally and fully, although not as well as I would like to, but at least I am doing much better than in the beginning. I love how Allah helped me find the ADAMS Center and the activities that occur there daily. It is strange that it took me three long years to finally feel comfortable in a mosque.
My path on Islam has not been easy, but I know I am not alone, Allah is always with me. And when the trials and tribulations come, I know they are a test to help me learn to be stronger.
It is very important that as a Muslim, you practice in the company of others. Never try to practice your religion on your own. We need each other to survive in this difficult world. We need each other for support and to pull us up when we are down. But most importantly, we need Allah.
As a revert to Islam, each day is a challenge to me, but I know that Allah is my guide. As a new Muslim, I am, of course, not going to be perfect, and even when I end this life I will not be perfect. But I always remember Allah, and I no longer feel alone! Allah did not promise us that life would be perfect, but I know that He will not give me any burden that is more than I can stand, and that He would never leave me.