By Maria Esther Roman
21 November 2014
IT all started when I was a 20-year-old college student. I heard about Islam through a few of my new Muslim friends.
It was the first time that I actually heard that such a religion existed. Because of my natural curiosity and because at the time I was actually questioning the validity of my own religion (Catholicism), I started asking questions about this new religion.
I would go to these friends of mine with questions, and they would come back to me with answers. The more I learned, the more convinced I became. The decision to convert came quickly after only four months, but it was not easy. It was not easy changing who I had been all my life, not because I didn’t want to, but because this was the way people had known me for so long. It was difficult convincing them that all would change.
I had been modelling since the very young age of 14. And somehow I had loved it. I loved the limelight, the competition, the excitement, the make-up, but still I used to feel with all the success I had that something was wrong. Something was missing, but I never really knew what it was. I don’t know what made me feel that. But all of a sudden, I was no longer comfortable being who I was.
I had been weighing the possibilities in my mind, I remember sitting in my cap and gown, for my graduation ceremony and thinking, ‘what next?’
So one day I visited a friend and poured out my heart to her, and as I was leaving she told me, “Don’t worry Maria, think of where you’ve been and where you’re going, and God will lead you through some kind of light.”
As this woman finished her words, I opened the door to leave and was confronted by such strong sunlight. I took that as my answer. I decided to embrace Islam, right then and there.
Both my parents were shocked. They couldn’t understand why I’d taken such a decision.
“What do you mean you won’t date?” my mother would constantly ask. However, they comforted themselves by not taking me seriously. I remember my mom once saying, “I’ll give it a couple of months and you’ll get over it.”
But deep down, I knew that this was lifelong thing. This was something that would never change.
Over the years, my parents have learned to accept it. My mother would try to make me special meals when pork was being served, and she would call me to put on my scarf if visitors came by.
Islam in itself has also softened my heart towards my parents. And now I understand and respect the hardships they had to go through as first generation Puerto Ricans in the United States.
Many of my friends would try to make me change direction, but I would always kneel down and ask God to lead me to the right path and to keep me strong. And He did. I never regretted, or ever will I regret the path I have chosen.
I was sick of the life I had, and now I have finally found peace. Alhamdulillah, I have a choice and I have taken it. Islam humbles me. It makes me feel modest and clean.