Ever since I can remember, my family attended a non-denominational conservative Christian church (Church of Christ). I grew up in the church, taught bible school and sang in the choir. As a young teenager I began asking questions (as I think everyone does at one point in their lives): Why was I a member of the Church of Christ and not say Lutheran, Catholic or Methodist? If various churches are teaching conflicting doctrine, how do we know which one is right? Are they all right? Do 'all paths lead to God' as I had heard some say? Others say that as long as you are a good person it doesn't matter what you believe - is that true?
After some soul searching I decided that I did believe that there was an ultimate truth and in an attempt to find that truth I began a comparison study of various churches. I decided that I believed in the Bible and would join the church that best followed the Bible. After a lengthy study, I decided to stay with the Church of Christ, satisfied that its doctrines were biblically sound (unaware at this stage that there could be various interpretations of the Bible).
I spent a year at Michigan Christian College, a small college affiliated with the Churches of Christ, but was not challenged academically and so transferred to Western Michigan University. Having applied late for student housing, I was placed in the international dorm. Although my roommate was American, I felt surrounded by strange people from strange places. It was in fact my first real experience with cultural diversity and it scared me (having been raised in a white, middle class, Christian community). I wanted to change dorms but there wasn't anything available. I did really like my roommate and decided to stick out the semester.
My roommate became very involved in the dorm activities and got to know most everyone in the dorm. I however performed with the marching band and spent most of my time with band people. Marching season soon ended and finding myself with time on my hands, I joined my roommate on her adventures around the dorm. It turned out to be a wonderful, fascinating experience! There were a large number of Arab men living in the dorm. They were charming, handsome, and a lot of fun to be around. My roommate started dating one of them and we ended up spending most of our time with the Arabs. I guess I knew they were Muslims (although very few of them were practicing). We never really discussed religion, we were just having fun.
The year passed and I had started seeing one of the Arabs. Again, we were just enjoying each other's company and never discussed our religious differences. Neither of us were practicing at this time so it never really became an issue for us. I did, deep down, feel guilty for not attending church, but I pushed it in the back of my mind. I was having too much fun.
Another year passed and I was home for summer vacation when my roommate called me with some very distressing news: she'd become a Muslim!! I was horrified. She didn't tell me why she converted, just that she had spent a lot of time talking with her boyfriend's brother and it all made sense to her. After we hung up, I immediately wrote her a long letter explaining that she was ruining her life and to just give Christianity one more chance. That same summer my boyfriend transferred to Azusa Pacific University in California. We decided to get married and move to California together. Again, since neither one were practicing, religion was not discussed.
Secretly I started reading books on Islam. However I read books that were written by non-Muslims. One of the books I read was Islam Revealed by Anis Sorosh. I felt guilty about my friend's conversion. I felt that if I had been a better Christian, she would have turned to the church rather than Islam. Islam was a man-made religion, I believed, and filled with contradictions. After reading Sorosh's book, I thought I could convert my friend and my husband to Christianity.
At APU, my husband was required to take a few religion courses. One day he came home from class and said:
"The more I learn about Christianity, the stronger my belief in Islam becomes."
At about this same time he started showing signs of wanting to practice his religion again. Our problems began. We started talking about religion and arguing about our different beliefs. He told me I should learn about Islam and I told him I already knew everything I needed to know. I got out Sorosh's book and told him I could never believe in Islam. My husband is not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination, yet he had an answer for everything I showed him in Sorosh's book. I was impressed by his knowledge. He told me that if I really wanted to learn about Islam it must be through Islamic sources. He bought a few books for me from an Islamic bookstore and I started taking classes at a local mosque. What a difference the Islam I learned about from Muslim sources from the Islam I learned about from non-Muslims!
It was so difficult though when I actually decided to convert. My pride stood in the way for awhile. How could I admit to my husband and my friend that they were right all along? I felt humiliated, embarrassed. Soon though, I could deny the truth no longer, swallowed my pride, and alhamdulilah, embraced Islam - the best decision I ever made.
A few things I want to say to the non-Muslim reader:
When I originally began my search for the truth all those years ago, I made a few wrong assumptions. First, I assumed that the truth is with Christianity only. It never occurred to me at that time to look outside Christianity. Second, I assumed that the Bible was the true Word of God. These were bad assumptions because they prohibited me from looking at things objectively. When I began my earnest study of Islam, I had to start at the very beginning, with no preconceived ideas. I was not a Christian looking at Islam; I looked at both Islam and Christianity (and many other religions) from the point of view of an outsider. My advice to you is to be a critical thinker and a critical reader.
Another mistake that many people make when talking about Islam is that they pick out a certain teaching and judge the whole of Islam on that one point. For example, many people say that Islam is prejudiced towards women because Islamic laws of inheritance award the male twice as much as the female. What they fail to learn, however, is that males have financial responsibilities in Islam that females do not have. It is like putting a puzzle together: until you have all the pieces in the right places, you cannot make a statement about the picture, you cannot look at one little piece of the puzzle and judge the whole picture.
Many people said that the only reason I converted was because of my husband. It is true that I studied Islam because he asked me to - but I accepted Islam because it is the truth. My husband and I are currently separated and plan to divorce in June, inshaaAllah. My faith in Islam has never been stronger than it is now. I look forward to finding a practicing Muslim husband, inshaaAllah, and growing in my faith and practice. Being a good Muslim is my number one priority.
May Allah lead all of us closer to the truth.