Hello and welcome. I’m an American “white” guy of mostly Welsh descent. I was raised Protestant (Christian), and then spent most of my adult life (so far) as someone opposed to religion of any kind. I tended to proclaim myself atheist and/or agnostic, even though that wasn’t accurate – but more on that later.
My wife has been a Muslim since well before I married her about a decade ago. (More on that later, too.) We are happily married, and she has never tried to put pressure on me to convert. Because I love her, naturally some aspects of my lifestyle have changed over the course of our marriage. For example, I gave up pork and eventually alcohol, not out of religious compulsion, but instead because I loved her more than I liked those things. I tried to always show respect to her faith, and she has always shown patience with my lack of it.
About five months ago, in the Spring of 2017, some Muslim friends of hers (husband, wife, and kids) came to town and stayed with our family for a week. Friday came around, and the husband declared his intent to find the nearest mosque and go to Friday prayer. He invited me to attend with him.
I had never been to a mosque or Islamic center, and frankly I was very nervous. Would my presence there as a non-Muslim be upsetting to others? Our friend didn’t seem to think it would be a problem, and I was curious, so we went.
For the most part, I simply followed his lead in hopes of not committing some kind of faux pas. I removed my shoes in the designated area, I entered the men’s side and kept very quiet and respectful. Some men were praying individually when we arrived but thankfully some others were sitting off to the side, so that’s where I sat, and watched. I’d been raised going to church, so I had a general idea of the decorum that would be expected in a place of worship.
My friend prayed individually for some time, as did others. It all felt very informal and relaxed. The face of every person there who looked at me was warm, friendly, and accepting. Even though I was by a long stretch the palest complexion in the room and must have clearly stood out as a stranger… no one made me feel uncomfortable, or unwelcome, or out of place.
Then someone I assumed was the “Imam” stood up and delivered what I took to be some kind of sermon or message – half in Arabic, which of course I couldn’t at all understand, and then in English. I don’t remember all the details of what was said, but I know it had something to do with preparing one’s self for Ramadan – the Islamic month of prayer and fasting. I knew a bit about Ramadan from observing my wife and her parents over the years.
My heart then raced, because everyone in the room – I mean each and every person! – stood up and began forming themselves into tight rows all facing the same direction. I recognized the posture enough to realize they were about to pray as a group. My plan to sit quietly and observe suddenly seemed like it might be disruptive, so I too got up and got into line.
I listened to the recitations, all in Arabic. Even though I couldn’t understand the words, I felt a peace wash over me I can’t explain. Here I was, in a place I probably shouldn’t be as a non-Muslim, going through the motions of a ritual I probably shouldn’t be participating in as a non-Muslim… just trying to not cause a problem for my friend or for others who were present. But something else was happening in that moment. Something to this day I still don’t know how to explain. My heart which I’d thought to be hard as a rock, was softened.
The group prayer ended. I managed to make it through, looking mostly like I knew what I was doing. I then went and sat down to the side again while my friend performed some more individual prayers.
Something happened that afternoon in that little mosque. It wasn’t emotion-driven, it wasn’t an audible “voice”… but I felt drawn, I felt… compelled. Not compelled by men, but something Other than men. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say I felt drawn by an “intellectual gravity.”
And I responded. “Okay.”
I didn’t say the Shahadah that day – I didn’t yet even know how! But that moment, that “Okay,” is when my journey as a Muslim began.
This is a journal of my experiences as a brand new Muslim… how I was led to the path, how and why I am staying on the path, and some of the challenges of keeping the faith. My struggle – my jihad, if you will.
May Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) guide my outpouring and use it in whatever way He sees fit.