I became a Muslim on the last day of Ramadan last year, so I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary. It’s hard to believe that over 11 months have gone by since I said my Shahada in the masjid. I often complain about how slow my progress has been, but when I look back at this time a year ago, I can see that I’ve come a long way.
A year ago, I had no idea how to pray, let alone one word of the prayers themselves. I didn’t know the names of the prayers or the prayer times. I knew what wudu meant but not how to perform it. I didn’t know what it meant to dress hijab. I’d never worn a headscarf and didn’t think I’d ever learn how to put one on. And I’d only read a few verses of the Qur’an.
In other words, I was totally unprepared to be a Muslim. But I did have one thing going for me: I’d been a Muslim before.
I love the idea that I was born Muslim. That explains a lot. It explains why, even though I’ve found a lot of things about my new lifestyle to be strange and difficult, I still feel like I belong here. Every new thing I’ve learned about Islam only confirms what I’d already suspected was true. It feels like it was written on my heart. And come to find out, it was.
That’s what keeps me from giving up when I go to the masjid and don’t understand a word of the Arabic the iman utters. It’s what keeps me going when other Muslims criticize me without knowing me. Without that feeling that I’m where I’m supposed to be, I don’t know if I would have converted in the first place.
I was asked at a recent iftar dinner what it was that finally tipped me over the line and made me decide to become a Muslim. I answered that it was probably the dream I had a couple of weeks before I converted. In the dream I was at a bazaar trying on Muslim clothing and then wearing it without paying for it while I continued to shop. I was having trouble finding a hijab that I liked, but the loose clothing that covered my body filled me with a feeling of peace. Then suddenly, my ex-husband (who is a Methodist minister) started chasing me, but I hid from him behind some hills. Then I woke up.
I couldn’t forget how calm I’d felt in the dream. How right it had seemed when I put on the clothing. And how determined I’d been to escape the person who was trying to get me to relinquish them. Finally it dawned on me what the dream meant: that I wanted to become a Muslim, but I didn’t want to pay the price.
It finally dawned on me that I’d already made my choice; I just had to make the commitment.
And so I did. What followed has been a year of self-examination and struggle, not because I doubt Islam, but because I have doubted myself. I’ve learned a lot in the process. I now know that no matter how much I fall short, Allah will always catch me and set me upright again. He is more ready to do that than I am to rely on Him. But I’m getting better. And I trust that I will continue to grow as a Muslim, because Allah never gives up on me as long as I believe in Him. He never has yet, and I know that He never will, just as I know, deep in my heart, that I will never leave Him.