I was raised to believe in God from childhood. I attended
church nearly every Sunday, went to Bible school, and sang in the choir. Yet
religion was never a really big part of my life.
There were times when I
thought myself close to God. I often prayed to him for guidance and strength in
times of despair or for a wish in times of want. But I soon realized that this
feeling of closeness soon evaporated when I was no longer begging God for
something. I realized that I even though I believed, I lacked faith.
perceived the world to be a game in which God indulged in from time to time. He
inspired people to write a Bible and somehow people were able to find faith
within this Bible.
As I grew older and became more aware of the world, I
believed more in God. I believed that there had to be a God to bring some order
to the chaotic world. If there were no God, I believed the world would have
ended in utter anarchy thousands of years ago. It was comfort to me to believe
there was a supernatural force guiding and protecting man.
usually assume their religion from parents. I was no different. At the age of
12, I began to give in depth thinking to my spirituality. I realized there was a
void in my life where a faith should be. Whenever I was in need or despair, I
simply prayed to someone called Lord. But who was this Lord truly? I once asked
my mother who to pray to, Jesus or God. Believing my mother to be right, I
prayed to Jesus and to him I attributed all good things.
I have heard
that religion cannot be argued. My friends and I tried to do this many times. I
often had debates with my friends about Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism.
Through these debates I searched within myself more and more and decided I
should do something about my emptiness. And so at the age of 13, I began my
search for truth.
Humankind is always in constant pursuit of knowledge
or the truth. My search for truth could not be deemed as an active pursuit of
knowledge. I continued having the debates, and I read the Bible more. But it did
not really extend from this. During this period of time my mother took notice of
my behavior and from then on I have been in a "religious phase." My behavior was
far from a phase. I simply shared my newly gained knowledge with my family. I
learned about the beliefs, practices, and doctrines within Christianity and
minimal beliefs and practices within Judaism.
A few months within my
search I realized that if I believe in Christianity I believed myself to be
condemned to Hell. Not even considering the sins of my past, I was on a "one way
road to Hell" as southern ministers tend to say. I could not believe all the
teachings within Christianity. However, I did try.
I can remember many
times being in church and fighting with myself during the Call to Discipleship.
I was told that by simply confessing Jesus to be my Lord and Savior I would be
guaranteed eternal life in Heaven. I never did walk down the aisle to the
pastor's outstretched hands, and my reluctance even increased my fears of
heading for Hell. During this time I was at unease. I often had alarming
nightmares, and I felt very alone in the world.
But not only did I lack
belief but I had many questions that I posed to every knowledgeable Christian I
could find and never really did receive a satisfactory answer. I was simply told
things that confused me even more. I was told that I am trying to put logic to
God and if I had faith I could simply believe and go to Heaven. Well, that was
the problem: I did not have faith. I did not believe.
I did not really
believe in anything. I did believe there was a God and that Jesus was his son
sent to save humankind. That was it. My questions and reasoning did, however,
exceed my beliefs.
The questions went on and on. My perplexity
increased. My uncertainty increased. For fifteen years I had blindly followed a
faith simply because it was the faith of my parents.
in my life in which the little faith I did have decreased to all but nothing. My
search came to a stop. I no longer searched within myself, the Bible. or church.
I had given up for a while. I was a very bitter parson until one day a friend
gave me a book. It was called "The Muslim-Christian Dialogue."
the book and read it. I am ashamed to say that during my searching never did I
once consider another religion. Christianity was all I knew, and I never thought
about leaving it. My knowledge of Islam was very minimal. In fact, it was mainly
filled with misconception and stereotypes. The book surprised me. I found that I
was not the only one who believed there was a simply a God. I asked for more
books. I received them as well as pamphlets.
I learned about Islam from
an intellectual aspect. I had a close friend who was Muslim and I often asked
her questions about the practices. Never did I once consider Islam as my faith.
Many things about Islam alienated me.
After a couple months of reading
the month of Ramadan began. Every Friday I could I joined the local Muslim
community for the breaking of the fast and the reciting of the Quran. I posed
questions that I may have come across to the Muslim girls. I was in awe at how
someone could have so much certainty in what they believed and followed. I felt
myself drawn to the religion that alienated me.
Having believed for so
long that I was alone, Islam did comfort me in many ways. Islam was brought as a
reminder to the world. It was brought to lead the people back to the right path.
Beliefs were not the only thing important to me. I wanted a discipline
to pattern my life by. I did not just want to believe someone was my savior and
through this I held the ticket to Heaven. I wanted to know how to act to receive
the approval of God. I wanted a closeness to God. I wanted to be God-conscious.
Most of all I wanted a chance for heaven. I began to feel that Christianity did
not give this to me, but Islam did.
I continued learning more. I went to
the Eid celebration and jumua and weekly classes with my friends.
Through religion one receives peace of mind. A calmness about them. This
I had off and on for about three years. During the off times I was more
susceptible to the temptations of Satan. In early February of 1997 I came to the
realization that Islam was right and true. However, I did not want to make any
hasty decisions. I did decide to wait.
Within this duration the
temptations of Satan increased. I can recollect two dreams in which he was a
presence. Satan was calling me to him. After I awoke from these nightmares I
found solace in Islam. I found myself repeating the Shahadah. These dreams
almost made me change my mind. I confided them in my Muslim friend. She
suggested that maybe Satan was there to lead me from the truth. I never thought
of it that way.
On March 19, 1997 after returning from a weekly class, I
recited the Shahadah to myself. Then on March 26, I recited it before witnesses
and became an official Muslim.
I cannot express the joy I felt. I cannot
express the weight that was lifted from my shoulders. I had finally received my
peace of mind.
It has been about five months
since I recited the Shahadah. Islam has made me a better person. I am stronger
now and understand things more. My life has changed significantly. I now have
purpose. My purpose is to prove myself worthy of eternal life in Jannah. I have
my long sought after faith. Religion is a part of me all the time. I am striving
everyday to become the best Muslim I can be.
People are often amazed at
how a fifteen year old can make such an important decision in life. I am
grateful that Allah blessed me with my state of mind that I was able to find it
Striving to be a good Muslim in a Christian dominated society
is hard. Living with a Christian family is even harder. However, I do not try to
get discouraged. I do not wish to dwell on my present predicament, but I believe
that my jihad is simply making me stronger. Someone once told me that I am
better off than some people who were born into Islam, in that I had to find,
experience, and realize the greatness and mercy of Allah. I have acquired the
reasoning that seventy years of life on earth is nothing compared to eternal
life in Paradise.
I must admit that I lack the aptitude to express the
greatness, mercy, and glory of Allah. I hope my account helped others who may
feel the way I felt or struggle the way I struggled.
as salamu alaikum
wa rahmatullahee wa barakatuhu,
Natassia M. Kelly