Name: Umm Ahmad
I am an American, born and raised in the bread basket of America- Missouri. My mother and father divorced when my brothers and I were young. Both turning to completely different lifestyles, my mother turned to a more materialistic way of life, while my father to a more spiritual way of life. I lived with my mother until I was 12 basically growing up with out any religious way of thinking (we saw our father every other weekend, which was the only time we were really exposed to any sort of religious activities).
My father was the deacon of the church at the time- later becoming the Elder- and was quite the religious type. He was caught up in the conspiracy theories and always told us that 9/11 was a set-up, so I never had a reason to "hate" the Arab's, but rather our government.
At the age of 12 I went to live with my father, by then he was re-married with a new baby and another on the way. To make a long story short, he raised my most impressible years with the fear of God and a strict way of living. To just let you know how strict he was, we were vegetarians- at times we were vegans- we lived in the country and the only time we went out was for church (or school but I my father thought grade 8 was far enough and I began working). Television was not allowed, we were woke early in the morning for Bible studies and prayers, and kept Saturday as the Holy day very sacred- absolutely no work or play was allowed.
Question: what was your lifestyle like before Islam?
Umm Ahmad: When I was 17 (I graduated high school by GED when I was 16) I went to attend a Medical Missionary College in Georgia. Needless to say, the school was much like my father and very strict- which I didn't mind I preferred it this way. Men and women were not allowed to spend alone time together, if you were seen with a boy without an elder, there would be a possible chance you would be expelled from the school. They had a dress code, if not followed one of the ladies would come to you and reprimand you. Make-up and jewelry were not allowed, nor were any substance of animal products. There was a curfew- 10pm- if you were not in the dorm by then you would get a serious talking to the next day. As you can see, the lifestyle I was in is much different then the average American girl at my age.
Question: how did you learn about Islam and when did you become Muslim?
Umm Ahmad: While I was in the Missionary College, I was told the class I would be graduating with, was thinking to go to a Muslim country. I began studying the Arabic language and the religion of Islam. Day by day as I studied, a love for Islam grew. I studied this beautiful religion any chance I got- in between classes and work. I finally decided I had to learn more about Islam than just from the internet, which drove me to order a free Quran online. I waited very impatiently for it (about 1 1/2 months) and almost gave up hope that it would ever come, but Allah guides whom He wills and leads astray whom He wills, and alhamdulilah He chose to guide me. On my 18th birthday, all of my friends and many of my family forgot about it. I was very shy to remind anyone so I went about my day as normal. When I returned to my dorm from work, I found a package in a bag hanging on my door. I opened it and it was the Quran! I sat down and started reading. I was so amazed by the beauty I read and read until I looked up and saw 3 hours had passed! For me, this was the best birthday I had ever had and my time had been well spent.
I had to keep this beautiful book a secret. So the providers of my first Quran, sent me one in disguise (covered in another books cover). I then could read the Quran without anyone in my school becoming suspicious. Finally, I met a Muslim lady who lived only one stated from me. We arranged for her to come and we would become roommates (but sharing an apartment). After studying Islam extensively for 9 months, November 27th 2010, I took my shahada, alhamdulilah. That is another story in itself.
Question: what kind of challenges did you face before you were Muslim? Do you have new challenges now? How do you deal with them ?
Umm Ahmad: I would have to say what I struggled with the most was the thought that all my life, all the efforts I put into this religion I was in at the time, everything I had been taught as a child was all wrong. I knew Islam before I knew any Muslims, so I was afraid I would be alone, no family and no friends. In the end I had no problem accepting everything Islam taught, everything about it made sense to me intellectually and spiritually. Alhamdulilah, Allah provided me the sister who helped me ever so much when I was only a new Muslim.
The only challenge I have now, is to overlook how much some Muslims hate each other because of different ways of thinking. I am just so thankful to Allah I knew Islam before I knew the Muslims.
Question: what to you is the most beautiful thing about Islam?
Umm Ahmad: I would have to say the most beautiful thing in Islam is the simplicity. Everything is stated in a matter of fact way. Everything Islam teaches there is a reason for it, if we do not know it now, in the future it will be proven. We aren't doing anything by "blind faith" but rather everything we do there is an intellectual reasoning behind it.
Question: what advice could you give to people who disrespect Muslims an make fun of Islam ?
Umm Ahmad: I face this a lot with my family. My father is the worst out of them all- I think just to spite me- but in my opinion the only way to keep people from disrespecting Islam is to be a good example in our communities. We can not keep anyone from making fun of our beautiful religion, but if we come back with a forceful and aggressive response it will only make things worse. Just today I was reading in the Quran:
"And the servants of ((Allah)) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!";"
Question: what is your favourite verse from the Qur'an?
Umm Ahmad: I love the whole entire Quran but there are 2 verses that I hold dear in my heart is:
"Oh you who believe, fear Allah as He should be feared and die not except it be in the state of Islam."
Say, "To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom He wills to a straight path."
Source: The Oyster and the pearl