I wonder where to start this story. I became a Muslim officially on January 1 2006 in Damascus Syria. But I made Shahadah in 2003 when I stood in a sunlit meadow and told God my hopes and dreams. The truth is I always feel like a "new" Muslim because there are so many things that I don't know. I stand with one foot in the Muslim world and one in the non-Muslim world. This is very painful very harsh. As a basically self-taught Muslim I have wandered the Internet and the bookstores in search of true Islam. I have had only a little direction although I have received a lots of misdirection. It has been a struggle to get the facts right and weed out people's cultural beliefs. I made a point early on to learn Qur'an and Sunnah and leave everything else aside. I have struggled a lot to get where I am and it has been both a joy and a heartache.
My faith has only grown through this entire experience although a few times I met up with really bad Muslim brothers I really wanted to run and hide and cry. In the beginning I thought people who were born Muslim were much better than me. What a shock for me to discover that I knew more than a lot of them. What a shock for me to realize that they do not "practice what they preach " even among themselves. This makes me really sad. The Ummah (nation) is in big trouble.
In the beginning I received very good support and guidance from brother Mohamed Saffie and now I take classes at the IMO (International Muslims Organization) in Toronto Canada. Imam Hamid Slimi my mentor there is an outstanding teacher and has a brilliant way of getting to the simple heart of what true Islam is. May God reward these two brothers with Paradise. There have been kind brothers and sisters along the way but there are too many to mention here. May God Almighty reward all who have helped me and who continue to keep me on the straight path.
I have also read some excellent books about Islam written by Muslims and non-Muslims and I benefited from the good teachings of many Muslim scholars. And then there are the everyday Muslims like the men and women in the group in which we study the Islamic creed who help me understand complex Islamic ideas and who make me a better person just for knowing them. I think my story really starts when I was a small child. I grew up in a rural area just north of Toronto Canada. I have two brothers but I was a very lonely girl. I mostly played on my own and had a great imagination.
I remember being very young maybe 3 or 4 years old and lying in bed and thinking about life and death. I wondered about God's motives and who I would be if I had been born to a different family. Big ideas for such a little girl. My parents were always a little bewildered by me and my solitary games. I loved to climb very high trees and I would stay there for hours. Just sitting and thinking. I would run wild through the fields and pick flowers and eat berries.
We were very poor when I was young and my brothers and I fought all the time over everything. My parents were young and did not believe in "sparing the rod." These days we would say that it is child abuse but we mostly survived it.
The only time I could have my mother all to myself was if I went to church with her on Sunday mornings. I used to love to go and listen and smell the smells and look up at the great cross. It was probably the only time I did as my mother asked me to the only time I was actually quiet.
When I was a teenager I became very rebellious. I was angry about my abusive childhood and about not feeling loved by my parents. My father would get drunk and beat us for the smallest infraction. I hated my family I hated myself and I ran wild with my bad friends.
I looked around at my Muslim friends at work. These were good people not terrorists. I remember always looking at the ground not being able to look anyone in the eyes. I was always so scared. So I took drugs and drank with my friends to feel like I belonged somewhere I thought God did not know me. I left home when I was 18 years old and traveled with a group of government-sponsored volunteers for one year.
When I returned home I went to college and became a Child and Youth Mental Health worker. I worked for two different government agencies and I saw all kinds of abused and broken children. It really broke my heart and my spirit.
While I worked I also attended university working on my BA in philosophy and psychology. When I was 25 I quit both my job and school because I was so burned-out emotionally and physically. I was also suffering from deep depression.
One spring evening I decided to kill myself. I prepared the bathroom with towels and ran hot water in the sink. I took my sharpest knife and ran it across my wrist lightly drawing only a little blood. Then I cried out in pain and fear to a God that I had given up on. And He was there. I felt an unusual pressure on my left shoulder like a hand and that was all I remembered.
I awoke hours later and the sun was shining and the world was new. To this day I have no feeling in that place on my shoulder.
I went back to the church where I as a child had last known God. I cried every Sunday for a month and then I began to study and after one year I was confirmed in the Anglican Church. And I met the man who is now my ex-husband.
We were together for eight years before things began to deteriorate between us. The beginning of the end for me was when I was involved in a very bad car accident in May 2001. An elder man slammed into the rear of my stopped car. He was driving 80 kms per hour when he hit me and he pushed the rear-end of my car up against the back of the driver seat.
I injured my neck back and shoulder and badly damaged both of my knees. I went through a lot of therapy. After the accident I could not concentrate and was very restless. I told a friend that I wanted to "fly away." All that summer I felt an impending sense of doom. By September 2001 my marriage was ending and I was very unhappy.
I was begged threatened discriminated against verbally abused and laughed at. On 9/11 my entire world changed. I was so shocked and horrified. I felt as if God slapped me on the back of the head. Another wake-up call. The whole world shifted for me and I became aware of events and people I had never considered before. At first I was scared like everyone else. Then I began to wonder about what the media was telling me.
I looked around at my Muslim friends at work. These were good people not terrorists. I began talking to them. At first I was interested in the geopolitical aspects of what was going on. Why did "they" hate "us"? Then I found out what Western governments had been doing in the Middle East and North Africa for centuries. No wonder "they" hated "us."
While I was doing this research Islamic ideas began to creep into my mind. I turned towards those who could help me in this area. Al-hamdu lillah brother Mohamed Saffie took up the challenge giving me reading assignments and teaching me basic Arabic phrases and the Arabic alphabet.
I became ravenous for more information. Someone gave me an English translation of the Qur'an and the words of God leaped off those pages and into my heart. I was so strongly pulled into this book that it felt like the words had been in my mind all along but I had forgotten them.
When I first heard the Adhan called I cried and cried. Every thing I read and learned squeezed my heart tighter and tighter and filled me with both joy and sadness. Subhan Allah I want to cry just writing these words.
While Islam was finding my heart I also had some difficulties with some people who were strongly opposed to my conversion. I was begged threatened discriminated against verbally abused and laughed at. I have lost friends and alienated my family but in my heart I know what is right.
I continue to be surprised and disappointed by both non-Muslims and Muslims. I hope my journey of learning never ends. And I pray that I can be what God wants me to be that I stay on the straight path and that I am always humble before my creator Ameen.
I chose the Muslim name "Noor" because of Surat An-Nur:
[Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree an Olive neither of the east nor of the west whose oil is well-nigh luminous though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah guides whom He will to His Light: Allah sets forth Parables for people: and Allah knows all things.] (An-Nur 24:35)
So this is my story. It doesn't feel very unique or special. I feel so very very small. A grain of sand in God's ocean. I try to honor the gift I am given everyday.