I was born in Oklahoma, USA and raised in a Christian family where religion was very important. My mother was very careful to keep me from making bad friends, and our family went to church at least three times a week. Allah protected me by putting me in a family that stressed high moral living: no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no swearing (cursing), no premarital sex, etc. I memorized almost the entire Bible. One of my grandfathers and one of my grandmothers was a preacher. Allah blessed me with a good singing voice, and from the time I was 14 years old, I was paid by the church to sing, play the organ, and direct children’s choirs, etc. In fact, when I first heard about Islam and met a Muslim who was a university student, I was 49 years old and still employed by a church and was still an active Christian.
All through my life, however, I was a person who asked questions. I read everything in the library about many subjects. The ability to read quickly and the desire to seek knowledge were blessings from Allah because they would eventually lead me to discover the Truth of Islam. However, where I grew up, there were no books about world religions, and certainly no books about Islam.
I always wanted to go to college, but when I graduated from high school, we could not afford it because my mother and father had divorced, so I went to work. That was also a blessing from Allah, because the college I wanted to attend at that time had no international students and was in a town with no Muslims at all.
Eventually, I married, had children, and was divorced, re-married, and divorced again. This, I am sorry to say, is too often the story among non-Muslims who do not understand Islamic values and the rights and duties of husbands and wives.
After my second divorce, my friends and family encouraged me to audition for a music scholarship at the University of Tulsa, near where was living at that time. I was accepted and enrolled at the university. I loved school. I met people from all over the world and I read many books in the extensive library. I read something about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and how his religion was called “Muhammadism” by some, but that it was not correct to call it that, that the real name of that religion was “Islam.” That’s all I knew about Islam at that time.
While at the university, I began tutoring college athletes and very soon, other college students wanted me to tutor them, especially in writing. That is where I met Muslim Malaysian sisters, about 90 of them. I was impressed by their good manners, the way they treated me so politely, and the way they excused themselves every day for a few minutes at certain times to go to prayer. I thought that their religion must have something good in it, because it affected the way they lived in a positive way. Also, I loved the beautiful way they looked in their scarves, but I thought that might just be their culture and not their religion that affected the way they dressed. I did not realize that it was Allah’s way of protecting them.
Over the years, I had had many problems with migraine headaches. Often, these headaches would become so severe that I would have to go to the doctor and get strong medicine to alleviate the pain. While I was going to college and tutoring the Malaysian students, these headaches increased to the extent that I had a headache every day and I was spending most of the day in bed, taking strong drugs. Finally, I could not stop taking these medicines and the headaches were still so bad that I could not go to school.
It was at this time that the Malaysian sisters showed me the real Muslim heart. I left the doors to my house unlocked and they came in whenever they wanted, to see if I was awake. If I was asleep, they just waited or came back later for their tutoring sessions. Sometimes, I would waken to find one of them putting a paste of hibiscus leaves on my temples to relieve the pain or to find one of them cooking soup for me to eat. I was so ill that I could not work.
I had no money. My family was not helping me. Even the church where I was employed (just across the street from the house I lived in) did not call me or send anyone to see if they could help me. During the entire two years of this migraine problem, only one friend came to see me or called me on the telephone. It was like a knife in my heart.
I prayed many times every day for God to take away my headaches and for Him to help me not to have to take those strong drugs. I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I read the Bible, but the headaches and problems continued. Some terrible things happened. For example, I had no money to pay the rent. My son, who was living with me, did not give me any money. When I could not pay the rent, he moved out of my house and went to live with his friends. I could not afford even a small apartment, so one of my sons said I could live in the back room of his house. However, he put all his junk–such as trash, old washers and dryers, and broken furniture–back there, and he shut the doors between his part of the house and the back room so that I had no heat. In Tulsa, the winters are cold, and it was winter when I moved into his back room. He also told me not to eat any of his food, although he knew that I did not have any.
One day I asked Amina, one of the Malaysian sisters who covered herself from head to toe in the best Islamic manner, if she would tell me something about her religion. She said that she would rather get a more knowledgeable person to tell me about the religion because she did not want to give me any wrong information. So, she referred Mahmoud (from Oman) to me. He came to me, saying he needed some help in writing class, and answered some of my questions. The next day, he brought Saif (from Yemen) and they both answered my questions and became my students. Soon after that, Tariq and Khalid (from Oman) and Yousif (from UAE) became also students, as did many others. They came every day for help with their English and with their writing classes. I was surprised to find that these young men had exactly the same good manners as the Malaysian sisters.
In addition, I noticed the same love in their eyes when they spoke with each other that I had seen in the eyes of the Malaysian sisters when they spoke with each other. I thought that maybe it was something about their religion that made them love each other; I wanted to have that kind of love for people and to be loved by people like that. I was hungry for this love that they shared with each other. I was attracted to the light in their eyes, although at that time I did not know what it was. In reality, it was Allah loving me through them and showing me how beautiful Islam really is. Subhan Allah! (Allah is Sublime).
Always wanting to learn new things, I asked Saif for something to read about Islam. Wisely, he brought me Jamal Badawi’s book, The Status of Women in Islam and some copies of Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) that “heaven is at the feet of mothers” and “the best companion for you is your mother (three times) and then your father.” Thus, the first thing I knew about Islam was that it affected the way people acted toward each other and that it taught that women had a respected, high, and special place in this world.
Saif was very careful not to push me to renounce Christianity and become Muslim. Rather, he answered my questions and made good explanations of any misunderstandings I had about Islam. One day, I asked him if the Holy Qur’an had been translated into English. He explained that the Word of Allah could not be translated into English, but that the meanings of the Words of Allah had been translated into English. I asked if he would bring me a Qur’an, and he agreed. What he brought was a beautiful, hardback, Arabic-English Qur’an with translation of the meanings and commentary by A. Yusuf Ali. However, he gave me strict instructions about it. He informed me that this was a Holy Book and, although I was not a Muslim, he still wanted me to treat the Book with respect. He asked me to wash my hands before I touched it; to keep it on a high shelf; to not put anything on top of it; to never carry it into the bathroom or any other dirty place; and, to say before I started reading it, “I begin in the Name of God.”
Thus, the first thing I learned about the Holy Qur’an was that it was the true Word of God (Allah) and it had remained the same forever; that it was to be respected in every way.
I was very excited to think that this Book had not been tampered with. It had always frustrated me when I read the Bible that I was reading something that had been written down long after the events had happened, that it was written by many different authors, and that I could never see the original message of God in the language in which it had been spoken. Therefore, when I began to read the Qur’an, I did so with a holy fear and awe of God.
For a strong Christian, reading the Qur’an for the first time is shocking. For example, the Qur’an repeatedly says that Jesus (`Isa) was only a man and that those who say he was the Son of God are in terrible error. To me, at that time, it almost seemed like I should not be reading these words; it was like these words were saying bad things about God. The reason is that Christians are taught that they must believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that he came to earth, lived a perfect life, and was crucified on the cross so that Christians who believe that would never go the hellfire. In fact, Christians are taught that if you do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, you will never go to heaven. So as I began reading, it was hard for me. However, in my heart I knew, absolutely and completely, that I was reading the Words of God, the Truth. I could not stop reading. I read for hours every day.
On the fifth day of reading the Qur’an, I found Surat Al-Noor. “… Light upon Light…” Although I was reading only the English translation of the meanings, the beauty of the Truth and of the Arabic language became clear to me. I could not wait until Saif came, so I could ask him to read that Surah to me in Arabic. He was happy to read it, and, as I had thought it would be, it was even more beautiful in Arabic than in English. From that time on, I finished my reading each day with that Surah.
The headaches continued, but as I prayed, I began to think more and more of calling God by His real name, Allah. I asked for more books and read several about Islam. I began thinking that I was soon going to have to make a big decision about my beliefs…but I was afraid.
Suddenly, my son announced that I would have to move out of his house because he had decided to move to another house and I would not be welcome to come with him. I borrowed money to rent an apartment and the Muslim brothers helped me move. The date was August 10, 1994. On the first night in my new apartment, I decided to become a Muslim, but I was not ready to tell anyone yet. I knew that Muslims prayed prostrating with their faces on the floor, so I positioned myself on the floor facing Makkah (although at that time I did not even know what direction Makkah was or that I was supposed to face Makkah when I prayed) and I prayed:
“Oh Allah. You know me better than I know myself. You know every sin I have committed and every good deed I have done. You know I have been searching for Your Truth all my life. You know I have been studying about Islam and reading the Qur’an. I am afraid. But I think I have to make a decision. I have called you God all these years and
now I know Your Name is Allah, but I have tried to worship You in the only way I knew how to worship. If I have done wrong, please forgive me. If I am wrong about Islam, please do not send me to the Hellfire for believing that Jesus was only a prophet. But I believe that Islam is the Truth and that You, Allah, are the One True God, that You have no son, that there is no Allah but You, and that Muhammad was Your Prophet. I want to be a Muslim because I want to worship You in the right way, because I do not want to go to the Hellfire, and I want to go to Heaven when I die. Oh Allah. I am so afraid of You, but I believe You love me and You understand my intention.”
When I finished praying, I just sat in the floor, feeling very peaceful and very sleepy. I lay down after a short time and went to sleep. When I awakened in the morning, I was surprised. I did not have a headache. I immediately began thanking Allah because I did not have a headache. I began praying five times a day, because I knew that Muslims did that, but I did not know how to pray. Nevertheless, I prayed what I could, prostrating.
About the headaches? I threw away my strong medicines that very day and since then, I have never had to take any medicine stronger than aspirin for a headache and I have never had to go to the doctor for a headache. Al-hamdulillah (all praise to Allah). I did not ask Allah for anything about the headaches, but He is so Merciful that He took them away immediately and completely.
From August 10 to November 8, I read about Islam and prayed as best I knew how, and I tried to get enough courage to ask Saif what I needed to do to “really” become a Muslim…but I was afraid. During this time, I became increasingly shy about the way I was dressing. So, I began to wear long skirts or long pants, long-sleeved blouses (even when it was hot and I had no air conditioning), and so on. Sometimes, when no one was with me, I would put a scarf on my head and I loved the way I felt in it, so safe and pure. Finally, I decided that on the night of November 8, after I finished tutoring Saif, I would ask him what I needed to do to become a Muslim.
Although I did not know it, Saif had decided to invite me to Islam on that same night after he finished his tutoring session and had made his intention to Allah to do that. After the lesson was completed, I turned to Saif and said, “OK, Saif. What do I have to do to become a Muslim?” At exactly the same time, he turned to me and said, “OK, sister, tonight I have to invite you to Islam.” Our words passed each other in the air between us. There was a moment of silence, then we both began to cry. Allahu Akbar. Subhan Allah. (Allah is Great. Allah is Sublime.) Do you see how Allah had written everything, even to the exact moment when I would be ready to ask the question and Saif would be ready to invite me to become a Muslim?
I asked Saif to give me one night to prepare myself to make shahadah (declaration of faith), as he explained to me that making shahadah was all I had to do to be a Muslim. On November 9, 1994, Saif brought Abdel Wahed with him as a witness, and I made shahadah. Then they went to the mosque to announce my conversion. I asked them to bring me everything they could find to read about Islam. They brought me a stack of books that day, and every two or three days, they brought me more to read. I read books, read the Qur’an, and asked many, many questions about my new religion. I was particularly happy to find a book that showed me how to pray. I read that one first and planned to make all my prayers correctly from then on.
The next morning, although I had no alarm clock, I was awake for Fajr (Dawn) Prayer. Why? Because I was awakened just before dawn by the sound of a small kitten meowing at my door. I went to the door and found a very young, starving kitten waiting for me. I brought her in, fed her some milk, washed, and made my first Fajr Prayer on time. From that time on, that kitten climbed up on my bed and meowed loudly before dawn everyday. Subhan Allah!
Upon hearing that I had become Muslim, all the students came to see me, brought food to fill my empty cupboards and refrigerator, and sat with me every evening for a time to answer questions. The sisters from the university and community brought me some clothes, including an Islamic dress. When I finally put on my Islamic clothes, I felt I had finally come to my real home, my real faith, my real identity, my real language, my real family.
Oh Allah! Thank You for opening my heart to Islam. Thank You for sending someone to invite me to Islam. Oh Allah! Please forgive all my sins and admit me to Jannah (Paradise) because of Your Mercy. Oh Allah! Help me and all Muslims to love You, to love our Prophet (peace be upon him), to love the Arabic language, the language in which You revealed Your Holy Words to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and to be willing, yes eager, to share our knowledge with others. Ameen.
*by Khadijah Jandhli