Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coming Back to Islam (My Story) Part 1



Once upon a time I had tight network of friends. We used to party together, travel together and wreak havoc on any club scene. There was Caribbean carnival, the dancehall, live reggae/dancehall shows, the envious stares of girls who weren’t part of our crew and of course, the male groupies who longed to get close to us. When you saw me, you saw at least one member of my crew. No, we didn’t always get along but we’d surely make up after a heated argument. We were having a blast and enjoying our college years.No one ever thought it would come to an end. Then one day something happened to a member of the crew. [Cue sound effects]

I was growing tired of the partying. My conscience was nagging me. I was supposed to be on a temporary "break" from Islam. Yet, I was getting further and further way from it. I was supposed be sorting things out but my lifestyle left little room for contemplation or quiet reflection. I knew that I still wanted to be a Muslim. I wanted to live my life by the principles and guidelines Allah set for me. The question was how was I going to do that? My lifestyle up to that point had been one of carefree abandon. I answered only to myself. How could I go from “kickin’ it” to being an observant Muslim? And did being an observant Muslim mean a life of boredom? Would it mean a departure from my culture and identity?

One night my roommate and I were at a dancehall club. I was leaning against the wall observing my surroundings. Everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves. People were dancing, talking and having fun. However, I was not enjoying myself. My conscience was nagging me again. I started asking myself questions: Is this how you want to live your life? What if you were to die right here, in this space? How would you answer to Allah? And aren’t you tired of this scene? The more I stood there watching everyone have a good time the sicker I felt. I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed to GET OUT. As my roommate and I made our way home, I told her I was tired of clubbing. I wanted to do something different, something else. “Like what?” she asked. I didn’t really know either.

I decided to cut back on partying. I began looking up masjids, resumed praying, and started studying Islam again. Fortunately for me, I found a masjid with “regular people” who were Muslim but they weren’t as strict in their interpretation of Islam as the people I had been around when I first came to Islam. I began to learn about the Salafi movement and its ideology. Up until that point I had no idea that the way I lived when I first took shahadah was part of an interpretation of Islam. I thought it was Islam. The more I studied the more I realized how possible it was to commit myself to being a Muslim again. I really could do it! The thought was exciting but scary.

After quietly going about my life for several months, I finally broke the news to my best friend and roommate at the time- I was done clubbing. I wasn't going to carnival, stage show or other parties anymore. I told her I decided to buckle down and practice my religion. She was brokenhearted. For four years we had been inseparable. We moved from the Midwest down to South Florida to live our dream. We did everything together and now I was telling her I wanted out. I wanted to live a lifestyle that was foreign to her. (Though she didn’t say it, I think she also felt it was boring and restrictive). Instead of offering me words of encouragement she said, “You tried to that before and it didn’t work. Did you forget?” I just smiled and told her this time would be different. I could tell she didn’t believe me. She, along with my other friends thought I was crazy.

Not long after that, Allah started testing my commitment to practicing Islam. Though I had grown tired of clubbing, it had been the only thing I ever did for fun. I didn’t know what to do with myself in my spare time and to be honest I started missing it. Coupled with that, the gap between my friends and I was widening every day. We lived completely different lifestyles. I was going to Jumah on Friday afternoons, they were in mall looking for the perfect outfit to wear that evening. I was praying, they were partying. I was lonely, they were going on dates. While I was at home at night, bored out of my mind, they were partying and having fun. My roommate would be getting ready for a night on the town and I’d be surfing the internet. (I hadn’t found Muslim friends yet). She would try to tempt me by asking in a sing-song voice, “Are you sure you don’t want to go out with us?” I’d shake my head no before my resolve weakened.

New Year’s Eve found me at home by myself, bored once again and broke. I could hear celebrations taking place all around me. I never felt so alone in my life. Moments later the phone rang. It was a friend of mine calling to ask me if I was interested in going to a reggae show with him. (He had back stage passes and VIP entrance!) The show was going to feature some of the top artists. I sighed. This was almost unfair. I explained that I’d retired from clubbing and concerts. He suggested a get together some our friends were having at their home. Once again, before my boredom got the best of me, I declined and told him I had to go. I shook my head in disbelief.

After that I spent many lonely nights in front of the television or on the internet. I would be lying if I said I didn’t question my decision to practice Islam again. Rather than give in to the thoughts I was having I started making du’a, asking for Allah’s assistance. I wanted to practice Islam. I wanted to do the right thing. I didn’t see how I was going to make it through. I needed help. Fortunately, Allah answered my du’a not long after that. I was invited to become part of an Islamic studies group at the masjid and two days after that I was introduced to a sister who would become one of my best friends. I was becoming stronger in my practice of Islam. I had a support network through my class, Muslim friends who encouraged me, a healthy, balanced understanding of Islam and life was looking up.

But that’s not where the story ends…TO BE CONTINUED

2 comments:

Pagina said...

This was great to me. Thats pretty much my life right now. Insha'Alla it will become easier... Im interested about something: How did you practice the first time around? What were the interpretations like?

Jamerican Muslimah said...

pagina,

Insha'allah it will get easier. Every person who converts is confronted with a test or a series of tests.

To answer your second question, the interpretations were very strict and very rigid. "Islam" had lost the deep spirituality it once had. Instead, it was replaced with Fiqh. I lived my life according to a bunch of rules. People in my circle told me what was haram and what was halal and I complied. I didn't think for myself or challenge anything I was told. I was completely divorced from my culture, my identity and my family. It was like I'd joined a cult. If you go back and look at two posts I wrote entitled, "when I was a new shahadah" you'll get an idea. It all became too difficult for me.

The other thing is,I moved much too fast. I was so eager to do everything. No one told me to take my time. Looking back on it now I realized I needed to learn the basics of the religion and to take my time. It wasn't wise to try to change myself overnight. In the end, what I did was burn myself out.