Sister Michaela: What stands in my mind now is that there was actually an American guy who converted to Islam and lived in Saudi Arabia, and he came and lectured the class about Islam.
I couldnât even tell you the entire of his lecture, but there were just about 2 or 3 points that he made that just were additional seeds that were kind of implanted in my heart at that time.
One of those was an explanation of why Muslims donât believe that Jesus is the son of God and that God doesnât look like a human being and that He is above human beings and He is the Creator so He doesnât resemble the creation.
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He explained some of that and to me I have never really thought about that a lot because I remember even as a child praying I never thought this is Jesus and this is God, that they are different, or they are the same. And he just made this very clear distinction that they are not the same and that stirred my mind and then he also explained the Hijab a little bit.
Interviewer: But just let me ask you before he began to explain that one, did you have some kind of idea or notion about Hijab itself?
|I was a typical American who just sort of never minded about that|
Sister Michaela: No, I have never given it any thought frankly.
I think that in many ways I was a typical American who just sort of never minded about that. These are just people. They are different. Let them do their own thing and thatâs how I thought. OK, there is definitely a God, just one God, and there are all these different religions and they all have some truth and some false in them. And nobody really knows the truth. Itâs just a matter of rules and some things are right and some things are wrong. Thatâs it. That was my own philosophy. And I actually heard that a lot talking to people nowadays as well.
So in terms of the Hijab, I didnât even know that word. I honestly donât think maybe he used that a little bit but he said that just because I do something in a different way than somebody else doesnât mean that Iâm right and they are wrong or vice versa. Itâs just a different way of looking at things from a different perspective. He kind of put more like cultural terms rather than religious ones. Like to us Arabs, women are very beautiful thatâs why they cover up. It was very romanticized but I wouldnât say it was a very religious perspective. But he said covering had to do with respecting the woman and respecting her sexuality and that itâs not out there and wanting to display in front of everybody to see and all that.
So in those terms I thought they were very interesting perspectives, like you know itâs not about shame because I think a lot of Americans feel like covering stands for covering something thatâs shameful, that sexuality is shameful. So the Hijab specifically that he talked about in this lecture wasnât in terms of Hihab. It was much more of a cultural kind of interpretation of it but it still was something that I thought about maybe not of religious terms but I just thought of it as another cultural perspective. And maybe the way that we as Americans are perceiving it, the reality of what it really is. But you know again it was just one lecture, one class, and one day of my life really.
It wasnât until I was 22 years old, about 4 years later, that I ended up meeting a bunch of students that were from Kuwait and thatâs where I really started thinking about Islam.
Interviewer: What was about meeting those students that really got you thinking about Islam? Where were you at your life when you met those students? Was it something about them that was a catalyst for you to really start thinking about Islam? I mean what was your life like at 22?
My Life at 22Sister Michaela: At 22, I had graduated from college. I was still working in a retail job. And I hadnât really figured out what I was going to do with my life. I was just sort of plugging away and I wasnât really sure what I was doing.
I didnât have sort of a strong relationship with my mother at the time, but I think thatâs common for a lot of young women. I wasnât also super close with my sister. I had one sister and she is one year and half younger than Iâm. But for the most part, I was just feeling happy, went out with friends, did what most young girls do. I didnât feel like I needed some change in my life or anything. I had just graduated from college maybe six months before that. So I still was kind of seeing where life would take me.
|They were having fun, but at the same time they were going to the mosque every Friday, they were praying...|
I met those students and they were not perfect Muslims, but they were living for the most part a Muslim lifestyle, praying and fasting, and when someone is really practicing Islam itâs a lifestyle. Itâs not just a belief. So you canât help but to notice the smallest things like anytime I would tell them âOh, nice carâ they say âMa-Shaa-Allahâ and such things, or if I ask them if we are going to do this, they say âIn-Shaa-Allahâ. so those are the small examples.
Bigger examples are when there was a time that I needed help financially, and one of them helped me to buy a car. And this is someone I have never even related to. I was not even Muslim at the time. He was just helpful and they would invite me for dinner, just very family-oriented and this sense of community.
I think also what struck me too was seeing them pray. It is something so different. I have never seen Muslims pray before. And they were mostly guy students. So to see these guys doing this, and especially for men, because we usually see women humbling themselves is related a lot with the nature of being female. Thatâs why you see this ratio of men and women converting in America. Itâs like for every one man four women convert. I think this has to do a lot with women image and nature, but to see men who in my American zone like a mock show, bowing down that was something that just psychologically speaking definitely like rocked my world. Just to see that.
I never saw such kind of devotion even going to church. Some of them are very religious Christians, like my grandmother she used to take it very seriously. But thatâs my grandmother. My grandfather wasnât really religious. My mum was religious while my dad wasnât. So to see these guys they were young in their 20s, they could have been out drinking and having fun like American guys. But no, they were not doing that. They were having fun, but at the same time they were going to the mosque every Friday, they were praying in communion.
So I think just knowing them and seeing Islam as a lifestyle made me start thinking about whatâs Islam? So first it was knowing them, then from knowing them to knowing about Islam, I started to defend Islam and defend Muslims...
Watch Part 2 of Sister Michaelaâs Journey to Islam
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