When I was twelve years old, the elders of the Mormon Church would come over and talk to us about the Mormon religion and how Jesus met with Prophet Joseph Smith in the woods and told him about the book of Mormon and so on. When it was time, I was baptized into the Mormon faith. My mother said it was up to me to choose my religion; I chose to be with my mother.
From age 12 to 16, I was somewhat active in the church going on Sundays and Mondays for family home evenings and Wednesday nights for sisters. But I eventually backed off and by age 18, I really didn't believe in the Mormon religion. I never felt anything in my heart but I knew there was a God out there somewhere.
For the next 29 years, I've been soul searching for the right religion for me; one where I could believe in and feel it in my heart. I visited different religions such as:
It just so happened that I came right when a prayer was coming in and Imam Taha had said he needed to talk to me more about this. So he asked me if I could come back and we would discuss it more. I was like sure no problem. I'm not in a hurry.
Sheikh Sheikh Sheikh
I think mainly because this is where they went and I had no idea who was who at that time. So I said: Sure, ok I will call him. Within a couple of weeks, I was hit by another car and they totaled my car. I had not seen Sheikh Saad yet.
Before I ever spoke to Sheikh Saad, I was hit in a car accident on Friday, May 11th, 2007 and my car was totaled. I made a call to Sheikh Saad and told him of my intent to meet with him and I had some general questions for him.
He gave me a time and date for me to come in. I asked my neighbor Julie if she could please take me and she wanted to know why? I told her I need to talk to their Sheikh who is like a bishop in a church or a pastor; that I wanted to know more about this religion and marriage.
She was not too happy and questioned me about it more. I just said it is important please can you take me, she finally gave in and said ok. I called Julie and left her a reminder of my appointment. The day of my appointment came and I called her, no answer, I called again still no answer, and I waited for her.
I went over to her house to find she was not there. I figured she did not care to take me to a Muslim Masjid. So, I ended up calling Sheikh Saad to let him know I was not going to make it. He just said: "Don't worry, come anytime." And he gave me the office hours.
I called Julie several times to let her know she forgot about my appointment. I did not hear from her for several days and finally, she answered my call and said she would take me the next day. The next day, I called her and no answer.
The bus system out here is not that great in Santee and it is hot desert sun. I told her: "I really want to go Julie, please take me, this is very important I feel I need to go. Please understand ok."
Julie took me and dropped me off at Al Ribat. This was the day I finally got to meet with Sheikh Saad for the first time. As I approached the mosque, I felt something good was going to come out of this but could not determine what it would be.
I went inside and one of the gentlemen asked me could he help me I told him, I am here to see Sheikh Saad and that he is expecting me. Immediately, the guy went into his office and let him know.
Then Sheikh Saad came out to greet me, and as I walked down the stairs, I was gently asked to take off my shoes, and I thought, how weird this is, take off my shoes. I was thinking: Why? I did not want to take off my shoes and I had never heard of this before.
But, I just knew I had to talk to him. So I took off my shoes without any hesitation. We talked about several items and some general information that I needed to know. After a 2 or 3 hours, toward the end of the visit, I asked, Sheikh Saad: "What are Muslims? Is that the religion?" He explained to me about God and what Muslims believe in.
I asked about the 9/11 situation, and he explained everything to me as I had no idea. I asked Sheikh Saad: "Do you have any books I can read on your religion. I would like to know and learn more." He said: "Yes I do."
He handed me several books for me to read. I received the English translation of the Quran, The Religion of Truth, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understand Islam and other books.
After my time with Sheikh Saad had ended, I called Julie to let her know I was done and that she could pick me up now. As I got up, I went to shake his hand as I also went to shake Imam Taha's hand, but he did not shake my hand. I was really confused by this as why he did not shake my hand.
At first, I thought: "Wow, Muslims don't shake hands, how rude!" I asked how come you don't shake hands and he explained to me why, and I understood and it all made sense. He answered my questions.
But no, I did not marry this person I had met on Arab Match, as he was in Saudi Arabia, not Los Angeles, which he later told me. It was going to be too complicated to deal with, so I decided to leave it up to God for my future soul mate and me.
As I got up, I thanked Sheikh Saad for his kindness and spending the extra time with me to explain things to me to understand more. I thanked the others around me and put my shoes on and headed outside. My friend was waiting for me.
Sheikh Saad was also coming out, and I wanted him to know this was my friend who brought me over to see you Sheikh Saad; I introduced her to him and him to her. I wanted her to know how nice he was and they (Muslims) are not bad people at all. I told Sheikh Saad, once I get a car, I will come back to ask more questions.
During the next couple of weeks, I started reading The Religion of Truth and read about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), being the Messenger of God. I think there was a reason for me to go see Sheikh Taha and Sheikh Saad as I have been searching for a true religion for me and what I would believe in.
On June 8th, as I read I began to have tears in my eyes and could not believe what I was reading. I felt chills all over my body as I continued to read in The Religion of Truth. That night, I wrote in my book: "I believe" and dated it June 8th, 2007. This was on page 20.
I had uncontrollable tears in my eyes, and I could not understand why. My heart, my body, my soul felt different now. The way I thought, did things and the way I felt about people in general opened my mind up. I now knew I had to do something about this and I wanted to convert but did not know how.
So, within that week I was able to get a car, register and get insurance. The first place I wanted to go to was the mosque to see Sheikh Saad and ask him how do I convert to this religion, as I felt it very strongly in my heart.
On June 23, I showed up at the mosque. I went upstairs and saw some sisters talking to a couple of Christian women with Latifa, Aimag, Sharifa, Brittany McKnight and Bayann Gouda.
This is when I asked Sharifa what do I do to convert to this religion? I told her I was reading The Religion of Truth and now I wanted to convert to being a Muslim and did not know how.
I read the Testimony of Faith on page 65 of A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, and there with the sisters upstairs, I did my Shahadah in front of the girls in the Masjid. That night, June 23, 2007, I became an American Muslim.
I told her I came to see Sheikh Saad, she told me he was not there anymore. I was very upset as he was the one who I looked up to. It was Sheikh Saad who gave me these books, and I wanted him to know personally how happy I was.
The sisters called down to the office where there was brother Munir, Sheikh Mohammad and others to witness my Shahadah. We waited for the call to come down. Then that night on June 23rd, with Munir, Mohammad, Brittany, Sharifa and several other witnesses, I became a Muslim.
As far as my family goes, my mother, father, grandmother and grandfather have passed away. My brother and his 3 kids and Uncle Jr and my cousins are the only ones I have. I called up my Uncle Jr. and told him: "I wanted to tell you something, but don't get mad ok." He said: "Sure honey, what is it?"
I started off with how I used to be Mormon but did not believe in the Church and I have been searching for a religion for a long time. I then just said, I converted to Islam, and I am now a Muslim.
I was very surprised to his reaction as he had none. He was like: "Ok honey, I don't care what you convert to, I still love ya." I said: "Ok cool, I love you." It was all good.
Now my brother on the other hand, is not so open minded to what I have done. I am sure my cousins have told him about me as I have not yet told him. I know his temper and don't want to hear it from him.
I finally told my cousins by email as they are strong Mormon Church goers. She responded back to me with: "What? You deny Jesus Christ your savor!!!" She was not happy at all.
We did not communicate for some time until this year she emailed me Happy Easter in LARGE LETTERS. Just this week June 30, 2008 for the first time I sent her 3 pictures of me with my hijab on and copied and pasted information about Islam and what it means. I asked her to please understand. So far, I have not heard back from her regarding my pictures.
As far as friends are concerned, it seems my neighbor and I don't talk as much as we used to or hang out at all anymore. My friend Christine and I don't hang out at all now as she has not returned any of my calls.
I called her to go out and celebrate my birthday and have dinner back in May of this year 2008. The first question she asked was, "Are you still doing that Muslim thing?" I said: "Yes." She then said: "Hey Ethel, let me call you back, ok?" she never did. At one point one of my neighbors used red lipstick and wrote on my car when they saw me dressed in my abaya and scarf.