Somehow a birthday, an Indian man, and a date turned into a not-far-from-forty year old woman writing about her choice to abandon Islam.
In April 1996 a few days shy of being 23 years of age, I met an Indian man whose name was P****. I always thought it funny that his name was P**** because he certainly didn’t look like a P****. He owned the local convenience store and somehow we got on the subject of my birthday and a short time later we were on a date.
I didn’t know much about the peoples of India nor did I know any Indian people other than a boy that worked with me at a pizza joint during my high school years. I thought P**** was cute and he seemed nice. I wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend but was open to the right person, so on the date we went.
Things progressed very rapidly after that first date and feelings intensified very quickly. There was never any talk of religion, we just enjoyed each others company. So I had no idea if he was Muslim, Hindu, or Other. Thinking back, I don’t recall ever asking questions about his ethnicity. Perhaps had I asked something about his heritage it would have produced questions about religion. It didn’t matter in the end because after dating for two months he was shot and killed before our relationship could blossom into more.
It was his death that prompted many questions about Islam over the course of a year:
– Why did that nurse come into P*****’s room, ask me if he was Muslim, and then offer some type of prayer?
– When I called the Islamic center, why did the person who answered the phone tell me I couldn’t go to the funeral and that my prayers would be unanswered if I went?
– If Indians practice Islam, why are they different from Nation of Islam?
– Why do Indian and Pakistani men follow a holy religion while unabashadedly seeking out sex from local women?
– Do I have to eat curry chicken to be an official Muslim?
– Is a shalwar khamees the official dress of Muslims?
– What is with the apparent rift between Indians and Pakistanis?
but most importantly was ‘What do Muslims believe’?
I grew up in a Southern Baptist society which translates into church, Sunday school, choir, Easter poems, tithes, VBS(vacation bible school), old ladies/evil stares, hymnals, baptisms, paper fans with the funeral home printed on them, and belief in the Father/Son/Holy Ghost.
At some point I began to question the Trinity and I really cannot pinpoint an exact time. I know the more I read the Bible the more I found myself annoyed with all the discrepancies, pretentious Christians, and verses that clearly were not practiced in the Christian community.
Never fear, Islam is here. A fateful trip to the library sealed the deal on the day I went from the frying pan into the fire.
Upon a visit to the library to check out a copy of the Quran, I met an employee who overheard I was looking for the Quran. He pulled me to the side and we had a discussion about Islam. He then gave me some books and put me in contact with a Muslim sister with whom I chattedwith occassionally. She would be the one who received some of the ‘rewards’ of my shahadatayn some months later at that class on the sunny Sunday afternoon.
Many things seemed so much clearer while reading those books as compared to the thick, confusing, and contradictory Bible. The most outstanding thing being that there was only one Supreme God to worship. I didn’t have go to great lengths to explain how three different beings were actually the same person. I didn’t have to become Jewish which I knew wouldn’t happen because Judaism has always been an exclusive for-members-only club. Just me and God. Beautiful. According to these books, God’s name was Allah.
While reading about Allah, I would keep coming across many mentionings of some man named Muhammad. I had no clue why these books kept mentioning him. I do know that the rumblings of dissension were very early. I started having issues about some of Muhammads sayings during my own pre-Islamic ignorance or jahiliyyah.
One thing that stood out the most was something that was written in the books about marriage. Anyone who knows even a shred about the life of a Muslim knows that marriage is always a hot topic. There was a saying from Muhammad(which I later learned are called ahadith) that the best women to marry are women like the hoori ‘who have long,dark hair and wide lovely eyes’. Since I am a girl who was teased alot for having thin “chink-chink” eyes, this really annoyed me to no end. The questions started:
– So what about women who have short hair? What about women who are blonde or red-heads? What about Asian women? What about Native American women? Are all these women inferior to these hoori’s?
I don’t think I ever received a real answer to those questions. I would come to learn that not receiving clear, logical answers to questions is standard fare in order to be a Muslim. I’m sure since then someone has doctored up an answer to soothe the rest of us women who cannot light a fire to the beauty of the hoor-al-ayn.
However, that didn’t stop me from wanting to know more about this religion that would allow me to have a relationship with Allah only. I was also given some Ahmed Deedat on busting myths about Christianity. Much like the closer who comes in at the end of a sale to close the deal, the Ahmed Deedat tapes did just that. He did a superb job and blew a gigantic hole in what was left in my belief in Christianity. Everything else was just a matter of the tick-tock of the clock.
Between July 1996 and February 1997 which was after the death of my boyfriend and before the time I took shahada, I got involved with a Pakistani boy. He was younger than me and there definitely was no talk about religion. In those months, it was a mix of bereavement, learning about a new culture, being preyed upon by horny foreigners looking for cheap sex, longing for a lost love, caring for a small child, and increased desire to learn more about Islam. I wanted to know why my boyfriend had never mentioned Islam and why these other men didn’t seem to live holy lives? In the end I would come to realize many Muslims living in Islamic countries came here to have freedom of choice, something previously denied to them.
Between all that ruckus, a friend mentioned that the Pakistani boy was taking advantage of the fact that I was grieving. The employee I met at the library said we had to get married or break it off. Hence my first introduction to the Marriage Circus of Muslims. Long story short, that deal fell through. I told him we could break the relationship off, I was growing tired of it. He insisted he wanted to marry me and we set the time to meet at the masjid. He didn’t show. Then he got a taste of the craziness of An-Nisa Amreeki(the women of America).
For whatever reason, that incident did not sway me from wanting to know more about Islam. Some time after that, on a Sunday morning, I dragged myself to church. I didn’t go in, just felt the need to sit in the waiting area trying to figure out how to pay my tithes and leave. The Reverand kept shouting about “you know what to do, you just have to do it, you know the right thing to do”. I thought to myself “he’s right, I do know what to do”. I got up and left without listening to the rest of the sermon. A week later, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, in a classroom in an old school building, with hickies on my neck, I accepted Islam and began the journey that would eventually lead to apostacy.