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Monday, December 06, 2004

My Journey to Islam

By Dawn Ross


Assalamu Alaikum to all Members,

Brother Maqsud asked me to write my story of my journey to Islam. There
is nothing very dramatic or remarkable in my story. I was living a very
comfortable life, active in my church, happy with my family, and not
facing any major difficulties. I wasn’t looking for Islam but Islam found
me. I’m hoping my story will promote a better understanding between
Muslims and Christians. I find both Muslims and Christians have many
preconceived notions of each other which are simply not true.

I grew up in rural northern Indiana. My father was raised in an
Amish/Mennonite (1) family and my mother was raised in a Baptist (2) family. I
had a very happy childhood amongst all my extended family of
grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We were all very close. Our faith was a
big part of my life. I can’t remember a time I didn’t believe in God. I
never once thought that our religious faith might have errors. My
childhood consisted of Church/Sunday School, Bible classes, summer youth
Bible camps and interaction with my Christian friends and family. All of
our holidays were centered on family and God. Thanksgiving, Christmas,
and Easter were all times for focusing on God, spending time with
family, and helping others. During the holiday season, our church collected
canned and packaged food, basic clothing and gifts for needy families.
There were many special programs at church and my family spent more time
in prayers and devotions. I know Christmas is very commercialized and
many Muslims who don’t know any Christians believe that’s all
Christmas is about. Christmas for my family was a time to focus more on God, to
celebrate the birth of Jesus (pbuh), and to do what you could to help
those less fortunate than yourself.

I attended a Baptist High School and a Mennonite College. I never
really interacted with people who believed differently than me. I did have
some problems understanding the trinity but it was understood to be a
mystery and I accepted that explanation. I also had some problems with
contradictions in the Bible but it was always explained by copy errors
and translation errors. My church believed the Bible to be the ‘inspired’
word of God not the ‘literal’ word of God. I explain this because
Christians have different beliefs about this issue. This is also difficult
for many Muslims to understand since Muslims believe the Qur’an to be
the ‘literal’ words of God. That difference explains why it’s not a big
issue for some Christians when you point out errors in the Bible because
they believe that the writers were ‘inspired’ by God and then it’s
possible that fallible human beings made copy errors and translation
errors.

My journey to Islam started with helping my daughter to find
information about Islam. During her Fifth Grade year of Elementary School, she
was trying to earn her World Religion Badge for Girl Scouts. She was
required to write a report about another religion. She chose Islam. I
helped her to find reading material and I read along with her both because I
wanted to monitor her reading and I was curious about Islam. One of the
requirements for the badge was she needed to talk to someone from the
chosen religion and ask them questions. This was the difficult part as
we didn’t know of any Muslims in our area. I tried calling some
organizations in some of the nearby larger cities but none of them returned our
calls. Finally, I thought of going online. I found a site where
children could get a penpal and she was matched up with a girl her age from
Iran. Luckily, the girl’s mother knew English and translated their
emails. They wrote to each other about their families, friends, school,
likes,
dislikes, and religious beliefs. The girls became good friends and
even started to think of each other as sisters. To sum it up, my daughter
earned her badge, gained a friend, and I started on my journey to
Islam.

The basic reading I had done with my daughter for her report had made
me curious enough to continue reading more in depth about Islam. I read
many biographies about the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). One story
which intrigued me was when the early Muslims emigrated to Abyssinia and
were protected by the Christian King Negus. This initiated me to start
reading about the early Christians and Church history to see how they
interacted with Islam and Muslims. I was surprised to find out there
were many early Christians who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus
(pbuh). Actually, the trinity and the divinity of Jesus (pbuh) were
imposed as church doctrine by the Council of Nicea 325 CE. How could such
integral beliefs of Christianity not be taught by Jesus (pbuh) himself?
This council also selected which books were included in the Bible and
which ones were discarded. I found it disconcerting to find out they
discarded the most early written eyewitness accounts and included the later
accounts of the gospels which were written by people who had no
personal contact with Jesus (pbuh). I read and agonized over these issues and
many others for over a year. Instead of being reassured of my beliefs,
the more I read, the more doubts I had about Christianity. It’s very
difficult to accept when you challenge your lifelong belief system and
find it to be lacking. Finally, I decided I needed to go beyond the
reading and talk to Muslims.

As previously stated, I didn’t know of any Muslims in my area so I
started with the Islam public chat rooms. The public chat rooms are
horrible with so much fighting and arguing. Finally, I met someone who was
willing to talk with me and answer questions. He was very knowledgeable
and answered many of my questions. He also suggested I try the user chat
rooms as there were people there who were trying to help people learn
about Islam. The Beginners to Islam user chat rooms were where I met
Brother Maqsud and Brother Dust. They both came online to try to help
others learn the truth about Islam. They answered my questions and
explained many things about Islam to me and to many others as well.

I started to read the Qur’an. I began with Sura Maryam because I wanted
to read what the Qur’an said about Jesus (pbuh). It wasn’t what I
expected. I would lay in bed at night reflecting and praying about what I
had read. I asked myself, “Does Islam have the right answers in my search
for the Truth about God?” There came a time when I realized I believed
Islam to be the truth. Islam is a beautiful religion because it is
simple and clear and isn’t bogged down with incomprehensible religious
doctrine. The concept of Tawheed, the oneness of God, is simple and easy to
understand. Islam is the same message brought to us by all the
prophets. The day I said my Shahada, I felt a peace I had never felt before. I
felt like I was at the end of a long journey when actually it was also
the beginning of a new journey. There is so much to learn about Islam.
I have been a Muslim for almost two years now. I read the Qur’an and
study as much as I can. I am fascinated by the study of Hadiths and I'm
slowly trying to learn some Arabic. I know I have much to learn.

I accepted to become a co-moderator of the Islamic Minds Yahoo group
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IslamicMinds/ ) because I felt I could
help to be a bridge between Christians and Muslims. I am thankful to all
the members who send in great postings about Islam. I learn so much by
reading them and it encourages me to read and study more. I am also
honored to be a co-moderator of this great group Muslim Youth Connection.

I would like to invite any non-Muslim reading this to read the Qur’an
and to learn more about Islam. Remember that Allah (swt) guided you to
this page, to read these words for a purpose.

".... Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth unto Himself all
who turn (unto Him), Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the
remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find
rest!" Quran 13.27-28

your sister in Islam,

Dawn

Note: I included the following footnotes for those who are unfamiliar
with these Christian Denominations.

(1) – Amish/Mennonite -The Amish are a religious group who live in
settlements in 22 states and Ontario, Canada. The Amish stress humility,
family and community, and separation from the world. The Amish have their
roots in the Mennonite community. Both were part of the early
Anabaptist movement in Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation.

(2) – Baptist - The Baptists form one of the largest Protestant
denominations, with worldwide membership of nearly 35 million. Throughout
their history, Baptists have sought to be faithful to the truth of the
Gospel and to pattern the Church on the principles of fellowship found in
the New Testament.

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