Assalamualaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
My name is Ismail. I am Romanian and Hungarian and I live in California. I became a Muslim almost 5 years ago at the age of 17. For me it all started while playing basketball, where I met someone who is still one of my best friends to this day. He gave me dawah and we argued about religion back and forth for about 4 years. I was a Christian and he was a Muslim. He asked me questions I didn’t really have answers to, eventually all these questions started turning into doubts about Christianity. I always had a respect for Islam since I met him, and I actually thought it was very cool to see the Muslims take a break from playing and pray salah. Eventually I prayed and asked God, “If Christianity is the right religion, make all my friends Christian, if Islam is the right religion, then make me a Muslim.” About a week later I took my shahada at the very basketball court where it all started Alhamdulillah it was the best decision I ever made in my life.
After I had taken my shahada, I had kept it a secret from my family. My family came to America in 1989 from Romania. During that time period Romania had been a communist country and my family being Pentecostal and the majority being orthodox, they were persecuted and went through a lot of hardship practising their religion. So the nature of my family was very tough and stubborn from the start and I knew that if I told them I became a Muslim, they would be very hard on me. So I kept it hidden for a couple of months and there were a lot of close calls where they almost found out. I first started to refrain from eating pork, which is what about 80% of Romanian dishes are made with. When my mom asked me why, I showed her in the Bible where it says we shouldn’t eat pork and she said okay that isn’t needed but go ahead. I also asked my mom if it’s okay to pray by prostrating and she had told me she had seen my grandmother pray this way so it’s okay.
From the beginning I prayed all of my prayers but out of fear of being seen, I would pray Fajr-Isha at night time when everyone was asleep so I wouldn’t be caught. I kept it up hiding it from my family until I felt I was strong enough to handle what was coming when they eventually found out. One day I got into an argument with my cousin on Facebook in which I was defending Muslims. After going back and forth for a few hours he eventually asked me sarcastically “Wait, you’re a Muslim right?” At that point I decided I could not lie and say I wasn’t but instead be firm in the truth and Allah will take care of me, so I told him “Yes I am”. After that my whole family found out and at first they didn’t want to believe it. Before Islam, I was the most favoured in the family. I was the favourite nephew, the favourite grandson, the favourite cousin etc. After Islam, I became the most disliked in the whole family. My grandma told me I’m not her grandson anymore, my cousins called me a devil worshipper, my aunts and uncles sent me hundreds of pages of their research and talked to me for hours on end trying to change my mind. They said the most hateful things you can think of about Islam and about my beloved Muhammad ﷺ that many nights I could not sleep because out of sadness I was crying so much. Before Islam family was everything to me I sacrificed a lot for them so for them to say these things to me really hurt me and affected me. I understand why they did it however, because they loved me and wanted the best for me. I could only imagine if my child were to change religions, it would be a very difficult thing to deal with so I don’t blame them, that was Allah’s test for me.
After that my mom placed restrictions on me, I was no longer allowed to go outside with my Muslim friends and be with them, I was only allowed at the basketball court and home, that’s it. I had surveillance on me at all times, so during these times I would pray at very late times around 2am. It went on like this for a few weeks; all the while I was still being forced to go to church with them. My mom got fed up after she saw I wasn’t changing and I was actually getting stronger in deen. So one night she told me “either you leave Islam and you can continue to live here or you can leave the house. The choice is yours, but you can not be a Muslim and continue to live here.” I said “Okay you’ve made the decision easy for me I will never leave Islam.” So this is how I was forced to leave the house.
When I left the house, immediately a Somali family took me in and I stayed with them. May Allah bless them, I will forever be indebted to them because they helped me in my time of need, and they became my family for me. Every night my mom was calling me and she would tell me how much she missed me and I should come back. But I would always tell her I would never leave this beautiful religion. My mother was stuck in a situation where she was getting pressured by my family to kick me out they were telling her that I would for sure leave Islam if I were to be kicked out of the house. So this was the reason otherwise she wouldn’t have done such a thing. All of her life she lived for her kids and we were her number one priority. She worked 2-3 jobs while going to school full time in order to provide for us because my father was not involved in our lives they had divorced when I was 3. Over time as my mom saw that I would not budge she told me “please come back” and I said I won’t leave Islam so let’s come to an agreement.” So she agreed and the deal became that I would go with them to church every Sunday and I was not allowed to pray in the house, and I could in turn live at home and she would cook halal for me. There were a couple of times after that where I had been praying outside and funny things had happened to me. Once I was praying Isha and in the 4th rakat, a sprinkler had gone off right onto me! Another time it was Fajr and my next-door neighbour saw me in sujood and thought I was unconscious so she rushed to call an ambulance. Thank God I had finished before she started to call to tell her I was just praying.
So ever since I came back home Alhamdulillah the situation has been gradually improving. Before I was not allowed to even have a small booklet or kufi in the house, now I have a whole closet full of different cultural clothes and a couple bookshelves with books in them. At the end of the day I love my mother with all my heart and Islam taught me how to be a better son to her and how to be a better brother to my sister and brother. May Allah guide them to Islam so they too can feel the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful deen.