My name is Aisha and I was born in 1990 and without eyesight, in Sanford, Florida. When I was around 2 years old, I went to live with my grandmother in Las Vegas. I grew up in a non-religious household. I lived with my grandmother until she died when I was 20.
I had no brothers or sisters. I couldn’t live with my mother because she was constantly in and out of jail for substance abuse, etc.
Growing up without vision, my Grandma taught me to be headstrong, do what I wanted to do, achieve all my dreams, and not to let anything get in my way. I went to Sunday school in her Unitarian church, where I would meet friends and have a good time. Holidays, such as Easter and Christmas were just a day for me to get lots of presents and eat lots of sweets.
When I was about ten years old, my Grandma wanted me to go to the best school for the blind in the States, so we packed our bags and boxes, and moved to St. Augustine, FL where the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is.
During middle school I was an all-star goal ball player. Goal ball is a game where you are blind folded, three members on each team, it is set in an indoor basketball court. They would have tape with string on the floors, so players can feel where they are. You have a ball with bells in it and the object of the game is to get that ball into the goals. The objective is to block the goals of the opposing team.
A Muslim girl came to our school for a little while, but it never clicked to me. We always made fun of her voice and the way she talked. There was also a little boy who was leaving our school and going back to Egypt who was Muslim as well.
In December 2007, my grandmother took my friend and me on a tour to Europe. The tour included a visit to Morocco. I thought Morocco was amazing, the Arabic language intrigued me, the men were polite and the food was fantastic.
Our tour guide introduced himself to us as Ali. I was very interested in why he said Allah and what did it mean? He told me he is Muslim and that Allah means God and he worships Allah and no one else and Muhammad SAW is the messenger of God.
However, it didn’t really interest me until I came back to the States and I wanted to do a story about an Arab lady who is abused by her husband. So naturally, I had to look into Islam because I thought Islam is why women are treated badly. I researched about the clothing, language, what men wore, what women wore, why women wore what they wore and of course, Islam vas a whole.
For a year, I stopped doing my story and committed myself to looking at Islam. It amazed me. Everything made sense. We worship only one God and Muhammad is the last messenger of Allah. I read where Jesus stood in Islam, because although I didn’t grow up with any religious views, I still tried to pray to him. However, when I read that there is only one God and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, it really lifted my spirits. Everything made sense. Every time I would read about Islam, something was pulling me closer and closer, as if you are going on an airplane somewhere far away and you are almost at the end of the trip and you are about to get off. I felt like I was being pulled towards that plane, not getting off, but jumping on.
A lady I knew talked about her daughter who reverted to Islam. She was a strong Catholic, so she had all the misconceptions about Islam imaginable and she hated her daughter. I decided to visit her daughter. When at her daughter’s house, I asked the basic questions, even though I knew the answers, but I wanted to see what a real Muslim would say, not just what was written in articles or internet. Her information was similar to mine and she added a bit more information. For a few weeks, I would see her at the library and she would give me CDs.
During a visit to my Uncle in New Jersey with my grandmother, I woke up one morning, five days before Christmas, with a strong feeling that something interesting was going to happen that day. I called my friend up and said, “I want to convert to Islam.” She was very happy, however, asked me a few questions to make sure I understood correctly. When I confirmed everything that I knew, she said repeat after me and then I took my Shahadah. I felt so good! Goosebumps ran up my arms and legs. I jumped in the shower; however, the feeling never vanished.
I was a little nervous to tell my Grandma. I did and she was scared at first thinking I would be mistreated and abused, but I gave her the right articles to read and she was reassured. In January, I met another sister who gave me headscarves and taught me how to pray. At the time I was already wearing skirts and blouses. I was terrified to go to high school because I was the only person who was visually impaired and now I would be the only Muslim! However, I went and although some people stayed away from me, I had an overall good experience.
Alhamdulillah, I have been a Muslim for four years now. Even though I have been through ups and downs, just like any Muslim, I have always grown stronger in my Iman. I now wear niqab and feel like my life is complete. I strive to spread the message of Islam. Try and get others to realize the beauty of Islam and how much happier they would be!
Islam, I believe, has saved me from the life I would have taken. Allah is so merciful and a lot of times we take this for granted. We need to realize that Allah is always with us no matter where we go and He is so gracious!