I was born January 9th, 1982 in Kentucky, USA. My first home was a small house on a dairy farm where my Father worked, then soon we moved to a large to a large beef production farm. Since I was the only child I too helped work in these crops and with the livestock. I kind of had the best of both worlds really, some days I could wear dresses and play with dolls and other days I could run through the fields and climb on the hay bales or ride on the tractors. Our closest neighbours were over a mile away. Growing up on a farm that used to be a southern plantation teaches you a lot about history, animals and yourself.
I went to church and Sunday School. I went for years without missing a single Sunday and the Preacher and his family would give me gifts ever so often. One was a doll based on the women of the Bible and she was wearing a gold coloured scarf over her hair and a maroon cloak over her clothes. Now I look back and see that all those years I was playing with a doll in abaya and hijab. One year I was Mary on the Church’s float during the towns Christmas parade and wore a scarf over my hair, little did I know that one day I would want to do that everyday.
During summers I would go to Bible school at 3 different churches. I was baptised at the church my Mother’s family went to, which is usually a happy time but to me it didn’t feel right. Their methods of worship were also different, I had always prayed to God but they ended their prayers with ‘in Jesus name, Amen’. I started to question them about this and other things that had started to confuse me, and trust me when I say questioning is one of the worst things you can do in a church because they automatically jump to the conclusion that you are against them and maybe even possessed.
Years were passing by and I was still struggling with the Bible. I felt so out of place within this church even though my parents and other family members were sitting right beside me.
During the economic downturn, the factory I worked with, shut down. I took the severance pay the company gave me and planned a trip to Finland. I wanted some time to compose myself and gather my thoughts because I had just lost so much. My job was my way of paying for college so I had to quit and I was also in the process of buying a house and had to give up on that as well because without a job there was no way I could make payments to pay for a home of my own.
During the trip, for the first time I saw a lady in niqab in person and I thought she looked beautiful, not scary at all like the media tried to lead me to believe. I felt the shadow of someone walk up and stand next to me, when I looked up it was her! She was lost and couldn’t find the direction of the gate she needed to be at so I found the direction she needed to go in and sent her on her way.
When I came back home I started researching Islam more deeply online and signed up on one of the websites that sends free copies of the Quran and pamphlets to Christians who are interested in learning more. I was pretty excited when I got my copy of the Quran and put all the other books I was reading on hold and delved into the Quran right away. Being unemployed I had plenty of time to read the Quran day and night and I would also read articles online and watch videos on youtube. I found a group that said they were experts at helping people that wanted to revert to Islam. I signed up for their newsletter and started to correspond with one of their representatives but it quickly turned sour. I was not prepared for how demeaning and judgmental these conversations would be, they wanted to know every little detail of my life thus far and would frequently tell me things that discouraged me such as my parents were going to hell unless I made them revert and that I would never be able to pray for my parents again and must act as if they are dead to me unless they embrace Islam. I became so upset by the things they were telling me that I cut contact with them and started searching elsewhere.
I started to become really discouraged and unsure if I sure pursue my interest in Islam or not, I decided that I had nothing better to do so I continued to read things online in my spare time and noticing the similarities between the lives of Muslims and mine, plus I’m really stubborn. I voluntarily stopped eating pork after reading about how nasty it really is and because the reasons the people gave me at church on why we can eat it even though the old Testament says not to didn’t make any sense to me.
Time kept passing by and every person I would talk to about Islam and converting turned out to be a dead end. Just when I was about to give up I gained a friend that would take the time to answer my questions and explain the facets of Islam that I did not yet understand. My interest peaked again and in January of 2011 I found myself making a voyage to Abu Dhabi. As soon as I stepped off the plane I could feel how different the atmosphere was, with each breath that entered my body I felt as if I was breathing in the air of a holy land. It was there that I heard the Adhan the way it was supposed to be. I had heard the words spoken in the past by reciters and acquaintances but those could in no way compare to the feeling you get when the beautiful voice of the muezzin is projected over a load speaker and surrounding you on all sides. As I stood looking at the majestic beauty that is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque I felt like there was a storm brewing inside me. I felt the tears in my eyes but held them back. I felt a deep urge to run straight into it and beg for their help but I digressed and stood outside admiring its beauty, after all I did have to try to act normal. You really don’t want to embarrass yourself or those around you when you are visiting a new place.
When I came back home I asked even more questions and finally got an answer from my friend on how to revert. They told me that first it must be done within your heart and mind and then you go to a mosque and you revert officially with an Imam. I entered a time of deep thoughts and evaluations. It was at this time that I realized that the feelings I have that I’m not like my Christian relatives wasn’t just in my head. I really was different. I had different thoughts, behaviours and values than they did. That was the moment I decided I was going to embrace Islam on my own. There were tears, this time not out of sadness but out of happiness because I realized that all those years that I thought God hated me he had actually loved me deeply and was only testing me to see how strong I could be. During the bad years, through the periods of depression and hopelessness I had never stopped praying before I went to sleep at night. In that moment of clarity I understood why.
I kept my decision to myself at first and continued to study on my own and started searching for an Imam to take my Shahadah with. I entered another series of traumatic and stressful events; my Father was injured by a horse so badly that it nearly took his life, I lost other loved ones, several family members developed severe health problems and even the death of pets took its toll on me. I took my official Shahadah May 13, 2011.
In many ways I’m still just a farm girl from Kentucky. I still like to go fishing, run free in wide open spaces and I’ll always prefer sitting on the ground playing with baby chickens to spending all day in a store staring at fancy things that cost more than normal people earn in a week. The only difference is that now I understand life and I know I have a deeper purpose for myself and to everyone else I come in contact with.