My conversion to Islam, Part 1
I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and a strong Catholic. One of my classes was Bible as Literature. Public schools weren't able to teach religion, but they could teach the Bible as though it were a piece of fiction, or literature. Truth be told. It was a class on Christianity and never was the Bible taught as fiction. Anyhow, i wanted to understand my religion better and finally read the bible so i took the class. To make up for the classes predominant focus on Christianity, we had a field trip which was designed to enlighten us about other religions so we went to a synogogue, a mosque, and a hindu temple.
Something happened to me in that mosque. The hindu temple was cool also and i did make a brief conversion to hindu buddhism when i was 19 but it didn't affect me spiritually...it only affected that hippyish sentimentality i had going on. But that's another story.
In the mosque, we were told to remove our shoes and wash our feet. High school being what it is - a bunch of hormonal teenagers attempting to be cool but truly clueless - most of the kids were making fun of the ritual. I, however, found it positively spiritual. The decor itself took me to another world, a world i found fascinating - I've always liked the exotic...
Anyhow, after we sat down...girls on one side and boys on the other I immediately felt different. We (boys and girls) are different and it was nice not to have to sit next to a boy i couldn't stand or one i secretly had a crush on.
BTW...the woman giving the lecture was blonde haired and blue eyed...and unhijabbed. I don't know why that matters, but i find it interesting today and even back then.
She spoke of how Muslims did their prayers in Arabic. How they went on Hajj. How they prayed facing "that direction" as she pointed to a window that looked out onto a Colorado plain - that, she said, was Mecca.
When she spoke of Hajj and all the pilgrims in white, making their pilgrimage in the hot desert heat, thirsty and tired, when she spoke of how Muslims pray five times a day, how they don't eat pork or drink alcohol... All i could think of us one word. Purity. I thought Muslims lived pure and simple lives and really devoted themselves to God. I thought Christians were the only ones to believe in God (and Jesus) but I still didn't learn that Muslims believed in Jesus as this point...that too would come later. What i realized that day was that Christians don't really devote their lives to God in most cases. Only a few have actually read the Bible (mostly older generations), and even though the Bible forbids alcohol, pork, premarital sex and so much more - they still did it and to boot - eat a big ham on Easter! They talked the talk, but they didn't walk the walk. That is they said they were Christian and believed in what it stood for, they just didn't do anything that Christians were supposed to do. That was me included. When I began asking why, people told me it's because that is old fashioned...the way it used to be. I wondered how God's rules could be considered old fashioned and out of date. Wouldn't he have updated us with a new book or new son? But they were adults and didn't like my questions so i eventually stopped asking.
I loved this new religion i heard about. Out of everything i learned that day and saw, it was the only one where the people truly devoted themselves to God. I loved that and admired it and had respect for Muslims every day since then. In fact, i remember sitting there in that mosque looking out that window envisioning what Hajj would look like as my friends and classmates filed out of the room. I wished I was a Muslim. Once i heard that the prayers were done in Arabic, I assumed that Islam was only for Arabs and unless you were Arab and spoke Arabic, you could not be Muslim. If i had known people could convert to the religion, i would have converted that day. My conversion would occur exactly 15 years later, unfortunately. Not unfortunately i converted but unfortunate that i didn't know you could convert earlier because I wouldn't have made many of the mistakes I made along the way and would have been Muslim 15 years earlier and would have led a cleaner - not that mine has been a life of debauchery but still - and I would have led a simpler life. But Allah guides us when he wants. Maybe I wasn't ready to submit...Allah knows best.
My next introduction to Islam was 9 years later when i was 24...