So, I just passed my two year anniversary of converting to Islam last month, and today I wanted to share some of my reflections and thoughts as I look back on the past two years.
Firstly, I can’t believe how fast two years has gone! And looking back even just one year, I can’t believe how much I have changed. I honestly feel like not only a completely different person from two years ago, but also so much better of a person.
I remember when I first converted, how I dressed, how irritated I was by the stricter gender relations…I remember how difficult it was the first time I fasted, or how I had to pray with a little paper in front of me for months, just to be able to do the right things at the right times. I could barely remember the Fatihah, let alone Surah al-Rahman or any of the others I have learned since.
I was very resistant to many things at first, like the idea of an abaya or that it is forbidden for you to shake a man’s hand who is unrelated to you, not to mention the whole thing about needing to learn to wash after using the restroom. As I wrote about before, I also got a lot of pushback from my so-called feminist ideas where things like separate prayer spaces, different duties, etc. are concerned in Islam.
It is amazing how much I have changed my attitude towards so many things just in the past few months.
One thing that I have realised in thinking about all of this, is that I can’t actually remember how I lived my life before Islam. I can’t even imagine not praying five times a day, or leaving the house without something covering my head (plus the rest of me!). I actually feel uncomfortable now talking to a man that is not related to me, and I have come to terms with the fact that I just won’t be able to eat that many gummy bears any more (yeah, that is still a thing I think about!).
And in my reflecting on the growth of the past two years I also realise, I have so much farther to go. I still swear sometimes, my hijab is certainly not perfect, there are always sunnah prayers I could add and more concentration I could add to my obligatory prayer, among so many other things.
But, God willing, it will be just as amazing of a journey for the next few years as it was for the first two! I have been making lots of goals and plans, and I hope that I will be able to carry them through and keep on growing.
Since entering the blogging world I have met so many wonderful sisters, and I truly think that they will be exactly the blessing I need on this leg of my journey. And I can only hope that I can be just as beneficial to someone who is just at the beginning.
Around the same time that I began to think off all of this with my anniversary approaching, I also had the opportunity to re-say my shahada.
The first time I did my shahada was in a rush of emotion in a class on prayer, and I never actually received an official certificate to say that I am a Muslim. But I realised recently that if I want to ever go on the pilgrimage to Mecca, I will probably need an official document to prove I am a Muslim in order to get a visa. According to my husband it will also be necessary to have some sort of documentation if I want to be buried in a Muslim graveyard, etc. etc.. (Because with a name like Ashley, who could believe you are a real Muslim?)
So I headed on down to the mosque for Friday prayers with my husband, and we had an appointment with the imam to say my shahada again afterwards.
In the beginning I was actually pretty irritated that I had to do it. I felt like I shouldn’t need a piece of paper to prove I am a Muslim…can anyone show me Abu Bakr’s (ra) convert certificate? I kind of felt like someone who has already had a huge wedding, but has to have another one two years later just to make sure people know she is still married. I just felt a little bit icky about the whole thing.
At any rate, I went, and after Friday prayers my husband, the imam and a few other men to act as witnesses filed on up to the women’s section. Instead of the mix of emotions and peace I felt last time, I actually felt mostly stressed out this time, sitting in front of a decent sized group of men all starting at me.
Then the imam began to speak with me, and when he asked me if I understood, I was so stressed out I actually had to tell my husband to just translate for me instead of trying to use my imperfect Arabic/French combo.
With my husband acting as translator the imam began to ask me all manner of questions like what did I love about Islam, how did I find Islam, what did I think about Jesus back when I was a Christian, what about my family, and on.
I have to say, while this was all happening I was inexplicably stressed out and just kind of wanted to disappear into the carpet. And I felt like I was being given the Islam Entrance Exam, that I am pretty sure shouldn’t actually exist.
Still feelin’ pretty icky.
But after it was all over and I had said my shahada again and many prayers were made for me and my family, I realised that though I was very uncomfortable, maybe (and I hope) my answers to the imam’s questions could have been a means of benefit for someone there listening.
I have found that many people here, though born and raised in a Muslim country, practice far more culture than they do Islam. So I hope that by putting myself through such a stressful situation, maybe one of my answers about why I love Islam, or how I practice Islam, could enter someone’s heart that was listening and inspire them to make a change in their own life/practice.
I think I will just have to trust that God knows exactly what He is doing, and he put me there in front of that group for a reason.
Since then, I have had to fill out an application form to get the actual certificate (what.), which included all my biographical info as well as my husbands, plus such other degrading questions as “have you read the Qur’an,” “in what language,” and “what have you studied about Islam?”
That’s ok though…to answer the question at the end, “what are your concerns/worries,” I wrote that I am concerned that everyone here in this Muslim country thinks it’s ok to throw their trash in the streets and drive like we are in a stereotypical American movie where it cuts to the busy streets of India. So yeah, put that on my certificate y’all.
At any rate, these are some of the things that have been on my mind now as I mark this little milestone. I have to say, despite all the grump about the whole certificate thing, I am feeling really happy, content, and excited about where my life is going and all of the doors that God has opened for me recently. With all that is going on in the world so much is uncertain, but in spite of it all I have begun to feel like I am really finding my place, and am heading on the road that God has planned for me.
How are you all feeling about where you are these days? Are you thinking there is definitely room for improvement, or are you at more of a place of contentment? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Peace and contentment to you all.