I decided to go live for the summer with my aunt and uncle and work in my uncle’s business. It was an uneventful summer of rest for me, and I thought I would make a new start. I transferred to another university and decided I would begin again. Old habits die hard, though, and I soon found myself right back into the same old patterns. My sophomore year was just as much a blur as my freshman year had been. I didn’t like myself much, but I did what I did to be “popular” and “fit in” with the crowd I had chosen to align myself with. Still there was something missing…
Shortly after I moved into the apartment complex, a man and his 3 children moved in across from us. He was tall, good looking, a dark complexioned man with an interesting accent. His children were adorable. We spent much time getting to know each other. I learned that he was from Iran and was a muslim. I had taken a course during my freshman year on comparative religion, that had a unit focused on Islam, but I had never met a real-life muslim before. The religion had interested me when I studied it earlier, but there was really no one I could ask questions of, and follow up with, so I had pretty much dropped the idea and returned to my hedonistic lifestyle. But now I had someone I could ask questions of.
Life in Islam
I had tired of my lifestyle, but didn’t know what to do to escape. Islam seemed like it offered the “new beginning” I was looking for. With its regimented rules and the modest clothing (which would later be full hijab for me), I felt “protected” and safe. I did a 180 degree turn-around. Where I had been drinking and smoking marijuana, I was now 100% opposed to alcohol or any abusive substance. Where I was promiscuous, I was now a hijab wearing chaste person. I thought if my *bad* works had gotten me so far from where I knew I should be, surely doing *good* works would save me.
The muslim people I now had as friends began to teach me about the religion in depth. They looked up scriptures in my own bible, and told me that they didn’t mean what I had always been told they had. They assured me that in the language the bible had been written that the words meant something totally different. They told me, in short, a lot of things about Christianity that were untrue. But, since I had no foundation, I really had no reason not to accept what they had said. Later, I would find that many of the things they had told me to convince me that Islam was the right path, were outright lies. I still believe that the people who told me these things believed them – why would anyone try to convince someone of something they themselves knew was a lie? But in fact, they had been taught lies too. I pray for these people now.
The man whom I had met at that apartment complex that summer eventually became my husband. I try to forget much of the time we were together, because, looking back, it was much about controlling and emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse. But my marriage to him had little to do with my belief in Islam. It became a mission to me to learn all that I could about Islam. I studied both the Sunni and Shia schools of thought to determine for myself which was the right way. I had lived my life to that point knowing nothing about my faith, and I was determined to learn all I could about my new found religion. My family all but disowned me because of this, knowing that I was on the path to hell, but as I said, I was “grown” and knew best for myself – all at the ripe age of 20.
The poster child
Over time, I became sort of a “poster child” for the convert to Islam. I was asked to speak at conferences and mosque dedications across the country. I traveled and spoke about how I was saved from a life of depravity by my decision to take Islam as my religion. But inside myself, and at home, things were falling apart. My marriage was not what I hoped it would be. My husband was not “religious enough” for my tastes. He did not pray regularly; he was in fact quite secular. I cried to make pilgrimage to Mecca, but he would never pay my way. The closest I ever got to a pilgrimage of any kind was a trip one summer to Iran. I traveled to many of the Shia holy sites and came back renewed in my vigour for Islam. I cried and cried to go back, because I longed to live in a muslim country where I would not be the minority, but he would never consent. I blamed him for my inability to keep all the tenants of Islam because he was not being a good enough spiritual leader for me. I blamed him for not encouraging me enough to follow all the rules. I remember one night, long after every person in my house had gone to bed for the night, staying up nearly the whole night in prayer, sitting on my prayer rug, wrapped in my prayer garments, praying that God would intervene in my life and change it. I prayed, thinking I was asking that God would change my husband and make him into the person I wanted him to be, but I now know that God did hear my plea, and began to make a change in ME at that point, that would bring me home to Him. God Almighty Himself never answered the prayer I prayed — He knew what I wanted was not what I needed. He was protecting me from getting sucked deeper and deeper into the darkness.
But deeper and deeper Kathy sank. The third and final part of this testimony is where things came back full cirle. But there was going to be one final fatal twist.