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I am from a good and loving family, and we were raised believing in Christian principles. From the time I was in my early twenties, I have always had trouble understanding one very important teaching of christianity. Why do I need a “saviour”? Why isn’t God powerful enough to forgive me by himself without the sacrifice of another (Jesus)? No one ever gave me a very good answer, but I still believed and practiced my faith.
Until recently, I was an over-the-road truck driver. I was in a truckstop in Iowa eating, and a driver sat down next to me and got “very creative” ordering off of the menu, avoiding eating meat. I asked him if he was a vegetarian and he said no, he was a Muslim, and he only ate meat when it had been properly and humanely slaughtered. We talked for a while, and he brought up my “age old question” about God having the power to forgive “all by himself, without any help”! He gave me an english translation of the Holy Qur’an and told me to read it, and my questions would be answered.
When I started reading al-Fatihah I thought about what a beautiful prayer it was, and so I started praying it a few times every day. It became my favourite “Psalm”. It seemed to so fully and completely address my inner desire to praise God. And the rest of the Holy Qur’an! I felt as though every “hidden question” about life I had ever had was being answered one after another. About six to eight weeks passed. And finally, one Friday, I parked my 18 wheeler, and hunted down a mosque. I was in the Twin Cities, and it wasn’t easy! I found the Islamic Community Center, but it was closed for Friday. I looked through the window and saw a poster on the wall about an Eid bake sale at the Masjid. I wrote down the address and drove there. I found the mosque, and attended the Friday Prayers. The sermon was very topical to things I wondered about. I felt as though the Imam knew I was coming, and had prepared a sermon just for me. Of course, now I know...Allah knew I was coming, and had a sermon prepared just for me! And then the prayer...I was never so moved in my entire life! There are no words that I know of in the English language to describe the wholeness that washed over me. Here I was, with all these men, different colors, different nationalities, rich and poor, all lining up shoulder-to-shoulder to pray together as brothers. I lined up with them. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t know what was being said (I didn’t know they were beginning with my beloved al-Fatihah!) but I knew this was true worship. I knew I had come home. At the conclusion of the prayers, I asked one of the leaders, Brother Hamdi, “How do I join?” He talked with me for several minutes, asked about my “journey” to that point. He asked what I knew, and what I believed. He asked what was my desire. He told me what God’s desire was. I said “This makes so much sense”. Then Bro. Hamdi said “Let’s do it!”. So he had the brothers sit back down, and led me through my shahada. When I was finished, all the brothers shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is the Greatest!”) three times. They all embraced me and said “Welcome Home Brother”. Welcome home indeed!
That night, as I was driving my truck across the clear, cold Minnisota night, I looked out my window and saw that the moon was a crescent moon. Welcome home indeed!
As I became acclimatized to my new life, learning the basic “halals and harams” of eating, dressing, behavior--I was a little overwhelmed at first. Every Friday would find me in a different city in a different Mosque. They were always my Brothers, and it was really terrific to see that ‘nothing important’ changed whether I was in a mosque that had been built as a mosque and had hundreds of members, or if it was an old church building converted into a mosque, or a house with only a handful of Brothers. It was always the same. But I did lack continuity in my spiritual life. I bet I was really a sight pulling my big truck into rest areas on the Interstate, and hopping out to perform Salat! I prayed that I would get the continuity I needed to be more integrated into Islam. And, AlHamdulillah! My prayers were answered! I suffered a detached retina and am now unable to drive a truck. I am back in college studying to be a school teacher. And I am the member of al-Rasool Islamic Center in Salt Lake City. The Brothers have taken me under their wings and are providing me with the continuity (and sense of community that is central to Islam) that I needed. I help out with the Eid Committee(my speciality is clean-up!) and the Muharrem preparations. We are a small, but very active shia community here. I am so blessed. It is all such a blessing! And that is how I got my name; Mubarak (which means blessed/blessing) because I feel so blessed to have Islam in my life. It is such a blessing to say: “I am a Muslim”! My hope and prayer is that others may come this great gift from God. The gift of Islam!