I had always felt that the path that led me to Islam was somehow paved by me.
I thought it was my actions, my choices that prepared me and that it was I who discovered it.
I vetted it out. I did countless hours of research. I couldn’t deny it’s truth.
I would marvel at all the events and decisions that lined up so incredibly perfectly.
And I thought it was amazing how I did that.
Not long ago however, I began realizing fully, how truly blessed and indebted I really am.
I’ve always been grateful, but I had gained a deeper consciousness of what Islam really means to me and how empty life would have been without it – And I started to really wonder-
Why did God bless me with His guidance? I wasn’t any great person before, just regular: not especially kind or righteous in any way, not inclined to religion at all…
And then one day it hit me. I know why now.
I remember the moment.
I was the kind of person who loved going to the beach at night. I remember running along the shore, as fast as I could under the stars.
I remember the exhilaration of looking out into the unfathomable night sky, enamored.
I remember laying in my bed on saturday mornings as a teenager and wishing I could know everything about the world. What happened before me, what would happen after me. I would imagine that I would be given a view of the Earth and I’d be able to just watch history unfold.
I asked a lot of questions. I found it exciting.
Especially when the answers seemed unknowable.
So, after all that wondering and all the marveling I did at leaves and insects and stones; after looking at the astonishingly beautiful stars so many times and trying to comprehend how little me, a speck of intricately formed insignificance, could be living on a spinning rock flying around a burning orb suspended in a gorgeous galaxy – merely a blip amongst the others.
I think subconsciously I knew the world; humanity, beauty, pain- They couldn’t have just popped out of nothing.
So one night…
I was a freshman – I was sitting in my dorm room window: a big, square window.
I was looking out at the sky.
And I said something.
I said to myself, there must be some force out there. There must be.
Then I spoke to that force, but not with my lips. Only in my heart, quietly. I asked to know.
I wanted knowledge. I wanted the truth.
Then I forgot about it. I went about my life after that, for four years.
But that force I had beseeched, had heard me. And gently, I was guided to get ready. To get ready for Islam.
I did the weirdest things.
I used to listen to music a lot. Somehow I completely stopped listening to music with words and switched to classical.
I won’t tell you what kinds of music I liked before, but let’s just say that was an unpredictable move. I did it as if it was perfectly normal. Natural.
Then after a while, I ditched classical and switched to ambient: you know, the music that’s not really music? It’s just some sounds, almost like an environment more than music.
At 18, I gave up TV. I forbid my roommates from having a TV in our common areas.
That was odd. I lost some roommates like that.
But what I had effectively done, or had been guided to do, was remove external influences. No one was chattering into my ear anymore, telling me what to think.
My mind was mine again! Or, you know what? That might’ve been the first time it was really my own.
I started pondering about holidays and birthdays and about saying “God bless you” when someone sneezed.
I stopped saying “bless you” when people sneezed.
I stopped, because I didn’t know what that meant.
It didn’t make any sense to me, so I’d say instead, “you okay?” or something equally awkward.
I stopped celebrating holidays. Nobody Liked that very much…
But I just didn’t understand who Jesus was and why I needed to celebrate his birthday with a tree and Santa. I didn’t get why I had to eat chocolate bunnies or what was so significant about turning one more day older.
I stopped doing things I didn’t understand.
Oh, except for the time I just had to travel to a war zone as an international observer so I could walk in front of tanks and M16’s. That was all gut.
That was also how I met the first Muslims I had ever seen, and how I heard the recitation of the Quran, for the first time.
The Quran that I had been reading a translation of for the previous year, because I was going to prove to the world that religions were all flawed and thus man made.
So the point is, I asked for this. I asked for guidance. I wanted answers and God, in His infinite Mercy, granted my wish, answered my request; answered all my questions.
Because in that moment, in that window, I believed in Him.
Even though I didn’t know anything about God at the time and I never would have used that word. Still, I was a believer in that moment. I realized my smallness, and His Greatness.
That was how it all began.