How God showed her the way when she
was yearning to find the way towards Him.
By Iman Yusuf
to Islam by any human being is always cause for
wonder, and the greatest mercy Allah can give to those
He loves. Yet in my case, it was so much more. Truly
it was a miracle, alhamdulilah (all praise be to God).
Before I ever
knew the word Islam, or what exactly a "Muslim" was,
Allah guided me by my fitrah (God-given inborn
nature) to deduce — with my heart and mind — exactly
how He wanted me to live. It is an amazing story, and
all praise is due to the One who guided me.
Beginning in the
summer of 1981, this gift of Islam was bestowed upon
me slowly over a period of one year, during the lowest
and most challenging point in my life.
I was born and
raised in the USA, however my great-grandparents were
from Germany and Austria.
I was a devout
Roman Catholic — devout as in fully practicing and
believing wholeheartedly in my faith. My marriage was
failing, due mainly to the fact that my husband was
not only a non-Catholic, but an atheist as well.
disturbed me, it was not a cause for serious problems
in my marriage until after my daughter was born in
1979. From that point on, it became a constant source
of frustration and pain.
While he did
allow me to have her baptized, he was not keen for her
to be raised in any religion. No amount of discussion
would budge him, nor did reminding him that when he
married me, he had signed a paper in the church,
promising any children born of this marriage to be
raised as Catholics.
refused the idea of her growing up believing in any
deity or faith at all and in fact began to make fun
not only of my beliefs, but of God as well.
I scheduled a
meeting with a priest I'd known for many years, hoping
he could guide me in this matter. He gave me little
comfort. I felt he didn't take this subject as
seriously as I did.
He seemed more
concerned with my saving the marriage than he was with
the issue of my daughter's faith. He couldn't quite
grasp the pain I felt each time I heard my husband
curse or joke about God.
Nor did he
understand how devastating this would be to my
daughter, who would definitely receive a horribly
mixed message as she grew. I feared the day would
come when my husband might actually prevent either of
us from going to church.
conversation veered off into another direction, and we
begin to discuss principles of Catholicism. Although
I don't remember it now, I asked a question about the
I received the
standard answer…three Gods in one divine person. When
I pressed the issue further, the priest became very
agitated and informed me that if I needed to ask
questions like that to begin with, I had no faith at
While I can
understand his reaction now — that it was due to the
fact that he had no better explanation for this
"mystery" than I did, at the time I was shocked and
I felt as if I
had been literally expelled from the church. With one
innocent question, and the desire to come closer to
God, I had been deemed a person of no faith at all.
I quickly made
my exit, and thought long and hard about the priest's
remarks. I simply refused to accept his opinion of
me. I knew I was a person of great faith and reliance
upon God, and no human could convince me otherwise.
But from that
moment on, I no longer considered myself a Catholic.
There was so much turmoil in the church at the time,
and people were leaving the religion in droves. While
I never imagined I would be one of them, suddenly, I
backwards, I went in search of the truth. I tried
briefly to just read and study the Bible — a book of
which I amazingly had little knowledge. Catholics
focus more on church catechism than Bible reading.
I found the
Bible difficult to understand, disjointed, and with
little guidance on how I was to live my daily life.
To me it seemed more like a story book.
In hopes that I
was wrong, I contacted a local Christian church and
asked if I might join in religious lessons. My first
exposure to them was my last. They were evangelicals
and focused heavily on talking in "tongues" and
receiving the "gift" of the Holy Spirit.
It was just too
out there for me. I needed a religion that I could
keep constantly in my heart, not something I had to
conjure up with ghosts and dead languages.
After that I
turned to the study of Judaism, which I had always
been told was the "true" and first religion of man. I
soon found myself excluded from this club also because
I was not born of a Jewish mother.
conversion was possible, it was mostly unaccepted by
the Jews themselves, especially the orthodox.
Further, it was this belief of Jews as God's chosen
people that seriously troubled me.
I could not
imagine a God who made His religion available only to
those who were born into it, and then despite their
deeds — good or bad, would be the only people admitted
to Heaven based on a birthright. It didn't seem fair,
and I was sure God was nothing if not just.
And so began a
whirlwind of study of every religion I could find.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Tao, Confucius, Hare Krishna…I
studied them all and rejected them faster and faster.
I looked into everything except Islam. I didn't even
know it existed.
And I understand
the reason why Allah allowed me to investigate the
other faiths first. So that when I eventually found
Islam, I would be 100% certain it was the only true
At that point, I
was very depressed. I was in the midst of divorce
proceedings by then and living back home, caring for
my ailing grandfather. My dear grandmother, my best
friend in all the world and truly the only "mother" I
ever knew, had died unexpectedly the past winter, and
my mother was not interested in my quest for
enlightenment. I felt so alone.
I was trying to
juggle returning to college full-time, an active
daughter, a sick grandfather, housekeeping and worst
of all, my distance from God. I had no beliefs left,
just the knowledge that there was a God. I was a
notion of God wiped away, except for the certainty He
did exist, and based on that alone, I prayed to Him,
continuously and always begged for His guidance.
agonizing period of a few months, I tried thinking
logically in my journey to find Him. If there was a
God, I reasoned, surely He had His own unique way in
which He wanted us to know Him.
A way in which
we could truly worship and connect with Him, all the
while making Him a constant part of our daily lives,
not just something to be taken out once a week, then
put away for the remainder.
But above all
else, in my mind I told myself, One God, One Way. All
these religions laying claim to God, yet such
divergent paths. No, I could not accept there was
anyway to God but one way. I needed only to find that
Yusuf, Ex-Catholic, USA (part 2 of 4)
deduced that God's path had to be for all people, for
all time. No one was special, no one was chosen, and
no one was excluded. Neither those of us living,
those who had gone before us, nor those who would come
I could not
believe in a merciful God if He had not made his
religion known to mankind since time began. Somehow,
back at the beginning, from the creation of Adam, I
knew there had to be a "secret". Something I had
missed from the very beginning that was the key to it
problems in my family. My brother, younger than me,
was already an alcoholic. He was mentally unstable
and given to fits of rage. My mother however, always
took his side in any confrontation. I was so
extremely stressed. I had to drop out of college
because I could not concentrate properly on my
I also hated
having to leave my daughter in daycare to attend
classes. I wanted to care for her full time. My
grandfather was getting worse by the day — early one
morning after my mother had gone to work, he set his
chair on fire by dropping a lit cigar between the
I thought I was
dreaming when I heard the buzz of the smoke alarm
going off in the house. Even the acrid smell of the
smoke didn't awaken me. It was my daughter calling
from the nursery "Mommy, Mommy" that finally got me up
and out of bed.
I opened my
bedroom door to a house full of smoke. I grabbed her
from her crib, woke my brother, and we left the
house. The fire department came but by that time my
brother had already carried the smoldering chair into
He had to first
move my grandfather out of the way, as he was sitting
on the floor in front of it, trying to put the fire
out by beating the chair with a yardstick. It was
obvious my grandfather was now in need of more
supervision than any of us could provide.
It was at that
time my mother began to think seriously about putting
him into a nursing home. And thus, my "services"
would no longer be needed. She told me in no
uncertain terms I would have to move out. There was
no room for me or my daughter in her life…
grandfather to worry about, and my brother out getting
drunk most of the time, my mother found she would have
more time to spend in privacy with her boyfriend. She
felt it was her time to "live her life the way she
petrified. My husband and I were still in the process
of a divorce. I could not get welfare payments while
still married to him. If I tried, they would have
first gone after him for child support — something of
which I hadn't seen a penny.
He threatened me
if I tried to take child support from him, he would
fight for custody of our daughter. His mistress was
behind him, urging him on. I didn't know how I would