How a spiritually dissatisfied
American Catholic teacher found fulfillment and
direction through her new job at a Muslim school.
By Lynette Wehner
My new position
at the Islamic school was received with reserved
enthusiasm from my Christian family. "Just make sure
you do not convert," my father-in-law at the time told
me when he found out about it. My mother-in-law was
intrigued by the idea of being around something
"exotic". I grappled with whether I wanted to work at
this school. While I would have my own classroom
(which I desperately wanted), I would only be
part-time and I would be required to dress Islamically
(even cover my hair). This whole concept was very
foreign to me. I debated with myself for a day or two
until deciding to take my first teaching assignment at
this school. I was open and determined that this would
be a learning experience for me. Boy was it ever!
On the first
day, the new "non-Muslim" teachers were given a
"scarf" lesson by a sister in the teacher's workroom.
We were laughing as we tried different styles. I still
remember that morning being pretty relaxed, and it was
during this event that I realized I always thought
Muslims were stern and serious. It is strange how one
can hold certain stereotypes of people without even
knowing them. Cross off one misconception!
During my 1st
year of teaching, I learned many things. I was
extremely impressed with the way that my students knew
my religion (Christianity) better than I did. How did
they know the stories? My students were always asking
me questions about my beliefs, and they made me think.
What DID I actually believe in?
I was brought up
Catholic, and as an adult, I started to stray from it.
I didn't know what it was that I felt uncomfortable
with, but I just knew something wasn't right. I
ventured a little into the new-age type of
Christianity, but that didn't sit well with me either.
I just knew that I wanted to connect with God. I
didn't want my religion to become something that I
felt I had to do in order to be considered a "good
person" in the eyes of my relatives (as was the case
with my husband). I wanted to feel it in my heart.
Looking back now, I was lost, but didn't know it at
Kids will be
kids, and my Muslim students were no different. They
left their books in my classroom instead of taking
them home. This was a blessing in disguise as I
started to read these books after class. So much of it
made sense. To help matters along, one sister and
brother were more than happy to answer all of my
questions, and I had many! We would discuss Islam and
religion for hours. It was very intellectually
stimulating and I was excited about it. I felt that I
had found what I was looking for. There was a peace
slowly spreading over my heart.
time, I started to read the Qur'an at home. My husband
at the time (I have since divorced him) did not like
my interest in Islam. When I would read the Qur'an, I
would do so in private without his knowledge. At
first, I felt that I was doing something blasphemous.
I remember being very scared that God would be upset
with me. I thought to myself how can any book other
than the Bible be from God? I tried to listen to my
heart, and it was telling me to read. Some of the
passages of the Qur'an felt as if they were written
just for me. I found myself sitting there and crying
many times. All at once, I felt at peace, yet
confused. There was something holding me back from
accepting it full-heartedly.
After months of
reading, talking with people, and a lot of soul
searching, there was one event that I consider to be
the determining factor in my becoming Muslim. I was
standing in my son's room trying to pray. I had a book
on Islam opened to the "how to pray" section. I was
standing there in conflict with myself. I was not used
to praying directly to God. All of my life I was
taught to pray to Jesus, who would then tell God my
prayer (or something like that). I was so scared that
I was doing something wrong. I didn't want Jesus to be
mad at me. At that moment, it hit me like a tidal
wave. Did I really think that God would be upset at me
for wanting to get closer to Him? Did I really believe
that Jesus would be upset with me for trying to get
closer to God? Isn't that what he wants me to do? God
knows my intent. To this day, I believe it was God
talking to me-that is how powerful the feeling and
voice inside my head was. What did I have to fear? How
could I NOT convert to Islam? At that moment, I
started crying and crying. It was what I needed to
hear. I knew at that time that I had to convert to
Islam. It felt right and nothing else mattered.
After taking my
shahada in front of the entire school, I was a new
person. I did not have that
anymore. It was gone. I knew that I made the right
I have never
been so close to God as I have been since becoming
Muslim. Alhamdullilah, I am so lucky.