A Jewish lady gets an insight into
how Muslims live, through her Muslim husband and some
"Sisters" at a mosque.
By S. E. Levine (from
IslamOnline.net with permission)
Levine, Ex-Jew, USA (part 1 of 2)
My husband and I
had gone to the masjid (mosque) for a speaker's
program. It was the first time that he had invited me
to the masjid since our marriage a year or so
earlier. We had met and married while we were both
working as substance abuser counselors in a
We couldn't have
been more different in the beginning, as we are from
entirely different backgrounds — he is black and I am
white, he was Muslim and I was Jewish. Although he
hadn't asked me to become a Muslim prior to our
marriage, he did give me silent da`wah (calling to
Islam) by his excellent example.
He had an
extensive Islamic library, and because I was a keen
reader, I naturally read a lot of his books. I also
observed his modest behavior, watched as he made salah
(prayer) five times a day, went to Jumu`ah Prayer on
Fridays, and fasted during the month of Ramadan. So
it was natural that I would develop an interest in his
When we arrived
at the masjid, he pointed out the entrance to the
women's section. We agreed to meet in the parking lot
after the program was over. "OK, I can do this," I
thought to myself as I entered the dark dank hallway
and walked down the steep steps.
I had never had
trouble making friends before. I had always enjoyed
multicultural situations and looked forward to the
My husband had
suggested that I wear something modest for the
occasion. I ran my hands down over my long-sleeved
dress, straightening and smoothing it out. I felt
confident that the women at the masjid would approve
of my appearance.
However, when I
arrived at the bottom of the stairs and walked through
the door marked "Sisters," I could immediately feel it
in the air: thick tension, suspicion, estrangement and
confusion. Every veiled head turned in my direction
and the Muslim women stared at me as if I had two
heads. I stood frozen in place in the entrance way,
staring back at them.
I had never seen
so many Muslim women together in one place. Most of
them wore the traditional hijab, but two women peered
out at me through head coverings that revealed only
their eyes. A few others sat with their scarves
draped over their shoulders. When they saw me, they
pulled them up over their heads.
But then one of
them got up from where she was sitting, approached me,
and introduced herself as Sister Basimah. At least
this one had a welcoming look on her face.
"Hi," I said.
"My name is Sharon. I'm here for the speaker's
"Is anyone with
you?" she asked.
"My husband is
upstairs," I replied.
husband is Muslim?" she asked.
"Yes. Yes, he
is," I said.
she said. "Come over here and sit with us."
She led me to a
table where three other women were seated. They were
the most beautiful exotic women I had ever seen.
Right after she made introductions, I forgot each one
of their names, which were equally exotic. Sister
Basimah then got up and went to greet more people who
"Where are you
from?" one of the women asked me. I replied that I
was an American of Eastern European heritage, born in
New York City.
husband from?" was the next question.
"But where is he
"No, I mean,
what country is he from?"
born in the United States, he's African-American, from
Philadelphia," I replied, thinking that there was a
language barrier. I would later learn that most of
the Caucasian women in the masjid were married to Arab
"Hmmm," they all
said in unison and they cast their lovely gazes
thinking of becoming a Muslim?" another one asked,
looking up at me with a beaming expression on her
"No," I replied,
"I'm Jewish." Well, I wish you could have seen the
look on their faces. As soon as it was politely
possible, the topic was switched.
children Muslims?" one of them asked, returning to
"No." I replied,
"I don't have any children." That was it; their
attempts to find a common ground with me had failed.
They smiled at me and then something incredible
happened for which I was not prepared: The
conversation turned to Arabic.
I continued to
sit with them at the table. They mostly spoke to each
other in Arabic, and I mostly smiled. As more women
would join the table, they would introduce me in
English, "This is Sharon. She's Jewish." Then they
resumed speaking in Arabic.
When the program
began, the women gathered in the prayer room and
everyone sat down on the plush carpeted floor. But
after about five minutes, the women started chatting
to one another, all but drowning out the sound of the
program that was being delivered over a stereo speaker
Levine, Ex-Jew, USA (part 1 of 2)
program was over, the women went into the kitchen to
prepare food. Sister Basimah came over and told me to
sit and make myself comfortable until it was time to
"But let me help
you," I offered.
"No! You are
our guest. Some American sisters have arrived. I'll
introduce you," she replied.
motioned to one of the women on the other side of the
room. She came over and the two women kissed each
other on the cheeks and greeted each other with a
cheerful Arabic expression. Then they both turned to
look at me.
Sharon. She's Jewish. Will you keep her company
until we eat?" Sister Basimah said to the other
"Oh, yes!" she
replied. "Hi, Sharon, I'm Sister Arwa!"
Sister Arwa and
I sat down and began to get acquainted. I asked her
questions such as how long she had been a Muslim,
whether she was married to a Muslim, etc. Then she
dropped the bomb.
"Why did you
kill Jesus?" she asked me.
replied. My face must have shown my shock and
"I mean" she
inquired again, this time softening her question, "why
did the Jews kill Jesus?"
believe what I was hearing! I was astonished and
rankled by the question. I could tell by the innocent
look on her face that she really wanted to know.
Maybe she never met a Jewish woman before, and this
was her first real opportunity to get an answer to her
When I was first
introduced to her, I welcomed her company; after all,
she was the first American I had seen that evening.
Now I wanted to get up and run from the table. Then
the anger set in.
Giving her a
baleful look, I replied through clenched teeth, "We
did not kill Jesus. The Romans did!" She returned
the look of a wounded animal. Her lips opened to say
something, but before she could reply someone called
"Excuse me," she
said, "I'll be back." I could hear the relief in her
A group of
African-American sisters arrived at the masjid and I
spent the remainder of the evening in their company.
Before I left to meet my husband, Sister Basimah gave
me her telephone number and encouraged me to call and
arrange a time to visit with her.
I did call her,
and we developed a beautiful relationship. She told
me all about Islam and God. It was from her that I
learned that no one killed Jesus! I learned that God
took him up unto Himself.
She knew I was
interested in Islam and could sense that my heart was
searching and yearning for spiritual peace. One
evening while my husband and I were visiting her home,
she came right out and invited me to Islam.
point occurred when she explained that all my sins
would be forgiven when I came to Islam. She said that
I would be reborn, like a newborn baby, with no sins,
with another chance. I broke down and cried.
I wanted another
chance to get right with God. You see, I had a very
checkered past. I always loved God, but I got lost in
life. We asked her husband to help me say the
When I told my
husband what I was about to do, he was shocked and
happy at the same time. He asked me if I was really
sure about my decision, as if he couldn't believe what
he was hearing. I responded that I was never surer
about anything in my entire life. There was no
internal battle, no fears or doubts.
After I said the
Shahadah, Sister Basimah's husband said, "Mabrook
(congratulations)! You're now a Muslim!"
When we returned
home, my husband gave me a gift of my very own Quran
and a summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari. Before I left
Sister Basimah's home that special evening, she gave
me a gift of a booklet about modesty for Muslim
women. She also gave me a prayer rug, a prayer dress
and a hijab (head scarf).
I have worn
hijab since that day, al-hamdu lillah. I have never
taken it off, even after the dreadful days following
September 11, 2001.
When I became a
Muslim in July of 1998, my father denounced me once
and for all. He had been very upset with me anyhow
for marrying a Muslim, and refused to recognize my
husband as his son-in-law.
those people hate us!" he cried.
All efforts to
explain the difference between the peaceful religion
of Islam and the political struggle between the
Palestinians and Israelis fell on deaf ears. Never
mind that my father was the first one in his family to
marry outside of Judaism. My mother had been a
practicing Catholic when they married.
To add insult to
injury in my father's eyes, my husband was also
African-American. Prior to September 11, 2001, most
Americans thought of Malcolm X whenever Islam was
mentioned. Many other family members also made it
known how disappointed and frustrated they were with
my decision to marry a "Black Muslim."
My father died
in August of 2001, one month before the events of
September 11. At the request of my father's wife, my
family did not tell me that he had died until after
his funeral was over. Did they fear that I would show
up in the synagogue dressed in garb accompanied by my
We are taught
that the religion of Islam is for all people and for
all time. It shouldn't matter whether a Muslim is
Egyptian, Pakistani, American, Saudi, Indonesian, or
Palestinian. It shouldn't matter whether he or she is
black, white, red, or yellow. It shouldn't matter
whether he or she speaks Arabic, English, Spanish, or
Urdu. Our cultural diversity should not divide our
Ummah (Nation). God tells us in the Quran that:
"We created you
in nations and tribes so that you may know one
another". (Quran 49:13)