Ms. Themise Cruz



February  27,  1997.  If  anyone  were  to  ask  me  when  I  became Muslim,  I  guess  the  only  feasible  answer  would  be  that I was born Muslim, but just wasn't aware of it. We are all born into a state of Islam, but what is unfortunate is that many people never recognize this fact, and live lost in other circles of religion and lifestyles. I was horribly lost, and I suppose this was a good thing, because Allah felt my suffering and reached out to me. (al humd dulilah)  

My  first  introduction  to  Islam  was  through  a  course  at  the University where during Ramadan we were invited to Juma prayer. It was here where I met a wonderful Muslim sister who invited me to her  home  for  study  and  food.  I  declined  at  the  time because  it seemed too foreign to me. I had built up so many stereotypes that I was  not  willing  to  open  my  mind  to  anything  surrounding  Islam, even  an  invitation  to  knowledge.  The  next  message  Allah  sent  me came  by  my  friendship  with  several  Arab  Muslims  at  one  of  the Technical Colleges near my home. This is where I was exposed to the Islamic lifestyle. I was amazed at the fact that they refused invitations to wild parties and drinking alcohol. How could they sit and pray so many times a day. And fasting for a whole month, what had gotten into  these  people?  From  that  point  forward,  I  thought  I  was  the American authority on Islam. But in actuality I knew nothing. The height of my confusion hit at this point. I was an observer, but never had any understanding of what it all meant.  

So, when I became a Muslim it was like Allah found me and gave me the answers to all the confusion that ran around in my head. It is so mind boggling to me that I was oblivious to the fact that I was so miserable.  I  was  successful  in  the  material  aspects  of  life,  but  my mind and heart were uneasy. I was so weak in spirit that I tricked myself in believing that the material things that laid at my feet, were enough to cushion any hurtful blow that life dealt me. I was wrong. My mother died when I was 23, and all the money, my home, my education, the cars, jewellery, they all meant nothing. I tried to go on with life as though her death was just another event. But it was at this point that I could no longer ignore Allah. If I went on in my current state of mind, then my mother's life had been in vain. What purpose did she serve here on this earth? To what greater significance did her life have in this world? I could not believe that she meant so little. It was at this point that I began to hunger for this knowledge, and I opened all of myself to Allah.  

It is almost too difficult to describe what it is like for someone who begins to feel Allah in their heart. Islam means so much more than rituals, language, culture or country. Islam is a glorious state of being, and it is a fundamentally different experience than what I had previously  been  learning.  My  husband  taught  me  much  of what  I know about Islam today. While observing, listening and opening my heart, I slowly began to understand. Allah presents himself to people in different ways, and Allah impacts everyone's life differently. I had to come to an understanding of what Allah meant to me, and why it was  necessary  that  I  follow  this  path  of  life.  I  began  to  learn  the meaning  and  significance  behind  the  rituals  I  had  only  before observed at a primitive level. I began to read Koran for hours at a time. Allah began to reach out to me and fill the vast hole that was in my heart. For when an individual does not follow the path of Allah, they are in a constant search for that missing element. And once I stopped refusing the knowledge of Islam and opened my heart to my fellow Muslims and the teachings of the Koran, the transition was as easy as eating a piece of pecan pie.  

Since  then  I  have  had  contact  with  the  original  Muslim  sister who  I  met  in  my  university  class.  Many  of  the  Muslim sisters  get together once a month for study, prayer and informational sessions. I also visit the Masjed during Juma prayers and any other time that my schedule  permits.  Of  course  my  husband  and  myself  study  Koran and Hadith, and are on a constant quest for knowledge. When you become a Muslim it is the beginning of a new path, a new way of life.
Everyday Allah reveals Himself to me in some way. Sometimes it is with a new piece of knowledge, or maybe He grants me patience or understanding, and some days it is perseverance or a peaceful state of mind. No matter what the case I am always aware of the blessings that Allah presents to me, and I continuously work to live the way He has intended all of us as human beings to live, in submission to His will.  

I  have  also  struggled  throughout  this  search.  My  family  is  not accepting  of  my  new  way  of  life,  nor  are  they  accepting  of  my husband. I had a co-worker ask me one time, "How can you abandon Jesus? I love Jesus" My response confused her I am sure. I simply explained that in Islam we abandon nobody. And in fact it is only now  that  I  can  read  and  understand  the  true  significance of Jesus. Islam allows the follower to study the messages that Allah has sent throughout the ages, through the teachings of Jesus, Abraham and Mohammed  (Peace  and  Blessings  be  upon  them).  Because of  this fact, as Muslims, knowledge is never hidden from us, and we are free in our search for truth and closeness to Allah.  

My struggle is far from over. Western culture is not accepting or understanding of Islam, and it is mostly out of ignorance that this is so.  They  think  that  we  are  fundamentalists  or  terrorists,  or  some other form of monster here to wreak havoc in a peaceful Christian world. The way in which I combat the unkind comments and glares is through kindness and understanding. I remember a point when my understanding  was  so  low  that  I  closed  my  mind  and  heart  to anything that the Muslim community had to say. And to think that if they had turned me away because of my ignorance, I would not be where I am today. So it is up to all Muslims to have patience and compassion  for  those  who  do  not  understand  our  way  of  life. Eventually Allah reveals Himself to those who seek true knowledge and understanding.  

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