SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - My name is Maria. I converted to Islam one year ago.
I’m from Boulder, Colorado. I was born here. I went to school here my whole life.
Both my parents they are actually from South Africa. They immigrated here. Neither of them is religious. They are both atheists, so they don’t really believe in God.
I have one brother, he is studying music at the University of Colorado. He is Catholic, so he is not Muslim either.
Before I converted, I didn’t really believe in God. I didn’t really have a religion. I didn’t really have a faith, I guess you could say. I kind of grew up with what my parents taught me, so I didn’t really believe in God. I didn’t believe in really any religion at all.
If we talked about religion, we kind of talked about it almost negatively I guess. Before, I didn’t really see religion as a good thing. I thought it was something that like caused a lot of problems, like wars in the world and stuff. I viewed it as mostly negatively.
I guess I first learned about Islam about 2 or 3 years ago. I was dating this guy from Pakistan, and so it was the first time I opened up to Islam. I was more open to learning about it and not to think about it negatively. I really didn’t know anything about it at all. So after talking to him and talking to few other people, I started to gather more facts. I bought an English copy of the Quran that I started reading.
When I met my fiancée, we didn’t really talk about religion. I didn’t think about him in a sense of being a Muslim, or being very religious. I guess I just thought of him as being like a really noble and kind-hearted person. He was one of the best people that I had ever known, he had such a good character, he was really like kind to everybody. He was never mean to anybody even if he didn’t like them, you know, he would be nice to them. He would never look at you straight in the face and be mean to you.
I guess when I thought about him I didn’t think about those qualities being because of Islam. I just thought they were because of him. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that maybe these good things about him were because of Islam. Maybe because he was a Muslim, he actually ended up being more kind-hearted and more open, and a better person.
The reason that I really chose Islam when I really decided that it was going to be the right thing for me that guy I was dating from Pakistan, and we were engaged for a long time. He was my fiancée and at the time I was going to school in Arizona and he was coming to visit me. He was driving from Boulder to Arizona to come and visit me, and he was actually killed in a car crash. And that was my first real experience with death, and that was what really inspired me to look more into Islam because I just knew that there had to be more to him than just dying. He just couldn’t die, like there had to be like a reason, not even a reason, there had to be something like a higher power that was like dictating it.
The Impact of the Quran
So I read the Quran and I read a lot of books, and I talked to a lot of people. And eventually I remember one day I was reading the Quran and it was maybe like 2 months after he died. I was reading the Quran and it all came clear to me. I just had this moment where it all made sense, everything that I was reading and everything that I knew and everything about him and everything about this whole situation. I just came to a point where I just knew that it was right.
I guess the first time I said the shahadah I was by myself. You know that point where I realized that everything made sense. That’s when the first time I was by myself, you know really I mean that was when I first felt it. Later I did when I ended up talking about it with some of my Muslim friends, they convinced me to go to Denver because there is a Sheikh from Denver that I went and talked to. I talked with him and he kind of made sure that this is what I really wanted to do. He wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing it for somebody, that I wasn’t doing it for my fiancée. We talked about this and I told him “Yes, this is for myself.” I said the shahadah with him and with two other of my friends as witnesses.
I hadn’t ever really talked too much about it with my parents because I knew they were not really keen on religion. I think the first time they realized I was really getting serious was in the last Ramadan, and I fasted for the whole Ramadan. It was my first Ramadan and it was really hard, but I did it and that’s when they kind of realized “Oh, she is serious,” you know like “wow, she is really not eating all day” and I think that is when they first realized that it was serious. We never really talked too much about it. But eventually you know they came to accept it.
I suppose that if I hadn’t met my fiancée, I might not have learnt as much about Islam as I did, and I might not have made my decision to convert as soon as I did. I mean now looking back at everything that happened, I think I still would have ended up converting if I learned what I had. I think it was taking me a lot longer and it wouldn’t have been as clear decision because when he died that really made things clear to me like maybe because I never had such an intense experience I guess.
Before I converted I went to some parties and did that kind of things. I would say I was a different person. After I converted I kind of felt I had like a clean slate, you know, like I could start things over in a way. I felt like all the bad things I did in my past before I was a Muslim, I felt it kind not got erased but lost significance.
Parents and Friends
But after I converted I changed a lot of the people that I’m seeing now. Most of my friends now are Muslims. We hang out together, and on Friday nights we would hang out like go to a movie or go balling or something we want, like go to a party. So I think who you hang out with would definitely help. My friends helped me a lot, you know, to make the switch.
I do think about marriage sometimes. I don’t worry about it too much. I feel like I will find the right person. And I do want him to be a Muslim obviously. I’m not interested in dating anybody that’s not a Muslim right now. I feel like right now it’s such a big part of me that I don’t really like to date anybody that’s not a Muslim.
My parents actually like my behavior better after I converted. They didn’t have to worry about me as much. They don’t have to worry like how she is going to get home safe, or that kind of things. They know that I was not going to do anything stupid, so they actually felt better about my behavior after I converted to Islam.
When I first wore a veil it was definitely very hard. At classes it was very difficult because I felt like everybody was staring at me. There are other girls here that wear the Hijab. But I think right now I’m the only American girl here wearing Hijab... I definitely feel like proud. I feel good. I feel like it’s part of me now. I feel better about myself that I’m wearing it.
I don’t think my parents are embarrassed when we go out and I’m wearing Hijab. I think that my parents actually come to be proud of the fact that I wear it when we go out. I think they think that it shows other people that you can wear the Hijab and still be smart, and you still be like you are your own person and really independent and that you think on our own. Just because you are wearing a Hijab it doesn’t mean something negative about you. I think that they actually respect the fact that I wear Hijab now more.
Video: Courtesy of Algerian TV