Why I Became Muslim
As a child, I was known by my family as the one who never finished things. I was quick to stop things as soon as I started them; I sulked throughout my ballet lessons and left rugby in tears. One thing I was unwavering in, however, was my belief in God. I was adamant about the existence of Heaven, the soul, an All-Loving God, and all things that gave me promise that the world was better than it was.
The death of my grandfather shattered those beliefs.
On the tragic passing of rapper Takeoff, Offset recently expressed:
“I don’t wanna question God, but I don’t get it. I believe in you, but I just don’t get you sometimes”.
This encapsulates exactly how I felt at my grandfather’s funeral: I couldn’t comprehend death, or why God would take him from us. I was left with more questions than answers, and with that, I distanced myself from religion as a whole.
At the same time, I continued to formulate my identity around the music I was listening to. Jesus Walks was my anthem. I felt that if someone as conflicted as Kanye West could believe in God, anyone could. But I didn’t. I knew that I could not believe in God just because I wanted to, or that Kanye did. After all, I was incapable of answering fundamental questions surrounding the Christian doctrine…
Could Jesus really be God?
It was a question I could not answer, and so I put the Bible down.
However, Sunday remained to be my favourite day of the week. This was not because it was the Holy Sabbath, but because it was the day I sliced pizzas and learnt about Islam. I worked at my local pizza shop at the time, and there I became increasingly fascinated by the Muslims I worked with. They were humble and generous in ways I could never be. I watched them pray, fast and love God like I never had. Religion, for the first time, became something human, something tangible. I watched them put their feet in the sink and their head on the floor. Religion, for the first time, made sense.
Still, I knew more about Pakistan Zindabad than I did about Allahu Akbar. After all, it was Muslims I knew, not Islam. Therefore, the thought of conversion never crossed my mind.
The following year I find myself uttering the words that will eventually change my life:
“Can I fast with you?”
Despite choosing to study religion at university, my position on religion was unmoved. I was still uncertain, fluctuating between believing in one God and no God, without any idea who this God was. At the same time, having moved into halls, I thought I was due for the most ungodly year of my life.
Ramadan quickly changed all of that. Needless to say, my decision to fast was not a religious one. It was a choice I made to support my beloved flatmate Anisah. With the name “Anisah” translating to “close”, “friendly” or a “pleasant companion”, she certainly embodies her name. Given we did everything together, it made perfect sense that I would fast with her.
In the same week, as COVID restrictions began to ease, I watched from my window as the country scurried to pubs and bars. I felt a bittersweet feeling, as I somehow knew that that part of my life was over.
But, as the narration goes:
“Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better for you.” (The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Musnad Aḥmad 23074)
Although it’s a cliché, during Ramadan, I was endowed with a gift that never left me, and a feeling that I had desperately craved — Peace.
Thus, whilst I started Ramadan fasting for a God I didn’t know, by the end of the month, I felt like He knew me, and that was more than enough.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of exploration yet to be done.
That year, I was honoured to spend both Eids with Anisah’s family. With their warmth, hospitality and generosity, the thought of Islam began to crystallise, and I bought myself my first Qur’an.
After a month of deliberating — knowing that opening the book would change my life — I eventually read it. It was the second chapter that struck me. There, I saw the name of Prophet Moses, Abraham, and Adam, the Prophets of my childhood. As I continued to read, the Qur’an felt like a more nuanced offering of Christianity. I found answers, not questions, as well as a harmonious feeling of fear and peace. This, I began to realise, was validation of my faith.
After this, there was only one question left, and that was “when?”. However, it was a question I ignored for months. I knew how much would change. I loved God, but at what cost? The cost of my relationships, my youth, my life? I was waiting for the perfect moment.
Then, in the middle of November, my childhood friend rang to let me know that a friend had passed away. Whilst I didn’t know him well, it was heart-wrenching news. Nineteen years old. I sat on my bed, contemplating the immanence of death, and how young he was.
Still, it made me recognise one significant thing:
There is no perfect moment.
The next week I took my shahadah.
– Sophie Johnson