My "Back Story" - as per request.
I was born to the most beautiful soul of a woman that has ever graced this planet: my momma. She was a single mother and worked incredibly hard to be my mother and my father at the same time. We lived in a suburb of Cleveland/Akron, Ohio. When I was thirteen, my mom passed away. I was heartbroken and numb and could not understand how any higher power could “do this to me.” I lived more or less on my own from that age. I learned to grow up REAL quick. Because of that, I never had time to think about religion because I was too busy worrying about how I was going to make it through another day of high school life.
I learned about Christianity growing up and I wanted to love it, but it just didn't make sense to me personally. I couldn’t understand how God could be three in one. I LOVED the big guy, but had some questions about the other two. I always felt like there was some power greater than me that helped me get through the loss of my mother and the struggles that then ensued. When I asked questions about the trinity, no one could ever answer them for me to give me the “warm fuzzies” I was looking for. So, in college, I started searching. I learned about all the isms: Buddhism. Hinduism. Judaism. Taoism. I wanted to love one of them, but I just didn’t.
I never thought about Islam, because, well, I watched CNN and I knew I was not down with violence or hurting people and that’s all Muslims ever seem to do! I made a Muslim friend through mutual friends, and after a long friendship, this friend shared with me a small chapter of Quran. It’s called Surah Ad Duha. I’ll wait here while you Google it.
I’ll paraphrase, but it says that Your Lord has never left you and never hated you. The next life is going to be better than this one. God will satisfy you. Then, it goes on to say the words that hit home to me, “Did He not find you an orphan and give you refuge? And He found you lost and guided you. And He found you poor and made you self-sufficient. (Quran 93:6-8). The biggest mistake of my life was opening this email that I received with these words in the middle of my college library. I cried an UGLY cry. None of that cutesy solitary tear bologna. Mascara running, throat closing cry. Warm fuzzies is the understatement of the century.
But, my CNN brain knew that the Quran had crazy stuff inside it! I saw the verses they flashed. I saw the crazy killers. I knew they took their “inspiration” from somewhere (spoiler alert: it’s their own crazy “interpretations," not our religion). So, I bought my own Quran and started reading to find the crazy parts to argue to my friend. I found no crazy. I found what I had always been looking for. I read this book cover to cover within a month. I would read it till 3 in the morning. I would cry constantly. My Google search history probably put me on a permanent watch list.
Yep, I found those CNN phrases, but when I read them in context, they were not crazy at all. And, they make up maybe .05% of the entire book. Also, I found those same things when I revisited the Bible and Torah as well.
So, after learning how to pray correctly and making sure I was really ready for this new life (side note: my "past life" was not nearly as wild or exciting as most people think - there were no body shots, no hard drugs, no nude photos), I took my shahada, or declaration of faith, on May 27, 2011. I wore hijab full-time a few months later. I started learning Arabic - I’m not fluent, but I’m pretty good for a white chick. I learned about all the different cultures that embrace Islam, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Morocco, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, and, my home of Saudi Arabia. I conditioned myself to say “Allah” instead of “God,” which is just the Arabic word for THE God, as in the One and Only. I learned to love Jesus for all of the blessings and knowledge that were bestowed upon him from God (OH EM GEE - We believe in Jesus!) And, to date, not a day has gone by that I didn’t learn something new about religion.
I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated to pursue my real estate career and get out of small-town Ohio where people were not down with the Muslim folk, or the black folk, or any folk that was different than their own folk. Los Angeles was so captivating and such a diverse and beautiful city. I was successful and happy for the most part, but hearing negative comments one too many times made me feel the need to get out of the States. After searching long and hard, I found a position in Saudi Arabia that could hire me as a single American 24-year-old, and I came. I’ve been here a little over a year now and I’m enjoying my time. God made such a beautiful world and I want to explore it in the time He gives me - but I have every intention to raise my family in Saudi. I would say that I have been embraced here by natives. Many of my friends were from here before I moved here and they prepared me for the “culture shock.”
In every part of the world there is good and bad. In my opinion, God made the world that way so that we would know that perfection is with Him in Heaven and so we would treat this as our temporary home. Imagine! Carrie Underwood was right after all!
In my twenty-five years of life, I have learned many beautiful lessons. My public service announcement to the world would be this: we are all brothers and sisters under the same God. Or, brothers and sisters in this world, if you prefer. I wish that we all learned to treat each other this way - as a family. Prophet Muhammad taught us to love for our brothers what we love for ourselves. And, I won’t shut up until I see just that - in all cultures, religions, races. Until then, I’ll just be here milking some camels.