127th and 6th Ave, that’s where it all began. I was about 13 years old and we were uptown (Harlem, NY for my non NYer’s) heading to my aunt’s apartment just a few blocks away. That was 27 years ago so I’m not going to even attempt to try to recall why we went up there from our house in Queens, but we were. As my mother drove down Malcolm X Blvd – 6th Ave…I saw them. The most beautiful brown-skinned women I had ever seen. It seemingly was a sea of them, all shades! All dressed in white standing in some sort of formation, with an equally large ocean of suited brothers flanking them on every side. The sistahs were glowing! As I took notice of them with my 13 or so year old brain, a peace came over me. They were peaceful, their skin was flawless and glowing, and they were so valued that they were cocooned by some of the most sexy Black men I had ever seen…before my husband of course!
I quickly asked my mother who they were and she, with a wave of her left hand said, “Oh. Those are Muslims.” That was the first time I ever remember hearing that word. Muslim. Muslim. Yes! Muslim! That moment is when my love affair with “The Muslims” began.
Growing up in church was different. The warmth and peace that I felt and saw in the few moments “those Muslims” were in my sight, was something I had never experienced prior to that moment. Church was what I was taught to do and believe but it was never in my spirit. It was never my peace of mind or spiritual centering space. Well, the one thing that I did enjoy about church was the music. The beat of that drum and the clang of that organ along with the voices of 25 men and women harmonizing, come on, you already know what it is! Music was a part of me before I even knew who I was. The music was the thing that gave me hope when attending church service. Outside of the gospel music, the words and teachings didn’t move me. In fact, some of it just didn’t make sense to me. As a logical person, I took issue with the belief that Jesus was God BUT he kneeled and prayed to God too? You see my point? If Jesus is God, who was he praying too? I tried during my teen years, in college, and again in the military to find the peace that I felt when I saw the Muslims with no success. No matter what church I attended, beyond the music, there was no connection.
I laugh to myself as I recall that time in college down in Louisiana when my friend invited me to her church. It was an Apostolic church. We went for revival one weeknight and I saw him coming. The preacher had just delivered his sermon. The church goers were all fired up, but I wasn’t. He locked eyes with me and began heading my way. In my mind I was thinking, this dude better not be coming my way as I looked behind me. Well, sure as the day is long he found his way to me. Screaming and shouting in tongues, he placed his hand on my head! He kept forcing my head back as if he wanted my body to fall to the ground in a rash of convulsions as the folks before me had. I stood firm. I was not moved! My voice did not waver, nor did my knees buckle. After about 10 minutes he gave up. The church nurses who had gathered around me with a blanket waiting for me to fall to the floor slowly moved away as well. The service went on and I went back to my dorm room. It was at that moment that I made the decision to learn more about Islam. I wanted more. I needed more!
Islam was that more for me. The first time I walked into Mosque No. 7 a sense of peace fell over me and that peacefulness frightened me. It was such an unfamiliar feeling! As long as I had been a Christian, never once had I felt at peace. Never once had my whole body reacted to being in that sacred space as it had when I entered the Mosque for the 1st time. The smell of the incense, the kindness of the brothers guarding the doors, the smiles and hugs from the sisters, and the reading of the Quran and Bible. Every bit of that experience was 100% what my spirit had been seeking…or so I thought! It took some time before I realized that the NOI wasn’t exactly what I was seeking. What is was, was the catalyst needed for me to come to learn the truth of Islam and make the decision to accept Islam as my way of life.
As I walked along the 15 year road to accepting Islam, I learned so much about myself. I learned to be patient, to persevere, to keep my intentions pure, and to keep the faith even when I felt as though the bottom was about to fall out. I tell anyone who asks…Islam is what made me who I am. No question! Prior to accepting Islam I felt lost on many levels.
The day that I made the decision to leave my past life behind me was monumental. It was a few short weeks after I purchased my newest prized possession, my Quran. I remember walking into the Masjid and telling one of the sisters, a random sister who I had never seen prior to that moment and whom I have never seen again that I wanted to take Shahadah. She led me into the Musallah and called on the Imam. He came over to me and asked me to have a seat. There were many children playing about so he raised his voice just enough for me to hear him over the child’s play. I repeated after him, word for word for about 1 minute. When I was done he said,
“You are now Muslim and all of your sins have been forgiven. AsSalaamu Alaikum!”
Several women came over to me and offered the greeting. A young sister, maybe 14 or 15 years old said, “You need to pray. Come on.” She led me to the bathroom and guided me through making wudu (the act of wudu consists of washing the face and the fore-arms, and wiping the head and the feet. These six parts of human body -face, both fore-arms, head and both feet are known as “the organs of wudu”). and then she led me in making my 1st salat (Salah is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim) as a true Muslim woman. The only way to describe it is to say it was magical! I had goose bumps and chills, my shoulders felt so light, and the smile on my face came from deep in my soul! Those who know me prior to Islam, know my journey was full of hills, valleys, and storms. My life began when I became Muslim!
Interested in learning ore about Islam? Here you go: