Guest post by: Jessenia Ortiz. She works as an editorial manager for a electronic publishing company. When she is not working she likes to spend time with her family, her 3yr old and her husband. Sister Jessie is pursuing hifdhs and spends most of her time memorizing the Quran. She enjoys traveling, and her last big trip was umrah.
I read a novel entitled “If I should speak” by Umm Zakiyah. This book contains some ayahs of the Quran and Hadiths woven into the story. That novel led me to read the English translation of the Quran, which eventually led to me taking my shahada.
The author included the hadith that says:
“O evil soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allaah.’ Then his soul disperses in his body and is dragged out like a skewer being pulled out of wet wool…”
This shook me to my core. For 3 days it was all I kept thinking about. I couldn’t believe my God could do something like that (although I did feel inside myself that it was true). After that, I told myself I have to find out what else is in that book, so started reading the Quran.
My journey towards “finding” Allah (the Arabic word for God) really started early around age 5. That was when my grandmother taught me how to pray. I did include intermediaries in my prayers but I always wondered why I couldn’t pray to Allah directly. I never understood the 3 in 1 God. (Alhamdulillah).
I grew up going to Catholic school and attending church with my grandmother. I learned about the Prophets, perhaps because we were children we were not taught all the negative things that the Bible says about them. I still remember that when I was little, going to Catholic school, I wanted to grow up and be a nun. They seemed so close to Allah. I use to sit in church asking (God) Allah to help me love that religion, if it was the right one. I always wondered why do we say “Thank you God for your son our lord”; why not worship the one that created the “son”?
The first time I was exposed to Islam was actually in my global studies class in high school. Ironically, it was a Jewish teacher who told us about Islam. Alhamdulilah, he presented it clearly, he said Muslims face the Kabah 5 times a day and pray. He even told us how they prostrated on the floor to pray. I thought to myself, if there is anyway to pray to God that is the best way. Unbeknownst to me, while my teacher was telling us about Islam in school, my older sister was also learning about Islam. She would become Muslim that year; it would take me 13 more years to enter into Islam.
My sister did her best to explain Islam to me and in my mind I couldn’t see the difference from what I believed and what she believed. At that point, I had started praying to Allah directly. I still remember that I would say to Allah “I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you”.
As the years passed my sister and her husband would always try to give me dawah (invitation to Islam) but it always seemed that I would have to stop believing in all the prophets (peace be upon them) and believe in a new prophet–Muhammad (peace be upon him). I just couldn’t give them up. Yet, they tried their best but guidance is in the hands of Allah alone.
After some years my sister and her husband moved to MD and put their children in a school called Al Huda. When I asked them what the name of the school meant they said “guidance to the straight path.” After learning that, I always use to pray “Lord, guide me to the straight path“. It was during one of those visits to MD that I my oldest niece just gave me the new novel written by a sister from their community. She gave me the novel, and a copy of the Quran in English. She didn’t say much except “maybe you’ll find it interesting.” I read the novel and didn’t really feel connected, but when I got to hadith quoted within the story (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) it all changed. While the story was from the imagination of the author, the Hadith and the Quranic ayat were real. In my heart felt “this is the truth” so it led me to read the Quran.
I, then, started reading the English translation of the Quran. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. I had tried to read the Bible but every time I tried, I kept falling asleep (literally on the book). As I read the meaning of the Quran it just confirmed what I already believed. The Quran told the stories for all the prophets and told the stories of the most upright men in history including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them).
When I use to read ayat that refer to the disbelievers I use to wonder who those people where. My sister broke the news to me that I was the disbeliever. Finally, I was getting ready to say the shahada but I was still weary. It was a couple years after 9/11 and I just didn’t want to be associated with people who could do something like that. My sister gave me the best advice. She said “the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”
I took my shahada on October 3, 2004. It was the same night that Muhammad Alshareef (founder of Al Maghrib Institute) gave his farewell speech at Al Huda school. I still remember him saying “There is only one way towards God. Sometimes you stumble upon the truth. You have a choice you can take it or you can dust yourself off and walk away”. I called my sister after the lecture was over and I took my shahada over the phone with the whole family.
When I look back I think, Subhannallah, Allah is the best of planners. He planned out my path so perfectly. There were and are so many tiny details along the way from before Islam up until now. I always make dua that Allah let keeps me on the straight path and never lets me go astray. Ameen.