11. Ms. Natassia M Kelly
raised to believe in God from childhood. I attended church nearly every Sunday,
went to Bible school, and sang in the choir. Yet religion was never a really
big part of my life. There were times when I thought myself close to God. I
often prayed to him for guidance and strength in times of despair or for a wish
in times of want. But I soon realized that this feeling of closeness soon
evaporated when I was no longer begging God for something. I realized that I
even though I believed, I lacked faith.
I perceived the world
to be a game in which God indulged in from time to time. He inspired people to
write a Bible and somehow people were able to find faith within this Bible. As
I grew older and became more aware of the world, I believed more in God. I
believed that there had to be a God to bring some order to the chaotic world.
If there were no God, I believed the world would have ended in utter anarchy
thousands of years ago. It was comfort to me to believe there was a supernatural
force guiding and protecting man.
Children usually assume
their religion from parents. I was no different. At the age of 12, I began to
give in depth thinking to my spirituality. I realized there was a void in my
life where a faith should be. Whenever I was in need or despair, I simply
prayed to someone called Lord. But who was this Lord truly? I once asked my
mother who to pray to, Jesus or God. Believing my mother to be right, I prayed
to Jesus and to him I attributed all good things. I have heard that religion
cannot be argued. My friends and I tried to do this many times. I often had
debates with my friends about Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism. Through
these debates I searched within myself more and more and decided I should do
something about my emptiness. And so at the age of 13, I began my search for
Humankind is always in
constant pursuit of knowledge or the truth. My search for truth could not be
deemed as an active pursuit of knowledge. I continued having the debates, and I
read the Bible more. But it did not really extend from this. During this period
of time my mother took notice of my behavior and from then on I have been in a
"religious phase." My behavior was far from a phase. I simply shared
my newly gained knowledge with my family. I learned about the beliefs,
practices, and doctrines within Christianity and minimal beliefs and practices
A few months within my
search I realized that if I believe in Christianity I believed myself to be
condemned to Hell. Not even considering the sins of my past, I was on a
"one way road to Hell" as southern ministers tend to say. I could not
believe all the teachings within Christianity. However, I did try. I can
remember many times being in church and fighting with myself during the Call to
Discipleship. I was told that by simply confessing Jesus to be my Lord and
Savior I would be guaranteed eternal life in Heaven. I never did walk down the
aisle to the pastor's outstretched hands, and my reluctance even increased my fears
of heading for Hell. During this time I was at unease. I often had alarming
nightmares, and I felt very alone in the world.
But not only did I lack
belief but I had many questions that I posed to every knowledgeable Christian I
could find and never really did receive a satisfactory answer. I was simply
told things that confused me even more. I was told that I am trying to put
logic to God and if I had faith I could simply believe and go to Heaven. Well,
that was the problem: I did not have faith. I did not believe. I did not really
believe in anything. I did believe there was a God and that Jesus was his son
sent to save humankind. That was it. My questions and reasoning did, however,
exceed my beliefs. The questions went on and on. My perplexity increased. My
uncertainty increased. For fifteen years I had blindly followed a faith simply
because it was the faith of my parents. Something happened in my life in which
the little faith I did have decreased to all but nothing. My search came to a
stop. I no longer searched within myself, the Bible. or church. I had given up
for a while. I was a very bitter person until one day a friend gave me a book.
It was called "The Muslim-Christian Dialogue."
I took the book and
read it. I am ashamed to say that during my searching never did I once consider
another religion. Christianity was all I knew, and I never thought about
leaving it. My knowledge of Islam was very minimal. In fact, it was mainly
filled with misconception and stereotypes. The book surprised me. I found that
I was not the only one who believed there was a simply a God. I asked for more
books. I received them as well as pamphlets. I learned about Islam from an
intellectual aspect. I had a close friend who was Muslim and I often asked her
questions about the practices. Never did I once consider Islam as my faith.
Many things about Islam alienated me. After a couple months of reading the
month of Ramadan began. Every Friday I joined the local Muslim community for
the breaking of the fast and the reciting of the Quran. I posed questions that
I may have come across to the Muslim girls. I was in awe at how someone could
have so much certainty in what they believed and followed. I felt myself drawn
to the religion that alienated me. Having believed for so long that I was
alone, Islam did comfort me in many ways. Islam was brought as a reminder to
the world. It was brought to lead the people back to the right path.
Beliefs were not the
only thing important to me. I wanted a discipline to pattern my life by. I did
not just want to believe someone was my savior and through this I held the
ticket to Heaven. I wanted to know how to act to receive the approval of God. I
wanted a closeness to God. I wanted to be God-conscious. Most of all I wanted a
chance for heaven. I began to feel that Christianity did not give this to me,
but Islam did. I continued learning more. I went to the Eid celebration and jumua and weekly classes with my friends. Through religion one receives peace
of mind. A calmness about them. This I had off and on for about three years.
During the off times I was more susceptible to the temptations of Satan. In
early February of 1997 I came to the realization that Islam was right and true.
However, I did not want to make any hasty decisions. I did decide to wait.
Within this duration the temptations of Satan increased. I can recollect two
dreams in which he was a presence. Satan was calling me to him. After I awoke
from these nightmares I found solace in Islam. I found myself repeating the Shahadah. These dreams almost made me change my
mind. I confided them in my Muslim friend. She suggested that maybe Satan was
there to lead me from the truth. I never thought of it that way.
On March 19, 1997 after
returning from a weekly class, I recited the Shahadah to myself. Then on March 26, I recited it before witnesses and became
an official Muslim. I cannot express the joy I felt. I cannot express the
weight that was lifted from my shoulders. I had finally received my peace of
mind. It has been about five months since I recited the Shahadah. Islam has made me a better person. I am
stronger now and understand things more. My life has changed significantly. I
now have purpose. My purpose is to prove myself worthy of eternal life in Jannah. I have my long sought after faith.
Religion is a part of me all the time. I am striving everyday to become the
best Muslim I can be. People are often amazed at how a fifteen year old can
make such an important decision in life. I am grateful that Allah blessed me
with my state of mind that I was able to find it so young.
Striving to be a good
Muslim in a Christian dominated society is hard. Living with a Christian family
is even harder. However, I do not try to get discouraged. I do not wish to
dwell on my present predicament, but I believe that my jihad is simply making
me stronger. Someone once told me that I am better off than some people who
were born into Islam, in that I had to find, experience, and realize the
greatness and mercy of Allah. I have acquired the reasoning that seventy years
of life on earth is nothing compared to eternal life in Paradise. I must admit
that I lack the aptitude to express the greatness, mercy, and glory of Allah. I
hope my account helped others who may feel the way I felt or struggle the way I
salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahee wa barakatuhu,