Sister Soljah
June 09, 2004

I'm finally in the mood to write, rather than just doing what i have to do. I got another freelance assignment today...always a good feeling for me. Starting editing a book for a friend (Yes, finally I've been working on it.) and even did a little writing of my own.

Spiritually I'm in a peak too. I've been reading the Quran (partly for the editing, but then continuing to read after finding what i needed), and other Islamic books. I was so overwhelmed for a while with everything that I kind of dropped it all at one time. Since getting an English-only-Quran and not having to worry about all the rules about Wudu for reading the Quran, etc. I find it easier to pick up. That's a problem for me. I used to read the Quran everyday and carried it with me everyday to work. Then someone said "You can't do that." "You can't carry it in your bag with all your other stuff and you can't read it without doing Wudu." I became afraid of reading it. Now I have it online and in English form so I feel a little less restricted, and therefore am picking it up often once again. The English only version does seem to lack the sacredness of the big one I have with Arabic and English though.

I've also been reading Nahjul Balagha a bit and some others. I just finished this book that Masooma loaned me... Very good book. The writer is an American convert and touched on some issues that I have been having and thought I was alone in, but apparently most converts go through. I guess most of my friends converted so long ago, and they appear to me to be perfect Islamic examples, I didn't realize that they probably also struggled in the beginning too, although you'd never know it talking to them.

So, a few things from the book (J. Lynn Jones "Believing as Ourselves")that I really liked:

from Jeffrey Lang's foreword (His book is also very good...Struggling to Surrender):

"...converts sometimes naively expect that since the subculture they have entered into is more overtly religious, its members should be less prone to human failings. They soon discover otherwise..."

I had this feeling when converting and was shocked when I saw otherwise (I am thinking of Ashura), until someone said to me - "Islam is the perfect reigion, with the most imperfect followers."

also from the foreword:

"Most converts follow a certain characteristic path, beginning with initial fervor, followed by extreme conservatism, followed by confusion and despondency. For some the third phase is the first step towards further soul-searching, personal healing, and a deeper faith, but for others it signals their eventual departure from Islam. Many converts speak of feeling spiritually disengaged during this period, of being unable to experience the divine closeness that they had known earlier in their conversion, even though in all outward respects their behavior is in full keeping with community norms."

This really hit me because it's exactly where I'm at. I could never ever dream of leaving Islam. Once you find the truth, how can you turn your back on it, let alone God? I can't. But I have found myself frustrated, not wanting to go to the mosque, not wanting to pray - but still doing so, where when i first converted, I couldn't wait to pray and would often become emotional while doing so and I loved going to the mosque. I put my heart and soul into praying and now it seems that it's something to be done, rather than a want. I've been trying to get back where I was before, but it hasn't been easy.

This quote from the book really struck me:

"The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself." - Mark Twain

I can't tell you how many times I've told this to my closest friend. I have said over and over "I don't know who I am anymore." It's true. I miss swimming. I don't mind hijab, but I'm not exactly comfortable in it. Not because of what it looks like, but because of comfort and my active lifestyle. I miss throwing on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, a baseball hat and hitting the mountains for a day of hiking. Putting on pants in hot weather, a long shirt, and hijab drains my enthusiasm to often even go outside. At times I'm happy to wear it and proud, but it has really affected my lifestyle, and ironically those times i felt closest to God before converting (in the outdoors exploring His artistry) are now unattractive to me because of hijab - it makes me lazy. Also, humidity of my new home doubly makes me want to hide out inside instead of outdoors where I feel closer to God. Inside is so material and unreal, where outside is His creation, not man's. I miss it, but I can't take the heat in hijab. It's a big issue of mine as far as comfort goes, because the person I naturally am would be outside enjoying life instead of hiding out inside. Eating halaal, praying, and everything else is easy and I feel fine doing it although. Eating halaal is a pain sometimes, when you just want to grab something meaty and quick, but that is much easier than hijab as it doesn't make me uncomfortable.

She made a really good point though. We HAVE to keep a part of ourselves. And decide what style of dress (long shirt versus abaya, etc) we feel comfortable and ourselves in. This is where I wonder about hijab. I do feel it is important to wear it, but what about when it stops us from living or feeling ourselves to the point of giving up most of what makes us up as a person? I try to think about whether I am a better Muslim wearing it or not wearing it. I remember my first days as a Muslim - putting it on to see Muslim friends, taking it off when at work, putting it on to pray, etc - and gave up and decided to wear it always. Now that it's summer, I'm hating it and I feel like a hermit instead of the person I used to be.

"I finally realized that, despite all the talk about God and Islam I had participated in and listened to over the last few years, it had been about God - abstract, distant, and distinctly foreboding. My once very real, personal, and comforting, experience with God that had led me to Islam in the first place had been lost."

Yup. I agree fully with this statement. Although it's only been under a year for me to get here.

She also talks about how we as converts start trying to please the born Muslims so they will consider us real Muslims. Like we are fake ones unless they believe we are real. It is a problem though. Many born Muslims don't consider converts real Muslims. Most think we marry into Islam, even if we aren't married. It makes me want to rebel and never marry so they can't say it. But even this though shows how much I still want to please and/or prove myself to other Muslims. She reemphasizes that we entered Islam to be close to Allah, and we should remember that pleasing other Muslims doesn't make us Muslim, it just gives us unneeded stress. And we end up bringing these people to our minds when we pray instead of God. We think more of them than God. I didn't realize how much I did that until reading it.

The book goes into other good topics, but these are the passages that really struck a cord with me and lifted me out of my spiritual hump. I'm still not ready to go to the mosque here...not ready for a new community's question session just yet. That will have to wait still. I hate the why questions. Only because the answers aren't simple and it's quite personal really.

And the really good news of the day: I have begun kicking my worst habit. Not trying. I'm actually using reinforcements and I've called on Allah to help.
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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A recent convert to Islam...finally found what I was searching for. I am a writer and love to read and learn. I also love travelling and getting to know new cultures and ways of thinking.

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