In 1992, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was like an angel, I had never seen a more beautiful baby, and she seemed too good to be true. She was. In November of the same year, when baby Tina was just 5 months old, she died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as SIDS). I was devastated, and angry, I didn't understand how God could take my child when there were babies in the world who were suffering. At the funeral people assured me, "You'll see her in heaven someday." I would just say, "How do you know I'm going to heaven?" Well, I decided to set out to find the true religion, which would put me on the path to see my daughter again. Having been raised a Christian, I could no longer blindly accept the religion as I could before. I needed answers, I needed something to make sense. Every night for two years I would pray the same thing.
"Dear God. I know you already know what is in my heart, but I am hurting. You took away my baby when I wasn't looking. I didn't even get to say goodbye. I want to see her again. So, could you please show me the right path? The one you want me to take? I can't believe that Christianity is what you want of me. It doesn't make sense to me. So please show what the right religion is so I can get started. Thank you very much. Oh, and could you send me a Husband so I can have more babies? Thanks God, please take good care of my baby, tell her I love her and I miss her very much."
By the time I finished, I would be in tears. I studied many religions, but none could hold my interest. I began to think that God had forgotten about me, that he had more important things to do. Then one day, when I was working in a bar, I met another woman who worked there. We became friends, and she told me about her "Grand Plan". She asked me if I would go to Malaysia to set up an import / export contact for her. She couldn't leave her children behind, and she would pay me, plus cover all of my expenses. I said, "When do I leave?"
I got on the plane with only two suitcases, my purse and no knowledge of how I was going to accomplish my goals, let alone where I was going to stay. I was so excited! I arrived in Malaysia in the middle of Ramadan. Everyone was so nice to me, and I was so paranoid. I kept thinking people were going to mug me, or maybe something worse. But not only were they just being nice, they didn't want anything in return. Never have I met a more wonderful group of people than when I was in Malaysia. I asked the cab driver why everyone was in such a good mood, he said, "This is Ramadan, and whenever we do a good deed, Allah will reward us double." I said, "Cool God." At the hotel, I engaged in many arguments with the bell boys about which religion is better.
Islam vs. Christianity. I didn't win one fight. They asked me questions about my own religion I couldn't answer. And why on earth was I defending a religion I don't even believe in ???? They would take me out to eat, and not eat. The women wore long sleeves and scarves. If I lost my temper, they would only walk away.
This was too much. Every time I asked them why they did something, all they could say was "Because the Qur'an tells us to". Wrong answer for an American like me. That's like my mom telling me I could not stay up late "Because I said so". I needed concrete answers. So, with the help of a Malay friend, I bought a Qur'an, and a few other books about Islam. I locked myself in my room for two weeks. I would not come out for anything or anyone. I read the Qur'an and the books. After 48 hours I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had found what I had searched for. This is what God wants me to do. But there was one problem.
It wasn't Islam's view of Jesus. It wasn't even the fact that I would have to throw away every article of clothing I owned and start to wear an entirely different style of dress. The problem was how was I going to get my mother to accept the fact that I was a Muslim? I knew this was not going to be easy. I agonized over the decision, not able to eat, concentrate, or even sleep peacefully. The entire time I agonized I had the same nightmare, that an Angel had my child in her arms and there were devils (Jinn) after her. I spent all night fighting off these awful creatures. They wanted me to stay the way I saw, and the Angel wanted me to become a Muslim. They were fighting over me. I would wake up drenched with sweat and tears, and often bruised with no idea where the bruises came from. One night I was fighting this jinn and it scratched my face. I remember saying, "Oh, no you didn't! Don't you know better than to scratch a woman's face?" and I kicked it. Finally, after a night of fighting (two weeks of this), I woke up out of bed screaming, "Alright I will become a Muslim! I'll do it today!" I immediately felt the most incredible peace throughout my whole body. I had never felt anything like it before or since. I knew Allah was pleased with me.
I went downstairs to the bellboys who had worked so hard to turn me into a Muslim to announce that I was ready to "take the plunge" only to have them tell me "No"! They told me that Islam wasn't something to be taken lightly.
Once you become a Muslim, you are a Muslim for life. Then they said "Oh, what happened to your face?" I looked in the mirror and my face was scratched! I told them of my dreams and that was my first lesson about Jinn. Then they agreed that I should be a Muslim right away, and they took me to Perkim, a Muslim Organisation in Kuala Lumpur for new Muslims. I took my Shahadah on June 15, 1994.
I have never looked back since.
[SAFIYAH JOHNSON used to work with ISNA. She has recently moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA following her marriage on May 29, 1999.]