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Nothing is impossible for Allah

Bismillah ar-Rahman ir-Raheem


By Sister Alyssa
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If you had told me 2 years ago I would be a Muslim today, I wouldn't have believ
ed you.
My parents raised me with no religion. I remember, as a child, being mortified w
ith embarrassment whenever I had to set foot in a church. I couldn't even look a
t books about religion for fear someone would see me. Somewhere I got the idea t
hat is was shameful to be religious. I think it was all that kneeling I'd see Ch
ristians doing. Why were they humbling themselves in front of someone who obviou
sly wasn't there? I couldn't understand it. And I suspected that the Christians
didn't understand it either. At least the kids didn't. They just repeated the we
ird old words out of the Bible as if they were programmed zombies. I was glad I
wasn't part of a religious family. I hated to eat dinner at relatives' houses wh
en they would say "grace." I never knew what to do with my hands, and I was asha
med to bow my head to something I didn't understand or believe in.

I think it was the Tao Te Ching which first opened my heart to religious thinkin
g, when I was about 15. This book, which I stumbled upon in the library, was so
different from shameful Christianity that it seemed "safe" to read. I also explo
red Buddhism around the same time. My father told me these were philosophies, no
t religions. All the same, the concept of "nirvana" or "enlightenment" stirred s
omething in me which I later classified as the rudimentary beginnings of spiritu
al feelings in my life.

Then when I was around 16 I was watching a physics program on PBS about the Crea
tion of the Universe. There was a moment during this show when I had a bit of a
revelation. It suddenly occurred to me that God was everywhere, in everything, s
omehow. I imagined he was in the nucleus of every atom, perhaps. I was captivate
d by the "All in One, One in All" idea, and for the first time grasped the notio
n that there is a Unity that ties together all the loose pieces of our lives int
o a coherent whole; we may not understand or even see the wholeness of our lives
, but God does, because God is so intimately intertwined with everything, and ye
t stands outside our world like the author of a book.

From here it was a short step for me to become interested in Gnostic Christianit
y, Hasidic Judaism, and Sufi Islam. It was the mystical traditions which attract
ed me, because they seemed to seek the Truth behind the Mask. Also, the mystical
thinking challenged me to use my mind to "find" God, rather than require me to
just blindly follow the steps of others and recite zombie-like some ancient word
s that seemed to have no relevance for my life as a young American living in the
20th century.
I remember the first day I picked up the Bible and tried to read it. I was in hi
gh school I think. I expected to hate it and disagree with it and find fuel in m
y fight against "mainstream" Christianity. To my surprise, I found that the word
s of Jesus made sense to me. I later met a man who wore a big crucifix who told
me, basically, that "Jesus was a really wonderful man, but the Church distorted
his teachings." This echoed what I had suspected, and I was fascinated because I
realized that perhaps many Christians believed in that religion because of Jesu
s himself, and in spite of the Church.

I began to learn that all religions had, at their root, an Essence that was univ
ersal. Yahweh and God and Allah were the same. Buddhist nirvana was like Realiza
tion of the Oneness of all life in God. The clearest expression of this Oneness
was best described for me in the poems of Islamic Sufi mystics like Jallaludin R
umi. I began to have romantic notions about joining a Sufi order, but felt tied
down by my obligation to finish college. In addition, I didn't see how I could p
ossibly be a Muslim, which was of course a requirement for being a Sufi. I could
n't see myself kneeling and praying and all that. I still didn't understand what
prayer meant really.

When I looked at the history of religious thinking on Earth, I came up with a ce


rtain theory about humankind. In the beginning, there was only darkness. This is
like the void before the creation of the universe, or the nothingness of un-con
sciousness. And then...there was light! Now we are conscious, awake. We can see
things, we can discern dark from light, good from evil. This is like eating from
the Tree of Knowledge. Our human-ness is based on our ability to distinguish al
l these opposites, and trying to find a balance. Taoism is the balancing of thes
e opposites. Hinduism is trying to find Unity in Multiplicity. Buddhism is the r
ealization of our impermanence in this world. And then came the monotheistic tra
ditions. These represented, in my mind, a full flowering of spirituality, becaus
e for the first time people seemed to realize that it was one God who created th
em all, as well as the whole universe. We are all part of a big Unity. Judaism,
Christianity and Islam all share a common heritage. They all share a belief in t
he One God who created us.

I later learned that all the thousands of prophets mentioned in the Old and New
Testaments, and the Final Testament (the Qur'an) are all speaking about the same
religion, the religion which calls us to worship Allah, the One God! Prophet Mo
hammed is the final messenger of Allah. The Religion for Humanity was perfected
in the ways and practices of Islam, which are explained in the Qur'an and by the
Prophet Mohammed.

But for a few years, I didn't study much religion. I thought that I was too cyni
cal to ever be truly religious. I was an art student, and was cultivating an obs
erver's outlook on life. When I graduated, I concentrated my efforts on learning
how be a responsible citizen, to have a full time job and an apartment to take
care of. Then my interest in Islam was sparked again by seeing an issue of Gnosi
s magazine which featured articles on Sufism. I also read the book "The History
of God," which really put Islam in a positive light, as the culmination of the h
istory of the One God. I also started reading the Usenet news group forum soc.re
ligion.islam, through the Internet, and was fascinated by some of the discussion
s there.
Then I felt compelled to buy a copy of the Qur'an, the Ahmed Ali English transla
tion. When I first started reading this, I started to get a really good feeling
and I felt like something in me was changing and would never be the same again.
There were so many things in Islam and the Qur'an which I felt drawn to, and cou
ld see that for years my life seemed to be building up to these moments. I had a
lready quit alcohol for other reasons, and was trying to avoid pork for health r
easons. I had always been modest, especially as a child, and I had been wearing
scarves and hats on my head on and off for years. I could see how the trees and
mountains were already Muslim, and how we are all born Muslim but later make a c
hoice to turn towards Islam or away from it. It all made so much sense, somehow.
When I read the words of Allah in the Qur'an I felt as if He had been reading m
y mind!

I looked hard at my life and realized I was basically a twentysomething armchair


philosoph, surrounded by Slackers and cynics, and clinging to books and music a
s facsimiles of the life I was meant to live. I spent my spare time playing vide
o games, and fantasizing about being a different kind of person. I had a deep ye
arning to actually DO something with my life, but until now had no motivation.

When I took shahada and became a Muslim, I suddenly felt I had a Purpose, and th
at was to worship Allah, do what He asked us to do, and avoid what He told us to
avoid. And by the miracle of Allah, when I did my best to achieve this goal, I
started to find that other things came easy now too. Through the strength of All
ah, I was able to leave my boyfriend, quit my job and move across the country to
start a new life as part of a Muslim community. I have had incredible success i
n finding jobs and an apartment, and feel like I have been blessed with good for
tune because of my striving for Allah. And when things don't go the way I would
have wanted them to, I realize that Allah has other plans for me, and if I suffe
r at all, there is a reason for it and a lesson to be learned from it. If someth
ing is not easy for me I try to see it as a challenge, and goal in my new, more
complete attempt at becoming a better person.

Before Islam came into my life, I was obsessed with the idea of "self-improvemen
t" and I tried to do this through eating healthy foods, exercising, and so on. B
ut something was missing, and that was the spiritual aspect. In addition, I foun
d that different health books contradicted each other. There was no one I could
trust to give me complete truth about what was best for me. Now I feel that Alla
h is like the best of doctors. He knows what is best for you, and gives you exer
cises to do, like prayer and fasting and charity. If you do what He says, you wi
ll be helping yourself, and if you don't listen, you will be hurting yourself. I
slam also made me realize that there is more to life than our physical bodies.

Islam is the only religion I've found that intertwines the spiritual with the ph
ysical, everyday world. We are not supposed to deny our bodies, by living an asc
etic life of celibacy, starvation, and flagellation. Yet we do not worship the t
hings of this life, like celebrities, cars, money, career, or government leaders
. It is not so arcane and intellectual that the average person can not understan
d it, yet not so rote and ritualistic that you have to leave your brains at the
door to be Muslim. Islam is for Everybody: it is not so based on one culture tha
t you have to totally abandon your heritage in order to practice it.
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Allahu Akbar (God is Great),
Sister Alyssa
tzhre@tzhre.seanet.com