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A Higher Education
by Kristin Asha Patel
Some people dread the thought of going to school, but for me it has always brought joy to my life. Yet, I never imagined that an experience in college would change my life, and my faith forever.
I come from a family of religious pluralism. My father is Hindu, my mother is Mormon, my grandparents were protestant, my uncle is Sikh, and when I started at the University of Utah I was a devout Catholic. I know, religion overload. Thanks to God, I am now Muslim and this is my story.
My first semester at the University, I took a writing class where I was assigned a research paper that I could complete on any topic of my choosing. I had always been fascinated by other religions and really enjoyed reading about them.
I had heard of Islam but had no idea about the belief system of Muslims and was curious about its reputation of oppression toward women. Thus, it only seemed natural to fashion my paper around the role of women in Islam.
I had strong doubts about the popular belief that women were systematically oppressed with the support of mainstream Islamic teaching, and was determined to uncover the truth for myself.
I was on a mission, a mission to find anything and everything that would help me answer my questions.
I discovered a plethora of articles and books, some good, but some just as questionable as popular belief. I had a real dilemma on my hands; I needed a Muslim, a Muslim woman to talk to in the flesh. But where would I find one in Salt Lake City?
Right under my nose. I came to learn that a girl I sat next to almost every day while studying was Muslim, and she was not draped in black peering at me from behind a veil as I thought of most Muslim women. She was, however, modestly dressed and getting an education like everyone else.
She answered so many questions for me and I completed my paper with the satisfaction of knowing that Islam was a religion of peace, justice and equality for men and women. A seed had been planted and I wanted to know more.
A couple years went by and doubts were rising in my mind every day. I had stopped attending Sunday Mass and began to question the tenets of my Catholic faith.
Was Jesus the Son of God? Was Original Sin really passed on to each new baby? Had the Bible been tainted by man through the ages?
No one had ever suggested these things to me before; I was unsettled nonetheless. Only one thing was certain for me at that point, there was only one God.
A friend took me to Friday prayers and I will never forget the feeling I first had. I was scared at the thought that Islam may hold the answers to all my questions, yet felt peace and consolation when I heard the call to prayer.
I left that day with a copy of the Meaning of the Holy Quran and began to read it that very evening, unable to put it down. My heart was lifted and my mind at ease.
There was a place for Islam in my life and a life for me in Islam. I learned to pray and a few months later, on September 29th, 2001, I took Shahadah, the declaration of faith.
My life had changed, guided to Islam through the Grace and Mercy of Allah. Today I look back at my life and can say with all that I am, that Allah reveals knowledge to us when we are ready to accept it. We should strive each and every day to receive it.
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