Date of Release :

story of Islam and me

My name is Lyndsey-Yazmeen Koenig; I am 17 years old and I live in Maine in the northeastern United States of America. I have been a Muslim since September 18th, 2001. This is my story of Islam and me.

According to rahyafte (the missionaries and converts website)

my name is Lyndsey-Yazmeen Koenig; I am 17 years old and I live in Maine in the northeastern United States of America. I have been a Muslim since September 18th, 2001. This is my story of Islam and me. “Jewish people celebrate Hanukah and are a different religion than us – different from Christianity. Judaism and Christianity are the two main religions we should focus on…” As a teacher of mine from ninth grade reported to me I knew nothing of Islam. Nine years in Public School and didn’t hear one word about Islam. To be honest with you up until 9\11 I have never seen a hijaabed woman.

“It seems as though this was a terror attack aimed at the U.S.A. by someone or something that hated us simply hated us.” It was the day after 9\11 and I was watching the news, as I have done nonstop since then, and I heard about ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims.’ I sat there wondering what they were. Right then I felt a string being pulled inside my brain sending a wave to my fingers telling me, “research, research, and research!” This happens to me a lot, I owe much of my knowledge to this reflex, which I adore so much. So the string was pulled letting the dam of knowledge came rushing towards me.

I run to the bathroom, bedroom find the comfiest pair of clothes I have preparing myself for a long day of reading and research. Grab a cup of coffee and put my long hair in it’s famous ‘rats nest’ on the top of my head. Turn the computer on and get

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comfy in the leather chair. Cold to the touch, but comforting like my pilot’s chair on my way to wisdom. I proceed to the search engine Dad has raved about; I type in ‘Muslim’ and press the magic ‘go’ key! My eyes fill with colors of red, white, blue – letters of ‘m’, ‘i’ – Links! Links! Links! Which to chose, they’re all so beautiful!? There are the regular sites…then there are the exceptional sites! The first one I ventured into was www.islamonline.net taught me the basics but I still yearned for more. I continued to visit numerous websites but I still couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to talk to a young Muslim girl my age. It took me about a week of serious searching and scaling almost all of the internet (probably, LoL) to find an e-mail pen pal site. Now the real story begins.

I filed my pen-pal form on the site writing, ‘Non-Muslim seeking to speak with Muslim young woman to find out more about Islam’ and hoped for the best. Within three days I received an e-mail from a young woman named Maryam who is a born Muslim, but her mom is a revert. Maryam and I began talking just about school, family, friends, and our problems. We became very close friends, almost sisters. As I was continuing to watch the American Media, which I would later find out is very bias, and usually sides with the Jewish people, I had more and more questions on Islam. Except this time I actually had someone to ask the specific questions to. The first question I asked was ‘Do u think UBL did this?’ and she kind of avoided my question (which I later found out why and will explain) so I went on. The next question was about the scarf (hijaab); she answered me with unwavering attention and precision. The hijaab was the hardest thing to put into action for me (I will explain later). But Maryam (bless her soul) did her best and told me everything she could – and what she couldn’t she gave me URL’s which I could read more information if I wanted. Then there were the rules about boyfriends, pork, and more. The rules

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weren’t the things that caught my attention, it was the benefits, love, structure, discipline, and most of all spirituality. I was never religious before Islam. I went to church maybe a total of five times in my life. My mother grew up in a strict Roman Catholic family in New Hampshire with 6 children. My father grew up in a Protestant\Atheist household – really not practicing ever once. So our religious life in the Koenig family was not very strong. I can remember going to church as a child and hating it. The other times I can only remember are funerals and weddings. I just remember listening to the Priests babble on and on never made sense to me. Once in a great while when I was feeling low I would read some of the Bible but always felt like it was a boggled mess that was so difficult to understand and comprehend. Not just that but it didn’t make sense to me at all. Before Islam I always felt like there was a big chunk of my heart missing yet I didn’t know what it was.

“So, how do I convert?” I asked Maryam on an early fall day. “Take the shaada.” I took the shaada. Now I am a Muslim. The date is September 18th, 2001. My heart felt full, I felt I have a purpose, life inside me to live.

I went to good ol’ Wal-Mart and bought some plain handkerchiefs – blue, red, green, and pink. I decided to wear these as my souped up version of makeshift hijaab. I have worn handkerchiefs over my hair before; it was not a big difference for me. Then came the days of wearing the handkerchiefs for 2 weeks, maybe three and going out one damp cold morning without it. It was almost as though I couldn’t function. I realized it’s time to try the full hijaab. I met another sister, Umme (means Mom in Arabic, but she’s like a mom to me), from Maryland via the computer. Because I was looking for someone to send me some books, maybe some extra hijaabs. Bless Umme’s soul because I went to the mailbox one morning and got the beloved yellow slip saying ‘you have a box’ so I went literally POSTAL

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(no pun intended, yeah right) wondering if it was from Umme or my Aunt – my aunt always sends me tons and tons of hair products which I can’t get enough of. “Here it is…someone sent you a lot of stuff,” said the Postal Worker and I look up and to my amazement there’s a box as two times wider then me (and trust me, that’s wide) and half my height!!! My eyes open with wonder and shear excitement! I lug the box out to the car and squeeze it into my mom’s Nissan Altima, which thank goodness is a large car, if I would have had my Saab I would have had to tie it to the roof, and flew home as fast as I could. “It’s a box of treasures!!! Ma’ come look!! I can’t believe this!!” I said to my mother, screaming with excitement almost tearing up because I couldn’t believe a person could ever be this generous. This was my second encounter of the love and sincerity of Islam (of course Maryam).

The box contained treasures. Dresses, Hijaabs, Books, Pamplets, Qur’an, Pocket sized Qur’an, tapes, and the most beloved and used present of all “The Beginner’s Guide to Prayer”. I still have this pamphlet now and it’s falling apart – I still have to use it on the last part of my prayer (where you’re sitting) because I don’t know all of it yet. I have never used a book so much in my life. I took out the hijaabs and the dresses and I wore my favorite outfit of all.

Now comes the story of hijaab; the best benefit Allah has given to us women. To start the story off correctly I should explain how my mother reacted to me being a Muslim. She at first didn’t understand what exactly it was. Luckily I had Maryam to help me out on this one as well. Her mother, is a revert and she had to go through the same thing I was going through (telling her family) and she was nice enough to send my mother an e-mail explaining and trying to help. She helped a lot; mom was a bit more relaxed. It took about a week for her to warm up to Islam; to this day she still asks questions and I couldn’t be more happy

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to answer them.

Onto hijaab story! The first day I went out in hijaab was in my new drabs (above) and could not feel more proud. There are not enough words in the English, French, and German dictionaries to explain the way I felt. Since this was about almost 2 months after 9\11 everyone was still on shaky ground about Muslims. I thought, living in the sticks of Maine, that everyone would be so mean to me because a lot of people here 99.99% of them are Christian and about 50% are racist. I was wrong; I totally underestimated my own people. People were looking at me (of course) but not in a negative way. I thought the hijaab was going to be a total mess (the first time I heard of it) but today it is the best blessing Allah has given to us. The benefits [to list] would take me years, if not centuries. The most important of all is the modesty in front of men. I always, since I began to become a woman, have felt like a sirloin steak being picked over by men every day! The only time when I feel safe and secure is in my Islamic Dress…that consists of hijaab (covering hair, neck and ears) and loose fitting clothes. Until this day, anytime which I go out without hijaab (which, alhumdulilah has been few) I feel like I am completely naked! The hijaab, for women, is the best thing possible. I would also like to point out [to the non-Muslims] this important fact! In the ‘Muslim’ countries (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.) where 99.99% of the women cover, the rate of rape and sexual assault are so low they barely exist. This is a fact – (NOTE: Get the statistics from the sisters!)- Not just a rumor.

The rest of my story is incredibly amazing. I have been living the Muslim life, alhumdulilah, and I have been trying to do my best. I have since stopped a lot of haraam (sinful) actions and continue to work on getting rid of the rest. The last part of my story is the most amazing part. I would never guess this would ever happen. My father, who I said earlier has no religion, started to see the change Islam had on my life (for the positive)

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and he took note of this. I was on the telephone with him one night and he asked me to send him some information on what Islam consists of. When I heard this I said to myself, “This is the pure actions of Allah; no one, or thing, could have possibly done such an act of pure grace.” This is Islam in brief, and this is Islam and me.

Thank you (Salaams),

Author’s note: I would like to dedicate This to Maryam Ezzedine, Umme Zahid, And Allah.

Holy Quran 28:85 Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you will bring you back to the destination. Say: My Lord knows best him who has brought the guidance and him who is in manifest error.

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It filled me with peace and happiness

My folks believed in God, but did not “practice” their “faith”. I was raised as a devote Christian with my Grandparents being heavily involved with Church activities and members of the board. As I grew up I was extremely well versed in all the song hymns and scriptures (as well as I went to a private school for elementary).

When I went to college I went to a Christian University. It was there that I was first exposed to Islam. We were required to learn of other faiths; I believe this was to strengthen our faith. This exposure did not strengthen my faith, but rather created doubts and questions. The odd thing is that while studying a little bit of Islam I met a Muslim man that I befriended who introduced me to their community of friends where I met a man that is now my husband. When married I still had not converted nor interested in conversion. I knew that there was only one faith and it was the path of Christianity. I had no intentions of converting my husband and he had no intentions of converting me. After about two years of marriage we decided to have baby and that’s when everything started to change for me.

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My husband had been diagnosed with Kidney failure and I was two months pregnant. Times were difficult needless to say. I found myself angry and praying to God. I found little comfort in turning to God. At some point I think I just disconnected from God and my faith. When my daughter was about 2 ½ I started to think about her future and her up bringing. I knew there was a God, but had lost my relationship and could not raise a child into that type of world. I begin to look into Islam, as I knew my husband would not allow me to raise her in my faith. I did not share this with him because I did not want to be pushed into something I knew only a little bit about. I began going to the mosque and meeting with the Imam as I knew he was an educated man in Islam who could answer my questions in great detail. I struggled with the thought of conversion, as it was so ingrained in my head that “Christianity” was the only correct faith. I started to analyze my previous beliefs with what I was now learning and realized that I had some decisions to make and had to be honest with myself and reasons for even considering a new faith. When I stepped outside of the box it became apparent to me that I was following “Christianity” because that was what I knew and the only faith I really ever learned about. I realized that there were so many missing pieces to the puzzle in my faith and lack of understanding why certain routines and actions were being taken within the faith.

At first I thought, “Oh you are just doing this because you want your daughter to believe in “something”. It may be that which started the search, but it is not what ultimately made me decide to convert. After grilling a ton of people and reading a ton of books, I realized that Islam was a way of life that provided guidelines and with understanding. The day that I took Shahadah it filled me with peace and happiness. The idea of conversion

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also meant sharing the information with my family so that they would understand a few changes in my life. Change is always a struggle, but with our personal Jihad we grow and learn and this makes us stronger Muslims. Holy Quran 31:5 These are on a guidance from their Lord, and these are they who are successful.

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J. Scott Lynch “Saeed Muhammad”

I converted to Islam about 21 months ago. My journey to Islam was a long one that spanned over more than 2 decades. All-American Boy

Allah is a permanent reality that works in the lives of those who hear His message. Not having a personal relationship with my Creator tugged at my heart and mind for nearly two decades. Then, I discovered Islam. I would not be considered in the West as a stereotypical Muslim. I believe the popular Western stereotype of a Muslim male is something like the following: dark skin, dark hair, bearded, Middle-Eastern or Asian descent, dressed in modest clothing and possibly a head covering. No, I’m the complete opposite of this. I am in many ways the epitome of the “all-American boy”: blond-hair, blue-eyed, corn-fed Protestant/Christian background. However, Islam and Muslims take on many faces, many backgrounds, many cultures, many nationalities and many tongues. Our family moved a few times in my youth, but my world was limited to the heart of the “Bible-belt” in Augusta, GA, and Spartanburg and Greenville, SC, all fairly large communities, but all offered little in religious diversity. I had normal, loving, God-fearing parents—they are still happily married today after more than 30 years, and one younger brother. I grew up as a “PK” (for those of you outside of Protestant Christianity, I was a “preacher’s kid”). My father was a Southern Baptist minister for more than 25 years. As you can imagine, for the first 18 years of my life, I attended church

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every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any number of other nights that the church lights were on. I grew up believing in God and Jesus, or, should I say, fearing God and Jesus. Like most adolescents, I was afraid not to believe in the religion of my parents. However, something was wrong. I can recall thinking, even at age 10, “this Jesus’ story just doesn’t make sense to me.” Even at this young age, I didn’t accept the divinity of Jesus and the notion of Christian salvation (i.e., Jesus dying for my sins). As all my church friends were getting saved, baptized and confirmed during their pre-teen and teenage years (this all seemed like more of a rite of passage than a sincere decision for most, or just the popular thing to do), I quietly sat in the church pews questioning the fundamentals of Christian theology. My parents, my church-friends and the various churches my father pastored throughout my childhood all prayed for my salvation.

Then, one Sunday night, I succumbed to the pressure. I was 12 years old and my family was at the First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg (in Spartanburg, South Carolina). After a fiery sermon, which obviously moved a lot of people, my father came to me and said, “Son, do you want to ask Jesus into your heart? It’s about time you do so.” Tired of all the solicitations, tired of all the “Scott, we’re praying for you,” tired of always feeling like the one who didn’t belong, I lied to my father and said, “Yes POPS.” That night, I repeated after my father and supposedly accepted Jesus into my heart. I was presented to the church as a new Christian, baptized and immediately became part of the Christian community; although, I was very empty inside. For the next 5 years, I put on the charade of a good preacher’s kid. I attended Bible studies, went on summer mission trips and even had a couple “saves” (individuals becoming Christian) contributed to me. This was all under the veil of a big lie, that night when I was 12 years old, the night

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that I supposedly became a Christian myself, I never asked Jesus in my heart. True, I went through the motions, but it meant nothing to me.

When I graduated high school and it was time to go off to college, I only thought of one thing: religious freedom. I viewed the opportunity as the chance to move away from my parents and explore the religions of the world. I moved about 70 miles away from my parents to Rock Hill, SC, enrolled in Winthrop College and majored in religion. However, moving from one part of the “Bible-belt” to another part of the “Bible-belt” didn’t help my search. Rock Hill was a smaller town than I grew up in and there were even more churches per capita. Once again, the only religious diversity was in the form of what favor of Christianity you wanted for the week. I did manage to run across a couple freethinking religion professors that mentored me in exploring religion. If anything, they pointed me to many different sources to satisfy my quest. I rarely pushed the envelope of my comfort level and only ended up exploring different forms of Christianity. During the two years I spent in little Rock Hill, SC, I attended Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal and many non-affiliated/community churches. It would not be until another couple years before I would experience non-Christian religious expression.

Beyond the “Chosen People” Vision

Unsatisfied with the lack of religious diversity, I left Rock Hill, SC for the University of South Carolina in the state’s capital of Columbia (metro population: half-million). I thought, “Surely I can find other religions in a city this size.” Once again, I majored in religion. While in Columbia for the remainder of my undergraduate degree, I became extremely interested in Judaism, but not on a spiritual level, but rather, on an academic level. I was attracted to the Hebrew language. I took more than 4 years of a combined Bible and Modern Hebrew course and

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excelled at reading the original scriptures and reading Jewish prayers. In fact, because one of my professors was a local rabbi, I even taught 6-grade Hebrew school for a term (to this day, a decade later, I can still read the Hebrew texts). I was very involved with Judaism in Columbia, SC, but much like Christianity, it’s fundamental beliefs seemed empty to me. Inside, I asked questions like, “If the Jews are considered God’s ‘chosen people’ where does that leave me?” While at the University of South Carolina, I was exposed to a glimpse of Islam. I took a class entitled “Islamic Institutions and Traditions.” It was taught by a non-Muslim who had taught university in Egypt, so he seemed to be an authority on Islam but the class did little for me other than provide a good textbook background for me. Half the class consisted of Muslims, so I think the class’ integrity was kept in check.

Half way through the class, I did visit the local mosque and witnessed salah (prayer) for the first time. Although I didn’t understand what seemed like an impersonal approach to prayer and worship I was impressed by Islam’s simplicity and humbleness (e.g. prostrating before almighty Allah) in prayer and worship. My brief encounter with Islam, both in a college class and my visit to a mosque, planted a seed that would grow for the next ten years. After my undergraduate studies, I went out into the workforce. For the next 5 years, I withdrew from religion and became what I considered to be agnostic. I knew there was one God, however, I didn’t know a lot about Him. For me, Christianity and Judaism did not address the issue of the proper worship of one God. My professional positions took me all across the United States where I finally settled in Fort Collins, Colorado. After waking up day after day to the beautiful mountains, prairies and expanses of Colorado, I began to question the concept of “God” again. How could there be so much beauty and order in the world and God not intimately reveal Himself to mankind? I began to recall the religious

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experience I’d had over the past 10-15 years. I looked at Christianity and said “No.” I still couldn’t accept the Jesus theology. I looked at Judaism. Again, “No.” I couldn’t live with the Jewish customs and belief in a “chosen people.” Finally, I began to look at Islam. My impression of Islam was a combination of several things. It consisted of the one class I took in university, my one visit to the mosque in Columbia, SC, and then the media (I’ve now discovered that the U.S. media does not accurately display Islam). I began researching the fundamental beliefs of Islam. I decided to strip away the stereotypes and examine exactly what Islam is all about. After some study, I found the following:

1-Islam has the strongest declaration of monotheistic faith of any religion (I said to myself, “check, I agree”),

2-the belief that God has no partners (again, “big check”),

3-the belief that God has revealed Himself many times through prophets and messengers and His message has been confused and distorted by man (I always had a hard time believing parts of the Bible and its interpretation, so “check for now”),

4-that Islam is not just a religion, but an entire way of life (very appealing, “check”). Reading the Qur’an

After reading about Islam, I set out to inquire a little deeper. I set out to find a Muslim. At the time of my inquiry into Islam, I was working in a very large company with more than 1000 employees. I thought, “Surely there’s a Muslim or two that would be willing to answer my questions.”

My search did not take long. I met a kind, quiet Muslim man named “Hani.” I approached the man and told him that I wanted to learn more about his religion. The first thing Hani recommended was reading the Qur’an, the revelation of Allah to

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His Prophet Muhammad. Hani even gave me a Qur’an (In fact, the small Arabic-English Qur’an that Brother Hani gave me is still one of my prized possessions.) Hani inscribed in it the following words that continue to touch my heart: “May Allah guide us to the right path.” I began reading the Qur’an and to my surprise, it made sense to me. Coming from a Christian background with a good understanding of Jewish history/theology, the Qur’an connected all the dots for me. It confirmed so many doubts I had about Judaism and Christianity, and provided the roadmap that I was looking for. After reading only part of the Qur’an, I said to myself, “I believe in this. I should be a Muslim.” But what would my family say? What would my friends say? What would my co-workers think? So, for months, I kept my feelings quiet and continued to study Islam silently. I began to read more books, subscribed to Muslim email lists, purchased Islamic videos and even began memorizing the prayers. Out of all the aspects of Islam that I observed, the prayer impacted me the most. Like the worshipers I saw in the videos, I too wanted to bow down and prostrate myself before my Holy Creator. Finally, after more than eight months of inquiry with my friend Hani, he must have sensed I was ready to take the next step.

In early January 2001, he invited me to the Islamic Center of Fort Collins (Colorado). It is where more than 1000 Muslims in Northern Colorado go to pray and worship. He invited me to the Fajr prayer (before sunrise). At that time, it was around 6:15 a.m. You can imagine what I was thinking: “God, you want me to get up before 6:00 on a cold Colorado winter morning and go worship you?” I recall not sleeping too well the night before. I felt like I was being called to do something. I made it down to Islamic Center and met up with Hani. When I went in, I was instructed to take off my shoes in the vestibule. I walked through a large communal area and Hani showed me the area

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that Muslims perform wudu, the washing and purifying of one’s body before going before Allah. Hani and I then went into the prayer area. The prayer area was a large, simple, quiet room. There were many books, mostly in Arabic, on several of the walls, and the room seemed to point in one direction (the direction to the Ka`bah in Makkah, or the first house of worship to Allah). When we walked in, there were 6-7 Muslim men praying. For the second time, I saw again in-person what I had seen only in videos, worshipers bowing before their Creator, but with a new understanding after all the careful reading I did. It sent chills down my spine. I too wanted to worship as the men before me. The familiar call to prayer, the Adhan, was called and Hani asked me if I wanted to pray. I nervously said, “Yes!” Hani said, “Just do as the rest of us do.” And for the first time, I prayed and worshiped Allah as He commands. I didn’t know all the words or their meanings, but it had a powerful impact. After the prayer, Hani asked me if I would like to become a Muslim. Again, I said, “Yes!” I had already practiced and said the Shahadah dozens of times, and on that cold morning on Janu

My name is Lyndsey-Yazmeen Koenig; I am 17 years old and I live in Maine in the northeastern United States of America. I have been a Muslim since September 18th, 2001. This is my story of Islam and me. “Jewish people celebrate Hanukah and are a different religion than us – different from Christianity. Judaism and Christianity are the two main religions we should focus on…” As a teacher of mine from ninth grade reported to me I knew nothing of Islam. Nine years in Public School and didn’t hear one word about Islam. To be honest with you up until 9\11 I have never seen a hijaabed woman.

“It seems as though this was a terror attack aimed at the U.S.A. by someone or something that hated us simply hated us.” It was the day after 9\11 and I was watching the news, as I have done nonstop since then, and I heard about ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims.’ I sat there wondering what they were. Right then I felt a string being pulled inside my brain sending a wave to my fingers telling me, “research, research, and research!” This happens to me a lot, I owe much of my knowledge to this reflex, which I adore so much. So the string was pulled letting the dam of knowledge came rushing towards me.

I run to the bathroom, bedroom find the comfiest pair of clothes I have preparing myself for a long day of reading and research. Grab a cup of coffee and put my long hair in it’s famous ‘rats nest’ on the top of my head. Turn the computer on and get

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comfy in the leather chair. Cold to the touch, but comforting like my pilot’s chair on my way to wisdom. I proceed to the search engine Dad has raved about; I type in ‘Muslim’ and press the magic ‘go’ key! My eyes fill with colors of red, white, blue – letters of ‘m’, ‘i’ – Links! Links! Links! Which to chose, they’re all so beautiful!? There are the regular sites…then there are the exceptional sites! The first one I ventured into was www.islamonline.net taught me the basics but I still yearned for more. I continued to visit numerous websites but I still couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to talk to a young Muslim girl my age. It took me about a week of serious searching and scaling almost all of the internet (probably, LoL) to find an e-mail pen pal site. Now the real story begins.

I filed my pen-pal form on the site writing, ‘Non-Muslim seeking to speak with Muslim young woman to find out more about Islam’ and hoped for the best. Within three days I received an e-mail from a young woman named Maryam who is a born Muslim, but her mom is a revert. Maryam and I began talking just about school, family, friends, and our problems. We became very close friends, almost sisters. As I was continuing to watch the American Media, which I would later find out is very bias, and usually sides with the Jewish people, I had more and more questions on Islam. Except this time I actually had someone to ask the specific questions to. The first question I asked was ‘Do u think UBL did this?’ and she kind of avoided my question (which I later found out why and will explain) so I went on. The next question was about the scarf (hijaab); she answered me with unwavering attention and precision. The hijaab was the hardest thing to put into action for me (I will explain later). But Maryam (bless her soul) did her best and told me everything she could – and what she couldn’t she gave me URL’s which I could read more information if I wanted. Then there were the rules about boyfriends, pork, and more. The rules

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weren’t the things that caught my attention, it was the benefits, love, structure, discipline, and most of all spirituality. I was never religious before Islam. I went to church maybe a total of five times in my life. My mother grew up in a strict Roman Catholic family in New Hampshire with 6 children. My father grew up in a Protestant\Atheist household – really not practicing ever once. So our religious life in the Koenig family was not very strong. I can remember going to church as a child and hating it. The other times I can only remember are funerals and weddings. I just remember listening to the Priests babble on and on never made sense to me. Once in a great while when I was feeling low I would read some of the Bible but always felt like it was a boggled mess that was so difficult to understand and comprehend. Not just that but it didn’t make sense to me at all. Before Islam I always felt like there was a big chunk of my heart missing yet I didn’t know what it was.

“So, how do I convert?” I asked Maryam on an early fall day. “Take the shaada.” I took the shaada. Now I am a Muslim. The date is September 18th, 2001. My heart felt full, I felt I have a purpose, life inside me to live.

I went to good ol’ Wal-Mart and bought some plain handkerchiefs – blue, red, green, and pink. I decided to wear these as my souped up version of makeshift hijaab. I have worn handkerchiefs over my hair before; it was not a big difference for me. Then came the days of wearing the handkerchiefs for 2 weeks, maybe three and going out one damp cold morning without it. It was almost as though I couldn’t function. I realized it’s time to try the full hijaab. I met another sister, Umme (means Mom in Arabic, but she’s like a mom to me), from Maryland via the computer. Because I was looking for someone to send me some books, maybe some extra hijaabs. Bless Umme’s soul because I went to the mailbox one morning and got the beloved yellow slip saying ‘you have a box’ so I went literally POSTAL

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(no pun intended, yeah right) wondering if it was from Umme or my Aunt – my aunt always sends me tons and tons of hair products which I can’t get enough of. “Here it is…someone sent you a lot of stuff,” said the Postal Worker and I look up and to my amazement there’s a box as two times wider then me (and trust me, that’s wide) and half my height!!! My eyes open with wonder and shear excitement! I lug the box out to the car and squeeze it into my mom’s Nissan Altima, which thank goodness is a large car, if I would have had my Saab I would have had to tie it to the roof, and flew home as fast as I could. “It’s a box of treasures!!! Ma’ come look!! I can’t believe this!!” I said to my mother, screaming with excitement almost tearing up because I couldn’t believe a person could ever be this generous. This was my second encounter of the love and sincerity of Islam (of course Maryam).

The box contained treasures. Dresses, Hijaabs, Books, Pamplets, Qur’an, Pocket sized Qur’an, tapes, and the most beloved and used present of all “The Beginner’s Guide to Prayer”. I still have this pamphlet now and it’s falling apart – I still have to use it on the last part of my prayer (where you’re sitting) because I don’t know all of it yet. I have never used a book so much in my life. I took out the hijaabs and the dresses and I wore my favorite outfit of all.

Now comes the story of hijaab; the best benefit Allah has given to us women. To start the story off correctly I should explain how my mother reacted to me being a Muslim. She at first didn’t understand what exactly it was. Luckily I had Maryam to help me out on this one as well. Her mother, is a revert and she had to go through the same thing I was going through (telling her family) and she was nice enough to send my mother an e-mail explaining and trying to help. She helped a lot; mom was a bit more relaxed. It took about a week for her to warm up to Islam; to this day she still asks questions and I couldn’t be more happy

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to answer them.

Onto hijaab story! The first day I went out in hijaab was in my new drabs (above) and could not feel more proud. There are not enough words in the English, French, and German dictionaries to explain the way I felt. Since this was about almost 2 months after 9\11 everyone was still on shaky ground about Muslims. I thought, living in the sticks of Maine, that everyone would be so mean to me because a lot of people here 99.99% of them are Christian and about 50% are racist. I was wrong; I totally underestimated my own people. People were looking at me (of course) but not in a negative way. I thought the hijaab was going to be a total mess (the first time I heard of it) but today it is the best blessing Allah has given to us. The benefits [to list] would take me years, if not centuries. The most important of all is the modesty in front of men. I always, since I began to become a woman, have felt like a sirloin steak being picked over by men every day! The only time when I feel safe and secure is in my Islamic Dress…that consists of hijaab (covering hair, neck and ears) and loose fitting clothes. Until this day, anytime which I go out without hijaab (which, alhumdulilah has been few) I feel like I am completely naked! The hijaab, for women, is the best thing possible. I would also like to point out [to the non-Muslims] this important fact! In the ‘Muslim’ countries (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.) where 99.99% of the women cover, the rate of rape and sexual assault are so low they barely exist. This is a fact – (NOTE: Get the statistics from the sisters!)- Not just a rumor.

The rest of my story is incredibly amazing. I have been living the Muslim life, alhumdulilah, and I have been trying to do my best. I have since stopped a lot of haraam (sinful) actions and continue to work on getting rid of the rest. The last part of my story is the most amazing part. I would never guess this would ever happen. My father, who I said earlier has no religion, started to see the change Islam had on my life (for the positive)

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and he took note of this. I was on the telephone with him one night and he asked me to send him some information on what Islam consists of. When I heard this I said to myself, “This is the pure actions of Allah; no one, or thing, could have possibly done such an act of pure grace.” This is Islam in brief, and this is Islam and me.

Thank you (Salaams),

Author’s note: I would like to dedicate This to Maryam Ezzedine, Umme Zahid, And Allah.

Holy Quran 28:85 Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you will bring you back to the destination. Say: My Lord knows best him who has brought the guidance and him who is in manifest error.

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It filled me with peace and happiness

My folks believed in God, but did not “practice” their “faith”. I was raised as a devote Christian with my Grandparents being heavily involved with Church activities and members of the board. As I grew up I was extremely well versed in all the song hymns and scriptures (as well as I went to a private school for elementary).

When I went to college I went to a Christian University. It was there that I was first exposed to Islam. We were required to learn of other faiths; I believe this was to strengthen our faith. This exposure did not strengthen my faith, but rather created doubts and questions. The odd thing is that while studying a little bit of Islam I met a Muslim man that I befriended who introduced me to their community of friends where I met a man that is now my husband. When married I still had not converted nor interested in conversion. I knew that there was only one faith and it was the path of Christianity. I had no intentions of converting my husband and he had no intentions of converting me. After about two years of marriage we decided to have baby and that’s when everything started to change for me.

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My husband had been diagnosed with Kidney failure and I was two months pregnant. Times were difficult needless to say. I found myself angry and praying to God. I found little comfort in turning to God. At some point I think I just disconnected from God and my faith. When my daughter was about 2 ½ I started to think about her future and her up bringing. I knew there was a God, but had lost my relationship and could not raise a child into that type of world. I begin to look into Islam, as I knew my husband would not allow me to raise her in my faith. I did not share this with him because I did not want to be pushed into something I knew only a little bit about. I began going to the mosque and meeting with the Imam as I knew he was an educated man in Islam who could answer my questions in great detail. I struggled with the thought of conversion, as it was so ingrained in my head that “Christianity” was the only correct faith. I started to analyze my previous beliefs with what I was now learning and realized that I had some decisions to make and had to be honest with myself and reasons for even considering a new faith. When I stepped outside of the box it became apparent to me that I was following “Christianity” because that was what I knew and the only faith I really ever learned about. I realized that there were so many missing pieces to the puzzle in my faith and lack of understanding why certain routines and actions were being taken within the faith.

At first I thought, “Oh you are just doing this because you want your daughter to believe in “something”. It may be that which started the search, but it is not what ultimately made me decide to convert. After grilling a ton of people and reading a ton of books, I realized that Islam was a way of life that provided guidelines and with understanding. The day that I took Shahadah it filled me with peace and happiness. The idea of conversion

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also meant sharing the information with my family so that they would understand a few changes in my life. Change is always a struggle, but with our personal Jihad we grow and learn and this makes us stronger Muslims. Holy Quran 31:5 These are on a guidance from their Lord, and these are they who are successful.

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J. Scott Lynch “Saeed Muhammad”

I converted to Islam about 21 months ago. My journey to Islam was a long one that spanned over more than 2 decades. All-American Boy

Allah is a permanent reality that works in the lives of those who hear His message. Not having a personal relationship with my Creator tugged at my heart and mind for nearly two decades. Then, I discovered Islam. I would not be considered in the West as a stereotypical Muslim. I believe the popular Western stereotype of a Muslim male is something like the following: dark skin, dark hair, bearded, Middle-Eastern or Asian descent, dressed in modest clothing and possibly a head covering. No, I’m the complete opposite of this. I am in many ways the epitome of the “all-American boy”: blond-hair, blue-eyed, corn-fed Protestant/Christian background. However, Islam and Muslims take on many faces, many backgrounds, many cultures, many nationalities and many tongues. Our family moved a few times in my youth, but my world was limited to the heart of the “Bible-belt” in Augusta, GA, and Spartanburg and Greenville, SC, all fairly large communities, but all offered little in religious diversity. I had normal, loving, God-fearing parents—they are still happily married today after more than 30 years, and one younger brother. I grew up as a “PK” (for those of you outside of Protestant Christianity, I was a “preacher’s kid”). My father was a Southern Baptist minister for more than 25 years. As you can imagine, for the first 18 years of my life, I attended church

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every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any number of other nights that the church lights were on. I grew up believing in God and Jesus, or, should I say, fearing God and Jesus. Like most adolescents, I was afraid not to believe in the religion of my parents. However, something was wrong. I can recall thinking, even at age 10, “this Jesus’ story just doesn’t make sense to me.” Even at this young age, I didn’t accept the divinity of Jesus and the notion of Christian salvation (i.e., Jesus dying for my sins). As all my church friends were getting saved, baptized and confirmed during their pre-teen and teenage years (this all seemed like more of a rite of passage than a sincere decision for most, or just the popular thing to do), I quietly sat in the church pews questioning the fundamentals of Christian theology. My parents, my church-friends and the various churches my father pastored throughout my childhood all prayed for my salvation.

Then, one Sunday night, I succumbed to the pressure. I was 12 years old and my family was at the First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg (in Spartanburg, South Carolina). After a fiery sermon, which obviously moved a lot of people, my father came to me and said, “Son, do you want to ask Jesus into your heart? It’s about time you do so.” Tired of all the solicitations, tired of all the “Scott, we’re praying for you,” tired of always feeling like the one who didn’t belong, I lied to my father and said, “Yes POPS.” That night, I repeated after my father and supposedly accepted Jesus into my heart. I was presented to the church as a new Christian, baptized and immediately became part of the Christian community; although, I was very empty inside. For the next 5 years, I put on the charade of a good preacher’s kid. I attended Bible studies, went on summer mission trips and even had a couple “saves” (individuals becoming Christian) contributed to me. This was all under the veil of a big lie, that night when I was 12 years old, the night

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that I supposedly became a Christian myself, I never asked Jesus in my heart. True, I went through the motions, but it meant nothing to me.

When I graduated high school and it was time to go off to college, I only thought of one thing: religious freedom. I viewed the opportunity as the chance to move away from my parents and explore the religions of the world. I moved about 70 miles away from my parents to Rock Hill, SC, enrolled in Winthrop College and majored in religion. However, moving from one part of the “Bible-belt” to another part of the “Bible-belt” didn’t help my search. Rock Hill was a smaller town than I grew up in and there were even more churches per capita. Once again, the only religious diversity was in the form of what favor of Christianity you wanted for the week. I did manage to run across a couple freethinking religion professors that mentored me in exploring religion. If anything, they pointed me to many different sources to satisfy my quest. I rarely pushed the envelope of my comfort level and only ended up exploring different forms of Christianity. During the two years I spent in little Rock Hill, SC, I attended Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal and many non-affiliated/community churches. It would not be until another couple years before I would experience non-Christian religious expression.

Beyond the “Chosen People” Vision

Unsatisfied with the lack of religious diversity, I left Rock Hill, SC for the University of South Carolina in the state’s capital of Columbia (metro population: half-million). I thought, “Surely I can find other religions in a city this size.” Once again, I majored in religion. While in Columbia for the remainder of my undergraduate degree, I became extremely interested in Judaism, but not on a spiritual level, but rather, on an academic level. I was attracted to the Hebrew language. I took more than 4 years of a combined Bible and Modern Hebrew course and

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excelled at reading the original scriptures and reading Jewish prayers. In fact, because one of my professors was a local rabbi, I even taught 6-grade Hebrew school for a term (to this day, a decade later, I can still read the Hebrew texts). I was very involved with Judaism in Columbia, SC, but much like Christianity, it’s fundamental beliefs seemed empty to me. Inside, I asked questions like, “If the Jews are considered God’s ‘chosen people’ where does that leave me?” While at the University of South Carolina, I was exposed to a glimpse of Islam. I took a class entitled “Islamic Institutions and Traditions.” It was taught by a non-Muslim who had taught university in Egypt, so he seemed to be an authority on Islam but the class did little for me other than provide a good textbook background for me. Half the class consisted of Muslims, so I think the class’ integrity was kept in check.

Half way through the class, I did visit the local mosque and witnessed salah (prayer) for the first time. Although I didn’t understand what seemed like an impersonal approach to prayer and worship I was impressed by Islam’s simplicity and humbleness (e.g. prostrating before almighty Allah) in prayer and worship. My brief encounter with Islam, both in a college class and my visit to a mosque, planted a seed that would grow for the next ten years. After my undergraduate studies, I went out into the workforce. For the next 5 years, I withdrew from religion and became what I considered to be agnostic. I knew there was one God, however, I didn’t know a lot about Him. For me, Christianity and Judaism did not address the issue of the proper worship of one God. My professional positions took me all across the United States where I finally settled in Fort Collins, Colorado. After waking up day after day to the beautiful mountains, prairies and expanses of Colorado, I began to question the concept of “God” again. How could there be so much beauty and order in the world and God not intimately reveal Himself to mankind? I began to recall the religious

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experience I’d had over the past 10-15 years. I looked at Christianity and said “No.” I still couldn’t accept the Jesus theology. I looked at Judaism. Again, “No.” I couldn’t live with the Jewish customs and belief in a “chosen people.” Finally, I began to look at Islam. My impression of Islam was a combination of several things. It consisted of the one class I took in university, my one visit to the mosque in Columbia, SC, and then the media (I’ve now discovered that the U.S. media does not accurately display Islam). I began researching the fundamental beliefs of Islam. I decided to strip away the stereotypes and examine exactly what Islam is all about. After some study, I found the following:

1-Islam has the strongest declaration of monotheistic faith of any religion (I said to myself, “check, I agree”),

2-the belief that God has no partners (again, “big check”),

3-the belief that God has revealed Himself many times through prophets and messengers and His message has been confused and distorted by man (I always had a hard time believing parts of the Bible and its interpretation, so “check for now”),

4-that Islam is not just a religion, but an entire way of life (very appealing, “check”). Reading the Qur’an

After reading about Islam, I set out to inquire a little deeper. I set out to find a Muslim. At the time of my inquiry into Islam, I was working in a very large company with more than 1000 employees. I thought, “Surely there’s a Muslim or two that would be willing to answer my questions.”

My search did not take long. I met a kind, quiet Muslim man named “Hani.” I approached the man and told him that I wanted to learn more about his religion. The first thing Hani recommended was reading the Qur’an, the revelation of Allah to

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His Prophet Muhammad. Hani even gave me a Qur’an (In fact, the small Arabic-English Qur’an that Brother Hani gave me is still one of my prized possessions.) Hani inscribed in it the following words that continue to touch my heart: “May Allah guide us to the right path.” I began reading the Qur’an and to my surprise, it made sense to me. Coming from a Christian background with a good understanding of Jewish history/theology, the Qur’an connected all the dots for me. It confirmed so many doubts I had about Judaism and Christianity, and provided the roadmap that I was looking for. After reading only part of the Qur’an, I said to myself, “I believe in this. I should be a Muslim.” But what would my family say? What would my friends say? What would my co-workers think? So, for months, I kept my feelings quiet and continued to study Islam silently. I began to read more books, subscribed to Muslim email lists, purchased Islamic videos and even began memorizing the prayers. Out of all the aspects of Islam that I observed, the prayer impacted me the most. Like the worshipers I saw in the videos, I too wanted to bow down and prostrate myself before my Holy Creator. Finally, after more than eight months of inquiry with my friend Hani, he must have sensed I was ready to take the next step.

In early January 2001, he invited me to the Islamic Center of Fort Collins (Colorado). It is where more than 1000 Muslims in Northern Colorado go to pray and worship. He invited me to the Fajr prayer (before sunrise). At that time, it was around 6:15 a.m. You can imagine what I was thinking: “God, you want me to get up before 6:00 on a cold Colorado winter morning and go worship you?” I recall not sleeping too well the night before. I felt like I was being called to do something. I made it down to Islamic Center and met up with Hani. When I went in, I was instructed to take off my shoes in the vestibule. I walked through a large communal area and Hani showed me the area

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that Muslims perform wudu, the washing and purifying of one’s body before going before Allah. Hani and I then went into the prayer area. The prayer area was a large, simple, quiet room. There were many books, mostly in Arabic, on several of the walls, and the room seemed to point in one direction (the direction to the Ka`bah in Makkah, or the first house of worship to Allah). When we walked in, there were 6-7 Muslim men praying. For the second time, I saw again in-person what I had seen only in videos, worshipers bowing before their Creator, but with a new understanding after all the careful reading I did. It sent chills down my spine. I too wanted to worship as the men before me. The familiar call to prayer, the Adhan, was called and Hani asked me if I wanted to pray. I nervously said, “Yes!” Hani said, “Just do as the rest of us do.” And for the first time, I prayed and worshiped Allah as He commands. I didn’t know all the words or their meanings, but it had a powerful impact. After the prayer, Hani asked me if I would like to become a Muslim. Again, I said, “Yes!” I had already practiced and said the Shahadah dozens of times, and on that cold morning on January 3, 2001, at around 6:30 a.m., I said it in front of those Muslim men. Al-Hamdulilah (Glory be to Allah), I became a Muslim.

The moment I said “La ilaha illaAllah Muhammad Rasooul Allah” (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah) in front of those men, I felt a huge burden lifted from my heart. I felt liberated from my search. For the first time in my life, I knew the Truth—the Truth of Allah. It’s now been over a year since I became a Muslim. Has it been easy? Not always. Have I had struggles, setbacks and doubts? Absolutely, I’m human. However, the past year has been the best of my life. Allah has blessed me beyond belief. I’ve had a peace about me that is indescribable. And although I can’t really describe how it feels, I know where it comes from—it comes minute-after-minute, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, trying my best to follow

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Allah’s true Deen (religion, way of life). My peace is knowing that Allah has revealed the Truth to me. To my Muslims brothers and sisters and all non-Muslims, may Allah guide us all to the right path.

Holy Quran 2:23 And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.
ary 3, 2001, at around 6:30 a.m., I said it in front of those Muslim men. Al-Hamdulilah (Glory be to Allah), I became a Muslim.

The moment I said “La ilaha illaAllah Muhammad Rasooul Allah” (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah) in front of those men, I felt a huge burden lifted from my heart. I felt liberated from my search. For the first time in my life, I knew the Truth—the Truth of Allah. It’s now been over a year since I became a Muslim. Has it been easy? Not always. Have I had struggles, setbacks and doubts? Absolutely, I’m human. However, the past year has been the best of my life. Allah has blessed me beyond belief. I’ve had a peace about me that is indescribable. And although I can’t really describe how it feels, I know where it comes from—it comes minute-after-minute, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, trying my best to follow

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Allah’s true Deen (religion, way of life). My peace is knowing that Allah has revealed the Truth to me. To my Muslims brothers and sisters and all non-Muslims, may Allah guide us all to the right path.

Holy Quran 2:23 And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.

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