After my Shahada
Not much has changed since Islam came into my life. I’m still a bit nutty, always sincere, and concerned for others around me. I’ll die loving animals and the environment. Nothing can shake my devotion to peace around the world. Books and the printed word hold me as they always have. I enjoy seeing a good movie. Drinking coffee and reading an interesting book at a local cafe makes my day. I love to share a tasty meal with friends.
So what is new? Every religion has standards. Islam is no different. Women and men are encouraged to be modest. I cover my head, wear long sleeves and pants. I lack a budget for long skirts. For a woman my age, I’ve always dressed conservatively so making a few minor adjustments wasn’t a big deal.
I rarely prayed, even though I was raised Catholic. I cut school, skipped mass, and cannot tell you what’s in the Bible. My late mother always prayed that I’d return to the church. I never did. Maybe she’d be happy now that I pray five times a day, more than I ever have in my life.
A pedestrian car accident on 1/6/94 suddenly ended my working career. Disabling brain injuries prevent full-time employment. Every application for a part-time job has been rejected. Indicating a need for special accommodations (motorized scooter) is like saying I’m a wanted felon. No one ever granted me an interview even though I hold a master’s degree from a highly respected private university in New York City. Through hard work, dedication, and a non-credit college course I turned myself into an award winning freelance writer. Editors and agents at writing conferences always looked at my scooter first before my resume. They judged me by the presence of my chair and not the quality of my writing. I earned some money as a writer but I eventually abandoned my efforts to become self-sufficient through my literary talent. Maybe I’ll win the lottery one day to escape the drudges of poverty.
I kept busy with volunteer work, which satisfies and fulfills me. I enjoy helping others. My personal life, however, was lonely and largely isolating not to mention boring. I went out now and then with friends to movies, for coffee, or lunch. But most often if I didn’t call to set something up, I’d be stranded at home.
The Shahada brightened my social life. There’s always activities happening at local mosques, such as women’s groups, lectures by guest speakers, or fundraising dinners for worthy causes. I attend a weekly Quran group to expand my knowledge and to network with my sisters. On Super bowl Sunday a sister invited me to watch the big game at her house. We’ve had lunch after Friday prayer services. I was invited to a pot luck dinner. Another sister who lives near me asked me to visit. This weekend, I’m having breakfast with a group of sisters on Saturday morning. The invitations continue. Sometimes I say no because they interfere with my regularly scheduled volunteer work. I am humbled by the warmth, love and caring that my sisters have shown me.
Unlike other friends in my life, I wasn’t raised in a close family. Nothing will change that. I can only look forward to the new life I’ve found. Some say that Allah directed me to Islam. Every day I say prayers of thanks. I also pray to end the suffering of others. We’re all in this together.