In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Allah U Akbar! Allah U Akbar! God is the Greatest. I know it is difficult for you to hear, but these words are written in shouts. Why? It is hard to say when my story began, but by the Grace of God, it is still continuing in the most glorified and beautiful direction.
I did all the “normal” American things in my youth. I attended college, went clubbing, hung out with friends, etc. I affiliated myself with Christians as being Puerto Rican, the two seem to go hand in hand, and attended church every so often. I was always “happy”, the one people turned to for advice, comfort, and fun. But within the confines of my own mind, I was never at peace. I tried calling depression hotlines, turned to shopping sprees, volunteered at various organizations – anything to get me out of what seemed like a black hole. And no one knew. Seemingly happy, I was smiling and telling jokes because what did I have to be sad about, right? Well when one ignores God’s hand, it’s as if you’re an invalid trying to walk. That’s how difficult and overwhelming life seemed.
This continued on until my 20’s, when I once met and became friends with a Muslim man. When he spoke of God, he seemed to radiate a light; a knowledge that permeated through his pores. At times, I thought his skin glowed when he spoke of Islam. He became just like a little boy showing off a new toy or talent whenever I asked him questions. His belief in Islam and his trust in God, is one of which I had never seen. I myself struggled with putting my complete faith in God. I knew He existed, but felt that what I couldn’t “see”, I couldn’t count on. Believe me, ignorance is not bliss!
When we fell in love, he made it very clear that he could never marry someone who was not Muslim. This is what really forced me to look at the religion of Islam. But it is not the reason why I am basking in it now. And I no longer view it as something negative because it could have been the best way God revealed His truth to me. And once I began reading literature, looking at websites, and reading the Quran, I couldn’t stop. To best describe it: I was a woman in the desert for days and all of a sudden, came across a pool of fresh water. So I drank, and drank, and drank. I devoured tapes and books on how to perform wudu (ablution before prayers). I began to practice the prayer postures, which felt both weird and humbling at the same time.
One day, I recited the Shahada (declaration of faith) out-loud. It didn’t feel like anything monumental. And to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t until I began telling people I was Muslim that my soul began to actually move.
At home, I began to don the headscarf and enjoyed how it felt to be covering myself for the sake of my relationship with God. Once, I even performed my prayers while my mother was home. And truth be told, I rushed through them out of fear. She saw me and said nothing. As time progressed, I stopped “not-saying” I was Muslim. I stopped hiding my literature. Now, she even borrowed a book about Islam and commented about how interesting it was. Some of my other family members do not understand. And even one aunt persists on telling me how wrong it is. That’s fine. My skin has grown thick with God.
Declaring my faith and testifying that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his messenger reaffirms that I do not stand alone, God created Islam and me, and now we go hand-in-hand. My 5 daily prayers refresh me, keep me connected to my Creator and keep me focused on Him. My zakat (charity) forces me to unshackle myself from my money, time, and efforts and places them towards good. Fasting allows me to cleanse my body at all levels, while humbling me and equating me with the rest of the world. And I can only dream of performing Hajj. One day, Inshallah (God willing), I will go.
You see, living in a society that is almost vehemently against even mentioning God, is a society in distress. The proof: teenage pregnancies, drugs, dressing so revealing is considered “in”. We live in a society where we shower and dress in clean clothes, and don perfume and make special preparations to go clubbing, work, or out with friends. But for God, we don’t? Islam is structured with basic, easy-to-understand rules that can wipe out any problem. Why you ask, if Islam is so perfect are there still divorces, theft, etc in Muslim culture? We are humans and as such fallible, and therefore bring imperfection to the religion. But Islam in itself is perfect – Need proof? Read the Quran.
Allah, the Most High, the Most Gracious. Thank you for guiding me and giving me this story to tell to others. I beg that you will find it acceptable and pleasing. And as I move further into Islam (one day finally wearing the hijab on a daily basis, performing hajj, learning more prayers in Arabic), I will continue to write and tell my tale, so that perhaps others may benefit from my slow, but purposeful journey to you, Inshallah!
Shinoa Matos was born and raised in New York, USA and is of Puerto Rican and Greek decent. She accepted Islam in January 2001. May Almighty God always guide and bless her (ameen).