The Path of Truth is One

9

When guest writer Umm Isaiah came across a group of Muslims, it triggered memories of her long and winding search for the truth.

It’s a beautiful spring evening; the wind is calm, the air is still, the smell of freshness consumes my nostrils. Walking through my neighborhood in Irvington, NJ, I hear the thoughts of my heart crying out for guidance and my mind pondering over my life. What will I do with the rest of my life, what is my purpose? Without any doubt, I know there’s a God and that heaven and hell are real; I don’t know why I know it, but I know it. And when will I know how to get into heaven? Truly, I don’t want to go to hell.

Yet I don’t believe that all I have experienced in religions (and Lord knows I’ve experienced my share) are the correct guidelines to worshiping God, let alone getting into heaven. Now, I wonder what, where and when will the correct religion be opened up to me. I make a supplication to my Lord… although I don’t know who He is, I know He is… “Oh God, please show me what is correct and which way I should go, and remove me from this confusion I’m in.”

And Allah answers du’aa! I didn’t know that then, but it’s true.

The next day after I had taken that walk through my neighborhood and turned to God for guidance, I traveled to downtown Newark, NJ, and happened to be in the area where there were a lot of Muslims. I thought to myself, this may be it. And in that same moment, I began to remember my past experiences with religions.

First, Christianity from my mother and her people: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I had great difficulty understanding this concept, even as a child, because I understood that father and son were people, so I also wondered: who are these people we worshipped, why did we worship them, and where were they located? The Holy Ghost didn’t fit in because we always watched these TV shows that showed ghosts as transparencies that scared people. I could never figure a ghost to be holy after being taught they were frightening. I was confused and could never believe what my mother wanted me to believe.

At the age of fourteen, I decided to embrace the Christian religion on another level with the Pentecostals. Well, I wanted to impress a boy, actually. The Pentecostals taught me to sing and shout and praise God by saying Hallelujah. The music was loud, pounding in your chest; the people were emotional, crying, testifying and speaking words no one could understand (speaking in tongues) – all because the spirit moves you, they said. Now all of this was fun because we traveled from state to state, city to city with this performance, but no one ever explained why and how we were worshipping God in this manner, other than “the spirit moves you” and sometimes they thought that Jesus was God.

Now, Jesus being God was not a concept I could conceive because while growing up, Jesus was the son of God. Confused again and unable to believe this concept of worship, my fascination for the boy wore off, and so did the religion. And I moved on.

Two years later at age sixteen, still trying to figure out who I was and who I was going to emulate (any body except Mom), I decided to go to Temple Number 25 in Newark, NJ, where the people who attended were in the “The Nation Of Islam.” I wanted to see what all this hooplah that Muhammad Ali was talking about was. What I found was this man, Elijah Muhammad, a black man, a prophet with a religion only for black people and proof that white people are devils. Oh! And that’s not all. He had a way for us to get back our land that was stolen from us, along with a mule. Plus he was going to teach us “How to Eat to Live.”

I was enthralled with this concept, and with due right. I’m black, I wanted my land back and my mule, and I needed to eat to live. And my Mom hated the whole idea and she was able to prove that this was not a religion from God with the Bible. But at the time, I needed something that did not emulate her, even though she was right. By the way, I couldn’t figure out the deal with the land and the mule, either. I never had any land or a mule, and if I got it back, what would I do with it? I’m from the city, I don’t know anything about land, let alone a mule. I’ve never even seen a mule, but I’m going to check it out, I thought, and I did.

Well, it all seemed good with women covering and having their own vanguard army, raising children, sewing, cooking and being respected by men. The men were soldiers, marrying, building a nation and protecting the women and children; growing their own foods and raising animals along with owning businesses. Most importantly, we were all happy with the concept that the white man was the devil – we needed every reason to hate the white man. We were once his slaves, although none of us had ever even seen a slave, let alone been a slave. All this was taught under the guise of “Islam,” or “The Nation of Islam.”

Yes, we had the Quran and Allah was our Lord. Then the rhetoric began with mixing verses of the Bible with ayahs of the Quran, and the pictures of Allah. They depicted their God as a little white man – I mean little in stature, and apparently he was seen only rarely, but no one could verify where this man was. Now how could this little man be the God of the Universe, I wondered. The universe is massive and he’s so little, not to mention he’s a white man. There’s no way a white man could be the devil and our Lord at the same time. Well, they lost me with that.

Several years later, I was a successful administrative assistant working my way up the corporate ladder for one of the top law firms. I was introduced to Buddhism by a co-worker. Here I go again, I thought, but I have to try, I need to find out how to really worship, get into heaven and be a good person.

Well, in Buddhism, they teach you how to chant, how to “go inside yourself” and find your inner strength to overcome that which seems to be hard for you. After the chanting, going inside yourself and reading passages from the handbook (the prayer book), offering time came. It was incumbent upon you to leave a gift or a sacrifice for a Buddha and he, Buddha, would answer your chant through your chi, and because of your offering.

The reason I say “a Buddha” is because the session of chanting can be done in a group, in someone’s house, in the temple alone or in a group – it didn’t matter because they had so many Buddhas. You could take a Buddha home with you, put it in your purse, or leave it in your car. Buddha was not only many, but he also had many sizes, from hand-held size to giant size that was tall as a building.

I really couldn’t stay there any longer, none of the beliefs or practices were getting into my head, especially when I had to leave a gift or sacrifice for Buddha. For the sacrifice, it was a decent piece of fruit, an exorbitant amount of cash or burn incense for a statute who I knew could not get up and do anything with these sacrifices – he was a statute. I saw others leaving their gifts and sacrifices, and as they did, I wondered who was really taking them. Each night when we returned, the fruit, now rotted, was still there and the incense had burned out, but who – who took that money and those checks? Buddha? I didn’t think so.

All of these thoughts and memories ran through my head that day in downtown Newark with all the Muslims. That day, I saw a lot of Muslims, and Muslim ladies fully covered, some with veils on their faces and gloves on their hands, and the men with their white thobes, short pants and beards. So I decided to ask about Islam. I was told that Islam is to worship Allah alone and to believe that Muhammad ibn Abdullah, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, is His slave and Last Messenger; and Islam is to obey Allah and Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, to pray, to fast, to give charity and to make the Pilgrimage, or Hajj.

I said, “Wow, how do I do that?” “Take the shahadahtain,” I was told, “Bear Witness to the Oneness of Allah.” I knew this was what I had been looking for, so I took the shahadahtain. And this time, I got it right, because Allah answered that du’aa I made and guided me to His Perfect Religion: Islam.

“Now,” I said to myself, “I needed to know how to practice this religion,” and as I thought it, Allah sent a friendly Muslim lady to me who told me about some classes in East Orange, NJ. I began attending the classes where I learned who my Lord is, how to worship Him, how to pray to Him, and in this class, I learned about Hijab and how it should properly be worn.

These women who taught me wore all black, with veils and gloves. I wasn’t ready for that yet. When first trying to cover as a new Muslimah, I thought covering only meant making sure there wasn’t any skin showing on my body. Oh, was I wrong! On a trip to the masjid once, a sister was very kind to me and explained what the true covering, the true hijab, consisted of. Hijab was a long, flowing jilbab that reached below my ankles, was not transparent or form-fitting, plus a khimar that covered my head, ears, neck and chest area. It was explained that hijab also includes mannerisms while in public, and especially around or near men. It meant making sure my clothes was not alluring or ostentatious, nor with loud colors. I had to maintain a reasonable voice when speaking with men and not make it soft or alluring.

Within a few days of being told this, I purchased all that I needed for wearing hijab. At the point, I did adhered to proper hijab with wearing a khimara, jilbab and covering my feet. Yet, as my knowledge of this deen increased my iman increased, therefore, my covering increased. Soon I was wearing all black, veil and gloves, and feeling safe, secure and free to go about in the land and not be physically, verbally and emotionally molested by strange men. Alhamdulillah, I was happy knowing that my appearance was da’wah for the people to come to Islam.

And here I am some fifteen years later, a Muslimah, striving to be a true believer, obeying Allah and His Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wasallam to the best of my ability, and I haven’t regretted any of it.

May Allah forgive me and all of us of ours sins and bless us with Jannah and save us from Jahannum. Ameen. And may Allah continue us on the Straight Path. Ameen!