Zakiyyah F. Amatullah (USA)
Zakiyyah F. Amatullah (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
I grew up in the United States, Philadelphia Pa. I was raised as a Christian in the Baptist Church. My mother made me go to church every Sunday and on that day the only music that was allowed to be played was Gospel. I never liked church very much, it always seemed to me, to be a place for a fashion show. You had to wear you very best outfit and sit and check out everybody elses as they came through the door. I would see people nudging each other as they seen the people come through the door and gossiping about them or looking at them with their noses in the air. I noticed some were very uncomfortable about what they had on,because they knew they would be discussed after the service. I never liked that atmosphere. Then it came time for the service, now was the preacher's time to show out. He would start slow and easy with the preaching and it would build up as he went along. Soon he would grab the Bible and start preaching and jumping up and down, sweat running everywhere.
The people would get happy with him and start shouting and carrying on. And it never failed, when the people became excited like that, that they would pass around the money container,and out of being so fired up they would give all they had without even thinking about it. I never could understand why,when the preacher got excited, so did they. It never hit me like that, and I use to wonder why.
So I use to go home and start reading the Bible. I was sure I would find my answer in there as to why I wasn't like the rest of the 'Holy people'. I really thought I wasn't doing something right. But as read the Bible, I never noticed any of their people in there ever jumping up and down and getting happy. I remember reading when Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas and he (Jesus)went behind a mountain to pray. I can remember thinking, who is God (ASTAGHFIRULLAH - May Allah Forgive me) praying to? I knew something was wrong then. So I asked about this to my mother and grandmother and they would tell me he is praying to the Father. Well that threw me into total confusion and I went on that way until I was a teenager and concluded that church just wasn't for me. So I never was a religious person.
I use to notice the Muslim women walking along or on the bus, they stood out to me, I wanted to know what they were all about, but I didn't know how to approach them. I had a friend and she told me to greet them with 'assalaamu alaikum'. So I said the next time I see a Muslim lady I would say that. She told me the Muslims have a book called the Noble Quran and that they don't eat pork. Neither one of us understood why they covered (up) like that, but thought it was kind of neat. It made them stand out, and they always carried themselves so well.
One day I was on the bus going downtown and a Muslim woman got on the bus, and I greeted her with 'assalaamualaikum' and she greeted me back,so I asked her where could I get a copy of the Noble Quran and she told me. The very next day I went and got one. When I started to read this book, it gave me a good feeling, I could understand it and I couldn't put it down. I decided to go into the military and I took the Quran with me and continued to read it and told my army buddies about what it said. This continued for three years and I re-enlisted for two more years and went to Texas.
My roomate was a Buddhist and I use to see her do her thing at a little box and she would chant and ring bells in front of candles.I told her I was interested in Islam and about what I was reading. One day she went out and when she came back she handed me a sheet of paper and said: Maybe you would be interested in this. It was about Islam and where they met at on Fridays. I took it and threw it in my locker. About a day or two later I decided to go to this place and see what Islam was all about. I went and listened to the khutbah and liked very much what I was hearing. He (the speaker) was talking about the people and their behaviour,and how the women dressed, and sex before marriage. It left a good impression on me and the (Muslim) sisters were so nice to me. They didn't try to convert me, but they invited me back. So that next friday I went back again and again I love the khutbah (sermon), what he was saying was a reality, it was true. The sisters told me they would be having a picnic at the park that next week and would like for me to join them and I accepted the invitation.
The next week arrived and off to the park we went. We arrived in the afternoon and I watched while the brothers (Muslim men) covered the ground with white sheets. I thought to myself, this is where we will sit and eat! While the sisters and I were sitting on a bench a brother got up took off his shoes and stood in the middle of the sheets, put his hands up to his ears and started singing (at lest that's what i thought) and I said to myself: What on earth is he doing? I asked the sister close to me what was he doing and she said this is a call to prayer. Then I watched them as they made the Sunnah prayer (a optional short prayer). While one was standing up another was bending over and yet another had his face to the ground. I sat and observed.
When they all had finished another brother came and called again to prayer, but this time everybody got up and made lines like we did in the army. One man was in front, while all other made were behind him in rows, just like we did in formation. The women were in the back farther away. And they started to pray. I had never seen anything so amazing in my whole entire life, I was so overwhelmed when I saw that. I knew right then and there I wanted to be a Muslim. When the day was over I told them I would come back the next week and I did, but this time I told the sister I wanted to be a Muslim and they told their Imam and I took the shahadah (testification of faith - see How do I Become a Muslim?) . That was the happiest day of my life. All the Muslim sisters hugged me and congradulated me, I felt like I had been lifted into a new world and I never felt any difference until this very day. Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil 'alamin (All Praise and Thanks are due to Allaah, Lord of all Creation).
May Allah (the one true Almighty God) guide us all to accept His decree. May Allah make us all strong in following, practicing and accepting this great religion in its entirety. Ameen!!!
Zakiyyah F. Amatullah