The Mormons are highly organized in their dawah/missionary work and they played a pivotal role in my acceptance of Islam. A number of years ago, two Mormon guys, dressed in their customary dark pants, white shirts, and ties riding bikes knocked on my door, and seeing that I, a female was alone at home, they didn’t come in but offered their services and asked if I needed help with anything, and said that they would send over two sisters the next day.
The next day, two sisters arrived and gave me their highly organized 15 minute dawah presentation. They did this each day for 5 days as I was shy to tell them that I was not interested in their faith and really just wanted to ask them why their church didn’t accept blacks as full members until the late 1970s. By the end of the week, they asked me if I would come to their church the following Sunday and again, I felt shy to say that I really didn’t want to go to their church.
Later, that Friday, I called the two Mormon sisters and left a message on their voicemail telling them that I wasn’t interested in their faith, that I wasn’t going to their church on Sunday, and that they didn’t need to come see me for any future sessions. When they returned my call, they were surprised and kept asking me and pushing me as to why I didn’t believe, why I couldn’t accept Jesus as my personal savior, why I didn’t believe in original sin, etc. And finally, I just replied, that I couldn’t accept those things because I was Muslim. It was the first time I had really admitted it to myself, much less declared it publicly to anyone else. So, I decided that the time had come for me take my shahada and enter into Islam.
I looked up the English transliteration of the Arabic phrase and meaning of the shahada online, printed it up, and said it, either at the computer or in my bedroom, with only Allah and the angels as my witnesses. Prior to this, I had been reading about Islam for several months post-9/11 and the essentials of Islam accorded with my fitra (nature). I didn’t know any Muslims except the occasional Muslim cab drivers I met and the random Muslims I met out in the community so for the first two years I mainly learned about Islam from books, online resources, and lectures.
Among the earliest issues I noticed that were often presented as obligatory or highly recommended for a convert was the claim that one should say the shahada in front of two or more witnesses and change one’s name. From my reading, I was quite comfortable in saying that witnesses were not required for the validity of a conversion and I have blogged extensively about the name issue.
Two years later, I was beginning to integrate into the local Muslim community and one day after the Friday prayer, some sisters asked me about my conversion story, and when I mentioned the part about taking my shahada alone sans human witnesses, they were both surprised and expressed concern about the validity of my shahada. They called the masjid and the office admin or perhaps just a brother that happened to answer the phone said that I would have to repeat my shahada asap in front of witnesses. So these two sisters and I went back to the masjid, we prayed asr, found the brother and I took my shahada for the second time, two years after the first one to satisfy my witnesses moreso than to ensure the validity of my shahada, which I had always believed to be valid.
After my second shahada, we headed to George Mason University to attend my very first AlMaghrib seminar, Conquest: History of the Khulafaa and my life and my perspective of Islam was forever altered for the better.
Last month, I attended Ilm Week in Toronto and I had the oppurtunity to ask two of the instructors, Shaykh Waleed Basyouni and Dr. Reda Bedeir if my original conversion without human witnesses was valid and both said that it was and that there is no authentic proof to say otherwise, although there may be some benefits to having witnesses but that is a separate issue.