The Mormoms helped me become Muslim

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.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

12 thoughts on “The Mormoms helped me become Muslim”

  1. AsSalaamu Alaikum,
    That is ignorance that perpetuates in our community. Allah makes Muslims. Islam while very congregational is still a very individual between you and Allah religion. I’ve been muslim all my life and because my name is not really Abdul At-Tawwaab although I love that name, I hardly get salaams even when I offer first. Alhamdulillah. It is what it is. While I may be blowing your post out of proportion, I will say that this just shows that muslims, we need to really learn our deen and stop group thinking so much without proper knowledge. What you went through shouldn’t have ever happened. I’ve come to realize that while good intentioned, a lot of people not just muslims but a lot people try to give dawah by getting people to feed off of their emotion. So they make a lot of commotion and say a lot in a high strung voice to get people to feel good and assume that their words are right. But people must stay level headed. Ask for proof. Allah (S.W.T) grants us signs so that we can know and be certain, we see this in Qur’an. Who are we to think we shouldn’t show proof, especially when speaking about matters regarding Allah?
    Constantly I have to tell members of my family who question my faith, hey you don’t believe me, there’s the books right here. I feel like Levar Burton. Alhamdulillah. I can’t complain. Allahu Akbar.
    I’m glad what you researched was confirmed by those with knowledge Alhamdulillah.

  2. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullah,

    Ikram: Thanks, I’ve been a Muslim for quite a few years now, alhamdulillah. I actually think there was great benefit in spending a few years learning my deen as much possible before I interacted with too many Muslims as the knowledge I gained served as a protection for me from their harms.

    Abs: Ameen.

    Abdul at-Tawwaab: Alhamdulillah, Islam is beautiful and perfect and that’s what helps to keep us firmly rooted in the faith, as for the Muslims that try to kill us with their well-intentioned ignorance, we have to be patient.

  3. Ify, thank you for posting this up. I was wondering about your conversion story when I met you in Canada and I sure am glad you posted it here 🙂

    Usually I hear stories of converts wanting to/needing to integrate in the community. I think your approach was wise though, especially because you know yourself and knew it would work better in your case to do what you did. Alhamdulillah.

    1. Sudz: Great name 🙂 I’m kind of shy and a bit of a do-it-yourselfer so that carried over into my Islam. I think my name change was a bit of trying to fit in as a newbie but now I am much more comfortable in my Islam and in my own skin, alhamdulillah.

  4. Assalaamu Alaikum.

    My shahadah\’s story was similar. I didn\’t say it at home but at the streets in the very first moment I realized the time had come.

    One month later I was attending the Spanish Congress on Islamic Feminism and was invited to repeat it as another sister, married to one of the organisers, decided to enter Islam one night. Nevertheless, the emir who took both Shahadahs told me that my first \”edition\” was valid in the way it was true and conscious, although it\’s always preferible to make it in front of witnesses, meaning yamaa, meaning community.

    I know at least another indie Shahadah story _the community I belong to in Spain organises interfaith meetings in Cordoba and we work close to non muslime people who we love and share life with. So, my sister Isabel, after working with us for 5 years, praised herself as a muslimah in a controversial interfaith meeting. The community tried to enter the Great Mosque of Cordoba, transformed in cathedral in Renaissance, for an interfaith prayer, and the Bishope closed up the doors.

    So, Isabel praised her rights as a muslimah _in front of the Mayor, the emir, two imams, all the community and CNN Spain. I wasn\’t there that day but they told me that after that, the emir told her \”you have just done Shahadah, did you notice?\” And she\’s a muslimah since then 🙂

    Beautiful post.

    1. Small Blue Thing,

      Sallam. What a wonderful story! Cordoba has such memories for us Muslims. Its surprising how many people in Spain are reverting back to Islam (and reversion has is doubly meaningful here).

      Again, I want to reiterate that Muslim Apple’s original conversion was just fine and those in the faith were wrong in arguing over it. No name changes are required either.

  5. mA always wanted to know your conversion story, and now you have two! 🙂

    Where are some of the links on the changing name issue you wrote about? I didn’t know YOU were Muslim Apple!

  6. Hi Ify, I LOVE this post! Mormonism has left a mark on my life/Islam too. Over the past 3 years, I’ve had 3 Mormon housemates! Given my disposition towards being pretty confident in terms of my spiritual path AND pretty curious, when one of them offered to take me to the visitor’s center near that famous Mormon Temple near the beltway, I accepted. There, I saw a (Mormon-perspective-rooted — of course) dramatization of the life of Joseph Smith (who, given the racial ordinances you mention above, I’d always thought was a con-artist, etc). I was surprised and touched by what seemed to me to be evidence of profound sincerity in his intentions/motives with respect to said movement! It didn’t move me to become a Mormom per se. But it surprised me. And I figured that since I lived with a Mormon, this would be an opportunity to visit their community during their Sunday events to get more of a feel for them … Upon doing so, I learned that there is a lot to respect/appreciate about many of their perspectives/traditions. Their Sunday gatherings are 3-fold. First hour = community worship (everyone together); the second hour is Scriptural study (adults together); and the third hour is gender-specific! They have (IMHO) a potentially profound/holistic perspective for understanding gender with respect to spirituality too! So I was pleasantly surprised (given how ‘white bread’ many Mormons have come across to me growing up and/or in light of their past racial policies, etc), and must admit that I feel that I’ve actually learned some invaluable lessons due to their being my housemates! Mashallah! 🙂

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