THE STORY OF MY STRUGGLE TO WIN BACK MY FAITH
Updated: Dec 24, 2020
By: Raya Shokatfard
A person who has made his/her declaration of faith in Islam has entered a blessed and honored stage unlike any other in this world. A bright white path, free of past sins and delusions has just emerged in the new life and a world of wonder and much unknown at the horizon.
How does one move forward in faith and maintain a strong relationship with God and face challenges that new Muslims may encounter?
With certainty, the new revert has willingly chosen this path after considerable contemplation, research and comparison with other options. This has been a conscious decision to step into the final religion ordained by God and revealed to the last Prophet of God for all mankind till the Day of Judgment.
There is a certain amount of anxiety one must feel walking into this new faith, with much unknown tenets that they might be concerned they do not yet know. It might be even more awkward if one lives in a community that does not have many Muslims around or an organised study group.
My Way Back to Islam
Perhaps I can shed some light on my own experience in a similar situation when I came back to Islam.
I lived in a very small mountain town of Northern California with my two kids and mother. As for Islamic material, I only had a copy of the Quran in Arabic with English translation. That’s all!
After embracing nearly all major religions of the world, I found Islam to be the only religion free of worship of idols, saints and prophets, as well as being free of any form of self-worship.
I finally found the only true monotheistic religion—and with that, I felt I conquered the world.
It would have been best if I had moved to a bigger city and joined one of the larger Muslim communities, as recommended by Prophet Muhammad, but my circumstances did not allow at the time.
I spent much of my time studying the Quran, I memorized and tried to understand the meaning of the verses. I thought that the knowledge of Quran was enough. Yet once one grows in faith, it becomes clear that by knowing the teachings and the traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, some issues which are more in need of explanations and clarifications are addressed.
After years of reading and researching I had found the uncorrupted understanding of my Creator.
Prophet Muhammad was given the Quran as a revelation. He expounded on the meaning of the Quran and made clear some ambiguous verses. He was also inspired by God to guide his followers through his actions and words.
So, it became clear that I had to connect with some larger communities at a later time and it was through such connections that my path became much smoother, my knowledge expanded and my practice refined.
Yet, the road of success was not all that smooth. My biggest challenge was my own family who constantly ridiculed, insulted and belittled my new practice. Did I ever feel overwhelmed, intimidated or regretted my new path? NEVER!
On the contrary, I felt sorry for them who deprived themselves of the Divine guidance and chose to focus on the worldly gains, fame, and pleasures. I tried not to get into arguments with them but showed respect to them and was very patient, but continued very firm in my resolve to practice my religion. I did not attend gatherings that conflicted with the Islamic way of life and teachings. Yes, I was somewhat isolated, but this gave me a better chance to focus on my ever neglected spiritual life.
As for my family, I knew it would only be a matter of time, the change of my life for the better, and my strong state of mind that would be a fair witness on my behalf.
Well, that proved to be exactly what happened. Twenty five years later, my family admitted that I seem to be in a much better mental health, fully strong in the faith coupled with an unbreakable self identify and high self esteem and best of all, in optimum health at age 65, all praise be to Allah.
My success story is first due to grace of God who continued guiding me and strengthening my faith, without which I could not withstand the secular US societal pressures and family unrest.
After years of reading and researching I had found the uncorrupted understanding of my Creator through the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. Was I going to give it up, get weak or intimidated by the unfortunate few or many? NO WAY!
I not only had to keep learning, practicing and fueling my soul with the Divine guidance, I also felt obliged to reach out and share with others what I had finally found.
On The Path of Dawah
When one shares with determination and strength, their faith with others, it has a miraculous effect. People see and feel your faith. Your strength moves them in a positive way. A professional public speaker or a famous actor/actress can never impress a soul of another as much as a simple and sincere believer can when they come forward with strength and determination about their faith.
If you are new in the faith and still young, my humble advice is not to waste any time.
In fact, it was the continuous encouragement of the American public, after hearing my presentations about Islam that moved me to seek further education to widen my options and enhance my capabilities.
The media war against Islam after September 11th. and positive public reception to my lectures pushed me to my next destination. I needed all the tools to present Islam at its best and also refute misconceptions through various multimedia tools.
At age 56, I returned to academia. I got a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism, left to Egypt and got two Master degrees in Journalism/Mass Communication and TV Journalism/documentary production and presently working on a Bachelors degree in Islamic Studies.
With the help of God and firm determination to learn, implement and provide awareness to others, I have been able to give presentations at international conferences, write articles, make documentaries, appear on TV programs to name a few.
I have lost vision in one eye, but thank God as long as I have the other eye, nothing will slow me down to learn, teach and reach. Yet, I ask God not to let my success in this path embolden me with pride, as it is the worst of characters for a Muslim.
Although Prophet Muhammad told us not to look in the past and regret things you did or did not do and just learn from it and move on, I cannot help but to wish I had started much earlier in the faith and learning. The mind is much more vivid to learn and remember. The body also has more strength and endurance. Yet it is never too late for the sincere seeker.
If you are new in the faith and still young, my humble advice is not to waste any time. You must move forward like a strong warrior on a big, powerful white horse that moves forward and gallops as fast and gracefully as you direct it to go. This horse is your knowledge coupled with strong faith and trust in God.
See the world around you and imagine what it would be like if others had received the gift of guidance like you did! Would you like to take part in sharing this gift? Do you really feel the blessing that God has bestowed on you from among millions? Did you ask why me? Do you know the answer?
It is simple! Your heart was open to receive guidance and those whose hearts are closed can only see and hear what is fed to them through their minds but their souls are in need of enlightenment like you.
Your best path from now on is to learn, purify yourself and share with certitude and humble pride.
Welcome to Islam!
Published on Reading Islam on Sunday, 04 November 2012