Converted to Shia Islam – Sister J.L. Ahen


I was born in the Midwestern America to an upper middle-class family. My mom was catholic, my dad Christian, although he didnt go to church. His family was Baptist. I went to a number of different churches / denominations growing up. Since I was 5, I can remember being confused about the concept of the trinity, and the fact that all you had to do was accept Jesus as your saviour seemed too easy. I couldnt understand how God could have a son, and sacrifice him for others sins. This didnt effect my belief in God, I never denied his existence, rather, just didnt know how to reach him. I went through subsequent periods of being religious (blindly accepting faith) and rebelling / questioning.

My father was an alcoholic. He was physically abusive to my mom, and verbally abusive to my brother and me. He was quite prejudiced – due to his affiliations with certain white supremecist groups… as well as freemasons… something I didnt know until much later in life. He was so prejudiced that he believed all Mexicans were lazy, and if you ate too much rice youd get slanted eyes like Asians! He severly condemned blacks (as descendents of apes) and Arabs werent much better. Alhamdulillah my mother divorced him and remarried, taking us as far away as possible from him. He still had visitation, and continued to drink until it ruined his marriage, career, and family ties. My step father was terrific, a father in the true sense of the word.

I was always at the top of my class in school, but was quite a trouble maker, clever enough not to get caught very often. I was never a part of any group or clique in jr high or high school. I had friends from each group, even from other nationalities just to spite my father, but I was pretty independent. I went throught the different teen phases from sports, to rock and roll to punk rock (weird hair experiments) to anarchism to radio/tv/modelling… I, like many, thought that independence / freedom would make me happy. When I got a car and a job at 16, look out! I hate to remember all the grief I caused my poor mother…. it was fun for a while, but I still wasnt happy. I rushed thru highschool and into university without thinking, just intent on finishing. That, I thought, would make me happy. All the time, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking: Where does it end? There has to be more to life than this. My next question when I found myself unhappy was always, then what?

When you grow up in a society that doesnt place much emphasis on religion, you look for guidance from other sources, which may be the reason so many people are heading down the wrong path. Divorce, drug / alcohol use, the breakdown of the family unit, materialism, etc. are normal or common in that society. Unfortuanately, sports heroes and musicians are not necessarily good role models. My mother was a good influence on me, but I was quite rebellious and very head strong. I had to find out for myself.

The Rude Awakening……

When I was 17, I took an honors course in comparative relgion. It really got me thinking. I started my investigation into different relgions. I tried Christianity again, to no avail. Judaism from the beginning didnt appeal to me. I delved into Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism…. Wicca… you name it. I started to meet people of different religions and have discussions with them. I could see some good in most of them, but not enough to convince me. I was an avid reader and remembered something I had read years before (I even used to read encyclopedias and dictionaries…) about Saudi Arabia… about pork and alcohol being forbidden and there being a Prophet called Mohammed…. like many at the time, I erroneously believed that muslims worshipped Mohammed, in the same way Christians believed Jesus is the son of God (astaghfirallah).

My first encounter with Islam in a course wasnt too convincing. They talked a lot about poetry: sufism, the pillars of faith, the Prophet Mohammed and very little about the history of Islam. Somewhere about this time I started to meet muslims/Arabs. I thought the women were oppressed and never dreamed Id ever become muslim. Not me, I’d never be fooled by the false Prophet…. (God forgive me) Subhannallah, once I started reading about Islam, I couldnt stop. It was like a hunger, that only more knowledge could satisfy. I started with a translation of the Holy Quran. I was mezmerized by the Arabic recitation, even though I didnt understand it. The pillars of faith sounded noble and logical.No trinity! One God, pure and simple. Islam was a comprehensive religion, covering all aspects of life. I marvelled at the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). I was amazed at how I could have spent 18 years learning, and yet feel that I knew nothing. I felt ashamed at my ignorance. All these years, I had been wrong. How could that be? Later it would become obvious why we were never taught about the true Islam. I knew it was only a matter of time before I converted, but I was still stubborn then, and wanted to be sure it wasnt just another phase I was going through. In my heart, I was muslim, but needed more conviction before openly professing it. It was a big leap that I was going to take. I was aware of the Shia since the revolution had been in full swing for some time now, this was late 1980s. Ofcourse I thought they were the bad guys. I thought the sunni were right, until I got into reading about the history of Islam. I wondered what happened after the Prophet died…. and when I read about bani Saqeefa, I thought, this is not democratic! This arose my suspicion, and further investigation. I bought or borrowed any books I could find. One of the arab guys from the university (who later became my DH) took me to meet some of the other guys wives, who were mostly shia. They were a great help to me. They answered my questions and accepted me into their study circle. (May Allah reward their efforts) My life changed forever, alhamdulillah. I became muslim, got married, and started covering, praying, fasting… My husband provided me with every opportunity to learn, taking me to conferences and arranging for me to talk/discuss with many imams/ sheikhs / sayyids. With their help (rakabt safinat ahlul bayt ) I became a follower of the ahlul bayt .

I was mentally at peace and satisfied with my decision. However, then I had my parents to deal with. My mom was a bit apprehensive at first, but supported my decision. I lost lots of friends and some family members. My father was difficult and made my husband and I miserable until we came here. However, he did quit drinking and I have forgiven him for what he did. We now have a good relationship. He has accepted my conversion and my husband and children. Although I felt alienated from my family and friends, Allah has blessed me with good muslim sisters as friends ever since.

No regrets……

I lived in the US as a muslim for over 2 years before coming here. Ive been in the Gulf for 13 years. When I go back home, it is a serious culture shock for me. I look at things much differently now. I see the value of Islam, what it has given me, like salvation, peace, true freedom, and dignity. Before, everything was grey area…. now its black and white. Islam became the white, the light of my life. For those of you born to muslim families, you dont know what a gift you have been given for free. Dont take it for granted. It is the most precious thing you can ever imagine to possess! I have been truly blessed and hope and pray that Allah (swt) Lord of the worlds, will accept my good deeds and forgive my sins, and help me to guide as many as possible to the religion of Islam, through the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and the infallible ahlul bayt. Allahu Akbar, alhamdullillahi rub al alimeen! Alla homa sulli ala Mohammed wa ahli Mohamed!


AlMujtaba Islamic Network