“Growing up, I had always doubted my own beliefs, after years of being told what was right by others […] I am now exactly in the spiritual nature which I am supposed to be. Now, I wake up each morning rested, peaceful, happy, and ready to be a Muslim.”
This story is contributed by D. Jacqueline Cosens, now known as Jumaana Salma Amatullah. Amatullah worked in health care, management, as an equine trainer, elementary tutor, newspaper editor, researcher, and freelance writer. She spent spare times studying, painting, writing articles, stories, and poetry, some of which were published in the U.S. and abroad. She also painted ninety-nine paintings in watercolors and oils on Islamic themes. Her business’ name is Niyyah Design. Mother of two, she currently lives with her husband in New England.
Although raised from infancy in one of the many Christian religious sects, I never found satisfactory answers to many questions of the teachings. Always curious and filled with tremendous conviction, to find ‘Who’ my Creator was, and what my existence and purpose was on earth, I began seeking various doctrines and philosophies for decades. Covering the assorted divisions in Christianity, and still unfulfilled, I progressed through many other beliefs, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and on and on, until one day I just decided it was all myths. Having come to that deadening conclusion, atheism crossed my mind. That, in itself frightened me, and certainly made no sense when one looks at the reality of the universe around them.
If there was no Creator, then there seemed no genuine purpose in living. The modesty and caring, which I was brought up to believe in, seemed a fruitless waste of time, especially in the ever sinful ways the world seemed to be heading. The world I found as an adult, was not a modest one, nor was it faithful or caring. I had been ridiculed for my puritanical lifestyle, even by my first husband, father to my two children. A party going lifestyle was just not my style. It bored me and the people who lived that way bored me. Superficial, shallow, and hurtful. After half a dozen years of marriage, my Christian husband partook of one too many affairs, and one too many party drugs, and I left him in Germany and returned with my two babies to go it alone, so to speak, much to the dismay of the little Baptist congregation and the preacher who married us.
My life then became one lived for my children and whatever was best for them. The people I met in work related fields, all seemed to have the same idea of how ‘I should realize it was the twentieth century … I should lighten up and have fun…I should do something wild and crazy for a change and take a chance.’ I hadn’t been able to share in the same party animal attitudes of those around me, so of course people just drifted away. It never bothered me in the least that they had basically abandoned me for newer and better friends. That is a common trait when those types cannot get you to join in their “fun”. If you don’t fold, they find others who they can change. I was happier when they left me alone.
My children, writing, research, travel, and various studies filled my life until 1987. Suddenly everything seemed to change. My father, whom I was closest to died that year. I had never thought about losing him. It just never crossed my mind. All the devotion, loyalty, and purity in the world, hadn’t helped me in keeping him alive. I was unable to do anything to help him, as I watched him grow more ill with each passing day. When he was gone, I felt so incredibly alone. Sadness filled my heart and every inch of my being. I wanted to die. I couldn’t see the point of remaining in this life without my father. He had been the only normal person I could remember in life. For the first time in my life, I knew what it meant to lose someone so special. The sadness was overwhelming, unlike any I had ever known. No one could feel it through me or for me. It was ‘my’ sadness.
I began looking back. My life had been difficult and disappointing. The only reason I felt I had to complete the life cycle, was because nearly every religion I studied professed it a grave, horrendous, and unforgivable sin to end one’s own life. So, that just couldn’t be an option. I had to go on, regardless of how foolish I felt “life” was, if for no other reason than to be there for my children if they should ever need me. Finally, working through the grief process, I realized everything I learned made very little sense. In desperation, I prayed through tears of sincerity for ‘my Creator’, whomever that might be, to guide me to the right path. My studies brought knowledge of Him in my mind, but my heart just could not find Him. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I prayed and sought after Divine guidance, continuously, day and night. I found myself wanting to sleep the rest of my life away, it would be so much easier. Sleeping was like dying and I liked it. When I was awake all I did was think, try to figure out the purpose of existence. When I slept I didn’t think.
Then one morning I rose from sleep, turned on the television, trying desperately to fill my mind with nothingness, and trying to distract myself from the constant nagging thoughts about religions and beliefs. On the screen, believe it or not, was Phil Donahue, the popular talk show host. He was interviewing a man who spoke with a foreign accent about Islam. Next to him was the man’s wife, a white American woman, who had converted to Islam. I was paying much attention to what the woman was saying, because I had known numerous women who converted to their husband’s religions. I had always rejected that type of behavior, as I felt that one’s beliefs should be because of one’s own personal convictions and relationship with the Creator.
However, as she continued to speak, I saw and felt something very different. She was sitting there, in a long most modest type of dress, her head covered with a scarf. It was beautiful. She looked pure and happy, spoke intelligently and without the crazy antics, that usually emerged from most of the talk show circuit guests. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t see her shape or what her hair looked like. It was all in her eyes and in her voice. She was telling about her conversion to Islam. She seemed very much Muslim and believed in Islam. I became very interested in what she was saying. So much of what she talked about was exactly the way I had believed and how I had lived, in spite of all the craziness around me. They called themselves Muslims and said they followed Islam.
Since the only Muslims I had ever heard about in America, were connected to some racist group, who hated anyone with different color eyes and hair than they had, and Islam was also part of the name for their organization, this didn’t make a lot of sense at first. Assuming they were the same people, there must have been some radical change that occurred from when I was a youngster. I quickly became glued to the talk show and learned that the true Islamic Faith, which began in Arabia, did not have any kind of prejudices involved. True Islam does not propagate any racism or hatred for anyone. The more I heard, the more I was interested. Having had one idea of what Islam was or wasn’t had come strictly from the media, which of course projects whatever they want people to believe. I had fallen victim to that kind of brainwashing. I had assumed that if a group uses the name Islam in their title they were the same as all Muslims who practice the Islamic Faith. One should never assume anything, I learned that quite quickly. The more I listened, the more I learned.
I wondered: could I ever be accepted as a Muslim, by other Muslims? Were there other blonde -haired, blue-eyed, female Muslims around? I knew so little about this new religion, but something was happening to me even then. Something or someone had drawn me to that talk show that particular day, as I generally was not a television watcher. My heart or my soul, something within me, was being drawn to listen, and it had actually been the visual alone that had made me sit up and take notice. I liked the unusual dress styles and had worn those very styles myself, in spite of what fashion dictated out in the world. I could feel my depression, from my father’s passing begin to disappear. In fact, I felt connected again and my attention was clearer than ever.
Everything in life has a prescribed timing, at least I see that now. That day, it became the time in my life, that I was to hear of this thing called Islam. I had no understanding of the religion, which for me I now consider a way of life, rather than just a belief. I can’t remember much of what else was being said that day, as the show progressed, but there was a serious conviction growing deep within my soul. There was talk about something called ‘Qur’an’, about staying modest in this perverted world, about husbands being faithful and loyal to their families, but none of it seemed to be the hype religions use to manipulate their practitioners. It all made perfect sense. It seemed logical and dealt with reality. These Muslims worshipped the Creator, not a man and I liked that. I wished I’d known about Islam growing up. I’d always kept an open mind, never judging acquaintances from the way they lived, but I could never change to live the way they did, although it ruined many relationships. But here, in front of my eyes, seeping into my ears, were words that fit the way I thought, lived, and believed. But now, I did have a word that fit my beliefs. That word was ‘Islam’.
During that time, I was living alone in my home in a little town in the deep South. There were no books on Islam at the library. When I asked, they told me they pre-read all their books and a committee approved which ones they would shelve. Having been born and raised in New York, I knew more ways than one, how to get information others might consider ‘censored’, out in some hill-town. So, I began asking way too many questions, but in the end the results paid off. I was told there was one Muslim, a Math teacher at their little high school, living in the town and married to a Methodist woman. I called the Methodist Church, explained who I was trying to locate and they gave me the name of the family. I called, even though basically I remain timid around those I do not know, and I asked if he might know what translation of Qur’an was best and where I might acquire one. He gave me a name, I found a bookstore a hundred miles from where I was living, and I ordered a copy of the Qur’an. When I got my copy in the mail, I read it cover to cover in two days. It was poetry to me. It was in that moment, when I embraced Islam and was embraced by Islam.
I was like an addict. Never before was I so obsessed with anything in my life. I couldn’t get enough of it. I came up with the idea to call the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC. Within a week my mailbox was filled with beautiful brochures containing precious information. I literally holed up in my home, locking doors, lowering drapes, unplugging phones, not speaking to anyone. Everyone thought I had left on a trip. I didn’t want to be disturbed from my newly found treasures. I was absolutely in paradise. Everything, every word, every explanation, every answer I read suited me. I saw through the messages and words the way, I had believed all along. I had not been old fashioned or wrong. Modesty was modesty, plain and simple. Having tried to fit into other’s people’s ideas of how I should live just never fit me. It was always a disastrous end. Now, finally, I had the answers. I had found my Creator’s wishes, commands, and the reason for living. It had been with me all along. Where I would go from that point, I was sure would be limitless … not accepted by others perhaps, but limitless for my own life and heart.
I absolutely believe Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) would forever more, direct my steps in whatever way He chooses. I thought back of how I prayed so hard and for the first time, the Creator had answered through a talk show, one that had lasted only an hour out of decades past in my life. Incredible? Yes! Eventually I did find a place for books, tapes and prayer rugs. I ordered everything I could. I received another copy of the Qur’an. Such beautiful words filled the thick, green and gold hard-cover book, in Arabic with the English translation. In reading it again, from cover to cover, I began dreaming about Masjids, one in particular with a walled and protective courtyard out back, beauty in my dreams, which I had never dreamed about before. I felt protected inside myself then, knowing finally that all my differences and desires to find the answer for being on the earth, had finally come to fruition. It was, is, and will always remain, to worship the Creator Allah, and to submit to His Will in everything. My dreams had always been disconnected before, and suddenly after embracing Islam, they became lucid, protective, and special. I never really understood all aspects of the meanings, but they bring me so much peace.
Growing up, I had always doubted my own beliefs, after years of being told what was right by others. These beautiful dreams were a verification for me, that Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) did guide me to Islam and that I am now exactly in the spiritual nature which I am supposed to be. Now, I wake each morning rested, peaceful, happy, and ready to be a Muslim. I continue to read passages from the Qur’an every night. My closest extended family, whom I consider only my grown children and grandchildren, and who are not yet Muslim, are accepting of my change. Others are not, but then I do not seek the approval of anyone other than Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala). I dress Islamically and practice the Five Pillars of Islam. Since those days nearly a decade ago, Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) has blessed me with a wonderful husband and an adopted son, changes in my life that I would have never expected or planned. But Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) knows best and for me, I will accept whatever He Wills. By remaining in submission to Him, I have discovered that my life has been in harmony, which certainly was not the case when I thought I was in control of it prior to becoming a Muslim. My hope is Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) will continue to lead me to the correct ways, laws, and prayers, that will allow me to live in the fullest for Him, and to fully develop the true Islamic lifestyle in everything I do. What I do know, is that I have finally found the way, not just knowledge of the mind like the many times before, but now, deep inside, I found what had always been the part of me that seemed to be missing …The Heart of a Muslim.