JOURNEY TO ISLAM: Little Secret Steps Toward Islam An American Woman Finds Her Path
My name is Julianne (Noora) Scasny.
I was born in the United States to a mother who is Syrian (Arab) Christian and a father who is white European descent. Both are Catholic.
When I was 15 years old I wanted to be a nun in the Roman Catholic church. So I was close in relationship to God - or so I thought - and never really had this so-called personal relationship with Jesus (peace be upon him).
Anyway, in my world history class we were studying Middle Eastern history, which I was very interested in, and we stumbled on the subject of Islam. There was a student from Egypt and he was correcting the teacher on the misconceptions about Islam. I just remember saying to myself:
"Wow! He is correcting the teacher. Usually the teacher corrects the student!"
After that day in class I asked him what was the difference between Catholicism and Islam. He said:
"Not that much."
I was not satisfied with this answer, so I studied Islam on the computer at school. He introduced me to his family and one day I asked his mother if I could have a copy of the Quran in English.
Al-hamdu lillah (all praise to God), she gave me an English translation by Yusuf Ali, and I couldn't put it down. To me, when I read the Bible, it seemed like there was always some meaning behind what was being read because the words had been changed, but the Quran spoke to my heart and I knew it was from Allah. So I became a Muslim in my heart, al-hamdu lillah.
When my parents found out I was interested in Islam, they tried to forbid me from befriending Muslims. My mom called the lady who gave me the translation of the Quran and told her:
"Stop talking to my daughter about Islam, you are confusing her."
I remember my first `Eid Al-Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast), I told my dad I had to work as an excuse to go to `Eid Prayer. Well, he ended up finding out that I went to the masjid. There was not one located near my home and I couldn't drive, so I got a ride from my Muslim Pakistani friends. That was the first time I saw the Muslims all together performing the same ritual. Anyway, my dad brought me to my friend's house and told her mom that he didn't want her to give or lend me any more literature about Islam. She was very respectful and said:
"I won't, but when she is in my home she is free to read whatever she wants."
Afterwards my mom made me go talk to the priest of the Catholic church to talk about Islam and the dream I had. My dad started to search my room every so often and took my copy of the Quran, prayer clothing, literature, and threw them out. I used to cry so much because of this. I even had to hide my Quran in the air-conditioning vent! My dad took the lock off my door, so I had to pray in secret when my parents were sleeping. It was so hard. My dad used to tell me:
"As long as you are living under my roof you will obey my rules and you will go to church and be Catholic."
I didn't know what to do. I asked my friend's parents what to do and they told me listen to my parents. Well, I did and for the next four years my life was a total disaster.
Four years later at the age of 20, I called the lady who had given me the Quran to ask about the new masjid that was being built. She told me:
"Come and see for yourself."
Well, ironically this masjid was in a building that was used originally as a teenage nightclub! And my own sister previously was arrested for being drunk. Subhan Allah (glory be to Allah)! So I went to the dinner at the masjid and that feeling all came back to me.
The power of the Adhan brought me to tears. I told myself:
"I don't care what my parents say. I don't care what anyone says! I want this feeling. I want to be a practicing devout Muslim! I am sick of trying to do things my way! I submit to the will of Allah Almighty."
Al-hamdu lillah, that Ramadan I made Shahadah in the back of the masjid in front of a group of women because the imam was afraid of what my parents would do if I made Shahadah out loud in front of everyone. I started wearing hijab that Ramadan.
My parents to this day will not stop telling me "Take that thing off your head! Can't you dress younger or wear shorts?" I just tell them "Look at the pictures your people paint of Mary. What does she look like in those pictures? She looks like a Muslim woman!"
My own grandparents told me to go to hell! My mom used to cook pork and lie and say it was beef! I would ask my dad "Please don't take the dog downstairs where I pray" — I was living in the basement of my parents' house — and he would say "This is my house" and he would do it anyway. Then I desperately argued with him "You don't bring the dog to church, do you?"
My mom would force me to get a job while I was in college, even in places where they serve alcohol. I used to beg the people at the masjid for money, crying my eyes out for help to Allah. Al-hamdu lilah, Allah is so Merciful, He gave me a husband and I got married at the age of 21. And now a little over a year later at the age of 22 I'm pregnant with my first baby. Of course my family keeps bothering me about Islam, but I'm so grateful to Allah. I try to give my parents da`wah all the time and pray for them, but Allah guides whom He wills.
I just sit here sometimes and look at the Muslims and think how you people don't really know what it is like to have parents who don't believe in your religion. I just look at some Muslims and become sick because I wish my parents were with me, but then again Muslims are my family now.
Muslims should be united as one in the constant worship of Allah, in sha' Allah (Allah willing) through prayer, dhikr, reading Quran, good manners, and not fighting among themselves.
May Allah strengthen the faith and piety and fear of Allah and good manners of every single Muslim.