Sunday, January 19, 2014

Confessions of a Muslim Convert

As I mentioned in my previous post "My Conversion Story", I only takes a minute to be a convert to Islam but being a good Muslim is a life long journey. Honestly, it's not an easy process. Learning everything about Islam, reciting the prayers, learning the "wudu" and "ghusl", identifying 'halal' and 'haram',  finding a mosque and of course looking for friends who will help you to make the journey towards Islam memorable.

The Big News
My mother and father via Skype

Telling your family members that you converted to Islam is not an easy task. My family is Catholic and my parents are very religious people. I was trying to figure out the best way to tell them. I told my closest friends first and luckily they accepted my decisions wholeheartedly. One of my friends warn me about hate crimes against Muslims. I told her that I live in a mixed community in Brooklyn. Jews, Christians and Muslims live peacefully in my neighborhood so she have nothing to worry about. Another friend of mine asked me about a certain verse in the Quran which I am not familiar with. I told her I am just learning and I explained to her that we are still praying to the same God it's just that there are certain ways how we do it. Then, I got engaged so me and my husband talked to my parents via Skype about our wedding plans. They congratulate us and my parents gave us blessings for our marriage. Then, they were asking us, "So where will you have the ceremony? You know marriage is a sacrament and you should have a blessings in the church." I replied, "Hmm,...I converted to Islam." And they become speechless for a while. I explained the process of the wedding and I can see from the webcam that my parents are teary-eyed but then they still supported us. I am forever grateful for my parents about it. 
My friends Toneth de Leon and Dina Teodoro
wear tradional Bengali dress on my wedding

Learning Materials

When I converted the Imam gave me a learning kit. I have my second Quran, book about the Jesus and Mary mentioned in Quran, DVD about Islam and the prayer book. I also searched on Google about Quran, Islam and the life of a convert. The information are overwhelming. Honestly, there are thousands of site that could mislead someone  about the true meaning of Islam. It is one of the concerns of being a convert in filtering the information that we see on-line. There are different Schools of Thought in Islam and there are also people who are using Islam to promote violence. I hope there is a way that we can classify and validate if the information is valid and true to the essence of Islam.  

Learning the prayers

My husband was teaching me how to pray. All the prayers in Islam are in Arabic except for Du'as which you can say in your native language. At first I was shocked because first I am Filipino my native language is Tagalog and my parents are also speaking Illonggo, a native dialect from their province. Now I am in America I am speaking English, some of my students speaks Spanish so I am learning to speak Spanish. I have Rosetta Stone to help me learn. Then my husband is from Bangladesh his parents were asking me to learn Bangla because they said it is hard for them to learn English. Then, in order to practice my faith I need to learn Arabic. Before I doesn't makes sense to me. God is our Creator, He understand and sees our heart then why do we need to speak Arabic? Now, I see the value of learning Arabic. Quran was in Arabic in order to understand the full meaning of Quran we need to understand the Arabic language. Second, people from all over the world speaks different language. If all the Muslims learn Arabic, it will unite us as community. I enrolled in New Muslim Program and Perfecting the Prayer class at M.E.C.C.A. Muslim Education and Converts Center of America. I met wonderful converts who have their different stories of coming to Islam. I would highly recommend M.E.C.C.A. to all people who would want to learn more about Islam.
My friends at M.E.C.C.A.

Wearing Hijab
My hijab during Eidul Adha 

There are about 2 billion Muslims all over the world. There four schools of thought in Islam and they only agree on the 70% of the principles. I also read that there is no compulsion in religion. Many Muslim women are not wearing hijab. Some women wear burqa, some women wear niqab, some women wear hijab, some women don't cover their hair so totally it up to the person and your faith. Hijab is one of the most controversial issues among Muslims and people of other faith. Other people say that hijab is form of oppression and women were forced to wear hijab. Personally for me you have to belief on the purpose of wearing a hijab. It should come from your heart. Your love for Allah should be your main reason of wearing a hijab. Hijab is more than a piece of cloth. Hijab is modesty in appearance, in the way you speak and the way you behave. When I first wore hijab and used public transportation I experienced disapproving looks from people on the subway. People choose not so sit beside you even the train is crowded. At first it bothers me but then as months went on I just get used to it that wearing a hijab is part of my lifestyle. Honestly, I am not wearing it 100% maybe like 90% of the time. I love watching YouTube videos of  hijab tutorials from women all over the world. One of the YouTube channel that I like is the Hijabi Bengali Sisters

Finding a mosque

Finding a mosque is one of the issues of converts. There's a lot of mosque in New York City but each one of them have some kind of rules. Majority of the mosque were built by different communities and they speak their native languages and translate it English too.  Some of the mosques also don't have place for women. Some of the mosques also are overcrowded during Jummah. I've seen some Muslim brothers who were praying outside of the mosque and they placed their praying mat on the street. I feel bad especially during winter time but Subhaan Allah their faith is enough to keep them warm. Personally, I prefer to go to the mosque in 96th St. It's where I converted and got married so during Eid this is where we go to.

Looking Forward

After 8 months of being convert I memorized 5 Surah and I can pray by myself. But learning doesn't stop there. My goal is to learn to read Arabic and be productive member of my community. Since I converted I learned that there is limited shops that caters to active wear for Muslim women. My husband and I think of an idea on how to solve this issue. We will make a clothing company that would cater not just only for Muslim community but to all women who want modest clothing. And that's how the Farah Fashions NYC was born. 
created by: Cherry Ann Montehermoso
Farah Fashions NYC Logo by: CAOM
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Photos, images and texts are properties of Cherry Ann Montehermoso. 

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