My Journey to Islam: Skeptic… Enemy… Believer

Throughout the years so many people have asked me to tell my story about how I became a Muslim. It is by far the question that I get asked the most.

When I visited India for my PhD research, people asked me so many times that I sat down and made a voice recording of my conversion story to pass out to anybody who asked.

Unfortunately for many looking for inspiration or confirmation, I don’t have a miracle to tell you about. I was not traveling through the desert, desperate for water, and then finally God showed me a vision. Not even close.

I came to Islam through one of the strangest ways possible: by becoming an enemy of Islam. This is my conversion story.

Stage 1: Skeptic

When I was in high school, I was completely disenchanted with religion. I didn’t really believe in anything but went to a church to just keep up appearances with my family.

God for me was probably not there. Even if He was, He had bigger problems and was probably not very interested in me.

I lost my father in the second year of high school; after he had suffered from cancer for almost a decade, I blamed God for his suffering. In many ways I was like most others in my cohort, and none of my close friends had any serious feelings about religion either.

Read Also: I was an Islamophobe

At university I enrolled as an international studies major and, as part of the requirements, I had to choose a foreign language. None of the major European languages – German, French, Spanish, Italian – really appealed to me. The only options I had left were Arabic and Chinese. As the rumor amongst the other students was that Chinese was too hard, I chose Arabic.

I had an amazing professor who made me fall in love with the language. With her encouragement, and the encouragement of my other professors, I began to make plans to study abroad for a semester in Egypt. I then started going to public lectures at the local mosque, in preparation for my trip. It was here that I first started learning about Islam, but I was still quite the skeptic.

Egypt, on the other hand, was some of the best time that I had ever had in my life. I learned so much, met so many wonderful people, and truly encountered the religion of Islam. I was still not sure; but by the time I had finished my six months in the country I was ready to take the next step forward and grow my faith.

Little did I know, however, that my next step forward would take me further away from Islam than I could have imagined.

Stage 2: Enemy

After I came back to my home university I dove into the religious history of Islam; and I encountered an endless list of strange questions. The marriage age of Aisha, violence, and the bloody “hudud” punishments of the Shari’ah were just some of the issues that I encountered.

I combed through numerous internet blogs; I found people from all walks of life telling me how terrible of a religion Islam was; and how being a Muslim was one of the worst things you could imagine.

To find answers to those questions I became an enemy of Islam. I never wrote anything about it publicly, but I was convinced that this was not the religion for me.

The best way to respond to Muslims and work against the religion of Islam, in my mind, was to deal directly with the primary sources: the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. As I learned more, however, my journey took yet another turn.

Every time I looked deep enough into a subject, I learned that the true nature of Islam was something completely different than what I heard.

For example, the Hudud were a deterrent to criminals and almost never applied traditionally. Even the conditions for their requirement were almost impossible to fulfill, meaning that only the most extreme and flagrant violations would actually receive the most stringent punishments.

When it came to the marriage age of Aisha, on the other hand, I learned that reports of her young age are only one opinion regarding the matter; and that Muslims themselves have widely debated the issue of her marriage.

Stage 3: Believer

With this conflicting knowledge I did what any reasonable person would: I withdrew out of confusion. I spent the next few months living normally, not thinking about the journey that I had been on for almost three years.

I kept hanging out with my friends – some of whom were Muslim – and in general enjoyed my last year at university.

One day, one of my Muslim friends approached me and asked about how my investigation into Islam was going. I told him that I was no longer interested. I was pretty sure that there was a God, and that the Prophet Muhammad was His prophet, but I didn’t know where to go from there. His response was simple:

“It seems that you are already a Muslim but just haven’t made it official.”

I was shocked by his statement, but after a few days I realized that he was right. I was already a Muslim in my heart but I was just denying that truth and refused to state it openly.

Therefore, on the 4th of Ramadan and after almost an entire year researching everything I could find against Islam and Muslims, here I was on my way to the local mosque to make my declaration of faith.

When I look back at my journey, I am always amazed about the clarity and straightforwardness of the truth. No matter how hard you try to cover it up it will always shine through.

When searching for truth, if you approach something with an open heart and a clearly-stated intent, God will show you the way to reach exactly what you are looking for.

About Brian Wright
Brian Wright is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His dissertation was on Islamic criminal law in Egypt, India, and Ottoman Turkey during the 19th century. He has studied fiqh with a number of traditional scholars in Egypt and India.