There are three influential Muslims who impacted my life and spurred my decision to become Muslim.
The first of them is a graduate student with whom I am very close. She studies Islam at the academic level despite being Muslim herself. Conversations with her really opened my eyes to what Islam preaches and the meanings behind the practices.
The second influential person is Nader Nasr. He lives in the same dorm building as me and would often tell me that since I always smile and say hello to everyone that I would be a very good Muslim. My initial reaction to this was that this was a sign from God that I should better commit myself to Islam, the religion I am most familiar and comfortable with.
The third person that influenced me is none other than Neda Momeni. If there is one person I can relate to, it’s this witty and clever girl – coming from a unique Iranian background and majoring in Anthropology, as well. She taught me that Islam is not about all of a sudden waking up and being the best Muslim you can be, but instead working towards being a good and devout person. I always thought that it would be rude to convert to Islam when I knew that I could not easily give up bacon or happy hour. I told her the day when I’m done bar hoping with friends and eating pork chops is the day I will convert to Islam. In reply, she slapped me upside the head and told me that that isn’t what Islam is about. How very right she was.
After that, I became determined to convert, to become a better and more devout person.
Thus, in October of 2009 I converted to Islam. An Imam who was doing a lecture at UCLA in the Haines building performed the Shahada with me.
Before my conversion, I was scared! I didn’t know how to do it or what to do! I found myself googling Shahada and found several sites that seemed to have the pronunciation on there. I thought I would try to memorize it, in case it was customary for me to know it prior to coming in. Neda told me to not worry and simply show up but I couldn’t help myself – I was worried . I grabbed a Hijab from my closet – one I borrowed from my mother in my pursuit to become more acquainted with Islam – and began my walk towards Haines building. The walk was the longest walk ever and I found myself calling every single person in my cell phone address book to tell them that I was on my way to convert to Islam. Out of the twenty five people I called, only three people answered. Which, if you do the math, meant I had left 23 voicemails.
Nervous much? You could say that.