|Thanks to the gentlemen running the Halal food cart around the corner from St. John's University in NYC, I was directed to the infamous Park 51 / Cordoba House Mosque.|
|I was very honoured to pray in the Park 51 prayer space, and express my support for the community centre project. What a beautiful recitation of Quran during the Maghrib prayer that I attended!|
I felt fairly comfortable adjusting back to life in the US during my initial stay in New York City. I think that studying in New York for one month allowed me to trick myself into believing that I haven't really left England for good. But now I'm back at home near Harrisburg, and I am struggling to adjust. Only recently I left what has been my home for the past three years. I am estranged from the friends who have been central to my life for several extremely formative years. To my surprise, several of those who I hold close to my heart have already fallen out of touch. Muslims are much more discreet in the US, due to the anti-Islamic sentiment, so it's much harder to recognise the community than in London. Now I'm working hard at my part-time job in the book warehouse, as I wait for long-term employment to fall into place. My relationship with my mother, who is quite distressed and disturbed by my commitment to Islam, is an intense challenge. All in all, I'm in major transition.
In some ways, I've come full circle. I remember when I was working in the book warehouse around this time four years ago. I was preparing to leave for the University of Essex in Colchester, England. I felt a great deal of anxiety about whether or not to complete a Masters abroad. I also felt quite lonely, and wanted to find a life companion. I imagined that I would be more likely to meet someone 'my type' abroad than in the US. At this time four years ago, I had little faith and I was depressed.
I encountered a book today at the warehouse entitled 'Paul the Convert,' which caught my attention. I began to reflect on the significance of Paul the apostle being a convert from Judaism to Christianity. How interesting that Paul's name is within my own. Paul was known for persecuting Christians, until his Damascus Road experience, which inspired him to convert to Christianity. This leads me to reflect on how staunchly I practiced Christianity previously, even attending events through my church that included Islam in a list of "false religions" as opposed to "world religions." And now here I am, where I absolutely never would have expected to be.
Life has not unfolded as I expected. While some aspects of my life have changed for the better, other feelings have returned to me. I did not expect that I'd feel lonely as I do now, four years down the road. But I'm convinced that there's a reason for it all. I believe that our prayers are heard, but most times are not answered as we would expect. As they say, Allah knows best. For Allah, you can and I can't. You have power and I do not. You know and I don't know. You know everything that is hidden and secret. These days, I take great comfort in prayer, and whatever positive responses to my conversion I receive. Also, I feel nourished by the profound recitation and meaning of Surah Ta-Ha from Al-Quran: