2007-05-15 15:51:26 UTC
In the US, where Muslims number over six million, the Islamic faith
has in many estimates surpassed Judaism and is believed to be the
second largest religion in America. Anayat Durrani profiles some new
US converts to Islam
Islam, a religion that was for centuries believed to have been 'spread
by the sword' is currently the fastest growing religion in the United
States and in the world. Adherents to the Islamic faith number 1.2
billion worldwide. And growing... In the United States, where Muslims
number over six million, the Islamic faith has in many estimates
surpassed Judaism and is believed to be the second largest religion in
America after Christianity. While part of the rise in the population
of Muslims in the United States is due to immigration, the phenomenal
growth of Islam in the past 10 years has come from an increasing
number of Americans converting to Islam from other religions.
Muslim leaders estimate that half the number of American converts to
Islam come from the African-American community. Twenty-two-year-old
Leslie Jordan is a recent convert to Islam. "I decided that I wanted
to convert to a religion whose beliefs were like mine and whose
practices would compliment the life I wanted to lead and help to
exemplify my beliefs." Jordan, who changed her name to Thanaa
("thankfulness"), studied Islam for seven months, often cross-
referencing with the Talmud and Bible. She was convinced that Islam
was the truth. "Conversion for me has not been too difficult as I have
truth in the verses of the Holy Qur'an and in the Hadith."
Islam continues to draw followers at an estimated rate of 135,000
converts per year. During the Gulf War alone, it was reported that
approximately 3,000 Americans converted to Islam.
American women make up the second largest group of converts to Islam.
Dani Black converted to Islam in March of 1997. Originally a Catholic,
Black studied one religion after another, from Buddhist to
Pentecostal. She remained unsatisfied until her search led her on the
path to Islam. "Finally, Allah (SWT) made a way for me to find the
truth." Black, who now goes by the name of Khadijah, said her husband
converted to Islam shortly after she did. "We both are very happy."
At the rate that Islam is spreading, demographers predict that by the
year 2025 one out of four people in the world will be Muslim.
Forty-eight-year-old Everett Ferguson, now Luqman Abdullah-Wajid, was
introduced to Islam at the age of 20. In his youth, Abdullah-Wajid did
not follow any religion nor did he believe in God. "As I studied
Islamic beliefs, I was struck by how they were in harmony with
reason," he says. "Islam's clarity, logic, and authenticity leave me
feeling very grateful."
The increase in the number of American Muslims may be a result of the
presence of more mosques and Islamic centers that are sprouting up in
several cities across the United States. There are approximately 2,000
mosques, Islamic centers and schools in the country. Non-Muslims are
often invited to mosques and Islamic centers where they are provided
with information about Islam.
James was raised a Baptist and during his childhood attended Baptist,
Lutheran and Methodist churches. While in law school, he accompanied a
classmate and attended Catholic church. It wasn't until his 30s that
James says he began to study religion seriously. "I studied briefly
with the Original Hebrew Israelites, before getting a copy of the Holy
Qur'an," he says. "After reading it, I was touched in my soul and many
of the questions that I had throughout my life were answered. I knew
that I had to make a decision." At the age of 33, a Muslim co-worker
took James for a visit to a local mosque. "I was so moved that I took
my shahada right then and there."
Converting to a new faith is not always a smooth transition. The
difficulties new Muslims face after conversion often arise from family
and friends. For Thanaa, her conversion was not easily accepted. "The
most difficult part for me has been trying to explain my choice to
change to family and friends who are not familiar with what Islam is
really about." Thanaa says that only her mother, sister and boyfriend
have accepted her conversion. James also experienced similar
difficulties when he became a Muslim. He says that his wife is the
only one in his family with misgivings about his decision. "My wife,
who is still Christian, still does not understand why I converted, and
was upset. Inshallah, Allah will soften her heart."
Islam's increasing numbers in recent years could be a sign that
attempts at educating the American public about Islam by several
American-based Muslim organizations have been working. For many years,
Islam was not as well represented in the Judeo-Christian society of
the United States. However, in recent years several organizations such
as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the American
Muslim Council (AMC), among several others, have been successful in
reaching the media and educating Americans about the real Islam.
The continued growth in the number of converts to Islam should finally
put to rest the myth that Islam was ever 'spread by the sword'. The
great number of adherents to the Islamic faith is evidence enough of
Islam's powerful message.
"Becoming a Muslim is the best thing that has happened in my life,"
Anayat Durrani is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles, Calif.