I think I always deeply believed in God. I can remember as early as four years old, when conversation about God came up around the dinner table, I would always cry. Even though I was raised in a Christian household, no one in my family really went to church or prayed other than on Easter Sunday or Christmas. I had a good family; there were no drugs, alcohol, or abuse. My father, grandfather and uncles worked hard 5-6 days a week to provide for us, and were always home on time. As a teenager I started down the wrong road, but when I was 17, I began going to church on a regular basis. It was my mother who first got me to go. She never said a word about participating in church activities, but when she began to attend regularly; I saw such a change in her over a short period of time that I had to go just to see what it was all about. In one small moment, as I knelt down at an altar, Jesus changed my whole direction and purpose in life.
Within a year's time, my whole family started going to church. I told everyone about God, my classmates, my teachers, strangers, and anyone else who would listen, it didn't matter. I saw many people follow in my footsteps. I wanted everyone to know about God, and what God meant to me.
A few years later, I strayed from my religion and was lost for many years. It was during this time that I met Mohammed, my husband. We met in a nightclub. I was there with my Aunt who had just lost her husband of 25 years to cancer. We were there to drown our sorrows. I had been divorced six weeks and was in not ready to start any kind of relationship. I was just there to have a good time with my Aunt, and to maybe dance off a pound or two.
Men continually asked me to dance. I wasn't interested. Mohammed had been watching me from across the bar. I later learned that his wife had just left him that day. He walked over to me and asked "What if a nice guy asked you to dance? Would you?" There was something about him that I liked and for some reason, I agreed to dance with him. He could dance! He twirled me, spun me, threw me, and literally swept me off my feet! It was love at first sight for me. We talked all night about many different things, but somehow managed to avoid the subject of religion. At first, he gave me a bogus name, but later that night, he finally told me his real name and where he was from. I didn't know much about his country and therefore didn't ask questions about it. I only knew it was somewhere near Egypt. From that day on, we were together almost everyday. We had our ups and downs, and our break ups, but we always got back together.
My parents were very concerned. They knew I had lost my faith but still had hopes that I would return to Jesus. They didn't approve of our relationship, and we had many battles. It got to the point where I hardly spoke to my parents. Naturally, I thought I was old enough to make my own choices without them.
Mohammed and I continued to date on and off for almost a year. Then on New Year's Eve, he asked me to marry him. I was so happy although I knew it wouldn't be an easy life together. We had been raised completely different, we had come from two different areas of the world, our religions were different, and even our reactions were different. But I loved him so much that I couldn't stand to be away from him. I experienced what seemed like physical pain inside when we were apart. He had become my whole life. I felt so secure when I was with him. My every thought centered around him, and I trusted everything he said. He was so handsome with his dark hair, dark eyes, strong build, and olive complexion. He was smart and masculine. I spent hours imagining what our children would look like.
I said yes to his question of marriage and we decided to plan it exactly one year from when we first met. He told me that for our marriage to be meaningful to him, he wanted to be married and raise his children in his religion. He believed his first marriage failed because he married a woman outside of his religion. I loved him so much, I agreed with anything he asked. I didn't realize the impact of my words until much later. He took me to the Mosque to become engaged and called his family in Syria to tell them the news.
On March 30, exactly one year and a day after we had met, we were married in the Mosque.
It was while I was expecting our first child that my husband took me to my first Deedat debate via satellite. He was very convincing and since I hadn't been practicing my beliefs for sometime, I listened to every word. That's when the doubts took over. I started asking every Muslim I knew questions about Islam. And I read all kinds of books on the religion. To honor my husband's wishes, I took on the responsibility of a teacher after our daughter was born. I went to Arabic school and Muslim school. I started reading the Koran, books on the life of Mohammad, books on the lives of all his wives and was watching all of Deedat's tapes. Six years later, I converted to Islam.
Our daughter was five and our son was two when I started covering (covering is a part of life for Islamic women), praying five times a day and fasting. During Ramandon, every year, I would go to the Mosque to pray. I read the Koran and I read all of Mohammad's teachings and books on how to be a good Muslim. I even built a Mosque in my new home, held Koran studies every week in my house, went to ladies' Koran studies every Friday and brought people to Islam.
Deep inside, something was missing. I didn't feel complete somehow. I had no joy inside myself and no real peace in my life. It seemed something was always going wrong at home. There were constant family arguments. Every time we would all get together for anything, it always ended up with fighting, yelling, fussing, and screaming, over little things. At times dishes would fly, food would fly, and one time, my husband's mother threw hot water on him. I often worried that someone was going to get killed. There was never peace. Dinner was a nightmare. On many occasions, I would have to leave the table because I couldn't stand it. Trips together were impossible; there was always a big blow up.
During one trip we all took across the country with the children, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, his wife and their child, there was fighting from the moment we started out. Half way through the trip, it got so bad that we ended up leaving my husband's brother, wife and child and going on without them. Where was God's peace, love, and joy? It wasn't in my life or my household.
By this time, my husband and I had four children: a daughter, a son and a set of twins (a boy and a girl). My mother-in-law had come for a visit and my husband, being the oldest, took on the responsibility of caring for his elderly mother. I had always gotten along with her in the past, but this trip was different. She began trying to take over my household and we started to argue. She didn't like the way I did things nor did I like the way she pushed me. She was even going through all of my personal things! It got to the point that the tension was so great and I was so angry that we didn't even speaking to each other. My poor husband was put in the middle of it all. He would come home and get it from both sides, in Arabic and English.
Things had gotten pretty well out of control around the Christmas holidays. Mohammad and I had completed building our new house in Florida less than two years before. The children and I were the only ones living in it. My husband was still in our home in Georgia traveling back and forth from Georgia to Florida while running the business in both states. He had come to join the kids and me for the holidays when I noticed he looked extremely tired. Originally, we had planned to be in Florida full time by now but it wasn't working out that way. We decided that the children and I would move back to Atlanta until all of us could be in Florida together. We closed up our new house for a while.
We were back in Atlanta only one month when a neighbor from Florida called. She was a friend and a real estate agent and she wanted to know if we would like to rent our house to a ladies group. "Sure", I said, anything for money. Little did I know who these ladies were.
My mother, a wonderful Christian lady, had been living in Florida for almost twelve years and had attended a Women's Bible Study for over nine years. My parents had rarely talked to me about my change of religion. They just loved me and silently prayed for us a lot. Every year without fail and without my knowledge, she would write a prayer request to the ladies to pray for my family and me. She told them all about me converting to Islam.
Starting in March, this group of ladies started coming into my home for one weekend each month. They saw my mother's picture on the wall with me. They saw all of the Arabic things in my home, even the Mosque we had built downstairs with the clock that chimed whenever it was time to pray. It did not take them long to put it all together and realize mine was the family in need of prayer and they started praying. They prayed all over my house. They prayed in every room, over every picture, over every thing. They prayed that I would come back to Jesus. God does work in mysterious ways.
In June, I returned for a visit. I was going through all kinds of turmoil in Atlanta. I was still fighting with my mother-in-law and very upset over the many things she had done. I was becoming extremely confused about religion. I felt God was really speaking to my heart. Out of desperation, I called a neighbor who lived down my street because I had heard she was a very devoted Christian woman. I left a message on her machine that I wanted to talk to her about God, but she was out of town for the summer and did not receive my call. But at least it was peaceful in Florida.
The children and I stayed for about a month. I called my husband in Georgia and told him that I just didn't want to live there anymore. I loved Florida and I was happy there. He said fine, but I had to go back to move again. At the end of July, I went back to pack. When I went back, my battle continued with my mother-in-law. Though when I told her of my confusion about religion, she suggested I pray and God would show me. That was exactly what I had been doing and did He ever show me! She also said something very profound ... that my problem was that I worshipped my husband and my husband worshipped money. Boy, did that hit a nerve or two. She was right. I was worshipping him and his religion.
We were getting ready to leave and Mohammed was helping me pack up the car. I looked closely at my husband because he was holding his chest, breathing very hard and was very sweaty. I was concerned and I asked him if he was OK. He said he was just tired.
The children and I drove late into the night before we reached Florida. We got in so late that I decided to call my husband after I had slept some. I called him on Sunday while the real estate agent was there. We all talked a long time about what to sell and what to keep. I asked my husband to call me later so we could finish discussing all the little details. I got busy around the house putting things away, when I realized it was about 10 p.m. and he still hadn't called me back. I tried calling him. No one answered. I called his car phone. No answer. I concluded he may have gone somewhere for dinner and I would talk to him later. The children and I fell asleep soon after that.
Early the next morning I tried to call him again. I called the house first, no answer. The car phone, no answer. I called all the different stores. No one had heard from him. This was so unlike him. I waited another hour and made another round of calls. Still no one knew where he was. I finally broke down and called his brother. He answered and told me the same thing. I really had a bad feeling. I didn't know what happened but I could feel something wasn't right. I began to have a deep, sinking feeling and began to pace around the house. When the phone rang, it was my husband. He sounded funny. I asked him where he was, and that I had been trying to reach him since the night before. I'll never forget his words. He said, "I'm in the hospital. I had a heart attack yesterday after your call." My first question was "You're kidding me?" I couldn't believe it! I knew something was wrong, but a heart attack? He was only 36 years old. How was that possible?
He told me he was fine and that he was getting out of the hospital the next day. I tried my best to stay calm for his sake and for the children, who were now standing around me. I asked him how he could be fine and why they are letting him out of the hospital the next day? He sounded very light headed. So I asked him what I should do and he said to do nothing, he was fine. I asked him for the doctor's phone number. He wouldn't give it to me. I persisted until a nurse finally got on the phone with me. I talked with her and she gave me the doctor's number.
I called the doctor in tears. He got on the phone with me immediately, and told me that my husband was very sick and that he had a severe heart attack. He said I needed to get back to Atlanta as soon as I could because no one else could sign papers for him to have the necessary surgery. He also told me that Mohammed was on the drug Morphine, which explained his stupor.
I hung up the phone and fell apart. I tried to tell my children. I called my mother but she could barely understand me. I knew I had to calm down and that this was not going to help. I had to make some decisions and fast. Would I fly or drive? Take the children? All of them or just some of them or leave them with my parents? What to do? Mom hung up and called my dad. It was through him that we made our plans. My mother went with us so there would be another driver with me. We all packed very quickly and were on the road in less than an hour.
We made great time until we got just outside of Atlanta. They were working on the highway and cars were backed up for miles. After about an hour, I got my daughter to jump out and look down the emergency lane to see if it was blocked. This was an emergency after all! We told some truck drivers what was going on and they got on their CB radios and contacted the police. People started pulling over and made a little path for us to get through!
I dropped my mother and children off at the house and headed for the hospital. I got there about 3:30 p.m. and went in to see my husband. He was in intensive care. Here was my big, strong husband, so weak, so helpless, and so tired. He looked up at me and smiled.
He tried to reassure me that he was fine. I don't think he really knew what had happened and how serious it was. He kept telling me he was going to get out of the hospital the next day. He was on drugs and delirious. I could only stay with him a few minutes at a time. The nurse came in and told me where I could sleep, but I didn't want to leave him. She insisted that I rest. She could tell I was very tired. I went down the hall to a waiting room where the chairs made out into little beds. I tried my best to sleep so I could regain my strength. Only God knew what was ahead.
The next day, we found part of what caused the heart attack. It was a blood clot that had closed up 98% of the artery. If the blood thinner could not desolve it, Mohammed was facing surgery. The doctor kept him on medication for three days with no luck. I had gone to the house to pick up the children and my mother-in-law to bring them to the hospital. I explained to them how sick Mohammed was, then told my mother-in-law specifically not to take in any cigarettes with her into the hospital because the doctors believed that his heart attack may have been caused by smoking. I also said that he was on heavy medication and that he might search her for cigarettes. I begged her not to give any to him.
Our visit went great and as we were getting ready to leave, Mohammad insisted on walked us down the hall. He started asking his mother for cigarettes. We all shouted NO! but he grabbed her purse and started looking for one. Then right there in front of the children and me, she reached in her bra, pulled out a cigarette and handed it to him. We all screamed at her. My husband promised he wouldn't smoke it, but I didn't believe him and he wouldn't give it to me.
I had never been so angry with any one person in my whole life as I was with my mother-in-law and I couldn't hold it in. I asked her who would take care of all of us if her son dies? Then she said if God wants him to die, it is God's will. I told her to leave it to God then, he didn't need her help.
The next morning, I got to the hospital very early. When I walked into the room, I smelled smoke. Yes, it was a non-smoking room, but I smelled smoke. I looked at him and said, "Where's the cigarette?" He told me that he had only smoked two puffs. I couldn't find the rest of it. I left the room to get a cup of coffee and to talk to the nurse. She came back into the room with me to try to talk some sense into him and to get him ready for the catherization.
While we were on our way downstairs, I looked at his face. His eyes were glossy, his skin was turning ashy, and his forehead was sweaty and clammy. He was having another heart attack! This couldn't be happening! It hadn't even been 30 minutes since he smoked that cigarette. I was so upset. The doctors reassured me that he would be fine.
He came through the test and was back in his room. I again tried to get the cigarette with no luck. I stayed with him all day. In the evening, I went downstairs for a few minutes to grab some dinner and bring it back to the room. When I got back, Mohammad was standing by the window, smoking. I ran into the room and grabbed the cigarette out of his hands and flushed it down the toilet.
I knew his mother, brother and uncle were on their way to the hospital. I had not told them about what had happened in the morning. I was trying to just let it go. I got him back into the bed and started to eat my dinner with him. About 10 minutes later, that same look came over him. I called the nurse and she came running in. They sent me outside. Everyone was running here and there, coming and going with all kinds of machines. I became hysterical in the hall. Nurses were around me trying to settle me down. When his mother, brother and uncle walked up, I jumped my mother-in-law! Everyone was trying to hold me off of her. About that time, the doctor walked up. They were transporting my husband to another hospital. I told him what had happened. (I think he was ready to join in with me.) He said if I chose to make the call, I had the right to ban them all from visiting and that I should, but right now, we needed to save his life.
Everything was moving very fast. The ambulance got there and I jumped in the front seat so I could ride with my husband. I wasn't allowed to ride in the back because they were working with him. He made it to the new hospital where they did many procedures on him, including angioplasty. It was a success. Thank God!
My husband's family started taking sides. His uncle with me and my husband's brother with his mother. The day my husband came home from the hospital, another huge fight ensued. The tension was so great, my husband wanted to leave and go to Florida so he could get away from them. He was very upset with his brother and mother for many things.
As soon as he was able to travel, I packed him up in the car and made a bed in the back for him to lie down during the long ten-hour trip back to Florida. As we were leaving Atlanta, my mother-in-law yelled at me, telling me I was trying to kill her son. I received my answer from God. This was not a religion I wanted to be any part of. There was so much hate, malice, and confusion all the time. And I knew God did not have these attributes.
After being in Florida for about a week, the neighbor I had called at the beginning of summer, returned my call. We didn't talk too much because my husband was around. We got together for lunch and I told her all of my problems. She invited me to church and the next Sunday night, my children and I went. My husband had said fine since I was a Muslim. He even told me to go if it made me feel better. "Just do not ever change your religion," he said. I really had no intention of changing, I thought maybe I could be both. Go to church and still remain Muslim. Believe in the good things of both religions.
That night at church, I didn't even get my feet in the door when I started crying. I couldn't stop. My children kept asking me what was wrong. I tried to assure them that I was fine. I can't remember what was said that night, but God was talking to my heart. This old song then came to me that I sang years ago. It was "Jesus Is the Cornerstone." That was my answer. I went back to church the next Sunday night. I hadn't told my parents, or anyone, except one friend. I didn't want anyone to try and sway me in any direction. I just wanted it to be God and me.
A few days later, I was reading the Bible. I just opened it and as it fell open, these were the first words I read: "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:2-5)
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