My name is Jennifer and I am 36 years old, from the United States. My life has been kind of strange. I was born the middle child, middle sister, in the middle of chaos. As a result of neglect, malnutrition and abuse, my 4 siblings and I were removed from our biological parents’ household when I was 7 years old and sent to foster care. Unfortunately, a place meant to be a safe haven for children like us turned out to be a nightmare. The male owner of the second foster home we stayed at was a monster, who sexually abused my sisters and me, something that scarred us all for life. But, Alhamdulillah, after 2 years in that home, we were told a childless couple in a nearby town had expressed interest in adopting some kids. The reality was that after 9 years of being on a waiting list for a baby, this couple told their adoption caseworker to remove them from the list if no child became available soon, to which the caseworker replied that he knew of no babies currently up for adoption but did know of 5 kids, siblings, who really needed a home. And so we were adopted, and what an extraordinary thing; you see, in America, at least during that time, most such siblings are separated and sent to different foster homes/orphanages, even adopted by different families. Sometimes I can’t believe we were so lucky to stay together, and I now know it is by the grace of Allah. As He would also do later in my life, He rescued me and set me upon a new path.
In our new home, we learned many things from our parents. We learned how to behave like civilized humans. They took us to church (Baptist) and we learned about God and Jesus (A.S.). For the first time in my life, I understood that we are not alone, we have a Protector, someone who will never leave us. And my family was heavily involved in church activities. It seemed that 3-4 nights a week we were at church, and I grew weary of the prospect. Though I considered myself a Christian, I was plagued by doubts and questions about Christianity. Why did they refer to Jesus (A.S.) as a god, worship him and his mother and neglect to teach about many of the other prophets I knew were mentioned in the Bible? As time went on, I felt more and more distant from the church and eventually stopped going entirely when I left home for college. From then on, I considered myself a believer but not a practicing one. I neglected my religious duties completely throughout my 20s as I struggled to find what I believe. Other than living my life as morally as I could, I basically abandoned religion altogether (astagfirullah).
Skip forward to the spring of 2010. One day I received a friend request on Facebook from a Muslim guy from Pakistan. Having no real reason to reject his request, and also because I really like meeting people from other cultures, I accepted. Soon, more international friends followed; and, as I came to know my new friends and learned about their lives and cultures, conversation ventured into religion. I remember asking one of my Muslim friends, “Do you think your God and mine is the same?” to which he responded that yes, although different cultures had varying names for God, there was only one and we all belonged to Him. And this idea fascinated me and fit with my notion of the God I came to know as a child. Soon I started reading everything I could get my hands on about Islam, learning what it means to be a Muslim, what is expected of us, what the purpose of our life is. And I was in love. In love with an idea so perfect, one so logical and beautiful in its simplicity. I started to read the Qur’an in translation and I was staggered. Here, before me, was the verbatim word of God, in which he speaks directly to us, giving us answers to every question imaginable. As I read further and eventually finished the whole book, I came to realize in my heart I was already Muslim. This is what I believed. This made sense and inspired me in ways nothing had then or since. I made the decision to take my Shahada and, Alhamdulillah, I became a Muslim on 10 June 2010. For the first time in my life, I felt truly happy and sure of my purpose. And I know that even if I thanked Him every moment of my life, I could never thank Allah (SWT) enough for choosing me to be a Muslim, for giving me a chance to return to Him.