When my sister starting dating her now husband in 1997, my mother and I didn’t think it would lead to a long-term relationship. We thought she was just dating and having fun. Besides, he couldn’t speak a lick of English. Add to that the fact that he was a Muslim, we just thought their worlds were too different. Well, were we wrong. Now 18 years and two kids later, she’s a happily married woman. She’s also now a devout Muslim, and I am Christian.
I remember the moment, day and time she told me; it was about six years ago. We were watching TV at her house, just hanging out like we usually do. We have such a great relationship where we don’t even need to talk to enjoy each others company, but I recall her being abnormally silent that day. While normally she’s commenting on characters from a show or chatting during commercials, she seemed preoccupied. Finally, she turned to me and said, “I have something to tell you.” Anytime someone has bad news, they usually prep you with such a line, so I was thinking she was going to tell me that someone was terminally ill or something because she seemed scared. I stared at her as she struggled to get the words out. “I converted to Islam,” she finally spat out.
“Whew! Was that all?!” I thought to myself, breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
My sister and her husband were well into their marriage by the time my sister decided to convert. During their entire courtship he always maintained that he loved her even though she was a Christian and had no problem marrying outside of his faith. He would always answer questions if she asked him anything about Islam, but he never rammed it down her throat. The only request he had was is if they had kids, could they be raised under the Muslim faith. She agreed but under one condition: if their kids asked about Christmas or any Christian holiday, she could choose to share her faith with them if they wanted to learn. He agreed. So there they were, with the Christmas tree and Easter baskets. They were happy, but I did notice that my sister had become more and more curious about Islam – not just for the sake of her son, but for her own desire to connect with something greater than herself.
Although we had gone to church our entire childhood, I never really felt like my sister shared the same beliefs we were taught. There’s nothing wrong with questioning religion or anything else you might have been led to believe your entire life. I remember a conversation we had where she said her husband had such a “peace” about him and that he attributed it to Islam. She wanted that same peace, and I knew that the more she inquired, the more she was leaning towards converting to Islam. Her revelation came as no surprise to me; however she was afraid that I would condemn her for turning her back on Jesus and Christianity or leaving me to celebrate Christmas by myself. Actually, her revealing that she had converted was the happiest I had ever been for her because I knew she had finally found the peace she was looking for. It was a brave thing to do, and I admired her for it.
Now that we both have children, it’s interesting to celebrate different holidays with them. Even though we worship under different faiths, we always are sure to respect each others decisions. And while my nephews understand that Auntie isn’t Muslim, they always remind me that God loves me too. At such a young age, they have a firm grasp of tolerance and acceptance. We all understand that God is one, and we are all loved under him.
In a world with diverse religions and spiritual beliefs there are many paths to God, and we stand before him (or her) alone on Judgment Day. Some people make their own religion. Some don’t believe in anything. Some believe in something higher than themselves, even if they don’t give “it” a name. For many, religion or spirituality is a matter of salvation, while for others it’s simply a matter of comfort. As a family, we are aware of God and his power, and we know that each of us are an expression of all that God is – no matter what you call him. My sister is a beautiful Muslimah and I’m a proud Christian – but our love for each other remains unwavering. No matter whose religion is “right” or “wrong,” I believe our spirits will connect in whatever afterlife there may be. But for now, I cherish our days here on earth.