It’s been a little over two weeks since I sat in my local Masjid with my partner to my left and Imam in front of me reciting after him, “Ash hadu an la ilaha il Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammd-an rasuAllah (salla allahu alayhi wasalaam).”
“You are now a Muslimah,” he said with the full heaviness of his voice articulating each syllable with force and conviction.
I’ve tried to write this piece perfectly, and I still am not completely sure what ‘this piece,’ is. I’ve oscillated between an open letter to my family who doesn’t know I’ve converted, a call to action to recognize the breath of Allah in Queer Muslims throughout the world, perhaps an explanation of why me: a queer young first generation Haitian-American woman in tumultuous 2020 decided to convert to Islam, or even a defense of Islam as the holistic, intentional, loving justice oriented, beautiful religious practice that it is. I think this is a bit of all of that.
In my head, I go through lines that don’t sit quite right after a few times saying them over-and-over, their flavor washed away by doubt. But, in my everyday mindfulness of Allah through Creation, I find that the words are rarely ever clearly articulated in any language but are nonetheless present and understood. It is with this trust in the words already written onto my heart that I allow my fingers to write warding off the anxiety of sharing my story.
I come from a Haitian family wherein believing in Christianity was the expectation. I went to church all my childhood, was trained in Classical Christian teachings at my Evangelical private high school, was baptized at 15, and relied heavily on using my art, both poetry and music for the Church.
Although I was heavily involved in the Church and took my identity as a Christian seriously, I had a lot of unanswered questions and issues with Christianity. The discontent eventually led me to the painful decision to abandon my affinity to the Church when I left for college about two months before my 18th birthday.
Still bounded by an idea of God, I ascribed to believing in a vague idea of oneness in the universe and haphazardly explored spiritual practices throughout college. However, with everything else going on throughout my college career, I never got that far in cultivating a consistent practice.
During my last semester of college, I found myself called to get serious learning about historical spiritual practices. I briefly went back to Church to find that the passion I once had for Christianity was unrecognizable to my 21-year-old self. I no longer felt drawn to Jesus as my ‘savior.’ I wanted my religion to be a lifestyle manifested in my everyday life and interactions; to constantly remind me of my place in this world, connection to others, and the planet that I have been provided by. During this same time of exploration, the pandemic hit full swing and our campus shut down. On one of the first days back home in March, I began to load up on books in my online shopping cart. I figured now would be a better time than any to dive deep into learning about spirituality. A little before Ramadan began, I received my first copy of the Qur’an in the mail and began to read.
Although my classical Evangelical Christian education made sure to teach us about Judeo teachings, the institution failed to provide any truth about Islam; maybe it had something to do with the Islamophobia so rampant in Evangelical Christian spaces. No one told us that Allah means God in Arabic, the language the Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad salla allahu alayhi wasalaam as that was the language his people spoke; that Allah is the God of Musa, Ibrahim, Maryam, and Isra (Jesus), Son of Maryam, people that Christians revered. No one told us of the continuation of the Abrahamic faith tradition that Islam completed. I learned through reading, talking to the Muslims I love in my life, and lots and lots of YouTube videos (special shoutout to the Yaqeen Institute for becoming my new Netflix for the beginning months of exploration).
And so, I am a Muslim, because I believe in Oneness. I believe that our breath is connected, and I am you and you are me; and that we don’t exist here alone with no purpose or accountability. I believe energy is real, and we give and take from it through each other and this earth. I believe that Artists deserve recognition and since this beautiful creation did not come from me or you, but is so intricately designed to sustain us, how can I not recognize the entity behind it all who decided to mold me from the earth to partake in its Abundance and Mercy?
I fell in love with Islam, because, I guess, Allah fell in love with me first. Allah- the One Source of All, Eternal God; the One Eternal entity that holds the birds up as they spread their wings, brings refreshing water as mercy, ordains the Sun and Moon to fly in its own orbit, strips the light from the sky so we may find rest in the night, replenishes the land for us to sow seeds that grow into sustenance for our survival, and takes care of our everyday needs even when we do not believe, decided that this world would be incomplete without you, me, and every single being we encounter. Alhamdulillah. The qualities of Allah present throughout and within Creation is a reminder that we are all connected by One Source and that this Source, Allah, is the Most Compassionate and Merciful. How can I not give thanks?
I fell in love with Islam like one may fall in love with water once realizing it is the foundation of life, the necessary drink, and a refreshing mercy. Like God, water has an overwhelming greatness, its vastness too incomprehensible and inevitably due respect for getting us to this moment.
Sometimes, I feel lost when I try to put into words how I feel about the Divine and what led me to on my 22nd birthday visit the Masjid and say the Shahada. If I talk about it, I feel like I immediately have to justify or ‘reconcile’ my queerness and adherence to the faith; or that I have to shrink myself to be accepted within the Ummah. But, I don’t. My queerness cannot preclude developing my faith, certainty, and understanding of Allah and owning my membership in the Ummah. If I let it I’d be doing the work of Shaytan- sowing doubt about my innate place in the world ignoring the fact that because I was created, I was wanted. I refuse to allow myself to be consumed by this one aspect of my immutable identity and forget the blessings of Allah in each breath that I am allowed to take, in the friends that I have and continue to make, in the love and mercy shared between my partner and I, and in the patience, care and love I must have with my family that all reminds me of Allah’s love and mercy for all of Creation. Allah knows the true meaning of all that is, and I am here to unapologetically be mindful of Allah and do the work of the steep path: “to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion.” 
Witnessing more people convert to Islam is a promising sign of increased understanding of its truth, the rejection of Islamophobia throughout the world, and the rigor of struggling against the violence Muslims face by different regimes. Uighur Muslims are being loaded into concentration camps in China at this second, Palestinian Muslims are not only getting ethnically cleansed from their homes like all Palestinians but their mosques, holy sites, and right to practice are violated every single day by the Israeli apartheid regime, and Muslims in France are being demonized by the state. Through these struggles and tragedies our Ummah faces we must unite in our duty to Balance and steadfastness in pursuing true justice led by love, compassion, and mercy for all.
Islam has helped me put words to an understanding of the Divine, a Higher Complete Power that provides and strengthens us. Throughout my childhood I understood it as Jesus (pbuh), in college it was a vague idea of universal oneness, and today I know the One as Allah and I no longer wish to be insecure or silent about it. I don’t wish to justify myself, I just wish to write and through it hope you felt something that made you want to look at the world and yourself with more intention and care.
As-Salaamu Alaykum Wa Ramatullahi Wa Barakatu. May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you.
Helpful Sources on this Journey (slightly edited from the original):
- The Qur’an, Translated by M.A.S Abdel Haleem
- Secrets of Divine Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Heart of Islam by A. Helwa
- We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
- All About Love by bell hooks
- Yaqeen Institute
- Center DC
- Masjid al-Rabia
- Islamic Center at NYU
- Celebrate Mercy
- Believer’s Bail Out
 Surah Al-Balad; 90:13–17.