I met my boyfriend, Chris, around this time last year. We worked together at the same salon. I worked the front desk while Chris was nearby in coat-check. He was always there, right behind me, but not in a creepy way. The thought of dating him never crossed my mind until one day when I decided to approach him. To this day, I really don’t know why I did, considering I was always the kind of Muslim girl who only dated or got to know guys who have shared the same religious beliefs as me – because let’s be honest here, it’s easier. And don’t most people gravitate towards relationships that come easier?
I started talking to Chris for hours and hours until I realized I would be in big trouble if I did not stop whatever it was that was going on between us. I decided to let him know, four days after initially talking, that I would only end up with a Muslim guy and that this would eventually be a waste of time for both of us. I thought that was enough. I thought that was closure and I’d move on with my life, but his response to me changed everything. He explained how he had never really grown up with religion in his household and how his parents supported whatever him and his sister would choose to believe as long as it made them better people. He explained how he had been searching for answers and how he was always open to learning about different religions and teachings. We came to the agreement that I would teach him about Islam – as a friend – and not as someone he was interested in. Everything he learned, he had to learn for the benefit of himself and not me. I could not stress how important that was to me – that he had to seek Islam for himself.
Shortly thereafter, Chris and I began dating. I shared this with my parents and asked for their advice and reassurance once again. For me, family is everything and I would not risk the relationship I have with my family for anyone and, although I knew very quickly that I loved Chris deeply, I looked up to and respected my family too much to do something this drastic without their approval. I sat on my parents bed and explained everything to them. My parents explained to me how they cared for my happiness and how they can already tell that Chris was raised by amazing people just by the way he treated me and that he was in it for the long run. They told me not to force Islam on him, but to instead teach him Islam as I learned about it too. They told me to make it a good experience for him. They told me to guide him. And that is exactly what I did.
“We would plan how we can apply the teachings to our lives today, to be better people, not just better Muslims.”
In an odd way, this whole experience has changed my life just like it is changing his. I remember first sending him an article I had stumbled upon on Facebook on how Islam explains soulmates and I remember us discussing it in depth for a long period of time. I even thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve never gotten this deep into a topic involving Islam.” I remember the first time he stepped foot in a mosque. It was for my father’s funeral service. I can clearly recall his exact reaction when he left, how he just felt… good, for lack of a better term. I remember him explaining how everyone welcomed him with open arms – people he’s never met – people who have never even heard of him. I wondered why I didn’t visit the mosque more frequently, because like Chris, I always feel at peace when I’m in a mosque.
I’d stay up all night sharing the stories my parents told me and my siblings when we were younger. The beautiful ones, you know – the ones about how humble and amazing of a person Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was. We would plan how we can apply the teachings to our lives today, to be better people, not just better Muslims. I felt the same excitement that I assume my parents felt when they would share with us. I remember one story in particular that brought me to a different place as I shared it. It was the story of the prophet’s neighbor who made a habit of throwing trash out whenever he passed by. One day, He (PBUH) walked out of his house and found no garbage waiting for him. He (PBUH) inquired about the woman who would throw garbage at him to make sure she was okay and he later found out she was ill. He (PBUH) went to visit her and offer any help that she might need. The old woman was extremely humbled and at the same time very ashamed because of how the Prophet (PBUH) acted towards her regardless of her actions. We talked about that story for hours, how inspired we were, and how we felt like we would go into the rest of our lives with that exact mindset.
Looking back at it, I am glad I took a chance because, had I not gone through with that impulse to approach to Chris, I probably would not be where I am today spiritually and religiously. Almost a year ago, I was not listening to lectures often, I was not having long, beautiful discussions about articles found on the internet daily, and I definitely was not this excited about learning more about Islam alongside someone else. I think we often forget to appreciate the little things about Islam. And if we don’t practice it daily, if we don’t read about it with fresh eyes, we seem to dismiss it. I am glad to be walking with him on his journey to converting because it has brought me on my own positive journey as well.