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My Journey into the Ahmadiyya Community

54 The Review of Religions – June 2004 In February 2002, I went to school on a winter day and attended my English poetry class at 10am. I had recently met a young lady, Bushra Bajwa, in my class. We began talking about the class, the assignments that our professor gave to us, and at an instance I became interested in getting to know her better. We both attended Q u e e n s b o r o u g h Community college. It did not take long to begin talking more to a point where one day we met up after our classes, and walked to the bus stop. As our conversation increased, I realised we had a lot in common. I asked about her Pakistani culture and the scarf she was wearing on her head. When she told me she was Muslim, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about it. I have had Muslim friends before: they were sisters in my fourth grade class. They too wore a scarf on their head, long skirts, and long shirts. I did not understand the significance of the scarf, the clothing, or the religion. At that time I did not ask, but was always curious to know. As I asked my new friend about the Muslim faith, she shared some things about the purpose of the scarf, her culture, and attending their holy temple, the mosque. She also told me about a Tabligh meeting, which is a meeting where non- Muslims are invited to attend, to discuss and ask any questions or express concerns about Islam, and the Ahmadiyya community. Ahmadiyyat is one of the many sects in Islam that promotes peace, and love for all humanity. There was a Tabligh meeting the following Sunday; she invited me to attend and I did. I went to the Queensborough Jama’at where I met a lot of sisters, many were American as well as Pakistani sisters. I was happy to see the diversity there, because I My Journey into the Ahmadiyya Community By Dara Fulton, USA 55 My Journey into the Ahmadiyya Community The Review of Religions – June 2004 am an African American woman, and was not sure if I was going to be the only American there. I met up with my friend and she introduced me to a few others. As the meeting began, each sister expressed her love for Islam, and her personal experiences in how she converted to Islam. Some of them were born in the religion, but more were converted to Islam. I also met a woman who, like me, was a non-Muslim and had an interest in Islam. I was impressed and moved by the love each sister expressed over Islam, and the way they welcomed me into the meeting. I participated in the discussion where I mentioned my friend, and my curiosity in learning more about Islam. After the meeting was over, I hugged everyone and thanked them all for allowing me to attend their meeting. I felt so moved by them that I knew I had to keep in touch with all of the sisters. By June I was invited to attend Jalsa Salana: a gathering of sisters and non-Muslims where there are prayer services, discussions, and food served. It is held every year in Maryland where the main Ahmadi Mosque is located. There I got a chance to meet my friends and got to know them a little better. From there, I received pamphlets and books on Islam from the sisters. My interest grew, and my relationships with the sisters got closer. I started to feel I wanted to become an Ahmadi Muslim, but was not sure if I was ready. I was aware of the rules of Islam and the principles that are enforced. Furthermore, I was also aware that it was a year after the September 11th attack of 2001; and Muslims were faced with many challenges in their communities. People prejudiced against Islam and ignorant of its real meaning of peace and love were attacking many. Islam does not tolerate terrorism or violence. U n f o r t u n a t e l y, the media has continuously showed the attacks on America and across the world. It has given Muslims a bad image. My fear became dom- inant; I was afraid of not being accepted, maybe even attacked. I 56 My Journey into the AhmadiyyaCommunity The Review of Religions – June 2004 had concerns my family would not accept my new-found religion. One year later my fears were suddenly gone. I had a dream that I was at a banquet with all the sisters including Bushra. Everyone was talking, laughing, and having a good time. They looked so happy. I was sitting with my legs crossed on a mat when suddenly I got up and went to my friend. I gently pulled her by the arm and said, ‘I have something to tell you!’ She looked at me and asked, ‘What?’ I said ‘I’m ready to become an Ahmadi Muslim.’ Her face lit up in excitement, grabbed me and said ‘Oh my God! Come, we have to go tell everyone now!’ I do not know what happened next, everything drifted away. When I woke up, I felt so uplifted as if everything was going to be all right. From June 2002 to November 2003, things in my life were not well and I began to feel depressed. Money became scarce, I had to stop school due to financial difficulty, and I lost my job. But after I had that dream, I felt all that was going to change. I first told my friend of my dream, and then contacted the other sisters. Then I had a meeting with my mother and b r o t h e r. During the middle of having dinner, I came out and said ‘I’m going to become an Ahmadi Muslim.’ My mother was surprised; she thought the decision was sudden. I told her of my dream, and she knew then that was God’s way of saying it I FEEL PROUD TO BE AN AHMADI MUSLIM BECAUSE OF WHAT AHMADIYYA STANDS FOR: LOVE FOR ALL, HATRED FOR NONE. I AM HAPPY TO BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND A RELIGION THAT PREACHES LOVE, PEACE, AND RESPECT FOR HUMANITY. 57 My Journey into the AhmadiyyaCommunity The Review of Religions – June 2004 was time for me to convert. I expressed the interest to my dad and he too was happy over my decision. I attended Juma prayers at the Queensborough Jama’at on Friday, November 21, 2003 and informed some of the sisters and the Missionary’s wife of my decision of converting to Islam. I felt converting during the month of Ramadan was special, because it is the holiest time of the year for Muslims. As I signed my name, I felt so proud of myself because I felt I was doing what Allah wanted me to do. I feel proud to be an Ahmadi Muslim because of what Ahmadiyya stands for: Love for All, Hatred for None. I am happy to be part of a community and a religion that preaches love, peace, and respect for humanity. I met some really nice sisters and hope to meet more in the future. My goal is to learn about Islam to the fullest extent, and participate in as many events, charities, or community services that are o ffered in the Ahmadiyya C o m m u n i t y. Thank you to everyone who welcomed me into the Ahmadiyya community, into their personal lives, and may Allah bless all of you. Amin.