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Journeying the Muslims Path Living and Practicing Islamic Principles

I thought the ache and hurt of that Thanksgiving weekend encounter would never pass, but we were all determined to work it through. The next time Jodi came to visit, we spent time sewing together. That was something we had loved to do from the time she was little. As we sewed, we talked. There was so much for me to learn about what Jodi had chosen. "Mom, I brought you some tapes to listen to so you will understand more about what Islam is all about. Really, Mom, there is a lot in common with Christianity. I feel more like I can live as you raised me to live than I did before." Yes, she probably was right about that part since our church had some expectations that were difficult for youth to live up to in society. But Islam similar to Christianity? Well, that would be hard to prove to me. It all had caused so much trouble politically and had such strange ideas. However, I was open to learning. What other choice did I have if I wanted a relationship with my daughter?

It took almost a year and a half to accept and support Jodi in the life she had chosen. I saw her so disciplined in her religion, so wanting to serve God and others around her, so strong as she wore the strange clothing with head cover to classes on the campus. And yet, she was still our Jodi who loved us, who loved to talk and be with people, who struggled to keep up with her studies, who wanted to be a nurse-and was doing it.

My friends helped me by their acceptance. I found that just sitting and crying after reading a poem or article or being in Jodi's old room was healing. I placed her in God's hands as I prayed, and no doubt there were many praying for me. I also had to help other members of the family who felt rejected. But the healing was taking place. We were a family who didn't like conflict; we wanted to love and to be accepting. We also wanted to be open to the world around us, so we began to learn about what our daughter had embraced. Jihad is a word that has become familiar to many non- Muslims because the media has often associated it with terrorist activities. Dr. Jamilah Kolocotronis, an American-born convert to Islam, in her doctoral dissertation, explored this Islamic concept, which came out of the Arabic language, meaning struggle or exertion. In the time of Muhammad, it took on new meaning as this young new religion began its growth. In her book, Islamic Jihad: An Historical Perspective, Dr. Kolocotronis states:

Now it took on the meaning of "struggle in the cause of Allah." After the period of Muhammad, historians began to translate jihad as "holy war," but this definition does not account for the full meaning of the term. Jihad should always be defined as struggle in the "Cause of Allah," for this definition alone encompasses all the nuances of the term.(1) In this sense, any activity related to Islamic practice may be a struggle such as waking up for the dawn prayer if one is not an early riser. Negative connotations of jihad have developed for Westerners as radical groups (representing a small minority of people) have used the term extensively.

During the time of Muhammad, this term was applied individually, especially in the first few years as Muslim converts joined the small movement and struggled to leave the old traditions and way of life and, in spite of family members and other difficulties, take on what they had come to believe. Their personal existence was jihad as they struggled in the cause of Allah. American women who have chosen Islam are in that struggle themselves as they leave old traditions and live out their new beliefs. Islam is an unknown to most of us. Even though we may have read a book on Islam or Muslims, studied it in a class- at church, or had a unit on it at school, the content didn't have much meaning or really stay with us. Now, however, there is a walking, talking loved one who has become Muslim. Now we need to find out about that which is so important to her, to understand the journey she is on.

Islam is the name of the religion. It is an Arabic word that means "acceptance of God as Supreme" and calls for submission to the One God. The literal meaning of the word is peace-to live in peace with the Creator, within one's self; and with other people. The followers of Islam are called Muslim. They do not like to be referred to as Muhammadans or Islamites or Islams. The people are called Muslims. Muslims believe that Muhammad was chosen by God to be a prophet to receive God's message from the angel Gabriel. This was in Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century. The Qur'an (or Koran) is the book of the divine messages that came through Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years. Muslims believe that the Qur'an contains the literal and final word of God to the world.

In review, the religion is Islam, the people are Muslims, the prophet is Muhammad, and their sacred book of God's revelations through Muhammad is the Qur'an.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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