To change religions is to wrestle with your past beliefs and think deeply about who God is and what you want your life's purpose to be.
For converts to Islam, along with a period of soul searching, there's the added challenge of coming into a religious identity that is under increased scrutiny in America. Islamophobia is on the rise and Muslims are often unfairly asked to defend their faith and their very presence in America.
Regardless of where they came from and what their religious destination was, converts often emerge from the unexpected twist in their faith journeys with beautifully complex ways of thinking about humanity's relationship with the Divine.
HuffPost Religion asked three converts in our network to Islam to explain in their own words how taking a leap of faith into a new religion influenced their ideas about God. Read on to learn more these converts' experiences.
Converted from the Lutheran Church
"My personal faith journey has brought my understanding about God into crystal clarity. That is not to say that I know everything about God because our understanding of Him is limited. But when I was a Protestant and later a Catholic, God seemed angry and retributive to me; remote, and I focused on Jesus as an intercessor instead.
Islam has taught me that God is Absolute. Among his 99 names, we learn God is absolute love, mercy, generosity, compassion and purity. He is also the absolute judge and reckoner of our affairs. So, in a way Islam unified and brought into focus the previous ideas I had about God while also elucidating He is the Creator and He alone created us. Therefore, it is He alone who is worthy of worship.
I have come to understand that God is readily accessible to us.
But mostly, I have come to understand that God is readily accessible to us. He tells us He is 'closer to us than our own jugular veins.' All we need to do is make an effort to increase our faith and spirituality by things like reading the Quran and praying. We take a step toward God and He comes running toward us."
Converted from the Catholic Church
"Coming to Islam – peaceful submission to God – has built inside of me a stronger sense of God-consciousness. Islam is all about intention - recognizing that all power and knowledge comes from our creator and remembering and applying this to every aspect of life. Submitting ourselves to the All-Powerful helps turn perceived struggles and hardships into opportunities recognizing that 'what has reached you was never meant to miss you and what has missed you was never meant to reach you.' Islam brought God into the forefront for me and blurred the line between secular and religious life.
Islam brought God into the forefront for me and blurred the line between secular and religious life.
As I learn more in my journey towards Islam, there is always the simple and powerful image of God as One, indivisible, with no partners, the creator and the constant shaper of everything. The Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, the Judge, the Source of Peace, the All-Powerful, the Light, the First and the Last."
Convert from the Catholic Church
"I started out being raised as Catholic and in going through those motions I later began feeling that it was all blind ritual. I didn't feel connected in the end. I felt that God was this big concept that was there, but I didn't see how it related to me. People practiced in front of other people e.g. Mass, but there was no other time that one was in remembrance of God. At least, that is not what was conveyed to me.
I am held accountable to developing my relationship to God ... and am not reliant on a priest to pray with or show me how to remember God.
Whereas with Islam, the relationship with God has become so much more personal because those rituals, such as prayer five times a day and fasting (in the month of Ramadan) are individual ways in which one connects with God. I am held accountable to developing my relationship to God and getting closer to God by my own adherence to these rituals and am not reliant on a priest to pray with or show me how to remember God. In developing this personal relationship, one slowly inevitably becomes in constant remembrance of God.
I feel that now I'm so much more appreciative and just overall aware of the beauty, blessings, and wisdom that God has put in my life. I feel that my connection with God is not just limited to Friday jum'mah prayers or the five daily prayers, rather now I see that there are countless opportunities to remember and experience the presence of God in all that I do."