My name is Amanda Oueslati, but some call me Noor. I converted to Islam when I was 15 years old. It’s been a decade and a half since then, but my Iman has only grown stronger. I’m a wife and mother now, with the most beautiful life, Alhamdulillah. Here is my story.

I guess you could say my journey to Islam started at birth, as it does with everyone really. I was born into an American Airforce family, living abroad in the UK. My parents were young and not religious at the time. It was more about fun and partying back then. I grew up hanging out in bars and pubs with my mom and don’t recall having many friends my age.

The beginning of my spiritual journey...

We moved around A LOT, because of the military and eventually ended up in a tiny little town in Alabama. This is where you could say I found God or realized that God existed. I started going to a Southern Baptist church with our neighbors and became heavily invested into all things Christ. I sang in the choir, joined the youth puppet team, and began mission work. I was only 10, but I was going out with a team of people every Monday night to spread the “good news.” I spoke to strangers, adults, teenagers, other kids, about how they should accept Jesus into their heart.

A strange thing happened though during this time of my life. The more I told people about Jesus, the more I felt empty. I started to feel like a fraud because I realized I didn’t believe what I was telling people. I had questions that church leaders couldn’t answer. Like, why does the Bible say not to eat pork, but we all have Sunday hams? Or why does the Bible tell women to cover their hair, but only nuns do that? Is Jesus really God? Why is that? It didn’t make sense to me.

So little by little, I started to rebel and turned my back on the church. While I was going through this rebellion of sorts, 9-11 happened and shook me to my core, like so many others. I can remember wondering about the people who supposedly did it, about these Islamic terrorists the news was talking about. I wanted to know them. What made them do this? What did they believe and why would someone want to cause so much pain?

My first Muslim friend

Right before the war on terrorism begun, my dad retired from the military and we made another move to Florida. I started high school as a loner. I didn’t know who I was, what I believed, or what I wanted from life. So I kept to myself. I saw a girl in the cafeteria one day. A Muslim girl, wearing the hijab. I thought to myself that she seemed so sure of herself. I wondered how she was so brave to wear that thing on her head at school. How was it that she didn’t care what others thought of her?

I eventually befriended Fatiha and found her to be the most incredible person. She was born Muslim from a Palestinian family. She really had it all together. She knew what she believed and why. She was strong and brave and beautiful. I wanted to be like her. I wanted what she had. We started talking about religion little by little and I would ask her questions about Islam, while at the same time challenging her. I started to read books from the library about Islam and searching all I could on the internet about her faith.

One day she brought a CD and told me to listen to it when I got home. I thought it would be some cool Arabic pop music from her country, but I was oh so wrong. I didn’t know what it was I was listening to, all I knew was that it was beautiful. I couldn’t understand a word being said, but for some reason it made me cry. After listening to her cd for several hours, I realized it was the Quran. I listened some more and thought to myself... I think I must be a Muslim.

I went to school next day and told my friend. I said it with all the confidence in the world. “Hey Tia, so I am Muslim now!” She laughed a little and smiled. She then explained the Shahada to me. She told me what it meant and why. She said if I wanted to be a Muslim, I needed to say it. So I did, without any hesitation. I didn’t know how to be a Muslim, but I knew in my heart that I was one.

A few months later, my family moved one last time. I never saw Fatiha again, but I pray for her all the time. I was on my own now. I continued reading and started to pray on a beach towel in my room. I played dress up with hijab almost daily but knew I could never come out. I knew my parents would lose it. I wanted to tell them, but I just didn’t have the courage yet.

How Allah SWT paved the path for me?

A few years past, and I continued on as a very young closet Muslim. I was 19 now and becoming a woman. I started to make a few Muslim girlfriends and was really starting to practice Islam. One day a friend of mine mentioned that maybe if I got married that would help me on my journey. She explained if I had my own home with a husband, that I could practice Islam as I wish and wear hijab if I wanted.

I brushed her off with a laugh because there was no way I wanted to get married. I haven’t lived yet, I thought to myself. I’m so young! Little did I know, she went behind my back and set up a dating profile for me on a Muslim dating site. She introduced me to a few men, which was all very awkward because one, I had no idea I had met them online and two, they all seemed to know quite a bit about me. It finally came out what she had been up too and I was furious and humiliated.

After a couple of days though, something told me to check out this profile she had created. I texted her for the log on information and that’s when the final half of my deen was complete. There was an email from a man who lived in my area and I found him to be quite handsome. Online dating was still pretty taboo though at this time and I kept trying to talk myself out of replying. I did though. I emailed and we arranged to meet up at Panera to “get to know each other.” First impressions were rocky and I left thinking I would never see him again. Lucky for me though, he didn’t give up.

We spent that summer getting acquainted, but still being young and naive I thought we were just dating. One night on the phone he suggested marriage. I was totally taken off guard because I thought we were just having fun. He explained to me that there was no such thing in Islam. That we either need to decide if we want to get married or move on. I had wondered why he hadn’t kissed me yet. Was he gay maybe? But, it all started to make sense to me at that moment.

The Final Plunge

I told him I didn’t know if I was ready for marriage, but again he didn’t give up. He proposed with a ring and all, one evening and I don’t know what got into me... but I said yes! All of a sudden I was blessed with courage I had never felt. I told my fiancé that I wanted to start wearing hijab. He told me to go for it. I put on my scarf that I had hidden for so many years and walked out of my room. My mom freaked. She blamed it on “the boy.” Then she called my dad. I didn’t know what to do, or how to explain, so I just walked out of the house, hijab and a mini skirt. My hijab has been a part of me ever since.

My husband and I got married a couple of weeks later because things at home got really bad for me with the addition of my new fashion accessory. My parents had a hard time with it all. The hijab, the marriage, the newish religion. I couldn’t blame them though. It has taken over a decade but I think they finally see that Islam makes me who I am. It makes me whole. It gives me strength and makes me a better person.

Now I have a beautiful daughter with that ever persisting man. The man who gave me all the courage I needed to be the Muslim woman I wanted. My hope for our baby girl is that she will be strong and brave, even when it is hard. That she will carry my story with her and remember that everyone is born a Muslim! 

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