Conversion Story For Adriana Evans

Published on 21 Apr 2020

My name is Adriana Evans, and originally I'm from Patuxent River, Maryland. But I'm in a military family, so technically, you're not really from anywhere, you just hop around to different places, so I just say I'm from San Diego. And I just recently graduated college, so officially an alumni, and part time on my couch just trying to recover from the semester.

Originally, I was Church of God in Christ, COGIC, which is basically like, with my friends, I say if you've ever seen any Madea movie, it's basically exactly like that, very strict by the book. There wasn't really much room for error or kind of shifting or adding a belief into the church. So basically, I would kind of make a joke with my siblings, it's like a nine to five job, because you would go to the early Sunday morning program, then you would have the regular day church program, and then you would go home for a break or dinner and then come back and end up having to go back to the night service, which would end around eight, and then you would have school the next morning. So that was definitely.... it was fun, like as a kid having to go back and forth all the time, but it was definitely a routine. 

I remember one day I asked the assistant pastor, because it's not that questions weren't allowed, it was just that if you ask too many questions, you would get kind of pushed off a little bit. So I originally started out in the younger kids class, I think I was around 13 or so at this time. That was the age range of the little kids course. And then I asked too many questions. So they moved me to the women's course, and I asked even more questions there and the assistant pastor actually taught in that course.

So when I was asking him certain areas in the Bible, where in the Old Testament, God said, this is allowed, but then in the New Testament, there will be an individual that would say, no, this is a sin. I was kind of wondering, Well, why did it change? Does this person have that kind of authority? And why isn't it consistent? And when I got brushed off, and they kind of made a joke about it, I was like, oh well, I don't think that's kind of right. Let me look more into it.

And that's actually when I first started wearing hijab, because I read in the New Testament and there was a verse that said, either the women shave their heads or they cover. And I didn't think I could pull out the bald look so I was like okay, let's just cover. And I definitely got a lot of questions from people, especially in the church saying, oh, why are you covering? And then I would show them the Bible verse, and they'd be like, oh, okay, well, we don't really follow that. I'm like, why are you going to preach with a Bible in your hand but then not go verbatim to its teachings? 

So the more I was researching into the Bible, I started finding different verses that would conflict with each other, or the church just wouldn't follow, because it just didn't behoove them. For breakfast, we had bacon all the time, and it made me feel sick as a little kid, I just didn't eat it. But then I was like, well, in the Bible, it talks about things with a split hoove and that you're not necessarily supposed to eat certain things. And so I was like, well, I want to follow Christianity, but I want to follow it more verbatim to what it's asking me to do. So then that's when I was like, okay, let's go into Orthodox Christianity. And that's where I started doing more the kneeling in my prayers. And I was pretty much what people would say Catholic, but I saw it as Orthodox Christianity, and I just kept on the scarf.

After that, I went to community college because I have graduated from high school. And when I ended up going into community college, it was full of a variety of Muslims from different ethnicities and cultures. And I was like, why does everybody keep saying salaam aleikum to me because I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know how to respond and they would get insulted. I wouldn't say anything back and be like, hello. And they started saying, oh, you're Christian. We don't see a lot of individuals covering. Did you know that Muslims also cover?

But in our church being Muslim wasn't a good thing, because there were sermons saying, oh, they pray to Muhammad, like we pray to Jesus, Muhammad is a god to them, so don't even go near a mosque. So that was like a big thing in our family that you just didn't do. And when my friends started talking to me, I was just like, oh, well, it kind of sparked a match, like, hey, let's look into things. You're in college, you might as well just add to the list of books you're reading. And then that's when my friend gave me a book called Misguided. And in the book, the individual talked about the Nicene Creed and how the Bible was developed and how the pagans became involved in what the state role to be state religion of Christianity, and how a lot of the teachings of Jesus were altered in order to get the pagans to join in and to be a more participatory state. 

So it was definitely whenever they talked about people that when it gets to Christians, they wanted to make it more current with the times. And Muslims were in the news. So they were saying, you know, Fox News has it right, so pay attention to them, which definitely we don't even watch them anymore. And when I would hear just negative things, I was like, aren't we supposed to be like uplifting towards other people? And then when I found out that Islam is part of the Abrahamic religions, I did some reading on it, and my friend also told me that it just kind of like made me interested in like, okay, what's this all about? Because there's too many commonalities, especially the individual that was telling me about it. Her name in English was Mary. So I was like, why would your parents name you after the mother of Jesus, if there wasn't some kind of relation within the two religions?

My journey to becoming Muslim was mainly through the reading of the book Misguided and just seeing it laid out what Christianity was about and what Judaism was about. Because I pretty much at that time was like, well, I don't necessarily want to be agnostic. I'd rather have a religion to follow. And it's pretty much going to be one of the three Abrahamic religions. And Judaism and some of the different sects, they don't believe in Jesus being a Prophet. That was a really big thing for me, because even though I wasn't necessarily going to keep being a Christian, Jesus played a huge part for me. So I wanted to make sure he was incorporated, his teachings were incorporated. And then when I found out that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was inspired by the teachings of Jesus and the Prophets before him, peace be upon them all, I was like, wow, that's actually a beautiful thing that he developed a religion in a way to practice life that didn't take away from any of the Prophets. It added to them, and it made sure that their message wasn't lost in a new political realm. 

It was definitely difficult once I decided, hey, Islam might be a thing in my life, especially within the black community, because Muslims are ......the primary thing that a lot of black communities know is Nation of Islam. And they're like, okay, that was a movement, it's not really a religion. So then when you hear about Sunni and Shia Muslims, they're just like, okay, they have no relation in my life. And so when I would be around them and covered in scarves, saying, hey, I'm interested in Islam, it was just kind of like, well, you should rethink that if you still want to be known as an African American in this community.

So that was kind of hard, especially when it came to family. I actually had an interesting instance where I was at my grandfather's funeral. And I had a family member come up to me and say, unless you want to be in hell, we advise you to change your religion, because there's nothing good about it, and I want you to lay in peace, where your grandfather is laying in peace. And at that moment I felt very upset. But something just kind of came over me. And I told them, thank you. And they were kind of confused, like, why are you thanking me? And I was like, even though you're coming at me with negativity, it's coming from a place in your heart where you think it is good. And I thank you for wanting to pray for me and wanting to care for me. And just kind of show me regardless of whether or not people agree with you to come at them in a peaceful manner, because it doesn't behoove anybody to combat negativity with negativity. 

I'm a big person where if I don't think that I can follow through on something I won't commit. So I started practicing being a Muslim for about half a year and I was already going to the lectures to different women's programs on campus and off and at the mosque. And then eventually, my friend was like, do you just want to take the shahada? And I completely forgot, because I was like, I'm already Muslim, I already say the shahada, like in my prayers and du'as and everything. And then I was like, okay, yeah, sure. I actually took my shahada in a Sunni mosque, which was really interesting, because of where I'm at now. And seeing how things were in the past it's kind of interesting to see the growth that's happened.

I feel like a lot of times, things happen for me to have like an awakening or enlightenment through other people. I was riding a vehicle with my friend, and I was talking about Muhammad Ali, because I love boxing and all that. And she didn't hear the Mohammad part. She heard Ali, and I was like, you know, great example for individuals, you know, we should definitely incorporate him into our lives and his thoughts and things like that. And she was like, what are you talking about? She was like, well, girl, I don't know where you're getting your information from, but I need you to be careful. And I was just like, you don't like Muhammad Ali? And she was like, oh, no, I thought you said Ali, I thought you meant like what the devil worshippers do. And I was like, wait, what do you mean? They're like, oh, they hit themselves, they harm themselves, they pray to Ali, they basically make a mockery of Islam. She's like, make sure you don't follow those people. And in that instance, just hearing the words that she said, I was like, wow, that sounds a lot like the sermons in church when they were bashing another ideology. 

So it was like, okay, I'm gonna look into them. And then I kept researching and researching, and, of course, I had a lot of Muslim friends at that time. So I asked one of them, oh, do you know about the Shia people? And she was like, yeah, I'm Shia. And as a friend, I was like, okay, can you give me basically the download, like, what's going on? Why do Sunnis hate you? Because I just hear nothing but negativity. And then she started to just let me know, hey, like, this is what I believe in, this is what we do. And then it became questions like, oh, why do Shia's cry during certain events? Why do they feel this way or that way? 

And the thing I love about her, and she is like my best friend now, she definitely encourages me not to follow what other people are saying. So she would tell me, oh, we do these things, and there's so much benefits in them, but then she would leave it at that. She wouldn't say you should do it, or I'm bringing you here. And not to bash any of my Sunni friends, but a lot of times, that's what would happen. It wouldn't really be something I wanted to do or my will, it was more of what they were wanting me to do. The first time I prayed with the congregation was because one of my friends was forcing me to. And I felt very uncomfortable, because I was just like, it's good you will get blessings for it, it's good. Or they were like, oh, you have to make sure you stay up to this time of night and may du'a. And then I was like, oh, my knees are kind of hurting. They're like, even if it bleeds, it doesn't matter. Like, although this is kind of really extreme. And I mean, it's good to be devoted to your religion, but I think it's good to also be aware of the health benefits, the risks and different things like that.

So a main reason as to why I became Shi'a was one day, I was just going through YouTube, just researching into Shia's, and I came across Dr. Ammar's lectures/ And when he was talking about what the Prophet did when he was in Ghadir, and he was telling individuals like, hey, that what I'm going to leave you with is and this is vital, please listen, is the Qur'an and Ahlul Bayt.  And when I heard that, I was like, what? Because all the Sunni's are like, it's Sunnah, you follow Sunnah and everything like that. So first thing I did was I paused it in the lecture. It's about like an hour, or longer, really beneficial. He tells you where to look. And I went online, and because they had an online copy of it, and it said the Qur'an and Ahlul Bayt.

And I was like, oh my God. And at that moment, I messaged my friend, I was like, by the way, I think I'm going to be a Shi'a from now. And not only that, but just knowing that the Prophet's family, peace be upon them all, are so important to Prophet Muhammad's whole existence. He left behind something so precious, and for us to not even consider remembering them or following them as an example, or just forgetting them because you're afraid you might be labeled as something, I think that's, one, dangerous and, two, it's ignorant because you follow a Prophet, but yet you won't follow his family that was also righteous. 

Dr. Ammar was also associated with some things like the Ahlul Bayt TV, so that kind of led me into that. And on days when I was in college and I was kind of over the whole political thing that was going on and just the climate and classes and tests, I'll say I just need something to take my mind off. And then I will go to the documentary page on Ahlul Bayt TV or to the archives and things like that. And it was just like a getaway to just become more knowledgeable. And, it was kind of, I don't know if this makes sense, but it just kind of calm my soul because I was just like, I'm so wrapped up in this world, but this kind of brings me back to solid ground where it's like, hey, like, yeah, life is tough, but here's some people who went through harder things so you can get through it.

I think I officially became a Shi'a, I would say about a year ago, so it's been a while. After I became Shi'a, in terms of the individuals I hung out with that were Sunni, in the beginning, I just kind of didn't tell them. It wasn't that I was hiding anything, because if anything, I was proud about it, but I didn't know how they would react. And we do a lot of collective things on campus together, so I need everybody in a good frame of mind. But once I started to bring in the turbah to pray on, I would definitely get a lot of looks. Or if I went to go pray, people will kind of move their rugs over and I was just like, okay, you need space, that's fine.

But at the same time, it made me more humble, and being a Shi'a because I was like, again, regardless of what others do, follow what you know is right. So there was that. In the Shi'a community, I actually experienced nothing but love from people. Some shock once they see that I am African American, because they're just like, well, that's kind of weird, but part of my ancestry is Nigerian. So that's not foreign to them, there's a lot of Shi'a Muslims, and so when I let them know that it kind of makes them more knowledgeable, because they're like, hey, first we didn't know there were darker skin Shi'as and also hey, there's also different places across the world that they are, and this is just another reason to unite and have a better, stronger community.

In terms of different places to go where there's lots of Shi'a events, I would just definitely say the Imam Ali Center, like we were saying for the Noor collective. And there's also a place, I'm into with military bases, so there's one off Miramar Road literally across the street from the military base. And it's actually a pretty cool because it is a Sunni program in the morning, and then it's a Shia program later on. And I believe they speak English. I know it is primarily Farsi, but it's a good mix between the two. And also just individuals' homes like, early I was messaging a group of girls and they were saying, oh, we're about to come over to the mosque and things like that. We call ourselves the Wednesday night group, basically, and that's because on Wednesday nights, you can go and just meet up with them and just speak about your concerns and just feel comfortable, so that really gave me a sense of community. 

Within the Shi'a community, I think it's important not to, I don't want to say judge, but to perceive a person before you know things about them. I know a lot of times some people will see me and just go to pray and will not ask me because they think I'm Sunni. I'd go, oh I'm Shi'a, and they're like, oh, grab your rug. So I think definitely not alienating people, and I know culture is definitely a big thing, and it's something that should be treasured by individuals. But if it's rooted in treating people in a prejudiced manner, or in the oppression of others, I think it's very important to separate religion from culture.

In terms of my family, specifically my parents, first and foremost, they always make sure that I know that I'm very much loved and supported. But in the beginning, I know it was tough for both of my parents because I think for any parent that brings up their kids with a belief for especially a religion, and the child diverts from that, especially if it's children that divert from that. A lot of times there's that where did I fail?  What did I do wrong? And also kind of like, oh, well, that's their life now. And I think it's important for anybody going through that to know, hey, there's always going to be that common ground, and that they are your blood and that there's love within that. So for my parents, for my father, it was difficult for him. And I think he had to figure out how am I going to adjust my daughter in different ways, because she has new beliefs and new requirements. And it was tough for him at first, and it was a bit difficult, but later on, he started asking more questions. And now whenever I come over, he goes to the halal store, and he's like, I got you some food so you can eat and I appreciate that. Because I think, for my family, food is where, wherever we break bread is wherever we break conversation. And it's like, anything that's been wrong can be built back again.

And from my mother, when I first became a Sunni Muslim, I came home and told her, I took my shahada, and she knew beforehand what that was. I told her, oh, these are the things that Muslims do. And she just looked at me, and I was like, oh, my goodness, I am about to get kicked out of the house, and I should have packed my bags before I got home. And then she told me, you know what this means right? And I was like, that I'm gone? She was like, no, you need to make sure you get with a good solid group of women that are having the same goals as you that they want to pursue their religion, but also a good career and also get education, and they're not just about drama, they want to really build themselves into a better person. 

She's like, you need to make sure that you go to any lectures that they have, you can borrow my car if you want to. She's like, I need a list of any of the halal food places that you need, and whatever prayer times because unfortunately, I had some situations where people tried to, I don't want to say attack but pretty much attacked me while I was praying. And they didn't know.... I have a very big family, I have six brothers and one sister, so of course, when I'm praying by myself, my family's military, so they don't, they like more covert things. So they were in a corner, saw the men approaching me and they're like, I'll cut this up. So because of that my family became very protective. So I was like, I need a list of your prayers on like an app so I can see it, so I can get you to a safe location to pray. So alhamdulillah, I definitely love my parents for that and inshaAllah they are rewarded for the struggle they had to go through and for every single thing that they do for me. 

One thing that I think it's important for individuals to remember is that whether you're an individual just wanting to search out religion, to become knowledgeable of the people around you, whether you're wanting to become a Muslim, or you just want to be an advocate for individuals, I think it's important to learn and to know that just because you're obtaining knowledge doesn't mean you have to follow through with the practice; it just means that you're making yourself less ignorant and more susceptible to becoming a better person. So when it comes to Islam, I would definitely say be open to hearing about what the community is going through so that you can kind of get a sense of the direction that things are going in politically or otherwise culturally. And to not always believe what's happening in the media, go to your local mosque and say, hey, can I talk to these individuals? Or do you have a program where I can just ask questions and things like that. Definitely become knowledgeable so that you can just become a better person.

This video was first published on 29 May 2018 by ABTV Reborn as Reborn - Prophet Mohammed (s) was inspired by Jesus and that inspired me. We are grateful for their cooperation.

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