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Born in Colombia and educated in the states, Adriana Contreras just finished her last year at Oklahoma University.
When she arrived in the United States, she took English courses to help with the language barrier. It was then and there that she met Muslims in her class. One day they began talking about religion and started comparing them — and the rest is history.
Adriana began reading the Qur’an in a different language than most would expect. “I decided to read the Qur’an in Spanish, because I felt I could do a better comparison between the Qur’an and the Bible this way,” she said.
I asked Adriana a series of questions that detail her journey into Islam.
Q: What drew you into Islam?
Adriana: I was Catholic — but the fact that I didn’t connect with Catholicism itself made it harder. I would search to learn more about the trinity because I didn’t really understand it. That’s what made me look into Islam more because it simply made sense.
Q: What did you really like or enjoy about Islam?
Adriana: I liked the idea that in Islam there is only God. Some think Jesus is God, some think He is not. Some say they are three but there’s also one. I like that in Islam, the Qur’an says that God is the only one. I was surprised when the Qur’an mentioned the trinity as well.
Q: What do you think about some people’s misconceptions of Muslims and Islam?
Adriana: I can’t believe people think so wrong about Muslims when they don’t believe anything different from Catholics or Christians, you know? Basically, it’s your behavior that matters more, not what you call yourself. It’s about who you are in God’s eyes, not what religion you think you are.
Q: What led you to convert?
Adriana: Confusion led me to the clearness of the Qur’an. I began reading the Qur’an and the Bible in the mornings. One day, I saw a little chapter in the Qur’an that I liked a lot and it talked about how to protect yourself from the envy of people. Mind you, I didn’t know how to write Arabic at the time — but all of a sudden, I just started writing in Arabic. For some reason, my hands were shaking. I knew I was writing something holy and so beautiful. This was the first thing I ever wrote in Arabic, and that was the day I converted. That was about four years ago.
Q: You said you were reading the Bible and the Qur’an, that’s a beautiful and powerful commitment. Not many people have the dedication to read one book, yet you read both. Can you describe your experience?
Adriana: Yes, I was reading the Qur’an and the Bible in the mornings. I was surprised by my ignorance of Islam. Just starting with the fact that I had no idea Muslims believe in Jesus, Mary, and all the prophets. I was just surprised there were so many similarities between both books.
Q: What was your family’s reaction?
Adriana: My mom and just everyone, in general, were really upset. They were worried. They thought that I was going to get married and they would never see me again, that my husband was going to hit me and so on. But they noticed it was a positive change, and now they accept it.
Q: How did you share the news?
Adriana: Well, all my family lives in Colombia and I had to tell my mom on the phone. When I did, she started freaking out so much, I had to tell her I was kidding. I then went to Colombia 2 months later, and I had to tell her. With time, it was fine — but I did tell her in person.
Q: Did you have core people guiding you and helping you during this phase of your life? If so, how big of a role did they play?
Adriana: Yes — two people, mostly: One who is now my husband, and the other, my friend Stephanie. Stephanie was basically in the same situation. I just thank God I had her as she was such a good example. And my husband, well — he knows exactly all that I struggled with in the beginning. He listened to me when I really needed it.
Q: Do you wear the hijab?
Adriana: I am trying to, but it’s really hard for me to make that decision. Although, I wear it on the weekends and to go out sometimes. My major problem is that I don’t think to be modest, you have to wear the hijab — but I do believe God wants me to wear it. I just think you need to represent your religion and faith in a good light. I see myself wearing it permanently soon, though.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a Muslim Latina?
Adriana: It’s hard. Yet, I don’t feel it as much here because this is not my country. But whenever I go home, people ask questions like: “Oh, let’s go to the club” to tease me when they know I won’t do it.
Q: What other hardships do you experience?
Adriana: In my city, in Colombia, it’s hot. And even when I don’t wear the hijab, I cover up. My brothers and cousins ask, “Why are you wearing that? It’s hot,” and I just want them to leave me alone. I haven’t worn a hijab there. I want to, but it would be a big difference. I know only two girls wearing the hijab in my city.
Q: And why do you think that is?
Adriana: I go to Colombia and wonder what the big deal is of you covering when you’re respecting yourself. The Latin culture is all about you “needing to show” in order to sell. My brother asks me “Why don’t you show more?” and that’s my own brother. It just doesn’t make sense.
Q: How do you feel as a convert? How do you feel as a Muslim?
Adriana: I love being Muslim. It’s not only about you being closer to God and knowing that every single thing you have in this life is because He has allowed you to have it, but you also grow to love and respect yourself more. It’s a very nice religion, aside from what people think. I think it’s a beautiful thing when you convert — you want to question and learn more, and find there is a reason for everything. And by doing that, you’re teaching Muslims; you’re making them search and learn about their own religion too. Islam brought peace to my heart. Converting has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Q: What are some misconceptions you would like to clear up about Islam?
Adriana: People have the wrong idea about Islam. They think being a Muslim is being Arab, and wearing hijab mean you are being oppressed. It would be nice to change their ideas and say, “You know, I am from Colombia and I am Muslim.”