American Convert to Islam - My Revert Story
The "Real" Convert Story Behind the Photo Named
"Khadija Watson"...My name is Chelsey Love BTW
Recently, I was informed of a convert story with my photo attached to it. My name was Khadija Watson, a California bread Professor of Theology and I was wearing my American flag scarf in a photo I took roughly 4 years ago. MashAllah only if I could have gotten through 2 years of college successfully...I do think the story may be real, but my photo was used as if I were her.
As many of you know I have made the conscious choice to remove much of myself from social media and I've even gone to the extent of covering my face and those of my family in my social media post. I'm not a full time niqabi but find no necessity in exposing my face to thousands of people I don't know. I've actually seen great harm that has come from it. So you could understand when I found out a beautified, red lipped Chelsey photo was circulating around with this story attached to it, I was a bit discouraged. I was upset about my photo being used of course, but it comes with the reality of being on social media. I was more concerned with my photo being used for a story that wasn't my own. At least if the story was true, it may help someone in their journey to Islam. After all, that has always been my ultimate goal in being on social media anyways...to help sisters in their journey, even if its just to show them they are not alone. So lets set the story strait, and I pray the truth may help someone more, in sha Allah...
Bismillah ar Rahman ar Raheem,
Asalaamu alaikum (may peace and blessings be upon you) my name is Chelsey. I go by Chelsey Love on social media since I am, well, the lovey, free spirit type. I wasn't born in California, although I did live there for 5 years. I was born in Florida...close enough I guess. I grew up on the sandy vacation beaches of our coast and lived most of my life in sandals, shorts and tank tops. I did all the "normal" things an American girl does. I competed in gymnastics and cheerleading. I dabbled in ice skating and realized my grace was a bit more like a hockey player. By the time I was eleven years old, I was already concerned with my beauty, my weight and boys. At 15 years old I attended modeling school and started competing in USA Beauty Pageants. I loved being, well....attractive I guess, and I can honestly say a part of me always thought I may be "famous" one day. I grew up in a non religious home and really only attended church on Christmas Eve. When I was eleven I used to go to a Christian youth group, but it was mainly to sneak cigarettes behind the craft store and meet boys. Yes I was 11, I know...Please don't do this girls! At 15 I started going to this "Hip Hop" church with a pastor that had cornrows and rapped about Jesus. I thought it was mad cool, but always felt silly sitting there while Id talk to myself in my head..."You don't believe this stuff...wheres your faith Chelsey? Maybe God doesn't even exist!" May Allah forgive me...I would say this is when my Atheism started. I befriended a Palestinian Muslim girl my senior year in high school and went to the Musjid with her once during Ramadan. I ignorantly didn't even know what a Muslim was or Islam really. I just tagged along because she asked me too. She seemed like a normal girl to me, plus she told me she had an uncle that could draw me an Arabic tattoo haha this is how our friendship began actually. I had always loved Arabic script and Egyptian Mythology so she was an interesting friend to have. I loved learning about her culture and we surprisingly never even spoke about Islam.
I got married at 18 years old and moved across the country to live with my Marine Corp husband. Yes, I was married to a Marine and now I'm Muslim...some people find this part interesting. I stayed in contact with my Muslim girlfriend. She got married right after high school as I did and I flew to New Orleans a couple times to visit her. During this time I was 19 years old I believe. I bought a Quran out of curiosity to learn. As an Atheist I simply looked to religion as something interesting to learn about. I wrote a comparison and contrast essay in college on Christianity and Islam. My teacher loved it. I attempted to read the Quran, but couldn't get passed the second chapter. I remember flying to New Orleans and on my flight all I wanted to do was sit and read. I got through a few pages and got interrupted by the gentleman sitting next to me who would not shut up the entire flight. I swear it was some interference from the Shaytan. I didn't pick up the Quran to read it after that until I was 25 years old. During the next five years as an Atheist I indulged in what I thought was "living life". I partied a lot, tried new things to find out who I was and where I belonged. I got tattooed a lot, pierced, drank a lot. I thought I was on the path to being "famous"...I guess...I got my Cosmetology license, modeled, started going to auditions in L.A. I was really enjoying living in California and I was building a pretty cool life for myself (according to western standards I suppose). When I first moved back to California (I went back and forth due to my husbands deployments overseas) I went through a small personal issue that had me wishing there was a god but just couldn't grab a hold of belief. I remember praying to God once when I first moved to California. I stated..."If you exist...can you help me to believe in you..." I made promises I didn't live up to because after all how could I stop my desires for something intangible?...That previous 9 months had seriously been the most depressing, up and down, happy, sad, lonely with tons of friends; moments of my life and I'm a pretty happy, consistent person. But regressing to my move back to California, I had been living there almost two years and started to think everything was slowly working out for me, my husband (at the time) found out he was to be shipped out overseas for the third time. I had two weeks to drop my college courses, pack my stuff and move back to Florida. Instead of moving back with my parents I decided to live on my own with a roommate. I roomed with my good friend whom I went to Cosmetology school with.
( I want to put a disclaimer in that, all of this "stuff" I was doing..."fun" I thought I was having left me more empty. There was no long term gratification. It was like eating cake and being hungry 30 minutes later. Than you eat again to the point where your so full you want to vomit...And so you do it again the next day...)
Not even a couple months into living a kinda "single" life, I was charged with a DUI. I admit it...I stupidly drove while being buzzed even after my friends insisted we cab it. I was arrested and spent the night in jail, anxious, cold and with dehydration cramps. Unfortunately my "everything will be okay" attitude was a bad personality trait in this situation because it made me seem careless and stupid. I was mad at myself mainly because I knew I may lose my driving privilege. Ironically my Muslim gf was going through a divorce and decided to come back down to Florida to visit family. We linked up, and being the "fun" girl I was, I insisted she let me show her a good time as a newly single female. Keep in mind she wasn't what most would consider practicing and actually took me up on my offer eagerly. For the next month I took her to every hot spot I knew of. We stayed out until early in the morning and would grub on McDonald's and Coca Cola to cure horrible hang overs that I do NOT miss for one second! Its actually in these moments we would sometimes get deep in conversation. It was a rare occasion, and I actually only remember one discussion we had that sticks out in my memory. She asked me why I don't believe in God and what do I believe...She asked me "if" I believed how would I see religion or God. I remember just throwing out thoughts and comparing them to Christian beliefs. I remember stating that I wasn't sure if Jesus was the Son of God or just a good guy. I told her about my thoughts on life and family etc. Towards the end of the discussion, and something I pray Allah will reward her for on the day of judgement is..."Chelsey, you sound like a Muslim..." she said. HU? What does that even mean? After all, Muslims to me were normal people like myself, going to the clubs, drinking, smoking, but they tended to be Arab haha...So, a Muslim to me was like many Christians these days, but their religious views on God and Prophets were slightly different. Of course this is what I thought at the time based on what I saw. A perfect example of Muslims not speaking for Islam...
I didn't think much of it as the weeks past by, but I was working part time and attending college so I did find a lot of down time during the day. (I hardly ever did homework...I know, bad student...I did the bare minimum) So, I started researching "What is Islam?". I watched a documentary on History channel and BBC maybe. I started to study about the basic fundamentals and beliefs. I learned a bit about who Muhammad salalahu wa lahi wa salaam (may peace and blessings be upon him) was. I watched the movie "The Message" and found a Facebook group. I started watching lectures on The Deen Show. I found myself so obsessed with learning. The more I knew, the more I wanted to know. I would watch lecture after lecture from people like Dr. Bilal Philips, Yusuf Estes, Hamza Yusuf and more. I wanted to know everything. On my journey to learn I would come in contact with horrible claims and comments about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad sws. I would actually find myself believing what was said, or at least considering it could be true. After all I wasn't a Muslim nor was I religious so anything is possible. So naturally I would study about all these misconceptions. Id watch debates from Atheist and Christians. Id watch lectures preaching against Islam and all its "horrible" practices. I'm not easily fooled and I am a truth seeker, so lets just say, every time I studied the topic wisely, with reflection, from those who were knowledgeable of Islam, the Islamic argument always came out victorious. I wasn't bias, I had no reason to be. I wasn't looking to be told how to live my life and what I can and cant do. I had no personal connection to Islam. If anything the fact that I was married to a United States Marine, came from atheism, modeled, drank, dressed fairly immodestly, had tons of gay friends, male friends among many other things, would probably deem me someone to not agree or particularly be attracted to Islamic values and laws. But, I wanted to know if God was real and IF He was, what was His religion. Every time Id learn about something, Id think..."Hmm how can I relate this to my life? Do I understand why God would want this? What is the wisdom beyond what I can understand in this ruling?" As the days and nights went on I found myself with anxiety. Id think about Allah and ponder over my personal thoughts and feelings. My belief or faith in Him as a creator was still void, but I could feel something changing inside of me. It was the feeling of "If there is a God, Islam is His religion." I knew this for certain. Everything was rational and intelligent. Everything made sense. There were no hoops to skip over or things to explain to the point that you just had to "have faith" as they say for many Christian explanations. "Ok" I said..."So God is One, not three...Jesus is a Prophet, not a divine being or begotten Son of God...The stories of the prophets are real and not fictional and their is actually scientific proof to back up a lot of this...the Quran is the true word for word revelation of Allah subhana wa ta ala not written by scribes, the history of Islam is historically documented in a miraculous way all the way down to how the Prophet sws used to brush his teeth, Muslims actually believe they have to follow their laws,, not that they've changed or someone died for their sins...we are accountable..." And the thoughts went on and on...
At this point my husband at the time ended up not deploying, but was relocated to Miami. We had always talked about living in Miami as I love it there. It was such great news, but a part of me felt a bit torn for some reason. Id travel down there and visit him until my lease was up. I remember one time I went we were totally off...things felt weird...so I sat on my computer looking up Muslim girls on YouTube. I wanted to know how they looked, how they dressed...Unfortunately I've come to realize that my friend may not be the best source of information for me and neither were my Muslim male friends either. No one around me was practicing so I had to figure out everything on my own. One day while in Miami I decided to try on "hijab''. I found a tutorial from YaztheSpaz I remember it was so hot outside and people stared but I didn't care. My husband thought I was going through a weird phase and didn't take my interest seriously. I came home on the train wearing my hijab. I remember seeing a Muslim woman and thought to myself, "I wonder if she sees me and thinks Im Muslim too!" I wasn't...yet.
Right before I left for Miami I got myself into a bit more legal trouble. I decided to drive on my suspended license with my DUI charge pending. I was looking at jail time from what my lawyer told me...maybe it was a lie to get more money, idk...But I knew I didn't want to waste 30 days of my precious life sitting in jail. Alhumdulillah (All thanks to Allah) I got a fine, my license back and had some community service and counseling sessions I had to take for my DUI charge that got dropped to a reckless driving charge about 8 months later. Digressing back to the weekend I came home from Miami, I didn't hear from my husband all weekend which was weird because he was the obsessive, jealous type. I let it go until I got a call on Sunday night. "Chelsey, I think we need to take a break..." Other things were said like "I don't want you to be a Muslim..." and so on. I knew I wasn't the best wife, but from anyone's eyes looking in, this was the LAST thing anyone would ever expect. We were the Middle School sweethearts. No matter how sad I wanted to be...I had other things filling my heart...the desire for Allah swt. I hadn't even converted yet and I was ready to give up a 12 year relationship to start over and put my trust in Allah. I still wondered if He was even real, that burst of belief hadn't even set in yet. I remember telling my friend that "I think I believe in God...its the first time I can even say that much." A couple days after I separated from my 12 year relationship and 5 year marriage, I made plans to convert on the beach at sunrise. I had no reason not to convert. I doubted whether or not I could be a good Muslim, would I mess up, could I stop partying, drinking, is this a phase or is it real, will I realize a year down the road I'm still an Atheist and was playing myself the whole time....!? This was not a game for me. This was very serious. I had so much anxiety because there were things I couldn't control, feelings, thoughts, emotions...new ways of thinking about things and how I saw the world, life and people around me. As a sat in my room, in the dark, it may have been 2 am or so, I looked up how to say my shahada (deceleration of faith. This is the first pillar of Islam, and the way one becomes a Muslim). I didn't know any rules or recommended ways to convert like having a witness, I just knew that Allah would hear me, see me, believe me. So instead of waiting for the sun to rise, I repeated my shahada after the boy in the YouTube video I watched. I think I said my shahada three or four times just to make sure mashAllah. I laid back and said, "Ok, I'm a Muslim now..."
(I want to side track for a second because I find this to be a beautiful story of how Allah brings everything into perfection...As most of you know I am remarried alhumdulillah to the love of my life. Hes from Jordan and is a born Muslim alhumdulillah. My husband wasn't always the most practicing Muslim and he will admit that. It wasn't until he moved to America and some years had passed that he saw the beauty of Islam that he had lost or never saw really in himself. As I was taking my shahada that night unaware, my future husband was driving home with his cousin from a late night. He remembers feeling emotional and had all these thoughts in his head. I think he told me suddenly he heard a Quran recitation that came on from a tablet that was on shuffle in the car. He had this overwhelming desire to say his shahada. So he did...He said he felt as if he had converted to Islam even though he had been Muslim his whole life. SubhanAllah, the night I converted to Islam, my future husband also said his. [Did you know its recommended that even born Muslims say their shahada once in their life.])
If I'm correct, I converted four months before my 26th birthday alhumdulillah. I'm now 31 and am happier than I've ever been. I'm married with 2 little boys, alhumdulillah. I have my own business, my family life is good, the friends I have now are quality over quantity. I feel much more fulfilled, content, refreshed, educated, honest, kind, considerate, productive and more. Allah, Islam has changed so much about how I think about things, act upon things, feel about things. I look back on who I was, the things I did, choices I made and think..."Who were you?!" Alhumdulillah, everything that happened in my life good and bad has allowed me to see Islams beauty and truth. Its allowed me to understand its wisdom and accept its rulings. Every time I read Quran I say to myself, "SubhanAllah, I understand why.." People ask me how I molded Islam around my old life, but its about molding your life around Islam. There is divine wisdom in everything we do as Muslims and if we can only trust Allah and His guidance we will find that our happiness stems from our worship to Him in our actions. After converting I understand why I was an Atheist and I understand the Atheist mentality but when Im told by Atheist that religion restricts your thought, makes you close-minded or shuts of imagination, these things couldn't be any further from the truth. I have never felt more spiritual, or in thought and reflection than I am today. Even the way I see nature is different, the miracle of child birth, the beauty of a women, the strength of a husband, the patience of a believer...SubhanAllah Philosophy has nothing on Islamic Theology. Atheism is a blindfold. Living life to its fullest in a way that does not please the soul, only the body is living life without purpose, without meaning. We were created with purpose by Allah subhana wa ta ala. We will be judged on our beliefs, our deeds, our worship on the day of judgment. Its not about believing in a god because we are weak or need something to ease our life or thoughts. Its not about believing in God because we are void of critical thought. Its about believing in our creation, the truth, worshiping Allah the way He should be worshiped. Its about being accountable for the person we are every second of the day. Its about ridding ourselves of our arrogance and pride and learning consciousness. Allah awakens the mind, the heart, the soul and the body. He frees us from modern day oppression and slavery. Allah teaches us that there is nothing worthy of worship but Him, The Most Merciful, The Most High, Allah.