ISLAM is a religion growing every second. Stories of those who were drawn into the religion serve as a source of inspiration to us all.
In my first article on reverts, I wrote about my mother’s journey to Islam, which took place over 30 years ago in America. This week I will share the story of a close friend of mine who became Muslim only two years ago, as well as her experience throughout as a white American.
Lisa Vogl, 30, grew up in a Christian family – her father’s side is Catholic, her mother’s Baptist. She was never brought up too religiously but her mother was very spiritual, which is how she was brought up.
At the age of 18 she enrolled in an all-girls school, Chatham College, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she took up softball as a sport. After her first year, she decided to take a year off to travel and gain some internship experience. In the first half of that year, she interned at Disney World while working two other jobs at the same time.
Lisa went on the trip for a cultural experience, but ended up leaving with so much more – she left with Islam in her heart
With all the money that she’d saved and collected, Lisa decided to travel to Morocco for three months, where she taught at the American Language Center. Lisa describes living in Morocco as ‘the most amazing and humbling experience’ of her life. The family she stayed with at the time lived in a 200-square-foot room. They slept and dined all in the same place, and there was no hot water to shower with. It was during her time in Morocco that she first knew anything about Islam. Lisa went on the trip for a cultural experience, but ended up leaving with so much more – she left with Islam in her heart.
When she returned to the USA, she got a job at a bank in Chicago. At the time, she had no idea that working with interest was haram – not permissible – in Islam. ‘Ironically, something within me actually didn’t feel right working there,’ she states in hindsight. This was one reason she quit – because the job just didn’t feel right in her heart. The other reason was that she wanted to pursue her passion in photography.
Lisa gave up everything at that point to go to photography school in Florida. In her first year there she took a videography class in which the students were asked to make a mini-documentary on a subject of their choice.
At the time, she was working with Project Downtown, a local charity, which gathered at a mosque every other Sunday to feed the homeless. She had worn a hijab every day in Morocco, but it was more to follow a cultural norm and blend in with the locals. Since she never got to fully understand the true meaning behind the hijab, she decided to do her project on it.
To start her research she called on her friend Nadine AbuJubbara, whom she had met at the charity outings. Lisa interviewed Nadine, asking questions like, ‘Why do you wear hijab? Do people judge you on the streets? What are the misconceptions about hijab?’
People will judge no matter what, but we as Muslims must be willing to change the perspectives of those we come in contact with, in order to see the change
Nadine’s answers were so compelling that Lisa’s eyes completely opened to the reason why women wear the hijab. Because of that interview, she decided to look further into verses of the Qur’an about the hijab, and from there, she delved further into the religion of Islam. She started meeting with scholars, watched YouTube videos and read more into the Qur’an. Over the next nine months she began comparing the Bible with the Qur’an and found that they were very similar. A key difference, she felt, was that the Bible has been changed many times whereas the Qur’an, which has never been changed, is the direct words from God.
On 29 July 2011, the Friday before Ramadan, Lisa Vogl became a Muslim. She tells me how her life has completely changed since, and how she has had so many blessings that she is grateful for.
Tuesday, 26th March 2013