Fighting for guidance, Q&A with Adolfo Anaya
Adolfo Anaya, a recent convert to Islam, in the Islamic Center of Tucson. (Amer Taleb)
The following is the first Q&A in the “Before I was a Muslim” series, which highlights converts from Tucson’s Muslim community.
By Amer Taleb
When and why did you convert to Islam? It was about a year ago. I was “sorta Catholic” before that. I know it sounds simple, but I became a Muslim because it was the truth, it made sense. God gave me a good heart and he allowed me to appreciate Islam for what it is, a beautiful and complete way of life.
What was the hardest part of your conversion? Family and friends who couldn’t understand why I converted. It was hard when they’d look at me and I felt like they couldn’t understand me anymore. Like I lost them.
But things have gotten better with my family. They know I’ve become a better person and that I’ve gotten off of hard drugs because of my conversion. Islam helped me cope with the pain, which came from a lot of things.
What kinds of things? Lots of stuff. Bad relationships, drugs, depression, it got to a point where I attempted suicide. It wasn’t a proud time in my life. There was one time where I looked in the mirror and saw myself as everything I never wanted to become. I looked like a person with no remorse, a complete sociopath, and I started crying. I hit rock bottom and at that point it seemed like things would never get better.
When was the first time you walked into the Islamic Center of Tucson? What was it like? Me and my friend, who’s a Muslim, had spent a whole night talking about religion, God and all kinds of things. He invited me to go to the mosque and find out more about Islam. A week later, I walked into the mosque’s main mussallah (prayer room) and the sheikh was sitting there reading hadith (Prophetic sayings). I felt very uncomfortable because I didn’t know what the etiquette of the place was or how to pay respect.
The sheikh saw how frantic I was and he put his hand on me. I felt like he could understand me, and I just broke down. There was no judgement. He could see I wasn’t a bad person, I was just scared.
Did other Muslims treat you well, knowing you were a convert? I was and still am treated very well. I have this eager desire to learn and when I first converted and had more free time, I was at the ICT everyday, reading, praying, just learning something. I love this place. It’s where God saved me.
Does the Islamic Center of Tucson do enough to help converts? I feel like they can do more. Having convert packages, like books and pamphlets, is a good start. Classes on integrating into the community and even a counselor would help a lot. I come here during the day and it’s empty, it shouldn’t be like that. This is a community center, it’s supposed to constantly be in use.
Do you still struggle with your past? Sometimes I look back at where I came from, and I try to not dwell on it, but it does hurt. I try to remember that I’m not Islam, I’m a Muslim. Basically, I’m not perfect, but I try to pursue perfection. Every day I feel blessed that I found Islam, and I plan to keep for fighting for guidance. It’s all I can do. It’s all any of us can.