Monday, November 08, 2004

!!! A STORY !!!

By Waa’il Abdul Salaam

My story of becoming a Muslim at the age of ten years old might be unusual, but it was very real for me. I want to share my story in case other kids might be going through the same problems I went through. I was born into my birth family, with a mother who was Roman Catholic and a father who was Baptist. When I was born I had one sister who was a year and a half older than myself. When I was six weeks old, my birthfather took me from my crib and ran off with another woman. He left my birthmother alone with my sister. He hid me and was involved in drugs. I remember the first few years of being very hungry and alone. I remember how I was very angry and had a bad temper.

During those first few years, my birthmother’s friends got her a job as a bartender, so she could support herself and my sister. After awhile one of my birthfather’s friends went to her and told her where I was because he was afraid something bad was going to happen. My birthmother came right away and found my birthfather and his friends doing drugs. She saw me running around being neglected, so she picked me up and left with me. I didn’t really know her. I guess maybe I thought I was being kidnapped or something, so I threw temper tantrums every chance I got and became even more angry.

Eventually my birthmother finally got me to smile, learn how to hug, and even say I love you, all things I didn’t know how to do when she found me. My birthmother then had two of us kids to support and herself, so she wound up spending more time working at the bar, which meant we had to stay with different babysitters. One day my birthfather came to the house where we lived and took me back where he was living with another lady. By the end of that year, he tried to put me in school which did not work. I did everything I knew that was bad just to get into trouble.

The school called and said I couldn’t come back because of my behavior, so he took me back and dumped me at my birthmother’s doorstep. She was happy I was back and took me to my sister’s school. I thought I was getting left again, so I threw a fit, hit my teachers and other kids, and the school called my birthmother and said I couldn’t go to school there either. I was mad at everyone. I did the worst things I could think of to do every chance I got. This time my birthmother got on a plane with me and we flew to her mother’s house, (my grandma’s) far across the country, in another state. She was nice and loving to me, but she was very strict about my throwing fits. She didn’t yell at me or anything, but whenever I destroyed something or had a tantrum, she would take hold of my hand and walk me outside to a pile of small wooden blocks, on the side of the house. She would tell me to move all the little wood blocks from one side of the driveway to the other, and when I was done to come and let her know. Then she would go back inside and leave me there to do it by myself. At first I was so mad at her, but by the time I finished moving the little blocks, I wasn’t mad any more. It was kind of like a game.

By the end of the eight months I lived with my grandmother, I stopped throwing tantrums, and I used to sit on her lap and listen while she read bible stories and poems to me until I fell asleep. I learned all my school lessons, knew how to ride a horse, and I absolutely knew how to move blocks around. At the end of that time, it was time for me to go back home, and I was doing so well that I got to ride on a plane all by myself (with an escort of course). I felt very grown up and very happy. She told me that I was going to be just fine, and that whenever I got angry or sad or lonely, I should think about God. She said I should always remember how He took care of all the people in the Bible and if I would ask him she knew he would take care of me too. She told me whenever I got upset of angry that I should never hurt someone. Instead I should just pray to God until I wasn’t angry anymore.

After I got back home, my mother was happy because I wasn’t hurting people. I wasn’t throwing tantrums. I was eating well and not afraid to sleep. I was happy almost all of the time. Then, again my birthfather came one day. He saw how good I had turned out and just like before, he took me away again. He knew my birthmother had to work to take care of us kids but he would never give her even one penny to help. He even divorced her without telling her. She worked all the time, babysitters took care of my sister and a new brother that had born while I was away, and I was gone again. The new lady my birthfather was living with was so cruel. I lost a lot of weight and I am not sure how things happened, but it was during that time that I supposedly split my head open on monkey bars at the school, and supposedly was hit by a jeep in front of their home. I don’t remember those things too clearly, but I do remember his girlfriend picking up a two by four and hitting me with it in the front yard. I also remember my birthfather slamming my head into the kitchen table because I didn’t write fast enough. He and his lady friend would threaten me by convincing me that the devil would come out of my bedroom floor and take me to burn in hell if I got out of bed while they were having drug parties.

This went on until I was in fourth grade. My birthfather used to show me a big baggie filled with drugs he was then getting from a doctor and telling me how good they made him feel. His house was filled with dirty magazines and MTV movies and it all seemed normal because that was all I ever knew back then. I didn’t know there was any other way to live. I had long forgotten how my grandmother had taught me to pray and I couldn’t remember the wonderful days I spent with her, or riding the horses, or being hugged and read to, about God. All the bad stuff at that age seemed to push the good stuff away. When it was time to start fourth grade I became uncontrollable at school, figuring I would get sent back to my birthmother or grandmothers. I didn’t stop until I got what I wanted and it worked. I was taken back and left with my birthmother. By then, she was working around sixty hours a week, would come home tired, be yelling and screaming, expecting us to take care of ourselves, and not to give her anymore trouble. I wanted attention from her, so I went back to being a brat and being mean to my sister, and by then my new little brother who I resented even more.

By the end of the first month of that school year, I was the worst I had ever been. My birthmother couldn’t cope with me one minute longer. My birthfather had already made me go to doctors and they put me on five different kinds of medicine from Ritalin to even worse drugs, to try to control me and even that didn’t work. In fact, that stuff made me worse and none of it worked. I beat up other kids, started fights, accused them of doing things they didn’t do, stole things, lied, refused to obey the teachers, or do any work. School to me was a place I was going to play and do whatever I wanted to do. I knew they couldn’t do anything about it. I thought I was really something and all I thought about was me. They sent me to the hall, to the office, home, even put a box around me in class to keep me from bothering other kids, and I still didn’t give up.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am NOT saying all this to sound cool. I was an idiot to say the least. I know that now. I want other kids to know it doesn’t have to be that way, regardless of their family problems. So, if I don’t say how bad it had gotten they won’t be able to understand. I was only ten years old. I am thirteen, almost fourteen now, and I think back when I was ten and I cannot believe I was even the same person or that the kid I am telling you about above was for real. He was for real and he was me! Most people wouldn’t believe that a ten-year-old kid could be as bad and do as bad of things as I did, but this is true. It all finally came to the end for me, when I called another kids home, pretending to be another kid and saying the boy was missing. You can image how much trouble I was in then! That only got me put on more drugs from the doctor. All those drugs made me see things and hear things that weren’t there and made me angry enough to be dangerous. I don’t believe anyone should put their kids on those drugs even if the school insists. Adults just have no idea what those drugs do to kids or what they make kids think about. I am proof to tell you that kids are not going to admit to parents or doctors or anyone, when they have horrid thoughts, because of the drugs. Anyway, when the drugs weren’t helping and I was getting into even more trouble, it was at that point they threatened to put me out of the family forever. All of a sudden, my birthmother didn’t want to put up with it anymore and my birthfather didn’t want me either. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.

When I least expected it, there was someone who offered to take me into their home and try to help me. They didn’t have children living at home, so there would be no one for me to hurt and they would homeschool me, until my behavior got in check. Neither of them drank and they didn’t use drugs. They were not going to give me any drugs and promised I didn’t have to go to a bunch of doctors unless I was physically sick. It was my last chance. I said okay and I was put on a plane and sent to their home. They picked me up from the airport. It was Jumaana and her husband Waseem. All of a sudden I felt different. Here was a new couple. I thought I would get away with more stuff. The family back at my home already knew my routines, so they caught me right away everytime I did something wrong, but these two wouldn’t know how I operated. At first, I tried to be loud and a real brat. I did a good job for a few days, reminding them both that they said I didn’t have to take all those drugs. They looked like they didn’t know what to do with me exactly but they re-assured me that their promise was good.

They had a room all ready for me when I arrived. The walls were pale blues, my favorite color. It had a blue carpet and blue drapes and even a blue bedspread. There was a desk, just for me to use, and even a small fish tank with a light that stayed on all night and fish that swam in and out of the rocks. It was incredible. I had never had anything like that for myself. I used to sleep on the floors on a blanket or on a couch in the living room before. As the days passed, the drugs were draining out of my body. It made me tired and drowsy most of the first few weeks and I slept a lot. I was ten years old and weighed forty-eight pounds because the drugs make you too sick to eat. By the end of the first month, I gained several pounds and felt better than I had in a long time. I did NOT want to get put back on that stuff ever again. The second month, my homeschool box was delivered to the house and Jumaana began to teach me every day, when Waseem was at work.

I could see how different it was in Jumaana’s and Waseem’s house. Not just because it was in Denver, but it was lots of things. At certain times, Jumaana would leave the room to go to her room. I would pretend to keep working, but I couldn’t help but notice that she would put on a long scarf over her head and a small rug on the floor and I wasn’t sure what she was doing back then, but she would be praying. I watched her do that every day and finally one day, I asked about it. I think that was when I stopped being so bad and started wondering about other things. See the house there was different, quieter, more peaceful, something I wasn’t sure about, because for ten years I had only known people who were either drugged up or drunk, or just plain mean. This was like a different planet, I think you could say. I didn’t exactly know what to think about it, but I did start liking being there. I tried not to get too attached because I figured one day I would get sent away again, it always happened and I didn’t want to think about it. That’s why I would have a couple good days and then I would go back to my old ways, just in case I guess.

Every day I asked more and more questions. Jumaana or Waseem would do their best to answer them. I wanted to learn to pray too, so one day I asked if I could pray with her. She said I could and even opened her closet and gave me new blue velvety prayer rug. I followed everything she did and I listened to every word, but I still couldn’t seem to be still, always wiggling and moving around, but after a couple weeks I could be still, and I felt so peaceful inside. I never remember feeling that way before. One evening, after I had gotten settled into bed for the night, Jumaana came into my room and ask if I was doing okay. I told her yes and she said she thought I had become more quiet lately and wondered if there was anything I needed. Waseem and her always talked nice to each other, and I never heard them fight or anything like the people back in my old home did. I couldn’t believe they talked so nice to each other and they were talking to me that way now too. I couldn’t quite figure things out. I thought maybe it would be okay if I told her I wanted to be a Muslim too. I really did want to be and I didn’t know how to do it. So, I just came out and said it. “I want to be a Muslim�.
She smiled and asked if I knew what being a Muslim was. I told her I didn’t but I wanted to be one. She tucked me in, gave me a hug, left the room and came back with some children’s books on Islam. That night I read them until I fell asleep. The next day I finished the books and I couldn’t get enough to read. I read about saying Shahada and so I told her right away that I needed to say it, so that I could be a Muslim. They reminded me that I was only ten years old and so maybe I would need to study more first. I told them that I had already read all the books and I had to say the Shahada that very day. I know I was young, but it didn’t seem that way to me at the time, because all I knew was that I had to become a Muslim. It was right for me and I knew it, right from the beginning. Later that night, on December 29, 2000, I officially said the Shahada to Jumaana and Waseem, and I became a Muslim.

Jumaana continued to teach me at home and I passed the fourth grade and the fifth grade all in one year. I also was given privileges to read whatever books I wanted from the shelves of books Waseem and Jumaana had. They had books on all the religions, but I read every one they had on Islam. I asked lots of questions about the difference in religions because I didn’t know why everyone in the world wasn’t following Islam. I went to the little town library where we lived and got to know the librarian there. She ordered me lots more books on Islam and would ask me questions about it too. She said I knew a lot for my age and was surprised about how much I knew about Islam. Then after I read everything they had, I would go to the big public downtown library and find all kinds of books on Islam. I knew I could never be any other except a Muslim.

My birthparents did not want me to come back to live with them ever. They only remembered me the way I was when they sent me away. I really didn’t want to go back to live the way I had before or live with them with the drinking, drugs, fighting, and chaos either. They had not sent any money to take care of me the whole first year I lived with Jumaana and Waseem. Waseem was ready to retire but he kept on working just to take care of me, and Jumaana had given up her writing to teach me at home. They had done these things because they cared about what happened to me. I really didn’t want to ever leave them. So, after I lived with them for a year, the courts granted me a legal adoption. It would be the only way they could have the right to make decisions about my schooling and other legal issues that they couldn’t do, because they were not considered my parents. Because my birthparents hadn’t had contact with me and never sent any support for the whole year, the court could make me go into a home or foster care, if they wanted to. I was so afraid that if my birthparents all of a sudden wanted to take me back because I was so much better, that they would do the same things to me they had before and I also knew they would never let me stay a Muslim.

I prayed so hard every day, five times a day and more, asking Allah to help me. Adoption in this country is the only way to assure legal rights and I wanted Waseem and Jumaana to adopt me more than anything. I was so happy when the courts felt it was the best thing for me too. The papers were filed and my birthparents were notified that adoption requests were filed. They didn’t even bother to contact the courts to contest it, in fact they quickly signed the papers to give me up. Actually I was happy about that. Then on the day of the adoption, the judge even told me I could change my name. I chose Waa’il because it meant ‘one who returns for shelter’ and I felt like I went to Jumaana’s and Waseem’s for shelter. Also I felt like I had returned to ‘Islam’ so that was a shelter for me inside. It was the best thing in my whole life that ever happened to me. Because of the delays in removing the parental rights of my birthparents, the date for my adoption was changed, making it fall on the first day of Ramadhan in 2001. It was like Allah was blessing me over and over again.

So, in these last three and a half years, my life is so incredibly different. Sometimes it is hard to think back what it used to be like before becoming a Muslim. Having had such a stubborn and defiant attitude those first ten years of my life still affects me sometimes, but I am really so different than I was back then. People don’t think I am only thirteen and a half when they meet me. Most of them think I am a lot older. I think it is probably because I had such a tough life from the time I was born until I came to live with my new parents. They encourage me to keep at least some kind of contact with my birthfamily, but it’s okay now because I know they cannot come and take me away or tell me I can’t be a Muslim. I know that I am safe and I believe Allah allowed all of this and made it all happen, which makes the bad parts I remember bearable now, because I found Islam and maybe I would never have found Allah if all that stuff hadn’t happened. Well, at least I think that way now.

My sister even came and spent a week during her school break this last December/January. I hadn’t seen her in over three years. She is fifteen now and flew here on her own to stay with us for the week. She was shocked at the change in me. I had grown to five foot ten inches in height from being half her size when I left, which made me tower over her by almost a foot. I also outweighed her by fifty pounds, after having last been seen a scrawny skeleton of a kid. When I left I was wearing a ‘rug rats’ hat and ‘harry potter’ clothes from television and cartoon shows. When she saw me this time, I was wearing a Kufi or one of my other kinds of Islamic caps and a Kurris. When I left I had been a loud, troublemaking, obnoxious brat, who had failed three out of five grades and who couldn’t even write a complete sentence. This time she saw me polite, quieter, having passed all my grades, skipping a whole grade which put me in the same grade as she was. She would see me stop whatever I was doing, to go to Prayer five times every day. She really hated me when I left home at age ten, and was expecting me to be the same. She told me after a couple days of being with us, that she could hardly believe I was the same person and she really liked me as her brother now. She found out I was a Muslim. Because I had changed so much, she asked a ton of questions about Islam, took back a bunch of Islamic books I gave her, and told everyone back there that they just wouldn’t believe how different I was. Now, every once in a while, my birthmother will let my brother and sister call, and she even talks to me a few minutes. I send books for them to read about Islam and I hope someday they will all become Muslims too. I know they would be so much happier if they did.

My life seems a hundred years away from the way it used to be. I have become a Muslim now going on four years, been blessed with new Muslim parents, had my adoption finalized on the very first day of my very first Ramadhan, learned my prayers in Arabic, read my new parent’s entire library of books on Islam, exhausted the public libraries of their Islamic books, been given a new name and a new life. I don’t know what else I could ask for. I am studying very hard to finish my high school in another two years. I will be sixteen, but I feel like I am a lot older. I know now that I didn’t need drugs to make me behave. I didn’t need anger to get me through all those years of chaos. I didn’t need to be so hurtful to others, just to get attention. I didn’t need to cause such chaos for others. What I needed all along was Islam. I needed Allah. The way I see it is, that instead of these schools and parents putting their kids on Ritalin and other junk, they should put their time and money in studying Islam and teaching their children about Allah. When nothing else worked, and believe me a lot of people tried to get me straightened out, Allah did it. Allah can do anything. He can do everything. When he does something for you, it is the way it is supposed to be.

I am Waa’il Abdul Salaam and this is my story.

1 comment:

Waa'il Abdul Salaam said...

Asalaama Alaikum,
I saw my story on your page. Originally I posted it on ADAMSCENTER.org about my becoming Muslim. Since then some non-Muslim people have made comments that maybe it wasn't a true story or that somebody else wrote it for me. But the story was written by me and it is true. I think people who didn't want to believe it were mostly Christians because they were trying to push their religion on me with their comments and also seemed angry that it took Islam to finally get me to the place where I should have been. I was surprised to see it reposted but if it helps another person, then that is good. Shukran and Salaam, Waa'il