A Smile Led me to Islam

Published February 15, 2017

By Latifah Lebron

“Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) [Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Vol. 3, No. 98].
One day, in the year 2014, I was preparing a special project for a theology course I was taking in college, and I decided to mention Islam even though I was not a Muslim. I was raised and educated as a Christian, but have always felt drawn to the discipline of Islam and enchanted with the culture of the Middle East. My fascination led me to research Islam, and so it was that I discovered a man, Prophet Muhammad, with many admirable qualities and an unshakeable devotion to God. In searching for more information and learning more about the religion and its prophet, I started to find answers to questions I had about God. I began to see God from a whole new perspective. I finished my course project, but could not quench my thirst for knowledge about the man who had said that even a smile is a charity. Those simple words helped me understand that God does not ignore even the smallest good deed and that we can give to others even when we think we have nothing to give.

Curiosity, and Some Doubts

My curiosity, and some doubts, lingered in my mind until later I found myself in an emergency situation, shouting out in desperation, while riding in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I called out to God with my heart and soul and asked Him for guidance because I was tired of the way I was living my life. I had read a lot about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) but my problems and circumstances impeded me from leaving everything behind and accepting Islam wholeheartedly.

I had remained in an abusive relationship for eight years. In the beginning the abuse was emotional, but in the last two years it occasionally escalated to physical violence. But this day, I was accompanying my ex-husband after he had been badly beaten. While I was traveling in the ambulance, my life began flashing before me like a movie and I began to question why I was here. I asked myself what my purpose was, and why there was so much suffering in this life. I was raised by my maternal grandmother and her husband after my mother abandoned me at birth. I never even met my father. I was raped when I was nine years old and left orphaned at 15. Despite these tragedies, I knew that God was with me and that there must be a reason for my existence. “God, where are you? Where can I find you?” Those were my cries of desperation while I was in the ambulance that day.

My Prayers Were Answered

It was when I arrived at the hospital, and I sat in the emergency room waiting area, that my prayers were answered. Sitting in that lobby were two Muslim women, one was caring for her companion and comforting her so much so that I thought it may have been her mother, or another close relative. She glanced at me, and her smile reminded me of the words – “Your smile for your brother [or sister] is charity” – that had penetrated deep into my heart. Her smile, so noble, humble, and full of love, was inspired by the man I so admired, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She offered me that charity, a small deed which had such a huge impact on me. I no longer had any doubt that Islam was the answer I was seeking; and that man who I loved from the beginning and who I had studied about more and more — he would be my guide on my new path.

After a few months, I decided to put my life in order, and leave behind many things that were detrimental to my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I understood that Islam was the answer to my questions and I felt in the depths of my heart that I would find God in Islam. I decided to reaffirm my faith and put God first, to let go of a painful past, end my turbulent relationship, quit my job as a bartender, and search for other Muslims through social media. I found a Muslim sister who lived close to me, and we met at a cafe. I went to this meeting determined to ask her how I could accept Islam, and it was in front of this sister that I proclaimed my testimony of faith.

Educating Myself and My Daughters About Islam

I began looking for other books and resources to educate myself more about the religion. I fasted my first month of Ramadan, and visited one masjid where I met more sisters who had showed me their support. I also met that special woman who gifted me the smile while I was in the hospital ER, a gesture that changed my life, and we now had the opportunity to embrace as sisters in Islam.

It is difficult for me to frequent the mosques because they are far from my house, but in spite of this and the lack of educational resources in Spanish, I have been able to learn enough to feel comfortable with my new life. I have two daughters, who now share my journey and I teach them little by little. I utilize the Internet and social media to educate myself about Islam, as well as whatever books I can bring from the mosque when given the opportunity to visit.

I have understood that faith is about a community of believers as well as a direct connection that each person must make with God. My relationship with Him may not necessarily be the same as that of the next individual. We all have different needs and different levels of faith and our understanding is the product of the knowledge we seek and we ask God to give us. From my experience, I can say that things have been easy and good although I find it difficult to learn the Arabic language and wish I could visit the mosque more often. Throughout my journey, I have held onto my faith and continue my quest for knowledge; above all, I pray my five daily prayers and supplicate frequently.

Oftentimes, I am asked what made me change my religion, and my response to that question is to smile and say: “I cannot be a woman of faith and claim I believe in God and in His messengers if I cannot also accept that the Quran is the culmination of the two previous books, the Torah and the Gospel, and that Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and final Prophet.”

On a simple level I can say that I came to Islam through a smile. It is so true that no one deserves a smile more than the one who is not smiling. For this reason, I have made it a point to always gift everyone with my most humble smile. It is not necessary to possess wealth to give in charity. A smile might be all that a person has, but a smile spreads friendliness, good cheer, and warm regard — that pleases God.

Latifah LebronAuthor Jorymet (Latifah) Lebrón lives in Puerto Rico with her two daughters and is a recent convert to Islam.

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