In a spiritual journey, Adama writes about how his conversion to Islam gave him a closer connection to God, and his own teammates
By Adama Kaba
This is part of the “My Story Matters” collection. To read the other stories click on the links below.
“The Roots of Change” by Khailah N-R Griffin – Track and Field
“Running Out in the Open” by Luke Novak – Cross Country
“The Box Labeled “Other”” by Sammi Pak – Field Hockey
In the summer of 2018, I chose to convert to Islam. While this thought of converting had been on my mind since high school, as I had always felt a connection with Islam with my Dad’s side of the family all practicing Islam, I never had the discipline and courage to actually pursue the religion myself. I also went to a Roman Catholic high school at St. Sebastian’s. While I enjoyed being a student there, I always felt spiritually disconnected. Islam was the part of my identity that I had been neglecting for a long time, and after arriving at Northeastern, with more freedom in college, I could finally take the religion more seriously.
Converting from Roman Catholicism to Islam gave me more of a connection with God than I had ever had before. Conversion to Islam, however, was not easy, with so many difficult stereotypes and labels that suddenly became attached to me. It made me feel awkward telling people I was Muslim, because I knew it made them feel a certain way. Shocked. Nervousness. A general uncomfortability with the religion. Even prayer, what was once so easy, had become so difficult. It was very awkward to pray, and I had to summon up large amounts of courage to pray in front of people like my new teammates or even my own mother, who is still a practicing Roman Catholic. Not only was it awkward, but it was hard. I had to pray five times a day. There were awkward times for prayer, with some as early as 3am – “Fajr” – and others as late as 10pm – “Isha”. And I was praying in Arabic – a completely foreign language to me.
With all these new rituals and practices I had to learn, I could not just learn by myself, but I needed other sources of knowledge and perspectives to better my insight within Islam. While religion is often a journey of self-discovery, my former teammates Moustapha and Aiman helped immensely in my transition. I would ask questions, we would read the Quran together, and we would frequently go to the Mosque together. I was nervous because I did not want to let them down. Moustapha and Aiman helped in terms of shaping my ideas and the core principles of Islam, but it was ultimately up to myself to take ownership. A very important principle they taught me was that in anything, you will never be perfect, but your goal is to try and learn from your mistakes and increase your knowledge within the religion. The more I learned from them and on my own, the closer we got together. Friends later turned into brothers that I could ask anything about because of the new religious connection we had developed.
As I got more comfortable expressing myself as an African American Muslim, I started to truly identify with a religion that I could be very proud of what I prayed and believed in. Islam gave me an identity I could be comfortable with, opening up new levels of friendships I never thought I’d have before. Moustapha and Aiman ultimately helped strengthened my identity as a Muslim and our relationship. Even though I am always learning daily, I am proud of what I have accomplished transitioning to Islam. And, just like Moustapha and Aiman, I am proud of being an African American Muslim looking to encourage my fellow Muslim athlete brothers and sisters to be proud of their religion.