By Ruth Nasrullah
When I became a blogger I did not know what a blog was.
I only knew that it involved writing in a public forum, which was something I wanted to do. I had completed a masters degree in Journalism in December 2003, moved to Houston and went mostly nowhere as a writer. The idea of writing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to a worldwide audience (it being the internet and all) was golden.
I became a blogger at the pleasure of the Houston Chronicle. In November 2006 my blog, The Straight Path, became one of only three religion blogs on the paper's website. My first few posts recounted my conversion to Islam and my impressions of life as an American Muslim convert.
I learned quickly what distinguishes a blog from a column: the readers. Many readers welcomed me, but some of the comments on my very first post included anti-Islam and anti-religion comments so vitriolic that I had to ban readers almost immediately:
I really do want to know the basics. I hear that muslim men get virgins when they die. Where do the virgins come from? This is a serious question. Thanks.
In the other corner was fellow Houstonian Amad Shaikh, who became a regular and supportive reader. I had known Br. Amad since 2004, when we worked together on CAIR-Houston's media committee. I learned much of what I know about blogging by studying Br. Amad's blog, Musings of a Muslim Mind, as well as his comments on others' blogs. He rarely pulled punches. He was analytical. He was energetic and active, and as a smart blogger he linked to other blogs and websites far and wide.
One blog he linked to was mine, and he commented on it with a sentence I'll never forget:
Sister Ruth Nasrullah, who is fast becoming a Houston icons [sic] for converts to Islam, is now hosting her own blog via Houston Chronicle.
My husband and I had a good laugh over the idea that I was an icon, but I appreciated Br. Amad's support.
A few months later he invited me to join a new group blog he was forming. I did, and I remember from the start being confused by much of the emailed discussion among the initial group. I felt kind of lost and uninformed and right away a bit of an outsider, feeling that I wasn't as “conservative” as the rest of the team.
But I wasn't invited to MuslimMatters for my religious knowledge; I brought to the blog what I brought to the Chronicle: a subjective recounting of an American convert's world view, mostly unfiltered and all heartfelt. In return, my co-bloggers and readers introduced me to a viewpoint that powerfully influenced me at a time when I was still developing my understanding of the deen.
From 2008 to 2011 I took a hiatus from the blog while running Light of Islam, a nonprofit educational center and bookstore in Webster, TX. In that new venture I was challenged by the responsibility of selecting inventory. Should I only order books whose content I agreed with? That begged the question of how I even came to my understanding of Islam.
I had relied for guidance in large part on my fellow MuslimMatters bloggers and readers. In exposing visitors at Light of Islam to different perspectives, I also exposed myself to alternative viewpoints.
My approach to Islam continues to evolve, and wherever my life as a Muslim leads me, the influence of my interaction with Br. Amad, Sh. Yasir, Br. Omar, Sr. Anonymouse, Br. Ahmad, and Br. Musa was inestimable.
The Houston Chronicle gave me the opportunity to bring my experience of Islam to their predominantly non-Muslim readership, and Br. Amad gave me the opportunity to bring it to the MuslimMatters audience. I learned much from both blogs, and I hope I did justice to his vision; now that my hiatus is over I hope that I will do so once again in future posts.
There were seven founders, but MuslimMatters was Br. Amad's vision and I am astounded by how it has grown, māshā'Allāh. I feel some shame for not having been there during its growth and development, but I hope I can redeem myself by regularly blogging again and by reclaiming the niche I once owned.
May Allāh reward everyone involved with MuslimMatters and may it continue to grow from the simple group blog it was to an influential part of the blogosphere and a dynamic public representative of Muslim thought. May its readers always develop a beneficial understanding of traditional Islam and how it is practiced in today's world. That includes me.