I used to hear this question at least once every single day. Now it’s down to about once per week. I still dislike answering it. In the beginning I told a long story. As time went on, it became shorter and short. Now, my answer is “by the Grace and Mercy of ألله ﷻ.”
It isn’t because I’m tired of the telling the story. Not at all. It’s because the story is very personal and I really would rather not share it with the whole world. Many Muslims say they feel inspired by our stories. Personally, I think it’s sensationalism on their part. “Look at this brother (or sister) who converted to Islam. Allahu Akbar!” And then you never hear from them again.
What many fail to realize is that sometimes a person has to reach an incredibly low point in their lives before they are even able to hear that ألله ﷻ is calling to them. Sometimes we feel ashamed at things we have done and the kind of person we have become. Yes, we are told that we are forgiven for our sins when we profess our faith, but that doesn’t instantly heal the mental and emotional wounds and scars that came with the journey. In time, healing does often occur. But it can take a long time. It isn’t necessarily a lack of faith; its human nature.
I’m not asking people to be afraid of asking the question, but be sensitive about it. Get to know the person a little first and tell them when they are ready to tell it, you would be open to hearing their story if they wish to share it at some point. Don’t demand it out of them. Don’t press them. And if you just, met them, or have only spoken with them a few times, don’t ask. It’s rude. Would you like it if someone you don’t know asked you personal questions about your family and finances? No, I think not. For some people, the story of their journey to Islam can be just as personal and private.