‘Thanks to my mother who took me to conferences and meetings, I came to know Islam.’
According to several recent British studies, the number of Muslims in the UK has increased by 37% over the last six years, while the number of mosques has reached 1,500, al Jazeera.net reported.
With the fact that hundreds of British people are embracing Islam, the British authorities recently confirmed the numbers of British prisoners and students converting to Islam are on the rise every day.
During a tour to mosques and Islamic centers there, al Jazeera.net has reported that some of the children who converted to Islam are originally from Brazil, Luxembourg, Panama, and Sweden.
Tranquility and Peace
Interviewing Alexandra, the daughter of Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, who converted to Islam in Ramadan at the age of 12, she said:
‘Thanks to my mother who took me to conferences and meetings I came to know Islam. Converting to Islam has given me much tranquility and soulful satisfaction.’
Alexandra remarked how Islam has changed her life forever and certainly for the better:
‘My life is no more the same; now I love God and I fear Him’, Alexander said.
On the moment of her conversion the girl recalled how the warm senses of peace and serenity washed over her when she uttered the Shahadah as if her soul ascending upward saying ‘I did it. Yes, I did it’.
More respect and humility are among the many things that Islam gave her, that after wearing the hijab, she feels self-respectful and dignified as she never felt before, she noted.
‘I was lucky starting at a secondary school this year where I’m treated with gentleness and respect. I feel welcome there, that I even have a separate prayer room.’
Alexandra concluded that it is by the will of God that she became Muslim.
On her family and relatives’ reactions to her conversion, she said that she hasn’t met her aunt, the ex-PM’s wife, yet.
‘At first it provoked weird reaction; in the first weeks after conversion my father’s family were staring at me strangely. But then they came to treat me very normally.’
In Love with Minarets
Aged 14, George, originally from Sweden, for his part, converted to Islam after reading about Islam and identifying with Muslim families and friends in London.
George explained that his first relationship with Islam was through minarets, which he then used to photograph, and the Adhan (Islamic Call to Prayer):
‘I couldn’t help waiting for the Adhan to feel that strange feeling, what made me turn to my father to explain the mystery’, he said.
‘George’s curiosity to learn about Islam and his love for call prayers has led him to embrace Islam,’ Abdullah, George’s school colleague, then close friend, said.
‘My father’s answer that ‘it’s just a temporary feeling’ helped only increase my curiosity exponentially. That’s why I turned to `Abdullah for consultation.’
The boy’s link with Islam strengthened after moving to Abu Dhabi where his father was offered a job in aviation.
George’s life came to a u-turn on seeing the close, healthy and stable family relations Muslims have, and how they are built on love, respect, remarkable strength and nobility.
About the biased and sensational way in which Western media deals with and portrays Islam, George said this was part of his initial motivation to study about Islam.
“What is all this controversy about Islam for?” George asked his father.
After `Abdullah and Tamer, the school colleagues, helped George learn more about Islam through the internet, he told his family that he wants to be a Muslim.
George’s family didn’t oppose his decision, but asked him to think deeply before taking it.
He did and took the decision, converted to Islam last month in London.
‘Islam is my real love’ said Sheila Rudd, 15, from South London, describing her relationship with the new religion.
‘It’s not a lust, a disgusting glass of alcohol or a drug sold on cheap markets for pleasure.’
Rudd, who converted to Islam a year ago, enthusiastically declared how happy she is seeing people entering Islam every day in Britain.
‘It tells that the media lies and bias have failed in distorting the true image of Islam. On the contrary, it made more people learn about Islam and, consequently, choose it’, she said.
Upon embracing Islam, British converts admitted that they felt inside a deep breath of relief and happiness that were never experienced before.
According to the British authorities, the emotional, soulful void felt by the British youth is the principal motive behind seeking Islam as propeller for lasting happiness and peace.
Observers say that in place of failing role of the Church and, accordingly, of Christianity and Judaism in general, and the moral decay and spiritual emptiness in the British society, Islam has become the safe haven of peace, content, and tranquility.
Cat Stevens: Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), we will be successful
All I have to say is all what you know already, to confirm what you already know, the message of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) as given by God – the Religion of Truth. As human beings we are given a consciousness and a duty that has placed us at the top of creation. Man is created to be God’s deputy on earth, and it is important to realize the obligation to rid ourselves of all illusions and to make our lives a preparation for the next life. Anybody who misses this chance is not likely to be given another, to be brought back again and again, because it says in Qur’an Majeed that when man is brought to account, he will say, “O Lord, send us back and give us another chance” The Lord will say, If I send you back you will do the same.
My Early Religious Upbringing
I was brought up in the modern world of all the luxury and the high life of show business. I was born in a Christian home, but we know that every child is born in his original nature – it is only his parents that turn him to this or that religion. I was given this religion (Christianity) and thought this way. I was taught that God exists, but there was no direct contact with God, so we had to make contact with Him through Jesus – he was in fact the door to God. This was more or less accepted by me, but I did not swallow it all.
I looked at some of the statues of Jesus; they were just stones with no life. And when they said that God is three, I was puzzled even more but could not argue. I more or less believed it, because I had to have respect for the faith of my parents.
Gradually I became alienated from this religious upbringing. I started making music. I wanted to be a big star. All those things I saw in the films and on the media took hold of me, and perhaps I thought this was my God, the goal of making money. I had an uncle who had a beautiful car. “Well,” I said, “he has it made. He has a lot of money.” The people around me influenced me to think that this was it; this world was their God.
I decided then that this was the life for me; to make a lot of money, have a ‘great life.’ Now my examples were the pop stars. I started making songs, but deep down I had a feeling for humanity, a feeling that if I became rich I would help the needy. (It says in the Qur’an, we make a promise, but when we make something, we want to hold onto it and become greedy.)
So what happened was that I became very famous. I was still a teenager, my name and photo were splashed in all the media. They made me larger than life, so I wanted to live larger than life and the only way to do that was to be intoxicated (with liquor and drugs).
After a year of financial success and ‘high’ living, I became very ill, contracted TB and had to be hospitalized. It was then that I started to think: What was to happen to me? Was I just a body, and my goal in life was merely to satisfy this body? I realized now that this calamity was a blessing given to me by Allah, a chance to open my eyes – “Why am I here? Why am I in bed?” – and I started looking for some of the answers. At that time there was great interest in the Eastern mysticism. I began reading, and the first thing I began to become aware of was death, and that the soul moves on; it does not stop. I felt I was taking the road to bliss and high accomplishment. I started meditating and even became a vegetarian. I now believed in ‘peace and flower power,’ and this was the general trend. But what I did believe in particular was that I was not just a body. This awareness came to me at the hospital.
One day when I was walking and I was caught in the rain, I began running to the shelter and then I realized, ‘Wait a minute, my body is getting wet, my body is telling me I am getting wet.’ This made me think of a saying that the body is like a donkey, and it has to be trained where it has to go. Otherwise, the donkey will lead you where it wants to go.
Then I realized I had a will, a God-given gift: follow the will of God. I was fascinated by the new terminology I was learning in the Eastern religion. By now I was fed up with Christianity. I started making music again and this time I started reflecting my own thoughts. I remember the lyric of one of my songs. It goes like this: “I wish I knew, I wish I knew what makes the Heaven, what makes the Hell. Do I get to know You in my bed or some dusty cell while others reach the big hotel?” and I knew I was on the Path.
I also wrote another song, “The Way to Find God Out.” I became even more famous in the world of music. I really had a difficult time because I was getting rich and famous, and at the same time, I was sincerely searching for the Truth. Then I came to a stage where I decided that Buddhism is all right and noble, but I was not ready to leave the world. I was too attached to the world and was not prepared to become a monk and to isolate myself from society.
I tried Zen and Ching, numerology, tarot cards and astrology. I tried to look back into the Bible and could not find anything. At this time I did not know anything about Islam, and then, what I regarded as a miracle occurred. My brother had visited the mosque in Jerusalem and was greatly impressed that while on the one hand it throbbed with life (unlike the churches and synagogues which were empty), on the other hand, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility prevailed. sexe24.ch.
When he came to London he brought back a translation of the Qur’an, which he gave to me. He did not become a Muslim, but he felt something in this religion, and thought I might find something in it also.
And when I received the book, a guidance that would explain everything to me – who I was; what was the purpose of life; what was the reality and what would be the reality; and where I came from – I realized that this was the true religion; religion not in the sense the West understands it, not the type for only your old age. In the West, whoever wishes to embrace a religion and make it his only way of life is deemed a fanatic. I was not a fanatic, I was at first confused between the body and the soul. Then I realized that the body and soul are not apart and you don’t have to go to the mountain to be religious. We must follow the will of God. Then we can rise higher than the angels. The first thing I wanted to do now was to be a Muslim.
I realized that everything belongs to God, that slumber does not overtake Him. He created everything. At this point I began to lose the pride in me, because hereto I had thought the reason I was here was because of my own greatness. But I realized that I did not create myself, and the whole purpose of my being here was to submit to the teaching that has been perfected by the religion we know as Al-Islam. At this point I started discovering my faith. I felt I was a Muslim. On reading the Qur’an, I now realized that all the Prophets sent by God brought the same message. Why then were the Jews and Christians different? I know now how the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and that they had changed His Word. Even the Christians misunderstand God’s Word and called Jesus the son of God. Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur’an; it asks you to reflect and reason, and not to worship the sun or moon but the One Who has created everything. The Qur’an asks man to reflect upon the sun and moon and God’s creation in general. Do you realize how different the sun is from the moon? They are at varying distances from the earth, yet appear the same size to us; at times one seems to overlap the other.
Even when many of the astronauts go to space, they see the insignificant size of the earth and vastness of space. They become very religious, because they have seen the Signs of Allah.
When I read the Qur’an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt that the only answer for me was the Qur’an, and God had sent it to me, and I kept it a secret. But the Qur’an also speaks on different levels. I began to understand it on another level, where the Qur’an says, “Those who believe do not take disbelievers for friends and the believers are brothers.” Thus at this point I wished to meet my Muslim brothers.
Then I decided to journey to Jerusalem (as my brother had done). At Jerusalem, I went to the mosque and sat down. A man asked me what I wanted. I told him I was a Muslim. He asked what was my name. I told him, “Stevens.” He was confused. I then joined the prayer, though not so successfully. Back in London, I met a sister called Nafisa. I told her I wanted to embrace Islam and she directed me to the New Regent Mosque. This was in 1977, about one and a half years after I received the Qur’an. Now I realized that I must get rid of my pride, get rid of Iblis, and face one direction. So on a Friday, after Jumma’ I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima) at this hands. You have before you someone who had achieved fame and fortune. But guidance was something that eluded me, no matter how hard I tried, until I was shown the Qur’an. Now I realize I can get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion. As one Hindu lady told me, “You don’t understand the Hindus. We believe in one God; we use these objects (idols) to merely concentrate.” What she was saying was that in order to reach God, one has to create associates, that are idols for the purpose. But Islam removes all these barriers. The only thing that moves the believers from the disbelievers is the salat. This is the process of purification.
Finally I wish to say that everything I do is for the pleasure of Allah and pray that you gain some inspirations from my experiences. Furthermore, I would like to stress that I did not come into contact with any Muslim before I embraced Islam. I read the Qur’an first and realized that no person is perfect. Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) we will be successful. May Allah give us guidance to follow the path of the ummah of Muhammad (PBUH). Ameen!
Yusuf Islam (Formerly Cat Stevens)
So I decided to get rid of Satan, and face one direction. So on a Friday, after Jumma’ I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima) at this hands. You have before you someone who had achieved fame and fortune. But guidance was something that eluded me, no matter how hard I tried, until I was shown the Qur’an. Now I realize I can get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion. As one Hindu lady told me, “You don’t understand the Hindus. We believe in one God; we use these objects (idols) to merely concentrate.” What she was saying was that in order to reach God, one has to create associates, that are idols for the purpose. But Islam removes all these barriers. The only thing that moves the believers from the disbelievers is the salat. This is the process of purification.
Finally I wish to say that everything I do is for the pleasure of Allah and pray that you gain some inspirations from my experiences. Furthermore, I would like to stress that I did not come into contact with any Muslim before I embraced Islam. I read the Qur’an first and realized that no person is perfect. Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) we will be successful. May God give us guidance to follow the path of the ummah of Muhammad (PBUH). Ameen!
“It’s made me become content as a man, and helped me to grow. I’ve just got faith in it and it has definitely helped me become the man I am today.”
It was in the cave of Hira’ that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received the first revelation of the Qur’an. For rugby’s original wild child Sonny Bill Williams, meeting a Tunisian family who lived with their five children in a one-bedroom flat in the south of France proved pivotal to his conversion to Islam.
The New Zealander’s unshakeable belief in the Almighty has proved to be the making of one of the island nation’s most gifted, and controversial, sports stars.
“I was real close with them, and I saw how happy and content they were. And to see how they lived their lives, it was just simple,” Sonny Bill Williams, a prodigious rugby talent, professional boxer and tattooed poster boy, tells CNN’s Human to Hero series.
“One thing I’ve learned over my career is that simplicity is the key. On the field, off as well.”
“I’ve become a true Muslim,” added Williams. “It’s giving me happiness. It’s made me become content as a man, and helped me to grow. I’ve just got faith in it and it has definitely helped me become the man I am today.”
The Williams of today does not visibly bear the scars of the 15-year-old who was thrust into the unrelenting drinking culture of one of Australia’s top rugby league clubs and shamed by national media after being caught in a compromising position with a model.
A man who quit that scene, walking out on his contract to take up a lucrative offer to switch codes and join a French rugby union club, requiring a substantial compensation payout.
A man who rejected a reported record $5 million deal to stay with Toulon and returned to Aotearoa (the land of the long white cloud) to follow his dream of playing for the prestigious All Blacks, but found himself a fringe figure for 2011’s long-awaited World Cup triumph on home soil.
He’s been battered in a boxing ring, criticized for landing another big-money deal in Japan, and is now back in the sport where he’s most at home.
And still controversy follows him.
World Cup Mission
This weekend Williams will continue his bid to become the first player to win the World Cup in both union and league, as the Kiwis take on Australia in the final.
His mere presence in the squad caused a storm, as he only made himself available the day after it was named, reversing his earlier decision. It meant one unlucky player had to make way.
“I thought I was doing a good thing, you know, staying true to myself,” says the 28-year-old, who had just completed a triumphant return to Australia’s National Rugby League competition, winning his second title and subsequently deciding to extend what had initially been planned as a one-year stint with the Sydney Roosters club.
“Then obviously there was a bit of a falling out, because one of the players was taken out of the squad, one of the young boys, and I just got absolutely hammered.
“And it just made me think, you can’t please everyone, you know? If you go about trying to please everyone, there’s going to be endless struggles.
“As long as you are happy with the man you see in the mirror, it’s all that counts I guess.”
The Battle Within
When Williams, who stands at 6 foot 4 inches and weighs in at 17 stone (108 kg), looks at himself in the mirror, it is surprising to hear him admit to vulnerability.
“My toughest opponent is probably myself, I guess, mentally,” Williams says in his quiet voice, a gentle contrast to his powerful physique.
Stripped to his trunks in the boxing ring, you can see the rippling muscles and elaborate tattoos that have made him a pinup.
“Overcoming the mental struggles that you have out on the field, it’s been probably the biggest one for me. The reason I feel so mentally strong now is because of boxing and going through those tough times,” he adds.
“I’ve always had battles inside my head where I had to think where I was going to go.”
Williams is close friends with fellow Muslim Anthony Mundine, a former Australian rugby league star who became a boxing champion and has helped the Kiwi fulfill his ring ambitions.
Williams’ last fight, back in February, earned him the little-known WBA International Heavyweight title, and some punishing blows from South African journeyman Francois Botha in a reduced 10-round bout.
“Every sport has helped me excel in another. Boxing has given me the mental strength to know that I can face anything on the field, without a doubt,” he reflects.
That sixth fight is likely to be his last for a while, as he focuses on his rugby goals. Rugby is a de facto religion in New Zealand, a country where the gods play with an oval ball and where institutionalized faith is losing ground with its general populace – just over 50% said they were Christian at the last completed census.
He is back playing the sport that is perhaps closest to his heart; his dad played it, and his mum’s father was a renowned coach in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, where he grew up.
Family means everything to him. His parents are separated, but he brought his father to Sydney with him and sees his mum when he can. He has bought both of them houses.
“My mother and my father were really big on manners,” Williams recalls.
“Almost to the point, you know, that when I got a bit older it made me a bit too shy, I never said anything out of turn. But they’ve molded me to the person that I’ve become.”
He’s always been competitive – even if it meant finding a short cut to finally beat his older brother “the biggest influence on my sporting career” in their regular childhood running races – and he had been pegged as a future athletics champion before choosing rugby league.
“I’ve always loved sport. It’s funny, it’s all I ever thought I was good at. Whatever sport was there, whatever ball I could pick up, whatever bat I could try, I’d give it a crack.”
Finding the Key
Williams became the youngest player to be signed by an NRL team, winning his first Grand Final as an 18-year-old with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004, and was the youngest to represent New Zealand’s Kiwis league side.
“I grew up as a Christian, like many Polynesians do, and moving to Australia suddenly when I was 15, I learned a lot about Muslim faith,” he says.
It was in Toulon where, having fled Australia under threats of lawsuits from his jilted employer, his conversion to Islam was realized.
Having to adhere to the rule of Ramadan fasting has given him a new perspective on some of the things we take for granted.
“When you do Ramadan and you go for the whole month, you’re that much more appreciative of being able to eat food and drink water – that’s what it’s designed to do,” he says.
But faith in the divine can only do so much, he says, the rest is up to you.
“To be the best you definitely have to have some God-given talents, but you also have to have the drive and the will and the dedication,” Williams explains.
“Simplicity is the key and I just try to keep things as simple as I can. But I never lose that one thing that’s got me there; that’s drive, working hard, doing all the little things, ticking all the boxes.”
“Blessed and forever grateful to the Most High”, Sonny Bill Williams said on his Twitter account (@SonnyBWilliams).
The Next Challenge
Having switched allegiances so often, Williams finds himself having to work hard to earn acceptance, which means trying to break some of his own habits.
“I’d like to be a bit more trusting, letting my guard down a little bit more. I’m too serious sometimes, bro, as you can tell,” he acknowledges, before breaking into a big grin.
“And in a team environment sometimes I’m too intense, you know, sometimes I’ve got to sit back and just relax. Just chill out. But it’s just how I’m made. I’ve always been competitive.”
Williams admits he would be tempted to try another of rugby’s formats, Sevens, which will make its Olympic debut at Rio 2016.
“That would be a dream come true. If I had the opportunity to give it a crack, I definitely would,” he says.
“But there’s so much talent in New Zealand that it’s probably almost a distant dream at this stage.”
Whatever he decides to do after his new Roosters deal ends next year – he has hinted he will return to union ahead of the 2015 World Cup – it’s a fair bet that Williams will succeed.
He has won titles almost everywhere he has been, and that has been driven by something deep inside him.
“I just don’t want to fail, to be honest. I don’t want to let my family down, I don’t want to let myself down,” Williams admits, falling back into his earnest, serious tone.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I fear. I’m confident as a man, these days, and I know what I can achieve if I put my mind to it.”
`Adi was the son of the chieftain of Tai’ tribe which lived in Najd, in the central part of the Arabian Peninsula.
Calling to Allah was the mission of all the Messengers and Prophets beginning with Adam until the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all) and his followers, as Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an:
Say (O Muhammad), “This is my way; I invite to Allah with insight, I and those who follow me. And exalted is Allah; and I am not of those who associate others with Him.” (Al-An`am 6:108)
Their mission was to bring people out of the darkness of disbelief into the light of Islam, from worshiping idols to the worship of Allah, and from the Hellfire to Paradise. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to call people with wisdom and beautiful preaching based on the Qur’anic guidance as Almighty Allah says:
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best… (An-Nahl 16:125)
In the following, we will discuss in brief the story of the conversion of `Adi ibn Hatim At-Ta’i who was one of the greatest figures of Christianity during the period that preceded Islam:
`Adi was the son of Hatim, the chieftain of Tai’ tribe, which lived in Najd Province in the central part of Arabian Peninsula. After the death of Hatim, his son `Adi was crowned as the ruler. When Muhammad (peace be upon him) started calling people to Islam, `Adi felt threat to his rule. Therefore, he began to oppose Muhammad and act against the interests of Islam. `Adi and his tribe were Christians. When Islamic conquests came near to his tribe’s boundaries, `Adi decided to flee to Syria that was under a Christian King. Due to his haste in leaving his people, he could not take his beloved sister along with his caravan proceeding to Syria.
It was narrated that, when `Adi knew about the Prophet’s mission, he moved to Syria. His sister and a group of his tribe were taken as prisoners. Later, the Prophet (peace be upon him) released her and she returned to her brother (`Adi) asking him about converting to Islam. `Adi came at the head of a group of his tribe to meet the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah. `Adi’s father was known for his generosity, so the people of Madinah were pleased with his coming to the Prophet. `Adi came to the Prophet with a cross of silver around his neck while the Prophet was reciting:
They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah… (At-Tawbah 9:31)
`Adi said that they did not worship them, but the Prophet replied, “Yes, but they prohibited to the people what was lawful and permitted them what was unlawful, and the people obeyed them. This was indeed their worship of them.” The Prophet then said, “O `Adi what do you say? What is wrong in declaring that Allah is the Greatest? Do you know any God other than Allah? Then, the Prophet invited him to embrace Islam and `Adi accepted. `Adi said, “I saw him (the Prophet) with a cheerful face saying: ‘Indeed the Jews have evoked Allah’s Anger whereas the Christians are misguided.’” (At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad)
Imam Ahmad also narrated on the authority of `Adi, “I came to the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he said,: “O `Adi, accept Islam and you will be safe!” I replied, “I already have a religion.” The Prophet said, “I know more about religion than you do.” I said, “You know more about my religion than I do?” The Prophet said, “Yes, are not you from the Rukusiyyah (a sub-sect within Christianity and Sabeans)? And when you go to war, do you not share one quarter of your people’s booties?” I said, “Yes.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I know what is preventing you from accepting Islam. You think that the only people to follow this religion are the oppressed people who have no strength: the Arabs have discarded them. O ‘Adi! Have you heard of Al-Hira (a city in ‘Iraq)?” I said, “I have not seen it, but I have heard of it?” After that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I swear by the One Who has my soul in His Hand, Allah will complete this affair, until a woman travels from Al-Hira to make circumambulation around the Ka`bah, without fearing anyone, and the treasures of Kisra ibn Hurmuz will be seized.” I said, “The treasures of Kisra ibn Hurmuz?” The Prophet said, “Yes, Kisra ibn Hurmuz, and money will be spent until none would accept it.” (Ahmad)
Translated and adapted from Sheikh Muhammad Ash-Shanqiti’s Manhaj Ar-Rasul Fi Da`wat Ahl Al-Kitab.