By Truth Seeker Staff
The ideal from an Islamic perspective is for ethics to become lived ethics, to become an applied body of values and not remain unfortunately as it often is cloistered in the mosque of somewhere which is some more divorced from reality.
I embraced Islam after graduating from Cambridge.
Prior to that I was a skeptical Catholic; a believer in God but with a mistrust of organized religion.
The Quran was pivotal for me. I first tried to approach it in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind.
The opening of Al Fatiha, with its address to the whole of mankind, psychologically stopped me in my tracks. It spoke of previous scriptures in a way which I both recognized, but also differed. It clarified many of the doubts I had about Christianity. It made me an adult as I suddenly realized that my destiny and my actions had consequences for which I alone would now be held responsible.
In a world governed by relativism, it outlined objective moral truths and the foundation of morality. As someone who’d always had a keen interest in philosophy, the Quran felt like the culmination of all of this philosophical cogitation.
It combined Kant, Hume, Sartre and Aristotle. It somehow managed to address and answer the deep philosophical questions posed over centuries of human existence and answer its most fundamental one, ‘why are we here?’
In the Prophet Muhammad, I recognized a man who was tasked with a momentous mission, like his predecessors, Moses, Jesus and Abraham.
I had to pick apart much of the Orientalist libel surrounding him in order to obtain accurate information, since the historical relativism which people apply to some degree when studying other historical figures, is often completely absent, in what is a clear attempt to disparage his person.
I think many of my close friends thought I was going through another phase and would emerge from the other side unscathed, not realizing that the change was much more profound. Some of my closest friends did their best to support me and understand my decisions. I have remained very close to some of my childhood friends and through them I recognize the universality of the Divine message, as God’s values shine through in the good deeds any human does, Muslim or not.
I have never seen my conversion as a ‘reaction’ against, or an opposition to my culture. In contrast, it was a validation of what I’ve always thought was praiseworthy, whilst being a guidance for areas in need of improvement. I also found many mosques not particularly welcoming and found the rules and protocol confusing and stressful. I did not immediately identify with the Muslim community. I found many things odd and many attitudes perplexing. The attention given to the outward over the inward continues to trouble me deeply.
There is a need for a confident, articulate British Muslim identity which can contribute to the discussions of our time. Islam is not meant to be an alien religion, we shouldn’t feel like we’ve lost all trace of ourselves. Islam is a validation of the good in us and a means to rectify the bad.
Islam is about always having balance and I think the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) message was fundamentally about having balance and equilibrium in all that we do.
The Prophet’s message was always that you repel bad with good that you always respond to evil with good and always remember that God loves justice so even when people are committing serious injustices against you, you have a moral responsibility and a moral obligation in front of God to always uphold justice and never yourself transgress those limits.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ‘Forgive him who wrongs you. Join him who cuts you off. Do good to him who does evil to you and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.’
Islam’s beauty really becomes to its own when it becomes manifest and it becomes manifest when you make it into a tool for the betterment of society, human kind and the world.
The ideal from an Islamic perspective is for ethics to become lived ethics, to become an applied body of values and not remain unfortunately as it often is cloistered in the mosque of somewhere which is some more divorced from reality.
Myriam Francois-Cerrah became popular when she was a child for acting in the 90’s hit film ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Now she is gaining more popularity for being one of a growing number of educated middle class female converts to Islam in Britain.
She has recently contributed to a series of videos on Islam produced in the UK titled (Inspired by Muhammad).
Source: Emel Magazine, (Issue 77 February 2011) http://www.emel.com & http://www.usislam.org/
By Abdul-Lateef Abdullah
With this realization, not only did I decide that Islam was relevant to my everyday life, but I began to understand why it is so different from other religions
My experience in Islam began as a graduate student in New York City in 1998.
Up to that point in my life, for 25 years, I had been a Protestant Christian but had not been practicing my religion for quite some time.
I was more interested in “spirituality” and looking for anything that didn’t have to do with organized religion. To me, Christianity was out of touch and not relevant to the times. It was hard for me to find anything in it that I could apply to my everyday life.
This disillusion with Christianity led me to shun everything that claimed to be organized religion, due to my assumption that they were all pretty much the same, or at least in terms of their lack of relevance and usefulness.
Much of my frustration with Christianity stemmed from its lack of knowledge and guidance around the nature of God and the individual’s relationship to Him. To me, the Christian philosophy depends on this rather bizarre intermediary relationship that we are supposed to have with Jesus, who on one hand was a man, but was also divine.
For me, this difficult and very vague relationship with our Creator left me searching for something that could provide me with a better understanding of God, and our relationship to Him. Why couldn’t I just pray directly to God? Why did I have to begin and end every prayer with “in the name of Jesus Christ?” How can an eternal, omnipotent Creator and Sustainer also take the form of a man? Why would He need to? These were just a few of the questions that I could not resolve and come to terms with.
Thus, I was hungry for a more straightforward and lucid approach to religion that could provide my life with true guidance, not just dogma that was void of knowledge based on reason.
While in graduate school, I had a Jewish roommate who was a student of the martial arts. While I was living with him, he was studying an art called silat, a traditional Malaysian martial art that is based on the teachings of Islam. When my roommate would come home from his silat classes, he would tell me all about the uniqueness of silat and its rich spiritual dimension. As I was quite interested in learning martial arts at the time, I was intrigued by what I had heard and decided to accompany my roommate to class one Saturday morning.
Although I did not realize it at the time, my experience in Islam was beginning that morning at my first silat class in New York City back on February 28th, 1998. There, I met my teacher, Cikgu (which means teacher in Malay) Sulaiman, the man who would first orient me to the religion of Islam. Although I thought I was beginning a career as a martial artist, that day back in 1998 actually represented my first step toward becoming Muslim.
From the very beginning, I was intrigued by silat and Islam and began spending as much time as possible with my teacher. As my roommate and I were equally passionate about silat, we would go to my teacher’s house and soak up as much knowledge as we could from him. In fact, upon our completing graduate school in the spring of 1998, upon his invitation, we spent the entire summer living with him and his wife. As my learning in silat increased, so did my learning about Islam, a religion that I had hardly any knowledge of prior to my experience in silat.
What made my orientation to Islam so powerful was that as I was learning about it, I was also living it. Because I studied at the home of my teacher, being in the presence of devout Muslims allowed me to be constantly surrounded by the sounds, sights, and practices of Islam. For as Islam is an entire lifestyle, when you are in an Islamic environment, you cannot separate it out from everyday life. Unlike Christianity, which lends toward a separation between daily life and religion, Islam requires its followers to integrate worship of Allah into everything we do. Thus, in living with my teacher, I was immersed in the Islamic deen (lifestyle) and experiencing first-hand how it can shape one’s entire way of life.
In the beginning, Islam was very different and powerful to me. It was also very foreign in many ways and the amount of discipline it requires was difficult to understand. At the time, I was liberal in many ways, and was used to shunning anything dogmatic or imposed, regardless of where it came from!
As time went on, however, and my understanding of Islam grew, I began to slowly see that what seemed to be religious dogma was really a lifestyle put forth to us by our Creator. This lifestyle, I would later learn, is the straight path to true contentment, not just the sensual and superficial way of life that my society and culture promote. I realized that the question is quite simple actually. Who could possibly know better what the best way of life is for human beings than the all-wise Creator?
From that first silat class in New York City to the day I took my shahadah, July 30, 1999, I had undergone a thorough self-examination that was comprised of two major processes. One was to question the culture of the society I was brought up in, and the second was to question the role I wanted religion to play in my everyday life. As for my culture, this one was not as difficult as most people would think.
American culture is highly influential on how we see life because it constantly bombards us with sensual gratification aimed at appealing to our worldly desires. In America, happiness is defined by what we have and consume, thus, the entire culture is geared toward the marketplace. Unless we are removed from this type of environment, it is difficult to see its drawbacks, which are based on worshiping and putting faith in everything but God, the only One that can provide us with real, lasting contentment in our lives.
He was studying an art called silat, a traditional Malaysian martial art that is based on the teachings of Islam
Being a social scientist by trade, much of my professional time is spent trying to address the social ills of our society. As I learned more about Islam, I came to the conclusion that many societal ills are based on unhealthy social behavior. Since Islam is a lifestyle focused totally on the most healthy, positive way of conducting our lives in every setting, then it is, and will always be, the only real answer to any society’s social dilemmas.
With this realization, not only did I decide that Islam was relevant to my everyday life, but I began to understand why it is so different from other religions. Only Islam provides knowledge and guidance for every aspect of life. Only Islam provides a way to achieve health and happiness in every dimension of life—physical, spiritual, mental, financial, etc.
Only Islam provides us with a clear life goal and purpose. And only Islam shows us the proper way to live in and contribute to a community. Islam is what everyone needs, and what so many who have not found it yet, are searching for. It is the path to purpose, meaning, health and happiness. This is because it is the straight path to the source of truth and real power—Allah.
It was only until I actually became Muslim that I realized just how encompassing the Islamic lifestyle is. Literally, everything we do has one underlying purpose – to remember Allah. The lifestyle provides us with the way—not just the understanding—but an actual method of constantly remembering our Creator in as simple an act as greeting someone, or getting dressed in the morning, or waking up from sleep.
Islam shows us that by remembering Allah, everything we do becomes focused on Him, and thus becomes an act of worship. From this, our energy, our thoughts, and our actions all become redirected away from unhealthy and useless causes and focused on the source of all goodness. Thus, we are continuously tapping into His divine strength, mercy, and grace. So, by remembering Allah constantly, we become stronger and healthier in every aspect of our lives and not distracted by self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
There still remain some minor aspects of Islam that have proven to be somewhat difficult adjustments for me. Nevertheless, I thank Allah every day for the ease to which He has allowed me to make the necessary changes in my life so that I can continue to live in America and still be, Insha-Allah, a good Muslim.
As a white, middle-class American, many cultural aspects of Islam are quite different from the way in which I grew up. In fact, when I finally broke the news to my family that I had become Muslim, almost all of their questions and concerns were related to cultural differences—marriage, social life, family, etc. They were much less concerned about my general beliefs about God and religious practice. For my family, friends, and co-workers, becoming Muslim was not seen necessarily as a negative change, but it has required a great deal of education about Islam.
Because acquiring knowledge is a critical component to a Muslim’s development, having a teacher who has taught me how to apply Islam in everyday life has made all the difference in managing whatever difficulties I have experienced from my reversion. Having someone knowledgeable you can turn to whenever you have questions is a wonderful support that every new shahadah should go out of their way to find.
Islam is not a religion that can be rationalized, in the way that Christianity and Judaism are. It is a clear path that must be followed just as Allah has laid out for us through the Qur’an and the lives of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his companions, and the saints of Islam.
In this day and age, in this society, discerning the path can often be difficult, especially when we are constantly faced with questions and doubts from people who on the surface may not be hostile to Islam, but whose general lack of faith can have a harmful effect on someone who bases everything they do on their love for Allah. It is also not easy being in an environment where we are constantly bombarded with sensual temptations that are seen as ordinary, common aspects of everyday life.
But when we have the support of a knowledgeable, experienced teacher, who is able to apply the universal teachings of Islam to his life, then the truth becomes clear from error, exactly how Allah (SWT) describes in the Qur’an. From this, we are able to understand how to apply Islam correctly to our own lives, and Insha-Allah, receive Allah’s many blessings. The ultimate test, however, of anyone who claims to have the true and right knowledge, is to look at how they apply it in their own lives. If their actions support their teachings, then and only then should we look to them for guidance.
My journey to Islam has been a life-altering experience. It is one that with every passing day makes me more and more appreciative and thankful to Almighty Allah. The extent of His mercy can only fully be understood from the perspective of a Muslim—one who prostrates regularly and submits their will to that of the Creator.
I look back at my life prior to Islam and reflect on the different ways I sought guidance. I think back to all the different ideas I once had of who God really is, and how we can become close to Him. I look back now with a smile and perhaps even a tear because now I know the truth.
Through Islam, I know why so many people who do not believe have so much fear inside them. Life can be very scary without God. I know, because I once harbored that same level of fear.
Now, however, I have the ultimate “self-help” program. It’s the self-help program without the self. It’s the path that puts everything is in its proper place. Now, life makes sense. Now, life is order. Now, I know why I am here, where I want to go, what I want my life to be, how I want to live, and what is most important not just to me, but to everyone.
I only hope and pray that others who have not found the path yet can feel the same that I do.
Ya arhama rahimeen wal hamdulillahi rabbil aylameen…
Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.islam.ru: Islamic Information Portal.
Abdul-Lateef Abdullah, an American convert to Islam, obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science & Economics at the University of Delaware, his Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University, and recently completed his Ph.D. from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, in the field of Youth Studies.
He has worked as a Program Assistant for the Academy for Educational Development (Washington, D.C.); a Social Worker at the Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx, New York); and the Director of Documentation and Evaluation at Community IMPACT! (Washington, D.C.). He has also worked with the Taqwa Gayong Academy (New Jersey, U.S.A./Penang, Malaysia) for troubled youth, both Muslim and non-Muslim. As a recent (1999) convert to Islam, he spends much time writing about his experiences as a Muslim-American convert.
By Truth Seeker Staff
I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
Malcolm X was not an atheist, he was following the Nation of Islam, then he reverted to mainstream Islam during his pilgrimage to Makkah. He is presented here as a great Muslim celebrity who fought against racial discrimination in the USA.
The following is Malcolm X’s (al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz) letter to his assistants in Harlem during his pilgrimage to Makkah in April of 1964:
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient holy land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the holy scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
I have been blessed to visit the holy city of Makkah; I have made my seven circuits around the Ka`bah, led by a young Mutawwif (guide) named Muhammad; I drank water from the well of the Zamzam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of mount Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on mount Arafat.
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
America needs to understand Islam because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana.
We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.
I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their “differences” in color.
With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called “Christian” white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster – the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.
Each hour here in the holy land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities – he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.
Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors – honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King – not a Negro.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.
Sincerely, al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)
Taken from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored by Alex Haley.
By Truth Seeker staff
Brothers and sisters, I want to talk to you about Islam from an American perspective.
An American born in America, not Muslim, without Muslim parents.
So, sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy and I don’t deserve certainly to be in the same category as some of the fine brothers that I had the opportunity to listen to this morning and this afternoon and later on today and throughout the convention.
But I have learned one thing about Islam that is you don’t argue with God. So I’ll take whatever Allah the Almighty blesses me with and I hope to do the best that I can.
I have a very kind of unique background in a way… I’m originally from Texas from a small west Texas town called Lubbock. It’s right in the center of a Bible-belt kind of city, very religious with lots of churches in the city. Being Hispanic, I speak Spanish fluently.
I was of course baptized and raised as a Catholic until the age of about 6 years old. When I turned 6 years old, my parents received a knock on the door and there were some people standing there with a watchtower… They started to speak with my grandfather. After a while they started to come back. Before long they established a home Bible study, and before you knew, we were all attending the church of Jehovah’s Witness.
We were all attending the meetings and congregations there. Well, all the family started to go as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before long, I was gaining a very accurate knowledge of the Bible which is kind of an irony because any one who is familiar with the scriptures, the book of the people of the book, knows that in reality it has been polluted so much throughout history. It has been contaminated and polluted so much. But I have always felt that in its pure form, even with the Jews the Torah was given to them, in its pure form, and by the time it was moved around and polluted, it was from God.
They indulged the same thing. The Gospel when it was given to Jesus, at the beginning before the pollution and contamination, was good and sound. Well, my knowledge of the Bible started to grow. I began to study more and more. By the time I was 13 years of age I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. And I had this fire, this ambition inside of me to want to do more of God’s works… So by the time I was 16 years of age, something very unusual happened. I was approved and given their blessing, and I started to speak to big crowds of people. I started to give talks in different congregations.
By the time I was 20 years of age, I had my own congregation that I had to pastor or take care of. So as you can see, I was very much entrenched into the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially knowing that they were different from the world. But see, the world looked at them any time, especially western society, as they were different. They looked at them as extremists… fanatics… fundamentalists… sounds familiar, ha?!
I realize now that it was all in Allah’s planning for me. I didn’t know it at that time, but what I wasn’t aware of then that I’m aware of now, is that when I was a 120 days in the womb of my mother, the angels came and they had already planned where I was going to be, what I was going to do and that I was going to be on this day talking to you here, alhamdulellah (praise be to God).
So after a lot of consideration and prayer and a lot of heartache I left the religion in 1979 and I didn’t go back. Then what happened is that I could no longer go to any other religion because as a Jehovah’s Witness I was taught that all religions were bad except Jehovah’s Witness. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses gained me the approval of God. Everybody else is wrong. So with a clear conscience, I couldn’t go to any other religion. And then as a Jehovah’s Witness I could no longer believe any more in their teachings.
So I was like a man without a religion. Fortunately I was not a man without a God. I even went back to the Catholic Church. I said I was born a Catholic, and I have been a Jehovah’s Witness throughout all my life so I’m going back to the Catholic Church because maybe I missed something. I went back to the Catholic Church for about 3 months. Every day, I used to sit down and stand up all over again. I went to all their masses. But it wasn’t working because it didn’t appeal to my mind neither to my heart.
About 5 years ago, I had the privilege and honor of meeting a Muslim person. And I noticed that person because of her personality. She was always happy and always friendly. This attracted me to that person. So we started talking and she told me she was a Muslim and everything about that.
I said “Really? I’ve heard of Muslims. Oh you have the religion Islam, yeah I’ve heard of it, I have no intention of becoming Muslim”. And I thought I will learn how to become a Christian, a good Christian, not Jehovah’s Witness way but how God wants me to be a Christian.
So I began to study the Bible very closely mostly at night for many hours and in prayer. I read all the New Testament. I thought I had it all lined up. Then I started on the Old Testament; Genesis, Deuteronomy, Exodus. When I got to the Prophets, something happened. All of a sudden, I wanted to rest my eyes and I started thinking about that person that told me about Islam, about being a Muslim, about the Qur’an, and about Allah the Almighty. So I said OK, I’m open-minded now. I don’t think like a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m going to find out if these people are liars. If they are not good or whatever. I’m going to find that for myself. I started thinking “1.2 billion Muslims! Satan is good but he is not that good. To deceive 1.2 billion people so I’ll look at this Qur’an and I’ll see what it is.”
I started reading the Qur’an. I read it completely all the way through the first time. It was unbelievable. Everything started to fall in place. Everything made sense. I took the Qur’an and now I could say to my Bible I know now it all works together. Now I understand. Because of the Qur’an I was able to understand my Bible. And I said “Oh, this is great, God is making me a good Christian” he is going to teach me through the Qur’an.
Well, as I kept reading the Qur’an more and more because it made more sense, it was easier, it was simpler. It appealed more to my heart and my intellect and my mind. And my Bible, as much as I know that one time it was a holy word of God, now it’s polluted, I started to put it down more, and I started to read the Qur’an. So now I said now I have the Qur’an now I have to meet these people. I have to go to where they go. Where do they meet? Well they meet n a place called a masjid (mosque) so I’m going to see them at this mosque. I’m going to check them out as they say.
So to make a long story short which I never can do, I went to this mosque, I find out where it was in Southern California. I went to the mosque and I had an upset stomach. It’s like you know you got to do something but you don’t want to do it. So I wanted to do it but I had a kind of uneasiness. I said well I’m going to drive around and see if I can find a parking space. I kept driving around several times and there were no parking spaces around the mosque.
Finally I said “That’s it, I’m going to go one more time, if I don’t find a parking space I’ll go home”. That was my excuse. As I was making the turn, right in front of the mosque a car pulled out! I looked at the sky and thought “You are making it very hard for me” so I pulled in. Now I’m more nervous because I have to go and face these people. Now I have to go and I know nothing about Islam or Muslims and I have to go to this place. Our mosque there in Southern California center, it gets filled up most of the time. It gets filled up that you have to go around and park where they have some rugs and such stuff. So I’m nervous, I’m going to go for the first time.
I walked up to the door and there is this big brother Arab-descent with a big beard standing in guard.
He said to me “Go around”
I said “OK” and I went around.
I got to the other side and there were the brothers who were praying and bowing. Some of them looked at me and I said “Oh no, I’m just watching, thank you I’m just looking”. Finally, it was all over, they finished the prayer and they all started to go into the mosque and mingle. So I wanted into the mosque and I started to mingle. These brothers started to say “Assalamu`alaikum, Assalamu`alaikum” (peace be upon you), I didn’t know what it means or what they are saying but this is the way it happened.
Finally a brother saw that I was a little confused. He grabbed me by the hand and he took me there and said “You are new, right?”
I said “Yes, this is my first time”
He said “Come on, I’ll show you around”.
He took me everywhere; he took me to the men’s room and showed me the different places.
He said “And right here, this is where we do wudu,”
I said “Voodoo, what’s that?”
He said “No, it’s not Voodoo, it’s Wudu!”
I said “Ok, how do you do this?” and he showed me how they washed themselves and everything. He was a very nice brother. His name is Umar. Allah sent him to me.
Now the blood thickens, because I’m impressed and I like what I see. Now I go home, I’m very happy. I decided “I want to pray like them”. When I was Christian I prayed, just kneeled my head and I prayed. But something appealed to me. When these people got down on their knees and started to bow and prostrate themselves before the Almighty God the Creator of the universe. You see how the religion works, you see how our religion is so much simpler, how it’s so beautiful, how it appeals to the intellect and mind. That feeling appealed to me. It made sense to me. This is the God that created the universe. Shouldn’t I bow down to him? Am I so arrogant?
It all comes down to several things in the Qur’an and Hadith. One of my favorites was when I was looking to this surah. It says “When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest, And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance.”
We have the most beautiful book that God has ever produced for the salvation of mankind; for them to live in peace and tranquility, the Qur’an. We need to read it ourselves and find out for ourselves what’s the acceptable word of God and what is our purpose on this earth.
Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.
By Truth Seeker Staff
Before, I didn’t really see religion as a good thing.
My name is Maria. I converted to Islam one year ago.
I’m from Boulder, Colorado. I was born here. I went to school here my whole life.
Both my parents they are actually from South Africa. They immigrated here. Neither of them is religious. They are both atheists, so they don’t really believe in God.
I have one brother; he is studying music at the University of Colorado. He is Catholic, so he is not Muslim either.
Before I converted, I didn’t really believe in God. I didn’t really have a religion. I didn’t really have a faith, I guess you could say. I kind of grew up with what my parents taught me, so I didn’t really believe in God. I didn’t believe in really any religion at all.
If we talked about religion, we kind of talked about it almost negatively I guess. Before, I didn’t really see religion as a good thing. I thought it was something that like caused a lot of problems, like wars in the world and stuff. I viewed it as mostly negatively.
I guess I first learned about Islam about 2 or 3 years ago. I was dating this guy from Pakistan, and so it was the first time I opened up to Islam. I was more open to learning about it and not to think about it negatively. I really didn’t know anything about it at all. So after talking to him and talking to few other people, I started to gather more facts. I bought an English copy of the Qur’an that I started reading.
When I met my fiancée, we didn’t really talk about religion. I didn’t think about him in a sense of being a Muslim or being very religious. I guess I just thought of him as being like a really noble and kind-hearted person. He was one of the best people that I had ever known, he had such a good character, he was really like kind to everybody. He was never mean to anybody even if he didn’t like them, you know, he would be nice to them. He would never look at you straight in the face and be mean to you.
I guess when I thought about him I didn’t think about those qualities being because of Islam. I just thought they were because of him. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that maybe these good things about him were because of Islam. Maybe because he was a Muslim, he actually ended up being more kind-hearted and more open, and a better person.
The reason that I really chose Islam when I really decided that it was going to be the right thing for me that guy I was dating from Pakistan, and we were engaged for a long time. He was my fiancée and at the time I was going to school in Arizona and he was coming to visit me. He was driving from Boulder to Arizona to come and visit me, and he was actually killed in a car crash. And that was my first real experience with death, and that was what really inspired me to look more into Islam because I just knew that there had to be more to him than just dying. He just couldn’t die, like there had to be like a reason, not even a reason, there had to be something like a higher power that was like dictating it.
The Impact of the Qur’an
So I read the Qur’an and I read a lot of books, and I talked to a lot of people. And eventually, I remember one day I was reading the Qur’an and it was maybe like 2 months after he died. I was reading the Qur’an and it all came clear to me. I just had this moment where it all made sense, everything that I was reading and everything that I knew and everything about him and everything about this whole situation. I just came to a point where I just knew that it was right.
I guess the first time I said the shahadah I was by myself. You know that point where I realized that everything made sense. That’s when the first time I was by myself, you know really I mean that was when I first felt it. Later I did when I ended up talking about it with some of my Muslim friends, they convinced me to go to Denver because there is a Sheikh from Denver that I went and talked to. I talked with him and he kind of made sure that this is what I really wanted to do. He wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing it for somebody, that I wasn’t doing it for my fiancée. We talked about this and I told him “Yes, this is for myself.” I said the shahadah with him and with two other of my friends as witnesses.
I hadn’t ever really talked too much about it with my parents because I knew they were not really keen on religion. I think the first time they realized I was really getting serious was in the last Ramadan, and I fasted for the whole Ramadan. It was my first Ramadan and it was really hard, but I did it and that’s when they kind of realized “Oh, she is serious,” you know like “wow, she is really not eating all day” and I think that is when they first realized that it was serious. We never really talked too much about it. But eventually, you know they came to accept it.
I suppose that if I hadn’t met my fiancée, I might not have learned as much about Islam as I did, and I might not have made my decision to convert as soon as I did. I mean now looking back at everything that happened, I think I still would have ended up converting if I learned what I had. I think it was taking me a lot longer and it wouldn’t have been as clear decision because when he died that really made things clear to me like maybe because I never had such an intense experience I guess.
Before I converted I went to some parties and did that kind of things. I would say I was a different person. After I converted I kind of felt I had like a clean slate, you know like I could start things over in a way. I felt like all the bad things I did in my past before I was a Muslim, I felt it kind not got erased but lost significance.
Parents and Friends
But after I converted I changed a lot of the people that I’m seeing now. Most of my friends now are Muslims. We hang out together, and on Friday nights we would hang out like go to a movie or go balling or something we want, like go to a party. So I think who you hang out with would definitely help. My friends helped me a lot, you know, to make the switch.
I do think about marriage sometimes. I don’t worry about it too much. I feel like I will find the right person. And I do want him to be a Muslim obviously. I’m not interested in dating anybody that’s not a Muslim right now. I feel like right now it’s such a big part of me that I don’t really like to date anybody that’s not a Muslim.
My parents actually like my behavior better after I converted. They didn’t have to worry about me as much. They don’t have to worry like how she is going to get home safe, or that kind of things. They know that I was not going to do anything stupid, so they actually felt better about my behavior after I converted to Islam.
When I first wore a veil it was definitely very hard. At classes, it was very difficult because I felt like everybody was staring at me. There are other girls here that wear the Hijab. But I think right now I’m the only American girl here wearing Hijab… I definitely feel like proud. I feel good. I feel like it’s part of me now. I feel better about myself that I’m wearing it.
I don’t think my parents are embarrassed when we go out and I’m wearing Hijab. I think that my parents actually come to be proud of the fact that I wear it when we go out. I think they think that it shows other people that you can wear the Hijab and still be smart, and you still be like you are your own person and really independent and that you think on our own. Just because you are wearing a Hijab it doesn’t mean something negative about you. I think that they actually respect the fact that I wear Hijab now more…
Courtesy with slight editorial modifications from onislam.net.
By Lauren Booth
– Journalist and Human Rights Activist
This month, I have been reminded of the earthquake that can take place inside those who are placed, by Allah’s guidance, onto the path of faith.
I recently met a talented and beautiful TV presenter who works in the Bollywood scene. This lady is photographed at events in striking, rather revealing outfits, sporting dramatic hair and makeup. Music is on, and always has been, she told me ‘her life.’
Suddenly, around a year ago at the height of fame (which she had so deliberately sought), her eyes onto the world began to change. More shockingly for this lady, her ears onto the world began to change too.
What do I mean by this?
Nostalgia for the Dreary Way
‘Salwa’ (name changed for privacy) told me in an emotional phone call this week that she had gone to a Bollywood concert. Some of the great names in the genre were in town – and she had been given free VIP tickets. Yet far from thrilling at her own stardom, and relishing the celebrity scene around her (as she always had), and instead of gyrating amongst the crowd of Asian men and women, Salwa wanted to flee. She wanted to run home and curl up, in silence, with the Qur’an.
“What’s wrong with me?”
She asked, choking back shocked tears.
“I should have loved this concert, been excited by the famous people. Instead, I came home, prayed and sat down to read the Qur’an.
Am I going mad?”
She reminded me of a young sister who was living with me last year. Six months after taking shahadah, she went to a nightclub on New Year’s Eve. She had been looking, she said, for ‘a bit of normality’ by which she meant a taste of her old life.
She came home shaken.
Every drug deal in the club had been clear to her. Every desperate young girl seeking male affection to ‘fill a gap in her life’ had saddened her. The smell of alcohol in her nostrils had made her feel sick. The music – drum and bass, the industry she had worked in just a few months earlier – had made her dizzy and a bit frightened.
“I thought it would be fun.”
She told me. “But it felt like I was in hell.”
Subhan Allah! Such guidance all around us! God’s Will is so powerful, that when a person is touched by Islamic realizations, our false instincts to do wrong, to seek Dunya, submit immediately.
Draw Closer to God
Many reverts – and please understand that when I use that term I mean those born into our community or not, who change their life in line with blessed Islamic teaching – go through an incredible, and yes, disturbing period, when the limbs and the senses, react independently, of the nafs.
God the All-Merciful tells us in a sacred hadith:
“Whoever has animosity with a friend (wali) of Mine, I declare war upon him.
My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works such that I love him.
And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks.
Were he to ask of Me, I would surely give him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Al-Bukhari)
Is it possible to draw close to God before you even begin praying, before even knowing about the deeds that please Him? That is a matter for those with deep knowledge of the Islamic faith to expound. And surely God can do as He Pleases with His creation.
Touring the UK and the US, I have met many imams, in regions where shahadas are becoming rapidly more common, that have heard similar stories from reverts.
For a blessed period of time (over which they have no control whatsoever) some feel their limbs steer them away from bars, dance venues, or seedy concerts. Others experience their eyes seeking modesty, calm and respectful scenes. Some feel their ears seek the Qur’an above all other sounds in the world.
God, the All-Mighty tells us:
“(O Muhammad), tell them, “I do not claim to have all the treasures of God in my hands, nor to know the unseen, nor do I claim to be an angel. I follow only what is revealed to me (from God).” Say to them, “Are the blind and the seeing equal?” Why then do you not think?” (Al-An`am 6: 50)
Such a blessing indeed. Yet, for Salwa and others also a time of confusion.
“Am I going mad?” She asked!
I could hear her whole body trembling, down the phone line.
“What’s wrong with me? How can your ears change their hearing or your eyes their seeing?”
In September 2010, I was flying back from the Middle East. As the plane came into Heathrow, many Muslim women on the flight took off their hijab. A sad fact. I had a scarf on out of respect for the community I had been staying with (I wasn’t Muslim at that time). I put my hands up to remove the hijab. They came back to my lap empty. I tried again. But my hands simply wouldn’t take the scarf off.
I was, to put it bluntly, totally freaked out. Like Salwa, I thought “Am I going mad? Have I lost my mind?” The next day, I found I could not leave the house without a scarf on. I suddenly felt naked without hijab.
As new Muslims battle with spiritual challenges, soaring moments of joy and a total reevaluation of the world they live in, what can we do to help?
Our new brothers and sisters may look odd and uncomfortable to us. Guess what? That’s because they are feeling precisely that, strange in their own bodies.
So this Friday, spare a smile for that odd, looking sister or brother in the masjid next to you, the one who doesn’t know where their hands go in prayer. Maybe spare them a gentle word or a kind greeting. On the path to understanding what we wear those outer exhibits of faith are minor factors when compared to the inner jihad (struggle) going on within us.
Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.
Lauren Booth is a freelance journalist, broadcaster, and human rights, activist. Her groundbreaking TV series on ‘Remember Palestine’ and ‘Diaspora’ have revealed new truths about the Occupation of Palestine. Booth speaks at international conferences on Islam in the 21st Century and women issues.