Thursday, April 14, 2011

How I Came To Islam – Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)
All I have to say is what you know already, to confirm what you already know of the message of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) 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. Anyone who misses this chance is not likely to be given another, to be brought back again, for it says in the 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 highlight of show business. I was born into a Christian home.

We know that every child is born in his original nature, and it is only his parents that turn him to this religion or that. 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, and Jesus was in fact the door to Good. 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. When they said that God is three, I was puzzled even more but could not argue. I believed it, simply because I had to have respect for the faith of my parents.

Pop star

Gradually, I became alienated from this religious upbringing, and 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, and I thought “Well, he has it made”. He had a lot of money. The people around me influence me though 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, to have a ‘great life’. My examples were the pop stars, and so 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 that we make a promise, but when we make something, we want to hold on to it and become greedy)

So it happened that I became very famous, as a teenager, and 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).

In the hospital

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 great interest in the Eastern mysticism. I began reading and the first thing I began to become aware of was of 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 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 alright 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.

The Qur’an

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 too.

And when I received the Book, (a guidance that would explain everything to me: who I was, what the purpose of life was, what reality was, 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 even 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 that 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 astronauts go to space, they see the insignificant size of the earth and vastness of space, and 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 speaks on different levels. I began to understand it on another level, where the Qur’an says “Those who believe don’t 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 1½ 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 Jummah I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima) at his 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 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 no person is perfect, Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him), we will be successful. May Allah give us guidance to follow the path of the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Ameen!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Anthony Greene, UK

Lanky, blonde, green-eyed, middle aged Abdur-Raheem Greene appears to be a character straight out of a Hollywood movie Ben Hur. The Tanzania-born Britisher embraced Islam in 1988 and has been a dawah practitioner [preacher] in Britain since then. He wears a look that instantly evokes comparison with the popular portrayal of the Prophet Jesus [may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him] in the imagery of Christian Europe. Greene’s tryst with Islam took place in Egypt where he mostly spent his vacations. He lectured in Bangalore in early October on “God’s Final Revelation.” He spoke to the Islamic Voice while in the city.
Your background

I was born to British parents in Darussalam in Tanzania in 1964. My father Gavin Green was a colonial administrator in the still existent British empire. He later joined Barclays Bank in 1976 and was sent to Egypt to set up Egyptian Barclays Bank. I was educated at famous Roman Catholic Monastic School called Ampleforth College and went on to study history in the London University. However, I left my education unfinished.

Currently, I am working with an Islamic media company based in England and engage myself in dawah activities [preaching] including lectures on Islam in London’s famous Hyde Park.
What kept you from obtaining a degree?

I grew totally disillusioned with the British educational system. It was thoroughly Eurocentric and projected world history in a way that suggested that the civilization attained its full glory and apogee in Europe. Having lived in Egypt and seen some of the majestic ruins which only archaeologists have access to, I found the West’s interpretation of history totally fallacious. I began a private study of histories of other peoples of the world, various religious scriptures and philosophy. I was practicing Buddhism for nearly three years though never formally embraced it.

Study of the Holy Qur’an immediately attracted me. Its message had a magical appeal and I grew convinced that it was a divine revelation. I believe only Allah guided me, none else. I don’t know what made me deserve Islam.
But anything specific that could have appealed to you?

I was dissatisfied with Christianity from the age of eight. The concept that was taught to us through rhymes such as Hail Mary! Was not at all acceptable to me. While on one hand the Christians described God to be eternal and infinite they felt no compunctions in ascribing birth of God from the womb of Mary. This made me think that Mary must be greater than God.

Secondly, the Christians’ concept of trinity was puzzlesome for me. The similitude like Canadian Maple leaf being one despite three sections appeared utterly inapplicable.

The crunch came when an Egyptian started questioning me. Despite being confused about the Christian belief I was trying to be dogmatic as most white, middle-class, English Christians do. I was flummoxed when he led me to accept that the God died on the crucifix, thus laying bare the hollowness of the Christian claims of eternity and infinity of God. I now came to realize that I was believing in as absurd a concept as two plus two is equal to five all through my adolescent years.

The West’s prelaid, programmed life intensely repelled me. I began to question if a person has to live a life merely to get strait-jacketed in a rigorous schedule. I found Europeans struggling a lot to enjoy life. They had no higher purpose in life.

The West’s capacity to brainwash its people became plain to me when I discussed the Palestine issue with Egyptians and Palestinians. Several myths-historical, political, economic - were fabricated by the Zionists and propagated unchallenged by the Western media. How could a land vacated by Jews 2000 years earlier be their homeland? I also came to know that existing Jewish people were actually Slavs, not Semites and that Palestinian land was always a green orchard. Israel fabricated the myth of “magical transformation of desert into greenland.”

The American double-speak and hypocrisy began to sink in as I studied the US role in planting and sustaining despotic rulers in Latin America while punishing the Soviet Bloc.
What contrast have you found between people’s lives in Egypt and the UK?

Egyptians were poor, suffered hardships, yet were happy. They left everything in the hands of Allah and forget their miseries when they return home. Prayers help them place their worries before their God. I noticed humility as well as intimacy in Islamic prayers.

But in England I found people shallow, materialistic. They try to be happy but happiness is superficial. Their prayers combined songs, dances, clapping but no humility, nor intimacy with God.

I realized that popular opinion in the West was totally hostage to the Zionist-controlled media. The question of Palestine was one among these. My conversation with Palestinians revealed as to how the West had believed in myths about Israel. First among them was that the Jews had the right to return to their original homeland in Israel. Secondly they conveniently described themselves Semitic while the fact was that most Jews of the world were Slavs who had later converted to Judaism. Thirdly Israel’s economic miracle was theorized to create the economic and scientific myth.

The fact was that I never got to know the Palestinian side of the issue. I got convinced that the people of the West were brainwashed by the media. I found that the US was trying every trick to punish nations indulging in small violations of human rights in the third world but was itself sending death squads into Latin American nations to liquidate their leaders who refused to toe the US line. Such hypocrisy is never criticized by the US media.
How do you find life as a Muslim in the UK?

The Western psyche emphasizes one’s individuality. This is at variance with Islam. Any sincere Muslim feels disturbed. He or she is constantly bombarded by sex and sexuality. Most girls lose virginity by 13 and it is normal for girls to have three to four boyfriends.

The dilemma before Muslims in the West is as to how to integrate with a society so steeped in sex, drugs, drinks and sexual intimacy. And if no integration, then how to save themselves from ghettoization.

Excerpts from an Interview by Islamic Voice, Volume 11-11 No: 130, November 1997

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stephanie, South Africa

She finally then embraced Islam.
13 February 2011: I have been raised so long with this fundamentalist Christian mentality that is afraid of other religions; that if I explored them I would upset God. And I am so terrified of what my mom would think… Even though she remarked a few years back in the shopping mall: “You should have been born a Muslim,” she said the other day when I told her of my interest in Eastern prayer: “Just as long as you don’t become Mohammedan…” I think: “Oh, God, Mom, guess what... I like Islam! eek!” I ended up saying something like this to her - that my choice of religion is my issue, not hers.

When I think back on why I loved the cloistered life of a nun, and what I loved in Catholicism … I see in Islam all these things, especially the oneness, that’s why it draws me. It is the religion that is probably closest to my own outlook of life. …I have to explore it, otherwise it will keep on coming back more intensely. I feel that if I explore it, it may lose fascination for me and I can return to Christianity. Part of me wants to convert, part of me is TERRIFIED. “What if I go to hell?” is my worst concern. And yet, I felt that same fear in coming to Catholicism … This evening I burst into tears as I am so torn up about the whole thing. I have been researching about Islam a lot recently and reading stories of conversions… I even tuned my radio to the Muslim station…

I said to God how part of me hates Islam for interesting me, and sure, it is a love-hate relationship. …I have to learn to live with my interest. But as I said I am afraid of offending God – and what does Jesus think? …I feel like a hypocrite at Mass, but I still go.

14 February 2011: I am often too afraid to tell Christian loved ones of my interest in Islam for fear that they will say I am going down the wrong path away from the truth and will harm my soul…Of course in every religion there are beliefs one wouldn’t agree with. But in Islam, I find that which is in me is reflected in a collective way. It is also a very… stark, simple, strong and austere [religion], unlike Catholicism which is more complex and even somewhat sentimental at times…

Many things – their set prayers where they prostrate, their simplicity, their separation of men and women in worship, praying barefoot, their WONDERFUL emphasis on modesty and the veil, their view of women (I have consided myself a bitter anti-Feminist, but when I see Feminism through Islamic glasses, I actually make peace with it, because women don’t compromise their modesty and femininity). I also love their Ramadan fasting, the pilgrimage they do, the cleanliness of ritual washing, their abstinence from alcohol, their dislike for dating – preferring chaperoned and chaste meetings between men and women, arranged marriages, and so on.

When I look back on my life, I seemed to be Muslim the way I kept myself. I hardly ever dated – I met my two boyfriends at my house or theirs, or went out with them along with another friend or my parents, etc. From 17 I dressed modestly and loved covering my head, I was never partial to alcohol, I liked the challenge of fasting and set prayers (hence my past love for the cloistered life).

It is not that I wanted to reject Christianity, but I found something which I feel I could identify more with, belong in…
Coming to Islam

By then I couldn’t resist it anymore and did loads of research, reading lots of conversion stories of women, and I began to believe it was possible to let go and let God lead me. As my heart was already long won over, all I had to do was convince my mind… So I read internet articles and the English translation of the Quran, I began to pray in the Muslim way, doing Isha at first, using a little mat to pray on, and doing wudhu the precribed way. It was hard to win my mind over, but I prayed to Almighty God, Most gracious and Merciful, and He guided me. I asked Him for a breakthrough and the next day I read some articles

Nothing seemed to hit me smack bang in the head, until I read an article on called “The Miracle of the Quran” by Khalid Baig. He said the following:

“Prominent scholar Dr. Hamidullah tells of an effort in Germany by the Christian scholars to gather all the Greek manuscripts of Bible as the original Bible in Aramaic is extinct. They gathered all manuscripts in the world and after examining them reported: “Some two hundred thousand contradictory narrations have been found... of these one-eighth are of an important nature.” When the report was published, some people established an Institute for Quranic Research in Munich with the goal of examining Quran the same way. …By 1933, 43000 photocopies of Quranic manuscripts had been collected. …While some minor mistakes of calligraphy were found, not a single discrepancy in the text had been discovered!”

Wow, wow, WOW!!!… It really IS a miracle! How could it be otherwise possible??? I was so impressed that there was only one version of the Quran. As a Protestant Christian I had searched for the most genuine Bible and took the King James Version as it was “authorised”. Then when I became Catholic I realised it wasn’t the most original. I bought a New Revised Standard Version Bible, but looked to the Douay-Rheims version as the most authentic, as it was based on St. Jerome’s Vulgate – the closest I could get to the early Bible. Unfortunately it was too expensive to buy. I loved the Jerusalem Bible as well, which was used in the Liturgy, but then there were two versions of that, too! It was so confusing! But with the Quran, besides there being various language translations, there is only one version – the original Arabic – and not only that, but every Muslim has access to learning to read Arabic, and can benefit from the true version. A far cry from the Christian history when the Bible was read only by some people, mostly priests, who could have easily taught the people their own opinions instead…

It was then that I decided to submit myself to God. How happy I was! Not only that, but Islam’s views on women put an end to my struggles in the Catholic Church. I could reconcile the good things in Feminism with modesty and the veil. At last, I found a niche! My bitterness dissolved like dew in the sun…

This had happened shortly after another event – after all the years struggling to discern a vocation to a convent, I decided it was about time I got a proper job so I could eventually move out of my parents’ home and become independent – and with the way things were moving, it was now essential! I mentioned in a letter above (2 Mar 2010) that I regularly went to a fabric shop for my sewing needs. As I knew the owners well by this time, (and because they were Muslim!) I decided to ask for a part-time job there. The next week I popped in to buy some dress trimming as an excuse to ask about the job and share my interest in Islam. When I purchased the trimmings, I got into a conversation about Islam with a wonderful lady working there, who gave me her sister’s contact number. Her sister knew someone who worked in a madrassah, and who would be willing to teach me. To my joy, I got the job, (however I was retrenched soon afterwards). Then the lady did something which touched me deeply – she said to the man that they musn’t greet me “hello” anymore, but “Salaam Aleikum!” (peace be upon you) I then replied: “Wa Aleikum Assalaam! (and peace be upon you too)”.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bruce Paterson, UK

I would like to take the opportunity to share with you my journey to Islam and I feel that by sharing this experience with you I can help you on your journey through life. We are all born into different cultures, countries and religions in what often seems a confusing and troubled world. Actually, when we examine the world around us, we can easily see what a troubled state it is in: war, poverty and crime. Need I go on? Yet when we look at our own upbringing and our education, how can we be sure that all the things that we have been told, are in reality the truth?

Unfortunately, most people in the world decide to try to hide and escape from the world’s problems rather than stand up and deal with the truth. Dealing with the truth is often the harder avenue to follow. The question is: Are you willing to stand up for the truth? Are you strong enough? Or, are you going to escape and hide like the rest?

I started my search for the truth a number of years ago. I wanted to find out the truth about the reality of our existence. Surely, to understand life correctly is the key to solving all the worldly problems that we are faced with today. I was born into a Christian family and this is where my journey began. I started to read the bible and to ask questions. I quickly became unsatisfied. The priest told me, “You just have to have faith.” From reading the bible I found contradictions and things that were clearly wrong. Does God contradict himself? Does God lie? Of course not!

I moved on from Christianity, thinking the scriptures of the Jews and the Christians are corrupted so there is no way that I can find the truth from the false. I started finding out about Eastern Religions and Philosophies, particularly Buddhism. I spent a long time meditating in Buddhist temples and talking to the Buddhist monks. Actually, the meditating gave me a good clean feeling. The trouble was that it didn’t answer any of my questions about the reality of existence. Instead it carefully avoided them in a way that makes it seem stupid to even talk about it.

I traveled to many parts of the world during my quest for the truth. I became very interested in tribal religions and the spiritualist way of thinking. I found that a lot of what these religions were saying had truth in them, but I could never accept the whole religion as the truth. This was the same as where I started with Christianity!

I began to think that there was truth in everything and it didn’t really matter what you believed in or what you followed. Surely though this is a form of escaping. I mean, does it make sense: one truth for one person and another truth for someone else? There can only be one truth!

I felt confused, I fell to the floor and prayed, “Oh, please God, I am so confused, please guide me to the truth.” This is when I discovered Islam.

Of course I always knew something about Islam, but only what we naively hear in the West. I was surprised though by what I found. The more that I read the Quran and asked questions about what Islam taught, the more truths I received. The striking difference between Islam and every other religion is that Islam is the only religion that makes a strict distinction between the creator and the creation. In Islam, we worship the creator. Simple. You will find however, that in every other religion there is some form of worship involving creation. For example, worshipping men as incarnations of God or stones, sounds familiar. Surely though, if you are going to worship anything, you should worship the one that created all. The one that gave you your life and the one who will take it away again. In fact, in Islam, the only sin that God will not forgive is the worship of creation.

However, the truth of Islam can be found in the Quran. The Quran is like a text book guide to life. In it you will find answers to all questions. For me, everything I had learnt about all the different religions, everything that I knew to be true, fitted together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I had all the pieces all along but I just did not know how to fix them together.

I would therefore like to ask you to consider Islam now. The true Islam as described in the Quran. Not the Islam that we get taught about in the West. You may at least be able to cut down your journey in search of the truth about life. I pray for your success, regardless.