Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finds peace in Islam after an adolescence

Conversion Story: Walter 'Abdul-Walee' Gomez
"I could smell the mercy and the sweetness of heaven, felt the presence of God in my torn, sick heart." Latino immigrant finds peace in Islam after an adolescence of clubs, drinking, drugs, promiscuity and gangland violence in Washington DC.

My conversion to Islam has alarmed many friends and family members. It seems to them strange and odd for a Latino like me to become a Muslim. Catholic and Protestantism are the leading religions in Latin America so these are reasonable religions for any Latin American to convert to, but when my family follows either Catholic or Protestant domination's, why Islam? Well my conversion to Islam was not introduced to me by any family member, like most of my family members, whose parent's ideas of life were given to them and they adhere to that as truth, without searching. The journey to God is a beautiful road that was given to the Prophets from God, to us humans. The Prophets are our ways, and that's the way I follow.

My story begins at my birthplace, El Salvador, a beautiful tropical country located in Central America, filled with exotic, delicious, and tasty fruits. The people are warm welcoming to others, and possessed a very intimate culture. Our culture is a crossroads of the mingling of many rich cultures. If you mingle Spanish Arab intellect with the African tangy taste of rhymes, and the Native Indians love of the earth, you get the beautiful people of El Salvador.

I was born in 1975, from middle class of the poor, yes we were poor but we had the blessing of food. My father was a farmer, whose family who bought a lot of cheap land, so they were well off and my mother was from a very humble, poor family who lived by fishing and working for others to get by. Their families opposed of their marriage because one was poor and the other very poor. So my father did what most do, elope with my mother to my grandfather's house, even if my grandfather didn't like it. Later, both families became fine with it and a house was given to my father by grandpa, were I was born. The house was an old adobe house.

My father came to America in 1978, to make some quick money and he kept coming and going back for a period of 4 years until he bought a cargo truck with his brother and worked for a while. Then he felt the urge again to come back and since the war began, he felt scared for himself and me. In 1983, he left El Salvador again but with intentions to bring the family and stay for good. So after my father left, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather who was a Protestant, and I used to listen to the Biblical readings and I used to love looking at the pictures in the Bible. I used to ask, "does anyone still dress like the people drawn in the bible, with long robes, turban and beards" and they replied "No" it was long-time ago. I was fascinated with Noah, Moses, Abraham, and particular with Jesus. I had this immense hunger to find people like Jesus, the way he spoke in the bible and the way he dressed, his beautiful beard brought mystery and he looked very wise. I never saw this in my family who were very religious or anybody in the two Christian branches.

In 1984 my father sent a letter to my mother telling her come to America, and to bring me too. When my mother told me about it, I felt sick and destroyed. Because I felt that I was in paradise and I didn't want leave. I cry almost everyday pleading with my mother to leave me with grandpa, but my words were not heard.

We left El Salvador in August, and I did enjoy the trip to America but it was very hard for my mom. My two sisters stayed with my aunt in San Salvador the capital of El Salvador. We arrive in National Airport of Washington D.C. three weeks after we left El Salvador.

After spending time here in America I found out that religions are thrown away by society and are considered private, and not a way of life to many. I didn't feel the love of God as I did in El Salvador, but still tried to keep Him in my heart. Most of my desires of God in my life were gone in America. I went to regular schools from second grade to High school, but my thirst for religion began at High school.

In 1990, my first year in High School, what a joy!!! I was so happy the first day, and my cousin Ana warned me to be careful because seniors threw freshmen in lockers, but I didn't care I was happy. Surely, soon I found out that seniors weren't the ones who beat and threw freshmen in lockers but it was the footfall team. The football team was not interested in freshmen only but in Latinos in general. We were terrorized so bad that we used to hide in bathrooms when we saw one of them coming, these guys were 6'5" tall when most of Latinos are 5'6" so of course we were terrified. In the middle of the year we formed a Gang to protect ourselves from the football team, and we were becoming really crazy, at a point that the football team try to offer an apology to us but we were having fun, and we didn't accept to stop.

We started going to clubs, drinking, using drugs, and of course women were not excluded. This period of time was the most dangerous of my life. We used to fight for stupid things. I almost got shot on the metro (train) in Washington D.C. for a stupid argument between my friend and some young kids. The kids started shooting at me like I was the one arguing with them, and a bullet went by my head barely touching my hair. This was crazy and we went after the guys who shot at us, and they got beat up really bad. Twenty minutes later, I felt a drawling rush in my whole body, felt like I was superman. I just went through a dream and I felt that I was going to be known, recognized and respect from my homies/friends. Next day, we told our friends and none of them believed our incident, but still I felt strong. In another incident at a nightclub, we had the biggest fight ever. The fight was so serious that many of my friends left the gang that we belonged to. Three of my friends got stabbed badly inside the club, so a group of us went outside looking for them, and the cops separated us into subgroups. I was in a group of six guys and we were just walking around the club when a pick-up truck came near us and they asked us if we needed help, we said "yes". All of them got off the pick-up truck. They looked fishy to me, but my friends were happy to see them. One of them said "What mara (Gang) do you click (hang around) with," and we responded with our gang’s name, and they said their gang’s name too. The bad thing was that these were the guys who stabbed our buddies and we were looking for them too. We started to get ready and I said to my buddies to run, because several of them pointed guns at us, so we ran and I was too drunk to run so I got caught by six of them. They beat me severely, kicked me with their boots and hit me with their fists all over my face and body. The cops showed up right in time, because I felt death on my throat. They could easily have stabbed me or killed me, and I looked up in the sky and said; " My Lord save me, and I will serve you." One of my friends got thrown from a bridge and broke his hand while others got away.

That same friend who was with me at the train shooting and the nightclub started to become more aware of life. After this incident, he started learning about different doctrines. His philosopher was Carl Marx, his sociology was communism, and his theology was Islam. To me, he was becoming unaware of life, and I myself started to search but in the Protestant church. I found myself becoming religious again, once again praying to God for guidance. However, I didn't want to become too religious of a person because I knew my family would ridicule me. I had always been a person that looked uninterested in life. My friend started preaching about his thoughts and beliefs and I told him that my love for Protestant church was growing more so he could leave me alone. I told him Jesus is my teacher; not a black man named Elijah Muhammad or Farrakhan.

My friend at that time was confused what the true Islam was, his Islam looked weird to me. He believed that Nation of Islam was the true Islam; he did not know the differences, that the real Islam was not racist like Nation of Islam was.

I did accept his socialist belief in Communism and "Che" Guevara, and Fidel Castro became our Leaders for world modernization. At the same time, I was not too happy, for Communism denounced God's existence. He pushed on about Islam, telling me to read his Koran, so I did. I was amazed to see Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and many more Prophets of the Bible in this Koran. He told me "We believe Jesus is a Prophet of God, not the son of God nor God himself" and immediately responded that I believe in the same. He said, "Your church believes that Jesus is God and the Son of God and they make up the Trinity," I said to him that is not my belief in Jesus and God. That made me think a lot more about Christianity and the Protestant church of their Triune god, because I never knew that Jesus was considered this even though I did go to church. I felt confused but happy that there was a religion that had what I believe in, but still I wasn't too acceptable to it.

In 1995, I went to work at a cafeteria at a University a year after I graduated from High school. At work, I saw so many cultures and different religious people. I still had hate towards non-Latinos, yet my first week at work a group of students came to buy some stuff at the store I worked, and they were fighting amongst each other, that everyone wanted to pay. This incident was very touching to me because I was a very giving person yet my friends took advantage of that quality. All the people in that group who came into the store wanted to pay for the others. I asked one of them later that week, why Middle Eastern people were so generous amongst each other? He replied, "See, we owe it to Islam because Islam teaches us to be generous, some of us don't practice that much but Islamic manners are imbedded in our hearts." This statement moved me. I replied to him that I used to study Islam for political reasons. He asked, " Why did you stop?" I told him that I didn't know where to get more information about Islam. He looks at me with joy and he said I have an American Muslim friend that converted six month ago. The next day they came to visit me, and I saw this white male dressed like the people in the Bible and looked like Jesus. My heart felt this peaceful calm feeling that I still feel. He started asking me about my health, my family and my work. He didn't mention anything about religion. I was so happy that I told him to come every time he could to teach me. For two months, Muslims were coming to me with books, pamphlets, and just to talk. It went on for two and half months and the place got closed during the summer. So for two months I just relaxed and partied all summer. However, I started to feel guilty while drinking. When I felt that way, I used to prostrate in forgiveness. In September, I went to a party with my friend and I really got drunk that night and almost got into a fight, but my friend reminded me that I was studying Islam, so I stopped and asked him if we can go home. The next day, at 9:00 in the morning I woke up with this disgusting feeling and the phone rang. It was my friend from the University. I told him to please pick me up and take me to the Mosque. He came like a lighting flash to my house. I was nervous and happy at same time. We arrived at this beautiful Mosque Darul-Al-Hijra in northern Virginia ten minutes away from my house. At 10:00 a.m. the teacher came, very calm, and not pushing and asked me if I believed that God is One, I said, "Yes." He asked if I believed that Jesus is a Prophet and the son Mary? I said, "Yes." Do you believe that Muhammad is the Last Prophet of God, in doubts, I replied "Yes." At that moment in doubts of Muhammad, I said to myself, “If I believe in the teachings of Islam, I must be a fool not to accept in the one who brought it, I told the teacher that I was ready to became a Muslim (in submission to God); He told me to repeat:

"Ashadu anla ilaha ilallah Wa ashadu ana Muhammadan Rasululah"

"I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship than Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah"

" Yo atestiguo que no hay nada digno de adoraci que Alah y Atestiguo que Mujammad es el Profeta de Alah"

At this point, I could smell the mercy and the sweetness of heaven, felt the presence of God in my torn, sick heart. I felt clean brightness in my new way of life. My life was ready for the next journey on earth, the journey to Paradise.

All Praises are due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds that He has invited me to Islam, from among billions of people in the earth to be a Muslim. My thanks are due to Allah the Almighty, for inviting me to His House Makkah (Baytu-lah) in 1997 for Um-rah.

Assalamu Alaikum Warathmatullahi Warabakatu

Walter 'Abdul-Walee' Gomez

I was not a man without a God


The hilarious yet serious story of how an American professional comedian and former Jehovah's Witness "pioneer minister" came to Islam.

A forty-two-year-old Latino, Raphael, is a Los Angeles-based comic and lecturer. He was born in Texas where he attended his first Jehovah's Witness meeting at age six. He gave his first Bible sermon at eight, tended his own congregation at twenty, and was headed for a position of leadership among the 904,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States. But he traded in his Bible for a Qur'an after having braved a visit to a local mosque.

On November 1, 1991, he embraced Islam, bringing to the Muslim community the organizational and speaking skills he developed among Jehovah's Witnesses. He speaks with the urgency of a new convert, but one who can make immigrant Muslims laugh at themselves.

He told his story mimicking a cast of characters.

I remember vividly being in a discussion where we were all sitting in my parents' living room and there were some other Jehovah's Witnesses there. They were talking about: "It's Armageddon! The time of the end! And Christ is coming! And you know the hailstones are going to be out here as big as cars! God is going to use all kinds of things to destroy this wicked system and remove the governments! And the Bible talks about the earth opening up! It's going to swallow whole city blocks!"

I'm scared to death! And then my mother turned around: "See what's going to happen to you if you don't get baptized, and if you don't do God's will? The earth is going to swallow you up, or one of these huge hailstones is going to hit you on the head [klonk], knock you out, and you will not exist ever again. I'll have to make another child."

I wasn't going to take a chance of being hit by one of those big hailstones. So I got baptized. And of course Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the sprinkling of the water. They submerge you completely, hold you there for a second, and then bring you back up.

I did that at the age of thirteen, September 7, 1963, in Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl. It was a big international assembly. We had 100,000 people. We drove all the way from Lubbock, Texas.

Eventually I started giving bigger talks - ten minutes in front of the congregation. And a circuit servant recommended me to give the hour lectures that are done on Sunday when they invite the general public. They usually reserved those [sermons] for the elders of the congregation.

[In an authoritarian voice:] "Sure he's young. But he can handle it. He's a good Christian boy. He has no vices, and he's obedient to his parents and seems to have pretty good Bible knowledge."

So at the age of sixteen I started giving hour lectures in front of whole congregations. I was assigned first to a group in Sweetwater, Texas, and then, eventually, in Brownfield, Texas, I got my first congregation. At age twenty, I had become what they call a pioneer minister.

Jehovah's Witnesses have a very sophisticated training program, and they also have kind of a quota system. You have to devote ten to twelve hours a month to door-to-door preaching. It's like sales management. IBM has nothing on these guys.

So when I became a pioneer minister, I devoted most of my full time to doing the door-to-door ministry. I had to do like 100 hours a month, and I had to have seven Bible studies. I started lecturing other congregations. I began to get a lot of responsibility, and I was accepted at a school in Brooklyn, New York, a very elite school that Jehovah's Witnesses have for the crème de la crème, the top one percent. But I didn't go.

A few things no longer made sense to me. For example, the quota system. It seemed like every time I wanted to turn a corner and get into another position of responsibility, I had to do these secular material things to prove my godliness. It's like if you meet your quotas this month, God loves you. If you don't meet your quotas next month, God doesn't love you. That didn't make very much sense. One month God loves me and one month He doesn't?

The other thing I started noticing is tunnel vision. Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones who are going to be saved in God's new order, nobody else, because all of them are practicing false religions. Well, I thought, Mother Teresa's a Catholic. That's our dire enemy. So I said, Wait a minute, Mother Teresa has spent her entire life doing things that Jesus said: take care of the poor, the sick, the orphans. But she's not going to have God's favor because she's a Catholic?

We criticized the Catholic Church because they had a man, a priest, to whom they had to confess. And we'd say, "You shouldn't have to go to a man to confess your sins! Your sin is against God!" And yet we went to a Body of Elders. You confessed your sins to them, and they put you on hold, and said [Elder as telephone operator:] "Hold on just a minute . . . What do you think, Lord? No? . . . Okay, I'm sorry, we tried our best but you're not repentant enough. Your sin is too big, so you either lose your fellowship in the church or you're going to be on probation."

If the sin is against God, shouldn't I directly go to God and beg for mercy?

Probably the nail that hit the coffin was that I noticed that they started reading their Bible less. Jehovah's Witnesses have books for everything that are put out by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The only people on the entire planet who know how to interpret Bible Scripture correctly are that group of men, that committee in Brooklyn, who tell Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide how to dress, how to talk, what to say, what not to say, how to apply Scripture and what the future is going to be like. God told them, so they can tell us. I appreciated the books. But if the Bible is the book of knowledge and if it's God's instructions, well, shouldn't we get our answers out of the Bible? Paul himself said find out for yourself what is a true and acceptable word of God. Don't let men tickle your ears.

I started saying, "Don't worry so much about what the Watchtower says - read the Bible for yourself." Ears started to prick up.

[Old Southerner's drawl:] "I think we got us an apostate here, Judge. Yup. I think this old boy's one taco short of something."

Even my father said, "You better watch it, young man, that's the demons talking right there. That's the demons trying to get in and cause division."

I said, "Dad, it's not the demons. People don't need to read so much of these other publications. They can find their answers with prayer and in the Bible."

Spiritually I no longer felt at ease. So in 1979, knowing that I could not make headway, I left, disgruntled and with a bad taste in my mouth, because all my life I had put my soul, my heart, my mind into the church. That was the problem. I didn't put it in God. I put it in a man-made organization.

I can't go to other religions. As a Jehovah's Witness, I had been trained, through the Scriptures, to show that they are all wrong. That idolatry is bad. Trinity doesn't exist.

I'm like a man without a religion. I was not a man without a God. But where could I go?

In 1985, I decided to come to Los Angeles and get on the Johnny Carson show and make my mark as a great comedian and actor. I have always felt like I was born for something. I didn't know whether it was going to be finding the cure to cancer or becoming an actor. I kept praying and it got frustrating after a while.

So I just went to the Catholic church close to my house, and I tried it. I remember on Ash Wednesday I had that ash cross on my forehead. I was trying anything I could. I went for about two or three months, and I just couldn't do it anymore, man. It was:

Stand up. Sit down.
Stand up. Sit down.
Okay, stick your tongue out.
You got a lot of exercise. I think I lost about five pounds. But that's about it. So now I'm more lost than ever.
But it never passed through my mind that there is not a Creator. I have His phone number, but the line's always busy. I'm doing my little movie shots. A film called Deadly Intent. A telephone commercial in Chicago. An Exxon commercial. A couple of bank commercials. In the meantime I'm doing construction work on the side.

We're working on this mall. It's the holiday season, and they put these extra booths in the hallways. There was a gal at one, and we had to pass right in front of her. I'd say, "Good morning, how are you?" If she said anything, it was "Hi." And that was it.

Finally, I said, "Miss, you never say anything. I just wanted to apologize if there was something I said wrong."

She said, "No, you see, I'm a Muslim."

"You're what?"

"I'm a Muslim, and Muslim women, we don't talk to men unless we have something specific to talk about; otherwise we don't have anything to do with men."

"Ohhhhh. Muslim."

She said, "Yes, we practice the religion of Islam."

"Islam - how do you spell that?"


At the time, I knew that Muslims were all terrorists. She doesn't even have a beard. How could she possibly be Muslim?

"How did this religion get started?"

"Well, there was a prophet."

"A prophet?"


I started some research. But I just came from one religion. I had no intention of becoming Muslim.

The holidays are over. The booth moves. She's gone.

I continued to pray, and asked why my prayers weren't being answered. In November of 1991, I was going to bring my uncle Rockie home from the hospital. I started to empty his drawers to pack his stuff and there was a Gideon Bible. I said, God has answered my prayers. This Gideon Bible. (Of course, they put it in every hotel room.) This is a sign from God that He's ready to teach me. So I stole the Bible.

I went home and I started praying: O God, teach me to be a Christian. Don't teach me the Jehovah's Witness way. Don't teach me the Catholic way. Teach me Your way! You would not have made this Bible so hard that ordinary people sincere in prayer could not understand it.

I got all the way through the New Testament. I started the Old Testament. Well, eventually there's a part in the Bible about the prophets.


I said, Wait a minute, that Muslim lady said they had a prophet. How come he's not in here?

I started thinking, Muslims - one billion in the world. Man, one out of every five people on the street theoretically could be a Muslim. And I thought: One billion people! C'mon now, Satan is good. But he's not that good.

So then I said, I'll read their book, the Qur'an, and I'll see what kind of pack of lies this thing is. It probably has an illustration on how to dissemble an AK-47. So I went to an Arabic bookstore.

They asked, "What can I help you with?"

"I'm looking for a Qur'an."

"Okay, we have some over here."

They had some very nice ones - thirty dollars, forty dollars."

"Look, I just want to read it, I don't want to become one, okay?"

"Okay, we have this little five-dollar paperback edition."

I went home, and started reading my Qur'an from the beginning, with Al-Fatihah. And I could not get my eyes off of it.

Hey, look at this. It talks about a Noah in here. We have Noah in our Bible too. Hey, it talks about Lot and Abraham. I can't believe it. I never knew Satan's name was Iblis. Hey, how about that.

When you get that picture on your TV set and it's got a little bit of static and you push that button [klop] - fine tune. That's exactly what happened with the Qur'an.

I went through the whole thing. So I said, Okay, I've done this, now what's the next thing you got to do? Well, you gotta go to their meeting place. I looked in the yellow pages, and I finally found it: Islamic Center of Southern California, on Vermont. I called and they said, "Come on Friday."

Now I really start getting nervous, `cause now I know I'm going to have to confront Habib and his AK-47.

I want people to understand what it's like for an American Christian coming into Islam. I'm kidding about the AK-47, but I don't know if these guys have daggers under their coats, you know. So I come up to the front, and sure enough, there's this six-foot-three, 240-pound brother, beard and everything, and I'm just in awe.

I walked up and said, "Excuse me, sir."

[Arabic accent:] "Go to the back!"

He thought I was already a brother.

I said, "Yessir, yessir" [meekly].

I didn't know what I was going back for, but I went back anyway. They had the tent and the rugs were out. I'm standing there, kind of shy, and people are sitting down listening to the lecture. And people are saying, Go ahead, brother, sit down. And I'm going, No, thanks, no, thanks, I'm just visiting.

So finally the lecture's over. They're all lined up for prayer and they go into sajdah. I was really taken aback.

It started making sense intellectually, in my muscles, in my bones, in my heart and my soul.

So prayers are over. I say, hey, who's going to recognize me? So I start to mingle like I'm one of the brothers, and I'm walking into the mosque and a brother says, "Assalaamu alaikum." And I thought, Did he say "salt and bacon"?

"Assalaamu alaikum."

There's another guy who said "salt and bacon" to me.

I didn't know what in the world they were saying, but they all smiled.

Before one of these guys noticed that I was not supposed to be there and took me to the torture chamber, or beheaded me, I wanted to see as much as I could. So eventually I went to the library, and there was a young Egyptian brother; his name was Omar. God sent him to me.

Omar comes up to me, and he says, "Excuse me. This is your first time here?" He has a real strong accent.

And I said, Yeah, it is.

"Oh, very good. You are Muslim?"

"No, I'm just reading a little."

"Oh, you are studying? This is your first visit to a mosque?"


"Come, let me show you around." And he grabs me by the hand, and I'm walking with another man - holding hands. I said, These Muslims are friendly.

So he shows me around.

"First of all, this is our prayer hall, and you take your shoes off right here."

"What are these things?"

"These are little cubicles. That's where you put your shoes."


"Well, because you're approaching the prayer area, and it's very holy. You don't go in there with your shoes on; it's kept real clean."

So he takes me to the men's room.

"And right here, this is where we do wudu."

"Voodoo! I didn't read anything about voodoo!"

"No, not voodoo. Wudu!"

"Okay, because I saw that stuff with the dolls and the pins, and I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment yet."

He says, "No, wudu, that's when we clean ourselves."

"Why do you do that?"

"Well, when you pray to God, you have to be clean, so we wash our hands and feet."

So I learned all these things. He let me go, and said, Come back again.

I went back and asked the librarian for a booklet on prayer, and I went home and practiced. I felt that if I was trying to do it right, God would accept it. I just continued to read and read and visit the mosque.

I had a commitment to go on a tour of the Midwest on a comedy circuit. Well, I took a prayer rug with me. I knew that I was supposed to pray at certain times, but there are certain places where you are not supposed to pray, one of which is in the bathroom. I went into a men's room on a tourist stop and I laid out my carpet and I started doing my prayers.

I came back, and when Ramadan was over, I started getting calls from different parts of the country to go and lecture as a Jehovah's Witness minister who embraced Islam. People find me a novelty.

[Two immigrants converse:]

"This guy like apple pie and he drives a Chevy truck. He is a red-blooded American boy. He was a Jehovah's Witness."

"Those people that come in the morning?"

"Yeah, those."

"That never let us sleep on Sundays?"

"Yeah, this guy was one of them. Now he's one of us."

Eventually somebody would come up to me and say [Pakistani accent], "Oh, brother, your talk was so good. But you know, in the Shafi'i school of thought.."

The only thing I could do was turn to them and say, "Gee, brother, I'm so sorry, I wish I knew about that, but I don't know anything about Islam except what's in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Some of them are taken aback and say, "Ha-ha! Poor brother. He doesn't know anything. He only knows the Qur'an."

Well, that's what I'm supposed to know. And it's been a very loving protection. I think it's all in Allah's hands

(Source: The Islamic Bulletin, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186)

The single greatest gift

Joanne Richards

How a Californian woman with a "fast and loose" lifestyle gradually found her way to Islam.

My background was typical California American growing up in the early sixties. My parents raised us five kids as Catholic, but with the divorce of my parents when I was 11, we kind of fell away from the church. In those years, it was very disgraceful to divorce so we felt like outcasts. I never really felt connected to Christianity though, even as a child. It somehow never really made any sense to me and I detected inconsistencies even at an early age. I used to go to communion so I wouldn't have to answer questions during Catechism.

Well, in typical California style we were kind of left to raise ourselves after the divorce. There wasn't much in the way of guidance. Although my mom loved us a lot, she was suddenly the sole caregiver of five children. My dad I only saw about five or six times after that. Left to our own devices, I was pregnant by the time I was 16 and ended up married to the father of my children.

Pretty much a "shot-gun wedding" I'm afraid. We stayed married for 16 years and had two children. I had missed out on the "hippie" thing when I had gotten married in 1964 when all that "drop out and drop acid" stuff was happening. To make this short, I ended up leaving after all those years and running away to San Francisco to "find out who I was" and become "liberated" !

What I found was liquor, drugs, sex, rock & roll. I was in such a hurry to "live" that I gave no thought to morality or anything like that... just a completely hedonistic approach to life.

I came to know about Islam through a young man newly arrived in America. He was from a large family and was here alone and feeling quite lost with all the new experiences confronting him. We found a comfort in each other as I was also alone without family or friends for the first time in my life. I began to respect some of the qualities I saw in him. He was very honest and never made excuses for himself. I saw a complete acceptance and confidence in him that I never experienced in anyone before. He would tell me things about the Quran which were interesting to me. He was very low key and didn't ever pressure me in any way. I liked what I saw in him. The fact that he was honest really impressed me. I had never even thought that a person could survive in life in a clean and honest manner. He had me do Shahada the first time we were together even though I didn't have any idea what it was. Sometimes I think that even though I didn't know what I was saying... God did and took it seriously!

As a matter of fact, I was really afraid of Islam because I was afraid that God would make me boring and trapped if I was muslim. I was so naive about Islam that my perceptions were really skewed. I carried all of the mis-information as many Americans. What I had in the back of my sick mind was some correlation to the nuns I had seen as a child. They seemed to me to be trapped in a prison of morals. I remember always feeling that they were lonely and dull and all they could do was pray. That seemed to me to be an empty life. At that point anything that seemed "fun" was not allowed.

But God truly is great. Somehow, He gave me all the rope I needed to hang myself then ended up being there when I fell. Anyway, therein followed a few more years of "wandering in wilderness".

After my young man and I parted ways, I called the mosque and asked if I could get a copy of the Quran. I just wanted to know more about it. I never intended to "become" Muslim.

Well, when I read the very begining of the Yusuf Ali edition, the summary actually, I just cried. I was awestruck by the beauty and mercy and grace. It touched me in a way that nothing else ever had. When I read the Fatiha, I knew it was something very special but I was certainly not ready to accept or understand even a fragment of it. The beauty of it's verses galvanized me. Many of the fundamental principles I just could not imagine ever agreeing with or understanding. What most impressed me was the forgiveness and mercy. That incredible Graciousness of Allah. I was going to need lots of these blessings with the kind of life I was living and continued to live for several more years. Even though I would read the Quran and gradually began to truly and deeply in my heart believe in it as the words of God, I still wasn't ready to give up my fast and loose lifestyle. I was certainly very much like a baby taking baby steps into an unknown world.

I was recently asked, "How difficult was it to suddenly stop and give up many of the things you had been doing when you became Muslim ?". It wasn't difficult because I didn't suddenly give up anything ! It took me five years from the time I first started reading the Quran to make the conscious decision to stop eating pork ! My family was Italian, so pork was a mainstay of our cuisine. But when I said to myself after five years of reading the Quran that maybe I should give it up because Allah had prescribed it to us as unclean, it was very difficult ! It took me about a year of eating it and feeling guilty before it began to make me sick when I ate it. Now, I just look at the salami in the supermarket and say, "Well, it's a small thing Allah asks of us".

That's how I feel about Ramadan. I asked someone what is the first thing they think of when they realize Ramadan is coming. They said the first thing is, "Oh, Aghhh!", then right after that is, "Oh, Yea!". That's what I think too. That feeling of anxiety, I guess because we know we are facing a challenge and fearful that we might fail. And then we think of that sweet feeling upon breaking fast at the proper time and knowing that you have offered up to Allah one more day in honor of your devotion to Him... because it is a small thing that He asks of us. To fast for one month only. To really try for one month only to follow his path in a very concentrated and focused way. Sometimes when I feel temptation during Ramadan, I say that to myself..."it's a small thing He asks of us" and He grants us so much mercies and forgiveness.

Liquor, promiscuity, stealing, lying, cheating, etc... have slowly departed over the course of these thirteen years. Now when I think back I can't even imagine that the person behaving that way was me. It is so different from who I am today. Liquor brought me to my knees and Allah was there to help me back up. I had disappointed my children and certainly was a poor role model for them. But Mash'Allah, they both have the Holy Quran in their homes today and see the different person I have become because of my most sincere and deep belief in it. My grand daughters believe in Allah and always want to hear "God Stories".

My father has passed on, but my mother is surprisingly tolerant towards my belief in Islam. Although sometimes I think she thinks it is "just a phase". My brothers and sisters all are respectful towards my beliefs although they too have many of the misconceptions and stereotypes of many Americans.

One thing I had a great problem with when I finally accepted that I was becoming Muslim was some of the attitudes of the Muslims I met. I would occasionally try to go to the Mosque but was usually disheartened by the questions or instructions I would receive from brothers and sisters there. Usually, the first question is, "Who is your husband?" If I said that I didn't have one, I was viewed with suspicion and usually no one would talk to me after that. I was told that Allah would not accept my prayers because I was wearing nail polish. That can be very discouraging for someone seeking knowledge and contact with Allah and the Islamic community. I was instructed to do some very unusual things which I found odd to say the least. It took me about seven years to differentiate between "cultural customs" and Islamic practices. I know from other converts I have talked with they have had similar experiences. But, there are the sweet memories of praying alongside my sisters during Ramadan or Jumah when I feel so close to Allah that I weep with gratitude for the gift He gave me of the Quran and Islam.

I sometimes see this journey as one Allah has chosen for me and which He isn't going to let me out of! Of course, I have come to be very grateful for His patience and tolerance for my weakness. Allah has never backed out on the promises in the Quran. That's how I see it. If it seems disrespectful to someone else, I apologize, but my faith in Allah is at the deepest core of my being and today guides my life.

I still have many goals which I wish to achieve with my faith. I have come to accept my belief in Islam as a progression, a journey, a seed that was planted and has grown into a strong and living presence in my soul. I am not perfect, but I believe that I am a better Muslim this year than I was last year. I know by the number of things that I have left behind that were not pleasing to Allah. I know with each passing Ramadan because I can look back at my first weak attempts at fasting and realize that I can look forward to this month and that Allah will be there to help me through the weak moments. My children respect me. I honor my mother as Allah asks of us. I have come to accept the difficulties in my life as opportunities for Allah to strengthen me or let me practice patience or tolerance... or to "grow" me in some way.

For me, embracing Islam has been the single greatest gift ever granted to me. I am still grateful and awestruck by it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Studied Islam in order to find fault with it

Al-Haj Ibrahim Khalil Ahmad, formerly Ibrahim Khalil Philobus, was an Egyptian Coptic priest who studied theology and earned a masters degree from Princeton University. He studied Islam to find gaps to attack it; instead he embraced Islam with his four children, one of whom is now a professor at the Sorbonne, Paris. This is Mr. Khalil's story.

I was born in Alexandria on the 13th of January 1919 and was sent to the American Mission schools until I got my secondary education certificate there. In 1942 I got my diploma from Asiut University and then I specialized in religious studies as a prelude to join the Faculty of Theology. It was no easy task to join the faculty, as no candidate could join it unless he got a special recommendation from the church, and also, after he should pass a number of difficult exams. I got a recommendation from Al-Attareen Church in Alexandria and another from the Church Assembly of Lower Egypt after passing many tests to know my qualifications to become a man of religion. Then I got a third recommendation from Snodus Church Assembly which included priests from Sudan and Egypt.

The Snodus sanctioned my entrance into the Faculty of Theology in 1944 as a boarding student. There I studied at the hands of American and Egyptian teachers until my graduation in 1948.

I was supposed, he continued, to be appointed in Jerusalem had it not been for the war that broke out in Palestine that same year, so I was sent to Asna in Upper Egypt. That same year I registered for a thesis at the American University in Cairo. It was about the missionary activities among Muslims. My acquaintance with Islam started in the Faculty of Theology where I studied Islam and all the methods through which we could shake the faith of Muslims and raise misconceptions in their understanding of their own religion.

In 1952 I got my M.A. from Princeton University in U.S.A. and was appointed as a teacher in the Faculty of Theology in Asiut. I used to teach Islam in the faculty as well as the faulty misconceptions spread by its enemies and the missionaries against it. During that period I decided to enlarge my study of Islam, so that I should not read the missionaries books on it only. I had so much faith in myself that I was confirmed to read the other point of view. Thus I began to read books written by Muslim authors. I also decided to read the Quran and understand its meanings. This was implied by my love of knowledge and moved by my desire to add more proofs against Islam. The result was, however, exactly the reverse. My position began to shake and I started to feel an internal strong struggle and I discovered the falsehood of everything I had studied and preached to the people. But I could not face myself bravely and tried instead to overcome this internal crisis and continue my work.

In 1954, Mr. Khalil added, I was sent to Aswan as secretary general of the German Swiss Mission. That was only my apparent position for my real mission was to preach against Islam in Upper Egypt especially among Muslims. A missionary conference was held at that time at Cataract Hotel in Aswan and I was given the floor to speak. That day I spoke too much, reiterating all the repeated misconceptions against Islam; and at the end of my speech, the internal crisis came to me again and I started to revise my position.

Continuing his talk about the said crisis, Mr. Khalil said, I began to ask myself: Why should I say and do all these things which I know for sure I am a liar, as this is not the truth? I took my leave before the end of the conference and went out alone to my house. I was completely shaken. As I walked through Firyal public garden, I heard a verse of the Quran on the radio. It said: Say: It has been revealed to me that a company of Jinns listened (to the Quran). They said: We have really heard a wonderful recital! It gives guidance to the Right, and we have believed therein: We shall not join (in worship) any gods with our Lord. (Quran S72v1-2) And as for us, since we have listened to the Guidance, we have accepted it: and any one who believes in His Lord, has no fear of either a short (account) or of any injustice.(Quran S.72 V.13)

I felt a deep comfort that night and when I returned home I spent the whole night all by myself in my library reading the Quran. My wife inquired from me about the reason of my sitting up all night and I pleaded from her to leave me alone. I stopped for a long time thinking and meditating on the verse; Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, verily thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. (S.59 V.21) And the verse: Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and the Pagans, and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": Because amongst these are men devoted to learning. And men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous? (Quran S.5 V.82-84)

Mr. Khalil then quoted a third quotation from the Holy Quran which says: Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures), in the Taurat and in the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them what is bad (and impure): He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him and follow the light which is sent down with him, it is they who will prosper." Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: It is He that giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger. The unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His Words: follow Him that (so) you may be guided. (Quran S.7 V.157- 158)

Now that same night, Mr. Khalil dramatically concluded: I took my final decision. In the morning I spoke with my wife from whom I have three sons and one daughter. But no sooner than she felt that I was inclined to embrace Islam than she cried and asked for help from the head of the mission. His name was Monsieur Shavits from Switzerland. He was a very cunning man. When he asked me about my true attitude, I told him frankly what I really wanted and then he said: Regard yourself out of job until we discover what has befallen you. Then I said: This is my resignation from my job. He tried to convince me to postpone it, but I insisted. So he made a rumor among the people that I became mad. Thus I suffered a very severe test and oppression until I left Aswan for good and returned to Cairo.

When he was asked about the circumstances to his conversion he replied: In Cairo I was introduced to a respectable professor who helped me overcome my severe trial and this he did without knowing anything about my story. He treated me as a Muslim for I introduced myself to him as such although until then I did not embrace Islam officially. That was Dr. Muhammad Abdul Moneim Al Jamal the then undersecretary of treasury. He was highly interested in Islamic studies and wanted to make a translation of the Holy Quran to be published in America. He asked me to help him because I was fluent in English since I had got my M.A. from an American University. He also knew that I was preparing a comparative study of the Quran, the Torah and the Bible. We cooperated in this comparative study and in the translation of the Quran.

When Dr. Jamal knew that I had resigned from my job in Aswan and that I was then unemployed, he helped me with a job in Standard Stationery Company in Cairo. So I was well established after a short while. I did not tell my wife about my intention to embrace Islam thus she thought that I had forgotten the whole affair and that it was nothing but a transitory crisis that no more existed. But I knew quite well that my official conversion to Islam needs long complicated measures and it was in fact a battle which I preferred to postpone for some time until I became well off and after I completed my comparative study.

Then Mr. Khalil continued, In 1955 I did complete my study and my material and living affairs became well established. I resigned from the company and set up a training office for importing stationery and school articles. It was a successful business from which I gained much more money than I needed. Thus I decided to declare my official conversion to Islam. On the 25th of December 1959, I sent a telegram to Dr. Thompson, head of the American Mission in Egypt informing him that I had embraced Islam. When I told my true story to Dr. Jamal he was completely astonished. When I declared my conversion to Islam, new troubles began. Seven of my former colleagues in the mission had tried their best to persuade me to cancel my declaration, but I refused. They threatened to separate me from my wife and I said: She is free to do as she wishes. They threatened to kill me. But when they found me to be stubborn they left me alone and sent to me an old friend of mine who was also a colleague of mine in the mission. He wept very much in front of me. So I recited before him the following verses from the Quran: And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?. (Quran S.5 V.84) I said to him, "You should have wept in humiliation to God on hearing the Quran and believe in the truth which you know but you refuse. He stood up and left me as he saw no use. My official conversion to Islam was in January 1960.

Mr. Khalil was then asked about the attitude of his wife and children and he answered: My wife left me at that time and took with her all the furniture of our house. But all my children joined me and embraced Islam. The most enthusiastic among them was my eldest son Isaac who changed his name to Osman, then my second son Joseph and my son Samuel whose name is Jamal and daughter Majida who is now called Najwa. Osman is now a doctor of philosophy working as a professor in Sorbonne University in Paris teaching oriental studies and psychology. He also writes in Le Monde magazine. As in regards to my wife, she left the house for six years and agreed to come back in 1966 provided that she keeps her religion. I accepted this because in Islam there is no compulsion in religion. I said to her: I do not want you to became a Muslim for my sake but only after you are convinced. She feels now that she believes in Islam but she cannot declare this for fear of her family but we treat her as a Muslim woman and she fasts in Ramadan because all my children pray and fast. My daughter Najwa is a student in the Faculty of Commerce, Joseph is a doctor pharmeologist and Jamal is an engineer.

During this period, that is since 1961 until the present time I have been able to publish a number of books on Islam and the methods of the missionaries and the orientalist against it. I am now preparing a comparative study about women in the three Divine religions with the object of highlighting the status of women in Islam. In 1973 I performed Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and I am doing activities preaching Islam. I hold seminars in the universities and charitable societies. I received an invitation from Sudan in 1974 where I held many seminars. My time is fully used in the service of Islam.

Finally Mr. Khalil was asked about the salient features of Islam which have attracted his attention most. And he answered: My faith in Islam has been brought about through reading the Holy Quran and the biography of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him. I no longer believed in the misconceptions against Islam and I am especially attracted by the concept of unity of God, which is the most important feature of Islam. God is only One. Nothing is like Him. This belief makes me the servant of God only and of no one else. Oneness of God liberates man from servitude to any human being and that is true freedom.

I also like very much the rule of forgiveness in Islam and the direct relationship between God and His servants.

Say: "O my servants who have transgressed against their souls!, despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to your Lord (in repentance) and submit to Him before the Chastisement comes on you: After that ye shall not be helped. (Quran S.39 V.53-54)

Source: The Islamic Bulletin

Finding My Way….

How a spiritually dissatisfied American Catholic teacher found fulfillment and direction through her new job at a Muslim school.

My new position at the Islamic school was received with reserved enthusiasm from my Christian family. “Just make sure you do not convert,” my father-in-law at the time told me when he found out about it. My mother-in-law was intrigued by the idea of being around something “exotic”. I grappled with whether I wanted to work at this school. While I would have my own classroom (which I desperately wanted), I would only be part-time and I would be required to dress Islamically (even cover my hair). This whole concept was very foreign to me. I debated with myself for a day or two until deciding to take my first teaching assignment at this school. I was open and determined that this would be a learning experience for me. Boy, was it ever….

On the first day, the new “non-Muslim” teachers were given a “scarf” lesson by a sister in the teacher’s workroom. We were laughing as we tried different styles. I still remember that morning being pretty relaxed, and it was during this event that I realized I always thought Muslims were stern and serious. It is strange how one can hold certain stereotypes of people without even knowing them. Cross off one misconception…

During my 1st year of teaching, I learned many things. I was extremely impressed with the way that my students knew my religion (Christianity) better than I did. How did they know the stories? My students were always asking me questions about my beliefs, and they made me think. What DID I believe?

I was brought up Catholic, and as an adult, I started to stray from it. I didn’t know what it was that I felt uncomfortable with, but I just knew something wasn’t right. I ventured a little into the new-age type of Christianity, but some of that didn’t sit right with me either. I just knew that I wanted to connect with God. I didn’t want my religion to become something that I felt I had to do in order to be considered a “good person” in the eyes of my relatives (as was the case with my husband). I wanted to feel it in my heart. Looking back now, I was lost, but didn’t know it at the time.

Kids will be kids, and my Muslim students were no different. They left their books in my classroom instead of taking the home. This was a blessing in disguise as I started to read these books after class. So much of it made sense. To help matters along, one sister and brother were more than happy to answer all of my questions, and I had many! We would discuss Islam and religion for hours. It was very intellectually stimulating and I was excited about it. I felt that I had found what I was looking for. There was a peace slowly spreading over my heart…

Around this time, I started to read the Qu’ran at home. My husband at the time (I have since divorced him) did not like my interest in Islam. When I would read the Qu’ran, I would do so in private without his knowledge. At first, I felt that I was doing something blasphemous. I remember being very scared that God would be upset with me. How can any book other than the Bible be from God?? I tried to listen to my heart, and it was telling me to read. Some of the passages of the Qu’ran felt as if they were written just for me. I found myself sitting there and crying many times. All at once, I felt at peace, yet confused. There was something holding me back from accepting it full-heartedly.

After months of reading, talking with people, and a lot of soul searching, there was one event that I consider to be the determining factor in my becoming Muslim. I was standing in my son’s room trying to pray. I had a book on Islam opened to the “how to pray” section. I was standing there in conflict with myself. I was not used to praying directly to God. All of my life I was taught to pray to Jesus, who would then tell God my prayer (or something like that). I was so scared that I was doing something wrong. I didn’t want Jesus mad at me. At that moment, it hit me like a tidal wave. Did I really think that God would be upset at me for wanting to get closer to Him? Did I really believe that Jesus would be upset with me for trying to get closer to God? Isn’t that what he wants me to do? God knows my intent. To this day, I believe it was God talking to me-that is how powerful the feeling and voice inside my head was. What did I have to fear?? How could I NOT convert to Islam? At that moment, I started crying and crying. It was what I needed to hear. I knew at that time that I had to convert to Islam. It felt right and nothing else mattered.

After taking my shahada in front of the entire school, I was a new person. I did not have that “where-do-I-belong-and-what-do-I-believe-in” feeling anymore. It was gone. I knew that I made the right decision.

I have never been so close to God as I have been since becoming Muslim. Alhamdullilah. I am so lucky. Thank you for allowing me to share my experience with you.
Islam For Today

Marwa's conversion story

How a headstrong Slovakian teenager found solace and contentment in Islam.

I converted to Islam just over one year ago. I'm from Slovakia (Europe), but I lived in England for 2 two years and also in Holland. I never really cared about any religion. I didn't have religious friends or anything like that. I was a usual teenager. Then I left home when I was 18 and went to work in England as an au-pair. I loved it. And of course I went really wild.

When I was 21 I came to Holland. I was unhappy for a long time. I met my husband just 2 weeks after my arrival. We fell head over heels in love and he introduced me to Islam. I needed it. I have a very strong personality and say what I want. It brought me trouble sometimes. I have a diploma from Commercial College, two certificates for English (one for tourism and business) and know a lot about the world of economy and politics.

But I needed some spirituality. I found it in God. It might seem I did it for my husband, but it is not true. He said it was my own decision whether I do it or not. Since I did I feel very happy. Somehow complete and fulfilled. It is difficult at times to explain to my parents or friends, but they try to understand.

I know I did some bad things in my life, but I also believe that our Creator is the Most-forgiving, Most-merciful. I'm trying to be as good as I can. Islam brought me my freedom and happiness. It's hard to explain how I feel, but I know that my fellow sisters and brothers will understand how it is to stand alone. My home country is very intolerant against Muslims, so I'll have a hard time when I go and see my parents. But God will help me to go through it.

There are still things I need to find out and I cannot wait to know them all. I realised one thing since I became a Muslimah and started wearing Hijab. Fellow Muslims smile at me and say Inshaalah or Alhamdulillah. It's a great feeling.

This is my story in short. Peace be upon you all. Ma`a assalama,

Islam For Today

Why I am a Muslim

Ibrahim, a Pennsylvania teenager, explains how difficulties with church teaching about Jesus as God led him from Catholicism to Islam.

A time comes in everyone's life, or at least I hope it comes, when they realize that they have to not only believe what they believe in, whatever it may be, but get out there and proclaim it to the world. Luckily, that time came early for me. I am 17, and Islam is the belief that I’m proclaiming.

I was raised Catholic. Not internally as much as externally. I went to Catholic Sunday school, called CCD, but the Catholic view of God never played a major roll in my childhood. It was a Sunday thing. Anyhow, I started to enjoy Mass around 7th grade. It made me feel good to do the right thing. I was always a rather moral person, but I never really studied the fundamentals of Catholicism. I just knew that I felt good worshipping my creator.

I really liked Catholicism, but I always saw it as us (the Catholics) with Jesus worshipping God, not us worshipping God and Jesus as one. I saw Jesus (peace be upon him) as my example on how to be a good follower of and submitter to God's will, but not as God himself.

Before I was confirmed in 8th grade, in the fall of 1999, I learned a lot about what Catholicism was. The Catholicism of the Church had a lot on viewing Jesus as God in it. Nothing like my “undivided God being worshipped by me with Jesus as an example” train of thought. It was like they just opened up a can of cold, illogical confusion and tried to feed it to me. It didn’t feel right.

I continued with Catholic church, and kept on worshipping. But I talked to many in the church about my feelings that Jesus wasn't God but more of a Prophet, an example. They told me that I had to accept him as God and as a sacrifice, and so on. I just wasn't buying it. I tried to buy it but I guess God withhold the sale for my own benefit. There was a better car out there for me. I continued at the church.

Sometime in mid-December of 1999, for no reason that I can recall I started reading up on Islam in encyclopedias. I remember making a list of bolded words in the entry for "Islam" in an old 1964 Grolier World Book that I found in my closet, and studying them. For some reason I was amazed by this faith and that it was all about God and that it was everything that I believed all my life - right here. Previously, I had accepted that there was no faith like I felt inside of me. But I was amazed that I had found this faith. I found out that "my" faith had a name, and millions of other adherents!

Without ever reading a Qur'an or talking to another Muslim, I said shahada (declaring your belief in no god but God) on 31 December 1999. As the months passed, I learned more. I went through many periods of confusion, happiness, doubt and amazement. Islam took me on an enlightening tour of me, everyone else, and God.

The transition was slow. I was still attending Mass five months into my change of faith. Each time I went, I felt more and more distant from the congregation, but closer and closer to Prophet Jesus and God.

During Ramadan 2001, the second time I fasted (the first year, I converted during Ramadan and did not fast), I went to the library during lunch period. It was better than sitting at a table with my friends, because I got work done in the library. I swear my grades went up. Anyways, I started talking to the only other Muslim at my school, John. We talked about Islam a little more each day. He's an awesome brother and he took me to the mosque on the last Friday of Ramadan. Going was one of the best things I ever made in my life. God really answered my prayers this time. I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn't at all. It was the most natural thing I ever did in my life. I felt home. I realized something before leaving. As I sat there on the floor, praying to God, I realized that the room was full of others but it was OK. See, at home when someone asks me what I am doing, I never say I am praying. I never admit it to anyone. It is too awkward. But there, at the masjid, I was praying to God in front of a score of other Muslims and I felt perfectly fine. Better than fine! I felt secure and safe. It was the most liberating thing since I accepted God into my heart that cold New Year's Eve almost two years ago.

I never told my parents right out. In fact, I don't plan to. The most significant clue that I gave came around 1:00 AM on 16 December 2001, when I finally told my dad I was going to the mosque in the morning with a friend when he asked me why I was setting my alarm. He told me how he can't wait for me to move out of the house, how displeased he is with me and how stupid the choices I make are to him. I never told them straight out because I figured it was best to test the waters by revealing clues bit by bit; I didn't want to send a shockwave through the family. I can only imagine what my dad would do if he knew I was actually a practicing Muslim. He seems to hate my guts just for studying the faith, which he thinks is all I am doing. I understand that my dad is a depressed man, so I don't really hold this all against him. I mean, it is his fault for thinking himself so smart that he doesn't need God. That thought is what got him so depressed. But I don't think he realized how hard one's heart can be when you deny your human need for a relationship with your Creator. So I don't hold it all against him. He didn't know what he was getting into. My mom doesn't know that I am a Muslim, but at least she hasn't shown her anger over me going to the mosque. She is upset over it but never told me that I displease her, at least. As God commands, I'll continue to try my best to be nice to my parents as long as they don't attempt to take away my Islam. The best thing that I can do for them is to be a good example so that maybe one day, inshallah, they can see that there is a better way of living than living in the dark world of God-denial.

I've never been to the Mid-East, but I am studying Islam every day. I read books from every point of view. Sufi, Shia, Sunni, books on the Qur'an alone... The Muslims view sects as haram, so no matter what you believe you are always a Muslim and nothing extra. You may have completely different views than another Muslim, but as long as you both believe that there is no god but God, you are both Muslims and that's that. I read a lot on-line, and discuss a lot with other Muslims on-line and on the phone. I've met some really great people on-line who have taught me a lot about life, Islam and God.

Right now, I am 100% a Muslim and that will never change, inshallah. I thank God that I've gone through so many periods of doubt. When I look back I see that it was not God leaving me but God telling me that it was time that I asked myself how much I loved God, and what I was willing to go through to understand my faith. A week of crying, depression, prayer, reading to the extreme, and ignoring most other things in life sounds harsh...but the reward - knowing so much more about yourself, God, and the relationship between you (Islam) - is worth more than any material things. Through my interrogation of Islam I gained God’s most precious gift - Islam, or surrender to the peace. I've heard Christians say that with Christianity you "know God on a personal level." In Islam, your relationship with God is so much deeper than that. God is with me every moment, guiding me, teaching me, loving me, protecting me, liberating me, enlightening me, comforting me... Alhamdulilah for Islam!

Islam has done a lot for me. More than I could have ever guessed. And every day, it just gets better. I went from living my life on a trial-and-error basis to embracing guidance, and now knowing what the best choices are for me to make. From seeking who I am and spending a life in confusion, I am being guided. I can't find the words to say what its like, but I'll try again: God reveals to me what life is. I don't have to guess anymore.

Sura 93, “The Morning Hours”

By the morning hours
By the night when it is still
Your lord has not abandoned you
and does not hate you

What is after will be better
than what came before
To you the lord will be giving
You will be content

Did he not find you orphaned and give you shelter
Find you lost and guide you
Find you in hunger and provide for you

As for the orphan, do not oppress him
And one who asks, do not turn him away
And the grace of your lord -- proclaim

That is what I went through, what God did for me - what I am. So here is my proclamation to the world. Islam is more than you think it is, in fact more liberal than most would wish it to be. But do not only listen. Study all views for yourself...and come to your own conclusion. God says “let there be no compulsion in religion” because faith in God is a choice made by the heart, and it can't be forced.Islam For Today

Becoming Muslim - by Nuh Ha Mim Keller

"I studied philosophy at the university and it taught me to ask two things of whoever claimed to have the truth: What do you mean, and how do you know? When I asked these questions of my own religious tradition, I found no answers, and realized that Christianity had slipped from my hands."
The story of American former Catholic, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who in the 25 years since his conversion has gone on to become one of the leading contemporary scholars of Islam.

Born in 1954 in the farm country of the northwestern United States, I was raised in a religious family as a Roman Catholic. The Church provided a spiritual world that was unquestionable in my childhood, if anything more real than the physical world around me, but as I grew older, and especially after I entered a Catholic university and read more, my relation to the religion became increasingly called into question, in belief and practice.

One reason was the frequent changes in Catholic liturgy and ritual that occurred in the wake of the Second Vatican Council of 1963, suggesting to laymen that the Church had no firm standards. To one another, the clergy spoke about flexibility and liturgical relevance, but to ordinary Catholics they seemed to be groping in the dark. God does not change, nor the needs of the human soul, and there was no new revelation from heaven. Yet we rang in the changes, week after week, year after year; adding, subtracting, changing the language from Latin to English, finally bringing in guitars and folk music. Priests explained and explained as laymen shook their heads. The search for relevance left large numbers convinced that there had not been much in the first place.

A second reason was a number of doctrinal difficulties, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, which no one in the history of the world, neither priest nor layman, had been able to explain in a convincing way, and which resolved itself, to the common mind at least, in a sort of godhead-by-committee, shared between God the Father, who ruled the world from heaven; His son Jesus Christ, who saved humanity on earth; and the Holy Ghost, who was pictured as a white dove and appeared to have a considerably minor role. I remember wanting to make special friends with just one of them so he could handle my business with the others, and to this end, would sometimes pray earnestly to this one and sometimes to that; but the other two were always stubbornly there. I finally decided that God the Father must be in charge of the other two, and this put the most formidable obstacle in the way of my Catholicism, the divinity of Christ. Moreover, reflection made it plain that the nature of man contradicted the nature of God in every particular, the limitary and finite on the one hand, the absolute and infinite on the other. That Jesus was God was something I cannot remember having ever really believed, in childhood or later.

Another point of incredulity was the trading of the Church in stocks and bonds in the hereafter which it called indulgences. Do such and such and so-and-so many years will be remitted from your sentence in purgatory. That had seemed so false to Martin Luther at the outset of the Reformation.

I also remember a desire for a sacred scripture, something on the order of a book that could furnish guidance. A Bible was given to me one Christmas, a handsome edition, but on attempting to read it, I found it so rambling and devoid of a coherent thread that it was difficult to think of a way to base one's life upon it. Only later did I learn how Christians solve the difficulty in practice, Protestants by creating sectarian theologies, each emphasizing the texts of their sect and downplaying the rest; Catholics by downplaying it all, except the snippets mentioned in their liturgy. Something seemed lacking in a sacred book that could not be read as an integral whole.

Moreover, when I went to the university, I found that the authenticity of the book, especially the New Testament, had come into considerable doubt as a result of modern hermeneutical studies by Christians themselves. In a course on contemporary theology, I read the Norman Perrin translation of The Problem of the Historical Jesus by Joachim Jeremias, one of the principal New Testament scholars of this century. A textual critic who was a master of the original languages and had spent long years with the texts, he had finally agreed with the German theologian Rudolph Bultmann that, without a doubt, it is true to say that the dream of ever writing a biography of Jesus is over, meaning that the life of Christ as he actually lived it could not be reconstructed from the New Testament with any degree of confidence. If this were accepted from a friend of Christianity and one of its foremost textual experts, I reasoned, what was left for its enemies to say? And what then remained of the Bible except to acknowledge that it was a record of truths mixed with fictions, conjectures projected onto Christ by later followers, themselves at odds with each other as to who the master had been and what he had taught. And if theologians like Jeremias could reassure themselves that somewhere under the layers of later accretions to the New Testament there was something called the historical Jesus and his message, how could the ordinary person hope to find it, or know it, should it be found?

I studied philosophy at the university and it taught me to ask two things of whoever claimed to have the truth: What do you mean, and how do you know? When I asked these questions of my own religious tradition, I found no answers, and realized that Christianity had slipped from my hands. I then embarked on a search that is perhaps not unfamiliar to many young people in the West, a quest for meaning in a meaningless world.

I began where I had lost my previous belief, with the philosophers, yet wanting to believe, seeking not philosophy, but rather a philosophy. I read the essays of the great pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer, which taught about the phenomenon of the ages of life, and that money, fame, physical strength, and intelligence all passed from one with the passage of years, but only moral excellence remained. I took this lesson to heart and remembered it in after years. His essays also drew attention to the fact that a person was wont to repudiate in later years what he fervently espouses in the heat of youth.

With a prescient wish to find the Divine, I decided to imbue myself with the most cogent arguments of atheism that I could find, that perhaps I might find a way out of them later. So I read the Walter Kaufmann translations of the works of the immoralist Friedrich Nietzsche. The many-faceted genius dissected the moral judgments and beliefs of mankind with brilliant philological and psychological arguments that ended in accusing human language itself, and the language of nineteenth-century science in particular, of being so inherently determined and mediated by concepts inherited from the language of morality that in their present form they could never hope to uncover reality. Aside from their immunological value against total skepticism, Nietzsche's works explained why the West was post-Christian, and accurately predicted the unprecedented savagery of the twentieth century, debunking the myth that science could function as a moral replacement for the now dead religion.

At a personal level, his tirades against Christianity, particularly in The Genealogy of Morals, gave me the benefit of distilling the beliefs of the monotheistic tradition into a small number of analyzable forms. He separated unessential concepts (such as the bizarre spectacle of an omnipotent deity's suicide on the cross) from essential ones, which I now, though without believing in them, apprehended to be but three alone: that God existed; that He created man in the world and defined the conduct expected of him in it; and that He would judge man accordingly in the hereafter and send him to eternal reward or punishment.

It was during this time that I read an early translation of the Koran which I grudgingly admired, between agnostic reservations, for the purity with which it presented these fundamental concepts. Even if false, I thought, there could not be a more essential expression of religion. As a literary work, the translation, perhaps it was Sales, was uninspired and openly hostile to its subject matter, whereas I knew the Arabic original was widely acknowledged for its beauty and eloquence among the religious books of mankind. I felt a desire to learn Arabic to read the original.

On a vacation home from school, I was walking upon a dirt road between some fields of wheat, and it happened that the sun went down. By some inspiration, I realized that it was a time of worship, a time to bow and pray to the one God. But it was not something one could rely on oneself to provide the details of, but rather a passing fancy, or perhaps the beginning of an awareness that atheism was an inauthentic way of being.

I carried something of this disquiet with me when I transferred to the University of Chicago, where I studied the epistemology of ethical theory how moral judgments were reached reading and searching among the books of the philosophers for something to shed light on the question of meaninglessness, which was both a personal concern and one of the central philosophical problems of our age.

According to some, scientific observation could only yield description statements of the form X is Y, for example, The object is red, Its weight is two kilos, Its height is ten centimeters, and so on, in each of which the functional was a scientifically verifiable is, whereas in moral judgments the functional element was an ought, a description statement which no amount of scientific observation could measure or verify. It appeared that ought was logically meaningless, and with it all morality whatsoever, a position that reminded me of those described by Lucian in his advice that whoever sees a moral philosopher coming down the road should flee from him as from a mad dog. For such a person, expediency ruled, and nothing checked his behavior but convention.

As Chicago was a more expensive school, and I had to raise tuition money, I found summer work on the West Coast with a seining boat fishing in Alaska. The sea proved a school in its own right, one I was to return to for a space of eight seasons, for the money. I met many people on boats, and saw something of the power and greatness of the wind, water, storms, and rain; and the smallness of man. These things lay before us like an immense book, but my fellow fishermen and I could only discern the letters of it that were within our context: to catch as many fish as possible within the specified time to sell to the tenders. Few knew how to read the book as a whole. Sometimes, in a blow, the waves rose like great hills, and the captain would hold the wheel with white knuckles, our bow one minute plunging gigantically down into a valley of green water, the next moment reaching the bottom of the trough and soaring upwards towards the sky before topping the next crest and starting down again.

Early in my career as a deck hand, I had read the Hazel Barnes translation of Jean Paul Sartres "Being and Nothingness", in which he argued that phenomena only arose for consciousness in the existential context of human projects, a theme that recalled Marx's 1844 manuscripts, where nature was produced by man, meaning, for example, that when the mystic sees a stand of trees, his consciousness hypostatizes an entirely different phenomenal object than a poet does, for example, or a capitalist. To the mystic, it is a manifestation; to the poet, a forest; to the capitalist, lumber. According to such a perspective, a mountain only appears as tall in the context of the project of climbing it, and so on, according to the instrumental relations involved in various human interests. But the great natural events of the sea surrounding us seemed to defy, with their stubborn, irreducible facticity, our uncomprehending attempts to come to terms with them. Suddenly, we were just there, shaken by the forces around us without making sense of them, wondering if we would make it through. Some, it was true, would ask God's help at such moments, but when we returned safely to shore, we behaved like men who knew little of Him, as if those moments had been a lapse into insanity, embarrassing to think of at happier times. It was one of the lessons of the sea that, in fact, such events not only existed but perhaps even preponderated in our life. Man was small and weak, the forces around him were large, and he did not control them.

Sometimes a boat would sink and men would die. I remember a fisherman from another boat who was working near us one opening, doing the same job as I did, piling web. He smiled across the water as he pulled the net from the hydraulic block overhead, stacking it neatly on the stern to ready it for the next set. Some weeks later, his boat overturned while fishing in a storm, and he got caught in the web and drowned. I saw him only once again, in a dream, beckoning to me from the stern of his boat.

The tremendousness of the scenes we lived in, the storms, the towering sheer cliffs rising vertically out of the water for hundreds of feet, the cold and rain and fatigue, the occasional injuries and deaths of workers these made little impression on most of us. Fishermen were, after all, supposed to be tough. On one boat, the family that worked it was said to lose an occasional crew member while running at sea at the end of the season, invariably the sole non-family member who worked with them, his loss saving them the wages they would have otherwise had to pay him.

The captain of another was a twenty-seven-year-old who delivered millions of dollars worth of crab each year in the Bering Sea. When I first heard of him, we were in Kodiak, his boat at the city dock they had tied up to after a lengthy run some days before. The captain was presently indisposed in his bunk in the stateroom, where he had been vomiting up blood from having eaten a glass uptown the previous night to prove how tough he was. He was in somewhat better condition when I later saw him in the Bering Sea at the end of a long winter king crab season. He worked in his wheelhouse up top, surrounded by radios that could pull in a signal from just about anywhere, computers, Loran, sonar, depth-finders, radar. His panels of lights and switches were set below the 180-degree sweep of shatterproof windows that overlooked the sea and the men on deck below, to whom he communicated by loudspeaker. They often worked round the clock, pulling their gear up from the icy water under watchful batteries of enormous electric lights attached to the masts that turned the perpetual night of the winter months into day. The captain had a reputation as a screamer, and had once locked his crew out on deck in the rain for eleven hours because one of them had gone inside to have a cup of coffee without permission. Few crewmen lasted longer than a season with him, though they made nearly twice the yearly income of, say, a lawyer or an advertising executive, and in only six months. Fortunes were made in the Bering Sea in those years, before overfishing wiped out the crab.

At present, he was at anchor, and was amiable enough when we tied up to him and he came aboard to sit and talk with our own captain. They spoke at length, at times gazing thoughtfully out at the sea through the door or windows, at times looking at each other sharply when something animated them, as the topic of what his competitors thought of him. "They wonder why I have a few bucks", he said. "Well I slept in my own home one night last year."

He later had his crew throw off the lines and pick the anchor, his eyes flickering warily over the water from the windows of the house as he pulled away with a blast of smoke from the stack. His watchfulness, his walrus-like physique, his endless voyages after game and markets, reminded me of other predatory hunter-animals of the sea. Such people, good at making money but heedless of any ultimate end or purpose, made an impression on me, and I increasingly began to wonder if men didn't need principles to guide them and tell them why they were there. Without such principles, nothing seemed to distinguish us above our prey except being more thorough, and technologically capable of preying longer, on a vaster scale, and with greater devastation than the animals we hunted.

These considerations were in my mind the second year I studied at Chicago, where I became aware through studies of philosophical moral systems that philosophy had not been successful in the past at significantly influencing peoples morals and preventing injustice, and I came to realize that there was little hope for it to do so in the future. I found that comparing human cultural systems and societies in their historical succession and multiplicity had led many intellectuals to moral relativism, since no moral value could be discovered which on its own merits was transculturally valid, a reflection leading to nihilism, the perspective that sees human civilizations as plants that grow out of the earth, springing from their various seeds and soils, thriving for a time, and then dying away.

Some heralded this as intellectual liberation, among them Emile Durkheim in his "Elementary Forms of the Religious Life", or Sigmund Freud in his "Totem and Taboo", which discussed mankind as if it were a patient and diagnosed its religious traditions as a form of a collective neurosis that we could now hope to cure, by applying to them a thoroughgoing scientific atheism, a sort of salvation through pure science. On this subject, I bought the Jeremy Shapiro translation of "Knowledge and Human Interests" by Jurgen Habermas, who argued that there was no such thing as pure science that could be depended upon to forge boldly ahead in a steady improvement of itself and the world. He called such a misunderstanding scientism, not science. Science in the real world, he said, was not free of values, still less of interests. The kinds of research that obtain funding, for example, were a function of what their society deemed meaningful, expedient, profitable, or important.

Habermas had been of a generation of German academics who, during the thirties and forties, knew what was happening in their country, but insisted they were simply engaged in intellectual production, that they were living in the realm of scholarship, and need not concern themselves with whatever the state might choose to do with their research. The horrible question mark that was attached to German intellectuals when the Nazi atrocities became public after the war made Habermas think deeply about the ideology of pure science. If anything was obvious, it was that the nineteenth-century optimism of thinkers like Freud and Durkheim was no longer tenable.

I began to re-assess the intellectual life around me. Like Schopenhauer, I felt that higher education must produce higher human beings. But at the university, I found lab people talking to each other about forging research data to secure funding for the coming year; luminaries who wouldn't permit tape recorders at their lectures for fear that competitors in the same field would go one step further with their research and beat them to publication; professors vying with each other in the length of their courses syllabuses. The moral qualities I was accustomed to associate with ordinary, unregenerate humanity seemed as frequently met with in sophisticated academics as they had been in fishermen. If one could laugh at fishermen who, after getting a boatload of fish in a big catch, would cruise back and forth in front of the others to let them see how laden down in the water they were, ostensibly looking for more fish; what could one say about the Ph.D.'s who behaved the same way about their books and articles? I felt that their knowledge had not developed their persons, that the secret of higher man did not lie in their sophistication.

I wondered if I hadn't gone down the road of philosophy as far as one could go. While it had debunked my Christianity and provided some genuine insights, it had not yet answered the big questions. Moreover, I felt that this was somehow connected I didn't know whether as cause or effect to the fact that our intellectual tradition no longer seemed to seriously comprehend itself. What were any of us, whether philosophers, fishermen, garbagemen, or kings, except bit players in a drama we did not understand, diligently playing out our roles until our replacements were sent, and we gave our last performance? But could one legitimately hope for more than this?

I read "Kojves Introduction to the Reading of Hegel", in which he explained that for Hegel, philosophy did not culminate in the system, but rather in the Wise Man, someone able to answer any possible question on the ethical implications of human actions. This made me consider our own plight in the twentieth century, which could no longer answer a single ethical question. It was thus as if this century's unparalleled mastery of concrete things had somehow ended by making us things. I contrasted this with Hegel's concept of the concrete in his "Phenomenology of Mind". An example of the abstract, in his terms, was the limitary physical reality of the book now held in your hands, while the concrete was its interconnection with the larger realities it presupposed, the modes of production that determined the kind of ink and paper in it, the aesthetic standards that dictated its color and design, the systems of marketing and distribution that had carried it to the reader, the historical circumstances that had brought about the readers literacy and taste; the cultural events that had mediated its style and usage; in short, the bigger picture in which it was articulated and had its being.

For Hegel, the movement of philosophical investigation always led from the abstract to the concrete, to the more real. He was therefore able to say that philosophy necessarily led to theology, whose object was the ultimately real, the Deity. This seemed to me to point up an irreducible lack in our century. I began to wonder if, by materializing our culture and our past, we had not somehow abstracted ourselves from our wider humanity, from our true nature in relation to a higher reality.

At this juncture, I read a number of works on Islam, among them the books of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who believed that many of the problems of western man, especially those of the environment, were from his having left the divine wisdom of revealed religion, which taught him his true place as a creature of God in the natural world and to understand and respect it. Without it, he burned up and consumed nature with ever more effective technological styles of commercial exploitation that ruined his world from without while leaving him increasingly empty within, because he did not know why he existed or to what end he should act.

I reflected that this might be true as far as it went, but it begged the question as to the truth of revealed religion. Everything on the face of the earth, all moral and religious systems, were on the same plane, unless one could gain certainty that one of them was from a higher source, the sole guarantee of the objectivity, the whole force, of moral law. Otherwise, one man's opinion was as good as another's, and we remained in an undifferentiated sea of conflicting individual interests, in which no valid objection could be raised to the strong eating the weak.

I read other books on Islam, and came across some passages translated by W. Montgomery Watt from "That Which Delivers from Error" by the theologian and mystic Ghazali, who, after a mid-life crisis of questioning and doubt, realized that beyond the light of prophetic revelation there is no other light on the face of the earth from which illumination may be received, the very point to which my philosophical inquiries had led. Here was, in Hegel's terms, the Wise Man, in the person of a divinely inspired messenger who alone had the authority to answer questions of good and evil.

I also read A.J. Arberrys translation "The Koran Interpreted", and I recalled my early wish for a sacred book. Even in translation, the superiority of the Muslim scripture over the Bible was evident in every line, as if the reality of divine revelation, dimly heard of all my life, had now been placed before my eyes. In its exalted style, its power, its inexorable finality, its uncanny way of anticipating the arguments of the atheistic heart in advance and answering them; it was a clear exposition of God as God and man as man, the revelation of the awe-inspiring Divine Unity being the identical revelation of social and economic justice among men.

I began to learn Arabic at Chicago, and after studying the grammar for a year with a fair degree of success, decided to take a leave of absence to try to advance in the language in a year of private study in Cairo. Too, a desire for new horizons drew me, and after a third season of fishing, I went to the Middle East.

In Egypt, I found something I believe brings many to Islam, namely, the mark of pure monotheism upon its followers, which struck me as more profound than anything I had previously encountered. I met many Muslims in Egypt, good and bad, but all influenced by the teachings of their Book to a greater extent than I had ever seen elsewhere. It has been some fifteen years since then, and I cannot remember them all, or even most of them, but perhaps the ones I can recall will serve to illustrate the impressions made.

One was a man on the side of the Nile near the Miqyas Gardens, where I used to walk. I came upon him praying on a piece of cardboard, facing across the water. I started to pass in front of him, but suddenly checked myself and walked around behind, not wanting to disturb him. As I watched a moment before going my way, I beheld a man absorbed in his relation to God, oblivious to my presence, much less my opinions about him or his religion. To my mind, there was something magnificently detached about this, altogether strange for someone coming from the West, where praying in public was virtually the only thing that remained obscene.

Another was a young boy from secondary school who greeted me near Khan al-Khalili, and because I spoke some Arabic and he spoke some English and wanted to tell me about Islam, he walked with me several miles across town to Giza, explaining as much as he could. When we parted, I think he said a prayer that I might become Muslim.

Another was a Yemeni friend living in Cairo who brought me a copy of the Koran at my request to help me learn Arabic. I did not have a table beside the chair where I used to sit and read in my hotel room, and it was my custom to stack the books on the floor. When I set the Koran by the others there, he silently stooped and picked it up, out of respect for it. This impressed me because I knew he was not religious, but here was the effect of Islam upon him.

Another was a woman I met while walking beside a bicycle on an unpaved road on the opposite side of the Nile from Luxor. I was dusty, and somewhat shabbily clothed, and she was an old woman dressed in black from head to toe who walked up, and without a word or glance at me, pressed a coin into my hand so suddenly that in my surprise I dropped it. By the time I picked it up, she had hurried away. Because she thought I was poor, even if obviously non-Muslim, she gave me some money without any expectation for it except what was between her and her God. This act made me think a lot about Islam, because nothing seemed to have motivated her but that.

Many other things passed through my mind during the months I stayed in Egypt to learn Arabic. I found myself thinking that a man must have some sort of religion, and I was more impressed by the effect of Islam on the lives of Muslims, a certain nobility of purpose and largesse of soul, than I had ever been by any other religions or even atheisms effect on its followers. The Muslims seemed to have more than we did.

Christianity had its good points to be sure, but they seemed mixed with confusions, and I found myself more and more inclined to look to Islam for their fullest and most perfect expression. The first question we had memorized from our early catechism had been Why were you created? to which the correct answer was "to know, love, and serve God". When I reflected on those around me, I realized that Islam seemed to furnish the most comprehensive and understandable way to practice this on a daily basis.

As for the inglorious political fortunes of the Muslims today, I did not feel these to be a reproach against Islam, or to relegate it to an inferior position in a natural order of world ideologies, but rather saw them as a low phase in a larger cycle of history. Foreign hegemony over Muslim lands had been witnessed before in the thorough going destruction of Islamic civilization in the thirteenth century by the Mongol horde, who razed cities and built pyramids of human heads from the steppes of Central Asia to the Muslim heartlands, after which the fullness of destiny brought forth the Ottoman Empire to raise the Word of Allah and make it a vibrant political reality that endured for centuries. It was now, I reflected, merely the turn of contemporary Muslims to strive for a new historic crystallization of Islam, something one might well aspire to share in.

When a friend in Cairo one day asked me, Why don't you become a Muslim?, I found that God had created within me a desire to belong to this religion, which so enriches its followers, from the simplest hearts to the most magisterial intellects. It is not through an act of the mind or will that anyone becomes a Muslim, but rather through the mercy of God, and this, in the final analysis, was what brought me to Islam in Cairo in 1977.

Is it not time that the hearts of those who believe should be humbled to the Remembrance of God and the Truth which He has sent down, and that they should not be as those to whom the Book was given aforetime, and the term seemed over long to them, so that their hearts have become hard, and many of them are ungodly? Know that God revives the earth after it was dead. We have indeed made clear for you the signs, that haply you will understand. (Koran 57:16-17). Islam for Today