Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mum, I've decided I want to follow Allah

Western women are turning to Islam in rapidly increasing numbers. KAY JARDINE discovers why they are so keen to become Muslims

Bullying, depression, and insomnia made Kimberley McCrindle's teenage years particularly difficult. Taunts from classmates about her weight and how she looked left the 19-year-old student feeling like she didn't really fit in, and always searching for something that would make her feel happy, that would make her feel she belonged.
McCrindle, from a family of atheists, did not encounter religion until she began religious studies at high school in Penicuik, when her new interest prompted her to start going to her local church on Sundays. But the peace and happiness McCrindle was looking for eluded her until she started college in Edinburgh, where she made friends with some Muslim people and discovered Islam.
"I was looking for peace," she says. "I'd had a rough past. My teenage years weren't great: I was bullied at school, people called me fat and ugly, and I was looking for something to make me happy. I tried to go to church once a week but I wouldn't class myself a Christian; I was just interested. But it wasn't for me, I didn't feel in place there.
"When you walk into a mosque you feel really peaceful. Praying five times a day is really focused. It gives you a purpose in your life. The Koran is like a guide to help you: when you read it, it makes you feel better."
McCrindle became a Muslim three years ago and is now known by her married Arabic name, Tasnim Salih. She is one of a rapidly increasing number of British women turning to Islam, thought to be the fastest growing religion in the world. Although there are no official figures on the subject, there is no doubt that the number of converts is on the rise and the majority are women, according to Nicole Bourque, a senior lecturer in social anthropology at Glasgow University and an expert in conversion to Islam in Britain.
"There are people converting all the time," she says. "I would estimate that there are probably around 200 converts to Islam in Glasgow alone, but that's just a rough estimate. The data is difficult to acquire." Other estimates put the Glasgow figure closer to 500.
Mohammad Faroghul-Quadri, imam at the Khazra mosque in Glasgow, says that whichever religion people choose to reach God, whether it's Christianity or Islam or something else, the important thing is that they are getting peace of mind and heart, and proper guidance from God.
The appeal of Islam to liberated western women is difficult for many to understand, largely because of the widespread perception in the west that it treats women badly. A forthcoming documentary, Mum I'm a Muslim, addresses this very issue by talking to converts in Sheffield about their experiences. At a preview in Glasgow, I asked a group of converts from Glasgow and Edinburgh what motivated them to change every aspect of their lives, including their names, to become Muslim.
For 27-year-old Bahiya Malik, or Lucy Norris to her parents, it's difficult to explain. Bahiya, who lives in Edinburgh, her twin sister, Victoria, and their brother, Matthew, grew up as practising Christians in a rural area in the West Midlands, where they attended Sunday school in the little church at the top of their road. As they got older, the three stopped going to church and seven years ago, at the age of 20, both Bahiya and her sister converted to Islam - six months after their brother.
"Maybe all through our teenage years we hadn't been that happy. I can't really say what it was. I don't know if we felt there was something missing or that we didn't fit in. We were a little bit shy and we weren't really outgoing sort of people," she says. At the time, Bahiya was two years into a media and television course in Edinburgh but was feeling uninspired. After around six months of learning about Islam, Bahiya realised that living her life according to the rules of Islam was what would make her happy and, during an emotional visit to a mosque in London, made her declaration of faith.
"I think it's something you feel in your heart, this pull," she says. "You can't really put it into words. It's like your heart speaking, something you feel inside and you know it's for you. Allah has chosen this for you, it's out of your power."
Women who turn to Islam are aware of the widespread western perception that they are oppressed and discriminated against, but insist that the depiction is a false image. For many it is a spiritual journey, which, far from repressing them, improves their social status and gives them new rights.
"You seem to be really looked after," says Tasnim. "As a Muslim woman, Muslim men really respect you; they do everything for you. You're highly thought of and protected." Bahiya says: "I feel that because you cover yourself up you're not seen as a sex symbol, and because people can't judge you on your appearance, they have to judge you as a human being. That's quite liberating."
As an act of modesty, many Muslim women don't wear make up outside the home and it is often a part of their old life that new female converts are happy to discard because of the liberating feeling that comes from knowing their appearance doesn't matter. They resist being shown as they were before their conversion.
Hafsa Hashmi, who lives in Glasgow, converted to Islam 24 years ago and felt life outside Islam was like having to "keep up with the Joneses". Under Islam, however, she says: "Your aim is not for this life, your aim is for the afterlife. To some people that sounds pretty horrific: they can't think about death, but in Islam belief in the afterlife is one of its main features, because you know if you're doing the right thing you've got a better life to come. So why go for all the material things?"
Converting to Islam usually means a complete change of lifestyle for those who take the plunge, including a different diet, often a new Arabic name, and your time revolving around the five daily Islamic prayers. In the workplace, some people organise with their employer a room where they can have some peace and quiet to pray. Wherever they are in the world, all Muslims face in the direction of the Kab'aa, or the Holy House in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during prayer.

For female converts, the experience can also involve a quite dramatic change in appearance. Muslim law provides that women must dress modestly. The hijab, or the head scarf, is a particular focal point and can be a tricky area for new Muslim women to deal with. Dr Bourque suggests this is because it is such a visible symbol of the faith. Tasnim wore the hijab straight away, although she found wearing it in public scary at first because she felt people were looking at her. She was then forced to take it off when she was out because of some of the comments directed at her.
"People would shout, 'Go back home to your own country'. I had someone spit at me once when I was standing at the bus stop at college."
Now, though, she wears it all the time and says: "People don't say anything to me now and I feel more confident about wearing it." Bahiya was happy wearing the hijab from the beginning, but her parents found it quite difficult. She says her sister, her brother, and herself were lucky because their parents were "quite good" about their conversion. For others, however, families are not always so accepting, often because they know little about the religion and why their loved ones want to follow it. For Tasnim, telling her parents, who are atheist, was nerve-wracking. "They thought I was going through a phase at first but they realised when I started wearing the hijab that I was serious. They started getting angry when I began to talk about getting married. They weren't too pleased that I'd met someone older than me, who was Muslim as well, and a different nationality."
While Tasnim and her mother are still close and enjoy a good relationship, they tend not to talk about her faith much. She and her father no longer speak. For Hafsa, telling her parents 24 years ago was perhaps even more difficult because converting to Islam then was anything but a common occurrence. The reactions of her parents were totally opposite. "I think my mother felt that I was only becoming a Muslim because of who I was marrying, but that wasn't the case because I had been introduced to Islam about four years previously although I didn't convert until I got married. It took her practically her whole life to get over it. When we got married, my mum said, 'If you're happy, I'm happy', but obviously she wasn't. My dad said it and he meant it, that was the difference between them."
Tasnim has been married to Sabir, who is Sudanese, for two years, and says she has never been happier. "I met my husband at college and it seemed like the right thing to do. I was teaching him English and he was talking to me about Islam, and we just fell in love," she says. Bahiya's husband, Sharafuddin, is also is also a convert, formerly known as Cameron. They have two children, aged two and four.
For Tasnim, Bahiya, and Hafsa, life revolves around the five daily prayers, they cannot eat certain foods, or drink alcohol. But the women say they miss nothing from the days before they converted to Islam. "Islam is enough for me," says Bahiya. "You don't need anything else once you've found it."
Becoming Muslim has provided Tasnim with the happiness and belonging she was looking for. "It's a complete change in your attitude, behaviour, and the way you think," she says. "I'm now more confident, happy and satisfied. I've achieved the fulfilment I was looking for."

Mum, I'm a Muslim can be seen on Channel Four on Sunday at 8pm.

Advice to New Muslims

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Asalam Alaykum (Peace be with you),
Congratulations! Alhamdulillah (Praise to Allah) who has guided you to Islam, the path to success in this life and the next.

So now you are a new Muslim with lots on your mind. Amidst the joy and excitement of embracing Islam you may also be feeling bewildered or confused regarding what to do next. You may have concerns about how your family or friends will react. No doubt there is lots to learn and obstacles to overcome, but with a sincere effort and a strong faith in Allah, everything will fall into place. Below you will find the most important advice we can offer you as a new Muslim. Don’t rush yourself, go at your own pace, and most of all remember we are here to help and support you every step of the way. Importance of Prayer
[“The importance of the prayer in Islam cannot be understated. It is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the prophets and for all peoples. Allah has declared its obligatory status under majestic circumstances. For example, when Allah spoke directly to Moses, He said, "And I have chosen you, so listen to that which is inspired to you. Verily, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance." [Taha 13-14]

Similarly, the prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during his ascension to heaven. Furthermore, when Allah praises the believers, such as in the beginning of surah al-Muminoon, one of the first descriptions He states is their adherence to the prayers.

The importance of prayer is demonstrated in the many of the Prophet’s statement. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad." [Recorded by al-Tabarani. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. Al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami, vol.1, p. 503.]

The importance of the prayers lies in the fact that no matter what actions one performs in his life, the most important aspect is one’s relationship to Allah, that is, one’s faith (imaan), God-consciousness (taqwa), sincerity (ikhlas) and worship of Allah (`ibaadah). This relationship with Allah is both demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. Therefore, if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds will not be sound and proper, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself stated.

As for the Hereafter, Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the prayers. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "Allah has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and khushu` [Khushu` in the prayer is where the person’s heart is attuned to the prayer. This feeling in the heart is then reflected on the body. The person remains still and calm. His gaze is also lowered. Even his voice is affected by this feeling in the heart….] has a promise from Allah that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allah. He may either forgive him or punish him." [Recorded by Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’I and others. According to al-Albani, it is sahih. Al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami, vol. 1, p. 616.] ]

The prayers are a type of purification for a human being. He turns and meets with his Lord five times a day. As alluded to above, this repeated standing in front of Allah should keep the person from performing sins during the day. Furthermore, it should also be a time of remorse and repentance, such that he earnestly asks Allah for forgiveness for those sins that he committed. In addition, the prayer in itself is a good deed that wipes away some of the evil deeds that he performed. These points can be noted in the following hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

"If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?" The people said, "No filth would remain on him whatsoever." The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said, "That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them." (Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

In another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The five daily prayers and the Friday Prayer until the Friday prayer are expiation for what is between them." (Recorded by Muslim.)”] [1]

Okay so now you ask yourself…I know the prayer is so important, how do I learn how to pray? There are many sources on the internet which explain the purification and prayers, and that’s a good way to get an idea. But to really learn how to do it correctly you have to make the effort of finding a practicing Muslim to help you. A good place to do so is at the local mosque in your area…this is explained in more detail below.

[1] Extracts from “The Importance of Prayer” by Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo

Seek Knowledge
Acquiring Islamic knowledge is vital to every Muslim. Clearly knowledge must precede action, since it is the bases by which one knows his/her obligations to Allah. Knowledge will enable you to practice your religious duties correctly, be aware of things which Allah made halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden), in that way you will conduct your life according to Allah’s guidance.

Several verses in the Quran reveal to us the importance of knowledge:

"Allah will raise up, to (suitable) ranks and (degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is well-acquainted with all you do." [Al-Mujadilah 58:11]

"And say: My Lord increase me in knowledge." [Ta-Ha 20:114]

Also the prophet, peace be upon him, informed us of the reward for one who seeks knowledge.

Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "For him who embarks on the path of seeking knowledge, Allah will ease for him the way to paradise." (Related by Muslim)

So, know you may wonder what do I need to learn?

Well first of all you need to:

Have a good understanding of the basic Islamic beliefs (Aqeedah) such as knowledge of Allah, the Angels, the Prophets, and the Day of Judgment. Learn the purification and the five daily prayers correctly. Its important to learn how to recite Al Fatiha in Arabic for the prayers.

Learn about the permissible (Halal) and forbidden (Harm) things in Islam.

After that, you can continue in learning more about the other pillars of Islam such as Sawm(Fasting), Zakat, and Hajj (Pilgrimage). Also you should strive to learn the Seerah (life of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), since his life is a role model for all Muslims. Another excellent goal which many converts aspire to is to learn the Arabic language to be able to read and understand the Quran in the language it was revealed by Allah(subhanahu wa ta'ala).

How can you do this?
There are many resources available to learn. There is a multitude of Islamic books, articles, and tapes which address all these topics and can give you a good start, however to learn correctly you need to do so at the hands of a practicing Muslim as we mentioned earlier regarding the prayers. Just like you can’t expect to be a good sports player by simply reading a book or two about it, you can’t expect to learn the various branches of Islam all alone; you need to practice it with other Muslims. Naturally to do so, you should frequently visit the mosque in your area…. Which brings us to the next topic.

Importance of the Mosque (Masjid)
The mosque plays a central role in Muslim society. Apart from being a place of prayers (the 5 daily prayers as well as the Friday prayer) the Mosque is a learning center. It’s a place where study circles and lectures are held for Muslims to learn more about Islam. Also a place were Muslims meet to study and recite the Quran, collect charity for the poor, and discuss issues concerning the community. It’s an ideal place for a new convert to meet Muslims and learn in a short time what would normally take weeks or months to learn alone. Naturally many new converts are shy or afraid to make their first visit to the mosque, but if they knew the joy which Muslims share when they meet a convert, such hesitation would disappear. Also, don’t worry about not doing everything perfectly from the start, no one expects a new Muslim to learn everything over night.

From Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, from the Prophet, peace be upon him, that he said: "A man does not frequent the mosques for the Prayer and the remembrance of Allaah except that Allaah, the Most High, greets him joyfully, just as the family of one who is absent greet him with joy when he returns to them." [Reported by Ibn Abee Shaybah, Ibn Maajah, Ibn Khuzaimah and others and it is found in Saheehit-Targheeb (no. 315)]

So finally, we strongly encourage you to do your best to enrol in the study circles in your local mosque or fix a weekly schedule with the Imam to teach you all you need to know.

Staying In touch
It’s hard to explain the joy the whole team feels at Islamway upon hearing of a new convert like yourself, at the same time we feel a sadness when someone losses touch with us. We continue to wonder how the person is doing…how he/she is coping with family and friends, If he/she succeeded in finding a local mosque or not …etc. We hope that you will help us to help you, be keeping contact and letting us know your progress, concerns, questions…etc.

Finally, Islamway Team sends you their warmest congratulations on embracing Islam and wishes you all the success in this life and the next, as Allah tells us in the Quran,

"Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."

A sister from the Gulf embraces Islam

Alsalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatu Allah Wa Barakatuh(Peace and blessings by upon you all )

Praise be to Allah for lighting my heart with the light of Islam, made it possible for me to find the right path, Peace and blessing be upon the prophet of Allah. .
At first I would like to indicate that the situation I ended up in was a natural result of negligence and carelessness. My story started before I was even born, my father is a Muslim from the (Arabian) Gulf, he married my Christian Arabic mother on a condition that she embraces Islam after getting married. My father and mother both got married In a European country –where they had studied-.

After six months of the marriage my mother refused the idea of accepting Islam, therefore my father decided to divorce her for breaking a major condition of their marriage. At that time my mother was pregnant of me, however that didn’t stop the divorce to take place. My mother then went back to here home country where I was born. Soon after, Dad asked her to take me back, but Mom refused for maternal emotions and insisted that I stay with her, Dad accepted her opinion and left me with my Christian mother. As for my dad, my relationship with him was based on his monthly money transfer that he was committed to me, as well as some occasional calls, I was to meet him once every two years or maybe more… even though I was carrying documents stating that I am a Muslim from the Gulf, however, I didn’t know anything about Islam and the Gulf except what I used to take in geography and history classes, or through what I had observed from the Muslims that I used to see in my mother’s country.

I used to study in a catholic school and go with my Mom to church; I lived like that for 18 years…I was Muslim by name that used to practice Christian rituals. It is true that I was sluggish in my worship, and hated going to church, but I was blaming myself and always promised myself to become a better Christian in the nearest future..

I used to live the careless teen life, I was out all the time spending the nights. I had friends from both genders. My mother used to advice me on some things, but after I had finished high school I didn’t earn a great GPA that will permit me to enter a university that I liked in my mother’s country, so I decided to study in my father’s country.

When I told my father about my plan to study in his place, he didn’t care much, all he asked me was “ where will you live?! I understood that he didn’t want me to live with him, I suggested to have my Mom and maternal step brother to travel and live with me, since my step father had passed away ‘who I used to call Father’.

Dad had accepted this idea, and decided to carry out all the costs associated with this trip including the apartment rent, food, and to increase my monthly salary.

This tripe was a major turnover in my life, I started learning about Islam from the Muslims themselves. The most thing that had attracted me was, the young girls who covered their heads with ‘Hijab’ scarf, I felt so jealous from them, because I have imagined them as saved diamonds by a piece of black velvet, but I was almost half naked just like an advertisement in a newspaper that attracts a few people, even those few don’t last, soon they would use this newspaper for their kitchen or throw it in the trash.

During my first year in the university I asked my mother about Islam,- I was so attached to her- but she gave me an answer that I’ll never forget… She said: “I was impressed about Islam before you and married your father, I was a believer of that religion, but after getting to know it closer I became sure that it is not a religion from God… it was just rubbish things from an ignorant Arabic man who didn’t know how to read or write… so how can an educated person like you allow an ignorant man play with her mind and try to adjust here life?...”

I was silent and accepted here talk, to be honest I didn’t bother myself anymore, because I was enjoying my free open life…

Three years passed during which I had flashes of thought about my religion…

I was addicted to the Internet and a frequent visitor to the PalTalk rooms for a full year. One day I entered the room of “Izhar Alhaq”(i.e showing the truth) by mistake, in which I found people showing the dark side of the Christianity, and I had known that a different room was talking bad about Islam. I lost my feelings between both religions between Islam that I’ve been labeled with in my documents plus it is my father’s religion, and Christianity that I was raised with plus it is my mother’s religion… Since my feelings go towards both religions, I decided to find myself in this religion issue… so I stayed for two months shifting and listening to both the Islamic and the Christian room, I gave each room two hours ‘listening only’. After knowing the two religions I started having questions… so I began asking the administrators of both rooms for a whole month. I found warm welcomes and a listening ear from the Muslims more than the Christians, which had amazed me. The only answers I used to get from the Christians when I asked them about the ideas I got from the “Izhar Alhaq” room, is that they are lyres or that it is in the old testament… Old Testament??????? How can a holy book be for a certain period and then get replaced with new book, written by a created person which they call the new testament???? However, the Qur’an is one book! I have compared between both religions and found that Islam is the one that my mind and natural feelings move towards, where the cleanness, justice, and dignity lay . So after three months I chose Islam as my religion, I then visited ‘Hamel Almesk’ room “in PalTalk” to learn more about my new religion. I noticed that the people there were competing to help me especially brother ‘Muslim’ and brother ‘Albalsam Alshafee’ Jazahum Allah Khair…

Through them, I was introduced to some books, and websites on Islam. I have not faced any difficulties with this religion since its the religion of fitrah (i.e. nature). I announced the ‘Shahadatain’ in ‘Hamel Almesk’ room, then I took a shower, followed by two ‘Rak’ah’ prayers. After three days I wore ‘Alhijab’ (i.e. the head cover), through which my mother knew about my Islam… I can’t say nor describe what she said and did to bring me back to Christianity -because I am making my story brief - she even offered to allow me live a secular life without any limits… can you imagine this call from a mother to her daughter. She even tried to tear up the Qur’an once, but I showed up at the right time.. She tried in various ways, but couldn’t defeat my determination on Islam , I promised her that my religion would not affect her life, so she would leave me live freely…

Now after three months of being a Muslim, I know about Islam more than those who were born Muslim. Do you know why? Because I chose to enter Islam, and left out my friends and my free life according to the western definition of the free life, all that for the sake of Allah, Allah has become my lover whom I work sincerely for, I knew by being a Muslim I am pleasing my Lord...

I looked after my religion and ‘all praise are due to Allah’ I became very good in “Tajweed” and have memorized chapters of the Qur’an. I didn’t leave nor delay a single prayer…

Brothers and sisters I hope you get to know Islam the way I did, so think and ponder into Allah’s rulings that way you’ll get attached and closer to it. Thanks and sorry for the lengthy story, even though I haven’t mentioned many parts of my story. I am 21 years old now, in my last year at the university.

Regards, Your sister: Muslimah.

Major Canadian Christian Missionary Converts to Islam

By: Dr Garry Miller

A very important Christian missionary converted to Islam and became a major herald for Islam, he was a very active missionary and was very knowledgeable about the Bible...

This man likes mathematics so much, that's why he likes logic. One day, he decided to read the Quran to try to find any mistakes that he might take advantage of while inviting Muslims to convert to Christianity.... He expected the Koran to be an old book written 14 centuries ago, a book that talks about the desert and so on...He was amazed from what he found. He discovered that this Book had what no other book in the world has.... He expected to find some stories about the hard time that the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had, like the death of his wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) or the death of his sons and daughters...however, he did not find anything like that... and what made him even more confused is that he found a full "sura"(chapter) in the Koran named "Mary" that contains a lot of respect to Mary(peace be upon her) which is not the case even in the books written by Christians nor in their bibles. He did not find a Sura named after "Fatimah"(the prophet's daughter) nor "Aishah"(the Prophet's wife), may Allah(God) be pleased with both of them. He also found that the name of Jesus(Peace Be Upon Him) was mentioned in the Koran 25 times while the name of "Mohammed"(Peace Be Upon Him) was mentioned only 4 times, so he became more confused. He started reading the Koran more thoroughly hoping to find a mistake but he was shocked when he read a great verse which is verse number 82 in Surat Al-Nisa'a(Women) that says:

“Do they not consider the Koran (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy”.

Dr Miller says about this verse: “ One of the well known scientific principles is the principle of finding mistakes or looking for mistakes in a theory until it’s proved to be right (Falsification Test)…what’s amazing is that the Holy Quran asks Muslims and non-muslims to try to find mistakes in this book and it tells them that they will never find any”. He also says about this verse: no writer in the world has the courage to write a book and say that it’s empty of mistakes, but the Quran, on the contrary, tells you that it has no mistakes and asks you to try to find one and you won’t find any.

Another verse that Dr Miller reflected on for a long time is the verse number 30 in Surat “Al-Anbiya’a”(The Prophets): “ Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?

He says: ”this verse is exactly the subject of the scientific research that won the Noble prize in 1973 and was about the theory of the “Great Explosion”. According to this theory, the universe was the result of a great explosion that lead to the formation of the universe with its skies and planets.

Dr Miller says: “now we come to what’s amazing about the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and what’s pretended about the devils helping him, God says: “No evil ones have brought down this (Revelation), it would neither suit them nor would they be able (to produce it). Indeed they have been removed far from even (a chance of) hearing it”(26:210-212). “When thou does read the Quran, seek Allah's protection from Satan the Rejected One”(16:98).

You see? can this be the devil’s way to write a book? how can he write a book then tells you to ask God for protection from this devil before reading that book? those are miraculous verses in this miraculous book! and has a logical answer to those who pretend that it’s from the devil”. And among the stories that amazed Dr Miller is the story of the Prophet(PBUH) with Abu-Lahab… Dr Miller says: “this man(Abu Lahab) used to hate Islam so much that he would go after the Prophet wherever he goes to humiliate him. If he saw the prophet talking to strangers, he used to wait till he finishes and then ask them: what did Mohammed tell you? If he said it’s white then it’s in reality black and if he said it’s night then it’s day. He meant to falsify all what the prophet says and to make people suspicious about it. And 10 years before the death of Abu Lahab, a sura was inspired to the prophet, named “Al-Masad”. This sura tells that Abu Lahab will go to hell, in other words, it says that Abu Lahab will not convert to Islam. During 10 years, Abu Lahab could have said: “Mohammed is saying that I will not become a Muslim and that I will go to the hell fire, but I’m telling you now that I want to convert to Islam and become a Muslim. What do you think about Mohammed now? Is he saying the truth or no? Does his inspiration come from God?”. But Abu Lahab did not do that at all although he was disobeying the prophet in all matters, but not in this one. In other words, it was as if the prophet(PBUH) was giving Abu Lahab a chance to prove him wrong! But he did not do that during 10 whole years! he did not convert to Islam and did not even pretend to be a Muslim!! Throughout 10 years, he had the chance to destroy Islam in 1 minute! But this did not happen because those are not the words of Mohammed (PBUH) but the words of God Who knows what’s hidden and knows that Abu Lahab will not become a Muslim.

How can the prophet (PBUH) know that Abu Lahab will prove what is said in that Sura if this was not inspiration from Allah? How can he be sure throughout 10 whole years that what he has (the Quran) is true if he did not know that it’s inspiration from Allah?? For a person to take such a risky challenge, this has only one meaning: that this is inspiration from God.

“Perish the hands of the Father of Flame (Abu Lahab)! perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of blazing Flame! His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood; As fuel! A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!”(surat Al-Masad).

Dr Miller says about a verse that amazed him: one of the miracles in the Quran is challenging the future with things that humans cannot predict and to which the “Falsification Test” applies, this test consists of looking for mistakes until the thing that is being tested is proved to be right. For example, let’s see what the Quran said about the relation between Muslims and Jews. Quran says that Jews are the major enemies for Muslims and this is true until now as the main enemy for Muslims are the Jews.

Dr Miller continues: this is considered a great challenge since the Jews have the chance to ruin Islam simply by treating Muslims in a friendly way for few years and then say: here we are treating you as friends and the Quran says that we are your enemies, the Quran must be wrong then! But this did not happen during 1400 years!! and it will never happen because those are the words of The One who knows the unseen (God) and not the words of humans.

Dr Miller continues: can you see how the verse that talks about the enmity between Muslims and Jews constitutes a challenge to the human mind? “Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and 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”(5: 82-84)

This verse applies to Dr Miller as he was a Christian but when he knew the truth, he believed and converted to Islam and became a herald. May Allah support him.

Dr Miller says about the unique style of the Quran that he finds wonderful: no doubt there is something unique and amazing in Quran that is not present anywhere else, as the Quran gives you a specific information and tells you that you did not know this before. For example: "This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Prophet!) by inspiration: thou was not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Maryam: nor was thou with them when they disputed (the point)”(3: 44).

“Such are some of the stories of the Unseen, which We have revealed unto thee: before this, neither thou nor thy People knew them. So persevere patiently: for the End is for those who are righteous”(11: 49). “Such is one of the stories of what happened unseen, which We reveal by inspiration unto thee: nor was thou (present) with them when they concerted their plans together in the process of weaving their plots”(12: 102)

Dr Miller continues: “no other holy book uses this style, all the other books consist of information that tells you where this information came from. For example, when the (distorted) holy bible talks about the stories of the ancient nations, it tells you that a this king lived in a this place and a that leader fought in that battle, and that a certain person had a number of kids and their names are…. But this book (distorted Bible) always tells you that if you want to know more, you can read a certain book since that information came from that book”.

Dr Garry Miller continues: “this is in contrary to the Quran which gives you the information and tells you that it’s new!! And what’s amazing is that the people of Mecca at that time -time of inspiration of those verses- used to hear those verses and the challenge that the information in those verses was new and was not known by Mohammed (PBUH) nor by his people at that time, and despite that, they never said: we know this and it is not new, and they did not say: we know where Mohammed came from with those verses. This never happened, but what happened is that nobody dared to say that he was lying to them because those was really new information, not coming from the human mind but from Allah who knows the unseen in the past, the present and the future”.

Umm Sabrin Our New Sister

Umm Sabrin joined IslamWay Sisters On 20 July 2003, she wrote her first post at the Non Muslim Forum in our discussion board saying:

"Dear sisters I have been studying Islam and reading Quran for over a year I understand Islam, the meaning and the Quran I have read several times (although I know no one will never understand whole Quran or learn to recite it all at once) but I want to be able to understand it very clear. My husband says I am ready to say the shahada and I feel the same way but what is next after I say the shahada?? I still have not learned to pray, to make wudu, a lot of words that sisters/brothers use when they are Muslims, but I don't understand them... I am still learning Arabic, so I am lost to a lot of stuff. I know I truly believe in god and only one god and Mohamed being the last prophet I am just so afraid if I say the shahad and revert then I loose my patience, or do something wrong as there are a lot of rules and guidelines in Islam that I am afraid I will not know some of them and thus follow it wrong. I am wondering, do others who reverted to Islam had these worries?

I want to serve Allah, I want to have that inner peace, I want to share the feeling my husband has when he prays and when he talks about the quran with tears in his eyes this is how I feel so much love and understanding and I just want to fill my heart with more of it. The only thing that is worrying me is that, what if I revert and I do something and later I find out its wrong in Islam. I am scared I hope someone can relate their fears or worries and how they overcame them. Thank you.”

Our moderators and our kind members In IslamWay sisters, may Allah reward them all have discussed with her the fact that If we were to wait until we knew everything before accepting Islam, we would never do so. Love and Knowledge about Islam, Allah, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa salam), & the Qur'an comes with time. A Non Muslim should not overwhelm himself with thoughts of "how am I going to learn all this". Allah is fair and merciful. Thanks to Allah, you have a Muslim husband to help you learn, and Muslim sisters to help you, support you, and answer your questions. Your faith now is like the faith of a Muslim, so there is no need to delay joining Islam if you believe in Allah as the Only One God, and Mohammad –pbuh- his last messenger. Shahada is merely saying that.

Some of the sisters also narrated some stories from real life, one of them was about an old non Muslim man who was around 90-95 years of age and some one gave him the advice to revert to Islam, he then heard the Quran, and week after a week her reverted to Islam, and tried to learn how to pray. He was about 90 years and subhan he was lost before Islam. After few weeks from reverting to Islam, and learning the prayers he died. Al hamdollah that, “al-Islam yajubo ma qablaho.” Islam cleans what came before it.

Prophet Mohamed peace be upon him told us "............By Allah, other than Whom there is no god, verily one of you behaves like the people of Paradise until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written over takes him and so he behaves like the people of Hell-fire and thus he enters it; and one of you behaves like the people of Hell-fire until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written over takes him and so he behaves like the people of Paradise and thus he enters it." related by Bukhari and Muslim

On Friday 25 July 2003 Ummsabrin wrote

"Dear sisters I have to say all of you have helped me a lot and I really appreciate it, when I read the story of the old man I have cried a lot, I don't think I ever cried so hard and felt words hit me like when I read this story. I knew after that it was the time to revert, and I said my shahada last night with my husband over the phone.”

Some advice for those who want to read the Quran in Arabic

When I converted to Islam, learning prayer was such a struggle. For me praying in a language I did not understand was almost unthinkable. "How could I have prayed to Allah, when I did not know what was I saying?" - many times I was thinking. But, knowing that we must say our prayers in Arabic, I have memorized al-Fatiha and 2 other short surahs from the Holy Quran. Alhamdulillah, I have done that. I have memorized and learned how to pray in Arabic, and learned the translation of it also. It took me many years to touch Quran in Arabic language. Translation was easier to read, to understand, to cherish...... but only 2 years ago, I made a major step in trying to read Quran in the Arabic language. Today, I can read Quran (1st grade level) only thanks to Allah (subhanna wa ta'ala) who gave me courage to try and succeed in this task, even when I never thought that it would be possible. First I got the Holy Quran with transliteration and tried to read it while learning the Arabic letters. That has worked very well, but after 2 ayahs I was drained from energy. Reading a whole page like that took me 1 hour at least. Masha Allah I have tried it. Secondly I used CD and reading ayah, by ayah in Arabic (following the speaker) was the best way for me Masha Allah. I have tried to read Quran every day for at least 5 min. Sometimes I would read 60 ayahs/day, sometimes only 10, but Alhamdu Lillah I have complated reading my recitation in Arabic over some time. The best time to read like that is eather after Fajr prayer (when you are not tired yet), or anytime after prayers (even if it's only for 2-3 min.) Before you know it insha Allah you would fishing Quran, and be so satisfied with your accomplishment. Therefore, new Muslims, or Muslims, who don't know arabic language, small reading per day goes a long way, and on top of that Allah will reward you double for you trying to read in Quran, even if you are making mistakes. Another recommendation is to learn one word of Quran (with meaning) per day. Insha Allah within a year, you would have know 365 words from the Quran. And that would become an easy way to recognize the words while reading Holy Quran and wanting to learn more Insha Allah. So, if you are a Muslim like myself, who struggles while reading Quran in arabic langauge, don't stop trying and Allah will reward you for your efforts many times more Insha Allah.

Christian Minister Converts to ISLAM!

Christian Minister Converts to ISLAM!

Written by Yusuf Estes
Thursday, 16 November 2006

Christian Minister Converts to Islam - Why?

A minister of the Methodist Church, complete with a degree in divinity, author of many publications - choses ISLAM.
His former congregation wants to know, "Why?"

Former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church. He holds a Master's degree in Divinity from Harvard University and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver. Author of The Cross and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity and Islam (ISBN 1-59008-002-5 - Amana Publications, 2001). He has published over 60 articles in the field of clinical psychology, and over 150 articles on Arabian horses .

Read his story in his own words:
One of my earliest childhood memories is of hearing the church bell toll for Sunday morning worship in the small, rural town in which I was raised. The Methodist Church was an old, wooden structure with a bell tower, two children's Sunday School classrooms cubbyholed behind folding, wooden doors to separate it from the sanctuary, and a choir loft that housed the Sunday school classrooms for the older children.

It stood less than two blocks from my home. As the bell rang, we would come together as a family, and make our weekly pilgrimage to the church. In that rural setting from the 1950s, the three churches in the town of about 500 were the center of community life. The local Methodist Church, to which my family belonged, sponsored ice cream socials with hand-cranked, homemade ice cream, chicken potpie dinners, and corn roasts. My family and I were always involved in all three, but each came only once a year. In addition, there was a two-week community Bible school every June, and I was a regular attendee through my eighth grade year in school.

However, Sunday morning worship and Sunday school were weekly events, and I strove to keep extending my collection of perfect attendance pins and of awards for memorizing Bible verses. By my junior high school days, the local Methodist Church had closed, and we were attending the Methodist Church in the neighboring town, which was only slightly larger than the town in which I lived. There, my thoughts first began to focus on the ministry as a personal calling. I became active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship, and eventually served as both a district and a conference officer. I also became the regular "preacher" during the annual Youth Sunday service. My preaching began to draw community- wide attention, and before long I was occasionally filling pulpits at other churches, at a nursing home, and at various church-affiliated youth and ladies groups, where I typically set attendance records.

By age 17, when I began my freshman year at Harvard College, my decision to enter the ministry had solidified. During my freshman year, I enrolled in a two-semester course in comparative religion, which was taught by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, whose specific area of expertise was Islam. During that course, I gave far less attention to Islam, than I did to other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as the latter two seemed so much more esoteric and strange to me. In contrast, Islam appeared to be somewhat similar to my own Christianity. As such, I didn't concentrate on it as much as I probably should have, although I can remember writing a term paper for the course on the concept of revelation in the Qur'an. Nonetheless, as the course was one of rigorous academic standards and demands, I did acquire a small library of about a half dozen books on Islam, all of which were written by non-Muslims, and all of which were to serve me in good stead 25 years later. I also acquired two different English translations of the meaning of the Qur'an, which I read at the time.

That spring, Harvard named me a Hollis Scholar, signifying that I was one of the top pre-theology students in the college. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Harvard, I worked as a youth minister at a fairly large United Methodist Church. The following summer, I obtained my License to Preach from the United Methodist Church. Upon graduating from Harvard College in 1971, I enrolled at the Harvard Divinity School, and there obtained my Master of Divinity degree in 1974, having been previously ordained into the Deaconate of the United Methodist Church in 1972, and having previously received a Stewart Scholarship from the United Methodist Church as a supplement to my Harvard Divinity School scholarships. During my seminary education, I also completed a two-year externship program as a hospital chaplain at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. Following graduation from Harvard Divinity School, I spent the summer as the minister of two United Methodist churches in rural Kansas, where attendance soared to heights not seen in those churches for several years.

Seen from the outside, I was a very promising young minister, who had received an excellent education, drew large crowds to the Sunday morning worship service, and had been successful at every stop along the ministerial path. However, seen from the inside, I was fighting a constant war to maintain my personal integrity in the face of my ministerial responsibilities. This war was far removed from the ones presumably fought by some later televangelists in unsuccessfully trying to maintain personal sexual morality. Likewise, it was a far different war than those fought by the headline-grabbing pedophilic priests of the current moment. However, my struggle to maintain personal integrity may be the most common one encountered by the better-educated members of the ministry.

There is some irony in the fact that the supposedly best, brightest, and most idealistic of ministers-to-be are selected for the very best of seminary education, e.g. that offered at that time at the Harvard Divinity School. The irony is that, given such an education, the seminarian is exposed to as much of the actual historical truth as is known about:
1) the formation of the early, "mainstream" church, and how it was shaped by geopolitical considerations

2) the "original" reading of various Biblical texts, many of which are in sharp contrast to what most Christians read when they pick up their Bible, although gradually some of this information is being incorporated into newer and better translations;

3) the evolution of such concepts as a triune godhead and the "sonship" of Jesus, peace be upon him;

4) the non-religious considerations that underlie many Christian creeds and doctrines;

5) the existence of those early churches and Christian movements which never accepted the concept of a triune godhead, and which never accepted the concept of the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him; and 6) etc. (Some of these fruits of my seminary education are recounted in more detail in my recent book, The Cross and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity and Islam, Amana Publications, 2001.)

As such, it is no real wonder that almost a majority of such seminary graduates leave seminary, not to "fill pulpits", where they would be asked to preach that which they know is not true, but to enter the various counseling professions. Such was also the case for me, as I went on to earn a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology. I continued to call myself a Christian, because that was a needed bit of self-identity, and because I was, after all, an ordained minister, even though my full time job was as a mental health professional. However, my seminary education had taken care of any belief I might have had regarding a triune godhead or the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him.

(Polls regularly reveal that ministers are less likely to believe these and other dogmas of the church than are the laity they serve, with ministers more likely to understand such terms as "son of God" metaphorically, while their parishioners understand it literally). I thus became a "Christmas and Easter Christian", attending church very sporadically, and then gritting my teeth and biting my tongue as I listened to sermons espousing that which I knew was not the case.

None of the above should be taken to imply that I was any less religious or spiritually oriented than I had once been. I prayed regularly, my belief in a supreme deity remained solid and secure, and I conducted my personal life in line with the ethics I had once been taught in church and Sunday school. I simply knew better than to buy into the man-made dogmas and articles of faith of the organized church, which were so heavily laden with the pagan influences, polytheistic notions, and geo-political considerations of a bygone era.

As the years passed by, I became increasingly concerned about the loss of religiousness in American society at large. Religiousness is a living, breathing spirituality and morality within individuals, and should not be confused with religiosity, which is concerned with the rites, rituals, and formalized creeds of some organized entity, e.g. the church. American culture increasingly appeared to have lost its moral and religious compass. Two out of every three marriages ended in divorce; violence was becoming an increasingly inherent part of our

schools and our roads; self-responsibility was on the wane; self- discipline was being submerged by a "if it feels good, do it" morality; various Christian leaders and institutions were being swamped by sexual and financial scandals; and emotions justified behavior, however odious it might be. American culture was becoming a morally bankrupt institution, and I was feeling quite alone in my personal religious vigil.

It was at this juncture that I began to come into contact with the local Muslim community. For some years before, my wife and I had been actively involved in doing research on the history of the Arabian horse.

Eventually, in order to secure translations of various Arabic documents, this research brought us into contact with Arab Americans who happened to be Muslims. Our first such contact was with Jamal in the summer of 1991. After an initial telephone conversation, Jamal visited our home, and offered to do some translations for us, and to help guide us through the history of the Arabian horse in the Middle East. Before Jamal left that afternoon, he asked if he might use our bathroom to wash before saying his scheduled prayers; and borrow a piece of newspaper to use as a prayer rug, so he could say his scheduled prayers before leaving our house. We, of course, obliged, but wondered if there was something more appropriate that we could give him to use than a newspaper. Without our ever realizing it at the time, Jamal was practicing a very beautiful form of Dawa (preaching or exhortation). He made no comment about the fact that we were not Muslims, and he didn't preach anything to us about his religious beliefs. He "merely" presented us with his example, an example that spoke volumes, if one were willing to be receptive to the lesson.

Over the next 16 months, contact with Jamal slowly increased in frequency, until it was occurring on a biweekly to weekly basis. During these visits, Jamal never preached to me about Islam, never questioned me about my own religious beliefs or convictions, and never verbally suggested that I become a Muslim. However, I was beginning to learn a lot. First, there was the constant behavioral example of Jamal observing his scheduled prayers. Second, there was the behavioral example of how Jamal conducted his daily life in a highly moral and ethical manner, both in his business world and in his social world.

Third, there was the behavioral example of how Jamal interacted with his two children. For my wife, Jamal's wife provided a similar example. Fourth, always within the framework of helping me to understand Arabian horse history in the Middle East, Jamal began to share with me:
1) stories from Arab and Islamic history;

2) sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him; and

3) Qur'anic verses and their contextual meaning.

In point of fact, our every visit now included at least a 30 minute conversation centered on some aspect of Islam, but always presented in terms of helping me intellectually understand the Islamic context of Arabian horse history. I was never told "this is the way things are", I was merely told "this is what Muslims typically believe".

Since I wasn't being "preached to", and since Jamal never inquired as to my own beliefs, I didn't need to bother attempting to justify my own position. It was all handled as an intellectual exercise, not as proselytizing. Gradually, Jamal began to introduce us to other Arab families in the local Muslim community. There was Wa'el and his family, Khalid and his family, and a few others. Consistently, I observed individuals and families who were living their lives on a much higher ethical plane than the American society in which we were all embedded. Maybe there was something to the practice of Islam that I had missed during my collegiate and seminary days.

By December, 1992, I was beginning to ask myself some serious questions about where I was and what I was doing. These questions were prompted by the following considerations. 1) Over the course of the prior 16 months, our social life had become increasingly centered on the Arab component of the local Muslim community. By December, probably 75% of our social life was being spent with Arab Muslims.

2) By virtue of my seminary training and education, I knew how badly the Bible had been corrupted (and often knew exactly when, where, and why), I had no belief in any triune godhead, and I had no belief in anything more than a metaphorical "sonship" of Jesus, peace be upon him. In short, while I certainly believed in God, I was as strict a monotheist as my Muslim friends.

3) My personal values and sense of morality were much more in keeping with my Muslim friends than with the "Christian" society around me. After all, I had the non-confrontational examples of Jamal, Khalid, and Wa'el as illustrations. In short, my nostalgic yearning for the type of community in which I had been raised was finding gratification in the Muslim community.

American society might be morally bankrupt, but that did not appear to be the case for that part of the Muslim community with which I had had contact. Marriages were stable, spouses were committed to each other, and honesty, integrity, self-responsibility, and family values were emphasized. My wife and I had attempted to live our lives that same way, but for several years I had felt that we were doing so in the context of a moral vacuum. The Muslim community appeared to be different.

The different threads were being woven together into a single strand. Arabian horses, my childhood upbringing, my foray into the Christian ministry and my seminary education, my nostalgic yearnings for a moral society, and my contact with the Muslim community were becoming intricately intertwined. My self-questioning came to a head when I finally got around to asking myself exactly what separated me from the beliefs of my Muslim friends. I suppose that I could have raised that question with Jamal or with Khalid, but I wasn't ready to take that step. I had never discussed my own religious beliefs with them, and I didn't think that I wanted to introduce that topic of conversation into our friendship. As such, I began to pull off the bookshelf all the books on Islam that I had acquired in my collegiate and seminary days.

However far my own beliefs were from the traditional position of the church, and however seldom I actually attended church, I still identified myself as being a Christian, and so I turned to the works of Western scholars. That month of December, I read half a dozen or so books on Islam by Western scholars, including one biography of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Further, I began to read two different English translations of the meaning of the Qur'an. I never spoke to my Muslim friends about this personal quest of self- discovery.

I never mentioned what types of books I was reading, nor ever spoke about why I was reading these books. However, occasionally I would run a very circumscribed question past one of them.

While I never spoke to my Muslim friends about those books, my wife and I had numerous conversations about what I was reading. By the last week of December of 1992, I was forced to admit to myself, that I could find no area of substantial disagreement between my own religious beliefs and the general tenets of Islam. While I was ready to acknowledge that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a prophet of (one who spoke for or under the inspiration of) God, and while I had absolutely no difficulty affirming that there was no god besides God/Allah, glorified and exalted is He, I was still hesitating to make any decision. I could readily admit to myself that I had far more in common with Islamic beliefs as I then understood them, than I did with the traditional Christianity of the organized church. I knew only too well that I could easily confirm from my seminary training and education most of what the Qur'an had to say about Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus, peace be upon him. Nonetheless, I hesitated. Further, I rationalized my hesitation by maintaining to myself that I really didn't know the nitty-gritty details of Islam, and that my areas of agreement were confined to general concepts. As such, I continued to read, and then to re-read.

One's sense of identity, of who one is, is a powerful affirmation of one's own position in the cosmos. In my professional practice, I had occasionally been called upon to treat certain addictive disorders, ranging from smoking, to alcoholism, to drug abuse. As a clinician, I knew that the basic physical addiction had to be overcome to create the initial abstinence. That was the easy part of treatment. As Mark Twain once said: "Quitting smoking is easy; I've done it hundreds of times".

However, I also knew that the key to maintaining that abstinence over an extended time period was overcoming the client's psychological addiction, which was heavily grounded in the client's basic sense of identity, i.e. the client identified to himself that he was "a smoker",

or that he was "a drinker", etc. The addictive behavior had become part and parcel of the client's basic sense of identity, of the client's basic sense of self. Changing this sense of identity was crucial to the maintenance of the psychotherapeutic "cure". This was the difficult part of treatment. Changing one's basic sense of identity is a most difficult task. One's psyche tends to cling to the old and familiar, which seem more psychologically comfortable and secure than the new and unfamiliar.

On a professional basis, I had the above knowledge, and used it on a daily basis. However, ironically enough, I was not yet ready to apply it to myself, and to the issue of my own hesitation surrounding my religious identity. For 43 years, my religious identity had been neatly labeled as "Christian", however many qualifications I might have added to that term over the years. Giving up that label of personal identity was no easy task. It was part and parcel of how I defined my very being. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that my hesitation served the purpose of insuring that I could keep my familiar religious identity of being a Christian, although a Christian who believed like a Muslim believed.

It was now the very end of December, and my wife and I were filling out our application forms for U.S. passports, so that a proposed Middle Eastern journey could become a reality. One of the questions had to do with religious affiliation. I didn't even think about it, and automatically fell back on the old and familiar, as I penned in "Christian". It was easy, it was familiar, and it was comfortable. However, that comfort was momentarily disrupted when my wife asked me how I had answered the question on religious identity on the application form. I immediately replied, "Christian", and chuckled audibly. Now, one of Freud's contributions to the understanding of the human psyche was his realization that laughter is often a release of psychological tension. However wrong Freud may have been in many aspects of his theory of psychosexual development, his insights into laughter were quite on target. I had laughed! What was this psychological tension that I had need to release through the medium of laughter?, I then hurriedly went on to offer my wife a brief affirmation that I was a Christian, not a Muslim. In response to which, she politely informed me that she was merely asking whether I had written "Christian", or "Protestant", or "Methodist". On a professional basis, I knew that a person does not defend himself against an accusation that hasn't been made. (If, in the course of a session of psychotherapy, my client blurted out, "I'm not angry about that", and I hadn't even broached the topic of anger, it was clear that my client was feeling the need to defend himself against a charge that his own unconscious was making. In short, he really was angry, but he wasn't ready to admit it or to deal with it). If my wife hadn't made the accusation, i.e. "you are a Muslim", then the accusation had to have come from my own unconscious, as I was the only other person present. I was aware of this, but still I hesitated. The religious label that had been stuck to my sense of identity for 43 years was not going to come off easily.

About a month had gone by since my wife's question to me. It was now late in January of 1993. I had set aside all the books on Islam by the Western scholars, as I had read them all thoroughly. The two English translations of the meaning of the Qur'an were back on the bookshelf, and I was busy reading yet a third English translation of the meaning of the Qur'an. Maybe in this translation I would find some sudden justification for.

I was taking my lunch hour from my private practice at a local Arab restaurant that I had started to frequent. I entered as usual, seated myself at a small table, and opened my third English translation of the meaning of the Qur'an to where I had left off in my reading. I figured I might as well get some reading done over my lunch hour. Moments later, I became aware that Mahmoud was at my shoulder, and waiting to take my order. He glanced at what I was reading, but said nothing about it. My order taken, I returned to the solitude of my reading.
A few minutes later, Mahmoud's wife, Iman, an American Muslim, who wore the Hijab (scarf) and modest dress that I had come to associate with female Muslims, brought me my order. She commented that I was reading the Qur'an, and politely asked if I were a Muslim. The word was out of my mouth before it could be modified by any social etiquette or politeness: "No!" That single word was said forcefully, and with more than a hint of irritability. With that, Iman politely retired from my table.

What was happening to me?, I had behaved rudely and somewhat aggressively. What had this woman done to deserve such behavior from me?, This wasn't like me. Given my childhood upbringing, I still used "sir" and "ma'am" when addressing clerks and cashiers who were waiting on me in stores. I could pretend to ignore my own laughter as a release of tension, but I couldn't begin to ignore this sort of unconscionable behavior from myself. My reading was set aside, and I mentally stewed over this turn of events throughout my meal. The more I stewed, the guiltier I felt about my behavior. I knew that when Iman brought me my check at the end of the meal, I was going to need to make some amends.

If for no other reason, simple politeness demanded it. Furthermore, I was really quite disturbed about how resistant I had been to her innocuous question. What was going on in me that I responded with that much force to such a simple and straightforward question?, Why did that one, simple question lead to such atypical behavior on my part?

Later, when Iman came with my check, I attempted a round-about apology by saying: "I'm afraid I was a little abrupt in answering your question before. If you were asking me whether I believe that there is only one God, then my answer is yes. If you were asking me whether I believe that Muhammad was one of the prophets of that one God, then my answer is yes." She very nicely and very supportively said: "That's okay; it takes some people a little longer than others."

Perhaps, the readers of this will be kind enough to note the psychological games I was playing with myself without chuckling too hard at my mental gymnastics and behavior. I well knew that in my own way, using my own words, I had just said the Shahadah, the Islamic testimonial of faith, i.e. "I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah". However, having said that, and having recognized what I said, I could still cling to my old and familiar label of religious identity. After all, I hadn't said I was a Muslim. I was simply a Christian, albeit an atypical Christian, who was willing to say that there was one God, not a triune godhead, and who was willing to say that Muhammad was one of the prophets inspired by that one God. If a Muslim wanted to accept me as being a Muslim that was his or her business, and his or her label of religious identity. However, it was not mine. I thought I had found my way out of my crisis of religious identity. I was a Christian, who would carefully explain that I agreed with, and was willing to testify to, the Islamic testimonial of faith. Having made my tortured explanation, and having parsed the English language to within an inch of its life, others could hang whatever label on me they wished. It was their label, and not mine.

It was now March of 1993, and my wife and I were enjoying a five-week vacation in the Middle East. It was also the Islamic month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from day break until sunset. Because we were so often staying with or being escorted around by family members of our Muslim friends back in the States, my wife and I had decided that we also would fast, if for no other reason than common courtesy. During this time, I had also started to perform the five daily prayers of Islam with my newfound, Middle Eastern, Muslim friends. After all, there was nothing in those prayers with which I could disagree.

I was a Christian, or so I said. After all, I had been born into a Christian family, had been given a Christian upbringing, had attended church and Sunday school every Sunday as a child, had graduated from a prestigious seminary, and was an ordained minister in a large Protestant denomination. However, I was also a Christian: who didn't believe in a triune godhead or in the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him; who knew quite well how the Bible had been corrupted; who had said the Islamic testimony of faith in my own carefully parsed words; who had fasted during Ramadan; who was saying Islamic prayers five times a day; and who was deeply impressed by the behavioral examples I had witnessed in the Muslim community, both in America and in the Middle East. (Time and space do not permit me the luxury of documenting in detail all of the examples of personal morality and ethics I encountered in the Middle East). If asked if I were a Muslim, I could and did do a five-minute monologue detailing the above, and basically leaving the question unanswered. I was playing intellectual word games, and succeeding at them quite nicely.

It was now late in our Middle Eastern trip. An elderly friend who spoke no English and I were walking down a winding, little road, somewhere in one of the economically disadvantaged areas of greater 'Amman, Jordan. As we walked, an elderly man approached us from the opposite direction, said, "Salam 'Alaykum", i.e., "peace be upon you", and offered to shake hands. We were the only three people there. I didn't speak Arabic, and neither my friend nor the stranger spoke English. Looking at me, the stranger asked, "Muslim?"

At that precise moment in time, I was fully and completely trapped. There were no intellectual word games to be played, because I could only communicate in English, and they could only communicate in Arabic. There was no translator present to bail me out of this situation, and to allow me to hide behind my carefully prepared English monologue. I couldn't pretend I didn't understand the question, because it was all too obvious that I had. My choices were suddenly, unpredictably, and inexplicably reduced to just two: I could say "N'am", i.e., "yes"; or I could say "La", i.e., "no". The choice was mine, and I had no other. I had to choose, and I had to choose now; it was just that simple. Praise be to Allah, I answered, "N'am".

With saying that one word, all the intellectual word games were now behind me. With the intellectual word games behind me, the psychological games regarding my religious identity were also behind me.

I wasn't some strange, atypical Christian. I was a Muslim. Praise be to Allah, my wife of 33 years also became a Muslim about that same time. Not too many months after our return to America from the Middle East, a neighbor invited us over to his house, saying that he wanted to talk with us about our conversion to Islam. He was a retired Methodist minister, with whom I had had several conversations in the past. Although we had occasionally talked superficially about such issues as the artificial construction of the Bible from various, earlier, independent sources, we had never had any in-depth conversation about religion. I knew only that he appeared to have acquired a solid seminary education, and that he sang in the local church choir every Sunday.

My initial reaction was, "Oh, oh, here it comes". Nonetheless, it is a Muslim's duty to be a good neighbor, and it is a Muslim's duty to be willing to discuss Islam with others. As such, I accepted the invitation for the following evening, and spent most of the waking part of the next 24 hours contemplating how best to approach this gentleman in his requested topic of conversation. The appointed time came, and we drove over to our neighbor's. After a few moments of small talk, he finally asked why I had decided to become a Muslim. I had waited for this question, and had my answer carefully prepared. "As you know with your seminary education, there were a lot of non-religious considerations which led up to and shaped the decisions of the Council of Nicaea." He immediately cut me off with a simple statement: "You finally couldn't stomach the polytheism anymore, could you?", He knew exactly why I was a Muslim, and he didn't disagree with my decision!

For himself, at his age and at his place in life, he was electing to be "an atypical Christian". Allah willing, he has by now completed his journey from cross to crescent. There are sacrifices to be made in being a Muslim in America. For that matter, there are sacrifices to be made in being a Muslim anywhere. However, those sacrifices may be more acutely felt in America, especially among American converts. Some of those sacrifices are very predictable, and include altered dress and abstinence from alcohol, pork, and the taking of interest on one's money. Some of those sacrifices are less predictable. For example, one Christian family, with whom we were close friends, informed us that they could no longer associate with us, as they could not associate with anyone "who does not take Jesus Christ as his personal savior". In addition, quite a few of my professional colleagues altered their manner of relating to me.

Whether it was coincidence or not, my professional referral base dwindled, and there was almost a 30% drop in income as a result. Some of these less predictable sacrifices were hard to accept, although the sacrifices were a small price to pay for what was received in return.

For those contemplating the acceptance of Islam and the surrendering of oneself to Allah-glorified and exalted is He, there may well be sacrifices along the way. Many of these sacrifices are easily predicted, while others may be rather surprising and unexpected. There is no denying the existence of these sacrifices, and I don't intend to sugar coat that pill for you. Nonetheless, don't be overly troubled by these sacrifices. In the final analysis, these sacrifices are less important than you presently think. Allah willing, you will find these sacrifices a very cheap coin to pay for the "goods" you are purchasing.

Why Mrs. Cecilla Cannoly accepted Islam?

Why Mrs. Cecilla Cannoly accepted Islam?

Mrs. CECILLA CANNOLY [Rashida] (Austrian)
Why did I become a Muslim? Let me tell you sincerely that I became a Muslim without even noticing it myself. For, at a very young age I had already completely lost my confidence in Christianity and had begun to feel apathy towards the Christian religion. I was curious about many religious facts. I was disinclined to believe blindly the creed they were trying to teach me. Why were there three gods? Why had we all come to this world sinful, and why did we have to expiate it? Why could we invoke Allahu ta'ala only through a priest?
And what were the meanings of all these various signs that we were being shown and the miracles that we were being told? Whenever I asked these questions to the teaching priests, they would become angry and answer, "You cannot inquire about the inner natures of the church's teachings. They are secret. All you have to do is to believe them." And this was another thing that I would never understand.

How could one believe something whose essence one did not know? However, in those days I did not dare divulge these thoughts of mine. I am sure that many of today's so-called Christians are of the same opinion as I was; they do not believe most of the religious teachings imposed on them, yet they are afraid to disclose it.

The older I became the farther away did I feel from Christianity, finally breaking away from the church once and for all and beginning to wonder whether there was a religion that taught "to worship one single God." My entire conscience and heart told me that there was only one God. Then, when I looked around, the events showed me how meaningless the unintelligible miracles that priests had been trying to teach us, and the absurd stories of saints they had been telling us, were. Didn't everything on the earth, human beings, beasts, forests, mountains, seas, trees, flowers indicate that a great Creator had created them?

Wasn't a newly born baby a miracle in itself? On the other hand, the church was striving to indoctrinate the people with the preposterous belief that every newly born baby was a wretched, sinful creature. No, this was impossible, a lie. Every newly born child was an innocent slave, a creature of Allahu ta'ala. It was a miracle, and I believed only in Allah and in the miracles He created.

Nothing in the world was inherently sinful, dirty, or ugly. I was of this opi-nion, when one day my daughter came home with a book written about Islam. My daughter and I sat together and read the book with great attention. O my Allah, the book said exactly as I had been thinking. Islam announced that there is one Allah and informed that people are born as innocent creatures. Until that time I had been entirely ignorant of Islam.

In schools Islam was an object of derision; We had been taught that that religion was false and absurd and infused one with sloth, and that Muslims would go to Hell. Upon reading the book, I was plunged into thoughts. To acquire more detailed information about Islam, I visited Muslims living in my town. The Muslims I found opened my eyes. The answers they gave to my questions were so logical that I began to believe that Islam was not a concocted religion as our priests had been asserting, but a true religion of Allahu ta'ala.

My daughter and I read many other books written about Islam, were fully convinced as to its veracity, and eventually embraced Islam, both of us. I adopted the name 'Rashida', and my daughter chose 'Mahmuda' as her new name.

As for the second question that you ask me: "What aspect of Islam do you like best?" Here is my answer:
What I like best about Islam is the nature of its prayers. In Christianity prayers are said in order to ask for worldly blessings such as wealth, position and honor from Allahu ta'ala through Issa a.s.. Muslims, in contrast, express their gratitude to Allahu ta'ala and they know that as long as they abide by their religion and obey the commandments of Allahu ta'ala, Allahu ta'ala will give them whatever they need without them asking for it.

How I Came Back To Islam?

In 1988, I began to work on a Kingdom project with my father, who is a physician who was working in the Kingdom. He was in Kingdom and I was in the United States. That same year I came on a trip to the Kingdom and stayed in Dhahran and visited Al Khobar to further that project. The world here captured me immediately in so many ways, but when I heard those first prayer calls, something deep within me stirred. I saw shopkeepers just close, but not lock their doors, how can that be I asked. I saw Muslim’s going to prayer and returning looking so fresh and renewed. I saw that and wondered. I asked my Saudi hosts many questions and was allowed to come to a large city mosque and sat in the back. I was nervous but my eyes and my heart was open. No one else including my father was invited. Guess Mohammed our personal host saw something in me that I did not even see back then. I was given a Holy Qur’an in Arabic and English. Among all the items, I took home to the States from that trip that Qur’an was at the top of the most valuable to me. Did I read it back then, no. It was a possession, sad to say. Something to look good on my bookcase, what a mistake! I was left with vivid memories of a place fully and completely unknown to me before. The mold was cast deep within me as a result.

Years later, I returned on my own, with my then young family, wife, and two sons. Everyone fit into life in Saudi Arabia swiftly. My world revolved around work, family, and exercise. Any and all prayer that I did was personal and once daily if that. Don’t get me wrong, I was Christian, and not much is asked as a follower. I did more than most. I began to watch my employees as they when about their work before and after prayers. Inwardly I now know Allah was calling me, but I did not listen even though I was right there in Riyadh in a hospital with a mosque surrounded by caring Muslim’s. I kept everyone at bay, holding tight to my understanding of Christianity, almost defiantly so… The years rolled by and honestly, I even lost interest in prayer and doing anything but maintaining an occasional link to God directly. Eventually my families stay in the Kingdom ended in 2001 at which point we all returned to Florida in the USA.

While in the states we all as a family returned to church, but I knew I was not the same person. As hard as I could try to follow the trinity concept I could not embrace it enough to “witness” it all to someone else. Something was wrong, but I did not quite know what was wrong. So I talked to God alone. Made sense to me, He created everything so why did I need others to pass on my prayers to Him. Same time in my life back then sin came heavily into my life, either by me directly or brought into my life by my now ex-wife. I sank into a most disappointing time of my life. The road to hell is wide and easy, which I was taking, while the path to heaven is narrow and most difficult to traverse. Frankly I was not just going to hell, I was in hell on this earth. All the time I tried to balance “things” with prayer and occasional church attendance for one hour which I did not want to do. For years this continued until I accepted the role I now maintain with the hospital here in Al Khobar.

This last year was filled with tears and sadness in that a twenty-three year marriage failed due in part to those bad years just previous to my arrival to Al Khobar. I didn’t think I could get so low but you know it, He took it all away, took me to the bottom, where all there is is up. Really, I use to say I had to jump up to touch bottom. Those around me knew I hurt all the time and was empty, yet each day sometimes second by second I continue onward. My daily morning prayers were rarely missed and I read the Bible often, entire books at a time. Life at work and with me personally was on the improve even during the divorce and other matters I had to attend to back in the USA. Shortly after my arrival one of the senior managers in my division gave me information on Islam, which I welcomed but did not read nor look at. Into the drawer they went. Yet this man and others around me saw something in me that I had not yet realized, but they did, how I do not know but they did. One member of my staff gave me prayer beads. I carried them in my right pocket every day and counted them over and over with my right hand in my right pocket all day long. I was able to remain oh so calm in most difficult meetings while rolling those beads with my fingers. Life continued to be one good day then three bad, but my life and work continued. Then in November of last year I went back to the USA for a divorce trial and visit with my family. Sad times and good times but never did I ever feel at home there, never. Did not go to church either.

When I returned to the Kingdom in early December I was restless inside. Hard to explain. Decisions were difficult to make so I did not make them. So I just eased up and eased up some more and just listened with my heart and my mind. For days many people must have wondered what was on my mind for I must have looked preoccupied, but I was not, I was cutting layer upon layer away listening thinking sending out questions and messages, not knowing what would return. At the hospital I began to come over to the mosque, near but not to near, and hear the call to prayer watching the men enter or exit. They would be standing there talking with each other oblivious of the world around them, you could see they were different than before they entered. I was drawn, I knew it but denied it at the same time. The ditch between the two roads seemed to be too wide to cross and I did not have an idea how. Yet I wondered, and wondered some more…

In early January I had one of the most powerful urges ever, I had to have a Qur’an, period. On to my to do list it went, it stayed in my mind and never left. So two days later I came home from work on a Thursday afternoon and took a nap, set no alarm, but I agreed with myself that after prayer when the shops reopened I would go and buy my own. That afternoons prayer call woke me up and being tired, I said to myself you just go back to sleep and get the Qur’an later, what do I need one for. When I heard that in my mind I jump out of bed and got dressed, my hair was a mess from sleeping so I wore a ball cap. Flagged down a taxi driver and explained to him what my mission was, being a Muslim he welcomed the venture. So off to Jarir Bookstore we go, lots of traffic but we arrive with half of Al Khobar waiting to enter. Up the steps to the books and I begin looking, so many books and people. I could not find where to start so I finally got the attention of a salesman and off we go to the section where my Qur’an was. "Out of stock" he said. "How could that be?!" I said, "this is Saudi Arabia the heart of Islam and you are out of an Arabic / English Qur’an???", Dejected I returned to my excited taxi driver empty handed. Boy were we both despondent. We continued on and drove around looking for other bookstores until I recalled that Jarir had another shop near the hospital, so off we went. Got there in time for the evening prayer. He went to pray while I waited outside the shop like all the other non-believers. Eventually they opened and I approached the first staff member before anyone else. He took me directly to my own Qur’an, he even gave me a discount on the sales price. Maybe he saw something in me too. That same taxi driver was pleased that we did not give up and I obtained what I wanted.

I began to read my Qur’an while no one else knew. The more I read the more questions I derived yet I did not want to approach anyone for answers for it would disclose what I was doing… embracing Islam!, There were days where honestly work only got in the way of my time devoted to researching the truth. Some days it would be reading the Qur’an, the next out came my Bible to trace back and forth for answers. Key was Jesus in all this research. Who was he really, was he really God with the Father???, I wrestled with this question for I already believed there was only one God but as a Christian I thought that that meant what I considered as God was also Allah, was I wrong, which I will explain. Then it became oh so clear that what was being said by all my Muslim friends and employees in my past and present that there was only one God that that meant in deed no other but Allah. My past concepts began to fall into serious question. But I was not sold on the idea as yet. One day shortly thereafter I walked into my bosses office who is Muslim holding my prayer beads in my hand not my pocket and he said “You look like a Muslim Michael are you considering embracing Islam?” in a half joking yet serious manner. I sat down in front of his desk and said “Yes!”, I don’t think either of us will forget that morning. It was powerful. He came around from his side of his desk and shook my hand and said he would do anything and all things to help me find my way forward. I acknowledged this and accepted his help and requested his personal guidance, which he agreed to do. Wow I was empowered now so I dove even harder into my quest for the truth, so my reading of the Qur’an and Bible continued. One late evening I decided to look at the back of my Qur’an. I found the last pages to contain the following “Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) in the Bible and the Qur’an: Biblical Evidence of Jesus Being a Servant of God and Having No Share in Divinity”. I read those ten pages slowly and carefully several times. How can that be, Jesus not a God!!. So I read all of St. Matthews, John, and Mark. I looked at that Bible and searched for who wrote it and did Jesus actually write all those red lettered words in the New Testament?, All I could determine was a number of religious scholars had revised this Bible twice in the 1970’s and 1980’s and nowhere did I see where Jesus had in fact wrote a word, even one simple word in this Bible. All that was written was by others long after his great life here on earth. Was this truthful or was it half-truths or even completely wrong?, So back to the Qur’an I went with my reading and it clearly said to me that Allah in deed created Jesus in the virgin Mary (“Be”) and he was Muslim and a central Prophet as were the other Prophets sent by Allah to show people the straightway. It also said to me that he lived, never died and yet he is in heaven and will return again to rule the world as Allah had intended. Yet what I found was this: Allah sent his messages to Muhammad, which were written by scribes and verified by Muhammad as his words as inspired by Allah Himself, which is the Qur’an. This was done because the New Testament was altered, not correct, and lead people away from what Allah wanted Jesus to accomplish on earth. Wow my mind’s eye was fully opened as was my heart. The one God concept was just that, no one has the right to worship but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, that is fact with no doubt! How could the Christians get it oh so wrong, it is not three in one it is Only One and He is Allah. No wonder I had trouble “witnessing” to others about Jesus being a God that was because he was not. Yes, he was key and important but no God.

When I realized this in my heart, I accept Islam with Allah directly. I became his slave purely at that moment.

Now I outwardly asked with whom do I see to move forward to become Muslim and return to Islam. I was directed to one senior cleric, now nearly a month plus from obtaining my own Qur’an. I was being moved along by a quiet strength I had never ever known before, bold would be a good word to describe it. So I found this man who was held very high by others as with special gifts and met with him in his hospital office. I performed Shahadah with him after a lengthy discussion. He embraced me and said I had embraced Islam and was Muslim. We hugged, bear hugs!!! I almost cried. I did my first prayer that night at the compound mosque. I was taken up into so many arms and held tightly. The next day I met the Imam the next day and preformed Shahadah again in his office. He asked that I come to the noon prayer, which I did. Afterwards he introduced me to all in attendance and asked that I come up with him. His words as I found out later were gentle and kind towards me. He asked if I had anything to say. You bet, I preformed the Shahadah again in front of them all and explained who I was and briefly how I got there. When I finished every man in the mosque came and shook my hand and or hugged me. Never ever have I ever been greeted by such real love and care. It made me cry. While I returned to Islam and embraced it, it in turn embraced me!

I go to all prayers at the correct time, I am now reading about 30 books and pamphlets and have over 2000 pages of electric materials on Islam. Today I meet a special teacher who will lead me along the correct path so my prayers are correct and that my focus is maximized.

I called my Father, Mother, Son, and Brother providing them the detail of my faith in Islam. I was warmly received.

I am in the process of changing my name in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States from Michael Allen Wilson to Khalil Ibrahim Abdulmajid.

Now I cannot stop talking about the truth I now know to anyone who will listen.

I have been asked by Muslims and Christians both why I came back to Islam. Is it simple to reply. I relate that once I understood that Allah sent his very own message to Muhammad that we worship Allah only and that we follow the life Allah intended for us here on earth, that then and only then would Allah accept me to Paradise forever and ever. I want Allah’s promise to me to be complete, now and for that forever after. I want it with all of my being.

Heinz, Ex-Christian, UK

Abdul Hakeem Heinz was brought up in the south of London. He was first introduced to Islam at the tender age of seven when his mother embraced Islam.

Years later he traveled and lived in Egypt for a few years and further developed his knowledge and understanding of Islam as well as his skills in Arabic language.

He was just a young boy when his mother converted, and it was then that he and his brother and sister changed from going to church to practicing Islam. This was quite a shock for him at first because his comfort zone had been in the Christian concepts that he had previously been taught.

Initially, Islam was presented to him as a set of strict rules that had to be followed. He admits that at first he found it all a bit tough to deal with. At seven he was expected to pray and fast.

He also had to learn the Arabic language and he found himself praying and reading Quran but without understanding what he was saying and why he had to do all this.

However, the years passed and after some time, it all started to settle in and Islam became his way of life. As he looks back, he notes that as a teenager, it was natural that he would start to question what life is about.

As he passed through the turbulence of his teenage years, the meaning of the message of Islam started to touch his heart and became more and more acceptable to him. He also began to understand what Islam meant in his life and as he learned more, he perceived Islam as the correct way.

Heinz admits, “In my early teens, it was something to be ashamed of to be a Muslim. At school I was taught Islamic studies but I was also taught that it was just like Hinduism and Sikhism.”

It affected him that Islam and those who followed it were considered “different” from others. When he started secondary school, he did not want to be associated with Islam, but he kept it in his heart.

He explains his reaction, “It was because of the pressure from outside, but at the same time, I hadn't gone into Islam enough to justify my faith as I could have.” The public perception of Islam at that time affected how he presented himself as a Muslim. He wanted to be among the common crowd, which is a natural part of human nature. This perception did not change until he was about fourteen years old.

At this age, he changed in the way he practiced Islam and how he presented his religion to others. This happened after he traveled to Holland and Spain. His journey to Spain was especially significant as there he had the chance to interact more with practicing Muslims.

He comments, “There was a minority Muslim community where I was in Spain but they were respected and some of the youth of my age group were very interested in religion. This made me no longer feel ashamed. Young people were embracing Islam and this made me feel proud.”

When he returned to the UK from Spain, he was about fifteen. He went back to school, but the difference this time was that he was a Muslim from the inside! He was much more confident and so he started to talk about Islam more. Heinz says happily, “I could actually say 'I am Muslim'.”

Then attitudes towards Islam started to change among his peers at school. He relates, “At that time, being a Muslim was considered jazzy, snappy, and cool! This helped me become even more confident. One of the things that helped me through all these changes was my independence to know Almighty Allah.”

He admits reading when he was by himself and memorizing Quran. He also says that when he was a teenager, as a household his family members were Muslims, but Islam was not always being practiced properly.

Despite all this, there was something in his heart that was always drawn toward Almighty Allah and Islam. If he found life difficult or had problems, he would pray two units of Prayer and pour his heart out to Almighty Allah. He states, “I learned to submit myself to Allah.”“

Heinz believes that Muslims have to be sincere to Almighty Allah and recite Quran everyday. This is what helped him to pass through the difficult teenage years.

He noticed that as he became stronger, people changed their perceptions about him and started to respect him.

He says that if a person acts shyly, feels embarrassed and behaves apologetically, people will put him to one side. But if he does not really care about what people think, because he knows that he is on the truth, people will respect him because of the confidence he has.

Heinz says with surety, “People respect that kind of character. People respect you if you are yourself.”

He believes that we do not owe anything to our friends or the group we are with, and that we should just be ourselves. He advises new Muslims not to try to be like anyone else.

He is now twenty-three years old and believes that generally, in the West, people his age are struggling in terms of responsibility and knowing what is expected of them as adults. He finds that they are not sure because they do not belong to a certain culture, or their culture drives them to succumb to this world that is filled with commotion and strife.

He says that when he was seventeen years old and decided to practice Islam properly, that helped him to grow because Islam gave him a strict code of conduct. He followed what it says and tried to understand his role as a human being.

Slowly he came to know that he has responsibilities and will ultimately become a proper adult and a better person, more considerate and mindful of others. He says that without Islam he would have been lost.

He is grateful to Almighty Allah that He has brought him so far. With Islam, a person can stand out among their peers because Islam makes a person mature.

He says, “Gaining Islamic knowledge in today’s world is important and we cannot escape Satan as he wants to keep us away from where we should be.

“New Muslims want to get on the right path and it is important to keep good company because a person becomes what his group is. If the person around you will bring you down, you might have to cut relations with him.”

Heinz sees that his time in Egypt helped him to see how Muslims live and that it is great to feel that you belong to such a universal community. Apart from the knowledge of Arabic and Islam he obtained, Egypt also helped him to learn more about how to be a Muslim in everyday life.

He says that we learn from the people we mix with and that we should read Quran regularly and ask Almighty Allah to help us understand it properly. Everyone should find out what classes are happening in their area and attend them and spend time in the mosque. People can also go onto Islamic websites and be involved in the community around them.

He observes that in London there are a lot of places where a person can obtain knowledge and there are prominent speakers. He advises new Muslims to seek out such classes and lectures because not only will you gain knowledge, but you will also meet good people.

Looking to the future, Heinz says that he just makes supplications and hopes. He says, “I am more patient now because of the experiences I've had. I gained a lot of stability by having learned about the Companions and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).”

He sees that the best way to be a man and the best way to be a woman are by living according to the standards of Almighty Allah.