Assalam-aleikum wa rahmatullah!
I came to Islam pretty much on my own. I was born and raised Roman Catholic,
but I always had a deep fascination with the spiritualities of other cultures.
My Journey started when I desired to have a relationship with my creator. I
wanted to find my spirituality, and not the one I was born with. I spent some
time in the Catholic religious order known as the Franciscans. I had many
friends and I enjoyed prayer times, but it just seemed to relaxed in its faith,
and there was, in my opinion, too much arrogance and hypocrisy. When I had
returned back from the order into secular living again, I once again was
searching for my way to reach God (Allah). One night I was watching the news on
television, and of course they were continuing their one-sided half-truth
reports on Muslims (always in a negative light instead of balancing it by
showing the positive side as well) with images of violence and terrorism. I
decided long ago that the news media has no morals whatsoever and will trash
anyone for that "juicy story", and I pretty much refused to believe
anything they said. I decided to research Islam for myself and draw my own
What I found paled all the negative images that the satanic media spewed
forth. I found a religion deep in love and spiritual truth, and constant God-mindfullness.
What may be fanatacism to one person may be devotion to another. I picked up a
small paperback Qur'an and began devouring everything I could. It opened my eyes
to the wonder and mercy of ALLAH, and I found the fascination growing every
day...it was all I could think about. No other religion including Catholicism
impacted me in such a powerful way...I actually found myself in God-awareness 24
hours a day 7 days a week...each time I went to my five daily prayers, I went
with anticipation...finally! What I have been searching for all of my life.
I finally got enough courage to go to a mosque and profess the Shahadah
before my Muslm brothers and sisters. I now am a practicing Muslim and I thank
ALLAH for leading me to this place: Ashhahdu anna la ilaha ilallah wa
Muhammadur rasul ALLAH! This means: "I believe in the oneness and
totalness of ALLAH and that Muhammad(peace and blessings be upon him)is the
chosen prophet of ALLAH." I now also accept Jesus as no longer equal with
ALLAH, but sent as Muhammad was sent ...to bring all of mankind to submission to
the will of ALLAH! May all of mankind find the light and truth of ALLAH.
February 25, 1997
We Embraced Islam,
Books 9 & 10. Edited by Dr. Arafat El-Ashi (1419H/1998), Toronto, Canada
I grew up in Forth Worth, Texas, in a Protestant Christian family. As a
child, our church was an important source of moral values - providing a scale to
measure right from wrong and good from evil - but it was not a vital part of
either my social or intellectual acivity. Church simply was not engaging for me,
and what was taught and discussed on Sunday mornings often appeared to have
little relevance to the rest of the week - that is, to everyday life.
When it was time to go to college, I selected the University of Virginia. I
have always had a love of history, and looking over the course listings I found
an introductory class on the history of the Middle East. I thought this course
would be beneficial for me since I had very limited knowledge of the region, I
decided to pair it with a foreign language course in Arabic. I had studied
French throughout and Arabic was about as big a change as I had been craving
As the years wore on, I started getting interested more in my Middle Eastern
courses than in architecture. A year later, I switched over to the history
department where I concentrated on the Arab world in my coursework and research.
As New Editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs since my
graduation from Texas nearly five years ago, I continue to follow events and
trends in the Middle East. A few courses in college - and the professors who
taught them - literally changed the trajectory of my life.
I was exposed to the teachings of Islam through my classes and assigned
readings. The coursework assumed great importance. The more I read about Islam,
the more it appealed to me, since I didn't know the faintest thing about Islam.
I dug deeper, reading books by both Muslim and non-Muslim writers. What really
caught my attention were writings by a handful of authors, especially European
Muslim Charles Le Gai Eaton's masterful 'Islam and the Destiny of Man', Fazlur
Rahman's overview of the faith titled simply 'Islam' and non-Muslim Marshall
Hodgson's three-volume history, 'The Venture of Islam' .
What I found was a religion whose moral teachings closely resembled the
values I had been taught by my parents: belief in God, respect for others,
truthfulness, courtesy, charity and honor. What was new was the clarity and
vibrance of Islam, and the fact that all of these values were integrated into a
complete and seamless system. Islamic teachings were sublime, subtle and easy to
I told myself to wait one year, to make sure of my decision and to learn more
about Islamic beliefs and practice where my level of knowledge was lacking.
Giving Shahadah would be the single most important action of my life, and I
wanted to be sure of my ability to live up to that commitment. After some three
years of study, research and contemplation, I embraced Islam in the summer of
The question which always crops up in conversations with Muslims or
non-Muslims is,"Why did you convert?" . To reduce the beauty of Islam
to a series of talking points is clearly absurd; there are a thounsand reasons,
small and large, why I became a Muslim. And yet three things stand out for me.
First, the Islamic belief in the Day of Judgement struck a chord deep inside
my soul. Every man and woman will be held responsible for his or her actions -
and only his or her actions - by a Just but Merciful Judge: Allah. I believe
that justice tempered by mercy is the most important value in this world; how
could it be any different in the hereafter? We have been provided with the means
to discern right from wrong, and the ability to enjoin one while forbidding the
other. Our actions and intentions have meaning (in the truest sense of the
word), according to Islam.
Secondly, while I find a great deal of similarity between Christian and
Islamic morals, Islam resolved a number of theological questions and issues of
belief which I found Christianity could not satisfactorily address. Among these
are the unity of Allah as opposed to the 'mystery' of the Christian Trinity
(which has yet to be explained to my satisfaction by Christian doctrine), the
ability of each Muslim to stand before Allah without the intercession of a
priest or clergyman, and the whole issue of the language of the scripture.
The Qur'an has been preserved in its original form and the original Arabic
since the time of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) while Isa (Jesus) spoke Aramaic,
the Gospel was first written in Greek, then translated into Latin and
subsequently into English, French, Spanish, German, etc.
Anyone who speaks two languages and has ever translated from one into the
other knows that something is lost in the process; subtle meanings of phrases
and the connotations of words are inevitably sacrificed. How then, can one refer
to a passage in an English-language Bible and assert categorically that these
were truly the words - and teachings - of Isa (Jesus), Musa (Moses) or Ibrahim
(Abraham) (peace be upon them all) ? Muslims have direct access to the Word of
Allah (SWT), and are able to follow the Message of their Creator in its
I became a Muslim, my depth of knowledge and understanding of the faith has
increased, as has my recognition that I have still only skimmed the surface of
the vast body of Islamic teaching, thought and scholarship. I also have grown to
appreciate the diversity of Muslim community around the world and the variety of
views and opinions that Muslims hold. This has been, in a sense, the opposite of
my original task as a non-Muslim which was trying to reduce Islam to its
essentials and in order to understand it. Now I am reversing the process, trying
to see how Islam unfolds in all its variety - a faith which is applicable in all
times and for all people is, by necessity, broad and diverse. From my
perspective as a "Muslim by choice" , as those who embrace Islam are
sometimes called, I find that these are exciting times for Islam, and that it is
an exciting time to be a Muslim.
I was born in an ordinary , non-religious Swedish home, but with a very
loving relationship to each other. I had lived my life 25 years without really
thinking about the existence of God or anything spiritual what-so-ever; I was
the role model of the materialistic man.
Or was I? I recall a short story I wrote in 7th grade, something about my
future life, where I portray myself as a successful games programmer (I hadn't
yet even touched a computer) and living with a Muslim wife!! OK, at that time
Muslim to me meant dressing in long clothes and wearing a scarf, but I have no
idea where those thoughts came from. Later, in high school, I remember spending
much time in the school-library (being a bookworm) and at one time I picked up a
translated Qur'an and read some passages from it. I don't remember exactly what
I read, but I do remember finding that what it said made sense and was logical
Still, I was not at all religious, I couldn't fit God in my universe, and I
had no need of any god. I mean, we have Newton to explain how the universe
Time passed, I graduated and started working. Earned some money and moved to
my own apartment, and found a wonderful tool in the PC. I became a passionate
amateur photographer, and enrolled in activities around that. At one time I was
documenting a marketplace, taking snapshots from a distance with my telelens
when an angry looking immigrant came over and explained that he would make sure
I wasn't going to take any more pictures of his mum and sisters. Strange people
More things related to Islam happened that I can't explain why I did what I
did. I can't recall the reason I called the "Islamic information
organisation" in Sweden, ordering a subscription to their newsletter,
buying Yosuf Ali's Qur'an and a very good book on Islam called Islam - our
faith. I just did!
I read almost all of the Qur'an, and found it to be both beautiful and
logical, but still, God had no place in my heart. One year later, whilst out on
a patch of land called "pretty island" (it really is) taking
autumn-color pictures, I was overwhelmed by a fantastic feeling. I felt as if I
were a tiny piece of something greater, a tooth on a gear in God's great gearbox
called the universe. It was wonderful! I had never ever felt like this before,
totally relaxed, yet bursting with energy, and above all, total awareness of god
wherever I turned my eyes.
I don't know how long I stayed in this ecstatic state, but eventually it
ended and I drove home, seemingly unaffected, but what I had experienced left
uneraseable marks in my mind. At this time Microsoft brought Windows-95 to the
market with the biggest marketing blitz known to the computer industry. Part of
the package was the on-line service The Microsoft Network. And keen to know what
is was I got myself an account on the MSN. I soon found that the Islam BBS were
the most interesting part of the MSN, and that's where I found Shahida.
Shahida is a American woman, who like me has converted to Islam. Our
chemistry worked right away, and she became the best pen-friend I have ever had.
Our e-mail correspondence will go down in history: the fact that my mailbox grew
to something like 3 megabytes over the first 6 months tells its own tale. She
and I discussed a lot about Islam and faith in god in general, and what she
wrote made sense to me. Shahida had an angels patience with my slow thinking and
my silly questions, but she never gave up the hope in me. Just listen to your
heart and you'll find the truth she said.
And I found the truth in myself sooner than I'd expected. On the way home
from work, in the bus with most of the people around me asleep, and myself
adoring the sunset, painting the beautifully dispersed clouds with pink and
orange colours, all the parts came together, how God can rule our life, yet
we're not robots. How I could depend on physics and chemistry and still believe
and see Gods work. It was wonderful, a few minutes of total understanding and
peace. I so long for a moment like this to happen again!
And it did, one morning I woke up, clear as a bell, and the first thought
that ran through my brain was how grateful to God I were that he made me wake up
to another day full of opportunities. It was so natural, like I had been doing
every day of my life!
After these experiences I couldn't no longer deny God's existence. But after
25 years of denying God it was no easy task to admit his existence and accept
faith. But good things kept happening to me, I spent some time in the US, and at
this time I started praying, testing and feeling, learning to focus on God and
to listen to what my heart said. It all ended in a nice weekend in New York, of
which I had worried a lot, but it turned out to be a success, most of all, I
finally got to meet Shahida!
At this point there was no return, I just didn't know it yet. But God kept
leading me, I read some more, and finally got the courage to call the nearest
Mosque and ask for a meeting with some Muslims. With trembling legs I drove to
the mosque, which I had passed many times before, but never dared to stop and
visit. I met the nicest people there, and I was given some more reading
material, and made plans to come and visit the brothers in their home. What they
said, and the answers they gave all made sense. Islam became a major part of my
life, I started praying regularly, and I went to my first Jumma prayer. It was
wonderful, I sneaked in, and sat in the back, not understanding a word the imam
was saying, but still enjoying the service. After the khutba we all came
together forming lines, and made the two 'rakaas'. It was yet one of the
wonderful experiences I have had on my journey to Islam. The sincerity of 200
men fully devoted to just one thing, to praise God, felt great!
Slowly my mind started to agree with my heart, I started to picture myself as
a Muslim, but could I really convert to Islam? I had left the Swedish
state-church earlier, just in case, but to pray 5 times a day? to stop eating
pork? Could I really do that? And what about my family and friends? I recalled
what Br. Omar told me, how his family tried to get him admitted to an asylum
when he converted. Could I really do this?
By this time the Internet wave had swept my country, and I too had hooked up
with the infobahn. And "out there" were tons of information about
Islam. I think I collected just about every web page with the word Islam
anywhere in the text, and learned a lot. But what really made a change was a
text I found in Great Britain, a story of a newly converted woman with feelings
exactly like mine. 12
hours is the name of the text. When I had read that story, and wept the
tears out of my eyes I realized that there were no turning back anymore, I
couldn't resist Islam any longer.
Summer vacation started, and I had made my mind up. I had to become a Muslim!
But after all, the start of the summer had been very cold, and if my first week
without work was different, I wouldn't lose a day of sunshine by not being on
the beach. On the TV the weatherman painted a big sun right on top of my part of
the country. OK then, some other day... The next morning; a steel grey sky, with
ice-cold gusts of wind outside my bedroom window. It was like God had decided my
time was up, I could wait no longer. I had the required bath, and dressed in
clean clothes, jumped in my car and drove the 1 hour drive to the mosque.
In the Mosque I approached the brothers with my wish, and after dhuhr prayer
the Imam and some brothers witnessed me say the Shahada. Alhamdulillah! And to
my great relief all my family and friends have taken my conversion very well,
they have all accepted it, I won't say they were thrilled, but absolutely no
hard feelings. They can't understand all the things I do. Like praying 5 times a
day on specific times, or not eating pork meat. They think this is strange
foreign customs that will die out with time, but I'll prove them wrong.
I was born and brought up into a devoted catholic family. My father comes
from a family whose members mostly turned out to become priests and priestesses,
while my mother still has a certain aristocratic blood in her family. My parents
were blessed with five children, of which I am the only male and the youngest
one. I never had anyone of them to play with since I was a child because of the
quite significant difference in age, they were always occupied with their school
tasks whenever I needed someone to play with. As it turned out to be, I got used
to spending my time with the maidservant and when I was bored, I simply went out
to play. For that reason I was used to make friends with people outside of my
family, people in my neighborhood who were mostly muslims.
In my family, everything that has a "muslim taste" in it was
usually considered inappropriate. So every thursday when the time was for the
recitation of the Qur'an (we only had TVRI, the government's station back then)
the TV set was immediately turned off, that's how my family was like. When I got
to school age, naturally my parents chose a catholic institution, as with all my
sisters. Even so, I alwasy found it easier to be friends mostlye with people who
Perhaps it was because of my negative childhood image, that when I grew up to
be a teen-ager my family always thought of me as being this troublesome kid. In
other words, to them I was always the one to blame for everything, anything good
that I did was practically nothing to them. Hence, I always tried to look up for
answers of my problems through sources outside of my family. My academic records
were also nothing special except for English language.
And so I started to contemplate with questions that I had in my high school
year, I asked and kept asking, I read many books and literature, trying to
explore everything about my faith then. But as it goes, the more I gained
something, the more I felt that, "This isn't it, this is not what I
want." What's worse is that the more I involved myself with religious
activities, the more I went further from what I expected, which put me down more
and more. What I always found in there was nothing but negative views on
somebody else's faith. Whenever I tried to give in another view, they put me
down saying that I'm taking sides, I'm giving too much of a value judgement, so
on and so forth.
Eventually I became more distanced from them, but interestingly (and this is
what had always happenned) I felt myself drawn closer and closer with my muslim
friends, they seemed to accept me without any sort of tendency to judge. They
knew I didn't share their faith but most of them didn't seem to mind or be
disturbed by it whatsoever.
My adulthood started when I entered college. I enrolled in a private college
whose students were predominantly muslims. Even so, I still tried to involve
myself in religious activities with students of the same faith. In that
community, the old conflicting trauma appeared afresh, even worse. Eventually I
lost my interest in it. As a college student, I felt more comfortable in my soul
searching process. Naturally, I had more access to many references, times and
places of interest, because I never felt home with my relatives, even with my
sisters. And so I went on with my life as usual, until this deep spiritual
experience happened. This is the story:
One morning, I don't remember the date, but it was in 1993. I was abruptly
awoke from sleep and just quickly sat down. Then unconsciously went up and
washed my face, hands and feet, then got back sitting with my legs crossed.
Exactly then the call to fajr prayer started..but very differently. I listened
to it with an indescribable feeling and emotion,..it was touching me so deeply,
in short. I myself never could explain what really happened that morning, but so
it did. Ever since then I looked for answers and learned with a practicing
muslim friend, read books, started everything from scratch.
The first obstacle for me naturally came from my family, especially my
mother. I became uncertain again, this is the most difficult choice in my entire
life. And so months I spent trying to think over my intention to become a muslim.
I felt that I had to make a choice. And of course I chose to become a muslim
In early 1994 I declared my shahadah after finishing the maghrib (evening)
prayer in jama'ah (congregation). It was really emotional, friends from my
faculty in college even made me work out a written statement with them as
witnesses, how touchy it was.
In short, I've lived my life as a new person ever since then. After finishing
my school, I started working. Even though my relationship with my family is
falling apart, I try to pull everything together and be strong as to endure the
My new life was again put to a test when I was going to marry. Because I'm
considered an apostate in my family's view, I had to do everything by myself,
the proposal, etc., everything. No wedding reception or any of that sort, just
the obligatory ones.
And then when my mother died, unfortunately I didn't get to see her for the
last time. Her wish, which of course I cannot comply to, was for me to return to
my old faith.
Wassalaamu 'alaikum wrahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,
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