Men Who embraced Islam [M]


Assalamalaikum brothers and sisters and non Muslims.

First off all, I would like to start by saying that this true story is not for my own fame or admiration but for the sake of my Lord and your Lord Allah. All praises due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful Owner of the day of judgement. I would like to repeat to you something I heard: the journey of a thousand miles has to start with the first step and this is the first part of my journey.

My name is Malik Mohammed Hassan and I have recently converted to Islam. When I was in junior high school I was first introduced to Islam by reading the book Roots by Alex Haley. It taught me a little bit about the strong will that most Muslims possess, myself included. It also introduced me to Allah. I had never heard of Allah in his real form until I read that book and I was very curious. I then started reading about The Nation Of Islam (specifically Malcolm X) and it fascinated me how devoted he was to Allah, especially after he left the self serving Nation Of Islam. Reading about Malcolm made me think about a God who (for a change) did not have any physical form or limitations and, being a totally blind person, it made me relate to these people: the people who Malcolm and Haley referred to as Muslims. I continued reading what I could about Islam which wasn't as much as it should have been. My reading material was very limited because like I said above: I am a totally blind person and the material available about Islam in braille or on tape was not only very little, but also very general. I believe the reason was that the material that I had access to wasn't written by Muslims and it kind of painted a dark picture of Islam. I think most of the literature written by Christians or non Muslims about Islam tends to do that most of the time. And I didn't know that their were even Muslims in Halifax so I obviously didn't know any. I didn't even know about the local Islamic association until I was already a Muslim.

So, I read what I could until my first year out of high school around the month of May, 1996, when I received a phone call asking me if I wanted to participate in a camp for blind and visually impaired people known throughout Canada as Score. I agreed and sent them a resume and praise be to Allah I was excepted for work.

At first I really didn't want to go but something kept telling me it would be a good idea if I went. So, on June 30th 1996 I boarded a plane from Nova Scotia to Toronto and took my last trip as a non Muslim; I just didn't know it yet.

I got to Toronto and everything at first was pretty normal... It was on the second day that I was there when the journey of a thousand miles first started.

I arrived on a Sunday and on the next day I met the person who Allah would use with His divine power to help guide me to the beautiful Religion of Islam. I met a sister named Rizvana and if she reads this I hope she doesn't get mad at me for using her name.

When I met her, I immediately wanted to talk to her because I liked her name. I asked her of what origin her name was and she told me that it was Arabic; so I asked her if she was Muslim and she replied with the answer of yes. I immediately started telling her what I already knew about Islam which lasted about ten seconds. I started asking her questions and also asking her to talk to me about Islam.

One particular incident that comes to my mind is when all of the workers at the camp went to a baseball game and the sister and I started talking about Islam and missed pretty much the whole game.

Well, anyways, we talked for about three, maybe four days on and off about Islam and on July the fifth if my memory doesn't fail me I became a Muslim. My life has been totally different ever since. I look at things very differently than I used to and I finally feel like I belong to a family. All Muslims are brothers and sisters in Islam so I could say that I have approximately 1.2 billion brothers and sisters all of whom I'm proud to be related to. I finally know what it feels like to be humble and to worship a God that I don't have to see.

For any non Muslim reading this just look at it this way. It's good to learn, but you never know when you will be tested and if you're not in the class at the time of the final exam no matter how much you know you'll never get any credit. So like I said it's good to learn but if you want to get credit sign up for the class. In other words, declare shehada (testimony to faith) and let Allah teach you everything you need to know. Believe me the reward is worth it. You could say the reward is literally heaven.

If any good comes out of this story all the credit is due to Allah; only the mistakes are my own.

I would like to mention a part of a hadith that has had a great effect on me and that is:

"Worship Allah as if you see him and if you don't see him, know that he sees you." - Sahih Muslim, Volume 1, Number 1

Oct. 23rd, 1996

Michael Wolfe

I Had Not Gone Shopping for a New Religion
(An excerpt fromThe Hajj: An American's Pilgramage to Mecca)

After twenty-five years a writer in America, I wanted something to soften my cynicism. I was searching for new terms by which to see. The way one is raised establishes certain needs in this department. From a pluralist background, I naturally placed great stress on the matters of racism and freedom. Then, in my early twenties, I had gone to live in Africa for three years. During this time, which was formative for me, I did rubbed shoulders with blacks of many different tribes, with Arabs, Berbers, and even Europeans, who were Muslims. By and large these people did not share the Western obsession with race as a social category. In our encounters being oddly coloured rarely mattered. I was welcomed first and judged on merit later. By contrast, Europeans and Americans, including many who are free of racist notions, automatically class people racially. Muslims classified people by their faith and their actions. I found this transcendent and refreshing. Malcolm X saw his nation’s salvation in it. "America needs to understand Islam," he wrote, "because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem".

I was looking for an escape route, too, from the isolating terms of a materialistic culture. I wanted access to a spiritual dimension, but the conventional paths I had known as a boy were closed. My father had been a Jew; my mother Christian. Because of my mongrel background, I had a foot in two religious camps. Both faiths were undoubtedly profound. Yet the one that emphasizes a chosen people I found insupportable; while the other, based in a mystery, repelled me. A century before, my maternal great-great-grandmother’s name had been set in stained glass at the high street Church of Christ in Hamilton, Ohio.
By the time I was twenty, this meant nothing to me.

These were the terms my early life provided. The more I thought about it now, the more I returned to my experiences in Muslim Africa. After two return trips to Morocco, in 1981 and 1985, I came to feel that Africa, the continent, had little to do with the balanced life I found there. It was not, that is, a continent I was after, nor an institution, either. I was looking for a framework I could live with, a vocabulary of spiritual concepts applicable to the life I was living now. I did not want to "trade in" my culture. I wanted access to new meanings.

After a mid-Atlantic dinner I went to wash up in the bathroom. During my absence a quorum of Hasidim lined up to pray outside the door. By the time I had finished, they were too immersed to notice me. Emerging from the bathroom, I could barely work the handle. Stepping into the aisle was out of the question.

I could only stand with my head thrust into the hallway, staring at the congregation’s backs. Holding palm-size prayer books, they cut an impressive figure, tapping the texts on their breastbones as they divined. Little by little the movements grew erratic, like a mild, bobbing form of rock and roll. I watched from the bathroom door until they were finished, then slipped back down the aisle to my seat.

We landed together later that night in Brussels. Reboarding, I found a discarded Yiddish newspaper on a food tray. When the plane took off for Morocco, they were gone.

I do not mean to imply here that my life during this period conformed to any grand design. In the beginning, around 1981, I was driven by curiosity and an appetite for travel. My favourite place to go, when I had the money, was Morocco. When I could not travel, there were books. This fascination brought me into contact with a handful of writers driven to the exotic, authors capable of sentences like this, by Freya Stark:

The perpetual charm of Arabia is that the traveller finds his level there simply as a human being; the people’s directness, deadly to the sentimental or the pedantic, like the less complicated virtues; and the pleasantness of being liked for oneself might, I think, be added to the five reasons for travel given me by Sayyid Abdulla, the watchmaker; "to leave one’s troubles behind one; to earn a living; to acquire learning; to practise good manners; and to meet honourable men".

I could not have drawn up a list of demands, but I had a fair idea of what I was after. The religion I wanted should be to metaphysics as metaphysics is to science. It would not be confined by a narrow rationalism or traffic in mystery to please its priests. There would be no priests, no separation between nature and things sacred. There would be no war with the flesh, if I could help it. Sex would be natural, not the seat of a curse upon the species. Finally, I did want a ritual component, daily routine to sharpen the senses and discipline my mind. Above all, I wanted clarity and freedom. I did not want to trade away reason simply to be saddled with a dogma.

The more I learned about Islam, the more it appeared to conform to what I was after.

Most of the educated Westerners I knew around this time regarded any strong religious climate with suspicion. They classified religion as political manipulation, or they dismissed it as a medieval concept, projecting upon it notions from their European past.

It was not hard to find a source for their opinions. A thousand years of Western history had left us plenty of fine reasons to regret a path that led through so much ignorance and slaughter. From the Children’s Crusade and the Inquisition to the transmogrified faiths of nazism and communism during our century, whole countries have been exhausted by belief. Nietzsche’s fear, that the modern nation-state would become a substitute religion, have proved tragically accurate. Our century, it seemed to me, was ending in an age beyond belief, which believers inhabited as much as agnostics.

Regardless of church affiliation, secular humanism is the air westerners breathe, the lens we gaze through. Like any world view, this outlook is pervasive and transparent. It forms the basis of our broad identification with democracy and with the pursuit of freedom in all its countless and beguiling forms. Immersed in our shared preoccupations, one may easily forget that other ways of life exist on the same planet.

At the time of my trip, for instance, 650 million Muslims with a majority representation in forty-four countries adhered to the formal teachings of Islam. In addition, about 400 million more were living as minorities in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Assisted by postcolonial economics, Islam has become in a matter of thirty years a major faith in Western Europe. Of the world’s great religions, Islam alone was adding to its fold.

My politicized friends were dismayed by my new interest. They all but universally confused Islam with the machinations of half
a dozen middle eastern tyrants. The books they read, the new broadcasts they viewed depicted the faith as a set of political functions. Almost nothing was said of its spiritual practice. I liked to quote Mae West to them: "Anytime you take religion for
a joke, the laugh’s on you".

Historically a Muslim sees Islam as the final, matured expression of an original religion reaching back to Adam. It is as resolutely monotheistic as Judaism, whose major Prophets Islam reveres as links in a progressive chain, culminating in Jesus and Muhammad. Essentially a message of renewal, Islam has done its part on the world stage to return the forgotten taste of life’s lost sweetness to millions of people. Its book, the Qur’an, caused Goethe to remark, "You see, this teaching never fails; with all our systems, we cannot go, and generally speaking no man can go, further".

Traditional Islam is expressed through the practice of five pillars. Declaring one’s faith, prayer, charity, and fasting are activities pursued repeatedly throughout one’s life. Conditions permitting, each Muslim is additionally charged with undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime. The Arabic term for this fifth rite is Hadj. Scholars relate the word to the concept of kasd, "aspiration," and to the notion of men and women as travellers on earth. In Western religions pilgrimage is a vestigial tradition, a quaint, folkloric concept commonly reduced to metaphor. Among Muslims, on the other hand, the hadj embodies a vital experience for millions of new pilgrims every year. In spite of the modern content of their lives, it remains an act of obedience, a profession of belief, and the visible expression of a spiritual community. For a majority of Muslims the hadj is an ultimate goal, the trip of a lifetime.

As a convert I felt obliged to go to Makkah. As an addict to travel I could not imagine a more compelling goal.

The annual, month-long fast of Ramadan precedes the hadj by about one hundred days. These two rites form a period of intensified awareness in Muslim society. I wanted to put this period to use. I had read about Islam; I had joined a Mosque near my home in California; I had started a practice. Now I hoped to deepen what I was learning by submerging myself in a religion where Islam infuses every aspect of existence.

I planned to begin in Morocco, because I knew that country well and because it followed traditional Islam and was fairly stable. The last place I wanted to start was in a backwater full of uproarious sectarians. I wanted to paddle the mainstream, the broad, calm water.

Michael Yip

23, 1996 I was introduced to Islam in 1995 by an Egyptian classmate who arrived in New Zealand the previous year, and who was placed into my Chemistry class. I had no religion before this, though I guess I was a non practicing Christian, since I attended Sunday school when I was young, (but mainly to learn Chinese, my native tongue, rather than religion). In fact
I was uninterested in much that was taught to me, however I never at any stage discounted the notion of a higher being (ie. Allah, or God).

Because of my background in religion, I did not know much about religions other than Christianity and Buddhism. My parents are Buddhists, but my knowledge of it was so weak that I did not even know the proper name for their religion until a few years ago. So I was naive when I met my classmate, Muhammed.

During the first few weeks, another classmate of mine kept teasing Muhammed about his religion, asking leading questions and the like. I thus became interested in some of the things that this other classmate, James, was suggesting. So I got talking with Muhammed about this religion called Islam, and we became acquainted quickly.

I requested to see a Quran but did not find the time to read it, during a busy school year. So when the workload became a bit lighter, I went to see my friend's father, who is our local imam. He spoke to me at length about Islam, and planted a seed which in a few months time, with the blessing of Allah, blossomed into strong muslim, alhumdulillah. I took shahada in November 1995.

I am often asked why I came to Islam. The question seems logical, and simple, but in fact, I still find it the most difficult question to answer, even though I have been asked it so many times. You see, I saw many things in Islam that I liked. Included in this were the strong brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam, the way fellow muslims looked after each other, and the logic in Islam. The logic in women wearing hijab to deter from that which is haram, the logic in the forbidding of alcohol, which harms more than it ever will heal, and the logic in many other areas of our lives. I have been told that many people who revert to Islam find they fit right in with the religion. Indeed this was the case with me. Coming from a kafir country such as New Zealand (I have lived here most of my life), it is rare for a person to be good religiously like myself, alhumdulillah, masha Allah. You see, alhumdulillah, I made intentions in my heart never to drink in my life, and never have; I made intentions not to fornicate, even though everyone around me in school was either fornicating or planning to. So you see, alhumdulillah, Allah blessed me from the beginning, and I felt Islam was the next obvious step for me to take in my life.

I decided in November of 1995, with the encouragement with some brothers and sisters on the Internet, to take shahada as a first step in Islam, and then take further steps to learn more about Islam, after all we are all in a constant state of learning about Islam. Alhumdulillah since then I have progressed slowly but surely, learning some surats from Quran during a very busy school year. Allah blessed me with some amazing results last year, alhumdulillah, and now I want to thank my Allah by increasing the time I spend learning Quran and about Islam this year, insha Allah, while I pursue entry into a Medical degree. May Allah give me the strength insha Allah to enter Medical school next year. May Allah help us all to learn more about Islam, and let us all undertake to live our lives in the correct way, and follow the one true and surely straight path, that of Islam. Ameen.

Mike LoPrete

I guess a little background about myself before I tell my story would be in order. My name (as per the top of the post) is Mike LoPrete, and I'm a 19 years old college student. I was born Catholic, raised Christian, and lived in midwestern American, where it is almost exclusively Christian (pockets of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, but they are largely ignored communities around here). Not until I took my own initiative did I learn about Islam in an unbiased fashion (my mother has said of Egypt that "if you sneeze the wrong way, they'll throw you in jail" and that based on the current situation in Pakistan, she concludes that it is a 'God-forsaken' country)...I am at heart both a mystic and an academic at the same time; on one hand I am intensely curious about the world, and generally don't accept "I don't know" as an answer, but on the other I do tend to embrace the mysteries and surprises of this world.

I started learning about Islam about a year and a half ago, nothing too in depth, and I certainly didn't think I was going to convert. Ironically, I was going through a period of spiritual renewal; I was agnostic for a few teenage years, and thought that I had 'refound' Christianity, as it were. But all my life, I've had problems with some of the things about Christianity. I didn't get the idea of the trinity, or of Jesus being all man and all God at the same time. If Jesus was God, why did he pray to God, and why did he say 'God, why have you forsaken me?' when he was on the cross? It didn't make sense, and it didn't seem right. I'm a student of religion in my university, and since most of the focus is on christianity, I have learned a great deal about it, and the deeper I went, the more problems I had.

And then I started learning about Islam. I met someone online one day (January 14, 1999, I will always remember that), and she was a Muslim girl my age who just needed someone to talk to b/c she was going through tough times. As I helped her through, we started becoming good friends, and started talking about islam as well. She had basically told me about the 5 pillars, about the quran, how it is similar to Christianity, academic flame lit, I had no end to my questions, and she always gave me a straightforward answer that came from her heart, rather from impersonal dogma other people regurgitated to her. I took this last summer to study it more, but by june or so I was pretty much drawn in. I said the shahadda in the beginning of october, I can't remember the day exactly, but by this time I had already embraced islam.

I'm currently still studying islam, memorizing the prayers and hopefully a sura or two for Ramadan, beginning to learn Arabic, and reading some of the hadith. It is really a very exciting time right now, but I still have many worries about whether I will be accepted by my family (they are all fairly religious Christians, and I haven't told them yet) and questions that will be answered in time.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my ramblings,

Mike LoPrete

Mike Tyson returns to freedom at last
Agence France-Presse, Indianapolis
March 26,1995

MIKE Tyson, freed yesterday, after three years in prison for rape, departed for home after visiting a Muslim mosque for services in his new faith.
The former world heavyweight champion was released just before sunrise, returning to freedom wearing a Muslim prayer cap and going directly to the nearby Islamic Center of North America.
"I'm very happy to be out and on my way home, a statement from Tyson said. "I want to thank everyone for their support. I will have more to say in the future. I'll see you all soon."
Tyson, who turns 29 on June 30, served the minimum tree-year sentence for the 1991 rape of beauty pageant contestant Desiree Wasgington.
Tyson was surrounded by bodyguards and accompanied by promoter Don King as he walked from the Indiana Youth Center to a waiting limousine.
Only a brief glimpse of Tyson was seen and that was mainly his head, atop which was a white Muslim covering. Tyson had been baptised a Christian by Reverend Jesse Jackson.
"As long as there's a relationship with God, that's the main thing," said Reverend Charles Williams, a Tyson confidant during his prison stay. "Whatever Mike wants, we're happy for him."
Tyson would follow in the footsteps of Cassius Clay as a former champion forced out of the ring for three prime years of his career who converted to Muslim during his layoff. Clay was banned from boxing for draft evasion.
Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali 25 years ago and regained his world title. Tyson reportedly will change his name to Malik Abdul Aziz. In Arabic, Malik means"king" or "ruler" while Abdul Aziz means "servant of the mighty."
Tyson's spiritual adviser said he prayed with Muhammad Ali, rap star M.C. Hammer and Don King at the mosque.
One of the people who attended the prayer service said about 400 worshipers were there. They said a special prayer of thanksgiving for Tyson.
About 200 journalists from around the world flanked both sides of the main entrance to the prison to chronicle Tyson's 6:15 a.m. release. Four helicopters were following tyson's journey from the moment of his release. Tyson's entourage reached 110 mph (176 km/h) on interstate highways.
Skies were clear and temperatures were near freezing as Tysonered the limousine. He bypassed an outdoor prayer vigil across the street from the prison, which quickly dispersed once it was clear tyson was not going to appear.
Tyson spent about 45 minutes at the mosque and was then driven to nearby Indianapolis International Airport. He caught a private jet for Southington, Ohio, and his mansion estate there.
"The man has paid his dues and it's time to welcome him home." said Ruth Bernard, a neighbor of Tyson's in the Cleaveland suburb where yellow ribbons adorned trees in anticipation of Tyson's homecoming.

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