Men Who Embraced Islam [T-Y]

Tavis Adibudeen

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Many of the things people go through prepare them for life and mold the choices they make in the future. Islam, now the fastest growing religion in the US (at approx. 500,000 new converts a year), relays this very well. All of the converts (or more appropriately: reverts) to Islam have some significant or collection of insignificant events or people that shaped their concept of Islam.This concept, for them, became action. It is fair to say that many of the things that introduce a person to Islam are difficulties and misunderstandings. It has been said that one must crawl before they can walk, or you must get knocked down before you can be picked up again. This is often the case for new Muslims in America. They donít realize how precious Islam is,until they realize how hard life can be. We are not prophets, and therefore there is no revelation to us. Instead, we must come to terms with our reality before touching our spirituality. For African Americans in America, this is a difficult road in which to travel. Today, there is an estimated 10 million Muslims in the United States, 2 million of which are African American. Furthermore, most of the new Muslims are of African descent. For them, it is a story of self discovery erased by 200 years of slavery. Some identify with Islam firstly because it was practiced by many of the their ancestors from Africa, and Christianity was forced on the slaves by Europeans. Others, because it clears obvious mistakes and exclusions of African Americans in Christianity. Most, however, find a combination of all these things with Islam. This is the road I had to travel. This was my light at the end of the tunnel.I was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana from birth to Christian parents. My mother, raised in Tennessee, was a Methodist Christian and a frequent church attender. My father was non-denominational and an occasional church attender. My mother was a very religious person, so my father, my sister, and I usually went to church with her. From as early as I can remember, I was always surrounded by Christianity. My father and mother both worked, and they were trying to finish school. This meant that someone would have to take care of me during the day. Until I was about three, I had a baby sitter. Then, I started going to Noahís Ark, a private Christian preschool. By this time my sister had started elementary school.
Noahís Ark was like living in Sunday school. We learned Bible verses, sang church songs, and also did general child type activities. I often remember bringing home little cards that had bible verses on them. If you memorized the verse, you would get a reward. I donít really remember what the reward was. I guess I didnít memorize enough to know what it was.
On Sundays we all put on our best clothes and went to church. To me it seemed to be mostly singing and nodding of heads. At my youthful age, I had little understanding of what purpose any of the things we did served. In fact I still question that today, but I thought my mother knew everything (and compared to what I knew she did), so I did what she said. As I grew older,
things seemed to drift away and eventually fall apart. My father began going to church less and less. For the first time, I was in a public school where the teaching of any religion is illegal, and I suddenly found myself in an environment much different from Noahís ark. At this point in my life, there were two religions; one was Christianity, and the other one wasnít. At ages six and
seven, I had never heard of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or anything else. Actually, I knew of one other religion: Jehovahís Witnesses. They seemed to just be strict Christians to me. My friend who lived across the street from me was a Jehovahís Witness, but my impressions of them mostly came from the people who dressed up and went door to door trying to interest people. Often times, we tried to avoid opening the door, so they wouldnít bother us. The earliest church congregation that I remember was the one my mother stayed with until recently. In Christianity the minister preached for a living. He was paid by the congregation, and he lived in a house especially set aside by the church. Our first minister was energetic, but they
got rid of him. The second was a women, who I thought was nice, but they got rid of her too. Then came a man who changed the way I looked at the religion. Maybe it was just because I was older, or maybe he actually had something to do with it. Regardless, I actually went to church to hear him, but that wasnít until later in my life.They say, however, that children identify with their same sex parents, and I identified with my father. By the time I was in fifth grade, he usually only went to church on Christmas, Easter, and
Motherís Day. I soon followed. It actually wasnít until several years later that the third minister would come to our church.
I had always loved Christmas, not because of its religious significance, but because it was a tradition to exchange gifts on that holiday. Many songs were about the birth of Jesus (alaiy his salaam), but it seemed as though there were and are just as many songs about Santa Claus. So, many stories existed about Santa Claus, that seemed ridiculous to an adult but were sacred when
told to a child. A big, round, rosy cheeked white man supposedly flew through the sky (propelled by flying reindeer) on Christmas Eve dropping off presents at peopleís houses. My sister and I believed in that for many years. We decorated Christmas trees, baked Christmas cookies, drank eggnog, and went to bed early on December 24 every year so Santa Claus could come down our Chimney at night and give us gifts. It seems so silly now, but it was something we believed and something our parents told us and helped us believe. Naturally, most children would eventually find out that Santa was fake and spread it to other kids. It was my sister that eventually told me. All those years Mommy and Daddy had been putting the presents there at night, not Santa! I felt violated. I was taught at Noahís Ark that we werenít supposed to lie, yet Americans lie to their
children every year. These Christian children seemed to hold the mystical Santa Claus more dear to them than the real Jesus Christ (ahs). Strike one.
At the age of eleven, Islam was introduced to me for the first time, although very briefly. In middle school we studied various cultures in my social studies classes. I only learned that "Muhammad was the prophet of Islam, and Muslims prayed five times a day." I didnít learn anything else. I did know of some famous Muslims such as boxer Muhammad Ali and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but I knew little about them. It was, however, the same year that Kareem played his last basketball game before retiring. This was also the first real extensive amount of time I spent in a normal public school with normal classes and normal kids. I was suddenly not special anymore. I was not in higher classes than other kids anymore. It was as though I had to start over for no reason, but it exposed me to a wider variety of people. I became more in touch with people who looked like me. Middle school had many more African Americans (due to busing children) than I had ever seen outside of my old neighborhood.
I also began to realize things about white teachers and students. I had only read about racial discrimination until now. Suddenly, I was growing up, and teachers began to treat me like a "black male" instead of a student. This only made me realize other things about my religion. I began to wonder why all the pictures of Jesus (ahs) were pictures of a white man. Why was the
son of God a white man? This seemed to indicate that black people were inferior to white people. Strike two.
As I progressed through Middle School, I became more aware of our differences. Blacks and Whites almost totally segregated themselves. It seemed as if all the things I read about were still happening. The more that white people did and said things that were mean and offensive to me, the harder I found it to love the son of God. I began to rationalize wondering if this white man
was as racist as the white men with which I came in contact were. It came to the point where I almost became militant.
My grades began to fall as my black friends and I found little interest in the white school system. It seemed as though it wasnít meant to teach us at all. We were excluded from history books and literature books. When we did achieve things, it was played down by the white teachers. By the time I reached the eighth grade, I didnít even want to step one foot into a church. Ironically, it was about this time that I met the minister that had a different approach to Christianity. His teachings were more understandable and down to earth. I still found it hard, though. This was because he was saying one thing, yet the things and people around him said another.
It was nearly required that you dress up for church. People talked about people if they didnít or couldnít dress as nicely as they did. It was a fashion show. Most of the time was spent singing, or so it seemed. I didnít see the point in singing, but it was beautiful when done correctly. I could not, however, deal with the fashion show. We became the models as we walked down the aisle. Gossip constantly circled about people in and outside the church. The things that I didnít like about the world outside of church suddenly seemed to be a part of the church. Strike three.
It was at this time, my freshman year in high school that I declared I would never go to church again. I saw it as stupid and pointless. I didnít feel comfortable there. Instead it felt like I was in a theater and the minister, my friend, was on stage. If he performed well heíd get paid and keep the seats filled. If he didnít, his fate would resemble the two before him.
As if almost by fate, I first became aware of the religion called Islam. I had a friend in my English class who was a Muslim. After all this time, this was the first time I had come in contact with a Muslim. He mostly talked about the things that Muslims did. I listened, but I really didnít show much interest in it. He never really said what their beliefs were, and I never asked. At age 15 I met another guy who was just a militant as I, if not more. Iíll call him MC. MC was the first person to ever tell me how bad pork really was. My mother, raised in the south, naturally cooked a lot of it. We had bacon, ham, sausage, hot-dogs, ribs, and she even ate chitterlings (pig intestines). It didnít take long for me to give up pork totally. I realized how damaging it could
be to my health, but I also realized something deeper. So many black people eat pork because it was the meat that white slave masters didnít want, so they gave the scraps to the black slaves. It became a regular food for our culture. It is no wonder that black people have a higher rate of heart attacks and high blood pressure that whites. When I read deeper beneath the surface, MC helped me also realize that the Bible actually said that people were forbidden from eating the flesh of swine. Furthermore, other things, such as alcohol, fornication, adultery, and gambling were also forbidden, yet many Christians did it anyway.
Luckily, I had never done any of that stuff. My parents and my early Noahís Ark teachers had told me not to do that. That, however, did not necessarily apply to them.
At age 16 I began to feel totally betrayed by everyone, even Jesus (ahs). Everything, if anything, that ever appealed to me about Christianity had been yanked out from under me by the realities of my society. The more I look back and think about it, the more I understand. I never stopped believing in God, I just didnít believe in all the extra things others associated with God. All my life I had just prayed to God. I truthfully rarely thought or even cared about Jesus. We were supposed to live our lives like him, but all I ever heard about his life were miracles. How are we to perform miracles? It seemed contradictory. I then began to look for something else. Jews had never been on good terms with African Americans, so I never really looked towards that. There was a group of Black Jews who believed that the actual children of Israel are African Americans.
We have been here for 400 years, but many of the things they said seemed distant and unrealistic if not totally unimportant.
The more I thought, the more curiosity that arose in me about Islam. Many images had been placed before me about Muslims being terrorists and oppressing women, etc. I, however, had seen and lived real oppression. I had witnessed terrorism, and I knew that the things the Muslims I saw were doing were not bad. If anything, they were better than what I saw Christians doing.Based on this principle, I began to read about Islam. Iím not really sure what I read first. I read many articles about Muslim men and women. The articles touched me. One in particular which I still have today called, "Converts to the Faith" seemed to fit my situation exactly. It was then that I decided to buy a Qurían from the book store. That summer I read the entire book from front to back.It shocked me vividly. I had long been taught all of these miracles of Jesus and mystical things
such as Santa Claus, but the Qurían had a humanity about it. It seemed like a book that was meant to be read by human beings, not supernatural beings. It plainly told the rules and ways of living that all people should uphold. It was common sense. It was what everybody seemed to know but unconsciously denied it. For some time it was all I needed. I did nothing more than
read parts over and over again trying to understand every part. It all made sense. There were no contradictions. God was but one God, Allah. It stressed showing compassion for the poor and the brotherhood of Muslims. For a long time, I didnít even let anyone know I had bought it.
The only reason I had waited until when I did was because I had learned to drive. That way no one would know I was considering this.For a long time I wondered what my mother would think if I became a Muslim. So, I did nothing for a little longer. I continued to pray as I always had: head bowed praying to my One God, only now I called that God, Allah. I was already a Muslim at heart. I watched a lot of TV shows and read a lot of books on Islam that year. Naturally, my mother became aware of the pattern. I donít know how much she knew about Islam, so it probably scared her. My father, who had since moved out when my parents got divorced, definitely seem worried that I might be getting into something bad. This was in part because my grades had not yet improved, and I was somewhat of a rebellious teenager.I began to show some of my articles to my mother. I really didnít show her much, and she really didnít ask much. It was a time when I was alone by choice. My friends had either moved, died, or just gone in a different direction than I. I saw no need for them anyway. It was just me, my Qurían, and my thoughts.Then, I decided I wanted more. I wanted to become a Muslim, and I couldnít do it alone. I
wanted to learn a better way to pray and glorify Allah. I wanted to learn more about Muhammad (sallahu alaiyhi wasalaam), and I wanted to meet people who believed in the book I had come to cherish.
In the summer of 1995, I started getting into the internet. It had many helpful things about Islam.The knowledge that I attained just by reading the things posted on the world wide web finally pushed me over the edge. I couldnít deny my birth right. My parents, sister, and friends have always been supportive of me. I could only hope they would continue to do so, in spite of what I was about to do.
It was a late afternoon in September of 1995 when I began flipping through the yellow pages for something that said "Mosque." I found two entries in the yellow pages. I called the first one and got no answer. Then, I called the second one, and the answer machine picked up giving an alternative phone number to call for help. I called the number, at this point shaking from
nervousness. Many things were going through my head, "What if they donít want to be bothered with me? What if they donít accept me? What if Iím making the wrong decision?" I had always been a worrisome person. In fact, earlier that same year, I had worried myself into the hospital. All they could ever conclude was that my stomach was inflamed. The only thing I could do was see a Psychologist who taught me how to relax, and I adhered to a strict diet. It still happens sometimes, but it is a rare thing. I dialed the number not knowing what to expect or who I was calling. A woman answered the phone, and just said, "Hello?" That made me think that this must be a home phone number. I told her I was interested in Islam. I expected her to seem surprised, say she didnít care, or just say, "and....," but she didnít. In fact she acted as if it happened all the time. She told me her husband, the Imam, was at work, and she would have him call me. All of my foolish worrying suddenly ended. I was calm now.
Later that night, he called me, and we talked for a long time. He too had reverted some 20 years ago. It was as though he had already lived through the same things I was telling him. Not only did he understand how I thought, but it seemed like he had once had the same thought process. It is natural to question the unknown, and thatís all I had done. He invited me to Wednesday night Taleem at the Islamic Center. Oddly enough, it was a rainy night, and no one showed up that night. When I arrived, it was just he and I in an empty building discussing faith, politics, and life. After talking for at least an hour, one other person showed up, and they prayed. The first night I just watched. The second night I participated, and from that point forward, I was committed to this wonderful religion.
As I learned more about Muslims, I continued to study Islam. I started going to Arabic classes on Sundays, and I began to grow even more appreciative of the Glorious Qurían. About one month after the day I first stepped into the Masjid, I took the Shahada. It was an emotional night for me. I still remember the brothers that were there to witness it, and Iím sure they remember too. Those words had so much meaning, and so much power. I may not feel that much joy and emotion again until Hajj. It was that powerful. When it was over, I went home and told everybody important to me. My mother was the first to know. She didnít seem surprised.Instead she congratulated me as though she could feel my emotion.My father had a less emotional response, but it was equally as approved. Iím still not sure what my sisterís feelings were about it, but she never objected. In fact, my whole family kept most of their opinions to themselves. That showed me that they trusted my judgment, and they were right for doing so.
That was over one year ago when I took the Shahada. It wasnít long after that when I learned to do many of the obligations such as salat, wuídu, the athan, and other things. I had finally began my final journey. No longer would I turn around and go back. I knew this was a lifelong decision. Since that time, I have sometimes had to defend my decision to people, and maybe
even justify my very way of life, but that hostility was often from people who were really interested but denying themselves as I had. People have often asked me how I do it. They think Islam is hard. I tell them that after going through what it took me just to realize Islam, this religion is easy. Allah does not wish any difficulty on you. The Qurían puts it in the most beautiful words that I will humbly display in English, "This day have those who Reject Faith given up All hope of your religion: Yet fear them not But fear Me. This day have I Perfected your religion For you, completed My favour upon you, And have chosen for you Islam as your religion."ósura Al-M„íida, ayat 3.
The road which we travel to get where we intend to go is often worn by the time we get there. I have learned that Islam is a lifetime struggle. This is the essence of Jihad. Those who strive in the Name of their Lord are those who are the righteous. It has indeed been a ride for me. When I first became dissatisfied with Christianity, I entered a tunnel that appeared to have no end. My life seemed to be headed towards a fabricated way of living. With Islam, however, came my exit. It is the light at the end of the tunnel. No longer can I say that I live in self-inflicted solitude. No longer can I say I have lived my life in darkness. No longer can I worry what will happen next.No longer can I say that I am dissatisfied. All I can say is Al-Hamdulillah (praise be to Allah).

Acknowledgements: This page was downloaded from Geocities

Thomas Irving (Canada)
Social Worker

In approaching an account of my conversion to Islam, it would be as well to relate my personal experience, both before and after coming into contact with its ideals. This is not so much to tell a story in itself as to show how the thought of thousands of other young Canadians and Americans is evolving and the opportunity that awaits an effective Islamic propaganda.

I can remember thrilling, as a very small child, to the Christian interpretation of Jesus's life, but yet I cannot say that I was ever truly Christian of my own conviction. Instead of absorbing the pretty Biblical tales, I began wondering why so many in the world were `heathen', why Jews and Christians differed on the same Bible, why the unbelievers were damned when the fault was not theirs, and also why they could practice goodness as well as the self-called "higher nations".

I remember especially a missionary returned from India stating how the `Mohometans' were so obdurate in adhering to their religion; that was my first encounter with Islam, and it roused an unconscious admiration in me for their steadfastness to their faith and a desire to know more about these "wicked" people.

In my first year course in Oriental literature, I had learned of the progression of human thought in its attempt to perfect its conception of God. Jesus had culminated the teaching of a Loving God. This idea had been lost in a cloud of liturgical doggerel and atavistic paganism; a beneficent, merciful deity had been obscured by an implacable overlord who could only be reached through an intercessor. Someone was needed to lead men back to the fountain of truth with its limpid mainstream of the One God.

Europe was still in the semi-barbarism induced by the folk-wanderings and the extinction of classic culture by a narrow ecclesiasticism. The East was the logical centre of inspiration, and here Muhammad (God's blessings be on him) arose seven centuries after Jesus, when Christo-paganism was firmly entrenched in Europe and rational study, let alone inspiration, still nine centuries distant.

At last I was able to accept Muhammad as an apostle of God; firstly, he was needed; secondly, my own conclusions had been independent and still coincided; and thirdly, apart from both the former, the realization of the divine quality of the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's teachings flooded upon me clearly.

At the same time, I received and bought more and more literature upon Islam. An Indian philanthropist from Bombay, the late Mr. Q. A. Jairazbhoy, had sent me What is Islam! by H. W. Lovegrove (this is perhaps the most practical exposition that I have read, and merits wide distribution). Later he sent me [...an...] annotated edition of the Holy Qur'an, and various other books and tracts. At Montreal, I was able to procure considerable French literature on Islam, both for and against, and this helped broaden my vision.
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Umar Mita (Japan)
Economist, Social Worker and Preacher

By the Grace of Allah I am leading a happy Muslim life for the last 3 years. The righteous way of life as taught by Islam, was shown to me by our Pakistani Tablighi brethren (Missionaries), who visited my country and to whom I am deeply grateful.

The majority of our people are Buddhist, but they are Buddhists in name only. They are not practising Buddhists and actually they are almost unmindful of their religious knowledge. The main reason for this apathetic attitude may be due to the fact that Buddhism presents a high sounding and complicated philosophy and gives nothing practical. It is thus beyond the reach of an average person who remains busy with the problems of this worldly life. He cannot understand it nor can he implement it. It is not so with Islam. The teachings of Islam are simple, straight-forward and quite practical. It governs all the departments of human life. It moulds the thinking of man and when once the thinking becomes pure, pure actions will follow spontaneously. The teachings of Islam are so simple, easy and practical that every one can understand it. It is not the monopoly of the priests as is the case in other religions.

There is great future for Islam in Japan. Some difficulties may be there but the same are not insurmountable.

Firstly, an organised steady and vigorous effort should be made to acquaint people with the teachings of Islam. Our people are becoming materialistic day by day but they are unhappy. They have to be told that the real peace and contentment lie in Islam which is a complete code for life and gives guidance for all walks of life.

Secondly such people are required to do this work whose own lives set an example before others.

Unfortunately the type of Muslim students who come to Japan from different Muslim countries are no example for us to follow and we cannot gain any advice or guidance from them. Most of them have adopted the Western way of life and they know nothing about Islam due to their being educated in the European established institutions, mostly convents.

If Islam is to succeed in Japan, as I am quite sure that one day it will, all Islam-loving people should think over the problem and make sincere and concentrated efforts in this behalf. Such of the Muslims who are true believers and whose lives can be an example to others, should visit Japan and teach the people here. Our people are thirsty for peace, truth, honesty, sincerity, virtue and all that is good in life, and I am confident that Islam and Islam alone can quench their thirst.

We need absolute Faith in Him to do the job and we pray to Him to grant Faith to us.

Islam means `peace' and no other people than the Japanese require peace more. Real peace can come to us by accepting the religion of peace. Peace with all men and peace with God. The brotherhood in Islam is a unique principle and in it truly lies salvation for the mankind.
[MSA-USC Editor's Note: "Islam" actually means "submission (to God)", however a *completely secondary* meaning is "peace". Submission to God is the way to achieve *inner* peace but it may entail an *outer* state of physical struggle - for example, a war to stand up for justice.]
From "Islam, Our Choice"

William Burchell Bashyr Pickard (England)
Author, Poet and Novelist

About the Author:

W. B. Bashyr Pickard B.A. (Cantab), L.D.(London) is an author of wide repute. His pen-production include: Layla and Majnun, The Adventures of Alcassim, A New World etc.

"Every child is born with a disposition towards the natural religion of obedience (i.e. Islam); it is the parents who make him a Jew, A Christian or a Magian." ---- a saying of Muhammad.

Having been born in Islam it was a good many years before I realized this fact.

At school and college I was occupied, perhaps too intensely, with the affairs and demands of the passing moment. I do not consider my career of those days brilliant, but it was progressive. Amid Christian surroundings I was taught the good life, and the thought of God and of worship and of righteousness was pleasant to me. If I worshipped anything it was nobility and courage. Coming down from Cambridge, I went to Central Africa, having obtained an appointment in the administration of the Uganda Protectorate. There I had an interesting and exciting existence beyond what, from England, I had ever dreamt, and was compelled by circumstances, to live amongst the black brotherhood of humanity, to whom I may say I became endearingly attached by reasons of their simple joyous outlook upon life. The East had always attracted me. At Cambridge I read the Arabian Nights. Alone in Africa I read the Arabian Nights, and the wild roaming existence I passed in the Uganda Protectorate did not make the East less dear to me.

Then upon my placid life broke in the First World War. I hastened homewards to Europe. My health broke down. Recovering, I applied for a commission in the Army, but on health grounds this was denied to me. I therefore cut losses and enlisted in the Yeomanry managing somehow or other to pass the doctors and, to my relief, donned uniform as a trooper. Serving then in France on the Western Front, I took part in the battle of the Somme in 1917, where I was wounded and made prisoner of war. I travelled through Belgium to Germany where I was lodged in hospital. In Germany I saw much of the sufferings of stricken humanity, especially Russians decimated by dysentry. I came to the outskirts of starvation. My wound (shattered right arm) did not heal quickly and I was useless to the Germans. I was therefore sent to Switzerland for hospital treatment and operation. I well remember how dear even in those days was the thought of the Qur'an to me. In Germany I had written home for a copy of Sale's Koran to be sent out to me. In later years I learnt that this had been sent but it never reached me. In Switzerland after operation of arm and leg my health recovered. I was able to go out and about. I purchased a copy of Savary's French translation of the Qur'an (this today is one of my dearest possessions). Therein I delighted with a great delight. It was as if a ray of eternal truth shone down with blessedness upon me. My right hand still being useless, I practised writing the Qur'an with my left hand. My attachment to the Qur'an is further evidenced when I say that one of the most vivid and cherished recollections I had of the Arabian Nights was that of the youth discovered alive alone in the city of the dead, seated reading the Qur'an, oblivious to his surroundings. In those days in Switzerland, I was veritably resigne a la volonte de Dieu (Muslim). After the signing of the Armistice I returned to London in December 1918 and some two or three years later, in 1921, I took up a course of literary study at London University. One of the subjects I chose was Arabic, lectures in which I attended at King's College. Here it was that one day my professor in Arabic (the late Mr. Belshah of Iraq) in the course of our study of Arabic mentioned the Qur'an. "Whether you believe in it or not," he said, "you will find it a most interesting book and well worthy of study." "Oh, but I do believe in it," was my reply. This remark surprised and greatly interested my teacher in Arabic, who after a little talk invited me to accompany him to the London Prayer House at Notting Hill Gate. After that I attended the Prayer House frequently and came to know more of the practice of Islam, until, on New Year's day, 1922, I openly joined the Muslim community.

That is more than quarter of a century ago. Since then I have lived a Muslim life in theory and practice to the extent of my ability. The power and wisdom and mercy of God are boundless. The fields of knowledge stretch out ever before us beyond the horizon. In our pilgrimage through life I feel assured that the only befitting garment we can wear is submission and upon our heads the headgear of praise and in our hearts love of the One Supreme.

"Wal-Hamdu lil' Lahi Rabbi 'l-'Alameen"
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Yahiye Adam Gadahn

My first seventeen years have been a bit different than the youth experienced by most Americans. I grew up on an extremely rural goat ranch in Western Riverside County, California, where my family raises on average 150 to 200 animals for milk, cheese, and meat. My father is a halal butcher [a butcher who slaughters in an Islamic manner -ed.] and supplies to an Islamic Food Mart a few blocks from the Islamic Center in downtown Los Angeles.

My father was raised agnostic or atheist, but he became a believer in One God when he picked up a Bible left on the beach. He once had a number of Muslim friends, but they've all moved out of California now. My mother was raised Catholic, so she leans towards Christianity (although she, like my father, disregards the Trinity). I and my siblings were/are home-schooled, and as you may know, most home-school families are Christian. In the last 8 or so years, we have been involved with some home-schooling support groups, thus acquainting me with fundamentalist Christianity. It was an eye-opening experience. Setting aside the blind dogmatism and charismatic wackiness, it was quite a shock to me when I realized that these people, in their prayers, were actually praying TO JESUS. You see, I had always believed that Jesus (pbuh) was, at the very most, the Son of God (since that is what the Bible mistranslates "Servant of God" as). As I learned that belief in the Trinity, something I find absolutely ridiculous, is considered by most Christians to be a prerequisite for salvation, I gradually realized I could not be a Christian.

In the meantime, I had become obsessed with demonic Heavy Metal music, something the rest of my family (as I now realize, rightfully so) was not happy with. My entire life was focused on expanding my music collection. I eschewed personal cleanliness and let my room reach an unbelievable state of disarray. My relationship with my parents became strained, although only intermittently so. I am sorry even as I write this.

Earlier this year, I began to listen to the apocalyptic ramblings of Christian radio's "prophecy experts." Their paranoid espousal of various conspiracy theories, rabid support of Israel and religious Zionism, and fiery preaching about the "Islamic Threat" held for me a strange fascination. Why? Well, I suppose it was simply the need I was feeling to fill that void I had created for myself. In any case, I soon found that the beliefs these evangelists held, such as Original Sin and the Infallibility of "God's Word", were not in agreement with my theological ideas (not to mention the Bible) and I began to look for something else to hold onto.

The turning point, perhaps, was when I moved in with my grandparents here in Santa Ana, the county seat of Orange, California. My grandmother, a computer whiz, is hooked up to America Online and I have been scooting the information superhighway since January. But when I moved in, with the intent of finding a job (easier said than done), I begin to visit the religion folders on AOL and the Usenet newsgroups, where I found discussions on Islam to be the most intriguing. You see, I discovered that the beliefs and practices of this religion fit my personal theology and intellect as well as basic human logic. Islam presents God not as an anthropomorphic being but as an entity beyond human comprehension, transcendent of man, independant and undivided. Islam has a holy book that is comprehensible to a layman, and there is no papacy or priesthood that is considered infallible in matters of interpretation: all Muslims are free to reflect and interpret the book given a sufficient education. Islam does not believe that all men are doomed to Hell unless they simply accept that God (apparently unable to forgive otherwise) magnanimously allowed Himself to be tortured on a cross to enable Him to forgive all human beings who just believe that He allowed Himself to be tortured on a cross... Islam does not believe in a Chosen Race. And on and on...

As I began reading English translations of the Qur'an, I became more and more convinced of the truth and authenticity of Allah's teachings contained in those 114 chapters. Having been around Muslims in my formative years, I knew well that they were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint them to be. Perhaps this knowledge led me to continue my personal research further than another person would have. I can't say when I actually decided that Islam was for me. It was really a natural progression. In any case, last week [November 1995 -ed.]I went to the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove and told the brother in charge of the library I wanted to be a Muslim. He gave me some excellent reading material, and last Friday I took Shahada [accepted the creed of Islam -ed.]in front of a packed masjid. I have spent this week learning to perform Salat and reflecting on the greatness of Allah. It feels great to be a Muslim! Subhaana rabbiyal 'azeem!

Yusuf Ali Bernier

From Catholicism to Islam 

The Roman Catholic religion is a ritualistic, secular, and political faith. It is dictated by the pope from the top down to the priests at the bottom. If a Muslim were to walk into a Catholic church it would be like walking into a different world. He would find row on row of pews where worshipers sit, stained glass windows with perhaps scenes of the last supper or the messiah carrying a cross and so on. On the front wall in all churches is the messiah on a cross and below an altar where the priest delivers his Sunday sermon. In some older churches you may even find magnificent statue figures of Jesus, saints, Mary the mother of Jesus and so on. Church services are mainly repetitive rituals, singing, and prayers to Jesus or Mary or God and sometimes to saints. This is the type of world I lived and grew up in most of my life.
 
     If you were to ask me why I converted to Islam my answer would be endless. However, if you were to ask me what lead me to Islam I would have to say, now looking back, that it was my first encounter reading the Bible at the age of about ten. I used to sit bewildered reading the Bible into a tape recorder. After I had finished, I would play the tape back in hopes of grasping the meaning of what I had just read. No such luck. So on Sundays I watched sermons on television, ordered free Bibles, and donated as much as I could (which could not have been much for a boy of ten). I received letters of gratitude and blessings and that made me feel good. This continued for a year or so until  finally I became too frustrated, lost, and honestly bored with the whole thing. So in result  I tucked the Bible away in my dresser drawer. I would only refer to it occasionally throughout my inquisitive childhood and teens. I accepted the fact that I would never truly understand that Bible. That is, ironically, until later when I became Muslim. Only then did I begin to gain a complete understanding of the Bible.
 
     What had confused me reading the Bible then was the contradiction between the book and what I had been taught all my life by priests and religion teachers. I found that almost every aspect of my belief was challenged or did not make sense at all upon referring to the Bible. The very core of my faith, I had learned, was false. This brought me to the point in my life where I was pessimistic and cynical toward religion. I mocked my religion in my teens by going to church chewing gum and partially participating in services. I would grunt at the mere mention of God or Jesus. I did not know what I believed anymore. The only thing I was sure of was that there was a God. What I did not realize then, that I realize now, is in all my confusion and enlightenment starting from the age of ten would trigger my quest for truth and finally lead me to the religion called Islam.
 
     My first encounter with Muslim people was through business dealings. Their warm and generous hospitality won my heart. Their loyal remembrance of Allah (SWT) intrigued me in phrases like, ' Al Hamdu Lilla ' or ' Inshallah '. I have never come upon  people in a state of such strong faith forever uttering remembrance of Allah (SWT). Their kindness, generosity, and compassionate nature, I would discover later, were all part of being a Muslim. I wanted to be like them. Muslims should know that it is extremely crucial when in contact with non-Muslims to remember how we should be as Muslims and act as such. The saying, ' actions speak louder than words ' is so true. This is what attracts people in wonder  to Islam. This is what attracted me. I  began to learn a little about Islam. The more I learned the more I wanted to know. Before long I was studying Islam through books written by Muslims and the Holy Qur'an. Not a soul knew, but maybe a select few, that I was studying Islam nor did they know that I was remotely interested in it. I did not wish any interference from Muslims and especially from my Christian and Jewish friends. I knew that if anyone was going to guide and aid  me in my quest for truth it would be Allah (SWT).
 
     As time past my knowledge expanded into realms of truth unbeknown to me. Islam became a powerful force like a one ton magnet drawing me closer and closer to it. What I discovered and the thought  of Allah (SWT) was the only thing on my mind during the day, as I drifted to sleep, and the first though when I awoke. Islam appealed to my intellect as well as my heart so my passion grew for it. I eventually learned Surat Al-Ikhlas and, although I was not yet Muslim, I began to teach myself to pray using a book and reciting the only Surah I knew. I felt an overwhelming need to prostrate in reverence to the All Mighty to ask for forgiveness and guidance in the way that made most sense to me.
 
     Shortly, thereafter, I departed on a holiday taking the Qur'an with me. Four days later, alone in a foreign country, I became seriously ill. I was bed stricken for a month each day loosing a pound. In my agony I remember pleading to Allah (SWT) not to let me die incomplete. I had not yet converted but I knew in my heart I wanted to be a Muslim. I was procrastinating trying to learn everything humanly possible. I now believe that this was my ' wake up call ' from the Most Merciful. That is to say that life is too short to put things off that you want to do. You never know if tomorrow will ever come. Two weeks after my return to Canada, Al Hamdu Lilla, I converted to Islam. Al Hamdu Lilla I did not die before saying the Shahadah. Allah (SWT) is ever so Merciful. He gives people many chances and signs. The part that is difficult is not so much recognizing them but acting on them with all your heart.
 
     Islam is like a medicine. It changes deviant behavior and soothes the sobbing soul. Islam is the religion of truth and the Qur'an the guide for all aspects of life. The Qur'an gave me all the answers to my questions. It alleviated my confusion and turned it into clarity and understanding. Never did I know that there is a religion that is absolute truth in its' purest form. If all mankind only realized that this truth is the religion of Islam. I pray to Allah (SWT) to guide us and the non-Muslims to the straight path. The path of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (PBUT). Ameen.

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