Men Who Embraced Islam [Y]

Yusuf Islam
Formerly Christian,world pop singer Cat Stevens.
(Embraced Islam in 1973)

"It will be wrong to judge Islam in the light of the behaviour of some bad Muslims who are always shown on the media. It is like judging  car as a bad one if the driver of the car is drunk and he bangs it with the wall. Islam guides all human beings in the daily life-in it's spiritual, mental, and physical dimensions. But we must find the sources of these instructions: The Qur'an and the examples of the Prophet. Then we can see the ideal of Islam."

III&E Brochure Series; No. 17
(published by The Institute of Islamic Information and Education (III&E))

All I have to say is all what you know already, to confirm what you already know, the message of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam - May Allaah's Peace and Blessings be upon him) as given by God - the Religion of Truth. As human beings we are given a consciousness and a duty that has placed us at the top of creation. Man is created to be God's deputy on earth, and it is important to realize the obligation to rid ourselves of all illusions and to make our lives a preparation for the next life. Anybody who misses this chance is not likely to be given another, to be brought back again and again, because it says in Qur'an Majeed that when man is brought to account, he will say, "O Lord, send us back and give us another chance." The Lord will say, "If I send you back you will do the same."


I was brought up in the modern world of all the luxury and the high life of show business. I was born in a Christian home, but we know that every child is born in his original nature - it is only his parents that turn him to this or that religion. I was given this religion (Christianity) and thought this way. I was taught that God exists, but there was no direct contact with God, so we had to make contact with Him through Jesus - he was in fact the door to God. This was more or less accepted by me, but I did not swallow it all.

I looked at some of the statues of Jesus; they were just stones with no life. And when they said that God is three, I was puzzled even more but could not argue. I more or less believed it, because I had to have respect for the faith of my parents.


Gradually I became alienated from this religious upbringing. I started making music. I wanted to be a big star. All those things I saw in the films and on the media took hold of me, and perhaps I thought this was my God, the goal of making money. I had an uncle who had a beautiful car. "Well," I said, "he has it made. He has a lot of money." The people around me influenced me to think that this was it; this world was their God.

I decided then that this was the life for me; to make a lot of money, have a 'great life.' Now my examples were the pop stars. I started making songs, but deep down I had a feeling for humanity, a feeling that if I became rich I would help the needy. (It says in the Qur'an, we make a promise, but when we make something, we want to hold onto it and become greedy.)

So what happened was that I became very famous. I was still a teenager, my name and photo were splashed in all the media. They made me larger than life, so I wanted to live larger than life and the only way to do that was to be intoxicated (with liquor and drugs).


After a year of financial success and 'high' living, I became very ill, contracted TB and had to be hospitalized. It was then that I started to think: What was to happen to me? Was I just a body, and my goal in life was merely to satisfy this body? I realized now that this calamity was a blessing given to me by Allah, a chance to open my eyes - "Why am I here? Why am I in bed?" - and I started looking for some of the answers. At that time there was great interest in the Eastern mysticism. I began reading, and the first thing I began to become aware of was death, and that the soul moves on; it does not stop. I felt I was taking the road to bliss and high accomplishment. I started meditating and even became a vegetarian. I now believed in 'peace and flower power,' and this was the general trend. But what I did believe in particular was that I was not just a body. This awareness came to me at the hospital.

One day when I was walking and I was caught in the rain, I began running to the shelter and then I realized, 'Wait a minute, my body is getting wet, my body is telling me I am getting wet.' This made me think of a saying that the body is like a donkey, and it has to be trained where it has to go. Otherwise, the donkey will lead you where it wants to go.

Then I realized I had a will, a God-given gift: follow the will of God. I was fascinated by the new terminology I was learning in the Eastern religion. By now I was fed up with Christianity. I started making music again and this time I started reflecting my own thoughts. I remember the lyric of one of my songs. It goes like this: "I wish I knew, I wish I knew what makes the Heaven, what makes the Hell. Do I get to know You in my bed or some dusty cell while others reach the big hotel?" and I knew I was on the Path.

I also wrote another song, "The Way to Find God Out." I became even more famous in the world of music. I really had a difficult time because I was getting rich and famous, and at the same time, I was sincerely searching for the Truth. Then I came to a stage where I decided that Buddhism is all right and noble, but I was not ready to leave the world. I was too attached to the world and was not prepared to become a monk and to isolate myself from society.

I tried Zen and Ching, numerology, tarot cards and astrology. I tried to look back into the Bible and could not find anything. At this time I did not know anything about Islam, and then, what I regarded as a miracle occurred. My brother had visited the mosque in Jerusalem and was greatly impressed that while on the one hand it throbbed with life (unlike the churches and synagogues which were empty), on the other hand, an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity prevailed.


When he came to London he brought back a translation of the Qur'an, which he gave to me. He did not become a Muslim, but he felt something in this religion, and thought I might find something in it also.

And when I received the book, a guidance that would explain everything to me - who I was; what was the purpose of life; what was the reality and what would be the reality; and where I came from - I realized that this was the true religion; religion not in the sense the West understands it, not the type for only your old age. In the West, whoever wishes to embrace a religion and make it his only way of life is deemed a fanatic. I was not a fanatic, I was at first confused between the body and the soul. Then I realized that the body and soul are not apart and you don't have to go to the mountain to be religious. We must follow the will of God. Then we can rise higher than the angels. The first thing I wanted to do now was to be a Muslim.

I realized that everything belongs to God, that slumber does not overtake Him. He created everything. At this point I began to lose the pride in me, because hereto I had thought the reason I was here was because of my own greatness. But I realized that I did not create myself, and the whole purpose of my being here was to submit to the teaching that has been perfected by the religion we know as Al-Islam. At this point I started discovering my faith. I felt I was a Muslim. On reading the Qur'an, I now realized that all the Prophets sent by God brought the same message. Why then were the Jews and Christians different? I know now how the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and that they had changed His Word. Even the Christians misunderstand God's Word and called Jesus the son of God. Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur'an; it asks you to reflect and reason, and not to worship the sun or moon but the One Who has created everything. The Qur'an asks man to reflect upon the sun and moon and God's creation in general. Do you realize how different the sun is from the moon? They are at varying distances from the earth, yet appear the same size to us; at times one seems to overlap the other.

Even when many of the astronauts go to space, they see the insignificant size of the earth and vastness of space. They become very religious, because they have seen the Signs of Allah.

When I read the Qur'an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt that the only answer for me was the Qur'an, and God had sent it to me, and I kept it a secret. But the Qur'an also speaks on different levels. I began to understand it on another level, where the Qur'an says, "Those who believe do not take disbelievers for friends and the believers are brothers." Thus at this point I wished to meet my Muslim brothers.


Then I decided to journey to Jerusalem (as my brother had done). At Jerusalem, I went to the mosque and sat down. A man asked me what I wanted. I told him I was a Muslim. He asked what was my name. I told him, "Stevens." He was confused. I then joined the prayer, though not so successfully. Back in London, I met a sister called Nafisa. I told her I wanted to embrace Islam and she directed me to the New Regent Mosque. This was in 1977, about one and a half years after I received the Qur'an. Now I realized that I must get rid of my pride, get rid of Iblis, and face one direction. So on a Friday, after Jumma' I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima) at this hands. You have before you someone who had achieved fame and fortune. But guidance was something that eluded me, no matter how hard I tried, until I was shown the Qur'an. Now I realize I can get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion. As one Hindu lady told me, "You don't understand the Hindus. We believe in one God; we use these objects (idols) to merely concentrate." What she was saying was that in order to reach God, one has to create associates, that are idols for the purpose. But Islam removes all these barriers. The only thing that moves the believers from the disbelievers is the salat (prayer). This is the process of purification.

Finally I wish to say that everything I do is for the pleasure of Allah and pray that you gain some inspirations from my experiences. Furthermore, I would like to stress that I did not come into contact with any Muslim before I embraced Islam. I read the Qur'an first and realized that no person is perfect. Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) we will be successful.

May Allah give us guidance to follow the path of the ummah of Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). Ameen!

-- Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)
Present address: Chairman, Muslim Aid, 3 Furlong Road, London, N7, U.K.

Yusuf Muhammad Ansari

Assalaamu'alaikum! I am posting this story on behalf of a brother who is now serving his term in a prison in Scotland and hence has no access to the internet. He is a brother who takes his belief very seriously and looks forward to correspond with other brothers and sisters for discussions, exchange opinions and ideas. I hope this story would attract attention of visitors of your web site to befriend this sincere brother.
- Jamaludin Yaakob


In September 4 1993 I began a journey that was a childhood dream. I left my home city of Aberdeen, Scotland at 4.10 p.m. with the intention of driving my camper van all the way to Goa, India, and back. Before I undertook this journey I spent a lot of time reading on the countries, customs, peoples and religions which at the very least could give me a basic understanding of the how I should re-act when arriving upon each place.

Although the diversity of the peoples was a task to take on board, it was the diversity of religions that stuck most in my mind. There seemed to be for me an excitement about Islamic countries, which kept coming to my thought.

The journey went well with the exception of a few mechanical problems throughout Eastern Europe. The first Islamic country I was to reach was Turkey. Although I had been there before, I had never been to Istanbul.

I was tired and needed rest. As one would do, I left my camper in a campsite and spent the next three weeks ad-hoc travelling through the centre of the city to see the sites. On what was to be my last day in Istanbul I visited the Blue Mosque and the Pink Mosque [probably the Aya Sofia -MSA-USC.]. This, my brothers and sisters, was to be my introduction to the one and true religion of Al-Islam. It was a Friday, and as I recall during 'Asr prayer no one (from the tourists) was allowed in the Pink Mosque. Due to my inquisitiveness I got firstly lost inside the mosque and secondly found myself locked in standing at the back watching the wonderful event of 'Asr prayer unfolding before my eyes. I feel I can never quite express clearly what happened next except to say that I felt drawn, numb and very hot all at the same time. Unwittingly I remembered thinking that this was really for me without questioning why or what this religion was all about. I knew the basic belief was that there was only one God. I believed that all my life anyway. The prayer had finished and all were on their way out. A brother approached me. I felt embarrassed as I apologised for being there when I should not. He smiled and assured me that it was all right.

After leaving the mosque, I went on a walk about heading towards the harbour area. I was standing looking in a window when I felt a presence behind me. I turned around to see the same man I met in the mosque; again he smiled. He told me to wait a moment as he went downstairs in the shop. When he appeared again a few moments later, he handed me a plastic bag and said "Is this what you have been looking for brother?" As I looked in the bag there was a translation of the Holy Qur'an in English. This was when an amazing thing happened. I looked up to thank him but he was gone. The strange thing was that there was no side road, alley or lane for him to simply disappear. Until this day I have never figured out where he had gone.

The journey re-commenced the next day, heading towards Eastern Turkey. I began to read the Qur'an in the evening and felt drawn to visit mosques route. Every time I met Muslim people they were forever inviting me to their homes for meals, etc. Their politeness and good character was what I have encountered before. My head was full of emptiness waiting to be filled with knowledge and I constantly asked questions about Islam. I somehow felt that I had found something that was always there but did not know how to find it and what it was.

Iran was to be the same. The more I travelled the more I felt drawn to the mosques and the company of the people. There was something distinctive about how the people were. At first I couldn't put my finger on it. I came from the West where I had been nurtured into a set of beliefs, values and attitude. The attitude seemed hard to shake off. The attitude that I matter, I am indispensable, I will stand on who I need to, so I may get to the top. Who is God? Does it matter? Money and prestige is more important, is it not? I felt a constant battle as I came from there, but I somehow felt I belonged here.

All the way through Iran I never felt intimidated, in fact, quite the opposite. If I had taken all the many offers of meals, accommodation, etc., I fear that I would still be there, and I would have gotten into trouble with the authorities. My visa was for one week only.

The next country was Pakistan. Here was where things got even better. The people were quite at ease and seemed happy to answer my non-stop questions on Islam. I visited more mosques. I was in more houses in Pakistan than I had probably ever been at home.

Another thing that I have always believed in before embracing Islam was pre-destination. Others may call it fate. This had led me to the next encounter of life with the Muslim people. My windscreen had broken and I ended up searching Quetta for a new one. I was directed to Tradesmen Street. There was where I met Muhammad, a motor body repairer. He kindly let me stay in his lock-up yard for five days until he could locate a windscreen. Everyday without fail he I ate at his house or he brought me food. He took me to meet the headmasters of both a public and a private school. He refused point blank that I should put my hand in my pocket to buy anything. He told me stories of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and other Islamic issues. At times I found it difficult to contain my emotions. I could not believe the hospitality I was receiving.

One occasion sticks in my mind which left me in tears and astounded. I was in Muhammad's house for lunch. There was his family there including around thirteen children. While I taught them a Scottish nursery rhyme Muhammad videotaped us together. Within minute the children who spoke no English, mastered it. When I was entering my van I heard some commotion at the end of the street. There, there were around one hundred children running towards me singing the Scottish nursery rhyme. I was surrounded as the tears ran from my cheeks with joy. It was so beautiful. Here was a stranger in a strange land and they wanted nothing from me except just to stay a little bit longer. I had to go. The following day I visited the local mosque and said my good bye with regret.

On the road to the Pakistani/Indian border I continued to read the Qur'an and still question why these people were being so nice to me but wanted nothing in return. Strange indeed.

As I said before, I was coming from the West where, in the material sense, they have everything. There was me travelling through a land with a house on wheels while around me so many people were living in squalor. If you have never had nothing you do not know what it's like, or, from my point of view, I had never experienced nothing.

My next encounter showed me the simplicity of man in relation to our Creator, Allah (s.w.t.). As I drove the Sind region in the desert I began to become anxious to find a place off the road to park for the evening. Suddenly I came upon a simple house of clay in the middle of nowhere. I approached the house and knocked on the door. An old man answered. I said "Assalaam Alaikom", he replied in kind. I asked if it was ok to park for the night? He spoke no English but acknowledged what I meant.

He invited me for tea. Immediately I became consciously aware of the simplicity of his dwelling. There was nothing which did not have a use, and everything was to a bare minimum. As I recalled the items, there was a staff carpet, a copy of al-Qur'an, a pot and a water skin. We sat on the carpet and drank tea. As he moved to the window, he left without warning with the water skin and a mat in hand. After a good five minutes had passed, I went outside. What I saw next I could only describe as 'the day the world stopped.' As the sun dropped out of the sky below the horizon, there was complete silence. The man in front of me dropped to his knees in total obedient worship to our Creator, a memory that lasts with me until this day.

I made it to India, visited more mosques and made it all the way back unscathed. I thought the people back home had changed, they had not, but I had.

It is so easy to allow yourself to be consumed by the method rather than being the method. Please allow me to elaborate. While in the East, I had accommodation, money and for once in my life, simplicity, empathy and understanding. It is not that I don't have them now. It's simply a different game with different rules and players. I tend to call it the reverse process. In simple terms, to the wonderful creations in the East, God is the important factor. It was to be my downfall back here in the West, trading god for money, or you may call it materialism. It seems easy to say now but for me anything with the word 'ISM' attached should be avoided at all costs.

No! I still had not embraced Islam. Although conscious of what I had learned, I put it on the back burner. The quest for me, which seemed more important, was accommodation, job, flat, and car. All of these don't grow on trees and, really how money becomes available never really mattered. I couldn't find a proper job. My wife who had been my constant travelling partner became just as disillusioned as I did. We had only been married a short time and even getting married to each other was ever shorter on three and a half-month. We couldn't get work; we were tired of travel and extremely tired of each other.

As things got progressively worse as we could not find work or accommodation, things were getting desperate. My wife found an advertisement in the local paper asking for a sauna receptionist. In our naivete we both believed that a Sauna was in fact a Sauna. At the same time she got the job, I got offered some work dealing and running drugs. The sauna turned out to be a front for prostitution and it was not long before my wife decided to swap answering the telephone for the red light. We both loved the money, we both became drugs users and all seemed fantastic.

This was to be short lived. It tore us apart. We were in a web where there seemed no way out. On the one hand we needed the money to feed our cocaine habit. On the other hand, I got sick of drugs, money, prostitution, in fact, everything. We kept the company of like-minded characters that helped feed the desire for self-gratification. I tried so hard to get off the drugs. In the mean time I tried to get my wife off the prostitution. She seemed by now to love the money more than me. I would sit for many hours staring at this accumulating amount of money before my eyes with total disdain. Little did I realise that all was about to change - first for the worst.

Two weeks before 15 April 1996 two things happened simultaneously. The first thing happened after an encounter to the library. I took a book out on loan called "The Basics of Islam". Inside I found what one says when taking the Shahadah. I was lonely, desperate and searching for the right way. I had no one in this strange city to witness me taking the Shahadah. I therefore had no choice. I took my Shahadah bearing witness to Allah (s.w.t.) four times. I took the piles of money and put it in a jack in a cupboard. I flushed the remaining drugs in the toilet. I felt alive for the first time in a long time, although short lived.

My wife who had become a stranger to me arrived back that evening. I told her of the day's events. This was to be the final acclaim. We spoke little over the next two weeks. I had my plan set that I was going back east. In all this confusion we both plotted a terrible crime and the end result would be we would go together east. Everybody says I am innocent. I was set up, etc. etc. I am not going to say this at all: I am guilty of committing a horrible crime and the consequence of my action has led me serving a life sentence. My wife? She got off and now we are divorced, thank God!

I have now served three years of my sentence and expect to serve a further seven or eight years. You may well remember earlier that I said everything is pre-ordained. I have questioned on many occasions as to how did I end up here. The story says it all. Nevertheless, brothers and sisters, everything has a reason. One might ask what have you done with your time in prison? What is the future of your life? What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations?

Well, I think it goes like this. No man can run riot through the land without taking responsibility for his actions and I feel it is better to be punished in this life than in the hereafter.

When I first came to prison I was in Soughton Jail, Edinburgh. After being processed where all details were asked for, one of the questions was what religion are you? I replied Islam. I was immediately given a Muslim diet and allowed to go to the Muslim meetings where brothers from outside came to the prison fortnightly. I recalled the first meeting as I walked into the room I held my head in shame. I couldn't stop saying why did I do that. I wept as the brothers gave me support. I by my actions created not just one victim but so many. My victim's family, friends, work associates, etc. have all been affected by my thoughtless actions. I have seen my father turned grey, my mother on anti-depression tablets and my brother too.

I will probably never ever know the real impact of my crime upon my victim, nor do I ever expect forgiveness. I am deeply sorry and ashamed of my actions.

One of the brothers in Edinburgh said to me 'you can't change the past, you can only hope to attain to be a better person in the future.' I took my Shahadah again that evening this time in front of witnesses, back in 1996.

The easy part, which may seem the hardest part, is getting accustomed to nothingness and solitude. That is one thing prison does for a man. It gives you time, plenty of it, to think. My first reaction was to think of what I had lost; not only family, friends, my respect and all of that "ISM' materialism.

Soon I lost the need for materialism. As I sit here now in the concrete tomb, I exchange my coat of materialism for spiritualism. I have embraced Islam fully, slowly, but surely. I am building up a new set of moral and ethical values. I pray five times daily as prescribed in Islam and beg Allah (s.w.t.) for forgiveness.

What have I done with my time you may ask? I have undertaken a home study course in Islamic Studies which consists of twenty booklets on various Islamic subjects, which on completion leads to five O' grades or GCSES. I have undertaken the first year of a degree course in Arabic and Islamic Studies. I read the Qur'an and the Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) daily. I get immeasurable support from regular visits from the brothers from the Aberdeen Mosque. Why all these you may ask? Well, I believe in Allah (s.w.t.), I believe that good can overrule bad and only through the straight path of Islam can this be achieved.

I want to be an asset to society when I eventually leave the prison, inshaallah. I hope that I may have obtained my degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies by then so as I may undertake da'awah work and hopefully get a job teaching Islamic subjects.

My short-term objective is that I may be able to obtain some correspondence with Muslims world wide in the hope that I may be able to give support and hopefully receive some too. My final hope is that I may be able to get another chance of marriage. So, if any of you out there would be interested in correspondence and/or marriage, you can contact me at the following address.

Yusuf Muhammad Ansari

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