Priests Who Embraced Islam

Former Christian Priests and Missionaries who have Embraced Islam

Compiled by The True Religion

 

And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud.

When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messengers, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses. [Qur'an 5:82-83]

Abdullah al-Faruq - Formerly Kenneth L. Jenkins, minister and elder of the Pentecostal Church

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Foreword

As a former minister and elder of the Christian church, it has become incumbent upon me to enlighten those that continue to walk in darkness. After embracing Islam I felt a dire need to help those who have not yet been blessed to experience the light of Islam.

I thank Almighty God, Allah, for having mercy upon me, causing me to come to know the beauty of Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad and his rightly guided followers. It is only by the mercy of Allah that we receive true guidance and the ability to follow the straight path, which leads to success in this life and the Hereafter.

Praise be to Allah for the kindness shown to me by Shaykh 'Abdullah bin 'Abdul-'Azeez bin Baz upon my embracing Islam. I cherish and will pass on the knowledge gained from each meeting with him. There are many others who have helped me by means of encouragement and knowledge, but for fear of missing anyone, I will refrain from attempting to list them. Sufficient it is to say that I thank Almighty God, Allah, for each and every brother and sister that He has allowed to play a role in my growth and development as a Muslim.

I pray that this short work will be of benefit to all. I hope that Christians will find that there is yet i hope for the wayward conditions that prevail over the bulk of Christendom. The answers to Christian problems are not to be found with the Christians themselves, for they are, in most instances, the root of their own problems. Rather, Islam is the solution to the problems plaguing the world of Christianity,as well as the problems facing the so-called worldof religion as a whole. May Allah guide us all and reward us according to the very best of our deeds and intentions.

Abdullah Muhammad al-Faruque at-Ta'if, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Beginnings

As a young boy I was raised with a deep fear of God. Having been partially raised by a grandmother who was a Pentecostal fundamentalist, the church became an integral part of my life at a very early age. By the time I had reached the age of six, I knew all too well the benefits awaiting me in Heaven for being a good little boy and the punishment awaiting in Hell for little boys who are naughty. I was taught by my grandmother that all liars were doomed to go to the Hellfire, where they would burn forever and ever.

My mother worked two full-time jobs and continued to remind me of the teachings given to me by her mother. My younger brother and older sister did not seem to take our grandmother's warnings of the Hereafter as seriously as I did. I recall seeing the full moon when it would take on a deep reddish hue, and I would begin to weep because I was taught that one of the signs of the end of the world would be that the moon would become red like blood. As an eightyear old child I began to develop such a fear at what I thought were signs in the heavens and on earth of Doomsday that I actually had nightmares of what the Day of Judgement would be like. Ourhouse was close to a set of railroad tracks, and trains passed by on a frequent basis. I can remember being awakened out of sleep by the horrendous sound of the locomotive's horn and thinking that I had died and was being resurrected after hearing the sound of the trumpet. These teachings were ingrained in my young mind through a combination of oral teachings and the reading of a set of children's books known asthe Bible Stoly.

Every Sunday we would go to church dressed in all of our finery. My grandfather was our means of transportation. Church would last for what seemed to me like hours. We would arrive at around eleven in the morning and not leave until sometimes three in the afternoon. I remember falling asleep in my grandmother's lap on many occasions. For a time my brother and I were permitted to leave church in between the conclusion of Sunday school and morning worship service to sit with our grandfather at the railway yard and watch the trains pass. He was not a churchgoer, but he saw to it thatmyEamily made it there every Sunday. Sometime later he suffered a stroke, which left him partiallyparalyzed, and as a result, we were unable to attend church od a regular basis. This period of time would be one of the most crucial stages of my development.

Rededication

I was relieved, in a sense, at no longer being able to attend church, but I would feel the urge to go on my own every now and then. At age sixteen I began attending the church of a friend whose father was the pastor. It was a small storefrontbuildingwith only my friend's family, myself, and another schoolmate as members. This went on for only several months before -the church closed down. After graduating from high school and entering the university I rediscovered my religious commitment and became fully immersed in Pentecostal teachings. I was baptized and "filled with the Holy Ghost," as the experience was then called. As a college student, I quickly became the pride of the church. Everyone had high hopes for me, and I was happy to once again be "on the road to salvation. "

I attended church every time its doors would open. I studied the Bible for days and weeks at a time. I attended lectures given by the Christian scholars of my day, and I acknowledged my call to the ministry at the age of 20. I began preaching and became well known very quickly. I was extremely dogmatic and believed that no one could receive salvation unless they were of my church group. I categorically condemned everyone who had not come to know God the way I had cometo knowHim. I was taught that Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and God Almighty were one and the samething. I was taught that our church did not believe in the trinity but that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I tried to make myself understand it even though I had to admit that I really did not fully understand it. As far as I was concerned, it was the only doctrine that made sense to me. I admired the holy dress ofthewomenandthe pious behavior of the men. I enjoyed practicing a doctrine where women were required to dress in garments covering themselves completely, not painting their faces with makeup, and carrying themselves as true ambassadors of Christ. I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had finally found the true path to eternal bliss. Iwould debate with anyone from a different church with different beliefs and would totally silence them with my knowledge of the Bible. I memorized hundreds of Biblical passages, and this became a trademark of my preaching. Yet, even though I felt assured of being on the right path, a part of me was still searching. I felt that there was an even higher truth to be attained.

I would meditate while alone and pray to God to lead me to the correct religion and to forgive me if what I was doing was wrong. I had neverhad any contact with Muslims. The only people I knew that claimed Islam as their religion were the followers of Elijah Muhammad, who were referred to by many as the "Black Muslims" or the "Lost-Found Nation." It was during this period in the late seventies that Minister Louis Farrakhan was well into rebuilding what was called "The Nation of Islam." Iwentto hear Minister Farrakhan speak at the invitation of a coworker and found it to be an experience that would change my life dramatically. I had never in my life heard another black man speak the way that he spoke. I immediately wanted to arrange a meeting with him to try to convert him to my religion. I enjoyed evangelizing, hoping to find lost souls to save from the Hellfire - no matter who they were. 

After graduating from college I began to work on a full-time basis. As I was reaching the pinnacle of my ministry, the followers of Elijah Muhammad became more visible, and I appreciated their efforts in attempting to rid the black community of the evils that were destroying it from within. I beganto support them, in a sense, by buying their literature and even meeting with them for dialogue. I attended their study circles to find out exactly what they believed. As sincere as I knew many of them were, I could not buy the idea of God being a black man. I disagreed with their use of the Bible to support their position on certain issues. Here was a book that I knewvery well, and I was deeply disturbed at what I deemed was their misinterpretation of it. I had attended locally supported Bible schools and had become quite knowledgeable in various fields of Bible study.

After about six years I moved to Texas and became affiliated with two churches. The first church was led by a young pastor who was inexperienced and not very learned. My knowledge of the Christian scriptures had by this time developed into something abnormal. I was obsessed with Biblical teachings. I began to look deeper into the scriptures and realized that I knew more than the present leader. As a show of respect, I left and joined another church in a different city where I felt that I could learn more. The pastor of this particular church was very scholarly. He was an excellent teacher but had some ideas that were not the norm in our church organization. He held somewhat liberal views, but I still enjoyed his indoctrination. I was soon to learn the most valuable lesson of my Christian life, which was "all that glitters is not gold." Despite its outward appearance,there were evils taking place that I never thought were possible in the Church. These evils caused meto reflect deeply, and I began questioning the teaching to which I was so dedicated. 

Welcome to the Real Church World

I soon discovered that there was a great deal of jealousy prevalent in the ministerial hierarchy. Things had changed from that to which I was accustomed. Women wore clothing that I thought was shameful. People dressed in order to attract attention, usually from the opposite sex. I discovered just how great a part money and greed play in the operation of church activities. There were many small churches struggling, and they called upon us to hold meetings to help raise money for them. I wastoldthatifa church did not have a certain numberofmembers, then I was not to waste my time preaching there because I would not receive ample financial compensation. I then explained that I was not in it for the money and that I would preach even if there was only one member present... and I'd do it for free! This caused a disturbance. I started questioning those whom I thought had wisdom, only to find that they had been putting on a show. I learned that money, power and position were more important than teaching the truth about the Bible. As a Bible student, I knew full well that there were mistakes, contradictions and fabrications. I thought that people should be exposed to the truth about the Bible. The idea of exposing the people to such aspects of the Bible was a thought supposedly attributable to Satan. But I began to publicly ask my teachers questions during Bible classes, which none of them could answer. Not a single one could explainhowiesus was supposedly God, and how, at the same time, he was supposedly the Father, Son and Holy Ghost wrapped up into one and yet wasnotapartofthe trinity. Several preachers finally had to concede that they did not understand it but thatwewere simply required to believe it.

Cases of adultery and fornication went unpunished. Some preachers were hooked on drugs and had destroyed their lives and the livesoftheir families. Leaders of some churches were found to be homosexuals. There were pastors even guilty of committing adultery with the young daughters of other church members. All of this coupledwitha failure to receive answers to what I thought were valid questions was enough to make me seek a change. That change came when I accepted a job in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A New Beginning

It was not long after arriving in Saudi Arabia that I saw an immediate difference in thelifestyle o fthe Muslim people. They were different from the followers of Elijah Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan in that they were of all nationalities, colors and languages. I immediately expressed a desireto learn more about this peculiar brand of religion. I was amazed with the life of Prophet Muhammad and wanted to know more. I requested books from one of the brothers who was active in calling people to Islam. I was supplied with all of the books that I could possibly want. I read each and every one. I was then given the Holy Qur'an and read it completely several times within four months. I asked question after question and received satisfactory answers. What appealed to me was that the brothers were not keen on impressing me with their knowledge. If a brother did not know how to answer a question, he would tell me that he simply did not know and would have to check with someone who did. The next day he would always bring the answer. I noticed how humility played such a great role in the lives of these mysterious people of the Middle East.

I was amazed to see the women covering themselves from face to foot. I did not see any religious hierarchy. No one was competing for any religious position. All of this was wonderful, but how could I entertain the thought of abandoning a teaching that had followed me since childhood? What about the Bible? I knew that there is some truth in it even though it had been changed and revised countless numbers of times. I was then given a video cassette of a debate between Shaykh Ahmed Deedat and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. After seeing the debate I immediately became a Muslim. (To view this debate click here - requires RealPlayer)

I was taken to the office of Shaykh 'Abdullah bin 'Abdul-'Azeez bin Baz to officially declare my acceptance of Islam. It was there that I was given sound advice on how to prepare myself for the long journey ahead. It was truly a birth from darkness into light. I wondered what my peers fromthe Church would think when they heard that I had embraced Islam. It was not long before I found out. I went back to the United States for vacation and was severely criticized for my "lack of faith." I was stamped with many labels - from renegade to reprobate. People were told by so-called church leaders not to even remember me in prayer. As strange as it may seem, I was not bothered in the least. I was so happy that Almighty God, Allah, had chosen to guide me aright that nothing else mattered.

Now I only wanted to become as dedicated a Muslim as I was a Christian. This, of course, meant study. I realized that a person could grow as much as they wanted to in Islam. Thereis no monopoly of knowledge - it is free to all who wish to avail themselves of the opportunities to learn. I was given a set of Saheeh Muslim as a gift from my Qur'an teacher. It was then that I realized the need to learn about the life, sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad . I read and studied as many of the hadlth collections available in English as possible. I realized that my knowledge of the Bible was an asset that is now quite useful in dealing with those of Christian backgrounds. Life for me has taken on an entirely new meaning. One of the most profound attitude changes is a result ofknowingthatthislife must actually be spent in preparation for life in the Hereafter. It was also a new experience to know that we are rewarded even for our intentions. If you intend to do good, then you are rewarded. Itwas quite different in the Church. The attitude wasthat "the path to Hell is paved with good intentions." There was no way to win. Ifyousinned,thenyou had to confess to the pastor, especially if the sin was a great sin, such as adultery. You were judged strictly by your actions.

The Present and Future

After an interview by the Al-Madinah newspaper I was asked about my present-day activities and plans for the future. At present, my goal is to learn Arabic and continue studying to gain greater knowledge about Islam. I am presentlyengaged inthefield-of da'wah and am called upon to lecture to non-Muslims who come from Christian backgrounds. If Allah, Almighty, spares my life, I hope to write more on the subject of comparative religion.

It is the duty of Muslims throughout the world to work to spread the knowledge of Islam. As one who has spent such a long time as a Bible teacher, I feel a special sense of duty in educating people about the errors, contradictions and fabricated talesofabook believed in by millions of people. One of the greatest joys is knowing that I do not have to engage in a great deal of dispute with Christians, because I was a teacher who taught most of the disputetechniques used by them. I also learned how to argue using the Bible to defend Christianity. And at the same time I know the counter arguments for each argument which we, as ministers, were forbidden by our leadersto discuss or divulge.

It is my prayer that Allah will forgive us all of our ignorance and guide us to the path leading to Paradise. All praise is due to Allah. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad, his family, companions, and those following true guidance. (Source: Islam Online from Europe)

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Viacheslav Polosin - Former Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church

ARCHPRIEST VIACHESLAV POLOSIN CONVERTS TO ISLAM
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religii, 2 June 1999

Source: http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/

Archpriest Viacheslav Polosin, a priest of the Kaluga diocese leave of absence who now heads the administration of the Committee on Relations with Public Associations and Religious Organizations of the State Duma of the Russian federation, has converted to Islam. "I decided to bring my social status into line with my convictions," Viacheslav Polosin declared, "and to testify publicly that I consider myself an adherent of the great tradition of the true faith of the prophets of monotheism, beginning with Abraham. And thus I do not consider myself a priest nor a member of any Orthodox church."

At the same time Viacheslav Polosin recited the traditional formula testifying to his acceptance of Islam: "There is no god besides the One God Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." Viacheslav Polosin consider that the final revelation on earth is the Holy Koran send down to the prophet Muhammad and he categorically disagrees with those who "for some reason consider that the Arabic text of the Holy Koran is alien to the Russian mentality." In his interview with the journal Musulmane, Viacheslav Polosin subjected to sharp criticism the Christian, and especially the Orthodox, tradition. In his opinion, Christianity contains an "assimilation of the Creator God to his creation, man," which is anthropomorphism. "For centuries there have existed mediators, fathers and teachers, who while not prophets have spoken in the name of God," Viacheslav Polosin said about the Christian cult of
saints, "and this practice has so become the norm in the church that it is difficult for the laity to escape it, and for one in the position of a priest it is impossible." According to Viacheslav Polosin, his wife "completely shares this choice of worldview."

Among Muslims who had influence on this choice the former Orthodox clergyman identified Geidar Jemal and reported that the stories about the Holy Kaaba and the Hadj made a great impression on him. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 3 June 1999)

FATHER VIACHESLAV: FROM CHURCH TO MOSQUE
by Alexander Soldatov
Moskovskie novosti, 8-14 June 1999


Viacheslav Polosin, a former priest of the Russian Orthodox church and chairman of the Committee of the Supreme Soviet on Freedom of Conscience, recently announced his conversion from Orthodoxy to Islam. This unprecedented event of the adoption of the religion of the Prophet by a prominent Orthodox clergyman was a surprise for many. The former archpriest is suspected of psychological illness or of subtle political calculation. But he himself speaks of his own free, spiritual, philosophical choice.

--As far as I know, this is the second time in your life when you have officially announced a change in your worldview?

--From childhood I believed in God, in my spirit. Later, when I was in the university, I came across Orthodox literature and went to the church and found there something that I had not seen in philosophy classes. I do not regret that; I learned a lot there. I submitted my documents to the ecclesiastical seminary in 1979 and have now, after twenty years, given an interview to the journal "Musulmane;" these are two stages in the development of my life.

Interview with Musulmane

"Several years of intense work have brought me to the conclusion that the Koran does not contain an assimilation of the Creator God to his creation, humanity, which is anthropomorphism, the essence of paganism. There is no basis for the ritual practice of appeasing God like some kind of human ruler. . . . I have decided to bring my social status into conformity with my convictions and to bear public testimony that I consider myself a follower of the great tradition of the correct belief and of the prophets of monotheism, beginning with Abraham, and thus I do not consider myself any longer either a clergyman or a member of any Orthodox church. . . . As regards possible penalties, we all are mortal and all sooner or later will depart from this life, so it is better to depart from it abiding in the Truth and not in spiritual ambivalence or in the delusions of human fantasy. With regard to the
practical difficulties, including the Arabic language, I must place my hopes in help and cooperation from my new brethren. My will fully shares this worldview choice."

--How did your clerical path evolve?

--Within the church circles of Moscow I was not "my own person." There also were family circumstances which forced me to request ministry in Central Asia. I served briefly in Frunze and somewhat longer in Dushanbe. There I dealt with Islamic culture and the eastern mentality for the first time, which made a deep impression on my soul. After half a year I was ignominiously deprived of my registration for disobedience to secular authorities, that is, to the commissioner for religious affairs. For three year I was not accepted anywhere and was in complete disgrace. In 1988, when perestroika began, I was offered a half-destroyed church near Obninsk. From there I was elected in 1990 as a member of the soviet of the RSFSR.

The position of the Moscow patriarchate

For the Moscow patriarchate, the announcement by Archpriest Viacheslav Polosin of his conversion to another faith came as a complete surprise. In the Department of External Church Relations his move is explained as instability of character and convictions and a quick "subsequent change" of religious views is predicted. In the patriarchate there is an inclination to let the matter drop, relying on the decision of Fr Viacheslav's ruling bishop, Archbishop Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk.

--Were you suspected of conversion to protestantism?

--American protestants, who in 1991 arrived in Russia in abundance and whom I received, proposed that we begin our meeting with prayer. But I categorically objected, saying that this was a secular institution and that I protected freedom of conscience and thus there must not be any prayer here. I was cordial with protestants, but where this rumor that I wanted to adopt protestantism came from, I don't know.

--For many it is a puzzle what your real position on the new law on freedom of conscience of 1997 is. Some consider you its author and some recall that you have frequently criticized the law itself.

--As long as I am a state employee I cannot discuss the whole truth about this law. I participated in the writing of this law as one of fifteen members of the working group and I had very little influence. Then the law was presented to the duma where work on it went forward. I can consider myself a coauthor of what resulted from this work. But the demonization of the law was necessary to those circles and forces who figured on being able to make a name and money for themselves on the basis of the negative events that arose around the country. Actually the law upheld the principles of a secular state and maintained the situation.

--Was your religious quest provoked by your displeasure with formal Orthodoxy?

--While I was working in the state apparatus I began to see more clearly how various activities within the church or politics affect the life of the people. Some people try to interpret Christianity so as to justify the irresponsibility of the government, giving it an image of divine ordination.

--There are similar examples in the history of the Islamic world: khans, Turkish sultans, palace intrigues of the Sublime Porte.

--In the Koran viewing the government as "God's anointed" is strictly forbidden. It is said that if someone usurps power and a Muslim tolerates this, then he is an accessory to this sin. In the Ottoman empire there was a stagnation of Muslim culture--the cult of the military, violence, slavery. Islam degenerated there. The Revelation itself is a different matter.

--What has been the reaction of your new Muslim brethren to your decision?

--My interview with the journal Musulmane provoked lively interest, so much so that it was necessary to put out another printing.

--What has been the reaction on the part of your leadership in the duma?

--Some naturally will be unhappy, but I don't care to please everyone. I think that nothing will change in my work in the duma. I do not intend to criticize Christianity. When I was within Orthodoxy, I criticized it rather harshly. Now I don't. Islam, as it is presented in the Koran, is the most democratic religion because it contains a prohibition of tyranny; vis-a-vis the Creator is the people, society on earth. There are no mediators of a priestly caste or anointed monarchs in the Koran.

Viacheslav Polosin's office

In the State Duma he occupies one office along with Murad Zaprishiev, a former deputy and now an employee of the staff of the duma Committee for Relations with Public Associations and Religious Organizations. In a prominent place in the office there is the Koran and the walls are decorated with Arabic inscriptions. In this office Polosin and his colleague sometimes perform their prayers, for which they use a special rug. At the same time, Viacheslav Sergeevich opposes making a demonstrative profession of Islam in his secular work and especially in governmental service.

--Do you have plans to return to a more political life?

--For the time being, no. I would prefer to use my profession and knowledge for socially useful activity within the bounds of Islam. I see myself as a public and academic Islamic leader, but not a politician. But what the future will bring, only God knows. In 1990 my election as a deputy also was unexpected.

INFORMATION: Viacheslav Sergeevich Polosin was born in 1956. In 1979 he graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of MGU and in 1984 from the Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary. He was ordained a priest and served in parishes in the dioceses of Central Asia and Kaluga of RPTs. In 1990 he was elevated to the rank of archpriest. In the same year he was elected a people's deputy of RSFSR from Kaluga region and headed the committee of the Supreme Soviet on freedom of conscience. While working in the Supreme Soviet, he graduated from the diplomatic academy of the ministry of foreign affairs and defended his dissertation on the subject: "The Russian Orthodox church and the state in USSR, 1971-1991." From 1993 he has been an employee of the staff of the State Duma on relations with public associations and religious organizations. He was a member of the Russian Christian
Democratic Movement and a member of the Council of Christian Organizations. In 1991 he went on leave from the Kaluga diocese and since 1995 he has not officiated in liturgies. In his interview with the Musulmane journal, he officially called himself a Muslim: "I consider that the Koran is the final Revelation on earth, sent down to the Prophet Muhammed. There is no God but the One God, Allah, and Muhammed is his Messenger." Viacheslav Polosin is the author of many scholarly works on historical,political, religious, and philosophical subjects. In February of this year he defended another dissertation on the subject: "The dialectics of myth and political myth-making." His basic philosophical ideas are presented in his book "Myth, Religion, and the State" (Moscow, 1999).

From the point of view of Islamic theologians, to convert to the religion of the Prophet it is sufficient to recite the famous formula containing the profession of faith in the one God Allah and his prophet Muhammed. In doing so it is not important which language is used for reciting the formula. It is important that the recitation be made before two witnesses who are Muslim and can give written confirmation of the fact of the profession of Islam. The rite of circumcision, which many consider to be analogous to baptism in Christianity, is not obligatory for entrance into the Muslim umma. (tr. by PDS)

"RUSSIAN ISLAM" RECRUITS ADHERENTS FROM RANKS OF ORTHODOX
by Sergei Chapnin
Metaphrasis

--Viacheslav Sergeevich, you first announced that you had embraced Islam in an interview in a small journal, "Musulmane." What's is this related to? Why did you not first announce that you were demitting the Orthodox priesthood?

--I did not want to make a political show or sensation out of my spiritual choice. In Islam it is required that one profess monotheism in the presence of witnesses, and the journal for Muslims which is purely for internal use fully accords with this goal. So I made the announcement in the presence of witnesses, which were all the readers of the journal. And the print run of the journal, 7,000 copies, is not so small in our times; for example, its twice that of the newspaper "NG-religii." And the issue is not the demitting of the priesthood but a complete break from the jurisdiction of a particular church: it would be strange to profess Islam and consider one's self an Orthodox layman.

--The title under which your interview was published is "The straight path." Does that reflect your personal conviction that your path to Islam was really straight?

--The words "straight path" frequently are used in the books of the Old Testament. When the king rode along the stony gorges in the Palestinian hills, his servants cleared his path of stones and straightened it out. When the prophet John the Forerunner called for making straight the way of the Lord, that is, the path for Jesus the Savior, the spiritual Lord and King, John had in view the spiritual straightening out, freeing the soul from pagan superstitions and embracing the truth. In the Holy Koran "straight path" is one of the central terms: it is the path to the Most High without mediators or priests, without faith in the independent miracle working of manufactured objects. After all, even in the New Testament Jesus Christ called for this, saying that his goal was that
all could turn directly to God, to "thou," "Abba, Father." This was connected with Jesus' unconditional prohibition of calling anyone one's father on earth (Mt 23.9). The straight path is direct communion of the soul with God through the only mediator, the Spirit of God, his action and energy. Islam, monotheism, right belief--this is the exposure of all departures from the commands of the preceding prophets, including Jesus, and the affirmation of the social doctrine of monotheism which had earlier been lost.

--It is obvious that your decision will have enormous response in Russia and in the whole Christian world: for the first time in history a Christian cleric consciously and not under the pressure of circumstances embraces Islam.

--Twenty years have passed since I declared myself Orthodox. In 1979 it was not easy to make the decision about entering seminary; such actions were then condemned by society and I faced many obstacles. Strictly speaking, it is impossible to "leave" into Islam. "Islam" in translation means submission to God, entrusting one's whole self to God, or it can be translated as "resignation to God." From the root "sam" comes the world "salyam," or "shalom" or 'peace." To embrace Islam doesn't sound right in Russian. The issue is not an embracing but rather profession of strict monotheism. My faith in God has not changed but only grown stronger, and I have changed my social status.

--Isn't your departure from the church connected with the fact that over the last ten years you have been engaged solely in political activity and you rejected active participation in church life? What kind of spiritual path have you traveled in that time?

--Since 1993 I have been involved in politics only episodically. It is possible to talk about the influence of lawmaking as an element of politics, but this isn't public or independent politics. Thus there's no politics here. Through participation in the state structures I came to see the consequences in practice of decisions that are made. Sometimes they have very great effects in society. Any mistake or miscalculation of the public interests leads to difficult and sometimes tragic consequences and brings about disorder in society. This forced me to think about how religious concepts can be applied to politics and how people use these concepts for their goals that are far from religion, for example, for usurpation of authority. In Islam there are no such concepts that all authority is from God. On the contrary, the power of the people is affirmed and accommodation to tyranny and to the one who usurps the power of the people is considered sin. If we are talking about the decision to profess one's self as a strict monotheist, let's say, within the confines of the Abrahamic tradition, this matured gradually and is connected only with my worldview quests.

--What were the milestones along the way? Were there new spiritual experiences? Were these conversations with people, reading books, or some other events?

--Yes, primarily it was books and people.

--In the interview with the journal Musulmane you mention Geidar Jemal. What kind of influence did he have on you and what role did he play in your conversion?

--His addresses and sermons on the program "Nyne" [Now] produced a strong impression on me. He often spoke about the tradition of Abrahamic monotheism. Geidar Jemal is a respected man who participates in political processes and politics always evokes a multitude of questions. I would wish to distance myself from political activity in the field of Islam for I have not participated in it, but his religious sermons often produced an impression on me. Besides this, my conversations with Murad Zargishiev also played a great role. I studied the history of Christianity and Islam and the theological works of various writers, including the French philosopher Rene Genon who embraced Islam. It was a long process. In the end it was the same as going to graduate school after undergraduate. Islam is for me not a negation of the former path nor a negation of Christianity, including
Orthodoxy. It is a transition to some new quality which I view as the next stage for myself.

--Does that mean that your conversion to Islam personally does not mean renunciation of Christ the Savior?

--The way he is described in the New Testament is for me only partially acceptable inasmuch as there are questions about the authenticity of the texts, but I have not renounced Jesus as he is described in the Most Glorious Koran. It is said, first, that he is a prophet; second, a righteous man; third, he was conceived in a miraculous manner. He really saved people and thus is called Messiah in the Koran. The doctrine of the divine essence of Christ arose in the fourth century and was made dogma in the fifth. For several centuries Christians got on well without professing that Messiah was God and there is no basis for considering that they were profoundly mistaken.

--The famous Orthodox theologian of the eighth century John of Damascus spoke of Islam as one of the Christian heresies. Christian consciousness took Islam in the period of its beginning as one of numerous Christian sects.

--Yes, it was considered that way. And really there were many Christian sects at the time in the East, so that even patriarchs were considered as "heretics" as well as whole local churches.

--What is your opinion about this?

--Islam is not an offshoot from Christianity but a second and great reform of Abrahamic monotheism. Abraham believed in the one God and was the first to express this publicly. He announced it and confirmed it for his successors, becoming the "father" of all believers. Subsequently this tradition suffered deviations. It is known that all of the prophets--incidentally many of them also are called "saviors"--criticized the people for their deviation into heathenism. And the greatest prophet, Jesus, also criticized people for heathenism. More than that, he himself spoke of himself in parables as sent by God with a special mission. Before this people said: "Prophets are sinners like us." But God sent a sinless Angel of God--in the bible angels are called "sons of God" (Job 38.7)--who really was a pure prophet but he was not obeyed. They conceived the desire to destroy him. He criticized the dominating shortcomings of the time and spread the Good News of the one God beyond the boundaries of a single people, for all people; this was a great reform of Judaism. Islam is the second reform, cleansing the Christianity of the sixth and seventh centuries from the pagan accretions which has been formed in the period of its acquiring official status and compulsory mass acceptance.

--How do you relate monotheism and the dogma of the Trinity? When you entered seminary and especially when you gave your clerical vows, it was required that you profess faith. What has changed in your understanding of divinity?

--Throughout the course of life a person develops. I was from a nonbelieving family and the soviet environment, at a time when there was a system without religious education. I knew nothing of religion before the age of eighteen. There was only an internal urge and a faith in an unknown God. Twenty years ago I came to the Orthodox church. I accepted Orthodox teaching, perceiving it through a prism of my personal comprehension. In my spirit I always believed in the one God and the teaching about a plurality of persons and hypostases I understood approximately as now I understand the teaching about the plurality of names in the Most Glorious Koran and the Old Testament. There can be many names because a name does not signify the essence but an activity of God in this world. If he clearly saves someone from danger, they say "God is merciful." "Merciful" in this case is his name, but it is not the substance of God and does not pretend to be so. Moreover, in Christian dogmatic manuals it is said that we know nothing about the substance of God. At the same time there is a paradox here: we know nothing about the substance but we distinguish several persons within this substance.

--Aren't you confusing person and action, hypostasis and energy? If there is a plurality of actions and a plurality of names, this does not mean that there is a plurality of persons.

--I am talking about this as I understand it. What the Greeks thought in creating this teaching that was completely new for the church, which, note, was not even mentioned in the creed of A.D. 381, I do not know. Incidentally, Jesus is not directly called God in this creed. Several years ago I specifically began investigating this subject in order to confirm all of this for myself theoretically. In the Holy Koran it is said: "You must not give companions to God." It does not speak of "hypostases," which means that the issue is that believers must not imagine two or more subjects of activity when discussing the Creator. If for the Christian a "hypostasis" is not a different subject but a "name," he is not violating the command of God. In the term "hypostasis of God" there is Greek influence in which there is much sophistry. The fruit of such Greek thought were several doctrinal innovations which appeared many centuries after the New Testament was already well known. For me this is obvious, but it does not mean that I criticize Christianity as a confession, but there already are many conjectures about this. I speak of levels of comprehension. In practice I do not know how a specific babushka believes who comes to the Orthodox church or some elderly Baptist woman. Do they have a concept of a companion of God or is it only an abstraction for her, only a name, or does she not even think about this? Perhaps she has blessed simplicity and God hears and receives her prayers. It is not important where she is, in an Orthodox church, or in a Baptist congregation, or in an Islamic one. Therefore in the Koran Christians and Jews are called brothers and "people of Scripture," that is, heirs of Abraham.

--I get the impression that until now you have been talking as an historian of religion who has come to God not through personal spiritual experience but more through analysis of the historical development of world religions. Does this mean that scholarly investigation for you means more than personal experience? Or are you simply defending yourself?

--No. In all that I have said there is an internal torment. Honestly, even in clerical activity several things disturbed me. For example, an akathist is appointed and you open it up and there, for example, in a prayer to Saint Nicholas it says: "Save us from our sins." Of course, confusion arose here because this even contradicts the teaching of the Orthodox church. What is the point of Jesus' mission when some other person can save people from sin? Of course, without theoretical knowledge, without historical study, there will not be a full picture.

--As an Orthodox priest, albeit in the past, you know well the Orthodox liturgical tradition. Do church music, hymnology, and iconography really confuse you? Is it really easy to renounce all this wealth?

--It is not easy, but this is not a spur of the moment decision and I have not renounced aesthetics and the spiritual beauty. In the beauty of singing the human search for God is expressed and this evokes awe. Over several years I gradually underwent spiritual cleansing. There were both doubts and internal struggle. In Orthodoxy this is called "spiritual growth," and in Islam this inner struggle with thoughts and self-analysis is called the "great jihad." For about the past four years I have continually thought about this and approximately a year ago I finally got it settled. I treat with great care and respect the feelings of other people who experience awe in the face of what you have mentioned, standing in church and everything that is connected with prayer. I do not
criticize this in the least and I do not criticize people. I consider that in any case it is impossible to pull them anywhere, even if I consider that some form of religion is better. Monotheism lies at the base of Christianity and thus, when people turn to God, God the all-seeing and all-powerful, he can hear them just as in Islam. Trying to win them over only brings harm. It is a different matter if a person is dissatisfied and seeks answers to questions. It is possible to talk with such a person and to help him in his movement. I regret that the newspaper "NG-religii" wrote that I have criticized Christianity. This is not true.

--It is no secret that in recent years your relations with the Moscow patriarchate have not been harmonious. Did this play any role in your conversion?

--No. The decision to adopt Islam and to profess monotheism was a deeply internal decision and my interrelationships with the patriarchate had no place here. In 1991 I went on leave on my own initiative and I began wearing secular clothing. If I had continued believing as I had been believing when I entered seminary, I would have continued to serve in a parish. After the dismissal of the Supreme Soviet in 1993 the patriarch offered me the rectorship of a wealthy Moscow church, but I declined. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk suggested in 1994 that I work in OVTsS, but I declined myself and agreed only to be an external consultant for it and I received the appropriate official authorization for his signature. This was a definite move in the direction about which we are now talking. But at the time my decision still had not been formulated and there was only some reservations
with regard to concrete liturgical practice. I emphasize that as a priest I served sincerely and did not deceive anyone when I performed the sacraments, rites, and rituals. People who partook in these services should not have any doubts. There were no personal contacts between me and the hierarchy. Metropolitan Kirill I consider the de facto leader of the church and he also is a potential candidate for president of Russia. If the "Regeneration" society nominates him for vice president of Muslims of, say, Tatarstan, his rating will dramatically increase. I wish him and Fr Chaplin well!

--It is impossible to remove your action from the political context. Whether you want it or not you are on the edge of very serious problems. On the one hand, Islam in Russia is divided into several groupings. On the other hand, Russian Islam has no clear figures who really belong to the political elite. Will not the Islamic leaders each try to win you over?

--I don't know; nobody has made any suggestions to me.

--Would you agree with the correction "nobody has made any for the time being"?

--No. In 1990 by God's will I became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet. It is an awesome thing, of course, to speak of the will of God himself, but events were filled with coincidences. The unclear position of the synod in those years was like this: Archbishop Platon, with the blessing of the synod, was running for Supreme Soviet, but lower level bishops were not supposed to permit priests to run for seats. One exception was made for Fr Aleksei Zlobin. Then some Kalugans suggested to me that I run. Struggling with doubts, I went to Bishop Ilian and told him that people wanted me to run. He said: "I wanted to run myself for this district, but the synod forbade me to and so I give you my blessing and let them solve the problem." He blessed me. I speak about this in order to show that this was not a human intention on my part. Everything happened as if by itself. I met with voters only three times and
the election district was the whole province. Everything worked out.

What the future will be, I do not know. I try to be obedient. The word "Islam" means "obedience, submission to God." If such is God's will, I am obliged to submit to it. If not, I myself will not strive for it. By nature I am a quiet man, peaceful. Scholarship attracts me more and I would return to it. Reading books, writing, involvement in education activity among my own people so that everything will be quiet. Now my desire is not to return to politics, much less to public politics. In today's Russia this would be unpleasant for a nonbelieving person and for the time being nobody has the power to change it. I see myself in the public educational field but being a political pawn in somebody else's hands is not to my liking.

--One more question about your "past" life. In 1991 you became a priest on leave. What have the recent pages of your spiritual life been like? Have you officiated since then; were you assigned to some church?

--No. When I was a deputy and arranged with the patriarch for the leave, I retained the right to officiate in Kaluga diocese. However I did not exercise that right often and since 1995 I have not conducted the liturgy at all.

--And when was the last time you wore vestments?

--Several years ago.

--What will be the fate of Orthodoxy and Islam in Russia? Will there be real cooperation between them?

--My civil position has not changed. Today, as in the time of the Supreme Soviet, I consider that between Christianity and Islam in Russia there should be a social union. Specifically social, confirmed at the governmental level. Before the revolution, both Orthodox and Muslims were present at official ceremonies. Of course, Orthodox ceremonies were governmental, but Muslims were present at them, though they did not participate directly but stood alongside. Muslims had special prayers for the tsar as their earthly patron.

Russia always has been a Eurasian country, widespread and essentially imperial. The empire was integrated, although there were colonial acquisitions and the union of Christians and Muslims was complementary. Moreover the ideology of the state, as a secular program, must be based on values of monotheism, because this is the essence of what is. In the ideology there should be no questions like whether one must kiss icons or not or what processions to make or what kind of vestments to wear. The ideology provides only the most general matters which pertain to every person. This is the moral basis and then the laws are a reflection of the morality. If someone is punished for something, this is a moral judgment. This scale of moral values of society must be based on monotheism, which is common between Christians and Muslims: do not kill, do not steal, do not wish another ill,
help the needy, do mercy, etc. The future ideology of Russia, if Russia is destined to survive and again become great, is monotheism and concretely a social union of Islam and Christianity.

--If one speaks of Islam as an ideology, then it is obvious that there are various trends: fundamentalism, "euro-islam," and the like.  Which is more attractive to you?

--What is more attractive is simply monotheism in its pure form in order not to think of God in an unworthy manner. I like it when there are no contradictions and there is logical consistency. The Glorious Koran says outright that the truth is not contradictory. There is the doctrine of the transcendental God, the Creator, the Almighty, the Merciful and all the rest should be in agreement with this. If something contradicts this, that means it must be eliminated.

--How do you perform the prayers?

--Usually, five times a day is required.

--Daily or only on Friday?

--I made my announcement only recently and before this it was necessary not to advertise all of this. Now I will do it as required.

--Do you have a prayer rug?

--I do. In state service it is extremely difficult to perform the prayers, but all rules are constructed flexibly. If by force of circumstances it is necessary to put it off, it can be done after work. Incidentally, it's the same in Christianity. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 10 June 1999)

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Khadijah 'Sue' Watson - Former pastor, missionary, professor. Master's degree in Divinity

"What happened to you?" This was usually the first reaction I encountered when my former classmates, friends and co-pastors saw me after having embraced Islam. I suppose I couldn’t blame them, I was a highly unlikely the person to change religions. Formerly, I was a professor, pastor, church planter and missionary. If anyone was a radical fundamentalist it was I.

I had just graduated with my Master’s Degree of Divinity from an elite seminary five months before. It was after that time I met a lady who had worked in Saudi Arabia and had embraced Islam. Of course I asked her about the treatment of women in Islam. I was shocked at her answer, it wasn’t what I expected so I proceeded to ask other questions relating to Allah and Muhammad (pbuh). She informed me that she would take me to the Islamic Center where they would be better able to answer my questions.

Being prayed up, meaning-asking Jesus for protection against demon spirits seeing that what we had been taught about Islam is that it is Demonic and Satanic religion. Having taught Evangelism I was quite shocked at their approach, it wa s direct and straightforward. No intimidation, no harassment, no psychological manipulation, no subliminal influence! None of this, "let’s have a Qur’aanic study in your house", like a counter part of the Bible study. I couldn’t believe it! They gave me some books and told me if I had some questions they were available to answer them in the office. That night I read all of the books they gave. It was the first time I had ever read a book about Islam written by a Muslim, we had studied and read books about Islam only written by Christians. The next day I spent three hours at the office asking questions. This went on everyday for a week, by which time I had read twelve books and knew why Muslims are the hardest people in the world to conver t to Christianity. Why? Because there is nothing to offer them!! (In Islam) There is a relationship with Allah, forgiveness of sins, salvation and promise of Eternal Life.

Naturally, my first question centered on the deity of Allah. Who is this Allah that the Muslims worship? We had been taught as Christians that this is another god, a false god. When in fact He is the Omniscient-All Know ing, Omnipotent-All Powerful, and Omnipresent-All Present God. The One and Only without co-partners or co-equal. It is interesting to note that there were bishops during the first three hundred years of the Church that were teaching as the Muslim beli eves that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet and teacher!! It was only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine that he was the one to call and introduce the doctrine of the Trinity. He a convert to Christianity who knew nothing of this religion introduced a paganistic concept that goes back to Babylonian times. Because the space does not permit me to go into detail about the subject insha’Allah, another time. Only I must point out that the word TRINITY is not found in the Bible in any of its many translation nor is it found in the original Greek or Hebrew languages!

My other important question centered on Muhammad (pbuh). Who is this Muhammad? I found out that Muslims do not pray to him like the Christians pray to Jesus. He is not an intermediary and in fact it is forbidden to pray to him. We ask blessing upon him at the end of our prayer but likewise we ask blessings on Abraham. He is a Prophet and a Messenger, the final and last Prophet. In fact, until now, one thousand four hundred and eighteen years (1,418) later there has been no prophet after him. His message is for All Mankind as opposed to the message of Jesus or Moses (peace be upon them both) which was sent to the Jews. "Hear O Israel" But the message is the same message of Allah. "The Lord Your God is One God and you shall have no other gods before Me."(Mark 12:29).

Because prayer was a very important part of my Christian life I was both interested and curious to know what the Muslims were praying. As Christians we were as ignorant on this aspect of Muslim belief as on the other aspects. We thought and were taught, that the Muslims were bowing down to the Ka’bah (in Mecca), that that was there god and center point of this false deity. Again, I was shocked to learn that the manner of prayer is prescribed by God, Himself. The words of the prayer are one of praise and exaltation. The approach to prayer (ablution or washing) in cleanliness is under the direction of Allah. He is a Holy God and it is not for us to approach Him in an arbitrary manner but only reasonable that He should tell us how we should approach Him.

At the end of that week after having spent eight (8) years of formal theological studies I knew cognitively (head knowledge) that Islam was true. But I did not embrace Islam at that time because I did not believe it in my heart. I continued to pray, to read the Bible, to attend lectures at the Islamic Center. I was in earnest asking and seeking God’s direction. It is not easy to change your religion. I did not want to loose my salvation if there was salvation to loose. I continued to be shocked and amazed at what I was learning because it was not what I was taught that Islam believed. In my Master’s level, the professor I had was respected as an authority on Islam yet his teaching and that of Christianity in general is full of Misunderstanding. He and many Christians like him are sincere but they are sincerely wrong.

Two months later after having once again prayed seeking God’s direction, I felt something drop into my being! I sat up, and it was the first time I was to use the name of Allah, and I said, "Allah, I believe you are the One and Only True God." There was peace that descended upon me and from that day four years ago until now I have never regretted embracing Islam. This decision did not come without trial. I was fired from my job as I was teaching in two Bible Colleges at that time , ostracized by my former classmates, professors and co-pastors, disowned by my husband’s family, misunderstood by my adult children and made a suspicion by my own government. Without the faith that enables man to stand up to Satanic forces I would not ha ve been able to withstand all of this. I am ever so grateful to Allah that I am a Muslim and may I live and die a Muslim.

"Truly, my prayer, my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God the Cherisher of the Worlds. No partner has He, this I am commanded. And I am the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam."
(Holy Qur’aan 6:162-163)

Sister Khadijah Watson

Sister Khadijah Watson is presently working as a teacher for women in one of the Da'wah (Invitation) Centers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Source: http://www.islamicsupport.net/COCG/HTMLFiles/OasisOfIslam

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Ibrahim Khalil - Former Egyptian Coptic priest

Al-Haj Ibrahim Khalil Ahmad, formerly Ibrahim Khalil Philobus, was an Egyptian Coptic priest who studied theology and got a high degree from Princeton University. He studied Islam to find gaps to attack it; instead he embraced Islam with his four children, one of whom is now a brilliant professor in Sorbonne University, Paris France. In an interesting way, he reveals himself saying: "I was born in Alexandria on the 13th of January 1919 and was sent to the American Mission schools until I got my secondary education certificate there. In 1942 I got my diploma from Asiut University and then I specialized in religious studies as a prelude to join the Faculty of Theology. It was no easy task to join the faculty, as no candidate could join it unless he got a special recommendation from the church, and also, after he should pass a number of difficult exams. I got a recommendation from Al-Attareen Church in Alexandria and another from the Church Assembly of Lower Egypt after passing many tests to know my qualifications to become a man of religion. Then I got a third recommendation from Snodus Church Assembly which included priests from Sudan and Egypt.

The Snodus sanctioned my entrance into the Faculty of Theology in 1944 as a boarding student. There I studied at the hands of American and Egyptian teachers until my graduation in 1948.

I was supposed, he continued, to be appointed in Jerusalem had it not been for the war that broke out in Palestine that same year, so I was sent to Asna in Upper Egypt. That same year I registered for a thesis at the American University in Cairo. It was about the missionary activities among Muslims. My acquaintance with Islam started in the Faculty of Theology where I studied Islam and all the methods through which we could shake the faith of Muslims and raise misconceptions in their understanding of their own religion.

In 1952 I got my M.A. from Princeton University in U.S.A. and was appointed as a teacher in the Faculty of Theology in Asiut. I used to teach Islam in the faculty as well as the faulty misconceptions spread by its enemies and the missionaries against it. During that period I decided to enlarge my study of Islam, so that I should not read the missionaries books on it only. I had so much faith in myself that I was confirmed to read the other point of view. Thus I began to read books written by Muslim authors. I also decided to read the Quran and understand its meanings. This was implied by my love of knowledge and moved by my desire to add more proofs against Islam. The result was, however, exactly the reverse. My position began to shake and I started to feel an internal strong struggle and I discovered the falsehood of everything I had studied and preached to the people. But I could not face myself bravely and tried instead to overcome this internal crisis and continue my work.

In 1954, Mr. Khalil added, I was sent to Aswan as secretary general of the German Swiss Mission. That was only my apparent position for my real mission was to preach against Islam in Upper Egypt especially among Muslims. A missionary conference was held at that time at Cataract Hotel in Aswan and I was given the floor to speak. That day I spoke too much, reiterating all the repeated misconceptions against Islam; and at the end of my speech, the internal crisis came to me again and I started to revise my position.

Continuing his talk about the said crisis, Mr. Khalil said, <<I began to ask myself: Why should I say and do all these things which I know for sure I am a liar, as this is not the truth? I took my leave before the end of the conference and went out alone to my house. I was completely shaken. As I walked through Firyal public garden, I heard a verse of the Quran on the radio. It said: <<Say: It has been revealed to me that a company of Jinns listened (to the Quran). They said: We have really heard a wonderful recital! It gives guidance to the Right, and we have believed therein: We shall not join (in worship) any gods with our Lord.>> (Quran S72v1-2) <<And as for us, since we have listened to the Guidance, we have accepted it: and any one who believes in His Lord, has no fear of either a short (account) or of any injustice.>>(Quran S.72 V.13)

I felt a deep comfort that night and when I returned home I spent the whole night all by myself in my library reading the Quran. My wife inquired from me about the reason of my sitting up all night and I pleaded from her to leave me alone. I stopped for a long time thinking and meditating on the verse; <<Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, verily thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah.>> (S.59 V.21) And the verse: <<Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and the Pagans, and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": Because amongst these are men devoted to learning. And men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?>> (Quran S.5 V.82-84)

Mr. Khalil then quoted a third quotation from the Holy Quran which says: <<Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures), in the Taurat and in the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them what is bad (and impure): He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him and follow the light which is sent down with him, it is they who will prosper." Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: It is He that giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger. The unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His Words: follow Him that (so) you may be guided.>> (Quran S.7 V.157- 158)

Now that same night, Mr. Khalil dramatically concluded: I took my final decision. In the morning I spoke with my wife from whom I have three sons and one daughter. But no sooner than she felt that I was inclined to embrace Islam than she cried and asked for help from the head of the mission. His name was Monsieur Shavits from Switzerland. He was a very cunning man. When he asked me about my true attitude, I told him frankly what I really wanted and then he said: Regard yourself out of job until we discover what has befallen you. Then I said: This is my resignation from my job. He tried to convince me to postpone it, but I insisted. So he made a rumor among the people that I became mad. Thus I suffered a very severe test and oppression until I left Aswan for good and returned to Cairo.

When he was asked about the circumstances to his conversion he replied: <<In Cairo I was introduced to a respectable professor who helped me overcome my severe trial and this he did without knowing anything about my story. He treated me as a Muslim for I introduced myself to him as such although until then I did not embrace Islam officially. That was Dr. Muhammad Abdul Moneim Al Jamal the then undersecretary of treasury. He was highly interested in Islamic studies and wanted to make a translation of the Holy Quran to be published in America. He asked me to help him because I was fluent in English since I had got my M.A. from an  American University. He also knew that I was preparing a comparative study of the Quran, the Torah and the Bible. We cooperated in this comparative study and in the translation of the Quran.

When Dr. Jamal knew that I had resigned from my job in Aswan and that I was then unemployed, he helped me with a job in Standard Stationery Company in Cairo. So I was well established after a short while. I did not tell my wife about my intention to embrace Islam thus she thought that I had forgotten the whole affair and that it was nothing but a transitory crisis that no more existed. But I knew quite well that my official conversion to Islam needs long complicated measures and it was in fact a battle which I preferred to postpone for some time until I became well off and after I completed my comparative study.

Then Mr. Khalil continued, <<In 1955 I did complete my study and my material and living affairs became well established. I resigned from the company and set up a training office for importing stationery and school articles. It was a successful business from which I gained much more money than I needed. Thus I decided to declare my official conversion to Islam. On the 25th of December 1959, I sent a telegram to Dr. Thompson, head of the American Mission in Egypt informing him that I had embraced Islam. When I told my true story to Dr. Jamal he was completely astonished. When I declared my conversion to Islam, new troubles began. Seven of my former colleagues in the mission had tried their best to persuade me to cancel my declaration, but I refused. They threatened to separate me from my wife and I said: She is free to do as she wishes. They threatened to kill me. But when they found me to be stubborn they left me alone and sent to me an old friend of mine who was also a colleague of mine in the mission. He wept very much in front of me. So I recited before him the following verses from the Quran: <<And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt   see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they  recognize the truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?>>. (Quran S.5 V.84) I said to him, "You should have wept in humiliation to God on hearing the Quran and believe in the truth which you know but you refuse. He stood up and left me as he saw no use. My official conversion to Islam was in January 1960.

Mr. Khalil was then asked about the attitude of his wife and children and he answered: My wife left me at that time and took with her all the furniture of our house. But all my children joined me and embraced Islam. The most enthusiastic among them was my eldest son Isaac who changed his name to Osman, then my second son Joseph and my son Samuel whose name is Jamal and daughter Majida who is now called Najwa. Osman is now a doctor of philosophy working as a professor in Sorbonne University in Paris teaching oriental studies and psychology. He also writes in <<Le Monde>> magazine. As in regards to my wife, she left the house for six years and agreed to come back in 1966 provided that she keeps her religion. I accepted this because in Islam there is no compulsion in religion. I said to her: I do not want you to became a Muslim for my sake but only after you are convinced. She feels now that she believes in Islam but she cannot declare this for fear of her family but we treat her as a Muslim woman and she fasts in Ramadan because all my children pray and fast. My daughter Najwa is a student in the Faculty of Commerce, Joseph is a doctor pharmeologist and Jamal is an engineer.

During this period, that is since 1961 until the present time I have been able to publish a number of books on Islam and the methods of the missionaries and the orientalist against it. I am now preparing a comparative study about women in the three Divine religions with the object of highlighting the status of women in Islam. In 1973 I performed Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and I am doing activities preaching Islam. I hold seminars in the universities and charitable societies. I received an invitation from Sudan in 1974 where I held many seminars. My time is fully used in the service of Islam.

Finally Mr. Khalil was asked about the salient features of Islam which have attracted his attention most. And he answered: My faith in Islam has been brought about through reading the Holy Quran and the biography of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him. I no longer believed in the misconceptions against Islam and I am especially attracted by the concept of unity of God, which is the most important feature of Islam. God is only One. Nothing is like Him. This belief makes me the servant of God only and of no one else. Oneness of God liberates man from servitude to any human being and that is true freedom.

I also like very much the rule of forgiveness in Islam and the direct relationship between God and His servants.

<<Say: "O my servants who have transgressed against their souls!, despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to your Lord (in repentance) and submit to Him before the Chastisement comes on you: After that ye shall not be helped.>> (Quran S.39 V.53-54)

Source: The Islamic Bulletin, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186

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Anonymous Female Missionary - Former Catholic missionary

The nuns looked so clean and smart in their starched white habits. They looked like the saints in the pictures that hung on the wall of every classroom, that I dreamt of the day I could be like them. I was among two other girls who get excellent grades at the end of the school year and we were asked if we would like to study religion. They thought we were pious for our ages because we liked to spend endless hours inside the church. They didn’t realize that the inside of the church was dim and cold and a welcome relief from the hot African sun.

I couldn’t wait to tell my father, who surprisingly said, ‘absolutely not!’ He would not like that kind of life for one of his girls; without husband and children. He enrolled me in another school, which had previously only admitted boys.

Besides myself, there was another girl in the Roman Catholic Mission school in Burundi. The years I spent at this school made me quite tough as I competed only against boys. The nuns used excessive force in disciplinary matters. The fact that we were all adolescents might have had a good deal to do with it. Still, it didn’t seem a very Christian thing to do.

I was interested in religion and excelled in the study of languages and accepted a full scholarship to a university in Cameroon after graduating from high school. Again, as the only female, I enrolled in the College of Theology. I wasn’t sure where I would go with it, but after a short while, the administration applied for a scholarship in the same College of Theology, but in Belgium. There I would learn how to be a Pastor in the Roman Catholic Church.

My language ability aided me quite a bit and my mastery of some of the African dialects attracted them as a good candidate for missionary work.

As the years went by, I began to see through the layers of theology and found the superficiality of their teachings. I was not alone in seeing the many contradictions in the New and Old Testaments. To learn that the ‘Trinity’ is mentioned only once in the New Testament was a surprise but when I learned it had been fully established at the Council of Nicea and that it was not part of what Jesus taught, something in my mind clicked.

We were shown certain books called the Gnostic Books, which we were told were hidden teachings, I understood that the church was being deceitful and this was disturbing. How could I believe that this was, as they said, the word of God from A to Z. "The People of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the Truth which they themselves know. The Truth is from thy Lord, so be not in doubt." (Qur’an 2:146-147)

Still I pursued my studies in an effort to be able to help myself and my people some day. "As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou has no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did." (Qur’an 6:159)

After graduation from University, I took a position in Nairobi, Kenya. The Church was very anxious to have an African in a position such as this. They had many programmes for women and I was a coordinator for these programmes under the auspices of the World Council of Churches. I handled different aspects of exhibitions, women’s projects, donors, workshops and conferences.

I was sent to the regional office in Togo because they are mainly French-speaking which I spoke fluently and the type of projects I knew how to handle were being implemented there. I began to search for the spiritual force that was missing in my life and in Togo I searched through all the practiced religions. When one looks for truth there are many things thrown in one’s path.

This part of Africa has many people who practice witchcraft and who claim to have knowledge of the unseen and it was obvious they were just taking people’s money. There is no one with knowledge of the unseen except God.

I had been facing much mediocrity from the Church and at the same time I had Muslim friends who were very comfortable in their knowledge of God, who prayed five times daily and who had many virtues. They believed in what they said, in contrast to the Church where you repeat what you have been taught without believing in it.

I had never been taught anything about Islam except a superficial introduction so I did a lot of reading about the religion.

I cannot say that to convert to Islam was easy; it was very difficult. But when one is searching for the truth there is no way to deny it.

The decision was also difficult for economic reasons as I had one of the highest paying professions with many perks.

I resigned from my position citing my conversion as my reason and immediately lost my job and salary, housing and medical benefits. I became destitute in one day!

My family does not like my hijab but they admire the moral aspects of Islam.

helped to raise my brothers and sisters and they are much younger than I, and now to see how much they hate me is almost unbearable.

They felt the economic hardship immediately as I did, and cannot understand why I would do such a thing. But with the grace of Allah they too will find the truth of Islam, Insha’allah.

I hope and pray that I can use the knowledge that the education in the Church gave me towards the propagation of Islam. The spiritual climate of West Africa is ripe for Islam and there are many projects which need doing. This is what I have been trained to do and so my path is straight and narrow for me now.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Martin John Mwaipopo - Former Lutheran Archbishop

Source: http://mandla.co.za/al-qalam/sept97/bishop.htm

(It was December 23, 1986, two days away from Christmas, when Arch Bishop Martin John Mwaipopo, announced to his congregation that he was leaving Christianity for Islam. The congregation was paralysed with shock on hearing the news, so much so, that his administrator got up from his seat, closed the door and windows, and declared to the church members that the Bishop’s mind had become unhinged, that is, he had gone mad. How could he not think and say so, when only a few minutes earlier, the man had taken out his music instruments and sang so movingly for the church members? Little did they know that inside the Bishop’s heart lay a decision that would blow their minds, and that the entertainment was only a farewell party. But the congregant’s reaction was equally shocking! They called the police to take the "mad" man away. He was kept in the cells until midnight when Sheikh Ahmed Sheik, the man who initiated him into Islam came to bail him out. That incident was only a mild beginning of shocks in store for him. Al Qalam reporter, Simphiwe Sesanti, spoke to the Tanzanian born former Lutheran Arch Bishop Martin John Mwaipopo, who on embracing Islam came to be known as Al Hajj Abu Bakr John Mwaipopo)

Credit must go to the Zimbabwean brother, Sufyan Sabelo, for provoking this writer’s curiosity, after listening to Mwaipopo’s talk at the Wyebank Islamic Centre, Durban. Sufyan is not sensationalist, but that night he must have heard something - he just could not stop talking about the man! Who would not be hooked after hearing that an Arch Bishop, who had not only obtained a BA and Masters degree, but a doctorate as well, in Divinity, had later turned to Islam? And since foreign qualifications matter so much to you, a man who had obtained a diploma in Church Administration in England and the latter degrees in Berlin, Germany! A man, who, before becoming a Muslim, had been the World Council of Churches’ General Secretary for Eastern Africa - covering Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and parts of Ethiopia and Somalia. In the Council of Churches, he rubbed shoulders with the present chairman of the South African Human Rights Commission . Barney Pityana and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ‘s chairman, Bishop Desmond Tutu.

It is a story of a man who was born 61 years ago, on February 22 in Bukabo, an area that shares its borders with Uganda. Two years, after his birth, his family had him baptised, and five years later, watched him with pride being an alter boy . Seeing him assisting the church minister, preparing the "body and blood" of Christ , filled the Mwaipopos with pride, and filled Mwaipopo Senior with ideas for his son’s future. 

"When I was in a boarding school, later , my father wrote to me, stating he wanted me to become a priest. In each and every letter he wrote this" , recalls Abu Bakr. But he had his own ideas about his life, which was joining the police force. But at the age of 25, Mwaipopo gave in to his father’s will. Unlike in Europe where children can do as they will after age 21 , in Africa , children are taught to honour their parent’s will above their own. 

"My , son , before I close my eyes (die), I would be glad if you could become a priest", that’s how father told son, and that’s how the son was moved, a move that saw him going to England in 1964, to do a diploma in Church Administration, and a year later to Germany to do a B.A degree. On returning , a year later, he was made acting Bishop. 

Later, he went back to do Masters. " All this time, I was just doing things, without questioning . It was when he began to do his doctorate , that he started questioning things. "I started wondering ... there is Christianity , Islam , Judaism , Budhism each different religions claiming to the true religion. What is the truth? I wanted the truth" , says Mwaipopo. So began his search , until he reduced it to the "major" four religions. He got himself a copy of the Qur’an, and guess what?

" When I opened the Qur’an , the first verses I came across were, ‘ Say : He is Allah , The One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begeteteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him? (Surah Ikhlas)’ ", he recalls. That was when the seeds of Islam, unknown to him, were first sown. It was then that he discovered that the Qur’an was the only scripture book that had been untampered with, by human beings since its revelation . "And in concluding my doctoral thesis I said so. I didn’t care whether they give me my doctorate or not - that was the truth, and I was looking for the truth."

While in that state of mind he called his "beloved" Professor Van Burger. 

"I closed the door, looked him in the eye and asked him ‘of all religions in the world, which is true’, I asked. 

‘Islam’, he responded. 

‘Why then are you not a Muslim?’, I asked again. 

He said to me "'One, I hate Arabs, and two, do you see all this luxuries that I have? Do you think that I would give it all up for Islam?’. When I thought about his answer, I thought about my own situation, too", recalls Mwaipopo. His mission, his cars - all these appeared in his imagination. No, he could not embrace Islam, and for one good year, he put it off his mind. But then dreams haunted him, the verses of the Quran kept on appearing, people clad in white kept on coming, "especially on Fridays", until he could take it no more. 

So, on December 22, he officially embraced Islam. These dreams that guided him - were they not due to the "superstitious" nature of the Africans? "No, I don’t believe that all dreams are bad. There are those that guide you in the right direction and those which don’t, and these ones, in particular, guided me in the right direction, to Islam", he tells us.

Consequently, the church stripped him of his house and his car. His wife could not take it, she packed her clothes, took her children and left, despite Mwaipopo’s assurances that she was not obliged to become a Muslim. When he went to his parents, they, too, had heard the story. "My father told me to denounce Islam and my mother said she did not "want to hear any nonsense from me", remember Mwaipopo. He was on his own! Asked how he now feels towards his parents, he says that he has forgiven them, in fact found time to reconcile with his father before he departed to the world yonder. 

"They were just old people who did not know. They could not even read the Bible...all they knew was what they had heard the priest reading", he states. After asking to stay for one night, the following day, he began his journey to where his family had originally come from, Kyela, near the borders between Tanzania and Malawi. His parents had settled in Kilosa, Morogoro. During his journey, he was stranded in Busale, by one family that was selling home brewed beer. It was there that he met his future wife, a Catholic Nun, by the name of Sister Gertrude Kibweya, now known as Sister Zainab. It was with her that he travelled to Kyela, where the old man, who had given him shelter the previous night had told him that that’s where he would find other Muslims. But before that, in the morning of that day he had made the call to prayer (azaan), something which made the villagers come out, asking his host why he was keeping a "mad" man. "It was the Nun who explained that I was not mad but a Muslim", he says. It was the same Nun who later helped Mwaipopo pay his medical fees at the Anglican Mission Hospital, when he had become terribly sick, thanks to the conversation he had had with her.

The story goes that he had asked her why she was wearing a rosary, to which she responded that it was because Christ was hanged on it. "But, say, someone had killed your father with a gun, would you go around carrying a gun on your chest?" Mmmhhh. That set the Nun thinking, her mind "challenged", and when the former Bishop proposed marriage to the Nun later, the answer was "yes". Secretly, they married, and four weeks later, she wrote a letter to her authorities, informing them of her leave. When the old man who had given him shelter, (the Nun’s uncle) heard about the marriage, when they arrived at his house, they were advised to leave the house, because "the old man was loading his gun", and the Nun’s father was enraged, "wild like a lion".

From the Bishop’s mansion, Mwaipopo went to live in a self built mud house. From earning a living as the World Council of Churches’ General Secretary for Eastern Africa, he began earning a living as a wood cutter and tilling some people’s lands. When not doing that he was preaching Islam publicly. This led to a series of short term imprisonments for preaching blasphemy against Christianity. 

While on hajj in 1988, tragedy struck. His house was bombed, and consequently, his infant triplets were killed. "A bishop, whose mother and my own mother were children of the same father, was involved in the plot’, recalls Mwaipopo. He says instead of demoralising him, it did the opposite, as the numbers of people embracing Islam, increased, this including his father in law.

In 1992, he was arrested for 10 months, along with 70 followers, charged with treason. This was after some pork shops, against which he had spoken, were bombed. He did speak against them, he admits, saying that constitutionally, since 1913, there was a law against bars, clubs and pork shops in Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Mafia, Lindi and Kigoma. Fortunately for him, he was acquitted, and immediately thereafter, he fled to Zambia, exile, after he was advised that there was a plot to kill him.

He says that that very day he was released, police came to re-arrest him. And guess what? "The women said no ways! They said that they would resist my arrest physically against the police. It was also the women who helped me cross the borders unnoticed. They clothed me in the women’s fashion!", according to Mwaipopo. And that is one of the reasons that make him admire women. 

"Women must be given a high place, they must be given good education in Islam. Otherwise how would she understand why a man marries more than one wife...It was my wife, Zainab, who proposed that I should marry my second wife, Shela, (her friend), when she had to go for Islamic studies abroad", it’s the bishop who says so. Yah?

To the Muslims, Al Hajj Abu Bakr Mwaipopo’s message is, "There is war against Islam...Flood the world with literature. Right now, Muslims are made to feel ashamed to be regarded as fundamentalists. Muslims must stop their individualistic tendencies, they must be collective. You have do defend your neighbour if you want to be safe", he states, also urging Muslims to be courageous, citing the Islamic Propagation Centre International’s Ahmed Deedat. "That man is not learned, but look at the way he has propagated Islam".

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George Anthony - Former Catholic priest

Fr. Antony was a Catholic priest in Sri Lanka. His tale of becoming a true believer and adopting a name Adulrahman for him is quite interesting. Being a Christian priest he was well versed with the teachings of the Bible. He quotes the Bible frequently as he sits to narrate his journey to Islam. While reading the Bible he found many contradictions in it. He goes on quoting verses from the Bible in Sinhalese language and points out the ambiguity.

"He quotes Esaiah 9:12 which reads like this." And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith; I am not learned." This verse is a prophecy towards prophet Mohammed (pbuh), because Mohammad (pubh) was an unlettered prophet and when he was an unlettered prophet and when he was asked by Angel Gabrielto read out the first divine revelation upon him he said, "I am not learned" Contrary to the Christian belief that Jesus is God, Acts 2:22 of the Holy Bible considers Jesus as a man. It says, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words, jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourself also know."

Christianity and the other religions, do not define the prophehood according to him. Nor does Bhudda and is silent about the other prophets. Contrary to this it is compulsory in Islam to believe in all the formaer Prophets and to revere them. According to Abdulrahman this belief is quite convincing and appealing to every body.

Abdulrahman says that there is no reason for the restriction that a Roman Catholic priest cannot marry, when the priests of many other sects of Christianity can marry. Abdulrahman was pondering over the confusions of Christian belief. Meanwhile he got an Audio Cassette of a converted Christian priest Sri Lanka Shareef D Alwis. Cassettes of Ahmad Deedat also attracted him. His continuous efforts to find the truth finally resulted in reversion to Islam. Fr. George Antony

Abdulrahman, hails from the Rathnapura village of Sri Lanka. He was rendering his services as a priest in Katumayaka church. He has ten years of training of the priesthood to his credit.

He wrote letters to his mother introducing Islam. After months of studies she followed the path of her son and embraced Islam. Abdurahman’s only sister is working in Greece. His father and sister still remained Christians.

Abdurahman gave up his highly respected career as a priest for the sake of truth. He happily sacrificed all material gains for the spiritual triumph. He is now working as a trainee in Islam Presentation Committee of Kuwait.

Source and photographs: http://www.islam.com.kw/3.htm#MY JOURNEY TO ISLAM

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Raphael - Former Jehovah's Witness minister

A forty-two-year-old Latino, Raphael, is a Los Angeles-based comic and lecturer. He was born in Texas where he attended his first Jehovah's Witness meeting at age six. He gave his first Bible sermon at eight, tended his own congregation at twenty, and was headed for a position of leadership among the 904,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States. But he traded in his Bible for a Qur'an after having braved a visit to a local mosque.

On November 1, 1991, he embraced Islam, bringing to the Muslim community the organizational and speaking skills he developed among Jehovah's Witnesses. He speaks with the urgency of a new convert, but one who can make immigrant Muslims laugh at themselves.

He told his story mimicking a cast of characters.

I remember vividly being in a discussion where we were all sitting in my parents' living room and there were some other Jehovah's Witnesses there. They were talking about: "It's Armageddon! The time of the end! And Christ is coming! And you know the hailstones are going to be out here as big as cars! God is going to use all kinds of things to destroy this wicked system and remove the governments! And the Bible talks about the earth opening up! It's going to swallow whole city blocks!"

I'm scared to death! And then my mother turned around: "See what's going to happen to you if you don't get baptized, and if you don't do God's will? The earth is going to swallow you up, or one of these huge hailstones is going to hit you on the head [klonk], knock you out, and you will not exist ever again. I'll have to make another child."

I wasn't going to take a chance of being hit by one of those big hailstones. So I got baptized. And of course Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the sprinkling of the water. They submerge you completely, hold you there for a second, and then bring you back up.

I did that at the age of thirteen, September 7, 1963, in Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl. It was a big international assembly. We had 100,000 people. We drove all the way from Lubbock, Texas.

Eventually I started giving bigger talks - ten minutes in front of the congregation. And a circuit servant recommended me to give the hour lectures that are done on Sunday when they invite the general public. They usually reserved those [sermons] for the elders of the congregation.

[In an authoritarian voice:] "Sure he's young. But he can handle it. He's a good Christian boy. He has no vices, and he's obedient to his parents and seems to have pretty good Bible knowledge."

So at the age of sixteen I started giving hour lectures in front of whole congregations. I was assigned first to a group in Sweetwater, Texas, and then, eventually, in Brownfield, Texas, I got my first congregation. At age twenty, I had become what they call a pioneer minister.

Jehovah's Witnesses have a very sophisticated training program, and they also have kind of a quota system. You have to devote ten to twelve hours a month to door-to-door preaching. It's like sales management. IBM has nothing on these guys.

So when I became a pioneer minister, I devoted most of my full time to doing the door-to-door ministry. I had to do like 100 hours a month, and I had to have seven Bible studies. I started lecturing other congregations. I began to get a lot of responsibility, and I was accepted at a school in Brooklyn, New York, a very elite school that Jehovah's Witnesses have for the crčme de la crčme, the top one percent. But I didn't go.

A few things no longer made sense to me. For example, the quota system. It seemed like every time I wanted to turn a corner and get into another position of responsibility, I had to do these secular material things to prove my godliness. It's like if you meet your quotas this month, God loves you. If you don't meet your quotas next month, God doesn't love you. That didn't make very much sense. One month God loves me and one month He doesn't?

The other thing I started noticing is tunnel vision. Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones who are going to be saved in God's new order, nobody else, because all of them are practicing false religions. Well, I thought, Mother Teresa's a Catholic. That's our dire enemy. So I said, Wait a minute, Mother Teresa has spent her entire life doing things that Jesus said: take care of the poor, the sick, the orphans. But she's not going to have God's favor because she's a Catholic?

We criticized the Catholic Church because they had a man, a priest, to whom they had to confess. And we'd say, "You shouldn't have to go to a man to confess your sins! Your sin is against God!" And yet we went to a Body of Elders. You confessed your sins to them, and they put you on hold, and said [Elder as telephone operator:] "Hold on just a minute . . . What do you think, Lord? No? . . . Okay, I'm sorry, we tried our best but you're not repentant enough. Your sin is too big, so you either lose your fellowship in the church or you're going to be on probation."

If the sin is against God, shouldn't I directly go to God and beg for mercy?

Probably the nail that hit the coffin was that I noticed that they started reading their Bible less. Jehovah's Witnesses have books for everything that are put out by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The only people on the entire planet who know how to interpret Bible Scripture correctly are that group of men, that committee in Brooklyn, who tell Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide how to dress, how to talk, what to say, what not to say, how to apply Scripture and what the future is going to be like. God told them, so they can tell us. I appreciated the books. But if the Bible is the book of knowledge and if it's God's instructions, well, shouldn't we get our answers out of the Bible? Paul himself said find out for yourself what is a true and acceptable word of God. Don't let men tickle your ears.

I started saying, "Don't worry so much about what the Watchtower says - read the Bible for yourself." Ears started to prick up.

[Old Southerner's drawl:] "I think we got us an apostate here, Judge. Yup. I think this old boy's one taco short of something."

Even my father said, "You better watch it, young man, that's the demons talking right there. That's the demons trying to get in and cause division."

I said, "Dad, it's not the demons. People don't need to read so much of these other publications. They can find their answers with prayer and in the Bible."

Spiritually I no longer felt at ease. So in 1979, knowing that I could not make headway, I left, disgruntled and with a bad taste in my mouth, because all my life I had put my soul, my heart, my mind into the church. That was the problem. I didn't put it in God. I put it in a man-made organization.

I can't go to other religions. As a Jehovah's Witness, I had been trained, through the Scriptures, to show that they are all wrong. That idolatry is bad. Trinity doesn't exist.

I'm like a man without a religion. I was not a man without a God. But where could I go?

In 1985, I decided to come to Los Angeles and get on the Johnny Carson show and make my mark as a great comedian and actor. I have always felt like I was born for something. I didn't know whether it was going to be finding the cure to cancer or becoming an actor. I kept praying and it got frustrating after a while.

So I just went to the Catholic church close to my house, and I tried it. I remember on Ash Wednesday I had that ash cross on my forehead. I was trying anything I could. I went for about two or three months, and I just couldn't do it anymore, man. It was:

Stand up. Sit down.
Stand up. Sit down.
Okay, stick your tongue out.
You got a lot of exercise. I think I lost about five pounds. But that's about it. So now I'm more lost than ever.
But it never passed through my mind that there is not a Creator. I have His phone number, but the line's always busy. I'm doing my little movie shots. A film called Deadly Intent. A telephone commercial in Chicago. An Exxon commercial. A couple of bank commercials. In the meantime I'm doing construction work on the side.

We're working on this mall. It's the holiday season, and they put these extra booths in the hallways. There was a gal at one, and we had to pass right in front of her. I'd say, "Good morning, how are you?" If she said anything, it was "Hi." And that was it.

Finally, I said, "Miss, you never say anything. I just wanted to apologize if there was something I said wrong."

She said, "No, you see, I'm a Muslim."

"You're what?"

"I'm a Muslim, and Muslim women, we don't talk to men unless we have something specific to talk about; otherwise we don't have anything to do with men."

"Ohhhhh. Muslim."

She said, "Yes, we practice the religion of Islam."

"Islam - how do you spell that?"

"I-s-l-a-m."

At the time, I knew that Muslims were all terrorists. She doesn't even have a beard. How could she possibly be Muslim?

"How did this religion get started?"

"Well, there was a prophet."

"A prophet?"

"Muhammad."

I started some research. But I just came from one religion. I had no intention of becoming Muslim.

The holidays are over. The booth moves. She's gone.

I continued to pray, and asked why my prayers weren't being answered. In November of 1991, I was going to bring my uncle Rockie home from the hospital. I started to empty his drawers to pack his stuff and there was a Gideon Bible. I said, God has answered my prayers. This Gideon Bible. (Of course, they put it in every hotel room.) This is a sign from God that He's ready to teach me. So I stole the Bible.

I went home and I started praying: O God, teach me to be a Christian. Don't teach me the Jehovah's Witness way. Don't teach me the Catholic way. Teach me Your way! You would not have made this Bible so hard that ordinary people sincere in prayer could not understand it.

I got all the way through the New Testament. I started the Old Testament. Well, eventually there's a part in the Bible about the prophets.

Bing!

I said, Wait a minute, that Muslim lady said they had a prophet. How come he's not in here?

I started thinking, Muslims - one billion in the world. Man, one out of every five people on the street theoretically could be a Muslim. And I thought: One billion people! C'mon now, Satan is good. But he's not that good.

So then I said, I'll read their book, the Qur'an, and I'll see what kind of pack of lies this thing is. It probably has an illustration on how to dissemble an AK-47. So I went to an Arabic bookstore.

They asked, "What can I help you with?"

"I'm looking for a Qur'an."

"Okay, we have some over here."

They had some very nice ones - thirty dollars, forty dollars."

"Look, I just want to read it, I don't want to become one, okay?"

"Okay, we have this little five-dollar paperback edition."

I went home, and started reading my Qur'an from the beginning, with Al-Fatihah. And I could not get my eyes off of it.

Hey, look at this. It talks about a Noah in here. We have Noah in our Bible too. Hey, it talks about Lot and Abraham. I can't believe it. I never knew Satan's name was Iblis. Hey, how about that.

When you get that picture on your TV set and it's got a little bit of static and you push that button [klop] - fine tune. That's exactly what happened with the Qur'an.

I went through the whole thing. So I said, Okay, I've done this, now what's the next thing you got to do? Well, you gotta go to their meeting place. I looked in the yellow pages, and I finally found it: Islamic Center of Southern California, on Vermont. I called and they said, "Come on Friday."

Now I really start getting nervous, `cause now I know I'm going to have to confront Habib and his AK-47.

I want people to understand what it's like for an American Christian coming into Islam. I'm kidding about the AK-47, but I don't know if these guys have daggers under their coats, you know. So I come up to the front, and sure enough, there's this six-foot-three, 240-pound brother, beard and everything, and I'm just in awe.

I walked up and said, "Excuse me, sir."

[Arabic accent:] "Go to the back!"

He thought I was already a brother.

I said, "Yessir, yessir" [meekly].

I didn't know what I was going back for, but I went back anyway. They had the tent and the rugs were out. I'm standing there, kind of shy, and people are sitting down listening to the lecture. And people are saying, Go ahead, brother, sit down. And I'm going, No, thanks, no, thanks, I'm just visiting.

So finally the lecture's over. They're all lined up for prayer and they go into sajdah. I was really taken aback.

It started making sense intellectually, in my muscles, in my bones, in my heart and my soul.

So prayers are over. I say, hey, who's going to recognize me? So I start to mingle like I'm one of the brothers, and I'm walking into the mosque and a brother says, "Assalaamu alaikum." And I thought, Did he say "salt and bacon"?

"Assalaamu alaikum."

There's another guy who said "salt and bacon" to me.

I didn't know what in the world they were saying, but they all smiled.

Before one of these guys noticed that I was not supposed to be there and took me to the torture chamber, or beheaded me, I wanted to see as much as I could. So eventually I went to the library, and there was a young Egyptian brother; his name was Omar. God sent him to me.

Omar comes up to me, and he says, "Excuse me. This is your first time here?" He has a real strong accent.

And I said, Yeah, it is.

"Oh, very good. You are Muslim?"

"No, I'm just reading a little."

"Oh, you are studying? This is your first visit to a mosque?"

"Yes."

"Come, let me show you around." And he grabs me by the hand, and I'm walking with another man - holding hands. I said, These Muslims are friendly.

So he shows me around.

"First of all, this is our prayer hall, and you take your shoes off right here."

"What are these things?"

"These are little cubicles. That's where you put your shoes."

"Why?"

"Well, because you're approaching the prayer area, and it's very holy. You don't go in there with your shoes on; it's kept real clean."

So he takes me to the men's room.

"And right here, this is where we do wudu."

"Voodoo! I didn't read anything about voodoo!"

"No, not voodoo. Wudu!"

"Okay, because I saw that stuff with the dolls and the pins, and I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment yet."

He says, "No, wudu, that's when we clean ourselves."

"Why do you do that?"

"Well, when you pray to God, you have to be clean, so we wash our hands and feet."

So I learned all these things. He let me go, and said, Come back again.

I went back and asked the librarian for a booklet on prayer, and I went home and practiced. I felt that if I was trying to do it right, God would accept it. I just continued to read and read and visit the mosque.

I had a commitment to go on a tour of the Midwest on a comedy circuit. Well, I took a prayer rug with me. I knew that I was supposed to pray at certain times, but there are certain places where you are not supposed to pray, one of which is in the bathroom. I went into a men's room on a tourist stop and I laid out my carpet and I started doing my prayers.

I came back, and when Ramadan was over, I started getting calls from different parts of the country to go and lecture as a Jehovah's Witness minister who embraced Islam. People find me a novelty.

[Two immigrants converse:]

"This guy like apple pie and he drives a Chevy truck. He is a red-blooded American boy. He was a Jehovah's Witness."

"Those people that come in the morning?"

"Yeah, those."

"That never let us sleep on Sundays?"

"Yeah, this guy was one of them. Now he's one of us."

Eventually somebody would come up to me and say [Pakistani accent], "Oh, brother, your talk was so good. But you know, in the Shafi'i school of thought.."

The only thing I could do was turn to them and say, "Gee, brother, I'm so sorry, I wish I knew about that, but I don't know anything about Islam except what's in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Some of them are taken aback and say, "Ha-ha! Poor brother. He doesn't know anything. He only knows the Qur'an."

Well, that's what I'm supposed to know. And it's been a very loving protection. I think it's all in Allah's hands."

Source: The Islamic Bulletin, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186

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Anselm Tormeeda - 14th Century Christian scholar and priest

Source: Proofs of the Divine Origin of the Qur'an by Abdur-Raheem Greene

Great numbers of Christians embraced Islam during and soon after the Islamic conquests after the prophets death. They were never compelled, rather it was a recognition of what they were already expecting. Anselm Tormeeda, a priest and Christian scholar was one such person who's history is worth relating. He wrote a famous book The Gift to the Intelligent for Refuting the Arguments of the Christians. In the introduction to this work he relates his history:

"Let it be known to all of you that my origin is from the city of Majorca, which is a great city on the sea, between two mountains and divided by a small valley. It is a commercial city, with two wonderful harbours. Big merchant ships come and anchor in the harbour with different goods. The city is on the island which has the same name - Majorca, and most of its land is populated with fig and olive trees. My father was a well respected man in the city. I was his only son.

When I was six, he sent me to a priest who taught me to read the Gospel and logic, which I finished in six years. After that I left Majorca and traveled to the city of Larda, in the region of Castillion, which was the centre of learning for Christians in that region. A thousand to a thousand and a half Christian students gathered there. All were under the administration of the priest who taught them. I studied the Gospel and its language for another four years. After that I left for Bologne in the region of Anbardia. Bologne is a very large city, it being the centre of learning for all the people of that region. Every year, more than two thousand students gather together from different places. They cover themselves with rough cloth which they call the "Hue of God". All of them, whether the son of a workman or the son of a ruler wear this wrap, in order to make the students distinct from others.

Only the priest teaches controls and directs them. I lived in the church with an aged priest. He was greatly respected by the people because of his knowledge and religiousness and asceticism, which distinguished him from the other Christian priests. Questions and requests for advice came from everywhere, from Kings and rulers, along with presents and gifts. They hoped that he would accept their presents and grant them his blessings. This priest taught me the principles of Christianity and its rulings. I became very close to him by serving and assisting him with his duties until I became one of his most trusted assistants, so that he trusted me with the keys of his domicile in the church and of the food and the drink stores. He kept for himself only the key of a small room were he used to sleep. I think, and Allah knows best, that he kept his treasure chest in there. I was a student and servant for a period of ten years, then he fell ill and failed to attend the meetings of his fellow priests.

During his absence the priests discussed some religious matters, until they came to what was said by the Almighty Allah through his prophet Jesus in the Gospel: "After him will come a Prophet called Paraclete". They argued a great deal about this Prophet and as to who he was among the Prophets. Everyone gave his opinion according to his knowledge and understanding; and they ended without achieving any benefit in that issue. I went to my priest, and as usual he asked about what was discussed in the meeting that day. I mentioned to him the different opinions of priests about the name Paraclete, and how they finished the meeting without clarifying its meaning. He asked me: "What was your answer?" I gave my opinion which was taken from interpretation of a well known exegesis. He said that I was nearly correct like some priests, and the other priests were wrong. "But the truth is different from all of that. This is because the interpretation of that noble name is known only to a small number of well versed scholars. And we posses only a little knowledge." I fell down and kissed his feet, saying: "Sir, you know that I traveled and came to you from a far distant country, I have served you now for more than ten years; and have attained knowledge beyond estimation, so please favour me and tell me the truth about this name." The priest then wept and said: "My son, by God, you are very much dear to me for serving me and devoting yourself to my care. Know the truth about this name, and there is a great benefit, but there is also a great danger. And I fear that when you know this truth, and the Christians discover that, you will be killed immediately." I said: "By God, by the Gospel and He who was sent with it, I shall never speak any word about what you will tell me, I shall keep it in my heart." He said: "My son, when you came here from your country, I asked you if it is near to the Muslims, and whether they made raids against you and if you made raids against them. This was to test your hatred for Islam. Know, my son, that Paraclete is the name of their Prophet Muhammad, to whom was revealed the fourth book as mentioned by Daniel. His way is the clear way which is mentioned in the Gospel." I said: "Then sir, what do you say about the religion of these Christians?" He said: "My son, if these Christians remained on the original religion of Jesus, then they would have been on God's religion, because the religion of Jesus and all the other Prophets is the true religion of God. But they changed it and became unbelievers." I asked him: "Then, sir, what is the salvation from this?" He said "Oh my son, embracing Islam." I asked him: "Will the one who embraces Islam be saved?" He answered: "Yes, in this world and the next." I said: "The prudent chooses for himself; if you know, sir the merit of Islam, then what keeps you from it?" He answered: "My son, the Almighty Allah did not expose me to the truth of Islam and the Prophet of Islam until after I have become old and my body weakened. Yes, there is no excuse for us in this, on the contrary, the proof of Allah has been established against us. If God had guided me to this when I was your age I would have left everything and adopted the religion of truth. Love of this world is the essence of every sin, and look how I am esteemed, glorified and honoured by the Christians, and how I am living in affluence and comfort! In my case, if I show a slight inclination towards Islam they would kill me immediately. Suppose that I was saved from them and succeeded in escaping to the Muslims, they would say, do not count your Islam as a favour upon us, rather you have benefited yourself only by entering the religion of truth, the religion that will save you from the punishment of Allah! So I would live among them as a poor old man of more than ninety years, without knowing their language, and would die among them starving. I am, and all praise is due to Allah, on the religion of Christ and on that which he came with, and Allah knows that from me." So I asked him: "Do you advise me to go to the country of the Muslims and adopt their religion?" He said to me: "If you are wise and hope to save yourself, then race to that which will achieve this life and the hereafter. But my son, none is present with us concerning this matter , it is between you and me only. Exert yourself and keep it a secret. If it is disclosed and the people know about it they will kill you immediately. I will be of no benefit to you against them. Neither will it be of any use to you if you tell them what you heard from me concerning Islam, or that I encouraged you to be a Muslim, for I shall deny it. They trust my testimony against yours. So do not tell a word, whatever happens." I promised him not to do so.

He was satisfied and content with my promise. I began to prepare for my journey and bid him farewell. He prayed for me and gave me fifty golden dinars. Then I took a ship to my city Majorca where I stayed with my parents for six months. Then I traveled to Sicily and remained there five months, waiting for a ship bound for the land of the Muslims. Finally a ship arrived bound for Tunis. We departed before sunset and reached the port of Tunis at noon on the second day. When I got off the ship, Christian scholars who heard of my arrival came to greet me and I stayed with them for four months in ease and comfort. After that I asked them if there was a translator. The Sultan in those days was Abu al-Abbas Ahmed. They said there was a virtuous man, the Sultan's physician, who was one of his closest advisors. His name was Yusuf al-Tabeeb. I was greatly pleased to here this, and asked where he lived. They took me there to meet him separately. I told him about my story and the reason of my coming there; which was to embrace Islam. He was immensely pleased because this matter would be completed by his help. We rode to the Sultan's Palace. He met the Sultan and told him about my story and asked his permission for me to meet him.

The Sultan accepted, and I presented myself before him. The first question the Sultan asked was about my age. I told him that I was thirty-five years old. He then asked about my learning and the sciences which I had studied. After I told him he said. "Your arrival is the arrival of goodness . Be a Muslim with Allah's blessings." I then said to the doctor, "Tell the honourable Sultan that it always happens that when anyone changes his religion his people defame him and speak evil of him. So, I wish if he kindly sends to bring the Christian priests and merchants of this city to ask them about me and hear what they have to say. Then by Allah's will, I shall accept Islam." He said to me through the translator, "You have asked what Abdullah bin Salaam asked from the Prophet when he-Abdullah came to announce his Islam." He then sent for the priests and some Christian merchants and let me sit in an adjoining room unseen by them. "What do you say about this new priest who arrived by ship?", he asked. They said: "He is a great scholar in our religion. Our bishops say he is the most learned and no one is superior to him in our religious knowledge." After hearing what the Christian said, the Sultan sent for me, and I presented myself before them. I declared the two testimonies that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and when the Christians heard this they crossed themselves and said: "Nothing incited him to do that except his desire to marry, as priests in our religion can not marry". Then they left in distress and grief.

The Sultan appointed for me a quarter of a dinar every day from the treasury and let me marry the daughter of Al-Hajj Muhammed al-Saffar. When I decided to consummate the marriage, he gave me a hundred golden dinars and an excellent suit of clothes. I then consummated the marriage and Allah blessed me with a child to whom I gave the name Muhammed as a blessing from the name of the Prophet."

[Note: The full name of Anselm Tormeeda is Abu Muhammad Abdullah Bin Abdullah Al-Tarjuman. The title of his book, in Arabic, is Tuhfat al-arib fi al-radd 'ala Ahl al-Salib. Some background details about this scholar and his work are available here]

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