From Ignorance to Islam

Zaynab’s Conversion Story

My upbringing did not really include anything about God. I was christened, although I am not sure why, I would guess that this happened as it was the ‘done thing’ in my family. In addition I have vague memories of going to Sunday school, and of course the religious education later at school, which could be re-named ‘Christian education’ as no other religions ever got a look in. Without any firm religious values, I lived my life according to my own set of moral values. Basically I just used to drift from one point of view to the next, and do my best to ‘fit in’ with whichever group of people I was with. I did have a belief in God, although I have to admit that I did not do a lot about it. Then I met a Muslim. This opened new channels of discussions, and re-kindled the flame of my belief in God. Many a conversation took place on all sorts of topics, the existence of God, Heaven and Hell, other religions, the Holy Prophet and his Family PBUT, even topics such as what was the point of dinosaurs, and aliens.

Everything was a muddle in my mind, question after question I asked, and to each question there was an answer that satisfied it. I was confused though, if this religion was so correct, why hadn’t I heard about it already? What about all the kind people I had met that were not Muslims, surely their good deeds would count? Why do you have to become a Muslim if you live your life properly, i.e. do not steal, commit adultery etc. etc.? As time passed I soon realised that I was just searching for excuses. I knew that Islam was correct, but I needed to dig deep to find the courage to change. No longer could I hide behind a wall of questions and ‘what ifs’, it was time to stand up and be part of something that I believed in.

I was very nervous, every few minutes my stomach churned, rushes of adrenal waves through my body. It was the night that I would declare myself a Muslim and change the rest of my life. I was sure about my decision to revert, but scared at the prospect at the same time, conflicting emotions and feelings taking it in turns to pop into my head, but all along I knew that Truth would win. The time had come, we gathered in a group. I repeated everything that the Imam said to me, I hung onto every syllable and repeated as best I could, I was afraid that if I didn’t pronounce the Arabic words properly then my declaration would not count, and it had to count. I went into a kind of dream world, feeling as if this wasn’t really me, I was watching someone else. The emotions started to rise, I looked around and realised that I was not alone with my tears. My declaration was touching the hearts of those around me. The Imam then said a number of prayers for me and also for my family, I felt somehow indebted to him, I felt the need to repay him in some way for what he had enabled me to become. Tears continued to roll as this pious Imam asked me to pray for him that night. How could one of my prayers be worth anything when compared to his? We shared a cup of water, I was allowed to drink first, followed by all my good friends, I was now part of what they stood for. I had been accepted.

From that point onwards I was a Muslim, not only had this been witnessed by those around me, but also by all the Prophets PBUT, who I was told grace every declaration with their presence. I felt so honoured that I could hardly believe it.

The final part of the transformation was to wash. I needed to purify myself and all my sins would now be forgiven, as if they had been washed down the plug hole with the soapy water. It was as if I had just been born, from now on it would be up to me.

The world now appeared differently to me. I noticed aspects of people that I had missed before, I was much more aware of good and evil around me. I could look back at my past and it really felt as if that wasn’t me at all, I had a feeling that I had been given a whole new life, and I had been detached from my previous actions. This carried with it a responsibility, a desire not to blemish my new clean record. I had so much to learn, so much to read and take in. I had to be different towards people at work and even my own family, I had to get rid of clothes, books and pictures, now that I had been purified I had to make an attempt to purify my surroundings.

With the help I have had from Allah SWT, I have now found the true path, and take the Holy Prophet and his Family PBUT as my examples to follow, I must try and remember them with my every thought. My only wish now is that they may remember me on the Day of Judgement.

Why I came to Islam?

Ibrahim, a Pennsylvania teenager, explains how difficulties with church teaching about Jesus as God led him from Catholicism to Islam.

A time comes in everyone’s life, or at least I hope it comes, when they realize that they have to not only believe what they believe in, whatever it may be, but get out there and proclaim it to the world. Luckily, that time came early for me. I am 17, and Islam is the belief that I’m proclaiming.

I was raised Catholic. Not internally as much as externally. I went to Catholic Sunday school, called CCD, but the Catholic view of God never played a major roll in my childhood. It was a Sunday thing. Anyhow, I started to enjoy Mass around 7th grade. It made me feel good to do the right thing. I was always a rather moral person, but I never really studied the fundamentals of Catholicism. I just knew that I felt good worshipping my creator.

I really liked Catholicism, but I always saw it as us (the Catholics) with Jesus worshipping God, not us worshipping God and Jesus as one. I saw Jesus (peace be upon him) as my example on how to be a good follower of and submitter to God’s will, but not as God himself.

Before I was confirmed in 8th grade, in the fall of 1999, I learned a lot about what Catholicism was. The Catholicism of the Church had a lot on viewing Jesus as God in it. Nothing like my “undivided God being worshipped by me with Jesus as an example” train of thought. It was like they just opened up a can of cold, illogical confusion and tried to feed it to me. It didn’t feel right.

I continued with Catholic church, and kept on worshipping. But I talked to many in the church about my feelings that Jesus wasn’t God but more of a Prophet, an example. They told me that I had to accept him as God and as a sacrifice, and so on. I just wasn’t buying it. I tried to buy it but I guess God withhold the sale for my own benefit. There was a better car out there for me. I continued at the church.

Sometime in mid-December of 1999, for no reason that I can recall I started reading up on Islam in encyclopedias. I remember making a list of bolded words in the entry for “Islam” in an old 1964 Grolier World Book that I found in my closet, and studying them. For some reason I was amazed by this faith and that it was all about God and that it was everything that I believed all my life – right here. Previously, I had accepted that there was no faith like I felt inside of me. But I was amazed that I had found this faith. I found out that “my” faith had a name, and millions of other adherents!

Without ever reading a Qur’an or talking to another Muslim, I said shahada (declaring your belief in no god but God) on 31 December 1999. As the months passed, I learned more. I went through many periods of confusion, happiness, doubt and amazement. Islam took me on an enlightening tour of me, everyone else, and God.

The transition was slow. I was still attending Mass five months into my change of faith. Each time I went, I felt more and more distant from the congregation, but closer and closer to Prophet Jesus and God.

During Ramadan 2001, the second time I fasted (the first year, I converted during Ramadan and did not fast), I went to the library during lunch period. It was better than sitting at a table with my friends, because I got work done in the library. I swear my grades went up. Anyways, I started talking to the only other Muslim at my school, John. We talked about Islam a little more each day. He’s an awesome brother and he took me to the mosque on the last Friday of Ramadan. Going was one of the best things I ever made in my life. God really answered my prayers this time. I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn’t at all. It was the most natural thing I ever did in my life. I felt home. I realized something before leaving. As I sat there on the floor, praying to God, I realized that the room was full of others but it was OK. See, at home when someone asks me what I am doing, I never say I am praying. I never admit it to anyone. It is too awkward. But there, at the masjid, I was praying to God in front of a score of other Muslims and I felt perfectly fine. Better than fine! I felt secure and safe. It was the most liberating thing since I accepted God into my heart that cold New Year’s Eve almost two years ago.

I never told my parents right out. In fact, I don’t plan to. The most significant clue that I gave came around 1:00 AM on 16 December 2001, when I finally told my dad I was going to the mosque in the morning with a friend when he asked me why I was setting my alarm. He told me how he can’t wait for me to move out of the house, how displeased he is with me and how stupid the choices I make are to him. I never told them straight out because I figured it was best to test the waters by revealing clues bit by bit; I didn’t want to send a shockwave through the family. I can only imagine what my dad would do if he knew I was actually a practicing Muslim. He seems to hate my guts just for studying the faith, which he thinks is all I am doing. I understand that my dad is a depressed man, so I don’t really hold this all against him. I mean, it is his fault for thinking himself so smart that he doesn’t need God. That thought is what got him so depressed. But I don’t think he realized how hard one’s heart can be when you deny your human need for a relationship with your Creator. So I don’t hold it all against him. He didn’t know what he was getting into. My mom doesn’t know that I am a Muslim, but at least she hasn’t shown her anger over me going to the mosque. She is upset over it but never told me that I displease her, at least. As God commands, I’ll continue to try my best to be nice to my parents as long as they don’t attempt to take away my Islam. The best thing that I can do for them is to be a good example so that maybe one day, inshallah, they can see that there is a better way of living than living in the dark world of God-denial.

I’ve never been to the Mid-East, but I am studying Islam every day. I read books from every point of view. Sufi, Shia, Sunni, books on the Qur’an alone… The Muslims view sects as haram, so no matter what you believe you are always a Muslim and nothing extra. You may have completely different views than another Muslim, but as long as you both believe that there is no god but God, you are both Muslims and that’s that. I read a lot on-line, and discuss a lot with other Muslims on-line and on the phone. I’ve met some really great people on-line who have taught me a lot about life, Islam and God.

Right now, I am 100% a Muslim and that will never change, inshallah. I thank God that I’ve gone through so many periods of doubt. When I look back I see that it was not God leaving me but God telling me that it was time that I asked myself how much I loved God, and what I was willing to go through to understand my faith. A week of crying, depression, prayer, reading to the extreme, and ignoring most other things in life sounds harsh…but the reward – knowing so much more about yourself, God, and the relationship between you (Islam) – is worth more than any material things. Through my interrogation of Islam I gained God’s most precious gift – Islam, or surrender to the peace. I’ve heard Christians say that with Christianity you “know God on a personal level.” In Islam, your relationship with God is so much deeper than that. God is with me every moment, guiding me, teaching me, loving me, protecting me, liberating me, enlightening me, comforting me… Alhamdulilah for Islam!

Islam has done a lot for me. More than I could have ever guessed. And every day, it just gets better. I went from living my life on a trial-and-error basis to embracing guidance, and now knowing what the best choices are for me to make. From seeking who I am and spending a life in confusion, I am being guided. I can’t find the words to say what its like, but I’ll try again: God reveals to me what life is. I don’t have to guess anymore.

– — –

Sura 93, “The Morning Hours”

By the morning hours
By the night when it is still
Your lord has not abandoned you
and does not hate you

What is after will be better
than what came before
To you the lord will be giving
You will be content

Did he not find you orphaned and give you shelter
Find you lost and guide you
Find you in hunger and provide for you

As for the orphan, do not oppress him
And one who asks, do not turn him away
And the grace of your lord — proclaim

– — –

That is what I went through, what God did for me – what I am. So here is my proclamation to the world. Islam is more than you think it is, in fact more liberal than most would wish it to be. But do not only listen. Study all views for yourself…and come to your own conclusion. God says “let there be no compulsion in religion” because faith in God is a choice made by the heart, and it can’t be forced.

British actress enchanted by Prophet’s life

A British actress says she was motivated to convert to Islam especially when she started looking into the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Myriam Francois-Cerrah says, “There were several things that were pivotal in leading to this change in me. One was looking into the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. I think he is one of the great misunderstood figures of history.”

“My intellectual curiosity was sparked as a result of the backlash against my Muslims friends after 9/11 when I, like most people, was convinced that Islam was responsible for this atrocity. I wanted to understand why my friends would remain part of such a faith.“

“When I began looking into the faith, I realised how antithetical those terrorist actions are to the core message of Islam which enjoins peace, moderation and fairness. I then began to realise what was actually behind 9/11 was the distorted ideology of some political extremists, using Islam as a veneer to justify their actions.”

“Islam is about always having balance and I think the prophet’s (PBUH) message was fundamentally about having balance and equilibrium in all that we do.”

“The prophet’s message was always that you repel bad with good that you always respond to evil with good and always remember that god loves justice so even when people are committing serious injustices against you, you have a moral responsibility and a moral obligation in front of god to always appall justice and never yourself transgress those limits.”

She quotes a few favourite quotes by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) such as ‘Forgive him who wrongs you. Join him who cuts you off. Do good to him who does evil to you and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.’”

“Islam’s beauty really becomes to its own when it becomes manifest and it becomes manifest when you make it into a tool for the betterment of society, human kind and the world.”

“The ideal from an Islamic perspective is for ethics to become lived ethics to become an applied body of values and not remain unfortunately as it often is cloistered in the mosque of somewhere which is some more divorced from reality.”

Myriam Francois-Cerrah became popular when she was a child for acting in the 90’s hit film ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Now she is gaining more popularity for being one of a growing number of educated middle class female converts to Islam in Britain.

How I came to Islam – by Yusuf Islam From Musician to Muslim by Allah’s Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I read the Qur’an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt that the only answer for me was the Qur’an, and God had sent it to me, and I kept it a secret. But the Qur’an also speaks on different levels. I began to understand it on another level, where the Qur’an says,

“Those who believe do not take disbelievers for friends and the believers are brothers.”
Thus at this point I wished to meet my Muslim brothers.

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

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

— Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)