Category Archives: My Journey to Islam

How To Become A Muslim?

All praise is to Allah, the Lord of the universe. May peace and blessings of Allah be upon Mohammad, His last Messenger.

The purpose of this hand-out is to correct a false idea spread among those willing to adopt Islam as their faith. Some people have a wrong notion that entering into the Islamic fold requires an announcement from the concerned person in the presence of high ranking scholars or sheikhs or reporting this act to courts of justice or other authorities. It is also thought that the act of accepting Islam, should, as a condition, have a certificate issued by the authorities, as evidence to that effect.

We wish to clarify that the whole matter is very easy and that none of these conditions or obligations are required. For Allah, Almighty, is above all comprehension and knows well the secrets of all hearts. Nevertheless, those who are going to adopt Islam as their religion are advised to register themselves as Muslims with the concerned governmental agency, as this procedure may facilitate for them many matters including the possibility of performing Hajj (Pilgrimage) and Umrah.
If anyone has a real desire to be a Muslim and has full conviction and strong belief that Islam is the true religion ordained by Allah for all human-beings, then, one should pronounce the “Shahada”, the testimony of faith, without further delay. The Holy Qur’an is explicit on this regard as Allah states: “The Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.” (Qur’an 3:19)

In another verse of the Holy Qur’an, Allah states:
“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (Submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” (Qur’an 3:85)

In addition, Islam is the only religion prevailing over all other religions. Allah states in the Holy Qur’an:
“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: …” (Qur’an 5:48)

Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), said:
“The superstructure of Islam is raised on five (pillars): testifying that there is no God (none truly to be worshiped) but Allah, and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah, performing the prayer, paying the Zakah (poor-due), fasting the month of Ramadan, and performing Hajj”.

The Shahada can be declared as follows:
“ASH-HADU ANLA ELAHA ILLA-ALLAH WA ASH-HADU ANNA MOHAMMADAN RASUL-ALLAH”.

The English translation is:
“I bear witness that there is no deity (none truly to be worshipped) but, Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah”,

However, it would not be sufficient for anyone to only utter this testimony orally either in private or in public; but rather, he should believe in it by heart with a firm conviction and unshakeable faith. If one is truly sincere and complies with the teachings of Islam in all his life, he will find himself a new born person.

This will move him to strive more and more to improve his character and draw nearer to perfection. The light of the living faith will fill his heart until he becomes the embodiment of that faith.

What would be next after declaring oneself a Muslim? One should then know the real concept underlying this testimony which means the Oneness of Allah and meet its requirements. One must behave accordingly, applying this true faith to every thing one speaks or does.

What do the words of the “Shahada” signify? The significant point which every Muslim must know very well is the truth that there is no God (deity) to be worshipped other than Allah. He – glory be to Him – is the only true God, Who alone deserves to be worshipped, since He is the Giver of life and Sustainer and the Nourisher of mankind and all creation with His unlimited bounties. Man must worship Allah, Who alone is worthy of worship.

The second part of the Shahada (i.e. Wa ash-hadu anna Mohammadan Rasul-Allah) means that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the servant and chosen messenger of Allah. No one must have two opinions about this matter. In fact the Muslim has to obey the commands of the Prophet (PBUH), to believe him in what he has said, to practice his teachings, to avoid what he has forbidden, and to worship Allah alone according to the message revealed to him, for all the teachings of the Prophet were in fact revelations and inspirations conveyed to him by Allah.

What is the meaning of worship? It simply means rendering sincere service, showing reverence for Allah. In a deeper shade of meaning, it implies total submission and complete obedience to Allah’s commandments both in utterances and actions of man whether explicit or implicit.

Worship fall into two categories:
1. Visible (manifest or outward)
2. Invisible (concealed or inward)

Visible worship includes acts such as uttering the two parts of the “Shahada”, performing prayers, giving Zakah (the poor-due), recitation of the Holy Qur’an, supplication, adoring Allah by praising Him, purifying our bodies before prayers, etc.

This type of worship is associated with movement of the parts of the human body.

Invisible worship is to believe in Allah, in the Day of Judgment (in the Hereafter), in the Angels, in the Books of Allah, in the Prophets of Allah, in the Divine Decree of destiny (that good and bad are determined by Allah alone).

This type of worship does not involve movement of parts of the body but it surely has bearing on one’s heart which subsequently affects one’s way of life.

It should be borne in mind that any worship not dedicated to Allah alone will be rejected as one form of polytheism and this causes apostasy from the Islamic fold.

The next step for a newly revert to Islam is to purify himself by taking a complete bath. He should then resolve to comply with the principles and rules of Islam in their entirety. He should disown all forms of polytheism and false beliefs. He should reject evil and be righteous. Such rejection of evil and being righteous is one of the exquisites of the motto of Islam – that is, Laa Ilaha Illallah.

Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “… Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy Hand-hold that never breaks…” (Qur’an 2:256).

We have to consider that when we declare from our heart that “there is no god (deity) worthy to be worshipped but Allah”, it implies on our part love, devotion, faith and obedience to the rules of Islamic legislations which are legally binding on all Muslims. It is a requirement of “there is no god worthy to be worshipped but Allah” to love for the sake of Allah and to reject for the sake of Allah.

This is the firmest anchor of belief which materializes the meaning of “AL WALA” and “AL BARA”. It means that a Muslim should love and be loyal to his Muslim brothers. He should, as a practice, dissociate himself completely from the unbelievers and refuse to be influenced by them, both in worldly and religious matters.

We conclude with a humble prayer to Allah that may He cleanse the hearts and souls of those who are genuine seekers of truth and may He bless the community of believers. Ameen.

Benefits Of Becoming A Muslim

This article is designed for those who wish to become Muslim; as to what would be their benefits after accepting Islam. It should be stated here that we are not trying to entice people to become Muslim, nor are we trying to convert them into the fold of Islam. Any person who wishes to become a Muslim should recognize that he or she will get all these benefits and much more. However, he or she should realize that they have to earn them by practicing the teachings of Islam. Implementing the practice of Islamic teachings is as important as believing.

Benefits:

The following items are some of the benefits to be earned and enjoyed by those who wish to become Muslim:

1. As far as the Creator (whose proper name is Allah) is concerned, you will be able to identify Him and get to know Him, His role and your relationship to His names, you will be able to communicate with Him any time, 24 hours a day, throughout the whole year. As a result of this category, you will be able to know your origin, your roots and the wisdom as to why you are on this planet. You will be able to have good answers to the questions why, how, when, where, what and other philosophical questions.

2. As a result of the first benefit, your loyalty, allegiance, and obedience will be to the Creator himself. You will transcend yourself from all types of allegiance for this world. This means that if there is a conflict of interest between your boss, your job, your government, your system or any worldly relationship with the Creator, you will undoubtedly put your trust in Allah, the Creator of the universe. You will follow Him before you follow anyone else.

3. As a result of the second benefit, you will be able to acquire peace, harmony, tranquility and happiness within yourself, with your family, with people of the world, with the environment and with the universe. One has to remember that the source of peace is Allah, and one of his beautiful names is that He is The Peace.

4. As an endorsement to the third benefit, you will get rid of the extra electrostatic charges from your brain and the central nervous system by performing the daily Salah (prayer). Through Salah, you are to prostrate by putting your forehead to the floor; and as such are grounding yourself, and you are discharging these extra charges into the ground. As a result of this act, you will get rid of many of the neurological diseases from your body.

5. As a result of the fourth benefit, you will acquire a pleasant personality. You will be friendly and amicable. You would not need to drink alcohol, to use drugs or to get involved in vulgarity or immorality.

6. Through the experience of fasting in Islam, you will be able to have self-control, self-restraint, self-discipline, self-education, self-evaluation, and self-obedience to Allah the Creator. You undoubtedly will be able to improve health, personality, character, and behavior.

7. As a result of the sixth benefit, you will be able to control your lusts, selfishness, desires, greed, ego, and conceitedness.

8. Another side reaction of the sixth and seventh benefits is that you will be generous and hospitable; you will try to purify yourself and your mistakes by sharing your happiness and your wealth with those who are less fortunate than you. Your rewards will manifold, compounded daily until the Day of Judgment.

9. By performing pilgrimage to Makkah, you will transcend yourself from being nationalistic, sectarian, or denominational into being universal. You will be part and an essential constituent of the rainbow of Islam. You will be also part of the brotherhood of Islam with those who already submitted themselves to the Creator. At the same time, you will get rid of any inferiority or superiority complexes. You will also find yourself in synchrony and harmony with all the prophets and messengers of Allah since the creation of Adam and Eve until the last final messenger to mankind, prophet Muhammad (PBUH). While in Makkah, you will be able to visit the places of revelation of the Qu`ran as well as the places visited by prophet Abraham and members of his family such as Hagar and Ishmael. You will visit the place where the first astronauts, Adam and Eve landed on earth.

10. In becoming a Muslim, you will do your best to stop all types of exploitations in all their forms: economic, biological, mental, spiritual, psychological, political, etc. You will also work to liberate people and give them freedom of worship, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. You will be a leader and help lead people to peace, tranquility and happiness.

11. In accepting Islam, you will help to reduce all types of social illnesses in the society: juvenile delinquency, child abuse, domestic abuse, incest, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, premarital relationships, extramarital relationships, and other vices.

12. As a result of the eleventh benefit, you will reduce and eliminate venereal diseases, AIDS, and other diseases of similar nature in the society.

13. Finally, when you die, you will die at peace. You will have a happy life in the grave and later, eternal happiness. Angels at the time of death will comfort you. They will also show you your place in paradise. On the Day of Judgment, you will be able to see and meet all the prophets and messengers of God to mankind including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (PBUH). You will be able to see and meet any and all of your friends and relatives. You will live an eternal life of bliss in paradise.

Reflections:

The benefits mentioned above and many more cannot be purchased with money anywhere in the world. No one is to sell them to you or to advertise them on TV. You have to take the initiative yourself and try to acquire them by accepting Islam first and then by practicing its teachings. You should be honest with yourself, sincere, and truthful to the Creator. You should try wholeheartedly to practice what you believe, regardless of whether someone else is good or not. While seeking happiness is a must, it should not be measured with other people’s standards or with material gains. Happiness is from its potential to its kinetic forms. People around you should feel your happiness as well as benefit from you.

Are you ready to accept this challenge today? Remember, tomorrow may not come, and it will be too late.

Author : Ahmad H. Sakr, Ph.D.
Source : Jannah.org

Advice To New Muslims From Converts

Advice For New Muslims by Mona

Given that I have been having major problems with my parents regarding my reversion, the following advice is particularly suitable for other new Muslims having problems with their non-Muslim family members:

(1) It is very helpful and comforting to have a few Muslim friends nearby in whom you can confide, ask questions of, and spend time with during the formative and often tumultuous initial period as a new Muslim. Born Muslims are generally honored and pleased to help you improve your faith by showing you the details that help you become a better Muslim.

(2) Before you decide to announce your reversion to loved ones who are non-Muslim, make sure you are ready for their response, whether it is pleasant or horrible. Being ready means many things: understanding the basics of practicing your faith, understanding the reasons behind actions demanded of you by Islam, and being able to reconcile unfortunate world events that are attributed to Muslims with your own understanding of Islam and its inherent goodness, logic, and beauty.

(3) As hypocritical as it may be, many open-minded people cease to be open-minded when difficult issues such as religious conversion “hit home.” People who are ordinarily rational, educated, and worldly unfortunately can swing 180 degrees when a person they love converts to a religion they do not appreciate or understand. It may be in your best interest, and in theirs, to not discuss your reversion to Islam until a year or two has passed and you feel comfortable in your faith. At that point, it would be obvious to them that Islam has not made you a worse or lesser person, and has in fact (hopefully!) noticeably improved you!

(4) Most importantly, remember that the best teaching is by example. If you want to help others overcome the stereotypes bound to Islam and lessen discrimination against muslims, be a model muslim! Remember to be tolerant, patient, giving, helpful, and peaceful with those around you, be they muslim or not. Be open to questions regarding your new faith, but do not feel compelled to answer questions to which you do not (yet) know the answers. Get involved in your ummah, mind your prayer, and with time, everything will become easier for you.

Written by Mona August 5, 1998
Please drop Mona a line. Her e-mail address is: [email protected]

Advice to new Muslimas by Judi Muhammad, MA, LLP, PhD Candidate;
Vice President/ Clinical Director Islamic
Health & Human Services, Detroit, MI

AsSalaamuAlaykum (Peace be upon you)

It feels like I have been Muslim all of my life. In actuality, I probably was – underneath. But, for most of my life (50 years) I was Christian. I was raised Catholic and converted to a fundamental Christian religion, The Salvation Army, in my 30s and remained there until Allah (SWT) rescued me at age 50. AlHamdullillah!!

For many years I taught psychology and philosophy in college. In that teaching, and in my own education, I came to believe many concepts and philosophies things that did not fit with my religion. But, I accepted that there would be differences and that was OK. One of the things I knew was that while the Christian religion taught that I was (1) born in the image of God (on one hand) and (2) born in sin (on the other) – both were not possible. The first thing I heard about Islam was that we are born good.
In succeeding years, fitrah has become a favorite topic of my reading. All of my reading has proven that what I always believed in my heart was true – that man is born good and his propensity is to live within the Will of Allah.
I spent the first 8 months in Islam single – and when I did marry I was truly blessed with a good Muslim husband. I learned more in the first 1 month of my marriage to him than I had in the 8 months I tried to learn on my own. Always, however, my husband told me that, “Islam is a process. You are responsible for what you learn as you learn it. Worry about the ‘big’ things – not the little things.”

Some of the most important things I have learned are:
That I was always Muslim in my heart – that not all practice Islam the same but anyone who calls themselves “Muslim” is treated by me as Muslim – that Sisters make WONDERFUL friends ( too bad I waited so late in my life to learn that) – that being obedient to my husband has more benefits than I could have ever imagined – that women are more respected in Islam than anyone who is not a Muslimah would possibly imagine – and that the “Peace that passeth all understanding” is not a Christian reward – it is an Islamic reality.

The most important advice I can give a new Muslimah is: Allow Allah to chose your husband – make Istikharah and trust that you will learn the truth from it Do not worry about changing those around you – worry about changing yourself , into the best Muslim you can be – Allah will take care of the rest Search for legitimate Scholars – not everyone knows enough to teach you the truth When you marry, trust your husband and look to him to teach you Islam – it is his job Enjoy obedience to your husband – it will bring rewards in heaven but also on earth!!

Become friends with Sisters who are like you want to become.
May Allah bless you and make your Islamic journey as peaceful as mine.

Written by Judi Muhammad August 3, 1998
Please drop Judi a line. Her e-mail address is: [email protected]

FROM JIM (NASIR) who Embraced Islam Sat, 11 Apr 1998 at the ripe young age of 68

Assalamu’alaikum

As advice to a new Muslim I first greet you and congratulate you on your choice and good taste. If you are like I was the road will be a little to quite rocky at first but you must remember Allah is probably testing you to see if you are truly worthy. After a while things will smooth out. You will laugh. cry, get upset and be the happiest person in the world. In time you will have doubt that you chose was the best way to live. Nobody will tell you this, you will know deep down inside.

When I started out I almost gave up many times. I was introduced to a converts/reverts group. The leader asked me if I was a convert yet. I was so fed up I almost told what to do with his group. I thought here comes a third degree. Man did I eat crow. Then again it reminded me of the years back when I went to live in Australia. When you went to get anything. It had a different name over there and if it was not on the ladies counter she did not want to know about it. After I learned my way around things settled down for me. All I can advise you is patience and perseverance. Try to find a good Muslim friend who can guide you around, but best of all be guided by your inner self. I could tell you stories of my problems but then you have enough that you can probably tell me. Why don’t you? As I look back I am reminding myself how much of Don Quixote there is in me. Also his epitaph on his tombstone which goes something like this.
Here lies a brave and fearless knight Who had the courage in his day to live a fool and die a sage.

I am not a sage yet but I am working on it.

Nasir (Jim) Written July 20th 1998
Please drop Jim a line. His e-mail address is: email address is: [email protected]

Advice from Khadeejah (Jacklynn)

Assalamo aleikum (Peace be upon you)

This is the greeting and salutation that Muslims give to each other. It is also the true blessing of Islam. The peace that comes from choosing the right path in life is incomparable! No one can tell you if you have found the right path – you will know it for yourself when you discover the inner calmness of your soul, the joy that even the difficulties cannot extinguish, and the sureness of feeling that you are home… That you have found a WAY OF LIFE – not just a religion! Al hamdolellah! (Thanks to God!)

Islam is not something that you just gulp down in one swallow. It is a lifetime of daily meals to be enjoyed, savored, tasted, and digested. If you eat too fast and try to take it all in one huge bite, you will get indigestion and probably it will come right back up again and make you sick so you don’t want to try another taste. If you eat too slowly and in tiny portions, you will always feel hungry and never be satisfied and if someone comes along offering you sweets and junk food (el shaitan does this) you will perhaps be tempted by that, so you won’t feel like eating any more of the good meal. But if you have a well-balanced meal (studying the Holy Writings, association with fellow believers, putting into practice what you learn) you will feel satisfied and healthy and in peak condition of life.
And think about it… if someone who loved you made a meal especially for you, wouldn’t that make you feel surrounded by their love? Wouldn’t you be anxious to tell everyone you know how well you were treated and how much you enjoyed the food? They would probably envy you and wish that they could also have a meal such as this. Allah loves us and has prepared spiritual food especially for us, his creation, in order for us to be healthy and happy and to know that we are loved. That food of course consists of all the Holy Writings available to us. When the opportunity arises, we can let others know how good our food is and how much our Creator loves us, so that they might see our healthy souls and want what we have. This is human nature… wanting what we don’t have.

So take things moderately, one bite at a time. Some foods take getting accustomed to, just like when we were kids and were told to eat our vegetables… as we grew up, we knew they were good for us, so we ate them as part of our meal even if they were not our favourite food. So, when you come across a “vegetable” in Islam that you find hard to swallow, just take a small nibble and leave it at the side of your plate until the next meal, or the one after that. Eventually you will grow up enough to realize that ALL “foods” in the spiritual meal are good for you and need to be partaken of if we want to stay healthy. As an example, imagine hijab as one of these “vegetables” that we might either love from the start or as something that we will only partake of after growing up and realizing that it is good for our spritual health.

May Allah grant us all the wisdom and good spritual health we need to stay on the straight path. Ameen.

Fee amanallah

Khadeejah (Jacklynn) Written July 21 1998
Please drop Khadeejah a line. Her e-mail address is: email address is: [email protected]

Why Are Women Turning to Islam

At a time when Islam is faced with hostile media coverage particularly where the status of women in Islam is concerned, it may be quite surprising to learn that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and even more ironic to discover that the majority of converts to Islam are WOMEN .

The status of women in society is neither a new issue, nor is it a fully settled one. And where Islam is mentioned, for many the term ‘Muslim Women’ prompts images of exhausted mothers chained to the stove, ‘victims’ suppressed in a life of indoctrination, frantic to be westernized and so on. Others will go to great lengths to explain how the hijaab is an obstacle, clouding the mind, and comment that female converts are either brainwashed, stupid or traitors to their sex. I reject such accusations and pose to them the following question: why is it that so many women who have been born and brought in the so called ‘civilized’ societies of Europe and America are willing to reject their ‘liberty’ and ‘independence’ to embrace a religion that supposedly oppresses them and is widely assumed to be prejudicial to them?

As a Christian convert to Islam, I can only present my personal experience and reasons for rejecting the ‘freedom’ that women claim to have in this society in favour of the only Religion that truly liberates women by giving us a status and position, which is completely unique when compared with that of our non-Muslim counterparts. Before coming to Islam, I had strong feminist tendencies and recognized that where a woman was concerned, a lot of shuffling around had been going on, yet without being able to pin her on the social map. The problem was ongoing: new ‘women’s issues’ being raised without the previous ones being satisfactorily resolved. Like the many women who shared my background, I would
accuse Islam of being a sexist religion, discriminating, oppressing and giving men the greater privileges. All of this, coming from a person who did not even know Islam, one who had been blinded due to ignorance and had accepted this deliberately distorted definition of Islam.

However, despite my criticisms of Islam, inwardly, I wasn’t satisfied with my own status as a woman in this society. It seemed to me that society would define such terms as ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ and then these definitions were accepted by women without us even attempting to question or challenge them. There was clearly a great contradiction between what women were told in theory and what actually happened in practice. The more I pondered, the greater emptiness I felt within. I was slowly beginning to reach a stage where my dissatisfaction with my status as a women in this society, was really a reflection of my greater dissatisfaction with society itself. Everything seemed to be degenerating backwards, despite the claims that the 1990’s was going to be the decade of success and prosperity. Something vital seemed to be missing from my life and nothing would fill this vacuum.

Being a Christian did not do anything for me, and I began to question the validity of only remembering God one day a week – Sundays! As with many other Christians too, I had become disillusioned with the hypocrisy of the Church and was becoming increasingly unhappy with the concept of Trinity and the deification of Jesus.

Eventually, I began to look into Islam. At first, I was only interested in looking at those issues, which specifically dealt with women. I was surprised. What I read and learned, taught me a lot about myself as a woman, and also about where the real oppression of a woman lies: in every other system and way of life outside of Islam. Muslim women have been given their rights in every aspect of the religion with clear definitions of their role in society – as had men – with no injustice against either of them. As Allah says: «“Whoever does deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter paradise and not the least injustice will be done to them”» [Nisaa 4:124]

So having amended my misconceptions about the true status of women in Islam, I was now looking further. I wanted to find that thing which was going to fill the vacuum in my life. My attention was drawn towards the beliefs and practices of Islam. It was only through establishing the fundamentals that I would understand where to turn and what to prioritize. These are often the areas, which receive little attention or controversy in society, and when studying the Islamic Creed, it becomes clear why this is the case: such concise, faultless and wholly comprehensive details cannot be found elsewhere.

Stories: Experiences Of A Recently Converted Hindu Woman

I came from a purely Hindu family where we were always taught to regard ourselves (i.e. women) as beings who were eventually to be married off, have children and serve the husband – whether he was kind or not. Other than this I found that there were a lot of things which really oppressed women, such as:

• If a woman was widowed, she would always have to wear a white sari (costume), eat vegetarian meals, cut her hair short, and never re-marry.

• The bride always had to pay the dowry (bridal money) to the husband’s family. And the husband could ask for anything, irrespective of whether the bride would have difficulty paying it.

• Not only that, if after marriage she was not able to pay the full dowry she would be both emotionally and physically tortured. She could end up being a victim of “kitchen death” where the husband, or both the mother-in-law and the husband, try to set fire to the wife while she is cooking or is in the kitchen, to make it look like an accidental death. More and more of these incidents are taking place. The daughter of a friend of my own father met the same fate last year!

• In addition to all this, men in Hinduism are treated literally as gods. In one of the religious Hindu celebrations, unmarried girls pray for and worship an idol representing a particular god (Shira) so that they may have husbands like him. Even my own mother had asked me to do this. This made me see that the Hindu religion, based on superstitions and things that have no manifest proof and were merely traditions, which oppressed women, could not be right.

Subsequently, when I came to England to study, I thought that at least this was a country, which gave equal rights to men and women, and did not oppress them. We all had the freedom to do as we liked, I thought. Well, as I started to meet people, make new friends, learn about this new society, and go to all the places my friends went to in order to “socialize” (bars, dance halls, etc.), I realized that this “equality” was not so true in practice as it was in theory.

Outwardly, women were seen to be given equal rights in education, work, and so forth, but in reality women were still oppressed in a different, subtler way. When I went with my friends to the places they hung out at, I found everybody interested to talk to me and I thought that was normal. But it was only later that I realized how naïve I was, and recognized what these people were really looking for. I soon began to feel uncomfortable, as if I was not myself: I had to dress in a certain way so that people would like me, and had to talk in a certain way to please them. I soon found that I was feeling more and more uncomfortable, less and less myself, yet I could not get out. Everybody was saying they were enjoying themselves, but I don’t call this enjoyment.

I think women in this way of life are oppressed; they have to dress in a certain way in order to please men and appear more appealing, and also, talk in a certain way so people like them. During this time I had not thought about Islam, even though I had some Muslim acquaintances. But I felt I really had to do something, to find something that I would be happy and secure with, and would feel respectable. Something to believe in that is the right belief, because everybody has a belief that they live according to. If having fun by getting off with other people is someone’s belief, they do this. If making money is someone’s belief, they do everything to achieve this. If they believe drinking is one way to enjoy life then they do it. But I feel all this leads to nowhere; no one is truly satisfied, and the respect women are looking for is diminished in this way.

In these days of so-called “equal rights”, you are expected to have a boyfriend (or you’re weird!) and to not be a virgin. So this is a form of oppression, even though some women do not realize it. When I came to Islam, it was obvious that I had finally found permanent security. A religion, a belief that was so complete and clear in every aspect of life. Many people have a misconception that Islam is an oppressive religion, where women are covered from head to toe, and are not allowed any freedom or rights. In fact, women in Islam are given more rights, and have been for the past 1400 years, compared to the only-recently rights given to non-Muslim women in some western and other societies. But there are, even now, societies where women are still oppressed, as I mentioned earlier in relation to Hindu women.

Muslim women have the right to inheritance. They have the right to run their own trade and business. They have the full right to ownership, property, disposal over their wealth to which the husband has no right. They have the right to education, a right to refuse marriage as long as this refusal is according to reasonable and justifiable grounds. The Qur’an itself, which is the Word of God, contains many verses commanding men to be kind to their wives and stressing the rights of women. Islam has the right set of rules, because they are NOT made by men, but by God; hence it is a perfect religion.

Quite often Muslim women are asked why they are covered from head to toe, and are told that this is oppression – it is not. In Islam, marriage is an important part of life, the making of the society. Therefore, a woman should not go around showing herself to everybody, only her husband. Even the man is not allowed to show certain parts of his body to no one but his wife. In addition, God has commanded Muslim women to cover themselves for their modesty: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when outdoors). That is most convenient that they could be known as such (i.e. decent and chaste) and not molested.” (Qur’an 33:59)
If we look around at any other society, we find that in the majority of cases women are attacked and molested because of how they are dressed.

Another point I’d like to comment on is that the rules and regulation laid down in Islam by God, do not apply just to women but to men also. There is no intermingling and free mixing between men and women for the benefit of both. Whatever God commands is right, wholesome, pure and beneficial to mankind. There is no doubt about that. A verse in the Qur’an explains this concept clearly: «”Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and protect their private parts (i.e. from indecency, illegal sexual acts, etc.); that will make for greater purity for them. And God is well aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and protect their private parts (from indecency, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.); and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments . . . “» (Qur’an, Surah Al-Nur 24:31)

When I put on my hijab (veil), I was really happy to do it. In fact, I really wanted to do it. When I put on the hijab, I felt a great sense of satisfaction and happiness because I had obeyed God’s command. And I was so happy with the good and blessings that came with it. I have felt secure and protected. In fact people respect me more for it. I could really see the difference in their behavior towards me.

Finally, I’d like to say that I had accepted Islam not blindly, or under any compulsion. In the Qur’an itself there is a verse “Let there be no compulsion in religion”. I accepted Islam with conviction. I have seen, been there, done that, and seen both sides of the story. I know and have experienced what the other side is like, and I know that I have done the right thing. Islam does not oppress women, but rather Islam liberates them and gives them the respect they deserve. Islam is the religion God has chosen for the whole of mankind. Those who accept it are truly liberated from the chains and shackles of mankind, whose rulings and legislating necessitates nothing but the oppression of one group by another and the exploitation and oppression of one sex by the other. This is not the case in Islam, which truly liberates women and gives them an individuality not given by any other authority.

Sister Noor has been a Muslim for over a year and a half and is currently in her second year of undergraduate study in the Department of Biology at University of Essex, U. K.

Author : Sister Noor

Stories: Islam’s Female Converts

‘ALLAHU AKBAR [God is great], Allahu akbar!” called Muhammad Hannini as about 15 worshipers gathered Sunday in a mosque in the basement of a home in Richmond Hill, Queens. Instantly, they knelt and touched their heads to the floor, a gesture symbolizing submission to God in Islam.

The eight women bent in prayer a few feet behind the men were dressed in scarves and long dresses or ankle-length skirts. “You should see my humanity, my compassion, my devotion to God coming through the surface, not my body,” said Sunni Rumsey Amatullah, who became Muslim a quarter century ago.

The women say they consider the veil and modest dress symbols not of oppression but of liberation. They say the emphasis on the female body in the Western world, with all its manifestations in popular culture, has led to the sexual objectification of women. And, despite their own often problematic relationships with men, they say their religion treats each gender equally, though not identically.

Like Amatullah — who was born Cheryl Rumsey in Jamaica, Queens, and raised Episcopalian — these women are among the estimated 20,000 Americans a year who since the mid-’90s have adopted Islam, a religion that has been receiving much attention since the Sept.11 terrorist attacks.
Despite the persistent image of the oppressed Muslim woman, about 7,000 of those converts each year are women, according to the report of a study led by Ihsan Bagby, a professor of international studies at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. The study was financed in part by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington. About 14,000 of the total number of converts in 2000, the report found, were African-American, 4,000 were white and 1,200 were of Hispanic descent. (Members of the Nation of Islam were not included in the study.)

What is the religion’s draw for women? “The .tightly structured way of life, the regular set of responsibilities, where you know what you believe and you know what you do, attracts some women,” said Jane I. Smith, professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and author of “Islam in America” (Columbia University Press).

With laws for almost every aspect of life, Islam represents a faith-based order that women may see as crucial to creating healthy families and communities, and correcting the damage done by the popular secular humanism of the past 30 or so years, several experts said. In addition, women from broken homes may be especially attracted to the religion because of the value it places on family, said Marcia Herman.sen, a professor of Islamic studies at Loyola Univer.sity in Chicago and an American who also converted to Islam.

Next Saturday, the women, along with Muslims around the world, will celebrate the festival of Eid ul-Adha marking the end of hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. They “don’t see the structures as repressive,” Hermansen said. “They see them as comforting and supportive.”

Choosing Islam can also be a type of “cultural critique” of Western materialism, she said. “Islam represents the beautiful, traditional, grounded and .authentic.”

“It is Allah talking to you directly,” said Amatullah, 50, the director of an HIV prevention program at Iris House, a health-care organization in Harlem. She said she converted after leading a wildly hedonistic lifestyle for several years. “It’s a spiritual awakening. What happens is you’re in a fog and you don’t know you are in a fog, and when it clears up you say, ‘Hey, I thought it was clear back there,’” she said. “My friend’s husband gave me the Quran in my early 20s, because he thought I was too wild.”

At first, Amatullah said, she paid little attention, but she was profoundly affected when she .started delving into the book. Still, it took about five years and a great deal of contemplation, she said, before she became truly interested in Islam and came to believe the Quran was the divine truth. She said she also was impressed by the rights women had under Islam in .seventh-century Arabia, a time when women in most other cultures had virtually no power over their lives.

“Islamic law embodies a number of Quranic reforms that significantly enhanced the status of women,” according to John Esposito, a professor and director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and author of “Islam: The Straight Path” (Oxford University Press). “Contrary to pre-Islamic Arab customs, the Quran recognized a woman’s right to contract her own marriage.

“In addition, she, not her father or male relatives, as had been the custom, was to receive the dowry from her husband. She became a party to the contract rather than an object for sale,” Esposito wrote. “The right to keep and maintain her dowry was a source of self-esteem and wealth in an otherwise male-dominated society. Women’s right to own and manage their own property was further enhanced and acknowledged by Quranic verses of inheritance which granted inheritance rights to wives, daughters, sisters and grandmothers of the deceased in a patriarchal society where all rights were tradition.ally vested solely in male heirs. Similar legal rights would not occur in the West until the 19th century.”

Esther Bourne, a 46-year-old accountant in Manhattan, was raised Catholic by her American mother after her British father died when she was 6. Spiritually inclined from a young age, she said she first read the Quran in her mid-20s, because her former husband, a Muslim, owned a copy. “I would go in and out of it,” she said.

By her mid-30s, after ending an abusive relationship and enduring the tragic death of a man she loved dearly, Bourne said she began a spiritual quest that included classes on Islam at a mosque on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “When the teachers would explain, my heart just accepted it,” she said. “The heart believed it.”

In 1992, at the age of 36, Bourne took her sha.hada, the profession of faith that is the first of the five pillars of Islam. “I don’t have panic anymore, and if some misfortune happens, I just accept the decree from Allah,” Bourne said.

“You slowly adjust yourself to an Islamic way of life, thinking about God, doing good deeds,” Amatullah said. “Some days I do it better than others.”
Amina Mohammed, a 58-year-old dental assistant at the Veterans Administration hospital in St. Albans, has been a Muslim for more than 20 years. She was born Doris Gregory, the daughter of an American Indian .mother and a .Jamaican father, and was raised as a .Lutheran. She said she stopped going to church when she was 16.

Two years later, she began an active spiritual quest by reading about Buddhism, Hinduism and American Indian religions, but, she said, none of them was what she was looking for — a way to pray to one God in one form. “I was so disappointed,” she said. “I knew that there was a correct religion, but I just hadn’t found it. But I believed in God — I was no atheist.”

In her mid-30s, after two failed marriages and two daughters — who are now 27 and 33 — she said she felt a desperate need for spiritual direction and coincidentally was exposed for the first time to Islam. “This is what I had always felt in my heart,” she said.

For about three years she studied the religion; she began to cut down on dating and to cover her head occasionally. Then she went to a mosque in Manhattan and “saw women from different countries and from different races praying together,” she said. “I thought this is how it should be on earth.”

Amatullah, who lives in St. Albans, has been married and divorced three times since she converted to Islam. Her first husband was from Sudan, the second was from Egypt and the third was Italian-American; all were Muslim. Allah gives both men and women the right to divorce, she said, and she ini.tiated each split.

Although the Quran does not prohibit women from gaining an education or having a career, the converts said, it is a woman’s primary responsibility to take care of her children.

“Look at the Western society of today with the breakdown of family, the mother being out of the home and the children being alone,” said Bourne, who is single and has a 28-year-old son. “I had problems because I practically had to raise my son alone.”

Their faith, the three converts said, has not been shaken by the Sept. 11 attacks, carried out by men who said they were acting as Muslims. The distortion of Islam by extremists and terrorists, the women stressed, should not lead to the condemnation of a great religion.

“To kill innocent lives,” Amatullah said, “is anti- Islamic.”

Author : Priya Malhotra
Source : Newsday (New York, NY)

Stories: Marriage Lead Women To Islam

“Aysha” Abid Choudry – her given name is Harumi – adopted her Muslim name and faith four years ago, at the age of 26, to marry a Pakistani. Two years later, like many Japanese women married to Muslim men in Japan, she remained reluctant to abide by Islamic laws.

Then one day about two years ago, she decided to act on her own intuition that Islam meant having a personal relationship with Allah [Arabic for God]. She got on her knees to pray for the first time. Her husband, a devout Muslim who had never asked her to adopt Islam but had prayed silently on her behalf for years, cried openly at the sight.

Once distant and unknown in Japan, Islam has found converts among young Japanese women. Many are married to men who come to Japan to find work from countries with Islamic traditions such as Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Islamic law mandates that those who intend to marry Muslims must convert, at least in name, to the Islamic faith, according to R. Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Center, Japan. A hub of Islamic activity in Tokyo, the Islamic Center in Setagay-ku registered over 80 new members this year, the majority Japanese women.

Although some women converted with no thought of marriage, many more converted to Islam to marry Muslims; the center reports a record number of 40 marriages between foreign Muslims and Japanese women converts this year.

“Women are attracted to Islam because they want freedom. Islam gives them independence because they do not have to be a slave to any man. Islam is against moral aggression against women. The chastity and honor of women are protected. No illicit relations are allowed. All these things attract women,” said Siddiqi.

Islamic law also provides that men may have more than one wife. “This cannot seem to leave Japanese heads,” said Siddiqi. “We explain one thousand times that marrying four times is permissible only in certain unavoidable circumstances such as impotency, infertility and so forth. As a result there is no prostitution in Islam. If you need another women, then marry her, take care of her and the children.”

Asked why a woman can’t have more than one husband, Siddiqi explained, “Because she can’t decide on whose child it is. It is confusing for her.” (Japanese law uses the same logic, forbidding women to remarry within six months of divorce.)

Japanese women who marry men from Islamic countries often face ostracism from their families and alienation from friends; living by Islamic laws requires major changes in nearly every aspect of their lives. The Muslim’s daily ritual of prayer (salat) facing Mecca, before sunrise, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep, for example, is a major hurdle for anyone who wants to hold onto a steady job. One resourceful young woman who works for a major electronics company in Tokyo manages to pray in the company changing room.

The new Muslim must also make major changes in her diet. Muslims who strictly follow the Qu’ran may not consume pork, alcoholic beverages and animal products that have not been blessed. Juices and _tsukemono_ may contain preservatives with low levels of alcohol; chocolate, ice cream, cakes and other processed desserts may contain animal fats, and gelatins which may be made from animal bones.

Although blessed (halal) products have become increasingly available from shops that specialize in halal or imported products, many basic products sold in supermarkets are off limits to Muslims.

“At first it was hard to know what foods were permitted, so a group of us got together and called the soy sauce, juice and pastry manufacturers to find out exactly which products were alright and which were not. We made a big checklist and that information had spread by word of mouth,” Aysha said.

Another woman married to a Pakistani says, “It’s not a problem. There’s a store selling halal food that we order from in Saitama and we eat fish. As for cakes and juices, I usually make my own.”

The most obvious symbol of the Muslim woman is the veil (hijab) that covers her head, and the long sleeves, and pants that cover her limbs. Countries have variations on this; Saudi women cover the nose and mouth as well, while Malaysian Muslims [women] wear short scarves over their heads.

An energetic face framed within her black hijab, Aysha says, “I wasn’t born a Muslim, so I’m strict (about Islam). Before I became a Muslim, I was the secretary to a company president so I drank alcohol, played, wore miniskirts, everything. After I became a Muslim, everything changed. I threw away or gave away five bags of clothing. To become a good Muslim takes time, though.”

Although strict Islamic life may not be incongruous with lifestyles in Saudi Arabia or Iran, in Japan, Islam means accepting a life radically different from the ordinary Japanese. Perhaps, for some, herein lies the appeal.
“Before I became a Muslim I didn’t know what I was put here on earth for. I thought that the purpose of working was to make other people think highly of me. I believed that a person’s worth was based on what university he went to and how much money he made. Now I know that work is to nourish my body and I am here to live each day to praise Allah,” said a woman in her 20’s married to a Pakistani truck driver.

Others, like Noureen, a 30-year-old teacher of nursing at a women’s university in Saitama, had tried other religions, including Christianity, which she found unsatisfying before finding Islam. She met her husband, a 29-year-old Pakistani factory worker, while attending study sessions at the Islamic Center (their trip home took them in the same direction) and officially became a Muslim before their marriage four years ago. She and her husband agree that Islam comes first and work comes second, When the nurse’s uniform and the hospital environment interfered with the practice of Islam, “My husband told me that I should change jobs if I couldn’t be a good Muslim at my own pace.”

Noureen says, “the problem is not just food, it’s the concept: In Japan, people think their body is their own, and that one should stay up all night studying and only think about exams. But we believe that one’s body belongs to God and should be treated with respect.”

Author : Lynne Y. Nakano
Source : Japan Times

Stories: Why British Women Are Turning To Islam

Lucy Berrington finds the Muslim Faith is winning Western admirers despite hostile media coverage. The Times (London) – Tuesday, 9th November 1993

Unprecedented numbers of British people, nearly all of them women, are converting to Islam at a time of deep divisions within the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The rate of conversions has prompted predictions that Islam will rapidly become an important religious force in this country. “Within the next 20 years the number of British converts will equal or overtake the immigrant Muslim community that brought the faith here”, says Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher at a Hull comprehensive and the author of a textbook guide to the Koran. She says: “Islam is as much a world faith as is Roman Catholicism. No one nationality claims it as its own”. Islam is also spreading fast on the continent and in America.

The surge in conversions to Islam has taken place despite the negative image of the faith in the Western press. Indeed, the pace of conversions has accelerated since publicity over the Salman Rushdie affair, the Gulf War and the plight of the Muslims in Bosnia. It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly. In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million. Many of Britain’s “New Muslims” are from middle-class backgrounds. They include Matthew Wilkinson, a former head boy of Eton who went on to Cambridge, and a son and daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the judge heading the arms-to-Iraq enquiry.

A small-scale survey by the Islamic Foundation in Leicester suggests that most converts are aged 30 to 50. Younger Muslims point to many conversions among students and highlight the intellectual thrust of Islam. “Muhammad” said, “The light of Islam will rise in the West” and I think that is what is happening in our day” says Aliya Haeri, an American-born psychologist who converted 15 years ago. She is a consultant to the Zahra Trust, a charity publishing spiritual literature and is one of Britain’s prominent Islamic speakers. She adds: “Western converts are coming to Islam with fresh eyes, without all the habits of the East, avoiding much of what is culturally wrong. The purest tradition is finding itself strongest in the West.”

Some say the conversions are prompted by the rise of comparative religious education. The British media, offering what Muslims describe as a relentless bad press on all things Islamic, is also said to have helped. Westerners despairing of their own society – rising in crime, family breakdown, drugs and alcoholism – have come to admire the discipline and security of Islam. Many converts are former Christians disillusioned by the uncertainty of the church and unhappy with the concept of the Trinity and deification of Jesus.

Quest of the Convert – Why Change?

Other converts describe a search for a religious identity. Many had previously been practicing Christians but found intellectual satisfaction in Islam. “I was a theology student and it was the academic argument that led to my conversion.” Rose Kendrick, a religious education teacher and author, said she objected to the concept of the original sin: “Under Islam, the sins of the fathers aren’t visited on the sons. The idea that God is not always forgiving is blasphemous to Muslims.”

Maimuna, 39, was raised as a High Anglican and confirmed at 15 at the peak of her religious devotion. “I was entranced by the ritual of the High Church and thought about taking the veil.” Her crisis came when a prayer was not answered. She slammed the door on visiting vicars but traveled to convents for discussions with nuns. “My belief came back stronger, but not for the Church, the institution or the dogma.” She researched every Christian denomination, plus Judaism, Buddhism and Krishna Consciousness, before turning to Islam.

Many converts from Christianity reject the ecclesiastical hierarchy emphasizing Muslims’ direct relationship with God. They sense a lack of leadership in the Church of England and are suspicious of its apparent flexibility. “Muslims don’t keep shifting their goal-posts,” says Huda Khattab, 28, author of The Muslim Woman’s Handbook, published this year by Ta-Ha. She converted ten years ago while studying Arabic at university. “Christianity changes, like the way some have said pre-marital sex is okay if it’s with the person you’re going to marry. It seems so wishy-washy. Islam was constant about sex, about praying five times a day. The prayer makes you conscious of God all the time. You’re continually touching base.”

Author : Lucy Berrington
Source : The London Times

Stories: A Brief Bio Of Malcolm X

Twenty-five years after his death, Malcolm X, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, still towers above the statue of liberty. He refuses to die. Wherever injustice and oppression takes place, his smiling face and uncompromising message fills the atmosphere.

Yes, they killed the body but not the spirit. When he was alive, Brother Shabazz was the most feared man in America. And, the most loved. The situation hasn’t changed.

For the deprived and the oppressed African-Americans, Brother Shabazz continues to be the hero, the inspiration that makes it possible for them to maintain their sanity and dignity in a vile society which can’t stop despising them.

We, as Muslims, are often angered to see Br. Shabazz identified as a Black Nationalist rather than a Muslim. While the anger is justified, we must understand that people generally emphasize the aspect of a leader’s life which is in harmony with their own aspirations. While some African-Americans will continue to invoke the nationalist side of Br. Shabazz, it is for us to see that his Islamic personality is projected to the world!

THE PILGRIMAGE TO MAKKAH

When he was in Makkah, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz wrote a letter to his assistants in Harlem… from his heart:
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
“I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka’ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt.Al-Safa and Al Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat.
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
“You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
“We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.
“I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color.
“With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called ‘Christian’ white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster – the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.
“Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities – he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.
“Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors – honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King – not a Negro.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds

Malcolm X saw and experienced many positive things. Generosity and openheartedness were qualities that impressed him and the welcome which he received in many places. He saw brotherhood and the brotherhood of different races and this led him to disclaim racism and to say: “I am not a racist… In the past I permitted myself to be used… to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race, and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites who perhaps did not deserve to be hurt. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as the result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Sunni Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenets of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

Malcolm X was vehemently anti-White. That’s the way he was taught as a ‘Black Muslim.’ But his trip for Hajj changed all of that. He came to see that all men are equal, regardless of their color. True anti-racism is color blindness. That is what he preached on his return to the United States. And that is why he was assassinated. While he preached separatism, keeping people aware of color differences, that was OK. Blacks vs. Whites is an acceptable dialect. But when Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz started to preach the Oneness of God and the equality of races, and was prepared to act in any lawful (halal) means necessary, he had to go: Truth vs. Falsehood is an unacceptable dialect.

Islam believes in the unity of the human race. Islam says that all mankind are the creatures of One God, they are all equal. Divisions of color, class, race or territory are sheer illusions; and ideologies which are based on such distinctions are the greatest menace on earth. Men are one and not White or Black, Aryan of Non-Aryan, Occidental or Oriental.

Islam is based on the universal brotherhood of man and practices universal brotherhood of man. The importance of this concept is of great value as it is the only solution to national and international problems. This is said to be the age of freedom and restoring unto every man his dignity, and despite all the phenomenal changes in the political stage of the world, our age is still unable to think in terms of human dignity, and this is the dark specter of social concern of our time. For, despite man’s conquest of space and mastery over the forces of nature, man has not been able to rid himself of the primeval prejudice of race and color. The stark reality of our time has brought in its trail a great desolation and frustration as we find ourselves face to face with chaos, wars, the miserable conditions of living of the masses of mankind and the exploitation of one nation by another, and this leads to selfishness, fear, hatred; class, tribe and race discrimination; and subsequently the division of man against man is the order of the day, even in the so-called Socialist countries.

Islam’s greatest contribution to mankind was the abolition and extinction of distinction based on race and color. The HolyQur’an declared:
“Mankind were one community, then they differed among themselves, so God raised Prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners…” (Al-Qur’an 2:213)
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female; and made you into nations and tribes, that you might get to knowone another. The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is he who is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing and Wise.”(Al-Qur’an 49:13)
From the above verses, it is clear that the whole of humanity from its diverse races, was originally one, deriving its existence from One Creator and that all barriers that separate humanity by race and color must vanish and the superiority of a person be judged by his conduct only. A good Muslim considers himself a fusion of all races. Anyone who enters into the fold of Islam becomes part and parcel of this fraternity, forgetting all pride and prejudice. On the basis of this principle, Islam seeks to build an intellectual, moral, ideological and international society, as against the existing tribal, racial, linguistic and national societies, which have turned the world into a racio-color holocaust.

THE LEGACY OF MALCOLM X

Malcolm X was born into Christianity as Malcolm Little and died in Islam as Malik Shabazz. This is something to think about and is an expression of his legacy. Malcolm X went through the transition period of the religion of the “Nation of Islam,” a religion of American origin borrowing some terms from the Muslim culture of the East.

It appears that Malik Shabazz went through five stages in his short life. The first stage was his childhood under the shadows of his religious parents. The second stage was his adolescence to youth until his moving out to Harlem, NY. This was a rowdy and irresponsible stage of his life which eventually landed him in prison. The fourth stage of his life was in the “Nation of Islam” which was not real Islam. In the “Nation of Islam,” on one side, Malcolm was a very disciplined man; on the other side he became a black racist, a separatist and a demagogue. In the fifth and final stage of his youthful life, Malik Shabazz reached the apex which he could only achieve in real Islam, not in the cultist “Nation of Islam.” Malik Shabazz entered the real Islam as a result of his journey to Makkah. In Islam he became moderate and conciliatory. He shed his racism.

The legacy of Malcolm X is the real Islam taught to us by the Prophet Muhammad of Arabia, not the racist cult of the “Nation of Islam,” presently lead by Louis Farrakhan and others who branched out of the old following of Elijah Muhammad. However, Elijah’s son, Wallace D. Muhammad, now known as Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, moved away from his father’s religion. He is coming to the real Islam adopted by Malik Shabazz for which Malcolm was assassinated.

ISLAMIC BROTHERHOOD

“No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and endeavour so many and so varied races of mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small community in Japan, show that Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of the East and west is to be replaced by cooperation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition.” (H.A.R. Gibb, WHITHER ISLAM, p. 379)

“The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue…” (A.J. Toynbee,CIVILIZATION ON TRIAL, New York, p. 205)

“How, for instance, can any other appeal stand against that of the Moslem who, in approaching the pagan, says to him, however obscure or degraded he may be ‘Embrace the faith, and you are at once equal and a brother.’ Islam knows no color line.” (S. S. Leeder, VEILED MYSTERIES OF EGYPT)

Stories: Why Cat Stevens Accepted Islam

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. (I didn’t find the first sentence phrased for an article, is this a speech? It is not clear for the reader, especially non-Muslims. Since these are his own words, I don’t know to what extent I have the liberty to modify them). 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 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; submission to One God (I have added the explanation of natural state) – 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 loose 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 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 (non-muslims won’t understand iblis), and face one direction. So on a Friday, after Jumma’ I went to the Imam and declared my faith (the Kalima).
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 salatà prayer (or five daily prayers). This is the process of purification.

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

– Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)

Source : Institute of Islamic Information & Education