Conversion

FROM IT GIRL TO ALLAH

By Liz Jones

Picture at left is of Kristiane Backer: “I realised I wasn’t fulfilledby that whole rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle

I didn’t start working in showbusiness because I wanted to be famous, I just wanted to live in London. I grew up in Hamburg in Germany, but the town became too small for me and I started to get itchy feet. I was working in radio when a friend saw an ad in the paper that said, if you get this job you have to move to London. I thought, fantastic! After two auditions I heard that I was to be the new presenter on MTV, and I moved here in January 1989.

It was brilliant – I was in my twenties, I lived in Notting Hill, I was the new girl in town and so I was invited everywhere, photographed by the paparazzi, the works. I met lots of famous people (everyone from Robbie Williams to Lenny Kravitz), and had a great time. I seemed to spend most of my salary on clothes. I got to travel all over Europe, always to the best places – Barcelona, Istanbul, Paris; once I even went to Boston to interview the Rolling Stones, and I went on the road with Prince for a week. I was the number-one woman on MTV and was literally on television all the time: I presented the Coca-Cola report and the European Top 20, I interviewed bands and millions of people recognised me all over Europe. At a rock concert once I stood on stage in front of 70,000 people.

My parents weren’t religious, although I suppose my background was Protestant. I was always drawn to the spiritual world, but I didn’t do anything about it. I still went out to nightclubs in the evening. But then, in 1992, I met Imran Khan (he was captain of the Pakistan cricket team, and retired in September that year after winning the World Cup).

I hadn’t met a Muslim before and I had the same prejudices as everybody else – The Satanic Verses had not long come out. So by pure chance, or destiny, I met this man who was finding his faith as a Muslim. We had a lot of discussions about Islam, he started giving me books and I began to challenge my prejudices and look behind the headlines. I read the Koran and it all started to make sense.

I was still at MTV, still finding my faith, and I realised I wasn’t fulfilled by that whole rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. I felt that what I was doing was pointless; it wasn’t a great contribution to society. They wanted me to look good on camera, but I didn’t want to be a sex symbol any more. I stopped wearing miniskirts and started wearing longer clothes on TV – of course they noticed, but they respected my beliefs. I’m shocked at how many women wear so few clothes to get into the headlines and on the front page – it’s really degrading.

As a modern westerner with a career, of course I had to look into Islam’s attitude to women – I couldn’t be oppressed all of a sudden. But I discovered that it is pro-women and pro-men; in Islam, women had the right to vote in the year 600. Men dress modestly, women dress modestly; neither should flirt with the eyes, but rather they should lower their gaze. I think it’s unhealthy to flaunt your sexuality – it attracts the wrong energy back. I try to adhere to the rules, such as no sex before marriage, so, yes, I am celibate. I don’t have a relationship at the moment but ideally I’d marry a Muslim.

I don’t cover my head in the West, except when I enter a mosque, but I pray five times a day and fast during Ramadam. I went to Mecca last year and it was wonderful, I came away feeling happy and at peace. But when I go to Pakistan of course I wear a shalwar kameez.

It’s ridiculous that in Saudi Arabia women can’t go to a football match or drive a car, but that is about chauvinism, not Islam. I was at a business meeting in Jeddah about a range of natural cosmetics that I’m developing – they combine oriental wisdom with high-tech scientific findings – and I was all in black, with my arms and legs covered, and not a hair showing, and the first thing the guy said was, “cover your face”, so I said, “excuse me, why should I?”

I’m a different person now to the one on MTV – my mother says I’m a nicer, more considerate human being. My close friends were interested in Islam, they wanted to know more, but there were some superficial acquaintances I didn’t have time for any more. I had to empty some stuff out of my life to let new things in. Muslims were happy that somebody from the West was embracing their faith. I went hiking in the mountains in Pakistan and saw very poor people who had a smile on their face and a light in their eyes that was astonishing; a taxi driver went four hours out of his way to make sure I got home safely. In the West, in my high-flying media life, people were so tight with their time and their money, they wouldn’t go out of their way to help you – they would take drugs and drink a lot but I didn’t meet many who were really happy. I used to drink champagne at parties every night, but now I don’t touch any alcohol.

After nine years in showbiz – I’m now 36 – I was at the height of my career, but it was soul destroying, I couldn’t do it any more. I decided to follow my heart and so I became a student again, and after four years of study I am now qualified as a homeopath. I’m less concerned with getting old – why can’t women age with dignity? – and now my happiness doesn’t depend on outside circumstances that I have no control over, it comes from within. Of course I still go out – I love to eat at Pasha, for example, and I go to Arum in Clerkenwell, the Muslim equivalent of the Groucho – but I’m certainly not a rock chick any more.

I was in Los Angeles on 11 September and it was very frightening being a Muslim at that time because people were very emotional, thinking that all Muslims are bad. I felt vulnerable, and I got a little bit of verbal abuse. But to kill so many civilians at work was clearly against the religion. In the US, more people are starting to find out about Islam, and they realise extremism has no place in it. People are nicer in New York now, less interested in celebrity gossip.

The fact that I was no longer with Imran Khan (they split up in 1995, the year he married Jemima Goldsmith) didn’t make me want to move away from my faith. Everyone goes through upheavals in life, but now I have a centre and somehow it softens the blows, puts things in perspective. I don’t regret any of it – we are no longer in contact, but I know he asks after me – because through him I discovered a whole new world. It was the greatest gift I ever received.

For an appointment at Kristiane’s homeopathic clinic, email kyzb13@hotmail.com

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WHY I EMBRACED ISLAM

By Maryum Jameelah (formerly Margret Marcus)

Quoted from her book “Islam and Modernism”

I trace the beginning of my interest in Islam when as a child of ten , while attending a reformed Jewish “Sunday School” , I became fascinated with the historical relationship between the Jews an the Arabs. From my Jewish textbooks, I learned that Abraham was the father of the Arabs as well as the Jews. I read how centuries later when in medieval Europe, Christian persecution made their lives intolerable, the Jews were welcomed in Muslim Spain and that it was the magnanimity if this same Arabic-Islamic civilization which stimulated Hebrew culture to reach its highest peak of achievement. Totally unaware of the true nature of Zionism, i naively thought that Jews were returning to Palestine to strengthen their close ties of kinship in religion and culture with their semitic cousins. Together i believed that the Jews and Arabs would cooperate to attain another Golden Age of culture in the Middle East.

Despite my fascination with the study of Jewish history, I was extremely unhappy at the “Sunday School”. At this time i identified strongly with the Jewish people in Europe, then suffering a horrible fate under the Nazis and I was shocked that none of my class-fellows nor their parents took their religion seriously. During the services at the synagogue, the children used to read comic strips hidden in their prayer books and laugh to scorn at the rituals. The children were so noisy and disorderly that the teachers couldn’t discipline them and found it very difficult to conduct the classes. At home the atmosphere for religious observance was scarcely more congenial. My elder sister detested the “Sunday School” so much that my mother literally had to drag her out of bed in the mornings and she never went without the struggle of tears and hot words. Finally my parents were exhausted and let her quit. On the Jewish holy days instead of attending Synagogues and fasting on Yum Kipper, my sister and i were taken out of school to picnics and gay parties in fine restaurants. When my sister and i were convinced our parents how miserable we were both at the Sunday School they joined agnostic, humanist organization known as the ETHICAL CULTURE MOVEMENT.

The Ethical Culture Movement was founded late in the 19th century by Felix Adler. While studying for the rabbinate, Felix Adler grew convinced that devotion to ethical values as relative and man-made, regarding and supernaturalism or theology as irrelevant, constituted the only religion fit for the modern world. I attended the Ethical Culture “Sunday School” each week from the age of eleven until i graduated at fifteen. Here i grew into complete accord with the ideas of the movement ad regarded all traditional, organized religions with scorn.

Throughout my adolescence i remained under the influence of humanistic philosophy until, after i began to mature intellectually and atheism no longer satisfied me, I began a renewed search for my identity. For a time i joined a bahai group in New York called the “The caravan of East and West” under the leadership of a persian by the name of Mirza Ahmed Sohrab (D.1958) who told me that he had been the secretary of Abdul Baha, one of the founders of the Bahai. Initially i was attracted to the Bahai because of its Islamic origin and its preaching about the oneness of the mankind, but when I discovered how miserably they had failed to implement this ideal, I left them a year later bitterly disillusioned. When i was eighteen years old, I became a member of the local branch of the religious Zionist youth movement known as the Mizrachi Hatzair, but when i found out what the real nature of Zionism was, which made hostility between Jews and Arabs irreconcilable, I left several months later in disgust. When I was twenty and a student in New York University , one of my elective courses was “Judaism in Islam”. My professor, Rabbi Abraham Issac Katsh, the head of the Department of Hebrew Studies there, he spared no efforts to convince his students — all Jews many of whom aspired to become Rabbis– that Islam was derived from Judaism. Our textbook, written by him * took each verse from the Quran , painstakingly tracing it to its alleged Jewish source. Although his real aim was to prove to his students the superiority of Judaism over Islam, he convinced me diametrically the opposite. I was repelled by the sub-ordination of the Hereafter, so vividly ported in the Holy Quran, to the alleged divine right of the Jews to Palestine. The Jewish God in the Old Testament and in the Jewish prayer book appeared to me distorted and degraded into some kind of real estate agent ! The fusion of Parochial nationalism with religion, I thought had spiritually impoverished Judaism beyond redemption. The rigid exclusiveness of Judaism I felt had a great deal of connection with the persecutions the Jews have suffered throughout their history. I reflected that perhaps these tragedies wouldn’t have happened if the jews had competed vigorously with other faiths for converts. I soon discovered that Zionism was merely a combination of the racist, tribalistic Judaism with modern secular nationalism. Zionism was further discredited in my eyes when i learnt that few if any of the leaders of the Zionism were observant Jews and that perhaps nowhere is orthodox, traditional Judaism regarded with such intense contempt as in Israel. When i found nearly all important Jewish leaders in America uncritical supporters of Zionism who felt not the slightest twinge of conscience because of the terrible injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs, i could no longer consider myself a Jew at heart.

One morning in November 1954, Professor Katsh during his lecture, argued with irrefutable logic that the monotheism taught my Moses (PBUH) and the Divine laws related to him at Sinai were indispensable as the basis for all higher ethical values.If morals were purely man- made as the Ethical Culture and other agnostic and atheistic philosophies taught then they could be changed at will according to mere whim, convenience or circumstance. The result would be utter chaos leading to individual and collective ruin. Belief in the Hereafter as the Rabbis in the Talmud taught, argued Prof. Katsh. was not mere wishful thinking but a moral necessity. Only those he said who firmly believed that each of us will be summoned by God on judgment Day to render a complete account of our life and rewarded or punished accordingly, will possess the self-discipline to sacrifice transitory pleasures and endure hardships and sacrifice to attain lasting good. While Prof. Katsh was lecturing thus, i was comparing in my mind what i had read in the Old Testament and the Talmud with what was taught in the Quran and Hadith and finding Judaism so defective , I was converted to Islam.

Although i wanted to become a Muslim as far back as in 1954, my family managed to argue me out of it. I was warned that Islam would complicate my life because it is not like Judaism and Christianity, part of the American scene. I was told that Islam would alienate me from my family and isolate me from the community. At that time my faith wasn’t sufficiently strong to withstand these pressures. Partly as the result of my inner turmoil, I became so ill that i had to discontinue college long before it was any time for me to graduate so that i never earned any diploma. For the next two years i remained at home under private medical care, steadily growing worse. in desperation from 1957-1959, my parents confined me both to private and public hospitals where i vowed that if i ever recovered sufficiently to be discharged i would embrace Islam.

After i was allowed to return home, I investigated all the opportunities to meet Muslims in New York City and it was my good fortune to make the acquaintance of some of the finest men and women anyone could ever hope to meet. I also began to write articles for Muslim magazines and carry on an extensive correspondence with Muslim leaders all over the world. I corresponded with the late Sheikh Abrahimi, the leader of the ulema in Algeria, Dr, Muhammad El-Bahay of Al-Azhar, Dr. Mahmud F Hoballah , then the director of the Islamic center in Washington D.C., Dr. Hameedullah of Paris, Dr. Said Ramadan, the director of the islamic center of Geneva, and Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi.

Even before i formally embraced Islam, i found the integrity of the faith in the contemporary world greatly threatened by the so-called modernist movement which aimed at adulterating its teachings with man- made philosophies and reforms. I was convinced that had these modernizes had their way , nothing of the original would be left ! As a child I had witnessed with my own eyes in my own family how the liberals had mutilated what had once been a Divinely revealed faith. Having been born a Jew and reared in a Jewish family ,i had seen how futile was the attempt to reconcile religion with atheistic environment. “Reformed Judaism” not only failed to check the cultural assimilation of the Jews i knew but actively encouraged the process. As a result they had become Jews by label only. None had any religion worthy of the name. Throughout my childhood, the intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy and superficiality of “reformed” Judaism was a vivid experience. Even at that early age i knew that such a watered down, half-hearted compromise could never hope to retain the loyalty of its members, much less their children. How dismayed i was when i found among the muslims, the same threat! How shocked i was when i found certain scholars and some political leaders within the Muslim community guilty of the identical sins for which the God in our Holy Quran has vehemently denounced the Jews! Convinced that God wouldn’t spare us from calamity and doom us to the same fate the Jews have suffered unless we sincerely repented and changed our ways, I vowed that i would devote all my literary struggle to combating this menace from within before it was too late.

Thus in his first letter to me of January 1961, Maulana Maudoodi wrote: “While i was scanning your essays. I felt as if i were reading my very own ideas. i hope your feeling will be the same when you have the opportunity to learn Urdu and study my books. And that despite the fact there has been no previous acquaintance between you and me, this mutual sympathy and unanimity in thought has resulted directly from the fact that both of us have derived our inspiration from one and the same source– Islam ”

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HOW TO BECOME A MUSLIM

This is an amended copy of “HOW TO BECOME A MUSLIM” originally prepared and published by Cooperative Office for Call and Guidance – Riyadh.

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 shaikhs 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 Hadj (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 (their selves in the hell fire).”(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 truely 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 Hadj”.

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 truely 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 oraly 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 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 Judgement (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 equisites 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 materialize 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. Aameen.

For more detailed information about Islam, please contact the office with the address given on the front page or the nearest Islamic center in your place.

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ISLAM: JUST DO IT

By: Aaron Greenwich (17)

I’m real mad. Because ever since March 3rd 1998, I’ve been searching for a point in my life. That day in March, I went to this party..you know, one of those parties with high power music rockin the house, plenty of booze and endless variations of drugs, and plenty of (well, to put it mildly) shameless girls and drunk boys equals? So I guess I smoked too many joints, and I ended up in the hospital for three weeks. That gave me time to think over life.

Okay, we are born, grow older, wiser, and each of us develops our own personalities for better or worse. We all try to reach the top of the world and either we do or we spend our lives trying to. Basically we live to have more, always.

Don’t u see? You wake up, get dressed make yourself look good, go to school come back do your homework, have some fun and to sleep. And it never changes. All right, then u graduate and go to work or raise some kids.

But it keeps repeating. U know that saying, “History repeats itself?” It does, but then we die.

Now for some reason humans spend so much time pondering over every single atom on earth except death.

I know it scares them. Why wouldn’t it? It happens to everyone and no one knows why. Well, MOST people don’t know why. But I do. You think all those d*** cruel people who lived on this earth (I can name millions) will get away with everything they did? And those few good will go un-rewarded?

So anyway we die. We leave behind everything. EVERYTHING. You think that the Porsche u spent your whole life trying to get is going with u? The only things that’re going with u are your burial clothes and coffin, if that even. And there is one other thing, but it’s unseen. Your deeds.

ALLLL the things u did in this life, good and bad, go with you. And so we’re in the grave. What happens to you in the grave is another story but basically your body rots. I mean your “this life” body. The body that we had for (if we are lucky) 80 years is gone and with it our doings!

Alright so you’re out of the picture. Gone. Then, fellow Americans, if we are not here to live life like a party….whats the point?

WHY DO WE LIVE?

Why do so many people commit suicide? Because they never had the answer to the above question. Some people know. Some. And its man’s best kept secret.

I know what your thinking. “Oh god he’s gonna preach us on religion.” Not exactly ; ) It’s a WAY OF LIFE, and what if I told u its called ISLAM? I’m Christian. But Christianty is a RELIGION not a WAY OF LIFE. 80% of Americans are “Christians”, but sad to say, look at them. Homosexuality, suicide, drugs, adultery, even among their own preachers is common. I should know.

The old pastor at my church got kicked out for molesting a child. I’m not attacking anyone. I’m saying the facts. Besides that, it doesn’t make sense. Neither do the other million “religions” found on this earth. They all claim to be simple religions, usually claiming belief in one god.

But they are lacking in on truth, the facts. Alright, Aaron get on to your point. Sure. What was my 1st sentence? I’m real mad. Why? Cause everyone knows about Islam. And they ignore it, hide it. Why did I learn everything in school except Islam? From Greek God sh** to Buddha. If u read one verse of Islam’s book you will believe me. Guaranteed. Because it is the Truth. And its man’s best-kept secret. They hide it because it reminds them of the TRUE PURE REAL point of life….They want us to be just like them, monsters in disgiuse, filthy, do every sin under the sun and call it a “life”. I will not fall again into that trap most of us fell into. I have a life. I have Islam.

I’m sorry Jean, Dad and mostly Gramps, a pious Christian who tried to change my views. Im stepping down from my old way of life AND my old religion. I started this letter as a Christian but I end it as a Muslim. ” I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the last messenger.

Always, Aaron

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ONE SISTER’S STORY

By Khadijah “Sue” Watson

Former pastor, missionary, professor. Master’s degree in Divinity Taken from Al Sabr newsletter, Kuwait. Sister Khadijah Watson is presently working as a teacher for women in one of the Dawah (invitation) centers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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

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

I went along being “prayed up”, i.e. asking Jesus for protection against demon spirits, seeing that what we had been taught about Islam is that it is a Demonic and Satanic religion. Having taught Evangelism I was quite shocked at their approach, it was direct and straightforward. No intimidation, no harrassment, no psychological manipulation, no subliminal influence! None of this, “Let’s have a Quranic study in your house”, like a counter part of the Bible study. I couldn’t believe it! They gave me some books and told me if I had any questions they were available tp answer them in the office. That night I read all of the books they gave me. It was the first time I had ever read a book about Islam written by a Muslim. We had studied and read books about Islam only written by Christians. The next day I spent three hours at the office asking questions. This went on every day for a week, by which time I had read 12 books and knew why Muslims are the hardest to convert to Christianity. Why? Because there is nothing to offer them! In Islam, there is a relationship with Allah, forgiveness of sins, salvation and promise of Eternal Life.

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

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

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

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

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

“Truly, my prayer, my servie of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God the Cherisher of the Worlds. No partner has He, this I am commanded. And I am the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam.” Holy Quran 6:162-163

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PASTOR’S WIFE CONVERTS TO ISLAM

By Habiba Adamu

Her name is Fatima Edoh, a 47-year-old Deeper Life elder. She lives in Karon-Majigi, a satellite town located along Airport Road in Abuja. On April 12, 2001, Fatima performed ablution and recited Lailaha Ila Lahu, Muhammadu Rasullullah (Salallahu Alaihi wa salam). She accepted the Islamic faith and converted to Islam.

Fatima, who hails from Togo, a small West African country, is married to a Deeper Life Pastor who hails from Benue State. With four children, Fatima said she never had any personal problem with her husband neither did she experience maltreatment form him. She was neither underfed nor uncatered for in any form. The Deeper Life elder narrated her experience to Abuja Trust thus:- “On a night, sometimes in April this year, I had a dream. It was about the calling of Adhan – the muslim call for prayer. The following night I had the same dream. After the first dream, I confided in an old muslim woman who happens to be one of my customers. She told me that the dream was a divine calling for me to become a muslim. I refuted it and left her after my second dream, I had to organise myself to embrace Islam, which I did successfully without my husband and relations’ knowledge.

When my family heard about my conversion, they were not pleased. It was bad news for my relations, friends, church members, husband and a host of others with whom I worship at the Deeper Life Church. Even my daughter who is a nurse, when I informed her, she thought that I was crazy. She went ahead as she had threatened to pack all her belongings in my house and leave me. She forsook me.”

Mallama Fatima told Abuja Trust that she was traumatised as a result of her decision to convert to Islam. She recounted further:- “It all began with my church members quarrelling with me. They warned that I was going the dangerous way. When all verbal effort to change my mind failed, enemies resorted to witchcrafts and charms. At one time, I became seriously sick. My stomach was swollen like that of a pregnant woman. In fact when I was taken to the hospital, doctors could not diagnose my ailment. Instead, I was told that it was not an hospital matter.

“I was later taken to a Mallam who wrote some verses of the Quran on a slate and rinsed it for me to drink. The Mallam prayed for me and told me that I was going to vomit through out the night. I drank it, and throughout the night, I was vomiting. When morning came, I felt strong and healthy! It was a wonderful experience.”

According to Fatima, her church members were surprised that her protruded stomach had become normal. She continued her narration: “After some period of time, another traumatic experience started. I began to see some people in my dreams with blood in their mouth. This time around, some muslim brothers and sisters in prayers joined me. That was how I overcame the problem.”

Perhaps worst than Fatima’s health problems was the fact that her father and in-law disowned her. The old woman only reacted with a lot of tears but could not change her mind. Said she, “My family members told me that I had brought shame to them by converting to a muslim. They persuaded me to reconvert to Christianity. They applied a lot of tactics. They even drew my attention to the attack on America, but I was rather angered. I told them that there is no evidence that muslims masterminded the attack for religious purpose. If you know the muslim very well, you will agree with me that they are a peace loving people.”

As far as Fatima is concerned, her conversion to Islam was a manifestation of divine calls. As expected, Fatima received a lot of assistance from muslim brothers and sisters. Her ordeals was so deep that she even had to be assisted with such things as dresses to wear and mattress to sleep on, after her daughter made away with all her belongings. But the woman had what she described as a pleasant dream. “While I was in the hospital, I had a dream that my spirit was lifted from the earth to a big building. I was ushered in by a small girl through a big gate and was welcomed by some women dressed like me in white gowns, gloves and socks. They sang some beautiful songs to me in a language quite foreign. I woke up only to find myself on the hospital bed with drips. I am also pleased to tell you that my son-in-law has converted to Islam through my influence. I believe it is gradual. Some day, we will all become muslims.

“I must tell you however, that when my son-in-law converted, I received serious warning from some people who told me that they were aware that my conversion would influence a lot of people, adding that I should be careful.

But I replied and told them that I had converted many people to Christianity when I was one. Today I am no longer a Christian, so why should they be aggrieved at that.”

Fatima, who is firm in her decision and actions further told Abuja Trust that she used to lock her door in the night for fear of physical attack from enemies. Now she is no longer afraid of them for she knows that the heaven is open for those who die in the pursuit of the course of Allah.

Mallama Fatima has since converted two other Christians to Islam, one of whom is her sister.

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FORMER PASTOR, MISSIONARY, PROFESSOR IN DIVINITY CHOOSES ISLAM!

Taken From IslamWay

Khadijah ‘Sue’ Watson – Former pastor, missionary, professor. Master’s degree in Divinity “What happened to you !” …..

This was usually the first reaction I encountered when my former classmates, friends and co-pastors saw me after having embraced Islam. I suppose I couldn’t blame them, I was a highly unlikely the person to change religions.

Formerly, I was a professor, pastor, church planter and missionary.

If anyone was a radical fundamentalist it was I. I had just graduated with my Master’s Degree of Divinity from an elite seminary five months before. It was after that time I met a lady who had worked in Saudi Arabia and had embraced Islam.

Of course I asked her about the treatment of women in Islam. I was shocked at her answer, it wasn’t what I expected so I proceeded to ask other questions relating to Allah and Muhammad (pbuh).

She informed me that she would take me to the Islamic Center where they would be better able to answer my questions. Being prayed up, meaning-asking Jesus for protection against demon spirits seeing that what we had been taught about Islam is that it is Demonic and Satanic religion.

Having taught Evangelism I was quite shocked at their approach, it was direct and straightforward. No intimidation, no harassment, no psychological manipulation, no subliminal influence! None of this, “let’s have a Qur’aanic study in your house”, like a counter part of the Bible study.

I couldn’t believe it! They gave me some books and told me if I had some questions they were available to answer them in the office. That night I read all of the books they gave. It was the first time I had ever read a book about Islam written by a Muslim, we had studied and read books about Islam only written by Christians. The next day I spent three hours at the office asking questions.

This went on everyday for a week, by which time I had read twelve books and knew why Muslims are the hardest people in the world to convert to Christianity.

Why?

Because there is nothing to offer them!! (In Islam) There is a relationship with Allah, forgiveness of sins, salvation and promise of Eternal Life. Naturally, my first question centered on the deity of Allah. Who is this Allah that the Muslims worship? We had been taught as Christians that this is another god, a false god.

When in fact He is the Omniscient-All Knowing, Omnipotent-All Powerful, and Omnipresent-All Present God. The One and Only without co-partners or co-equal.

It is interesting to note that there were bishops during the first three hundred years of the Church that were teaching as the Muslim beli eves that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet and teacher!! It was only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine that he was the one to call and introduce the doctrine of the Trinity.

He a convert to Christianity who knew nothing of this religion introduced a paganistic concept that goes back to Babylonian times. Because the space does not permit me to go into detail about the subject insha’Allah, another time.

Only I must point out that the word TRINITY is not found in the Bible in any of its many translation nor is it found in the original Greek or Hebrew languages! My other important question centered on Muhammad (pbuh).

Who is this Muhammad? I found out that Muslims do not pray to him like the Christians pray to Jesus. He is not an intermediary and in fact it is forbidden to pray to him. We ask blessing upon him at the end of our prayer but likewise we ask blessings on Abraham. He is a Prophet and a Messenger, the final and last Prophet. In fact, until now, one thousand four hundred and eighteen years (1,418) later there has been no prophet after him.

His message is for All Mankind as opposed to the message of Jesus or Moses (peace be upon them both) which was sent to the Jews. “Hear O Israel” But the message is the same message of Allah. “The Lord Your God is One God and you shall have no other gods before Me.”(Mark 12:29).

Because prayer was a very important part of my Christian life I was both interested and curious to know what the Muslims were praying.. As Christians we were as ignorant on this aspect of Muslim belief as on the other aspects.

We thought and were taught, that the Muslims were bowing down to the Ka’bah (in Mecca), that that was there god and center point of this false deity. Again, I was shocked to learn that the manner of prayer is prescribed by God, Himself.

The words of the prayer are one of praise and exaltation. The approach to prayer (ablution or washing) in cleanliness is under the direction of Allah. He is a Holy God and it is not for us to approach Him in an arbitrary manner but only reasonable that He should tell us how we should approach Him. At the end of that week after having spent eight (8) years of formal theological studies I knew cognitively (head knowledge) that Islam was true. But I did not embrace Islam at that time because I did not believe it in my heart. I continued to pray, to read the Bible, to attend lectures at the Islamic Center.

I was in earnest asking and seeking God’s direction. It is not easy to change your religion. I did not want to loose my salvation if there was salvation to loose. I continued to be shocked and amazed at what I was learning because it was not what I was taught that Islam believed.

In my Master’s level, the professor I had was respected as an authority on Islam yet his teaching and that of Christianity in general is full of Misunderstanding. He and many Christians like him are sincere but they are sincerely wrong.

Two months later after having once again prayed seeking God’s direction, I felt something drop into my being! I sat up, and it was the first time I was to use the name of Allah, and I said, “Allah, I believe you are the One and Only True God.” There was peace that descended upon me and from that day four years ago until now I have never regretted embracing Islam. This decision did not come without trial.

I was fired from my job as I was teaching in two Bible Colleges at that time , ostracized by my former classmates, professors and co-pastors, disowned by my husband’s family, misunderstood by my adult children and made a suspicion by my own government. Without the faith that enables man to stand up to Satanic forces I would not ha ve been able to withstand all of this. I am ever so grateful to Allah that I am a Muslim and may I live and die a Muslim. “Truly, my prayer, my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God the Cherisher of the Worlds. No partner has He, this I am commanded. And I am the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam.” (Holy Qur’aan 6:162-163)

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

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QUR’AN WINS HEART OF U.S. PROFESSOR

By Ammar Bakkar, Arab News

Dr. Jeffrey Lang is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, one of the biggest universities in the United States. He started his religious journey on Jan 30, 1954, when he was born in a Roman Catholic family in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The first 18 years of his life were spent in Catholic schools, which left him with many unanswered questions about God and the Christian religion, Lang said, as he narrated his story of Islam. “Like most kids back in the late 60s and early 70s, I started questioning all the values that we had at those times, political, social and religious,” Lang said. “I rebelled against all the institutions that society held sacred including the Catholic Church,” he said.

By the time he reached the age of 18, Lang had become a full-fledged atheist. “If there is a God, and he is all merciful and all loving, then why is there suffering on this earth? Why does not He just take us to heaven? Why create all these people to suffer?” Such were the questions that came up in his mind in those days.

As a young lecturer in mathematics at San Francisco University, Lang found his religion where God is finally a reality. That was shown to him by a few of the Muslim friends he had met at the university. “We talked about religion. I asked them my questions, and I was really surprised by how carefully they had thought out their answers,” Lang said.

Dr. Lang met Mahmoud Qandeel, a regal looking Saudi student who attracted the attention of the entire class the moment he walked in. When Lang asked a question about medical research, Qandeel answered the question in perfect English and with great self assurance. Everyone knew Qandeel-the mayor, the police chief and the common people. Together the professor and the student went to all the glittering places where “there was no joy or happiness, only laughter.” Yet at the end Qandeel surprisingly gave him a copy of the Qur’an and some books on Islam. Lang read the Qur’an on his own, found his way to the student-run prayer hall at the university, and basically surrendered without much struggle. He was conquered by the Qur’an. The first two chapters are an account of that encounter and it is a fascinating one.

“Painters can make the eyes of a portrait appear to be following you from one place to another, but which author can write a scripture that anticipates your daily vicissitudes?… Each night I would formulate questions and objections and somehow discover the answer the next day. It seemed that the author was reading my ideas and writing in the appropriate lines in time for my next reading. I have met myself in its pages…”

Lang performs the daily five-time prayers regularly and finds much spiritual satisfaction. He finds the Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer as one of the most beautiful and moving rituals in Islam. “It is as if you temporarily leave this world and communicate with the angels in singing God’s praises before dawn.”

To the question how he finds it so captivating when the recitation of the Qur’an is in Arabic, which is totally foreign to him, he responds; “Why is a baby comforted by his mother’s voice?” He said reading the Qur’an gave him a great deal of comfort and strength in difficult times. From there on, faith was a matter of practice for Lang’s spiritual growth.

On the other hand, Lang pursued a career in mathematics. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University. Lang said that he had always been fascinated by mathematics. “Maths is logical. It consists of using facts and figures to find concrete answers,” Lang said. “That is the way my mind works, and it is frustrating when I deal with things that do not have concrete answerers.” Having a mind that accepts ideas on their factual merit makes believing in a religion difficult because most religions require acceptance by faith, he said. The Muslim religion appeals to man’s reasoning, he said.

As faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association, Lang said he viewed himself as the liaison between the student and their universities. He gets approval from university authorities to hold Islamic lectures. “The object of being their faculty advisor is to help them get their needs met as far as adjusting to the American culture and to procedures of the university. They appreciate the opportunity to have misconceptions corrected,” he said.

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HOW DO I TELL MY PARENTS AND FAMILY I HAVE BECOME MUSLIM

Copyright, 1998-2001, Saraji Umm Zaid

American convert Saraji Umm Zaid offers practical advice for the new Muslim on this sensitive issue. (Addressed primarily to females, but mostly relevant to both sexes.)

This is probably the hardest thing you will have to do as a new Muslim. For many people, it poses the prospect of opening up old wounds, risking hurt feelings on both sides, and threatens to rip apart familial relationships. For others, they know that they will be accepted by their parents, siblings, and other family members unconditionally. Mash’Allah. For teenagers, my advice would be different than advice that I would offer to an adult, especially one who is living on their own, and may already be married. Insha’Allah, I will address the concerns of young people who still live at home first.

Advice for Teenagers

Oftentimes, this is a situation which is best handled with care. There are no exact directions that I can offer to you, because how you and your family deal with this is based on a number of things: your age, your community, your relationship with your family, your previous religious experiences, your parents’ commitment (or lack of) to a certain religion, and their willingness to explore new ideas.

Although it seems like a wacky idea, it has been said by other converts, and now by myself as well, that it oftentimes might be better to wait six months, a year or more to tell them. The reasons for this vary: you need to be more established in Islamic practices, and you need time to make friends and build a support system within the Muslim community. This is so that if your parents react to your announcement by attempting to “deprogram you,” or schedule “an appointment” with the local minister / priest / rabbi, you will be able to rely on your knowledge of Qur’an, and the strength that being a practicing Muslim has given you. Allowing yourself time to build a support system within the Muslim community is important so that you will have friends to help and guide you, to help answer any questions or concerns your family might have, and to help you out should your parents decide that you can no longer live in their house.

If you are fearful that your family may react with physical abuse, or a kidnapping and “deprogramming” attempt (yes, it happens), please make sure that you have someone there as a witness and support. Whether you are Muslim or not, you have the right not to be abused. If your family is abusive towards you, seek the necessary help to get out of that situation as soon as possible.

Another reason that it might be wise to wait awhile is to allow your parents to see the positive changes that Islam will bring about in you: greater care to hygiene and appearance, greater discipline in your daily activities and your schoolwork, the fact that you are not falling under negative peer pressure to drink or drug or have sex, that you are more willing to honor your parents by helping around the house, that you are more attentive in your job (if you have one), etc. Allow them time to be pleased with these positive changes, so that they may see that Islam is for the better, not just for you, but for all people. If they see that Islam is “good for you,” they may react more positively when you talk with them about it.

For adults

As an adult, especially one who lives on their own, and who may be married, your parents and family are already aware that you are entitled to your own decisions. There are some converts who are not bothered one way or the other with the way their family may react because of this reality. However, for many others, it is important to them that their family respect and accept their decision. It may be difficult, especially if there are children or a disliked son-in-law involved.

An adult who’s chosen Islam has to make some of the same considerations as the teen who’s accepted Islam: What is your relationship with your family? What is their religious commitment, or lack of one? What degree of commitment did you have to any prior religions? How open is your family to new ideas? For the adult, some of the considerations may also include: How do your parents feel about your husband? Do your parents have a history of making you feel obliged to them for favors they have done for you since you left their house? How close are your parents to your children, if any?

Since you don’t live with your parents, it will be easier to allow them the space and time that they need to deal with your announcement. Make sure that you emphasize that this hasn’t changed you in any radical way, and that you strongly desire to keep your relationship with them intact. Make sure that they have access to their grandchildren, but at the same time, make it clear to them that you will not tolerate any attempts to teach them anything other than Islam, or allow them to eat haram foods or participate in haram celebrations. In some cases, it might be better if you tell them of your decision alone, so that they can’t “lash out” or place the blame on your husband. Make sure that they know they must deal with you directly.

Dealing with brothers and sisters (of the biological type)

Many of us have at least one sibling, and it is important that you deal with any siblings you may have on an individual basis, if at all possible. If you are a teenager, this means talking to younger and older siblings in person, and letting them ask any questions of you that they may have. Let them know you are the same person who may argue about whose night it is to do the dishes, and that you are still their brother or sister. Stress that you still love them, especially if they are very young, and unable to understand why you don’t go to Church anymore. Above all, make sure that you are acting as a proper role model for both your younger and older brothers and sisters.

If you are an adult, the chances are that you and your siblings have “issues” is great, and you may not even be on speaking terms. There is also a larger chance that you all live in different towns and states. When dealing with adult siblings, it is best to write them a letter or make a telephone call in which you can clearly explain your decision and answer any questions they may have. Prepare yourself for resentments that may pop up, especially those surrounding childhood incidents.

Don’t begrudge them for their hurt feelings, and if necessary, allow them time to work through any issues that they may have: it may go deeper than your choice to become a Muslim. Assure them that you are still the same sister who loves to eat cheesecake, or watch football games.

If you are not on civil or speaking terms with a sibling, it may be best to avoid telling them your decision altogether, until you can come to a mutual understanding as family members.

For all new Muslims

The most important thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is that you do not allow yourself to get dragged into a “Christianity vs. Islam,” “Judaism vs. Islam,” “Hinduism vs. Islam,” or any sort of interfaith debate with your parents or other family members. Oftentimes, I have heard of new Muslims whose parents or siblings are in the Christian ministry, and who have been baited, taunted, and condemned by them. DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO DRAG YOU INTO A CONFLICT REGARDING RELIGION AT ALL. If a family member hurls a “judgment” at you (i.e., “You’re a Satan worshipper who’s going to hell!”), do NOT respond in kind! If your relationship outside of this religious difference is salvageable, then avoid any religious discussions until everyone is willing to discuss it in a more open minded and civilized manner.

The second most important thing is that you do not allow yourself to become an active evangelizer. Avoid aggressive and continuous attempts to convert your family members, as this will only bring resentment and separation between you. The call to Islam should be a gentle call, and the best way to give da’wa to your family is to be a living example of Islam. People can get awfully stubborn when they are confronted in this manner, and they will only dig their heels in more. Do not be the cause of great tension between yourself and your family.

Finally, do not allow yourself to be baited or upset by any “anti-Islamic” things your parents and family might say. Many Americans (and Canadians) hear of Islam only from news reports and movies like ‘Not Without My Daughter.’ Don’t allow them to mock you with jeers of “terrorist,” “wife beater,” and reply with slogans about “Zionists,” and “hypocrites,” etc. Instead, gently correct any misconceptions they may have about Islam and Muslims. If you are a woman, it is important to reassure them of your rights in Islam, and of your commitment to wear Islamic dress. If they have some very real concerns about your safety as a Muslim woman, try and arrange for them to visit the mosque and talk to the imam / amir, or to get together for coffee with other Muslim sisters.

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AMERICAN BY BIRTH MUSLIM BY CHOICE: TWO FEMALE CONVERTS EXPLAIN WHY THEY FEEL LIBERATED BY ISLAM

By Katherine Millett

Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, struggling to understand mysteries of Muslim culture that had suddenly become frightening and dark, I picked up the phone and called Seema Imam, an American woman who had converted to Islam. She had made a strong impression on me two years earlier, when I listened to her tell a civil rights conference about the discrimination she felt after she left her family farm in central Illinois, became a Muslim and married a man from Pakistan. She wears hijab, the head scarf and robe that cover all but the face and hands. People who see her in the street sometimes yell, “Go back home.” The day after the terrorist attacks, a man spat at her in her neighborhood. Recently, she has been pinning an American flag on her clothes.

She agreed to explain to me why a woman born in America, free to choose the way she wants to live, would convert to Islam, a religion that appears to treat women as inferior to men. Even if Muslim women in America lead less oppressive lives than they could in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, where a woman may be thrashed for letting her veil slip in public, or for walking to the drugstore at night without a male escort, they live by a far more strict set of rules than most of their neighbors. Why would they choose to limit their choices in dress and marriage, never again to socialize with men, run on the beach or drink a beer?

Imam’s surprising answer, echoed by Elizabeth Martin, a convert who grew up Catholic in the Beverly neighborhood, is that Islam is a religion that makes sense to her and a social system that actually “liberates” her from what she experienced as sexism in mainstream culture.

“Family and religion are very strong in Islam,” says Imam, 48. “Women are valued for who they are, for what they contribute, not just their physical attributes. I look at American women’s clothes, and the advertising that exploits them, and I think mainstream culture is very hard on women.”

Adds Martin: “Western women don’t realize how deep misogyny goes in their culture. The whole dating system needs a revolution. Men here have it made. They get fun and games, and if a woman gets pregnant, they tell her to get an abortion or raise the baby herself. As a Muslim woman, I have dignity and freedom. The Koran says very clearly that men and women are spiritually equal, and that they fulfill each other as partners.”

Imam and Martin, 39, are among a growing number of women converts to Islam, according to the Institute of Islamic Information and Education in Chicago. Mary Ali, the institute’s co-director and herself a convert who grew up in Iowa, says she does not know exact numbers for the Chicago area, but estimates that between 50,000 and 60,000 of local Muslim converts are African-American, and that Caucasians and Hispanics are converting at an increasing rate. The institute says there are about 350,000 to 400,000 Muslims in the Chicago area.

Imam began life as Martha Crandall, one of five children in a family that raised soybeans in Cerro Gordo, a farming town of about 1,500 people east of Decatur. When I saw her two years ago addressing the civil rights conference about anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., her appearance struck me as incongruous. Her healthy, farm-girl face, round and friendly, seemed constrained by the scarf wrapped tightly around her head and fastened under her chin with a silver pin. She wore glasses and a long, somber dress, decorated with a little embroidery. It loosely covered her, all the way to her ankles and wrists.

Yet wearing hijab could not disguise her obvious intelligence or her confident personality–two resources that she drew on heavily the morning of Sept. 11. At 10 a.m., she had to walk into a classroom at National-Louis University in Wheaton, face the three professors on her doctoral committee, and present the topic she had been studying for three years to earn her PhD in education: discrimination against Muslims in American society and public schools.

She later described the experience as “surreal.” Hijacked airplanes had just crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and media reports were naming Muslim militants as suspects. As the towers collapsed and the Pentagon burned, Imam stuck to her thesis–that negative attitudes among teachers are fed by a “terrorist icon” in American culture, and that it unfairly brands all Muslims as terrorists. Teachers should respect the cultural and religious differences of their Muslim students, she said. They should help Muslim girls feel comfortable wearing hijab in the classroom, and should tell their classes about the Islamic fast of Ramadan and the winter holiday of Eid, just as they teach about Christmas and Hanukkah.

“We didn’t talk about what was happening until we finished discussing the dissertation,” says Imam, who recently was granted her degree. “It was so horrible. While I was at home, getting ready to leave for my meeting, I saw the second plane crash, live on television. First I thought of all those innocent people dying, and their families. Then I thought of what this would do to us as Muslims. I knew we’d be blamed, just as we were at first for the Oklahoma City bombing.”

For several days after the Sept. 11 attacks, many of the Muslim women she knows stayed inside, afraid to be seen in public. Far more easily recognized as Muslims than men, they feared insults and violence and did not want to risk exposure by standing at bus stops or taking public transportation. When they finally left their houses, they traveled in pairs.

Near the mosque Imam attends on West 93rd Street in Bridgeview, which serves a predominantly Arab population of Muslim families in the southwest suburbs, hundreds of non-Muslim demonstrators had gathered several nights in a row to stage demonstrations she describes as “ominous, with squealing tires and lots of commotion.”

About a week later, Imam invited me to visit her at home in Hickory Hills, to talk about what she calls “the joys of being free and Islamic,” and to introduce me to Elizabeth Martin, who also attends the Bridgeview mosque.

American flags waved conspicuously from three out of every four front porches in her neighborhood of split-level houses and trim lawns. She greeted me at the door and smiled tactfully when I walked in and stepped on her prayer rug. She quietly rolled it up and moved it to a safer place, then showed me into her comfortable living room where framed verses of the Koran, rendered in elegant calligraphy, hung on the walls.

As we sat down, I asked her whether she ever took off her hijab, either to fend off negative reactions after the attacks or simply to relax in her old way of life.

“No! No way!” she said adamantly. “I make a daily choice to wear hijab, and really, I have never regretted it. I think many Muslim women feel as I do, that a woman’s power is in her modesty.”

Yet she acknowledges that looking different from virtually all the people she works and transacts business with can be painful. She considers the challenge especially great for young women, who feel pressures to fit in socially at school. “It’s hard on anyone, unless your faith is strong.”

When Imam first encountered Islam, 30 years ago, “it attracted me like a magnet,” she says. She had started college at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, and for the first time in her life, she met people from the larger world. In Cerro Gordo, she had never known African-Americans, Jews or even Catholics, let alone Muslims. She had been brought up devoutly in the Methodist Church.. She played the organ on Sundays and went to Sunday school and vacation Bible school. But when she got to college and met students from foreign countries, especially Muslim students, everything changed.

“It was Ramadan, and I saw how disciplined and structured the religion was. The Muslim students were fasting every day, so the international student club met after dark, when they could all eat together. That impressed me.” For the first five months of her freshman year, she studied the Koran on her own. At the end of the year, she converted to Islam.

The next year, she married a Muslim man, who she says was concerned about breaking custom by not marrying a woman chosen by his parents. Muslims often marry without ever having talked to each other, although both partners must agree to the arrangement. Imam’s first marriage ended in divorce after her husband returned to Pakistan due to illness, and she has since remarried.

Attracted to the theology of Islam, she also welcomed its discipline as an antidote to some of the things that had disillusioned her as a teenager in Cerro Gordo. “This was the same God I had grown up with in the cornfields of Illinois, but in Islam it was much more than a Sunday God. I liked the daily practice of prayer.

“I also liked the dedication Muslims have to their religion as a way of life. In the town where I grew up, the grownups told us we should respect other people, but if a black person came to town, they would not let him stay overnight.”

Imam also recalls her shock when she saw one of her teachers, a man Imam particularly admired, snuggling at a shopping mall food court with a girl less than half his age. “I knew his wife and kids, and I knew what he was doing was wrong.”

She practiced the religion privately for several years and continued to appear in public as a typical college student and young wife. Inwardly, she says, she felt tremendous relief, a sense of having escaped the self-conscious turmoil of her high school years. She had hated her timid forays into the dating scene.

“There is a certain ‘petiteness’ that is required,” she says, her blue eyes laughing behind her wire-rimmed glasses, “that is very hard on a lot of girls. They have to be thin, they have to dress in such a way that they can give themselves–to whom, for what? One of the things I felt when I converted was relief that I would never again have to shop for a strapless dress or a swimsuit.

“Besides,” she adds, “I haven’t had a bad hair day since I started wearing hijab.”

Though it may have certain advantages, the veiling of women is one of the things about Islam that non-Muslim American women generally find hardest to accept, according to Jane Crosthwaite, head of the department of religion at Mt. Holyoke College.”Requiring women to be veiled is a way of erasing them from the landscape,” says Crosthwaite. “The idea behind it seems to be that since men can’t control themselves, they veil the thing they most desire.”

Muslims observe a strict division between the sexes in the mosque, at school and in social settings. One of Muhammad’s most-quoted sayings is, “When a man and woman are alone together, Satan is their third.”

Islam is not the only religion that trembles at the power of sex, Crosthwaite notes. “All religious traditions organize gender relations. The American Shakers may have chosen the most extreme model by vowing to remain celibate, but many religions, including Judaism and Christianity, have separated the sexes for worship.”

Dating is generally prohibited for all Muslim young people, even in the U.S. “We have marriage first, love later,” explains Abdul Hadeem Dogar, director of the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park. “Marriage is an obligation in Islam for men and women. It is more important than in Christianity, perhaps because Jesus did not marry.” Muhammad, whose life is considered exemplary, had nine wives at various times during his 62 years.

Once married, Dogar says, a Muslim woman generally is expected to have children, take care of them and not work outside the home. Exceptions are made for women to become doctors and teachers so they can attend to other women, though these exceptions appear to be aimed at serving the community–and perpetuating gender segregation–more than at fulfilling the desire of any particular woman to develop herself professionally.

Western women who convert to Islam often consider this closely structured way of life more appealing than the kind of freedom they find in mainstream society, says Crosthwaite. “Some people get tired of having to negotiate for everything in life, for their space, their financial security and their sexual identity. Having these things settled for them by religious beliefs may free them to do other things with their energies. But they should be aware that there are opportunities as well as dangers they are veiling. They are still part of the real world, with all its ambivalence.”

Imam has directed her energies both inside and outside the home. She and her second husband, Syed Shahab Imam, have raised seven children. He works for the Illinois Department of Transportation; she teaches teachers at National-Louis University, supervises her student teachers in several public school systems, advocates for civil rights as a founding member of a local non-profit organization, Muslim Americans for Civil Rights and Legal Defense, and somehow finds time to home-school her youngest son, Ibrahim, a polite, energetic 2nd grader.

She readily concedes that Muslim women in America can do things–get an education, work outside the home, travel freely–prohibited for women in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, a point emphasized by others familiar with how Islam is practiced around the world.

“It is important to recognize that American converts live a particular expression of Islam,” says Crosthwaite. “They may want to purify themselves from aspects of our society that bother them, but they still have the advantages of living in this society.”

Imam interrupted our interview at noon and summoned Ibrahim to drive to the mosque for Friday prayer. Because of the recent attacks, Chicago police officers were directing traffic around the brick building, which is flanked by two Muslim schools. Imam was the first principal for Universal School, where girls and boys are educated together only until 4th grade; thereafter, classrooms are segregated.

At the front of the mosque, we waved goodbye to Ibrahim. He ran up a flight of concrete steps and disappeared into the main sanctuary, the men’s prayer room. I followed Imam around a corner and down some stairs to the women’s prayer room in the basement. It is a former school classroom with an orange carpet, fluorescent lights and lines of tape on the floor to orient the rows of women east toward Mecca.

There were dozens of women inside. I was the only one with an uncovered head. A few of the women greeted Imam and ignored me. Others smiled warmly at me but seemed surprised when I tried to shake hands. Their grasp felt timid, or at least unaccustomed. I later learned that Muslim women are permitted to shake hands with other women, but they seldom do. They are strictly forbidden to shake hands with men.

The Bridgeview congregation has grown rapidly, and between 400 and 600 women pray together on an average Friday. The noon prayer has been split into two services, which the women follow by responding, unheard, to the image of their male leader on a television monitor. He is upstairs, leading the men.

Imam is untroubled by the segregation of the sexes, and says she often prefers it in social situations. When families entertain, the women and men get together in different parts of the house. Imam says the privacy of this arrangement makes women more open and confident than they feel in the company of men. “It’s not that different from the way men and women split up for Monday night football,” she says. Families often buy two-flats or rent adjoining apartments so that men and women can spend their days separately.

Her decision to convert has not been without cost. She was estranged from her parents as well as her four brothers and sisters for 14 years after she made her pilgrimage to Mecca in 1978 and started wearing hijab. Now she is reconciled with her family, but she knows that her decision hurt them initially, which was painful for her as well.

“It was something I needed to do,” she says.

Upon meeting Elizabeth Martin, a vivacious and amusing woman who lives in Oak Lawn, I immediately feel old. She asks me if I remember the ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment that almost became part of the U.S. Constitution in the 1970s and would have guaranteed equal rights for women.

“Well, I used to wear an ERA bracelet,” she says, moving the sleeve of her long dress to reveal her wrist. “I was a feminist, and I still am.” Martin, who kept her name when she married Amer Haleem, in accordance with Saudi Arabian custom, schools their eight children at home. Martin does not work outside the home, but she regularly encounters Muslim and non-Muslim men in the course of community work and business transactions.

“Dealing with men while wearing hijab is a real kick,” she says. “I encourage all women to try it. When you’re talking with a man and you give him, up front and in his face, the message that you are a modest and serious person, then he must deal with your thoughts, and not the wonders of his macho-ness.

“As for the ‘liberated’ American woman, do you mean some chick in a two-inch skirt, spine-deforming spike heels, a masked face and a coifed head that cost her oodles in money and more in precious time? If she wants to tell me I’m dressing for men–well, I would humbly disagree with the choices she has made.

“Let’s face it,” says Martin, “if a woman in mainstream society is not willing to sleep around with a series of guys–men who are obligated to demonstrate little, if any, concern for her self and her future–then she will have a hard time finding a husband. Islam really forces men to be responsible for and committed to the women in their lives. This is something some feminists may scoff at, but for me personally, it’s been a great blessing.”

She acknowledges that a Muslim man can divorce his wife merely by saying, “I divorce you” three times, and he is virtually guaranteed legal custody of the children because he is financially responsible for them under Islamic law. Martin cites this as a major problem for women, although she points out that because of the rule, Muslim men probably are less likely than others to shirk their duty to their children after divorce.

Islamic law also requires men to pay dowries to their wives. The first payment may take the form of a wedding gift–a valuable piece of jewelry, for example–but if the couple divorces, a second payment, agreed upon before the marriage, serves as “insurance” for the wife. Dowries of $100,000 are not uncommon among local professionals, says Martin, and $20,000 would be a typical dowry for a working-class couple.

Martin grew up Catholic in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago, graduating from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School. Martin’s identity had always been tied to her parish and to the larger Catholic communities of Beverly and the Christian faithful worldwide. Yet within a few months of starting college, she left both Beverly and Rome. At Richard J. Daley Community College she fell under the spell of an evangelical Protestant group, the Campus Crusade for Christ.

“I knew that I wanted to be a worshiper,” she says, “and what appealed to me was the personal commitment to God that I saw in these students. They had very immediate relationships with God. Catholicism seemed rigid and ritualistic in comparison. Pretty soon, I wanted to save everybody.”

Martin became especially concerned about saving the soul of Amer Haleem, a Saudi man and an older student who had recently been discharged from the Navy.. They met in a philosophy course. “We were talking about existentialism, and he and I were the two that ended up arguing for a religious point of view,” Martin says. “Religion was extremely important to both of us, but he was Muslim and I was Christian. So I asked him if he had ever read the Bible, and he said, ‘Have you ever read the Koran?’ ” She is now married to Haleem, with whom she has raised eight children.

Martin says she was drawn to Islam for several reasons. Its “rock- solid” theology made more sense to her than some Christian teachings. She says she “never really understood the Trinity” and wanted to worship one God. In addition, she was attracted to Islam’s concept of individual accountability, which calls on Muslims to earn entrance to heaven by submitting to God’s will on Earth. She contrasts this with the Christian idea that “Jesus died for your sins,” which to her implies salvation through the act of another. Moreover, she notes that the Koran was written after the Bible, and thinks that to believe only the Bible is to ignore the final scriptural revelation from God.

Martin’s theological reasons for converting to Islam are fairly typical of people coming from Christian backgrounds, according to Karen Armstrong, a former nun who has written extensively about Islam, Christianity and Judaism. As Armstrong noted in “The History of God,” the divinity of Jesus is a problematic concept for many people, in part because it tends to encapsulate the “word of God” in his life and preclude the validity of the later Koran as scripture.

After she converted, Martin spent six painful years out of communication with her family in Beverly. “My sisters thought I was ruining my life when I converted,” she says, “but now they think I made the right choice. They wonder how I managed to raise my kids the way I did. They say my children are polite and respectful, and I guess that isn’t so common anymore.”

Martin acknowledges, somewhat reluctantly, that Muslim family life is not perfect. For example, domestic violence is a major problem among Muslims here as well as abroad, she says.

“Muslims almost never completely live up to Islam,” she says. “It runs the full gamut, from people who are dedicated to the religion to those who abuse its privileges. I see racism too. Muslims suffer from all the same diseases as the rest of society.”

But Martin has no regrets about her decision to convert, and does not feel that being a Muslim woman is depriving her of a satisfying social life. She recently gave a party for her oldest child, a girl of 18, who was moving away from home. “I had a big group, about 60 women and girls. A lot of them wore elegant clothes, makeup and styled their hair. As long as men will not be present, we don’t have to wear hijab.

“I can’t tell you how pleased all the non-Muslim women in my family were. They said they had never had so much fun at a party. I can’t say we miss anything by not partying with the guys. Frankly, I like not having the burden of making conversation with my husband’s friends. Men tend to dominate social groups, and women act so differently when they’re not around.”

Islam and gender roles

Rules for living an Islamic life come from two sources: the Koran and the Sharia.

The Koran is believed to be the literal word of God, recited to the prophet Muhammad, recorded in a book about the length of the New Testament of the Bible. Many Muslims commit the Koran to memory. Sharia is the “common law” of Islam based on religious principles that derive from the life of Muhammad, the last messenger of God and a mortal filled with divine knowledge and an exemplary sense of morality. His words and actions were recorded by various people in a text known as the hadith. Some sources of hadith are considered more reliable than others.

Sharia interprets both the Koran and hadith. A kind of “common law,” it fills shelves of books with a code of rules, analysis and commentary. Different governments may find support for their laws and policies in different provisions of sharia.

The Sharia includes these rules governing gender roles:

Muslim women should stay home as much as practicable, depending on their economic circumstances and the norms of their surrounding society.

The husband is the head of the household. He may consult his wife, but final decisions rest with him alone.

A husband must support his wife financially, even if she is a millionaire, in return for which she obeys him.

Men are obligated to support the unmarried women in their families.

To avoid tempting men beyond the limits of their self-control, which Islam sets at a lower threshold than mainstream American culture, women cover themselves in public. From the age of 10 or 12, they wear loose clothing and head scarves except when they are at home, in the exclusive company of immediate family.

Men and women do not mix in social or educational settings after age 10. They pray in different parts of the mosque and gather in different parts of private residences.

A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but a Muslim woman cannot marry outside the faith.

Marriages can be quickly performed in the presence of witnesses. The man and woman need only declare publicly that they are husband and wife.

A man has the right to divorce his wife by saying, three times, not in anger, “I divorce you.”

A woman can separate herself from her husband, but she must have the assistance of men in official positions to dissolve her marriage.

A woman receives a dowry from her husband when she marries, and she can keep it even if the marriage dissolves.

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A WAVE OF CONVERSION TO ISLAM IN THE U.S. FOLLOWING SEPTEMBER 11

Excerpts from “Muslim American Leaders: A Wave of Conversion to Islam in the U.S. Following September 11”

© Middle East Media & Research Institute

Surah Maryam 019.058: Those were some of the prophets on whom Allah did bestow His Grace,- of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears. [Webmaster’s submission]

Muslim American reports in the Arab press indicate that Muslim proselytizing efforts have been unusually successful since the September 11 attacks. ‘Alaa Bayumi, Director of Arab Affairs at the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote in the London daily Al-Hayat that “non-Muslim Americans are now interested in getting to know Islam. There are a number of signs…: Libraries have run out of books on Islam and the Middle East… English translations of the Koran head the American best-seller list… The Americans are showing increasing willingness to convert to Islam since September 11… Thousands of non-Muslim Americans have responded to invitations to visit mosques, resembling the waves of the sea [crashing on the shore] one after another… All this is happening in a political atmosphere that, at least verbally, encourages non-Muslim Americans’ openness towards Muslims in America and in the Islamic world, as the American president has said many times in his speeches…”(1)

CAIR chairman Nihad Awad told the Saudi paper ‘Ukaz that “34,000 Americans have converted to Islam following the events of September 11, and this is the highest rate reached in the U.S. since Islam arrived there.”(2)

According to Dr. Walid A. Fatihi, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston has recently become a center of Islamic proselytizing aimed at Christians. On September 22, 2001, Al-Fatihi sent a letter to the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, in which he described the unfolding of events since September 11: “…From the first day, the media began to insinuate that Muslim Arab hands were behind this incident. At noon, the directors and administration of the Islamic Center of Boston held an emergency meeting, and I stayed on the line with them from my clinic. We decided to hold a blood drive, and we set up a committee to contact the Red Cross and organize it for us. We invited the media to cover the event…”

“All of us tried to grab onto every scrap of information that would indicate that Muslim Arab hands were not involved in the loathsome crime. Yes, my brothers and sisters, we tried to prove our humanity on the day we found ourselves attacked from all sides. Our hearts bled and our spokesman said that proselytizing in the name of Allah had been set back 50 years in the U.S. and in the entire world…”

“On Saturday, September 15, I went with my wife and children to the biggest church in Boston, [Trinity Church in] Copley Square, by official invitation of the Islamic Society of Boston, to represent Islam by special invitation of the senators of Boston. Present were the mayor of Boston, his wife, and the heads of the universities. There were more than 1,000 people there, with media coverage by one of Boston’s main television stations. We were received like ambassadors. I sat with my wife and children in the front row, next to the mayor’s wife. In his sermon, the priest defended Islam as a monotheistic religion, telling the audience that I represented the Islamic Society of Boston.”

“After the sermon was over, he stood at my side as I read an official statement issued by the leading Muslim clerics condemning the incident [i.e. the attacks]. The statement explained Islam’s stance and principles, and its sublime precepts. Afterwards, I read Koran verses translated into English… These were moments that I will never forget, because the entire church burst into tears upon hearing the passages of the words of Allah!!”

“Emotion swept over us. One said to me: ‘I do not understand the Arabic language, but there is no doubt that the things you said are the words of Allah.’ As she left the church weeping, a woman put a piece of paper in my hand; on the paper was written: ‘Forgive us for our past and for our present. Keep proselytizing to us.’ Another man stood at the entrance of the church, his eyes teary, and said, ‘You are just like us; no, you are better than us.'” (3)

“On Sunday, September 16, the Islamic Society of Boston issued an open invitation to the Islamic Center in Cambridge, located between Harvard and MIT. We did not expect more than 100 people, but to our surprise more than 1,000 people came, among them the neighbors, the university lecturers, members of the clergy, and even the leaders of the priests from the nearby churches, who invited us to speak on Islam. All expressed solidarity with Muslims. Many questions flowed to us. Everyone wanted to know about Islam and to understand its precepts.”

“Of all the questions, not a single one attacked me; on the contrary, we saw [the people’s] eyes filling with tears when they heard about Islam and its sublime principles. Many of them had never heard about Islam before. Well, they had heard about Islam only through the biased media. That same day, I was invited again to participate in a meeting in the church, and again I saw the same things. On Thursday, a delegation of 300 students and lecturers from Harvard visited the center of the Islamic Society of Boston, accompanied by the American Ambassador to Vienna. They sat on the floor of the mosque, which was filled to capacity. We explained to them the precepts of Islam, and defended it from any suspicions [promulgated in the media]. I again read to them from the verses of Allah, and [their] eyes filled with tears. The audience was moved, and many asked to participate in the weekly lessons for non-Muslims held by the Islamic Center…”

“On Friday, September 21, the Muslims participated in a closed meeting with the governor of Massachusetts. In the meeting, a discussion was held on introducing Islam into the school curriculum, to inform the [American] people and to fight racism against Muslims arising from the American people’s ignorance regarding the religion. With the governor’s support, measures to examine implementation of this goal were agreed upon…”

“These are only some of the examples of what happened and is happening in the city of Boston, and in many other American cities, during these days. Proselytizing in the name of Allah has not been undermined, and has not been set back 50 years, as we thought in the first days after September 11. On the contrary, the 11 days that have passed are like 11 years in the history of proselytizing in the name of Allah. I write to you today with the absolute confidence that over the next few years, Islam will spread in America and in the entire world, Allah willing, much more quickly than it has spread in the past, because the entire world is asking, ‘What is Islam!'(4)

Fatihi’s reports of American Christians’ crying upon hearing Koranic verses have an historical context. This type of narrative is about part of the ethos of Islamic proselytizing. It comes from the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad’s invitation to the Christian community of Najran, located in what is today North Yemen, to visit the mosque. When the Christians of Najran were exposed to the verses of the Koran, the tradition says they burst into tears and converted to Islam.

Fatihi also published an article in the London daily Al-Hayat: “…There are initial signs that the intensive campaign of education about Islam has begun to bear fruit. For example, the rate of converts to Islam since September 11 has doubled… There is solidarity with the Muslims on the part of many non-Muslims in American universities. For example, dozens of non-Muslim American women students at Wayne [State] University… have put on veils as a symbol of identification with the Muslim women students at the university and at the other universities of America.”

“One of the most important topics [in an NPR broadcast] was an interview with several young women at American universities who recently converted to Islam through the Islamic Society of Boston. They hold advanced degrees from universities in Boston, such as Harvard, and they spoke of the power and the greatness of Islam, of the elevated status of women in Islam, and of why they converted to Islam. The program was broadcast several times across the entire U.S…” (5)

Notes and references:

(1) Al-Hayat (London), November 11, 2001

(2) Al-Ayyam (London), November 12, 2001

(3) The phenomenon of sincere Christians shedding tears as they recognize the truth and beauty of Islam is mentioned in the Qur’an: And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messengers, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses [Qur’an 5:82-83]

(4) Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), October 20, 2001

(5) Al-Hayat (London), November 11, 2001

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UNDERSTANDING CONVERSION: BRIDGING THE TWO SELVES

By Abdul-Lateef Abdullah

Sometimes I think about how much my life has changed over the past three years. When I try to reflect back on my days before Islam, I often find it difficult to recapture what life was like. Sure I can remember events, people, places, different experiences, but to go back and really feel what it was like, I have to reflect deeply. When I am able to re-connect with my “former self” I find it a remarkable experience. Although I am still very much the same person as I was three years ago, how I experience the world and how I view it and life has completely changed. Life is the same, yet different.

We all view the world through a lens, whether we realize it or not. Our basic beliefs and values, whether derived from religion or some other source – known or unknown – allows us to judge the world, other people and ourselves. It is how we understand right from wrong and impacts the intricate nuances of our daily lives.

As our world continues to move in strange and unpredictable ways, Muslims everywhere, particularly those living in the West, are finding themselves compelled to discuss Islam with non-Muslims of all backgrounds and beliefs. Many have existing biases against Islam while others come with an open mind. Either way, we Muslims must be capable and confident in not only being able to discuss basic Islamic beliefs, but in conveying our own experiences and feelings about the religion. Particularly for those of us who have converted (or ‘reverted’) to the faith, such occasions to discuss Islam with non-Muslims can be great opportunities to converse in a way that is personal and unique. To be able to do this, however, requires knowledge of one’s self, and the knowledge of what one has undergone to arrive at their place within the religion of Islam. The power of personal stories and experiences is great, particularly those in which an audience can relate to and actually see themselves taking part. You can draw them in and help them to question their own beliefs – an important step in opening up people’s hearts and minds. Personal stories also help people empathize with what you have undergone, and such a level of understanding can be a powerful agent of change.

Understanding ourselves can be a great source of wisdom. Knowing who we are, our weaknesses, our faults, our strengths and our “danger zones,” is essential if we are to progress in our quest and ongoing effort of self-perfection in the mold of the Prophet of Islam (SAW). My process of reverting from Christianity to Islam took intensive one-on-one study with a knowledgeable teacher and an additional wealth of independent study. The entire “process” occurred over one and a half years, which, compared to other converts may be long, yet to others maybe not so long. Nevertheless, throughout this period, every day, every moment in fact I was consumed with self-reflection. “Who was I” and “who did I want to be” were two of the most nagging questions I had to answer; while probably the most prominent was, “what did I believe?”

Ultimately, the process of conversion for me began with this question of “what did I believe.” I was Christian, yet I did not really know what I believed about my own religion, the religion I was born into and practiced – in varying degrees – for 27 years. What I learned about myself through reflection, however, was that I did know what I believed, which was that I really didn’t believe! Further questions I had were “What did I believe about God?”, “What did I believe about life?”, “How about death?”, “What did I believe about my society and culture?” All these questions seemed SO big and so difficult to answer. But eventually I did answer them for myself, and – Alhamdulillah (all praise be to God) – the answers all pointed in the direction of Islam.

Although conversion is a phenomenon that is completely unique to everyone, nevertheless, those who are serious about it will all undoubtedly undergo self-examination of some kind in order to embrace a new way of life and belief system. In fact, we MUST do this. Whether we realize it or not, “conversion” occurs on many levels within us; and especially with those from the West, many, many engrained cultural values have to be challenged and overcome in order for “self-Islamization” to occur. In my time talking with born Muslim brothers, I have found it amazing that many dedicated Muslims have undergone their own rediscovery of the religion, almost in the same way as a non-Muslim who comes into Islam for the first time.

Many born Muslims I meet tell me that they have a certain level of envy for converts because they recognize a high level of dedication and appreciation for Islam within them, that they too desire, but have been unable to achieve. In fact, in speaking with one brother from my local surau, he even had the courage to ask me what I thought was the cause of this. Of course I told him that I could only speak from my own experience, but that in my example much of it had to do with getting to know myself and facing up to my true beliefs about not only religion, but life itself. I empathize with Muslims who are born into Islam and cannot appreciate it as much as they would like. Perhaps they feel as I did about Christianity for many years.

In discussing this matter with the brother from my surau, I challenged him to “put Islam to the test.” I told him that maybe he had to undergo the same process that we converts undergo when we convert, namely, the process of questioning basic beliefs and challenging ourselves to find truth. For people born into Islam, this means going beyond basic levels and striving to go deeper than they ever have before to understand Islam. This, from what I observe, is how many Muslims have rediscovered Islam. They have more or less willed it. They have traveled, they have studied, they have sought out knowledgeable teachers, they became more involved in their communities – whatever it takes. They have gone past the understanding of religion as it was passed down to them from their parents, and found Islam for themselves. For many it happens when confronted with different life circumstances, for example, perhaps when they go abroad to study and are suddenly no longer in an Islamic environment, or when they or a family member becomes inflicted with an illness or they experience a tragedy, or for some perhaps when a particularly stubborn Christian missionary puts them to the test and they find that they do not have the level of faith they thought they did. Whatever the scenario, experiences such as this force us to draw definitive conclusions about why we live this life of Islam.

As Muslims, we know that submission means, “we hear and we obey (24:51),” as we are (ideally) slaves of our Creator. For many, myself included, accepting Islam includes a greater yearning for truth and knowledge of God as well. This can only occur, however, when we push on with that search for truth, even once we have accepted Islam. If we read the biographies of some of Islam’s great personalities, we come across lives such as those like Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali who, while already having achieved great worldly status as a scholar, yearned for a more direct experience and deeper level of truth. In order to do so, however, he underwent a major questioning of his beliefs and an abandoning of all his worldly status before he could arrive at it. The results of his life journey speak for themselves; Imam Nawawi, speaking about Imam Al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences), wrote “were all the books of Islam to be lost save the Revival alone, it would suffice for them.” He also earned the title of “Hujjat ul-Islam,” or “the proof of Islam” for his great works and teachings.

Imam Al-Ghazali looked deep within himself to arrive at the conclusion that his worldly successes – even as an Islamic scholar – would not be enough to save him on the Day of Judgment. He feared for his fate, and thus had to address the inkling in his heart that told him to go further. Uncovering our self can be a difficult experience. It often entails dissecting the darkest layers within us. It requires self-effacement, and the courage to be vulnerable and admit that we may not have the answers we thought we did in life. It is, without a doubt, a test of the highest and greatest magnitude. Allah draws our attention throughout the Qur’an on the importance of reflection, “Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire (3:91).” We know that reflection is not an easy thing, particularly when it is on ourselves. In another ayat, “Do they not reflect in their own minds? Not but for just ends and for a term appointed, did Allah create the heavens and the earth, and all between them: yet there are truly many among men who deny the meeting with their Lord (at the Resurrection) (30:08)!”

When I look at myself today as opposed to three years ago, I see two different people. Nay, rather, I see two people with many of the same attributes, but in completely different places. A very well known contemporary sheikh talks about religion as a shelter. He says if your shelter is strong, if it protects you from all the shaytans (devils) in the world, it has no holes in the walls, and it keeps out the rain, than it is a good shelter. However, if your shelter is porous, if it doesn’t protect you from the shaytans, than you need a new shelter. The “me” 3 years ago was in a badly damaged shelter that was not protecting me from the elements. “Me” today, however, with Islam, inshaAllah (by the will of God), is in a much better shelter, one that protects me as long as I stay in it and don’t leave it. Conversion within us must do this. It must literally move us from one place in life to another. Therefore, every piece of “us” must change, must undergo examination and renewal to arrive at truth, not just back into it accidentally or unwillingly.

Many of us today do not understand how dramatic the process of conversion – whether we are non-Muslims coming into Islam or Muslims who feel the need to “re-find” Islam – is. If we read the stories of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and look at how dramatically their lives changed upon coming into Islam, only then do we fully understand how encompassing Islam is and how radically it can effect every aspect of one’s self. It can turn animals into saints, heathens into angels. It is nothing less than the total renewal of the person, from top to bottom. If we all delve a little deeper and get to know ourselves a little more, both the good and the bad, we can all undergo some sort of re-awakening for the sake of Allah. All it takes is will, effort, and reliance on and help from Allah.

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AMINAH ASSILMI: A GIRL ON A MISSION

By Mushfiqur Rahman©

“I am so very glad that I am a Muslim. Islam is my life. Islam is the beat of my heart. Islam is the blood that courses through my veins. Islam is my strength. Islam is my life so wonderful and beautiful. Without Islam I am nothing, and should Allah ever turn His magnificent face from me, I could not survive.” * It all started with a computer glitch. (Assilmi)

She was a Southern Baptist girl, a radical feminist, and a broadcast journalist. She was a girl with an unusual caliber, who excelled in school, received scholarships, ran her own business, and were competing with professionals and getting awards – all these while she was going to college. Then one day a computer error happened that made her take up a mission as a devout Christian. Eventually, however, it resulted into something opposite and changed her life completely around.

It was 1975 when for the first time computer was used to pre-register for a class in her college. She was working on her degree on Recreation. She pre-registered for a class and then went to Oklahoma City to take care of a business. Her return was delayed and she came back to college two weeks into the class. Making up the missed work was no problem for her, but she was surprised to find that the computer mistakenly registered her for a Theatre class, a class where students would be required to perform in front of others. to do so. Failing the class was also not a choice, for she was receiving a scholarship that was paying for her tuition and receiving an ‘F’ would have jeopardized it.

Advised by her husband, she went to her teacher to work out some other alternative to performing, such as preparing costumes, etc. Assured by the teacher that he would try to help her, she went to the next class and was shocked by what she saw. The class was full of Arabs and “camel jockeys”. That was enough for her. She came back home and decided not to go back to the class anymore. It was not possible for her to be in the middle of Arabs. “There was no way I was going to sit in a room full of dirty heathens!”

Her husband was calm as usual. He pointed out to her that God has a reason for everything and that she should think about more before quitting. Besides, there was the scholarship that was paying her tuition. She went behind locked doors for 2 days to think about. When she came out, she decided to continue the class. She felt that God gave her a task to convert the Arabs into Christianity.

Thus she found herself with a mission to accomplish. Throughout the class, she would be discussing Christianity with her Arab classmates. “I proceeded to explain to them how they would burn in the fires of hell for all eternity, if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior. They were very polite, but did not convert. Then, I explained how Jesus loved them and had died on the cross to save them from their sins. All they had to do was accept him into their hearts.” They still did not convert, and so she decided to do something else: “I decided to read their own book to show to them that Islam was a false religion and Mohammed was a false God”.

At her request, one student gave her a copy of the Qur’an and another book on Islam. With these two books she started on her research, which she was to continue for the next one and half years. She read the Qur’an fully and another fifteen books on Islam. Then she came back to the Qur’an and re-read it. During her research, she started taking notes that she found objectionable and which she would be able to use to prove that Islam was a false religion.

Unconsciously, however, she was changing from within which did not escape the attention of her husband. “I was changing, just in little ways but enough to bother him. We used to go to the bar every Friday and Saturday, or to a party, and I no longer wanted to go I was quieter and more distant.” She stopped drinking and eating pork. Her husband suspected her of having an affair with another man, for “it was only for a man that a woman changes”. Ultimately, she was asked to leave, and she soon found herself living in a separate apartment.

“When I first started to study Islam, I did not expect to find anything that I needed or wanted in my personal life. Little did I know that Islam would change my life. No human could have ever convinced me that I would finally be at peace and overflowing with love and joy because of Islam.” (Assilmi)

Throughout these times, she continued studying Islam and although she was changing subtly from within, she remained a devout Christian. Then one day, there was a knock on her door. It was a man in traditional Muslim robe, who appeared to her as a “man in a long white night gown with a red and white checkered table cloth on his head”. His name was Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik and he was accompanied by three other men in similar dress. She was very offended by Muslim men coming to her in nightgowns and pajamas. She was further shocked when Abdul-Aziz told her that he understood that she waited to be a Muslim. She replied that she was a Christian and she did not have any plan to become a Muslim. However, she had some questions to ask if they had the time.

At her invitation, they came inside. She now brought up the questions and objections that she noted down while she was researching. “I will never forget his name”, she said of Abdul-Aziz who proved to be a very patient and soft-mannered person. “He was very patient and discussed every question with me. He never made me feel silly or that a question was stupid.” Abdul-Aziz listened to every question and objection and explained it within the proper context. “He explained that Allah had told us to seek knowledge and questions were one of the ways to accomplish that. When he explained something, it was like watching a rose open – petal by petal, until it reached its full glory. When I told him that I did not agree with something and why, he always said I was correct up to a point. Then he would show me how to look deeper and from different directions to reach a fuller understanding.”

It would not be long before she would externally submit to what she had already been submitting to internally during the last one and half years. Later in that same day, this Southern Baptist girl would declare in front of Abdul-Aziz and his companions: “I bear witness that there is no god but God and Mohammed is His Messenger.” It was May 21, 1977.

“I embraced Islam about 24 years ago to the consternation of most of my family. The reaction of my family was so severe that one member of my family actually tried to kill me . And yet by applying Islam to my life, by living Islam, most of my family is now Muslim. The thing is that everywhere you go, if you actually are living Islam, if you are demonstrating Islam, you will impact people. And you will change mindset” (Assilmi)

Conversion to Islam, or to any other religion for that matter, is not always a simple thing to do. Except for a few fortunate ones, a new Muslim usually face consequences. The convert may face isolation from family and friends, if not pressure to go back to the family faith. Sometimes, a convert may even face sever economic hardship, as in the case of those who are asked to leave the house because of converting to Islam. Some converts are fortunate to continue to be well respected by family and friends, but most of them face minor to severe hardship especially during the first few years after the conversion.

But the difficulty that Aminah Assilimi had to go through and the sacrifice that she had to make for the sake of her conviction and faith is almost unheard of. There are few who could rely so much on Allah as she did, standing firm and meeting the challenges, making sacrifices, and yet maintaining a positive posture and influencing people around with the beauty of what she found and believed in.

She lost most of her friends, for she was “no fun anymore”.

Her mother did not accept her becoming a Muslim and hoped that it was a temporary zeal and that she would soon grow out of it.

Her “mental health expert” sister thought that she lost her mind. She attempted to put her in a mental health institution.

Her father was a calm and wise man. People would come to him for advice and he could comfort anyone in distress. But when he heard that his daughter became a Muslim, he loaded his double-barrel shotgun and started on his way to kill her. “It is better that she be dead rather than suffering in the deepest of Hell”, he said.

She was now without friends and without family.

She soon started wearing hijab. The day she put it on, she was denied her job. She was now without family, friends, and job. But her greatest sacrifice was yet to come.

She and her husband both loved each other very much. But while she was studying Islam, her husband misunderstood her for her apparent changes. She became quieter and stopped going to the bar. Her changes were visible to him and he suspected her of having affair with another man, for whom she must have been changing. She could not explain to him what was happening. “There was no way to make him understand what was changing me because I did not know.” Eventually he asked her to leave and she started living separately.

After she openly accepted Islam, it went worse. A divorce was now inevitable. This was a time when Islam was little known, much less understood for what it is. She had two little children whom she loved dearly and whose custody should have rightfully be given to her. But in a grave violation of justice, she was denied their custody just because she became a Muslim. Before giving the formal verdict, the judge offered her a harsh choice: either renounce Islam and get custody of the children, or keep Islam and leave the children. She was given 20 minutes to make a decision.

She loved her children very dearly. It is perhaps the worst nightmare that a mother can have: asked to willfully leave her child – not for one day, month, or year, but forever. On the other hand, how could she keep the Truth away from her children and live as a hypocrite? “It was the most painful 20 minutes in my life”, she said in an interview. Those of us who are mothers and fathers, especially of young children, little imagination is needed to feel the pain and torment that she must have passed every second in those 20 minutes. What added further to her pain was that according to doctors, she could never bear another child because of certain complications. “I prayed like I had never done before . I knew that there was no safer place for my children to be than in the hands of Allah. If I denied Him, there would be no way in the future to show my children the wonders of being with Allah.”

She decided to retain Islam. Her two dear children – one little boy and one little girl – were taken away from her and given to her ex-husband.

For a mother, is there a sacrifice greater than this – a sacrifice that is done for no material reason but only for faith and conviction?

“I left the court knowing that life without my babies would be very difficult. My heart bled, even though I knew, inside, I had done the right thing” . She found comfort in the following verse of the Qur’an:

Allah! there is no god but He

The Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal.

No slumber can seize Him nor sleep.

His are all things in the heavens and on earth.

Who is there can intercede in His presence except He permitteth?

He knoweth what (appeareth to his creatures) before or after or Behind them.

Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge Except as He willeth.

His throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth,

And He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them

For He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory). (Quran 2: 255)

“This veil warns people upfront that I am not a woman to be messed with. It shows that I am a woman with a mind and that I know I am more than a body. In no way does this veil equal oppression and we don’t want you to feel sorry for us.” (Assilmi)

Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of Bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you?

They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit

That even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When (will come) the help of Allah?”

Ah! Verily the help of Allah is (always) near! (Quran 2: 214)

Perhaps the air of Colorado was too thin for justice. Or perhaps there was a plan in Allah’s greater scheme of affairs. Aminah Assilimi later fought back and took her case to the media. Although she did not get custody of her children again, a change was made in the Colorado law that one cannot be denied child custody on the basis of his or her religion.

Indeed Allah’s love and mercy engulfed her so much that, as if, she has been granted the touchstone of Islam. Wherever she goes, people are touched by her beautiful words and Islamic manners and become Muslim.

By accepting Islam, she became a changed person, and a much better person. So much so that her family, relatives, and people around her started appreciating her mannerism and the faith that brought about such changes in her. Despite her family’s initial reaction, she remained in touch with them and addressed them with respect and humility, just as the Qur’an enjoins the Muslims to do. She would send cards to her parents on different occasions, but she would always write down a verse from the Qur’an or the Hadith without mentioning the source of such beautiful words of wisdom. It was not long before she started making a positive influence among her family members.

The first to become Muslim was her grand mother. She was over 100 years old.. Soon after accepting Islam, she died. “The day she pronounced Shahada, all her misdeeds had been erased, while her good deeds were preserved. She died so soon after accepting Islam that I knew her “book” was bound to be heavy on the good side. It fills me with such a joy!”

Next to become Muslim was her father, the one who wanted to kill her after she became Muslim. Thus he brought alive the story of Umar ibn Khattab. Umar was a companion of the Prophet who persecuted the early Muslims before he converted to Islam. When he heard one day that his sister became a Muslim, he went out with an open sword to kill her. But upon hearing some of the verses from the Qur’an that his sister was reciting, he recognized the truth and went straight to the Prophet and accepted Islam.

Two years after she (Assilmi) accepted Islam, her mother called and said that she appreciated her faith and hoped that she would keep it. Couple of years later, she called again and asked her about what one would need to do to become a Muslim. Assilmi replied that one had to believe that there is only One God and Muhammad was his Messenger. “Any fool knows that. But what do you have to do?”, she asked again. She replied that if that is what she believed, then she was already a Muslim! At this, her mother said, “Well . OK. But let’s not tell your father just yet”.

She was not aware that her husband (Assilmi’s step father) had had the same conversation with her a few weeks earlier. Thus the two lived together as Muslims for years in secret without knowing that the other was also a Muslim.

Her sister who wanted to put her in mental institution accepted Islam as well. She must have realized that becoming Muslim is indeed the most healthy and sound thing to do.

Her son, upon becoming adult, accepted Islam. When he turned 21, he called her and said that he wanted to become a Muslim.

Sixteen years after the divorce, her ex-husband also accepted Islam. He said that he had been watching her for sixteen years and wanted his daughter to have the same religion that she had. He came to her and apologized for what he had done. He was a very nice gentlemen and Assilimi had forgiven him long ago.

Perhaps the greatest reward for her was yet to come. Assilmi later married another person, and despite the doctors’ verdict that she could never conceive another child, Allah blessed her with a beautiful boy. If Allah (swt) makes a gift to someone, who can prevent Him? It was truly a wonderful blessing from Allah (swt), and so she named him “Barakah”.

“It did not take me long to start being aware of His blessing . I learned how very important it was for me to share the truth of Islam with everyone. It did not matter if people, Muslim or not, agreed with me or even liked me. The only approval I needed was from Allah. Yet, I discovered more and more people who for no apparent reason loved me. I rejoiced, for I remembered reading that if Allah loves you, He causes others to love you. I am not worthy of all the love. That means it must be another gift from Allah. Allah is the Greatest!” (Assilmi)

The sacrifice that Assilmi made for the sake of Allah (swt) was tremendous. And so Allah (swt) turned in mercy to her and rewarded her with enormous blessings. Her family discarded her after she accepted Islam, and now by Allah’s mercy, most of them are Muslim. She lost her friends because of Islam, and now she is being loved by so many. “Friends who loved came out of nowhere”, she said. Allah’s blessings came upon her so much that wherever she goes people are touched by the beauty of Islam and accept the Truth. Both Muslims and non-Muslims now come to her for advice and counseling.

She lost her job because of wearing hijab, and now she is the President of the International Union of Muslim Women. She delivers lectures nationwide and is on high demand. It was her organization that successfully lobbied for the “Eid Stamp” and had it approved by the United States Postal Service, but it took many years of work. She is now working on making the Eid Day as a national holiday.

She has tremendous trust on Allah’s love and mercy and she never looses faith on Him. She was once diagnosed with cancer some years ago. Doctors said that it was in an advanced stage and that she would live for another year. But her faith in Allah (swt) remained strong. “We must all die. I was confident that the pain I was experiencing contained blessings.” As a brilliant example of how much one can love Allah, she mentions about a friend of her named Kareem Al-Misawi who died of cancer when he was in his 20’s:

“Shortly before he died, he told me that Allah was truly Merciful. This man was in unbelievable anguish and was radiating with Allah’s love. He said: “Allah intends that I should enter heaven with a clean book.” His death experience gave me something to think about. He taught me of Allah’s love and mercy.”

All praise is due to Allah, she continues to live in good health. She now thinks that having cancer was the greatest blessing that she ever had.

Assilmi’s is a story of faith and conviction. It is a story of test and tribulation and success. It is a story of triumphant victory of faith. It is a story of inspiration for the rest of us, and it is a story of confidence and reliance on Allah. It is story of Allah’s love and mercy, and it is a story of Allah’s promise come true. “True, Allah has tested me as was promised, and rewarded me far beyond what I could ever hoped for”.

May Almighty Allah continue to shower His love, mercy, and blessings on this wonderful Muslima. May Allah grant her long life and enable her to do more and more work for Islam. May Allah benefit more and more people by her story and example, and turn their hearts to the Message of Truth, and to His love and mercy.

Bibliography:

Aminah Assilmi, Choosing Islam (The Introduction and Decision)

Scripps Howard News Service: Former Baptist Explains why she is now a Muslim, Nov 1, 1997

The Post (Ohio Univ Student Newspaper), Veil is Not Oppressive, Oct 25, 1995

Aminah Assilmi, Getting to Know Allah Through Nature (video)

Welcome Back, a radio interview of Aminah Assilmi by Islamic Foundation of America, August, 2001

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I STILL BELIEVE: AN AMERICAN REVERT CRIES OUT FOR RESPECT AS A MUSLIMAH

I know that I was not born Muslim

I know that I was not raised by Muslim parents

But I still believe

I know that I can not read or write Arabic

I know that I may ask for the English translation

But I still believe

I know that when I say Salam Alaikum you just look past me

I know that when I speak at a halaqah you ignore me

But I still Believe

I know that when I married an Arab you just laughed out loud

I know when I come around for help with my husband no one is around

But I still believe

I know that when I cried in the masjid you just walked away

I know that when I come to sit down next to you at Jummah you run away

But I still believe

I believe in Allah subhanAllahu wa ta’ala and I believe in the Prophet Mohummad (peace be upon him)

I pray to Allah subhanAllahu wa ta’ala to help me deal with my feelings and I pray that one day all Muslims, whatever race they are, will one day be united. If we all unite together then the kufar can not tear us apart. But when we stay feeling as if one race or one veiw is better than the other, then one day we will not be at all.


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SHAYKH MUQBIL’S ADVICE TO THE NEW MUSLIM

By Shaykh Abu Abdur Rahmaan Muqbil ibn Haadee Al Waadee (rahimahullah)

Taken from Tuhfatul Mujeeb alaa asilat al haadir wal ghareeb p.65.

Translated by: Abu ‘Abdul Waahid, Nadir Ahmad

Question: If Allah guides someone to Islaam, then what should he say and what should be said to him?

Answer: He should say: “I Bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad is his slave and messenger.” Then he is to be advised with accompanying the righteous people, for indeed the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The example of the righteous companion and the evil companion is like the perfume seller and the black smith. As for the perfume seller, then he is either going to give you some perfume, sell you some, or at least you will smell a pleasant fragrance from him, and as for the blacksmith, then he will either burn your clothes or you will smell a wretched smell from him.”

I was told of a story while I was studing in the Islaamic University (of Madeenah) that someone entered into Islaam, so he moved from the kufaar’s homes to live with the Muslims. However, the Muslims that he stayed with didn’t even pray, so his Islaam was merely moving from one home to another.

So it is essential that he strives to accompany the righteous people, as well as disbelieving in the worship of the messiah.

And we also advise him to acquire beneficial books such as: Riyadhus Saleheen, Fathul Majeed the explanation of Kitaabut Tawheed, Buloogh Al Maraam, Tafseer ibnu Katheer.

And likewise, we advise him, to learn Islaam from the books of Islaam, and not from the actions of the Muslims, because their actions are not good, you may find a Muslim lying or committing adultery or drinking alcohol, while they know that these things are forbidden. Then the kufaar use this as evidence against the Muslims, so we say to them: We do not call you to this, rather we call you to cling on the correct religion: {Verily Allah enjoins Al ‘Adl (justice) and Al Ihsaan, and giving (help) to kin, and forbids Al Fahshaa’(evil), Al Munkar, and Al Baghy(oppression) He admonishes you, in order that you may take heed.} [An Nahl/90 Please refer to tafseer ibnu Katheer for the explanation of this verse.]

And likewise the issue of amaanah (trustworthiness and honesty) as well as other issues that the Muslims have fallen into which are against the legislation of Islaam, these people are not a proof against Islaam, rather Islaam is a proof against the Muslims themselves. So it is important to make this clear so that they (the kufaar) do not use the actions of sinful Muslims as a proof against Islaam, rather we say to them: We do not call you to be like those people, nor like those who are corrupt, or thieves, or those who sell or make alcohol, nor do we call you to become Sufees…

A noble brother who studies either in Britain or Germany once visited us, and told us that Allah had guided a woman into Islaam, then she saw the Sufees dance in the masjid, so she called him and said, I saw such and such in the masjid, so if this is Islaam, then there is no difference between it and the religion that I have left.

So we do not call you to become a shee’ee, nor a sufee, nor an ‘ilmaanee, rather [we call you to] act upon the book of Allah, and the sunnah of his messenger (peace be upon him) even if all the people were to contradict you.

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MAN‘S BEST KEPT SECRET REVEALED

By: Aaron Greenwich, 17, North Carolina

I’m real mad, because ever since March 3rd 1998, I’ve been searching for a point in my life. That day in March, I went to this party…you know, one of those parties with high power music rockin the house, plenty of booze and endless variations of drugs, and plenty of (well, to put it mildly) shameless girls and drunk boys equals? So I guess I smoked too many joints, and I ended up in the hospital for three weeks. That gave me time to think over life.

Okay, we are born, grow older, wiser, and each of us develops our own personalities for better or worse. We all try to reach the top of the world and either we do or we spend our lives trying to. Basically we live to have more, always. Don’t u see? You wake up, get dressed make yourself look good, go to school come back do your homework, have some fun and to sleep. And it never changes. All right, then u graduate and go to work or raise some kids.

But it keeps repeating. U know that saying, “History repeats itself?” It does, but then we die. Now for some reason humans spend so much time pondering over every single atom on earth except death.

I know it scares them. Why wouldn’t it? It happens to everyone and no one knows why. Well, MOST people don’t know why. But I do. You think all those d*** cruel people who lived on this earth (I can name millions) will get away with everything they did? And those few good will go un-rewarded?

So anyway we die. We leave behind everything. EVERYTHING. You think that the Porsche u spent your whole life trying to get is going with u? The only things that’re going with u are your burial clothes and coffin, if that even. And there is one other thing, but it’s unseen. Your deeds. ALLLL the things u did in this life, good and bad, go with you. And so we’re in the grave. What happens to you in the grave is another story but basically your body rots. I mean your “this life” body. The body that we had for (if we are lucky) 80 years is gone and with it our doings!

Alright so you’re out of the picture. Gone. Then, fellow Americans, if we are not here to live life like a party….what’s the point? WHY DO WE LIVE?

Why do so many people commit suicide? Because, they never had the answer to the above question. Some people know; Some. And its man’s best kept secret.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh god he’s gonna preach us on religion.” Not exactly

It’s a WAY OF LIFE, and what if I told u its called ISLAM? I’m Christian. But Christianity is a RELIGION not a WAY OF LIFE. 80% of Americans are “Christians”, but sad to say, look at them. Homosexuality, suicide, drugs, adultery, even among their own preachers is common. I should know.

The old pastor at my church got kicked out for molesting a child. I’m not attacking anyone. I’m saying the facts. Besides that, it doesn’t make sense. Neither do the other million “religions” found on this earth. They all claim to be simple religions, usually claiming belief in one god.
But they are lacking in on truth, the facts.

Alright, Aaron get on to your point. Sure. What was my 1st sentence? I’m real mad. Why? Cause everyone knows about Islam. And they ignore it, hide it. Why did I learn everything in school except Islam?

If u read one verse of Islam’s book you will believe me. Guaranteed. Because it is the Truth. And its man’s best-kept secret. They hide it because it reminds them of the TRUE PURE REAL point of life….They want us to be just like them, monsters in disguise, filthy, do every sin under the sun and call it a “life”. I will not fall again into that trap most of us fell into. I have a life. I have Islam.

I’m sorry Jean, Dad and mostly Gramps, a pious Christian who tried to change my views. I’m stepping down from my old way of life AND my old religion. I started this letter as a Christian but I end it as a
Muslim.

” I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the last messenger.

Always,
Aaron

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