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Saturday, July 2, 2011

How I Became Muslim. Brother Ameen's story.

بسم اهللا الرحمن الرحيم
This is the story of how I became a Muslim. The story begins with the gift of a Qur’an. It continues with the decision to fast during Ramadan and comes to a turning point with a sequence of events that occurred three months later.
Each of these events is a mile marker along the path that led me to embrace Islam. As with all paths that change the course of one’s life, that change would have taken far longer to complete without the right guide. The guide turned out to be a colleague from work, who is now my brother in Islam. (May Allah reward him for his good deeds, and may Allah provide such a guide to others who may be in need.)
Like many westerners who live and work in the Middle East, I came with a natural curiosity about the people I was going to be living with for the next year. I knew very little about their history, their culture and their traditions.
Each of these is related in one way or another to Islam and to the Qur’an. It is not uncommon to be offered a copy of the Qur’an in response to a request for information about Islam. In my case, a co-worker went to Mecca and came back with a copy of The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, by ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali.
I thought, “This is a nice book. I’ll set it on my night stand in the bedroom and read a little each day.” The Qur’an sat there, and sat there, and sat there. After weeks, I had read only the first few pages. There were too many reports, documents and papers from work that always seemed more important. I had a new job and there was a lot to do.
Then came Ramadan. My co-workers were fasting. Everyone around me was fasting. I thought to myself, “If they can do it, so can I.” I kept the fast all month.
Besides adjusting to life without food and water all day, the Ramadan fast taught me to be patient. It also gave me a new understanding and appreciation for the things that are most important. My days at work were always busy, but I learned during Ramadan is that being busy is not enough. There are times each day when we need to take a step back, reflect on what we have and put ourselves in the place of those who are far less fortunate. There are times when we need to think about more than what is going on in the hustle and bustle of our own life.
Ramadan came and went. So did the sense of balance and focus that I had gained. What I learned during Ramadan was soon fading from my memory.
Over the past few months, I had become friends with a co-worker who impressed me with his good behavior and work ethic. This co-worker was a Muslim. My life
1 of 4quickly got more and more complicated. So did his. In fact, his problems were much more challenging than mine. We talked about many things in the weeks that followed. But we did not discuss religion or talk about Islam. We did not need to.
My colleague’s deeds taught me more about Islam and what it means to be a Muslim than any explanation or discussion could. No matter what was going wrong, or how long it had been going wrong, he accepted it, dealt with it, kept his faith and did not give up.
In late November, shortly before the Islamic New Year, I woke up in the pitch dark of night to a voice that said, very clearly, “Pray!”
I replied, “I don’t know how to pray.” Again, the voice said, “Pray!”
The only words that came to mind were “I believe” and “I submit.” After that, I went back to sleep.
I’m not the sort of person that goes around telling people I hear voices in the middle of the night. But I did tell my friend. He said, “Hmm, that’s interesting. What do you think it means?” I said, “I don’t know. It could be just a dream.”
About four days later, I had another experience like the first. This time the voice said, “Read!” I couldn’t really say, “I don’t know how to read.” The command was not repeated.
I was now wide awake. I thought, “What the heck, I’m wide awake. Soon I’ll have to get up and go to work anyway.” So I reached for the book that was on the night stand by my bed.
It was the Qur’an. I picked it up and opened to the first Sura. As I read the commentary, I began to understand that the message of the Qur’an wasn’t just something I needed to read for a few minutes on the way to sleep each night. It was something I needed to study and take seriously when my mind was fresh, alert and focused.
Over the next few weeks, I began to read more of the Qur’an. I read it at times when my mind was open and receptive. I thought about what I was reading. I thought about what had happened over the past week and I tried to figure out what was going on. It was like looking at the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that just came out of the box.
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As I read more and thought more, things began to make more sense. The puzzle began to look like a picture. That picture had a very personal meaning -- for me, for my life, and for how I was going to live it.
The puzzle, however, was not complete. One piece was missing. It was the piece that locked all the others into place.
That piece didn’t come from a voice. It didn’t come from my reading of the Qur’an. It came from my friend and from the way he lived his life. It was what he did in daily life, not what he talked or read about.
The voice that came to me had said, “Read!” I was reading. But the voice had also said, “Pray!” I was not praying.
When the voice said, “Pray!” for the second time, I had said “I believe” and “I submit”. But I wasn’t doing any believing and I wasn’t doing any submitting.
I called my friend and said, “I think I have to learn more about believing and submitting.” He said, “No problem. It’s pretty simple. We call it the Shahada. It is a simple statement in Arabic of our belief that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”
He also cautioned me. He said, “Shahada is something we take very seriously. It is a declaration to Allah and a commitment to follow the path of Islam everyday for the rest of your life. If you’re not ready to do this yet, it’s OK. It’s a big step. I understand that. I’ll be here for you whenever you are ready.”
By now, you have probably figured out that I’m not the fastest learner on the planet. It had been two weeks since I was given some very clear instructions on what to do and I was still sitting on the fence.
Two days later, I called my friend and told him I wanted to perform Shahada.
I know that the noon prayer on Friday is a special occasion. I asked my friend if I could make my declaration at the masjid near his house after the noon prayer on Friday. He said, “Sure. This is great news. I will speak with the imam.”
I don’t think I slept much that night. No one in my family is particularly religious. And no one knows much about Islam at all. This isn’t like going out one day and coming home with something different for dinner from the grocery store.
Before going to the masjid that Friday, my friend taught me how to wash. We talked about the prayers that would be said and he showed me how they would be performed.
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As we stepped into the door to the masjid and said “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir- Rahim “, I entered a new world.
As we prayed at the masjid, it felt like I was travelling back in time to the month of Ramadan. Once again, I felt the peace, balance and connection with a world much larger and much simpler than the one I spent so much of my time worrying about.
With the kindness and help of imam Sheikh Ahmed, mu'adhdhin Abu-Annas, elders like Abu Hazza, and others who shared my birth as a Muslim that Friday, I took the first big step in the new direction I was heading.
The next step was to do what I was told to do in the first place, “Pray!” Five times a day, everyday. Not just reading about Islam, but putting what I read into action. Turning it into deeds.
A few days later, I went to the Ministry of Justice to register my conversion.
Looking back over the events of my life during the past six months, I must give special thanks and recognition to those who made my conversion possible. I thank Allah for support from the Head of the Embracing Islam Section of the Judicial Department. I especially thank Allah for the patience, encouragement and helpfulness of my Muslim colleagues, my friend, and the faithful I pray with at the masjid each day.
This is the story of how I became a Muslim.
May Allah guide your steps along the path you choose in life as He has guided mine.
May the beauty and truth of Islam be yours forever.
Ameen 7-Muharram-1432
السالم عليكم و رحمة اهللا و برٓااته


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