One of my earliest recollections about Islam is as a boy. I saw a news clip showing Muslims praying in Mecca on Hajj, all in one direction to the one God Allah سبحانه وتعالى. I remember admiring how the Muslims were all praying to one God, direct with no intermediary or intercessor. This particularly appealed to me because I was always in a state of confusion and intellectual unrest with my own belief and manner in which I had been shown to worship.
I had been taught that we should respect all religions, because they were all different pathways to God, with Hinduism being the oldest and most sacred religion to attain the highest of knowledge and become one with God. I believed people who were born Hindus had been through numerous reincarnations until they had reached sufficient level of good Karma to be born in a Hindu household and have access to what was supposed to be the most supreme divine knowledge.
This belief in reincarnation plus the belief that God had in the past incarnated into numerous forms was something that just did not make sense to me. However despite all the doubts, I thought to myself it was inconceivable that such an ancient religion practised by millions of people could all be wrong? The problem, I thought to myself must be within myself. I did not possess sufficient knowledge and that’s why I could not understand Hinduism.
To find an answer to these doubts I had previously as a boy asked my parents numerous questions. I asked them why if we were Hindus, did we not as the Hindu scriptures teach renounce the world and live as monks. The answer I received was that we need to be balanced and practical and not cop out of life’s responsibilities. I asked if God had in the past incarnated into various forms why were these incarnations just in India and why did God not do this any more? Why if all religions were correct and different paths to God, were their teachings so contradictory? Their response was to tell me not to take religion too seriously or I would go mad trying to comprehend it. I thought to myself; How can we not take our whole purpose in life seriously? Surely if there was a God, who created all of us, he would’ve given us clear guidance and a message for us to follow.
The unanswered questions and contradictions led me on a quest where I would debate, question and discuss with various people. I spoke frequently to Jehovah Witnesses. I also read the bible and the bagwat geeta secretly in my room. I did find the various stories in the bible comforting but never in a way that would expel the doubts that I had.
I like many non-Muslims frequently asked questions,
If there was a God why was there so much suffering in the world?
Why were there so many different contradictory religions?
Why was there no clear message from God without contradictions and confusion?
I was an individual just waiting to be shown the truth, although for some reason I had never come across Islam, despite the fact that there had been many Muslims in my school and my very best friend was a Muslim!
It was when I was 19 years old before starting university that I bumped into an old friend and was shocked he had spent his holidays learning a foreign language – Arabic! I was really shocked that someone would want to use their summer holidays, instead of having fun, in a classroom learning another language. Whilst my friend explained to me that it was the language of the Qur’an, I thought what a waste of time. My parents had frequently discouraged me from thinking too much about religion or one would go mad and I thought this is what had happened to my old friend. I thought he had gone over the edge trying to figure out his purpose in life and now he was going to flunk life and probably become a monk.
However at the same time my stereotype of a person devoted to God did not fit the reality. My friend had told me he was going in to the second year of his degree, studying at a prestigious UK university whilst I was just starting. I agreed to meet him again, to discuss further his newly found passion for Islam.
By the time I was 19, I had become frustrated with not finding the answers to all my questions about life, so I had decided to put all my doubts to the back of my mind and become a pragmatic follower to the teachings of the Hare Krishna movement.
My friend and I met regularly to debate; we were accustomed to this manner of discussing. I would continue to repeat what I had read in the Baghwat Gita regarding Hindu philosophy. After every point I would just repeat what I had learnt regardless of whether it made any sense. We ended our discussion on amicable terms. However even though I refused to budge in the slightest on the validity of Hindu teachings my friend still wanted to meet regularly.
Now thinking back to those days over 20 years ago, it is Allah that guides whom he wills, but he used the dedication of my friend to guide me. I have to admire and appreciate his determination not to give-up and write me off as another one of those people who are blind to the truth, ‘a kafir’ who will never embrace Islam, especially after our first encounter where I seemed such a stubborn follower of Hinduism. May Allah reward him for all his efforts and dedication in the service of Islam.
I had as a result of studying Hindu Philosophy developed a warped understanding of God. For the justification in Hinduism for worshiping the creation is that everything is a part of God. This belief was challenged and brought back to the reality that all of creation is limited whereas Allah is beyond any limitation. Indeed the creation and creator are completely different in their nature.
This began to change my attitude towards creation. Previously I had always believed in God but my belief was plagued with doubt. Now I had come to an intellectual conviction in Allah, the Almighty’s existence – The One who has no beginning and whose existence can be identified but essence is beyond human comprehension. (Just like if a person knocks on the door, you know there is someone knocking from the noise but have no idea as to his appearance). I had realised that Islam was not the stereotype I had previously held in my head. Muslims were not just angry fanatics who went around burning effigies but a people who followed a unique belief that had an intellectual foundation. A strong foundation that could answer my every question I had never previously been answered.
Suddenly all my doubts left my mind. All my unanswered questions were for the first time being answered. Every aspect of life’s existence and the Hereafter;
Q. Why was there so much suffering in the World?
Q. Why all the contradictions between religions?
Q. Why was there no clear message?
Suddenly everything became clear. Allah had revealed the Quran, the word of God revelealed 1400 years ago. Preserved to the letter and in it clears proofs as to its authenticity. He had sent 124,000 messengers but their message had become changed over time accounting for all the conflicting religions. With the message of the next life Allah had also revealed a comprehensive system on how to organise life’s affairs. Its political system of ruling (Khilafah) was absent in the world today and that’s why the world was full of oppression and suffering.
Whilst I was contemplating Islam I had many worries in my mind. If I were to become Muslim, I would no longer be part of a large Indian Community which I belonged to in the UK. I also thought to myself that it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to get married since Muslim fathers would not allow their daughters to marry an outsider convert like myself. This thinking continued and I thought that what if I thought Islam was correct but was in reality making a mistake and there was some error in my thinking but I had not identified it yet.
Although I was only 19 years old, I had previously engaged in many business ventures. All of them had failed, even though at the time I was absolutely convinced that my idea was certainly going to make me rich. What if Islam was another one of those ideas – something that I was sure of at the time only to realise later that I was mistaken in my analysis? This is what worried me the most that I was going to sacrifice so much for something that might not even be the absolute truth.
So I decided that things had gone too far and I had to stop myself from making the mistake of becoming a Muslim. I suddenly told my friend that I did not want to convert and I no longer wanted to meet him if he was going to talk about Islam. So my friend disappointed in my stance which allowed no further discussion since by that point I had even put my hands over my ears to prevent him further influencing me.
Three months then passed. Every day I tried to block out what I had learnt and get on with my life as a non-Muslim. However now my belief in Hinduism had completely been destroyed yet at the same time I still believed in God. What a situation, believing in Islam, yet at the same time trying to convince myself it was wrong.
It was the most awful time but I tried to busy myself going to parties, getting drunk and anything else that would distract me. Over time, to try and justify my viewpoint, I became angry with Muslims. How can they be so arrogant to believe they are the only ones with the divine truth and all other religions are incorrect?
It was when I got a copy of the Qur’an that I realised I cannot run forever. At this point I decided to challenge Islam. I had decided enough was enough, I was going to read the Qur’an for myself, discover its contradictions and errors and then I could be at peace with myself in the decision I had made not to convert.
However as a result of reading the Quran I underwent a radical change in my thoughts and feelings. This change did not occur over the days that I read the Quran, it actually happened with me within seconds of the first night reading the Quran.
The very first verses had a striking effect upon me. “Alif Lam Meem.. This is a book of which there is no doubt…”
It was as though the Quran was revealed especially just for me and Allah was communicating to me directly from the heavens, eliminating my every fear and doubt. I was able to relate to every single verse which was a message I had never experienced before. The message was so powerful and gripped me into a truly undiverted attention to the verses in the book. This was truly a book with no contradictions. Surely as Allah says if this book was from man it would be full of errors but the Quran has none.
After two days of reading the Quran, I felt my belief was now unshakeable. I was fully convinced with not an ounce of doubt as to the validity of this message. As well as knowing the truth, I now had the strength to follow it.
I rang my friend who I had debated with and to his surprise I told him that I wanted to embrace Islam. The night before taking my declaration of faith I thanked God and made a promise that I was willing to sacrifice anything and everything to submit to the word of God. The night I became Muslim, I was in a very serious mood, feeling that my life was from now on about to take a radical and difficult change. My friend was probably a bit worried since I did not display any joy as a result of becoming Muslim but I was aware of the verses that Allah would test everyone and I was preparing myself for these tests.
I would like to share some of my experiences of what happened after my embracing Islam.
The next day when I woke up my heart was filled with an intense sense of tranquillity. I was at last at peace with myself, no longer searching for the answers to life. Content with the conclusion and contract I had made with Allah the day before. I was Al-hamdulilah a follower of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, who was the last in the line of Prophets which started with the Prophet Adam and included Prophet Noah, Moses and Jesus.
The day after converting I went to University and announced to everyone I had become Muslim. Initially people did not seem too bothered until I told my friends I would no longer be joining them in the university pub. I took every opportunity that the interest in my conversion brought to try and also persuade others about Islam. Looking back it is remarkable how someone can go from one stance in one week of being an opponent of Islam to a propagator of it the following week. This is indeed how Islam was spread in the past when the people of conquered nations embraced Islam and immediately took it upon themselves to be carriers of this message to other nations.
My parents were to find out about my conversion a few days later when my Mum noticed that I was no longer wearing my Hindu luck charm on my neck. She asked me why I was no longer wearing my necklace, which was supposed to protect against evil. I said to her absolute shock, “I don’t need the charm to protect me. Allah will protect me,” She swore at me – What do you mean ‘Allah will protect you?’ — She warned me of the implications of what I was saying and I acknowledged I had recognised the implication but this is what I believed in and that she too should also convert to Islam.
My mum was in tears and that was the hardest part of my conversion, to see my Mum so distraught with the news of my conversion. However I stood firm, realising that I could never hide my belief, because I wanted to share it with those I love so they to could come to the same realisation that I had.
I explained to my family why I had converted to Islam – that all the idols in our house had no power at all. They were all part of mythology just like the Quresh who had over time come to worship 360 idols instead of the one God who is beyond any limitation. The Kabba was originally a place built to worship the one God, over time this message had been lost as idolatry replaced the monotheistic belief. In the same way ample evidence shows Hinduism originally had divine origins but over time the pure message had become distorted and lost.
When my Mum heard this message she was shaken and could not sleep that night. However her emotions were not in line with her intellect and as she says to this day she feels she cannot convert because she lacks strength of feeling to make that change.
I was fortunate in that although my conversion did upset me parents at the same time they have always respected and even admired my decision to follow my convictions.
After embracing Islam, I was very optimistic that once my relatives heard the message of Islam they would inevitably also witness that there was No God but Allah and that the Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was a Prophet of Allah. However to my surprise until today none of my parents, nor my brother or any of my relatives has yet embraced Islam. However, writing this account has reminded me that I should never give up or loose hope.
Before embracing Islam, I thought I would be losing in this life many things. But in reality I have only gained. Gained being part of a bigger family of the Ummah, a brotherhood of Muslims throughout the world. I gained a tranquillity which comes from the acknowledgment in the truth which is confirmed in the mind and settles in ones heart. A tranquillity where the human being is no longer searching or trying to persuade himself about the answers about life’s purpose and creation.
Before becoming Muslim, I felt I had compromised the highest ideals, due to not abandoning all of life’s pleasures and devoting myself to become a Monk. Islam does not ask or encourage its followers to abandon life. Rather it commands the Muslim to work. Recommends them to get married and have children, to look after others and involve in societal affairs. Indeed when one does this in accordance with Gods commands he is worshiping his Creator.
Finally my fears of never being able to find a wife were false. Al-Hamduliah, Allah has given me what every persons desires in life – a wonderful wife (who was also a convert like myself) and four lovely children.
For all those on their search for the truth, Muslim and non-Muslim I would like to end with a perfect Prayer,
O Allah, Help me see the Truth as TRUTH and give me the strength to follow it
And O Allah, Help me to see Falsehood as FALSE and give me the strength to Abstain from it.