Real & Wonderful Stories
Compiled by: Abdurahim bin Mizhir Almalki
I grew up in Philadelphia, PA. I was raised as a Christian in the Baptist church. My mother made me go to church every Sunday, and on that day the only music that was allowed to be played was Gospel. I never like church very much; it always seemed to me to be a place for a fashion show. You had to wear your very best outfit and sit and check out everybody else’s as they came through the door. I would see people nudging each other as they saw people come through the door and gossiping about them or looking at them with their noses in the air.
I noticed some were very uncomfortable about what they had on because they knew they would be discussed after the service. I never liked that atmosphere. Then it came time for the service. Now was the preacher’s time to show out. He would start slow and easy with the preaching, and it would build up as he went along. He would then grab the Bible and start jumping up and down, sweat running everywhere.
The people would get happy with him and start shouting and carrying on. And it never failed when the people became excited like that, that they would pass around the money container. Out of being so fired up, they would give all they had without even thinking about it. I never could understand why when the preacher got excited, so did they. It never hit me like that, and I use to wonder why. So I would go home and start reading the Bible.
I was sure I would find my answer in there as to why I wasn’t like the rest of the holy people. I really thought I wasn’t doing something right. But as I read the Bible, I never noticed any of the people in there ever jumping up and down and getting happy. I remember reading when Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas, and he (Jesus) went behind a mountain to pray. I remember thinking, “Who is God praying to?” I knew then something was wrong. So I asked my mother and grandmother, and they told me he was praying to the Father. Well, that threw me into total confusion, and I stayed that way until I was a teenager, concluding that church just wasn’t for me. So I never was a religious person.
I used to notice Muslim sisters walking along or on the bus. They stood out, and I wanted to know about them but didn’t know how to approach them. I had a friend who told me to greet them with “As-salamu ‘alaykum.” So I decided that the next time I saw a Muslim sister I would say that. My friend told me that the Muslims have a book called the Qur’an and that they don’t eat pork. Neither one of us understood why they covered, but we thought it was kind of neat. It made them stand out, and they always carried themselves so well.
One day I was on the bus going downtown, and a Muslim sister got on. I greeted her with “As-salamu ‘alaykum,” and she greeted me back. Then I asked her where I could get a copy of the Qur’an, and she told me. The very next day I went and got one. When I started to read this book, it gave me a good feeling; I could understand it, and I couldn’t put it down.
I decided to go into the military. I took the Qur’an with me and continued to read it and told my army buddies about what it said. This continued for three years. I re-enlisted for two more years and went to Texas. My roommate was a Buddhist, and I use to see her sit at a little box and she would chant and ring bells in front of candles. I told her I was interested in Islam and about what I was reading. One day she handed me a sheet of paper and said, “Maybe you would be interested in this.” It was about Islam and gave the location of where they met on Fridays. I took it and threw it in my locker. A day or two later I decided to go to this place and see what Islam was all about. I listened to the khtubah and liked very much what I was hearing. The imam was talking about people and their behavior, how women should dress and no sex before marriage. It left a good impression on me, and the sisters were so nice to me. They didn’t try to convert me, and they invited me back. So the next Friday I returned, and again I loved the khtubah. What he was saying was a reality, it was true. The sisters told me they would be having a picnic at the park that next week and would like me to join them. I accepted the invitation.
The next week arrived and off to the park we went. We arrived in the afternoon. I watched while the brothers covered the ground with white sheets. I thought to myself, “This is where we will sit and eat.” While the sisters and I were sitting on a bench, a brother got up, took off his shoes, stood in the middle of the sheets, and put his hands up to his ears and started singing (at least that’s what I thought). I said to myself, “What on earth is he doing?” I asked a sister close to me what he was doing and she said, “Making the call to prayer.” Then I watched them as they made the Sunnah prayer. While one was standing up another was bending over and yet another had his face to the ground. I sat and observed. When they all had finished another brother came and called again to prayer, but this time everybody got up and made lines like we did in the army.
One man was in front, while all others were behind him in rows, just like we did in formation. The women were in the back farther away. They started to pray. I had never seen anything so amazing in my whole entire life; I was so overwhelmed when I saw that. I knew then and there I wanted to be a Muslim. When the day was over I told them I would come back the next week. I did, but this time I told the sister I wanted to be a Muslim. They told their imam, and I took the shahadah. That was the happiest day of my life. All the sisters hugged me and congratulated me. I felt like I had been lifted into a new world, and I have never felt any different until this very day. Al-hamdu lilahi rabbil-alameen.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) guide us all to accept His decree. May Allah make us all strong in following, practicing and accepting this great religion in its entirety, and may Allah give us the strength, faith and support to fight our desires. Ameen.