My Life Before Islam
My mother is a Jehovahís Witness, and my father would be called a ďlapsed CatholicĒ, but I was raised in the 1970s in a very tolerant atmosphere.
In fact I have one uncle who is an Apostolic, and other family members are Anglicans.
I was studying history at university in the 1990s, and I developed a strong interest in all matters Islamic.
As soon as we started touching on anything to do with Islamic affairs, or the Islamic religion or Muslim history, whether itís in the Soviet Union, Soviet Russia, or whether it was in Religious Studies 101 (Introduction to World Religions), everywhere I went I kept coming across Islam, and I kept getting more and more interested. I read more and more books, and I just slowly became more and more convinced that this was the true religion, so it (the shahada) seemed a logical step.
August 1996 with Dr. Mustafa Farouq in Hamilton, Dr. Anis Al-Rahman in Hamilton and a large number of people whose names I have forgotten, although I remember Abu Saad, the Egyptian from Port Said, he will remember me. There were a lot of people, very good brothers whose names escape me completely, but I remember them everytime I go up to Hamilton.
Family and Friends Reaction
I had already expressed quite a lot of interest (in Islam), so I donít think it came as much of a surprise to anyone, it naturally followed-on from what I was already talking about all the time in my spare time, so it sort of flowed-on. I donít think there was anyone who was openly surprised, I didnít have any arguments.
Later on, other converts said they had terrible arguments with their families and all sorts of problems and obstructions. I thought I've been very lucky and very blessed because my family were very supportive and very helpful. My mother always goes out of her way to get us halal food for us whenever we come to visit. I have had absolutely no trouble whatsoever.
How Has Islam Changed My Everyday Life?
|Islam helped me to be a better person by giving me some degree of focus, some conception that this world is not the only one|
I like to think that Islam made me slightly a better person, I hope it has made me a better person. I can't prove it physically with any evidence or anything but one always hopes. You always try to be a better person; try to be a better father, try to be a better employee, trying to be a better citizen and so forth.
I think Islam helped me to be a better person by giving me some degree of focus, some conception that this world is not the only one. My dad was always saying that we are all just part of the nitrogen cycle! Like this is it, and you are going to die, be dead, and be buried and thatís all. Islam gives you that faith that there is going to be a little bit more, there is going to be something better. It gives you something to work towards, instead of just the material things of this world, you can also sort of work towards the better things of the next world in the spiritual sense.
So instead of just being focused on accumulating money and material goods and being obsessed with gaining wealth, which God knows Iím far from, you can focus on the spiritual things like doing things for others with other Muslim brothers down in the mosque, helping people, spending time with your family. Everyone says Iím not particularly career-focused, Iím very focused on my familyĒ, and I always attribute it to the religion. Islam places a great stress on family, so Iím just always there for my family, always there for my kids.
What Islam Can Offer
I think Islam has a lot to offer people in the sense that it gives you some sort of structure and guidelines, some sort of purpose to what you are doing, instead of just being focused as I said on the material things, but you can also focus on spiritual things as well.
Islam has a lot to offer in terms of ethics, for example giving up alcohol. I know personally from experience Iím much better off as a person and as an individual; as a son, as a brother, as a father... In terms of giving up alcohol, that is a real terrible waste of time and money, and once you give up alcohol, this is one of the tenets of the Islam faith that you donít drink alcohol, and once you give up alcohol you save so much money and you get all that time with your kids, it just improves your life on so many different levels. Yet it's hard to explain. At many different levels Islam does improve things, you give up alcohol (and other bad habits), but also you persevere towards spiritual and religious goals and towards spending time with your family. It just makes you a better person...
|Thereís nothing better you can do for your life than expand your mind by reading|
I would urge people to read, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It surprises me how little people read, maybe it's just because I read too much! But I really do encourage people to read a lot, I know a lot of people are watching TV. I really encourage them to read. The first revelation of Quran was ďRead in the name of AllahĒ. So read history books, read the biography of Prophet Muhammad. Read about other Muslims. Read about non-Muslims, just broaden your knowledge.
Thereís nothing better you can do for your life than expand your mind by reading. Read the Quran. So many people have judgments about Islam and they have never read the Quran. It absolutely surprises me how people make judgments on something they havenít read about, but this also applies to Muslims. So I encourage Muslims to read.
Muslim Kiwi As a Kiwi Muslim, Iíd say it's feeling boring actually. A lot of people think it is exotic..., but it's not. It's actually very ordinary. I still do all of the things that most Kiwis do, except for the drinking obviously. I still go to the family functions, and picnics and spend a lot of time reading books and stuff I used to do before I became Muslim. It wasnít a great transition for me, it was not a great change, because a lot of the things I do in Islam I was already doing before I became Muslim. As I said, I was studying books about Islam and studying Islamic history, so a lot of the things were just a natural follow-on for me.
I donít find any specific nothing overly burdensome or conflicts in terms of being a Kiwi and being a Muslim. I think people arenít used to it, and I get a lot of people asking because I use the name Abdullah all the time, and people ask ďAbdullah, where is that from?Ē I say ďIím from New Zealand! Itís not anything exotic, itís just a Muslim name, like you know Cat Stevens became Yusuf Islam, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali".
I certainly think in New Zealand thereís a less appreciation of that. Itís still a novelty, which can be a drag sometimes. Sometimes I feel that I should be carrying a business card just to explain it, as I can't be bothered to explain it...
I became a Muslim because I think it is a good religion not because I wanted to draw attention to myself.