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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Brother Steve from New Zealand Discovers Islam by Fasting Ramadan

My name is Steve. I was born in New Zealand in 1972, in a little town called Reefton, which is on the west coast of the South Islands.

I was adopted to some new parents, Keith and Darrel, who looked after me very well, and I moved with them to most of the places in New Zealand, and spent a little bit of time overseas.

I was brought up in a Christian home, and my father was a Baptist minister, so he was actually a clergyman or a minister of the church, and we would travel around with him to a church that he was placed at. It was a really really good upbringing, I was brought up with the ethics in the belief system of the Bible obviously and Christianity. It was a really good foundation for me in my life.

My parents worked very hard for us to understand what we were taught in the Bible, and also good manners, old traditional manners that often don’t get taught now. I was lucky enough to be brought up in such a home, with an understanding of God definitely, growing up younger going to Sunday school, and having a belief that there was a Creator who had a plan for my life, and had a plan for everyone’s life, and I had to find out what that was and do the best I could.

I often went to church; we went regularly every Sunday. As I grew older, I would go to youth group as well, which would be during the week and socialize with friends, and most of our life revolved around the church because dad was so involved in the church.

At church we were taught that Islam was not a very good thing. I don’t need to go into the detail there, so early on, my experience with Islam was really negative; what the media had portrayed to me. When I first came up against it in a real way, I was in Syria and Jordan on a holiday, and stayed with various Muslim families, and was taken aback by the hospitality. I was very suspicious of their hospitality at first, because I had never come across people who were so friendly and so giving and so open.

I was invited into their masjid to meet people, and I was very scared, and having not had any experience of that except through the media, and wondering what the masjid was going to be like. The first time I was there, I was welcomed by many strangers and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses and contacts, and it was a very pleasant introduction to Islam.

I first started learning more about Islam when I started working on a project that I’d been assigned to, and I met a couple of Muslims at work who steered me in the right direction. They both were very interested in my circumstances, and where I was at. Where I was at in my life at the time was not particularly pleasant, I didn’t have a very happy life, and really self-destructive, and both of my friends that I met, they were Muslims who directed me to some older Muslim friends they knew, who asked questions as they could see that I was searching. So initially I was given a book which covers all the major religions in the world, and how they had formed and where they had formed, and what their beliefs were.

From there I decided that Islam seems like a very reasonable approach to life, and a very measured way of doing things, rather than the dogmatic beliefs that I had previously that were not necessarily the truth but what I had in my mind. I was introduced to another man, Sheikh Noury, who is from Yemen, and I would meet with him regularly where we would laugh and joke and talk about life, Islam, the media and all sorts of things, and I began to have all my questions answered.

I did come with a lot of preconceptions on how women were treated, terrorism, the Afterlife and just all the things that people who are ignorant of what Islam is like have. It’s quite natural to have them. And eventually I managed to move aside all those preconceptions, and realize that all the beliefs and all the traditions and all the rules that were in place within Islam for me had a practical reason behind them, and it was refreshing to investigate something, a belief or something in scripture and realize that the reason it was there was because of this, not just because it had to be there. I felt it was very practical.

I reverted, or converted, a year ago, just over a year ago now – 18 months ago – I was at a stage where I was undecided what I wanted to do. I had made some serious changes in my life: I stopped drinking, and I was on my way to stop smoking, and I was settling down in my crazy ways, but I still was not quite decided on where I wanted to go in my spiritual life. Through the friends I had at work, my Muslim friends, i was taught about Ramadan, and I decided that I would fast Ramadan, and do the prayers for Ramadan to experience it.

So I went to the Islamic center and met the people there, and had lots of meals there, it was fun and lots of prayers there, and during the day I did the Ramadan fast. After I completed it I was surprised at the effect that it had on me. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I guess in a western society we don’t often deprive ourselves of things, or we don’t choose to deprive ourselves of things, and you go through these days of intentionally not eating during the day, when everything around you is telling you to eat and drink, it was quite an inspiring thing for me.

After that I met with Sheikh Noury again, and he came to my house, and he said why are you waiting to make a decision? I agreed and so in my house, just over there, I said what I needed to say and became Muslim, and it was great. I felt that I had made a very worthy decision.

There was a little bit of tribulation because I knew that my friends and family would not understand, but those who have no exposure to people who are Muslims, it would seem like a crazy decision. I felt like I had been walking in a long dark corridor, and I opened the door and I just got out…I can sort of take my breath out now, and start the journey again because I had lost my way.

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