Please read / watch first before making assumptions, drawing conclusions, or passing judgments.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Alma And Levi - The Two French Sisters' Story of Transformation

Laurent Levy, an Atheist Jew, noticed dramatic changes in his two daughters - Alma and Lila Lévy-Omari, but he did not attribute much importance to them. One day, the two girls stopped eating pork. A while later, they informed him that they intended to fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. then the sisters informed him of their intention to pray five times a day, as commanded by the Qur'an. There is no reason why they shouldn't do this, thought the father. Then they stopped going to the beach and wearing bathing suits. At night the two sat and learned chapters of the Qur'an by heart. Friends in the neighborhood and at school were amazed by the change in the two cheerful young women. Gradually they began to wrap themselves in long clothing, even in the summer, and covered their legs with thick stockings.

A little while later, the transformation was completed. Lila and Alma donned scarves and covered their heads. At school they stopped talking to boys. They did not take part in physical education classes, as they were required to wear gym clothes that they felt revealed too much of their bodies.

According to the father, his daughters were captivated by the Muslim religion and he found himself helpless in the face of their accelerated transformation. All his life he had loathed religious beliefs of any sort and blamed them for ignorance and various kinds of distress. He preached secularism and joined the movements of the extreme left, because he only felt at home there.

The two sisters were called into the office of the principal of the Henri Wallon High School, where they studied. Their external appearance, they were informed, was causing ferment among the students, and therefore they must dress like the others; if not, they would be expelled. The girls refused. The school sent a letter to their parents and warned of the steps it was about to take. The parents, who are divorced, defended their daughters, each in his or her own way: The mother, a non-practicing Muslim, tried to moderate her daughters' stubbornness, the father supported their struggle.

The two sisters were suspended from school until the convening of a disciplinary committee that was supposed to decide their fate. The media depicted the affair as a test of the state's secularism, and the story quickly hit the headlines. The intellectual community was in an uproar, as were local political institutions; both intellectuals and politicians openly applied pressure on the school's disciplinary committee members to reach a decision that reflected their point of view.

Before the girls were suspended from school, they were asked to remove their head coverings because of their religious significance. The school authorities relied on a law concerning the separation of church and state, and argued that the head coverings violated the spirit of the law.

The disciplinary committee met at the school. Dozens of journalists crowded into the entrance to the school, and television cameras broadcast live the arrival of the girls and their father. The deliberations began at 6 P.M. and went on until after midnight. The French waited for the committee's ruling as if the future of the French Republic depended on the decision of a few members of the school board of an obscure suburb of Paris.

At the end of the discussion, the members of the Levy family left the hall. The expressions on their faces testified to what had happened inside. "This was not a pedagogical discussion," one of the teachers told the journalists. "It was like a court martial." Another teacher, with a broad smile on his face, related that the correct and inevitable decision had been taken. "We decided to expel them from the school," he said, "because the internal `balance' in France makes it essential that a head covering not cover the hair, the ears or the base of the neck. It turns out that Muslim young women do not want to expose these parts.'

"This shows how low France has sunk." Levy told Haaretz two days later. He couldn't fall asleep that night, nor could his daughters. They read verses of the Qur'an. "I was proud of them," he added. "I educated my children to be rebellious and I am proud that they have followed in my footsteps."

"Let there be no doubt," added Levy, "I know that the disciplinary committee's decision was taken at the highest levels of the country's government. Only someone who isn't French is unable to understand this country's insanity when it comes to the veil. Say `head covering' to a French person and they're ready to embark on a civil war. I'm a leftist and definitely a secular person, but as I see it, secularism is the freedom to act on your religious beliefs without the government interfering."

"Members of the disciplinary committee demanded that the girls expose parts of their bodies... Since when, I asked them, can people be forced to expose their bodies? To my regret, this was an embarrassing spectacle. None of them listened to me because the outcome was predetermined."

Hundreds of girls like Lila and Alma Levy are forced to make a decision: to take off the scarf and continue their education or to insist on wearing it and face exclusion and even humiliation.

One of the reasons some politicians and scholars cite for supporting the ban of the head covering is that the scarf - in their view - is a universal symbol of women being oppressed by men.

Alma says: "In my point of view, if you want to defend an oppressed woman, then don't oppress another one."

Whats amazing in this story is the fact that the difference in religion never stood as an obstacle in front of love. The father is an Atheist from Jewish ancestry, but he supported his daughters until the end. All respects to Mr Laurent Levy. Also, the fact that the two sisters had a strong will and an iron personality is commendable. In spite of the hard situation, they decided to choose what's right and never give up. These girls serve as a shinning example and an inspiration to every Muslimah struggling in society for their right to follow their faith. May Allah bless them immensely.

The Story of an Ex Jewish (Yiddish) Muslimah

"This is not true!! Liars!! How can you even SAY THAT?! You make my heart cry!"...That’s how I first interacted with Islam (before then I had spent a good month and a half looking into Islamic websites, feeling like a traitor as I marveled at the peaceful logic).

I read that Muslims think that Jews eat pork, and that they perform unmentionable abuse to baby boys as they circumcise them. Immediately, as a well-trained media controller from a renowned Jewish religious youth movement, I contacted the source of these “lies” I had read. Eloquently yet passionately, I refuted his claim and asked him for references to the immoral teachings he was spreading, adding what a “Chillul Hashem” (disgrace to God) he was to the Jewish People. Within days, I got a reply, as eloquent and well-mannered as the one I had sent out. It clearly stated where in the Talmud (Rabbinical commentary) and Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law, lit. “Set Table”) I could find the sources for his “accusations”, and a polite invitation to confirm it with my local Rav (Rabbi).

I did. And as I had proudly marched to his office, thinking he would tell me that the accusations were just that, instead, he simply confirmed the horrible facts I had read online, leaving me wandering out of there in a state of disillusion. What had I believed in?

“Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is everywhere”…except in the bathroom, which is why you as a religious person find yourself reading classic, contemporary literature in there, in an attempt to save the rest of the house from the “tumah” (impurity) of these books. Or having a secret milk chocolate bar after eating meat…

I started looking for God. I knew where He wasn't. I went into a website presenting Islam’s interpretation of God. In Islam, God is above the 7th heaven & with us in His knowledge, and always aware of everything that happens to everyone. Content, I agreed and thought that such is the case in Judaism as well, but just to make sure, since I wanted to battle it out in a good conversation with non-Jews, I tried finding a Jewish source that would confirm my beliefs. I could not find this anywhere.

I come from a very varied background; Jewish, Christian, Atheist, liberal, intellectual and empathic people line up in my family tree. When I was very young, I chose to bring forth my Jewish heritage. Since Jews only recognize you as being Jewish if your mother is Jewish, I had to convert. For me, this involved six years of intense studies, including everything from Torah and Halacha (Jewish Law) to Tzniyut (Jewish modesty laws) and Chassidut (mystical, sometimes heretical teachings). After countless begging and pleading, and even marrying a Jew according to civil law, I finally converted to Judaism some three years ago.

Converting was such a relief, but more than anything, my mind was weary and drained, having lived through all the pros and cons (ignoring the cons however) of Yiddishkeit (religious Judaism) for such a long time.

Throughout my Jewish life, when praying, I always had the feeling that mine was the role of a pupil being sent to the principal's office. I was begging Him to please listen, if just for a minute. Many times I would spend the whole day in prayer, begging for a way out of my situation and for Him to keep his people close to Him. Due to personal hardship, I underwent a series of negative experiences with the Jewish world, and although I do not hold them accountable for them, I nonetheless lost my faith in Judaism. This opened up a door to the outside world, which I had shut closed three years earlier. I started seeing that my perfect people were the source of other people’s misery.

It got to the point where I couldn't pray anymore, simply because I didn't think that the Jewish People were deserving of anyone asking God to keep them safe and "speedily uproot the wanton sinners". The more senior citizens I saw being denied to see their home in Palestine one last time before they die, the more traumatized children crying in the street I saw on TV, the more flyers I saw begging the public to donate medical equipment and clothes to the Palestinians...while hearing the Israeli politicians talking about striking back even harder at them...made it all start to feel a little too much for me to accept, let alone give my prayers to.

Feeling a little uneasy about my new-found soft attitude to the “Goyim” (the non-Jews) I figured I must have become a liberal Jew. So I became a supportive member of 'Peace Now', in an effort to identify with them. At some point, I felt that I was too liberal even for them :-)

At the same time, I ordered booklets on Islam, from Kuwait. When I received them, I was taken aside and questioned by my community. Was I dealing with terrorists? Was I a security threat? Did I become Muslim? And if so, can I kindly remove myself and my family away from the Jewish neighborhood?

The turning point was when I saw a video about the suffering in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I had seen things like this many times. Only this time, instead of the usual reaction I would have had a year ago - sighing and belittling Muslims - instead, I broke down and cried. For hours.

From then on, a remarkable change in my prayers started to happen: I remodeled them to suit my own needs. I cut out 'Am Yisrael' and replaced them with their Islamic counterparts. I started praying for the welfare of the Ummah. I started praying for the children and mothers in Palestine, not in Israel. I started directing my heart away from the Kotel Hama’aravi (the Western Wall). The Kotel became more…like the ruin it is. To quote a dear friend of mine: “The Third Temple IS rebuilt – it stands there NOW in front of their eyes, with a roof of gold.”

I went into an Islamic chat room to see if I would be kicked out when I’d say I was Jewish. At this point, the term “Jewish” served only to describe my creed. I had removed all the traces of Jewish religious life from my family and myself and replaced it with a big empty, anticipating hole.

As I announced my presence, I was greeted politely by a written choir of “asalam alaikum w/r w/b” to which I replied, clumsily, “hi”. Curious at the incoherence of basic Islamic greeting phrases, I was asked if I was Muslim. “Not yet” I replied, and felt life rushing inside me. “Where are you from?” was the natural follow-up. I folded and told everyone that I am Jewish. And that was OK. Nobody came to kick me out, or speak indecently with me. I was respected as I was, but the mere fact that I had said “not yet” prompted a few people to try talking to me. Most of the time, I would leave people feeling helpless since I would ask how I could be a Muslim if I don’t know the Quran very well, and Islamic Law, and commentary, and new books, and, and, and…everything I used to know in Judaism, only mirrored into Islam. Most people would tell me that they didn’t know what to say. Except one.

One night, a man and his wife from an Islamic country spent hours on end talking to me. Out of all the things we were discussing, one talk stuck to me:

“Let’s say you admire an author, he is your favorite one, but he’s only published one book so far. You've read it over and over and you love it. Then one day, the author announces that he is publishing two new books. Will you read them? Or will you say that only his first book is valid and any other works are not worthy of reading? Surely you would not.”

These words took me off guard. I remained silent for what seemed an eternity.

As the days went on, a small yet clear and strong feeling, a kind of gentle energy inside me, called out to say the words. I rehearsed them over and over. I even wrote them down on paper and carried with me wherever I went, just in case I would brave myself and go ahead.

A few weeks later, I decided that I could not wait any longer, and what was I waiting for anyway? Or who? I was waiting for myself. And when I realized this, things started making sense to me again.

So one evening, as I was about to go online again and talk about talking about Islam, instead, I poured up a hot bath, and pacing up and down the hallway and while the tub filled, all the doubts were racing in my mind: “What will my family say? The Jews will think I have gone mad! There’s no such thing as a Jewish Muslim!” In the midst of my own little inferno, I could hear my soul gently whispering: “Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem”. As if it was pushing me in the direction I wanted to go into but wouldn't dare to. Staring at the image in the mirror, I heard the logic in the talk I had been part of only nights before. Silently, I slipped into the armchair by the computer, and contacted the people who had been so patiently bearing with me as I was talking about talking about Islam. I was ready.

As I said the Shahada, I trembled, not out of fear but rather from love and the intensity of knowing that the truth lies in such a misunderstood religion. May Allah guide you to a life of peace and knowledge, and may He open your heart to the truth, justice and serenity of Islam.

Swiss politician Daniel Streich who rose to fame as a result of his opposition to masjids in his homeland embraces the very faith he reviled

Daniel Streich Embracing Islam

Streich was an important member of Swiss People’s Party (SVP) in Switzerland. His importance could be estimated from his influence on party’s policy making, in which he always had a prominent role. His movement against minarets was aimed at gaining political attention and interest. He won the slot of military instructor in the Swiss Army due to his popularity.

Born in a Christian family, Streich had a comprehensive study of Islam merely to malign and confront, but Islamic teachings had a deep impact on him. Eventually he de-linked himself from political activities and he embraced Islam. Streich has termed the SVO activities against the Muslims as satanic.

He says that he used to read the Bible and often went to chapel, but now he recites the Holy Quran and offers his prayers five times a day. He further says that he cancelled his party membership and made public his conversion. Streich says that he has found the truth of life in Islam, which he could not find in Christianity.

With the party’s campaign to ban minarets leading to a referendum, Streich said the situation had become unbearable for him.

In the lead up to the ban Streich said “If the initiative passes, it will be an absolute deep blow for me. I would have to ask myself, why I applied myself professionally and politically for over 30 years for this political system. It is not worthy of Switzerland to force Muslims to practice their faith in back alleys.”

He has now focused his intentions on participating in the building of the new Conservative Democratic Party in the canton of Freiburg. Freich’s new movement is in contrast to his previous one and he aims to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on masjid minarets has gained a legal status.

He is vehemently opposed to the Minaret ban and is hoping to establish Switzerland’s fifth masjid and the most beautiful in Europe.

The most interesting thing in this regard is that at present there are four masjids in Switzerland and Streich wants to lay the foundation for the fifth one. He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam.

This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation.

The question of ban on minarets was put to voting in Switzerland, wherein the Swiss nationals gave the issue a legal status.

As per voting results 42.5 percent people voted in favour of the minarets and 57.5 percent supported the ban, while the Muslim population in Switzerland is only 6 percent. The most wondrous thing in this regard, therefore, is the support of 42.5 per cent of population for only six per cent Muslims.

Analysts claim that ban on minarets and Islamic rituals has attracted the people towards Islam.

On the other hand the Swiss military authorities have feared that Streich, who was once a military instructor, might reveal army secrets to the Muslims.

An SVP National Council member says that Streich as military instructor could be dangerous.

However, a spokesman of Swiss Army while rejecting this impression said that the performance of our military was more important than that who instructed it.

From within their own ranks, a man is now working for the promotion of Islam and its teachings. The law of a country can ban minarets but not minds and hearts.

National Geographic’s Hajj Introduces Sister Nura to Islam

This is my reversion story, in-sha-Allah. My journey to Islam was really a life experience.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with South Asian culture.

And as a teenage and as a result of a book report at high school, I became totally obsessed with Laurence of Arabia, and he had a strange fascination with Islam, so I did that.

And then before that my brother had an extensive collection of National Geographic issues that some friends of our parents had given us.

There was a correspondent by the name of Thomas Abercrombie who was actually a revert, and in the 1960s he covered the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) for National Geographic. And I remember reading the article in late 1980s and I was looking at the pictures of all of these people circling the Kaaba and I remember thinking to myself with great emotion how much I wanted to be there. I didn’t know what it was.

I didn’t know what they were doing. I didn’t understand anything about it. But something in my heart told me that this is where I wanted to be. This is a good place to be.

But I didn’t understand that a person could become Muslim. I didn’t understand that Thomas Abercrombie hadn’t always been Muslim. I was only 12 or 13 at the time. So I thought becoming Muslim was like becoming Hindu. You couldn’t do it. You had to be born Hindu and that was it. I also thought that women couldn’t go in Hajj. I thought it was only for men because the pictures Thomas Abercrombie submitted were of the men only because he was kind of recording his Hajj. I didn’t understand it was because of the segregation of the genders, and that there were a lot of women too.

Also, growing up I was always very artistically-minded. I was always drawing and writing and things like that. And I remember starting writing Arabic words. I didn’t know what I was writing. I would draw the Saudi flag and write the words on it. I didn’t know then I was writing things like bismillah (In the name of Allah) and the shahadah (Muslim declaration of faith).

Anyways, life went on. I finished high school. I got married, went to college, went to work. I forgot all about my obsession with South Asia and with the Middle East. I was living in Austin Texas, and at the University of Texas there were loads and loads of Pakistanis and Indians. I started making friends with these Indians and Pakistanis and I finally met my first real life Muslim. I had grown up in rural areas so there were not a lot of Muslims and Arabs out there.

In trying to learn more about Pakistan, because I knew nothing at all about Pakistan and Pakistani people, so I wanted to learn about the country. I always wanted to know where my friends come from. In doing so I started hearing more about Islam because Pakistan’s official name is “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.

Also at the same time I started to notice that there was a difference between my Hindu and Muslim friends and I had really to make that comparison because I also had friends that were Indians, either Hindu or Muslims, and I noticed there was a difference even if they were not really good practicing Muslims, you know like Jumuah (The congregational worship performed on Fridays in place of the Midday worship) and Eid Muslims, there was still something peaceful to them. There was something different that my Hindu friends didn’t seem to have. I’m not saying my Hindu friends were not happy or nice or anything else, but there was something different I was noticing. And so that also made me want to find out more about Islam. I wanted to find out what was different.

So in the course of a conversation with my friends, I discovered that one could actually become Muslim. I was like “Wow” I was shocked really because at the same time I had become so disheartened with Christianity. I was really feeling spiritually lost and I had started looking into other religions. I was no longer attending church.

I was married at the time to my now ex-husband. He was not religious. He just did it because everybody else did it, you know, his parents were Lutheran, his grandparents were Lutherans, so on and so forth. So he was a bit worried about me because surely I was acting strange but he loved me to pursue my search.

I tried Buddhism and Shinto-ism. I was completely confused by the concepts of all these gods and goddesses and spirits and all these other things. Also it’s totally not done in English at all. I know some people would say Islam is also done in Arabic. Well no, yes we have Duaa, prayers and we recite the Quran in Arabic, but you can get a lot of English and you can get a lot of your original language where it seemed like Buddhism is all done in a language that nobody speaks anymore.

Anyways, I knew Hinduism was out of the question because like I said you have to be born into Hinduism and also it always kind of seemed like some sort of spiritual journey type like the life of Beetles and Hippies, if you are not an Indian, I’m talking about white western people.

Anyways I was really starting to feel like that there was no religion out there for me. Nothing seemed to fit what I needed. Nothing seemed to be saying what I was feeling in my heart. I yearned for religious structure and clarity. Christianity had lost me once I started questioning the whole three into one teaching, the trinity.

Finally with Islam I had found a religion that is teaching God is one, has no sons, nor is He begotten. Then I went online and I started chatting with loads of Muslims, stopped socializing with my non-Muslim friends. I stopped eating and drinking things that were haram. I even started buying my meat at a Halal market.

But I still had not made the shahadah. So I was still not Muslim. I was starting to live like a Muslim but I wasn’t a Muslim yet, because I wanted to learn as much as I could about Islam. I wanted to be sure what I am getting myself into. And I’ve obsessive compulsive disorder that just came in very handy here. I would stay all night studying and I would ask my friends questions, and I would take notes on everything. I would sleep maybe three or four hours and then I would get back right in again. I surfed all the information that I could but I had still not taken that final step.

And then one day a friend said to me: “You know what is the difference between you and me?” I said “No” He responded “You haven’t said the shahadah yet. That’s it. It’s the only difference.”

And then at the same time, somebody also had given me a link to a lecture that Hamza Yusuf did about all the people walking around this world who were Muslim but didn’t know it yet. That made me really think about it. Then the final blow came when another friend asked me “What’s going to happen if you die before you say the shahadah? Stop delaying it. Say it already”.

So finally, on August 31st. 2002 in Austin Texas in an original Dawah conference I said the shahadah: La illaha illa Allah, Mohamed Rassul Allah (There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His messenger.) And then I got divorced from my Christian husband who had made it very clear that he would never become Muslim. He wasn’t a very good Christian but you know I guess he felt that being Christian was better than being Muslim. And I decided to move to Chicago so that I could be around more Muslims. And the rest as they say is history.

I just want to add that Islam truly is the natural religion. And for those of us whom Allah guides to Islam we discover that it was with us in our fitrah (our nature) all along. I was a Muslim and I didn’t even know it and I tell you that the term “Revert” is much better than the term “Convert”. I prefer the term revert because when I became Muslim I was doing nothing more than reverting back to who I was, to what I was, as a 6-year-old girl. I had the same beliefs about God then as I do today. It was just the time in between 6 to 26 that everything had gotten messed up. Alhamdulellah, Allah gave me the chance to get it all straight and back out.

Heart of a Muslim ღ By Jumaana Salma Amatullah (Formerly D. Jacqueline Cosens)

" Raised in Christianity, I never found satisfactory answers to many questions of the teachings. Always curious and filled with tremendous conviction, to find ‘Who’ my Creator was, and what my existence and purpose was on earth, I began seeking various doctrines and philosophies for decades.

Covering the assorted divisions in Christianity, and still unfulfilled, I progressed through many other beliefs until one day I just decided it was all myths. Having come to that deadening conclusion of atheism frightened me. It certainly made no sense when one looks at the reality of the universe around them. If there was no Creator, then there seemed no genuine purpose in living.

My children, writing, research, travel, and various studies filled my life until 1987. Suddenly everything seemed to change. My father, whom I was closest to died that year. I had never thought about losing him. It just never crossed my mind. I was unable to do anything to help him, as I watched him grow more ill with each passing day. When he was gone, I felt so incredibly alone.

The sadness was overwhelming, unlike any I had ever known. No one could feel it through me or for me. It was ‘my’ sadness. In desperation, I prayed through tears of sincerity for ‘my Creator’, whomever that might be, to guide me to the right path. My studies brought knowledge of Him in my mind, but my heart just could not find Him.

One morning I turned on the television, trying desperately to fill my mind with nothingness, and trying to distract myself from the constant nagging thoughts about religions and beliefs. On the screen, was Phil Donahue, a popular talk show host. He was interviewing a man who spoke about Islam. Next to him was the man’s wife who had converted to Islam. I was paying alot of attention to what the woman was saying, because I had known numerous women who converted to their husband’s religions.

She sat there, in a modest type of dress, and her head covered with a scarf. It was beautiful. She looked pure and happy, spoke intelligently and without the crazy antics, that usually emerged from most of the talk show circuit guests. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t see her shape or what her hair looked like. It was all in her eyes and in her voice. She was telling about her conversion to Islam. So much of what she talked about was exactly the way I had believed and how I had lived, in spite of all the craziness around me. They called themselves Muslims.

The only Muslims I had ever heard about as a child in America, were connected to a racist group, who was said to hate anyone with different color eyes and hair than they had. Islam was also part of the name for their organization, so this didn’t make a lot of sense at first. Assuming they were the same people, there must have been some radical change that occurred from when I was a youngster. I quickly became glued to the talk show and learned that the true Islamic Faith, which began in Arabia, did not have any kind of prejudices involved.

True Islam does not propagate any racism or hatred for anyone. The more I heard, the more I was interested. Having had one idea of what Islam was or wasn’t had come strictly from the media. I had assumed that if a group uses the name Islam in their title they were the same as all Muslims who practice the Islamic Faith. One should never assume anything, I learned that quite quickly. The more I listened, the more I learned.

Something was happening to me even then. Something or someone had drawn me to that talk show that particular day, as I generally was not a television watcher. My heart or my soul, something within me, was being drawn to listen, and it had actually been the visual of these two Muslims alone, that had made me sit up and take notice. I felt connected again and my attention was clearer than ever.

I think it is true that everything in life has a prescribed timing. That day, it became the time in my life, that I was to hear of this thing called Islam. I can’t remember much of what else was being said that day but there was a serious conviction growing deep within my soul. There was talk about the ‘Qur’an’, about staying modest in this perverted world, about husbands being faithful and loyal to their families, but none of it seemed to be the hype religions use to manipulate their practitioners.

It all made perfect sense. It seemed logical and dealt with reality. These Muslims worshipped the Creator alone and not a man...and I liked that. Here, in front of my eyes, seeping into my ears, were words that fit the way I thought, lived, and believed. But now, I did have a word that fit my beliefs. That word was ‘Islam’.

During that time, I was living in a little town in the deep South. There were no books on Islam at the library. When I asked, they told me they pre-read all their books and a committee approved which ones they would shelve. Having been born and raised in New York, I knew more than one way to get information others might consider ‘censored’, out in some hill-town. I was told there was one Muslim, a Math teacher at their little high school, living in the town and married to a Methodist woman. I called the Church, explained who I was trying to locate and they gave me the name of the family.

Although I am basically timid around those I do not know, I called and asked if he might know what translation of Qur’an was best and where I might acquire one. I was given a name, found a bookstore a hundred miles from where I was living, and ordered an English translation copy of the Qur’an. When I got my copy in the mail, I read it cover to cover in two days. It was poetry to me. It was in that moment, when I embraced Islam and was embraced by Islam.

I was like an addict. Never before was I so obsessed with anything in my life. I couldn’t get enough of it. I called the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC. assuming that the only real Muslims probably lived in Saudi Arabia, which goes to show once again that one should never assume anything! I was surprised and elated to find how many Muslim live in this world and the numerous countries they reside in.

Within a week my mailbox was filled with beautiful brochures containing precious information. I literally holed up in my home, not wanting to be disturbed from my newly found treasures. Everything, every word, every explanation, every answer I read suited me. I saw through the messages and words, the way I already believed all along. Having tried to fit into other’s people’s ideas of how I should live just never fit me.

Each time I tried to follow someone else's suggestions or advise, it was always a disastrous end. Now, finally, I had the answers. I had found my Creator’s wishes, commands, and the reason for living. It had been with me all along. Where I would go from that point, I was sure would be limitless…not accepted by others perhaps, but limitless for my own life and heart.

I believe Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) will forever more, direct my steps in whatever way He chooses. I thought back of how I prayed so hard and how the Creator had answered through a strange talk show, one that had lasted only an hour out of decades past in my life. Incredible and strange? Yes! At least, to me it seemed strange. Then I remembered an old saying that 'God works in mysterious (strange) ways' and I knew what that meant.

Eventually I did find a place for books, tapes and prayer rugs. I ordered everything I could. I received another copy of the Qur’an. Such beautiful words filled the thick, green and gold hardcover book, in Arabic with the English translation. I felt protected inside myself, knowing finally that all my differences and desire to find the answer for being on the earth, had finally come to fruition.

It was, is, and will always remain, to worship the Creator Allah, and to submit to His Will in everything. I began having the most wonderful dreams about other countries where I have never been, Muslims whom I have never known, and Masjids where I have never visited.

Growing up, I had always doubted my own beliefs, after years of being told what was right by others. These beautiful dreams were a verification for me, that Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) did guide me to Islam and that I am now exactly in the spiritual nature which I am supposed to be. Now, I wake each morning rested, peaceful, happy, and ready to be a Muslim.

Since those days nearly a decade ago, Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) has blessed me with a wonderful husband and an adopted son, changes in my life that I would have never expected or planned. But Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) knows best and for me, I will accept whatever He Wills. By remaining in submission to Him, I have discovered that my life has been in harmony, which certainly was not the case when I thought I was in control of it prior to becoming a Muslim.

My hope is Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta ‘ala) will continue to lead me to the correct ways, laws, and prayers, that will allow me to live in the fullest for Him, and to fully develop the true Islamic lifestyle in everything I do. What I do know, is that I have finally found the way, not just knowledge of the mind like the many times before, but now, deep inside, I found what had always been the part of me that seemed to be missing…The Heart of a Muslim.

Why This Denver Family Chose Islam !

Tim moved from the UK to the US ten years ago, and worked as a Human Resources Manager for a large company.

His wife, Paige, worked for a large bookstore chain in the US, and together with her daughter Kayla are very comfortable to wear hijab when going out from their home in Denver.

The following is a brief summary of their stories finding Islam.

>Husband: Tim

My name is Tim, and I converted to Islam 18 months ago.

Growing up, I went to a school that was actually part of the Church of England. In high school, we had at least 2 hours of religious education built in the curriculum each week.

It wasn’t until I finished college and left home and starting out by myself that those nagging thoughts came to my mind, that have always been inside me, a deep-rooted belief that there is a God who looks after us and created us all and created the world and universe that we live in. At that time I needed to try and understand and explain the concept of God more closely to myself.

When I first met my wife, we both had very heavy spiritual influences, not necessarily a part of any organized or structured religion. But we had feelings and we understood that there was certainly a lot more to life than just being here and now. I think we both had a belief in the afterlife or spiritual life, but neither of us really explored that too deeply at that time.

It was a couple of years later before Paige started having interest in Islam, and then me following that interest really to see what it is, what is she getting into here. This led us to visit a mosque here in Denver, Abu Bakr mosque. This was a very interesting experience because my wife phoned up the mosque and made an appointment to go on a Friday around lunch time. I was very surprised to see that there was a police car there with its lights lit up guiding the traffic because there was a lot of traffic.

We went between the two sets of prayers that occur. We have roughly 500 people that are attending each of the two Jumua (Friday) prayers and khutbah (sermon) that take place each Friday. There was a cultural shock to me there. We had a lot of different nationalities walking around the place in their own costumes and national dresses and things like that. There were very few Americans walking around in jeans and T-shirts, and it was just a bit of a step back for me. It was like I walked out of America and entered into somewhere in the Middle East.

We were very fortunate to meet with a person who at that time was the president of the mosque, a sheikh by the name Muhammad Norzai, and he was the one who gave us a quick tour and explained some things about Islam, and then guided us to a place where we could observe a khutbah taking place. For me, that was certainly getting my first experience about what prayer and worship is for Muslims.

I always believed that there was a person called Jesus and that he was a great prophet and a messenger that came down from God. The problem I had trouble with is that Jesus was a man. He was born of a woman in a miraculous way but he was still a man. He was not a God. And why should we as men be worshiping another man? Surely we should be worshiping God. And the concept that there is just one God and that you should only worship that God alone and not worship idols or other people, and that forgiveness can only come directly from your relationship to God, really what started clinching it for me.

>Wife: Paige

My name is Paige and I converted to Islam 2 years ago.

I was raised by my father who was an atheist and he raised my sister and I as atheists, and I didn’t believe in any God at all. Growing up, I thought that people who were religious were silly. I thought that religion was something that governments used to keep their population in line because if you have something better to look forward to in the after death, you will be more obedient during life.

Sometimes when I was at high school I started going with a friend to her church occasionally as a guest, and I was really moved by the faith that people seemed to have, but I still couldn’t get my head around the inconsistencies of Christianity that there are a lot of leaps of faith that I was just not willing to make.

I’ve always been interested in philosophy, people in general, religion, and religious history, and I happened to be watching a documentary about the three Abrahamic faiths; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. And for the first time I really listened to something about Islam. I found it fascinating that Islam comes from Christianity which of course comes from Judaism. And the messages are essentially the same messages. And I thought that it’s like God tried to give us this message and human beings kept messing it up.

After 9/11, I was working in a bookstore here in the United States called Barnes & Nobel and everything we had in the store that had Islam, Quran, Muslim, Middle East in the title just sold up the next day; 9/12. I just thought this was fascinating, and I didn’t know anything about it.

So I started kind of reading. I bought a book called “Islam for Dummies”, really good. There were just some really beautiful things about Islam and I found myself more and more drawn to it especially its rationality. Like I said, Christianity has leaps of faith but Islam doesn’t. It’s all very rational religion, everything makes sense.

In fact the first time I went to the mosque, I thought of having this feeling that I was going inspite of Muslims. It was nothing to do with these crazy people you see on the TV blowing things up, you know, and I was terrified to go into the mosque. But I felt like to find my religion and I had to put up with these people who go to the mosque. That was before I met my first Muslim.

When Tim decided to become a Muslim, I was absolutely tickled because I had been a Muslim at that point for a few months. I wasn’t quite sure like what my plan of action was going to be. As a Muslim woman I can’t be married to a non-Muslim man, but leaving my husband was not really an option. I think like I sort of knew that he wasn’t going to be too far behind me when I said my shahadah. And I was right, within six months he said the sahadah as well.

>Daughter: Kayla

My name is Kayla Botello. I was born in the United States of America. I was raised here my whole life and I converted to Islam over a year ago. We didn’t grow in a religious household. We didn’t grow up believing in God necessarily, but knowing that there is a greater being. So there wasn’t really any certain religion that we followed. We just made sure that we were well-rounded and knowledgeable.

I believed in God. I’ve always had a kind of positive attitude on life. So for me I was kind of looking around. There was so much beauty in the world, how could there not be a God? But as far as any kind of religion, I didn’t have a religion.

Converting to Islam was like a series of events, you know, it wasn’t one defining moment. I think what really got me about Islam was because I started to attend classes after my mother had converted, so I just started attending classes just for my mom to be respectful and to understand her and a lot of things that caught me was the science in Islam. They talked about the Big Bang and they talked about things like where the salt water meets the fresh water, that was only discovered in the 1970s. Things like that just make you think how did they know that 1400 years ago? And for me I believed in God but I also believed in science.

>Daughter's Husband: Yassir

My name is Yassir. I’m an American-born Muslim and I’m Kayla’s husband. My father came to this country about 1980. He was doing aviation school, lived a single life for a while until he met my American mother with whom he befriended and had very good connection with. When they came to religious talks and they had this intellectual spark immediately. They got married and they gave their five children the opportunity to live the American life and the Syrian life.

We have been going to Islamic schools since we were very young. So we had that kind of education and we have always been very close to our American neighbors, friends like that. There has always been that kind of relationship, never any tension, and we really had a lot of good friends who actually came to our house and learn about the Islamic and Arabic culture.

When Kayla converted to Islam, I believe it was something that was destined to happen whether or not I came into her life. She had many qualities in her that reflected so many good attributes that were already in Islam, and it was something that she just needed to find and apply in her life. There were so many things about modesty and just being a good child to your mother and father and being obedient and just having that consistent respect to your fellow men and fellow women. I mean there were some things that she had but she just needed something to define it on a bigger scale … which was Islam.on a bigger scale … which was Islam.

"I Wondered Why Muslims Are So Proud"

My name is Aysha, and I am from North Hungary. I heard about Islam when I was in secondary school in the history lessons, because Hungary was under occupation by Turkey for 150 years.

After that I went to university to study molecular biology, where I met many Muslim foreign students.

I was always curious why Muslims are so proud that they are Muslims.

I was Catholic, a good one, but I always had doubts and I didn't agree with some parts of my religion: for example, how can God have a son and the concept of the Trinity was also not believable for me.

Then I started to talk with my friends, and one time, when we were having dinner and the Adhan started, one of my friends asked me to stop it, but I said no. I was very much impressed by it and something surely touched my heart.

Then I don't know why at that summer I downloaded a Quran program. I was listening to it in Arabic and was reading it in English. Then I was thinking a lot about Islam and I was reading many books about it.

But then, after two months of thinking I finally chose Islam. I declared Shahadah in front of two of my friends. I said: La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah (I bear witness there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah)

I chose Islam against my culture and my family, especially my mom.

After that, Ramadan started and I decided that I will start my new life in Islam with Ramadan. Alhamdulilah (thank God), I made it successfully.

I started to offer prayer on the 4th of August. It was very hard for me at the beginning because people around me were not that practicing Muslims, so I couldn't ask anyone.

I learnt how to pray by myself from the Internet, because no one showed me how to pray or how to make wudu (ablution), or what invocation to say before it or how to do ghusl (ritual cleansing of the body) or what are the etiquettes and the rulings of Islam.

Once I had a friend and he made me really down. He told me you will never understand Islam, because you were not born as a Muslim. When I told him I want to start fasting Ramadan, he said it is not just about being hungry. At that time I was so new to Islam, I had converted just a month before he said that.

At that time I got so scared, what if I will never learn how to pray in Arabic? What if I don't do it the correct way? And I didn't have hijab (head scarf) or a rug to pray on, and I didn't get any help. So I had lots of fears.

But when I started to pray, I was thinking God must be smiling on me now. Because I used to write down the text of the ritual prayer on a paper and its instructions,and I kept my papers in my right hand and read loudly and then bow down and read again and so on. I'm sure I was looking so funny. But afterwards I succeeded to memorize it in the Arabic language so then there was no problem.

Then I came to Facebook and got many new friends and many sisters. From online sisters I got so much love and courage. Then a Muslim man proposed to me and he got me my first hijab and prayer rug and an Islamic book. And I got my first Arabic Quran from Jordan by post because we cannot buy it here. Now it is more than a year that I wear hijab.

I went through a very bad period with my mom. She would say to me that I will be a terrorist and I will leave her as I left my religion and I will leave my country too. She would put all pork things in the fridge and I would refuse to eat it so it turns into a big argument.

She couldn't stand seeing me praying or seeing me in hijab. So I pray upstairs in my room. She would never look at me when I'm in hijab and she would say: "I gave birth to a Christian child not to a veiled Muslim."

So we had serious problems, but I was never harsh or rude with her. But alhamdulilah (thank God) she calmed down now and she seems accepting that I converted. I'm really thankful to Allah for that. Now I go out in hijab, and she doesn't say anything.

I was not talking with my father for all my life and he didn't want to see me. But now, because of Islam, I opened towards him so now he visits us regularly.

Yes, my life is a big test but I thank God for it and I have patience and hope. On the Day of Judgment I will be very thankful for them. So I'm trying to be better and better and learn more and more to understand my religion.

I believe everything is predestined, so whatever Allah has decreed that will happen to me I cannot change, but I can choose to live my life nicely.

I try helping others now in Debrecen. I organized a project to collect second hand clothes for refugee camp people. There are a lot of Muslims there who don't have a home because of wars. So we collected clothes and we went there and I made them Pakistani bread, for children and for females, they were so happy and it was so nice to see them.

I used to raise my voice if somebody says anything that bothers me. But now I am showing example everywhere I go.

I'm trying to guide also those who want to convert or just converted. I met with two Hungarian sisters, the other day, and they have just converted to Islam. So I gave them books, and my prayer rug and a copy of the Quran, so alhamdulilah we prayed together and they were really happy.

I always try to leave the image that we Muslims are nice, friendly and we have a good heart.

I converted one and a half years ago. Now I am learning Arabic, to be able to read the Quran. I read Quran in Hungarian, I offer prayers five times a day, I try to follow the Quran and the Sunnah, and I read many books to understand better.

This is my story. Peace be unto you.