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

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ex-secularist explains how he thinks it is easier to follow Islam as a revert in Europe, than one being born & raised up in it

My name is Yahya Schroder. I am a "European" (Ex Secularist) Muslim. I became Muslim when I was 17. I am living now in Potsdam, Germany and I want to share my experience with you as a Muslim in a non-Muslim state.

As a convert to Islam, I think it's much easier to follow the religion than a born Muslim who is being raised up here. Almost all young born-Muslims I know want to become German. For them Islam is only a tradition and they think that they have to give up their tradition (Islam) to be accepted by the Germans, despite the fact that the Germans won't accept them even if they gave up their religion.

I grew up in a little village. I lived with my mother and my stepfather in a huge house with a big garden and a big pool. And as a teenager I "lived a cool life"; I had some friends whom I used to hang around with, do stupid things and drink alcohol like every young German teen.

The life of a Muslim in Germany is quite difficult than one would think especially for me as a German Muslim because when someone asks a German what they know about Islam, they would tell you something about Arabs. For them it's like a mathematical operation; Islam = Arabs. They still don't know about our big nation.

When I converted to Islam I had to leave my family and I moved to the community in Potsdam near Berlin. I left this huge house and all my material valuable stuff. When I lived with my mother and my stepfather I had everything; a big house, my own money, TV, Play-station. I was never concerned about money, but I wasn't happy. I was searching for something else.

When I turned 16, I met the Muslim community in Potsdam through my biological father who became Muslim in 2001. I used to visit my father once a month and we used to attend the meetings of the community which were held on Sundays. At that time, I was interested in Islam, and my father noticed this and told me one day that he wouldn't speak about Islam when we are together because he wanted me to learn from people of greater knowledge so that other people won't say:

"Oh he became Muslim just because he's 17 and does everything his father does."

I agreed and I started visiting the community every month and learned a lot about Islam but at that time something happened and changed my way of thinking. One Sunday, I went swimming with the Muslim community and fractured my back at two places after jumping in the pool and hitting the ground with my head. My father brought me to the hospital and the doctor told me:

"You have fractured your back quite bad and if you did one wrong movement you'll become handicapped". This didn't help me much, but then just a few moments before they brought me to the operation room, one of my friends of the Muslims community told me something. "Yahya, you are now in the hands of Allah (God), it's like a roller coaster. Now you are on the top. Enjoy the ride and just trust in God." This really helped me.

The operation took five hours and I woke up after 3 days. I couldn't move my right arm but I was feeling like the happiest person on earth. I told the doctor that I don't care about my right arm; I'm so happy that God has let me survive. The doctors had told me that I have to stay in the hospital for a few months. I stayed for only two weeks there, because I was training very hard.

One day a doctor came and said: "Today we will try to take one step on the staircase" - the exercise that I did on my own two days before. Now, I can move my right arm again and I was just two weeks there Al-hamdu lillah (thanks God). This accident changed a lot in my personality.

I noticed when God wants something; the individual's life can be turned over in one second. So, I took life more seriously and started thinking more about my life and Islam, but I was still living in this little village.

My wish to become Muslim became so strong that I had to leave my family. I left my stepfather, my mother and the nice luxury lifestyle to go to Potsdam.

I moved to my father's apartment which is rather small and I had to stay in the kitchen but it was okay because I had nothing; just a very few clothes, school books, and some CDs. It must sound to you like I lost everything, but I am very happy. I'm as happy as when I woke up in the hospital after the dreadful accident.

The next day was the first day of Ramadan. The day after this was my first school day in my new school. The day after my first day of school, I said the Shahadah (testimony of becoming a Muslim), praise be to God. So, everything was new for me; new apartment, new school, and the first time without my family.

In my school when they first noticed that I am a Muslim, they started to make jokes at me. I think this is usual because of what they learned from the media. "A terrorist", "Osama bin Laden is coming", "Muslims are dirty". Some people thought I am just a crazy guy. And they didn't even believe that I was German.

But after 10 months, the situation changed. I made a lot of dawah (inviting to Islam) to my classmates, and now, I even have a praying room, although I'm the only Muslim in my school. My classmates changed from making jokes to asking serious questions about Islam, and they noticed that Islam is not a religion like the other religions.

They noticed Islam is cool! They see that we Muslims have Adaab (good manners) in dealing with each other. They noticed that we are independent from all this peer pressure; we just keep it real; we don't need to be in a special group like in my school. At my school, there are three main groups: the hip hop guys; the punks; and the party people.

Everybody tries to be a member of one group, so as to be accepted by others, except me! I can be friends with everybody. I don't have to wear special clothes to be "cool." So what happened is that they are always inviting me and my Muslim friends to their bar-b-que parties.

The special thing on this is that they respect me as a Muslim and even more, they get Halal (allowed) food especially for me and they have organized two bar-b-que grills; one for themselves and one for us Muslims! The people here are very open to Islam. 

Michael David Shapiro - From Judaism to Islam

I am ethnically a Russian Jew. My quest began when I was 19 years old. I was recovering from my stint with Scientology (yes I was brainwashed into it).

My belief in God was uncertain. My goals in life were to be a rock star. I was living in my Pasadena apartment and working as a secretary. Funny, I know.

One night I was walking to the kitchen, and encountered a dark fellow. I remembered asking him: “Can I keep this vodka in the fridge tonight?” We shook hands and went to sleep. After that point, my life changed drastically…

This dark fellow, a Muslim, was the first Muslim I had ever met. Extremely curious, I conversed with him about his faith. What’s this stuff I hear about praying 5 times a day? And about Holy War? Who is this Mohammed guy?

Our talks were accompanied by our Christian roommate, Wade. Together, we created “The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim dialogue sessions”. In it, we discovered many differences, and many commonalities.

My interest had then shifted from sex, drugs, and parties, to a massive search for the truth. A search that I had to complete. A search for God. And a search for how to follow him.

In my quest for the truth, I asked myself: “Ok let’s start simple, how many God’s do I think are out there?” I figured only one; knowing that a divided God is weaker than One God; figuring that if one God didn’t agree with the other, there might be arguments and feuds. One God was my choice.

Once I opened up my mind to the possibility of the existence of God, I analyzed both atheist and theist beliefs. The thing that directed me to the latter was the quote “Every design has a designer”. With that in mind, eventually I woke up with certainty that God exists. I can’t explain why, I just felt it somehow.

This newfound excitement was accompanied by a sense of responsibility to follow the Creator. The world of religion was my next frontier.

Then I asked myself, “Where do I start?” There are literally thousands of them. I need a way to narrow them down to a just a few. How do I accomplish such a task? “Find the ones that are monotheistic” entered my mind. “Hey that makes sense, since I believe in only One God.”

Ok, then. This ruled out Buddhism and Hinduism, both being polytheistic faiths. The major religions I encountered that fell under the title of Monotheistic, where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Well since I’m a Jew, I started with Judaism. One God, some prophets, 10 commandments, Torah, Jewish souls…uh, what: “Jewish souls?”

While doing research this idea was brought to my attention. The story goes, “if a person is born Jewish, then they have a Jewish soul, and they must follow Judaism.” Hold on a sec…that’s discrimination, isn’t it? That’s not universal.

So God makes Jewish souls, and Christian souls, and Muslim souls, and Hindu souls? I thought all men are created equal? So, because one is born into a religion that means by the decree of God he must remain in it… even if the person believes it to be false? Hmm…I don’t agree with that.

Another thing really bothered me…there is no strict concept of hell in Judaism…then why be good? Why not sin? If I don’t have fear of strict punishment, then why should I be moral?

Moving on, I discovered Christianity. Ok, one God, a father, a son, and a holy ghost…one more time: one God, a father, a son, and a holy ghost. Uhhh, please explain. How can all those things be one God? 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 right? So how can you say you believe in only one God?

Explanation after explanation, equation after equation, comparison after comparison, analogy after analogy, I couldn’t grasp this concept. Ok let’s keep looking here.

Ok, next major doctrine: Jesus died for our sins and he did this because we all are polluted with “Original Sin”. So, Jesus Christ, the “son of God”, had to be murdered to save everyone from Hell and cure us of our sin “given” to us by Adam.

Ok then, so are you saying that we are all born as sinners? And to sin is to do something wrong right? Then you’re telling me that a one-year old baby is guilty of sin or doing something wrong? Ok that’s strange, so based on the actions of one man, all of mankind must suffer? What’s the moral of that story? Punish the whole group if one deviates? Why would God create such a rule? That’s just not in agreement with my logic.

So Jesus died because he “loves mankind”. Hold on, it says in the Bible that Jesus said “father, why have you forsaken me?” So, apparently, Jesus didn’t understand why he was being brutally murdered. But you just said he “volunteered” to be sacrificed. Anyway, I couldn’t accept this belief. Ok, what’s the next religion?

Islam. Islam means submission. The main beliefs are as follows: One God, worship God five times a day, give 2.5% annual charity, fast during Ramadan (to be closer to God and appreciate life…among other reasons) and finally journey to Mecca for Hajj if you are able financially. Ok, nothing hard to understand so far.

There’s nothing that conflicts with my logic here. The Quran is a book with all of these interesting miracles and timeless wisdom. Many scientific facts only discovered recently where proclaimed 1400 years ago in this book.

Ok, Islam had passed my initial religious prerequisites. But I wanted to ask some deep questions about it. Is this religion universal? Yes, anyone can understand these basic beliefs…no analogy or equation are needed. Does it agree with science? Yes, dozens of verses in the Quran agree with modern science and technology.

As I sifted through the countless logical facts that I read through and researched, one thing took my attention the most. “Islam”. The name of this religion. I noticed it is written many times in this Quran.

However, recalling my prior studies, I didn’t remember once seeing the word “Judaism” in the Old Testament or “Christianity” in the New Testament. This was BIG. Why couldn’t I find the very name of the religions in those two books? Because, there is no name in these books! Thinking…I noticed that “Judaism” could be broken down to “Juda- ism” and “Christianity” could be respectively “Christ-ianity”.

So who is Juda? Or Judah, rather. He was the tribe leader of the Hebrews when God revealed his message to mankind. So this religion was named after…a person. Ok let’s look at who Christ is. He was the person who delivered the message of God to the Jews. So this religion was named after…a person.

So in recollection, we can deduct that the names of these religions are people’s proper names attached to “ism” and “ianity”. Regardless of that fact, the very names of those religions are not mentioned in their scriptures. I thought that was very odd.

If I went door to door selling a product, and I said “Would you like to buy this _______”? Wouldn’t the logical question be: “What is this _____ called?” I would make no money off of a product without a name.

Naming is the very basis which humans identify with objects, both physical and non-physical. If religion is supposed to be practiced and spread to every person on earth, shouldn’t there be a NAME for it?

Moreover, shouldn’t the name be given to us from God Almighty? YES, my point exactly. The names “Christianity” and “Judaism” were not written in the Holy Scriptures. Humans named them, not God. The notion that God would ordain a religion for mankind to follow without a name is impossible for my mind to accept.

At that point, both Christianity and Judaism lost their credibility as pure, logical, and complete religions, at least from my perspective.

Islam is the ONLY of these religions to include the NAME of the religion in its scriptures. This is so huge for me.

I realized I would follow Islam at that point. I then became a Muslim. I knew the truth. I was out of the darkness. I came into the light…

The Heart Sees What The Eyes Can't - How an Ex Christian blind brother from Canada, Malik Mohammed Hassan, accepted Islam

October 23rd, 1996. Assalamalaikum brothers and sisters and non-Muslims. First off all, I would like to start by saying that this true story is not for my own fame or admiration but for the sake of my Lord and your Lord Allah.

All praises due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful Owner of the day of judgement. I would like to repeat to you something I heard: the journey of a thousand miles has to start with the first step and this is the first part of my journey.

My name is Malik Mohammed Hassan and I have recently converted to Islam. When I was in junior high school I was first introduced to Islam by reading the book Roots by Alex Haley. It taught me a little bit about the strong will that most Muslims possess, myself included. It also introduced me to Allah.

I had never heard of Allah in his real form until I read that book and I was very curious. I then started reading about The Nation Of Islam (specifically Malcolm X) and it fascinated me how devoted he was to Allah, especially after he left the self serving Nation Of Islam.

Reading about Malcolm made me think about a God who (for a change) did not have any physical form or limitations and, being a totally blind person, it made me relate to these people: the people who Malcolm and Haley referred to as Muslims.

I continued reading what I could about Islam which wasn't as much as it should have been. My reading material was very limited because like I said above:

I am a totally blind person and the material available about Islam in Braille or on tape was not only very little, but also very general. I believe the reason was that the material that I had access to wasn't written by Muslims and it kind of painted a dark picture of Islam.

I think most of the literature written by Christians or non-Muslims about Islam tends to do that most of the time. And I didn't know that their were even Muslims in Halifax so I obviously didn't know any. I didn't even know about the local Islamic association until I was already a Muslim.

So, I read what I could until my first year out of high school around the month of May, 1996, when I received a phone call asking me if I wanted to participate in a camp for blind and visually impaired people known throughout Canada as Score.

I agreed and sent them a resume and praise be to Allah I was excepted for work. At first I really didn't want to go but something kept telling me it would be a good idea if I went. So, on June 30th 1996 I boarded a plane from Nova Scotia to Toronto and took my last trip as a non-Muslim; I just didn't know it yet.

I got to Toronto and everything at first was pretty normal... It was on the second day that I was there when the journey of a thousand miles first started. I arrived on a Sunday and on the next day I met the person who Allah would use with His divine power to help guide me to the beautiful Religion of Islam.

I met a sister named Rizvana and if she reads this I hope she doesn't get mad at me for using her name. When I met her, I immediately wanted to talk to her because I liked her name.

I asked her of what origin her name was and she told me that it was Arabic; so I asked her if she was Muslim and she replied with the answer of yes. I immediately started telling her what I already knew about Islam which lasted about ten seconds. I started asking her questions and also asking her to talk to me about Islam.

One particular incident that comes to my mind is when all of the workers at the camp went to a baseball game and the sister and I started talking about Islam and missed pretty much the whole game. Well, anyway, we talked for about three, maybe four days on and off about Islam and on July the fifth if my memory doesn't fail me I became a Muslim.

My life has been totally different ever since. I look at things very differently than I used to and I finally feel like I belong to a family. All Muslims are brothers and sisters in Islam so I could say that I have approximately 1.2 billion brothers and sisters all of whom I'm proud to be related to. I finally know what it feels like to be humble and to worship a God that I don't have to see.

For any non-Muslim reading this just look at it this way. It's good to learn, but you never know when you will be tested and if you're not in the class at the time of the final exam no matter how much you know you'll never get any credit.

So like I said it's good to learn but if you want to get credit sign up for the class. In other words, declare Shehada (testimony to faith) and let Allah teach you everything you need to know. Believe me the reward is worth it. You could say the reward is literally heaven.

If any good comes out of this story all the credit is due to Allah; only the mistakes are my own. I would like to mention a part of a speech by Prophet Muhammad that has had a great effect on me and that is: "Worship Allah as if you see Him and if you don't see Him, know that He sees you."

The Party Girl who has Embraced a New Life as a Muslim Convert

Her conversion from Ibiza party girl to hijab-wearing Muslim in barely three months may well raise a few eyebrows. But trainee teacher Heather Matthews, 27, says Islam has brought her ‘love and happiness’ that she never found in her old ‘shallow’ lifestyle.

Mrs Matthews, a mother of two, converted to the faith in September 2012 – two months after returning from a holiday in Ibiza. And she says that the photographs of the ‘old her’ taken on that trip show all that is wrong with Western images of beauty.

She said: ‘I thought I needed to act and dress in a certain way to feel good about myself. I see girls now and think about what image they are portraying to other people, especially men.

‘It is about self-respect. If you dress and act in a certain way, rightly or wrongly, you’ll be treated in a certain way.

‘Islam has taught me about real love, not false passion and lust. I can even see the logic in arranged marriage.’

A study by multi-faith group Faith Matters found the number of Muslim converts in Britain has now passed 100,000, doubling in ten years.

The report estimated nearly two-thirds of the new converts were women, with an average age of 27 – like Mrs Matthews.

Her path to conversion began when she tried to convince her ex-husband Jerrome, himself a Muslim convert, that the religion was wrong. She was ‘very suspicious’ of the faith, and began reading up on it to support her arguments.

Although they separated last year, she continued to learn about Islam – and identified with it more and more. Then, in late September, she completed the ‘revert’ process. She said: ‘I underwent the ‘Shahadah’ ceremony of conversion to Islam by repeating a declaration of faith in front of the Imam at my local multi-faith centre.

‘I had several Muslim sisters with me and they bought me a hijab and Islamic books to celebrate. It was wonderful.’

But she admits that her friends have been shocked at her conversion to a religion which is often seen as being oppressive towards women.

‘People are probably thinking “Oh, it is just another one of Heather’s fads”. It isn’t. It is what I’ve been searching for during the times I’ve been filling my life with instant gratification,’ she said.

Mrs Matthews, from Preston, has also had a cautious reaction from her family. But it is the response from passers-by that surprised her the most – especially the effect of her headscarf.

‘No men try to chat me up. It is an idiot repellent. When I’m wearing the headscarf I can smile at people without them thinking it is a sexual advance,’ she said.

‘I definitely agree with Islam’s principles of not having sex with someone you’re not married to and to save your beauty for your husband. So I think my next partner would need to be a practicing Muslim to understand.

‘It is easy for me to say this now, with hindsight, having made the mistakes, but I think I would have been better off with partners who my parents thought were suitable, learning to love them through friendship first.’ Mrs Matthews has given up alcohol, sticks to a halal diet and plans to fast during Ramadan. She has an English-language Quran which she reads daily, and wants to learn Arabic so that she can recite prayers five times a day.

‘People think I must be oppressed but I’m a strong, confident and free woman,’ she said. ‘I know I’m one of the most unlikely people to revert to Islam.

‘It astounds me. But I’ve done it for love and happiness and it has completely changed my life.’

British Musician's Journey towards the Light of Islam

Abdullah Rolle was born in the UK and embraced Islam about nine years ago. Since an early age he has been involved in music production, musical instruments and singing. He launched his first Nasheed CD, ‘Peace’ at the Global Peace and Unity Conference held in London, in 2008.

His journey to Islam is closely linked with the development of his career as a nasheed artist. One day he was walking in a market and a Muslim came up to him and asked if he could speak to him for a minute. This man asked Rolle if he knew anything about Islam and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Rolle admits that he always knew God is the creator of everything but noted that he had been taught about Jesus, not Muhammad. Rolle tried to get out of the discussion. “I wasn’t into religion in any way at that time A few years later I got into a conversation with a Muslim about Almighty Allah, but I still wasn’t ready to consider anything about Islam or become a Muslim. I wasn’t around anyone like that. The people I was associating with were in the music business and they have their own type of lifestyle. So at that time there was no chance of me being drawn toward Islam.” The right time had not yet come.

A Bookshop Changes His Life

Rolle moved to East London and used to go to a book shop called Dar Assalam in the West End. He recalls, “I‘ve always liked reading about world affairs and conspiracies and what’s going on. Some things I read about were true and some weren’t but it didn’t bring me any closer to the Creator. My soul was always searching even though I wasn’t one hundred percent aware of that. The brothers at the shop used to give me booklets and I’d take them home and put them in the cupboard. Shortly after Iraq was invaded, and after reading up about it all, I felt sympathy for the Muslims. I used to ask myself why the world was always attacking Islam and Muslims.” Rolle noticed that the media was portraying Muslims as terrorists, and he just knew that could not be right because he was aware that the media does not always tell the truth. He wanted to know why they were attacking the Muslims. In response to his confusion, he went into his bedroom, put his head down on the floor, prostrated and prayed.

Later, outside the bookshop he said to his son, “I need something to feed my soul. These other books aren’t doing anything for me.” His son pointed out a DVD called What Is The Purpose of Life? by Khaled Yaseen. He took part one home and played it and watched it and felt greatly inspired. “Everything that was being said on the DVD I felt I already knew. I knew it was the truth,” recalls Rolle. He learned that Muslims pray five times a day but because he was still into mainstream music at that time, he thought he would not be able to make time to pray like that. However, his soul was telling him that it was right. The bookshop gave him some books but they could not get him past this point of praying five times a day.

Being Nurtured by Muslims

Rolle remembers that the Muslim community nurtured him and he found himself surrounded by brothers who really showed that they care. He says, “I spent a lot of time with them for about two years. They taught me, corrected me, and reminded me. These were mainly brothers in the bookshop. I have been with them ever since.”

He adds, “I have always found that most Muslims are polite, generous and kind-hearted. Even though there are problems in the Ummah worldwide, the individual Muslims have always been kind to me. I wanted to try to become pious and I keep trying. I want to be like them.”

By this time, Rolle believed in Islam and had acquired fundamental knowledge of the religion and was on the way to learn more and more. At that time, the brothers were telling him that he should declare the two testimonies of faith and they reminded him that death is always near. However, he still felt he was not quite ready.

Another DVD

He told his wife about the DVD he had seen and explained how it really moved him. Then he saw a DVD by Sheikh Fiez in Australia called One Islam. When he watched that and learned about the last days and the Day of Judgment he felt he was being reborn. The fear of Almighty Allah had entered his heart. If he could have made the two testimonies of faith at that moment he would have. The following day he told the brothers that he was ready to officially become a Muslim. The brothers told him they would arrange things for him at the weekend which was a day or two later. He says that he has not looked back since that day.

Sometimes, he observes, he is a bit envious of the scholars. He wishes he could have come to know Islam when he was much younger. But Allah knows best.

Rolle observes, “The brothers used their common sense with me. So they worked slowly with me step by step. They didn’t tell me music is haram in the beginning. If they had I probably wouldn’t have become a Muslim because I was involved in a number of projects. They assured me that it is ok to still be in it as long as my intention is to come out of it.”


Rolle recalls that the greatest challenge after accepting Islam was learning Arabic and learning the prayer in Arabic. “I felt like I was going back to school. I was lucky because I managed to memorize some Qu’ran and I could read it, so I was able to Pray and I wanted to do that more than anything else.” There is a CD entitled Pray as You Have Seen Me Pray and Rolle says that this is an excellent CD that helped him a lot. One of the brothers would take him to the mosque but he admits that he also had to spend time learning himself. He watched the CD many times until he knew it by heart. He also focused on memorizing invocations and wanted to fill himself up with as much Islam as he could. He learned to put aside any distractions and put his head in the Qur’an, books and DVDs and start learning.

Music or no Music?

In the beginning of his Islam Rolle was working in schools teaching music to children and composing songs in city learning centers. He worked with children who had left home. He came to know many sad stories from young people and he wanted to help them. He was also working in community centers and had his own business teaching music to young people.

Slowly it dawned on him that perhaps there is no blessing in what he was doing. He thought, “If I have to stand in front of Allah what will I say about me and teaching mainstream music? So I just gave it all up; the schools, the community centers and so on. Some people respected what I did and others thought I was wrong. I had no intention of doing nasheeds after that but I had a recording studio. I spoke to a brother whose father was a scholar in Saudi and he had Tawhid mosque in London. He had been doing lectures there for 15 or 20 years. I sought his advice.” Rolle took many of the lectures this scholar had delivered and revamped them and prepared them for CDs to be sold in shops. He did this for Al Qu`ran society. He had some of the lectures published including Surat Ta Ha and Surat Yaseen.

Then the same Al Qu’ran society asked him if he would like to work for the Islamic Shari`ah Council. He agreed and started working with fatwa as well as with divorces. His job was to keep all the clients updated about their cases. He found that the sisters wanted to know about their cases and he had been told he should be hard, and not get involved. He recalls, “The problem was that the sisters would speak to me because I could speak English, and the other brothers were from Pakistan. When I heard about how disturbing their marriages are I found it impossible to be hard.”

Rolle is now focusing on developing his career as an international nasheed artist.

The Oldest Muslim Revert in the World!

The 92-year-old Georgette Lepaulle from Berchem (Belgium) is the oldest Muslim convert in the world. She became Muslim last year. "The friendliness of the people especially attracted me; and Allah answered my prayers."

During the introduction, Georgette held her hands deep in the sleeves of her djellaba. She refused to outstretch them. "You should not take this personally, but since I am Muslim, I get no strangers anymore. I will only touch my husband. Not that I have wedding plans. What, should a widow of 92 still act a virgin?" she began laughing loudly. The huge laughter of Muhammad Maddah (Georgette's Neighbor standing next to her) followed.

Georgette and Maddah had remained neighbors for more than 40 years. She lived alone in the Antwerp region. Two years ago, her family decided to put her in a nursing home. Maddah suggested he be allowed to host her under his roof, so Georgette came to live with him and his family. It was not a problem because Maddah’s wife, son and two daughters had known Georgette all throughout their lives. Maddah had actually just lost his own mother. Georgette would fill her space.

"By coming to live here, I was pulled towards Islam", says Georgette. "I saw these people pray together. I saw how caring they interacted. How they talked to each other. How important family was to them. Totally different from my cold family. Since my conversion, I have not heard from my 72 year old daughter."

Last summer, Georgette accompanied Maddah for a family visit to Morocco. It was in Ramadan, the fasting month for the Muslims. "I knew what fasting is, because I’m Catholic. I was baptized, went to nun school, was twice married in church and gave my two husbands an ecclesiastical burial. During my work years, I worked as a maid in a Jewish family. But religion had never touched me. On the contrary, I lived quite apart from God. On my fifth, I smoked my first cigarette and my last on my 78th. On my seventh, drank my first glass of alcohol and before my conversion, I drank half a bottle of wine every day. That was a habit from my first marriage with an Italian fighter pilot who was killed in the war."

During Georgette's participation in Ramadan last year, a deep religious feeling awakened. It was shocking for her. She had never imagined experiencing such a completely new feeling so late in her life. For the first time, she had contact with something higher. With Allah. She felt His presence. His love. She asked Him for the healing of a friend and the rescue of a little boy who was on the wrong track. Her two supplications were answered. That was the sign for Georgette to convert to Islam.

Georgette talks of her experience after the ingress ritual. "They continued to kiss me. So glad they were because I was a sister of them. I’ve never been kissed so much – you know by women – as since entering Islam. I had to give up many things. Alcohol, tobacco, pork and – it is not easy for a woman – even makeup. Previously, I always put thick layers of makeup."

Back in Belgium, they went to the main masjid in Brussels for a certificate for Noor Islam – Georgette's new name. The masjid in Brussels reported the conversion of the then 91-year-old Belgian woman immediately to the masjid in Makkah, wherein they plunged into the archives but found no older converts. Immediately, the king of Saudi Arabia contacted them through an envoy to Berchem; sent with a gold watch for Georgette. She was invited to visit Makkah the following year at his expense. The Saudi television followed her. Every famous network turned in a report on her.

It’s a dirty question, but it must be asked: Had Georgette been paid something to convert to Islam? She looked very serious and yet again answered laughing loudly: "Money has nothing to do with it. I took this decision entirely voluntarily. Everyone is free to do so."

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Trinity led me to Islam

My name is Roger Hadden, and I am originally from Dungannon in Northern Ireland. I am a dentist currently working in England. I have lived in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and I am now based in England. I was raised as a Christian, and my parents are born-again Christians.

Although I was raised with the teachings of the Bible, I did not particularly adhere to its principles. I suppose I was like most British youth, in that I liked to have fun but maybe didn't know where the limits were set. While I did not practice any religion, I always believed that there was a God.

I was scientific minded, but realized that acknowledging there was a Big Bang did not necessarily rule out the possibility of there being a God who controlled and planned this event. We could not have come out of nothing, and we did not create ourselves, so we must have been created. I thought about God from time to time, but it never had a real impact on my heart. My first encounter with Islam I suppose was the media, but I tend not to judge people or things until I see or find out about them myself and hear both sides of the story.

When I went to university I met many Muslims. At that time we discussed religion a little, but I was not seriously thinking about becoming religious. My desires were too strong, so I just wanted to enjoy myself. At that time, I knew that at some stage I would want to change my ways and become a Christian. I then would also want to find out about other religions and understand what makes people believe in them.

When I was in final year at university, I made plans to reform myself and become as my parents, a "born-again Christian". So I started my research with reading the Bible.

The concept of the Trinity always bothered me, and it was my main aim to understand it. I remember as a child wanting to ask God for something. I was not sure whether to pray to God or to pray to Jesus. I decided to pray to God as I knew if He created everything, then He will hear me and help me.

I spoke to some ministers, and several attempts were made to explain the Trinity. None of them convinced me. I continued to read the Bible, searching for the truth. Obviously I am not a scholar in the Christian religion but the Trinity issue bugged me. Why did the Old Testament prophets all pray to God and do righteous acts hoping for God's forgiveness? Who did Jesus pray to?

There was no mention of the Trinity in the Old Testament, and many argue none in the New Testament. I knew God did not change, so there was a problem somewhere. I spoke to my friends at University. Some were Sikhs, Catholics, atheists, and some were Muslims.

When I found out that Islam commands the worship of One God, and not to make any partners with Him, I was very interested. I continued reading the Bible and Christian sources but also started reading some Islamic books.

I read that Muslims believe that God sent his message to mankind through different prophets since Adam (peace be upon him) the first man. All the prophets believed in only One God and they also believed that there was going to be a day of reckoning when everyone will be raised and judged.

I realized that this is what I believe, and what I thought the Bible was saying to me. I discussed things with my parents, and they were not too impressed. Within a couple of months by the grace of God I became a Muslim.

My conversion changed my life completely, and looking back, I know I made the correct decision, thank God. Instead of living my life in a selfish way pleasing my desires, I try now to help others and please my Lord. I have now been a Muslim for more than five years and I am still learning new and amazing things about the religion.

Every time I hear something "negative" about the religion, I get the issue explained to me and it turns out to be a very positive and beautiful thing. I am continuing to learn Arabic and the Quran. In my career it has made me much more focused, and I now desire to do everything to my best ability. My friends at university are often surprised with regards to my change, especially relating to dentistry.

My parents believed I was brainwashed, and many of my friends thought, and still think, it is just a phase. As it has been over five years now, my parents know it is not just a phase.

I first told my parents that I was thinking of becoming a Muslim, and they told me that it was a "hate religion" and that I should not do it. We talked about it for a while, and as I was convinced, I was sure I had to do it. I did not want to be punished in the next life.

A few months later I took the best step and embraced Islam. The same day my Dad bought me a car, not as a conversion gift, rather, it was his kindness and it just happened to be on the same day.

Since university, I have always lived away from my parents but I try to visit them a couple of times a year. Overall though, I feel my relationship with my parents has improved, as I try to be good to them as God commands in the Quran.

I have moved on from university and lost contact with many of my friends, some I speak to now and again, but as with life, we keep moving on and old friends we see less of and new friends are made.

I am currently working as a dentist in the UK. I am working and doing a part time masters program. I am learning Arabic, and I regularly attend Islamic talks and seminars in order to increase my knowledge.

I am married to a very special lady and we have, by the grace of God a beautiful boy named Ismael (Ishmael from the Bible). We are trying to improve as Muslims, and we would like to travel abroad to a Muslim country. Ideally we would both love to study Islam to a higher level, so we are looking for opportunities to fulfill this dream.