Agnostic Finds Islam Through Fasting Ramadan
When I first came to Bahrain, I was hoping to discover the customs of the Middle East. This turned out to be a very difficult thing as people who come to the gulf discover very early on.
You find yourself surrounded by many foreigners of many different nationalities and faiths. They are all here to work, to achieve things for themselves and this is not what we expect to come for, this is not the culture that we are expecting to find.
So, for sometime Islam is obscured or masked from people that come to the Gulf. So, for a long time I didn’t discover anything about Islam. I heard the Adhan and I thought this is very beautiful, I asked what these words mean and people told me, but even so, this was just information, almost like tourism.
Ramadan in Turkey
It was in fact 10 years later after I traveled from Bahrain to Sharjah to Dubai and then to Turkey where I discovered something different.
That’s not to say that Islam is better or greater in Turkey, not at all. In fact, sadly, Islam is suppressed in Turkey in many ways.
I discovered after my arrival in Turkey that there were so many wonderful things to find out about that country. Of course it has a great Islamic history and this is what struck me visually straight away. I immediately discovered beautiful Islamic architecture from the Ottoman period.
It was only after sometime in Turkey that I started to get to know the people in Turkey very well. Then it was Ramadan, something that I witnessed many times before in the Gulf, but something I just let it pass me by just as most westerners do. Just an annoyance, an inability to get a cup of tea during the day.
The Best Muslims
In Turkey, I felt something different. I felt some sense of something else. I soon noticed that the people who were fasting in Ramadan were the people who already I decided that I like.
There was an obvious correlation between the best of the people and the people who fast it. These proved to be the best of the Muslims and I was attracted to them so I joined them.
I did what it seemed to be a strange thing, so I started to fast in Ramadan even though I wasn’t a Muslim and I found it very pleasing in many ways, quite challenging in others, but very pleasing.
I enjoyed the fast, I enjoyed especially the few moments before the Adhan of Al-Maghrib (sunset prayer) and waiting quietly with people who were fasting all day, working quite through the day because in Turkey there were no allowances made for Ramadan in the work.
So people are fasting completely from the beginning of the day until dusk and they are working all the time. I did this also… I was impressed with this. It gave me a sense of achievement and it inspired me to do more studying.
Reading The Quran
Around this time somebody gave me my first Quran, it was a Yusuf Ali translation and I was able to read it in English and to understand something.
I was amazed when I read it because there was nothing strange in this book, and I expected it to be full of… eastern mysticism or whatever nonsense you like to think as a westerner can imagine. There was nothing odd in it.
In fact what I discovered was it wasn’t like the Bible. I’ve never been able to understand the Bible. The Bible seemed to me to be full of contradictions, peculiar stories that didn’t seem to adapt and things which didn’t seem to be conveying the message of Christ. The message of Jesus didn’t seem to come through in the Bible except in some parts.
Later I came to study this closely and now I understand why, but this is not the subject now. The point was that the Quran made a complete sense.
So I read it and I also read the biography of the Rassul, the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and this inspired me also.
This was very interesting because this was a great man in history, so this was facts, something I can relate to as a westerner interested in logic.
I followed this and I continued to follow it but still nobody was doing serious daawah to me, nobody was trying to convince me that I should change my ways in any other way.
So I became what you can call ‘an abstract scholar of Islam’. I could have taken a qualification in Islamic studies! But this is of no real value if you don’t intend to do something with it, and sadly I didn’t.
Back in Dubai
After I returned from Turkey to Dubai, by Allah, I found myself working for some very excellent people and the person who was my boss became one of my great friends.
In the evening after work we would discuss while we go out for dinner, maybe a little bit during the office also. He would help me study the right things and talk to the right people and tried to answer some of my questions in the best way he could.
But still he could see that all my objections were all to do with logic, all these questions about customs and practices, all these things that were born out of my secular upbringing. I’ve never been really Christian, I’ve just been an agnostic. I continued to ask him questions and not every question he could necessarily answer himself.
Fortunately, after at least a year some men came to him, some European Muslim businessmen who were trying to start a big project.
Their project was the great desire to introduce the Islamic Gold Dinar as the currency of the Muslims. This seemed like, and even now, an awfully big desire and a huge goal. He brought this to me and said:
“Hey, you are a finance man, what do you think of this?”
These are some European Muslims who are trying to bring a practical aspect of Islam.
Their idea is you can’t pay the zakah unless there is a gold dinar to pay it with. So you only have four pillars of Islam and you must find the other one through proper means.
So he asked me “What do you think of this idea?”.
Of course I learnt all about Islam and what was meant by these pillars and I said:
“Rubbish, it can’t be done, there’s no way that they can overcome the international financial system and this will fail”.
He said: “Well, why don’t you come and tell them this?”
I think I was in a bad mood and said: “Yes sure, I’ll tell them”.
He took us out and I met these men.
Talking to European Muslims
They were Spanish and Germans who spoke English very well.
They were very educated, very wise and great scholars who reverted to Islam like 10 or 20 years before. Their knowledge was very great.
These men are still doing great da’wah all over the world. So we discussed, we went on to this restaurant and we talked over and over.
We started with that dinner and I asked my questions and for the first time I started to get answers I couldn’t challenge.
They were not only answering my questions from a religious point of view, but they were also answering them from a point of view of logic and only scientific sense that I thought I had with my objections and all my arguments about these points of religion and philosophy.
It was a Wednesday night in the middle of the week and at 1:00 am they said to me
“So, do you have any more questions?”
And I said “No… I don’t, I ran out of questions”
So they said “Now what, you are going to embrace Islam?”
What could I say? I could only say “Yes”.
So they invited me to come to their house on the following Friday, two days later.
I came to the house well-prepared. They gave me some last lessons and advice, things I needed to know about prayer, making wudu/ghusl, and we went to the grand mosque of Jumeirah where I said my shahadah.
I immediately got a thousand big brothers who were hugging me and were delighted. I’ve never seen so many happy faces, never, not in my birthday party, not in a Christian gathering and not in any other gathering, so many pleased people and they were all pleased for me.
So that’s my story. I hope it didn’t bore you too much.
I think I still have just one thing to say.
Those of you who were born Muslims, alhamdulellah, you were blessed and I just hope you would treasure it and treat it as you should as a gift that you were given at birth, something very wonderful.
If you are a revert like me then congratulations also, alhamdulillah, always alhamdulillah.
I hope your story was something wonderful for you whether it was a sudden discovery or a slower torturous argumentative path like mine, whatever it was I hope it had brought you to the right path.
If you are not a Muslim, then I have something else to say to you.
Look at me now; some ugly old man but I’m very happy, happier than I’ve ever been and more satisfied than I’ve ever been.
All the doubts and fears, all the desires and longing for wrong stupid material things that belong to this life, no matter what I collected, after 70, 80 or 90 years if I’m lucky I would have to give them all up. I swapped that for something permanent.
I’m not going to lecture you, if you don’t want to listen to it you don’t have to listen, just see what I have on my face,
I’m happy, you could be happy too, this is something you should consider, I hope you will.