University Professor of Comparative Religion Shares his Islam Story

I suppose both my mother and my father were onto something. I mean this was a phase but it wasn’t just a passing phase, at least as I thought or hoped. My mother must have realized that I was serious but of course her reaction was one of fear and regret which I suppose is understandable when one is ignorant and only has distorted perceptions based on misinformation or limited information. So there were great challenges in those first years, trying to communicate with my parents.

I have to say that alhamdulellah they were very understanding and patient and we’ve come to a better understanding. At first my mother worried that I would turn into a kind of a monster. But I tried to assure that since I embraced Islam, I’m a better student and I think I’m a better son. It wasn’t as though I was a bad person before Islam.

Maybe for some people setting foot on this path is necessary for them to be able to reform themselves. In my case, I thanked my parents actually for giving me the values that I was able to recognize when I came to Islam. As I said it I wasn’t a bad person insha’Allah. Islam has made me, makes me and will make me, a better person. You know everybody’s path is different. How they get there and even once they embrace Islam everybody has a different way of understanding this path. For me, it has a lot to do with learning and knowledge. I think that the basic purpose of life and Islam is to gain knowledge; knowledge of ourselves, knowledge of our world, of our universe, and knowledge of our intimate relationship with Allah.

This has propelled me into my career. I don’t know if I would have become a professor today if I haven’t become a Muslim. I’m not saying that everybody should be a professor. But for me it has been a long journey of learning and teaching. Along the way, I’ve gained great respect and appreciation for other religions also which I don’t think I would not have had if I didn’t have this grounding in Islam.

I think that something that new Muslims should take to heart is that when one becomes a Muslim, one doesn’t become a different person. The prophet (peace be upon him) said that people bring to Islam what they had before, so even among his companions there were people who had special talents or challenges and these were the ones who had to continue to work with or work on after entering the path. So similarly I can say that this applies too for me. There are many challenges and life continues to have its troubles. It just requires patience. For me this is almost a 20-year journey and only Allah knows how and where it will end. So, my advice to new Muslims or even to people who have been Muslims for a long time is just to bear with patience and see what Allah will surprise you with; not with fear but with love and hope.

If there are non-Muslims who are hearing me today I think you owe it to yourself to know as much as you can about the things in the world around you. Islam is certainly present in the world. It’s almost unavoidable in the news and in the world around us. And if you don’t know any Muslims, probably you will at some points. I think we all should know each other so if you are curious, there are lots of resources out there.

If you are in Hawaii, give me a call. I’m at the university of Hawaii in the religion department, so if I can be of any help let me know. And even for those people who are from Muslim families we can always increase in knowledge and be in compassion and in love for each other. So that’s my wish for all of you and thank you for listening and with that I say Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.