I might not have
become a Muslim. I could have been a Hindu,
worshipping 14,321 gods and goddesses, such as a
goddess for my neighbor's dog, another for the moon,
and yet another for Evander Holyfield's lost ear. I
would be worshiping all these counterfeit "gods," and
I would be sick…sick in the heart and blind to the
logic of obeying a pink elephant with six arms, which
can be found on the walls of some Hindu-influenced,
Indian restaurants! Yes, they worship elephants,
which are habitually afraid of mice.
Or perhaps I
could be a Christian, worshipping Jesus Christ. But
why should I worship a prophet, indeed, who never
called himself divine? Wouldn't he know? He does
know, and so do I. Jesus is not God and God is not
I could have
gone to Buddhism, but which sect is correct? Who
knows? And would I have wanted to listen to the Dalai
Lama telling me how to enjoy life-in his words,
"taking three hookers and traveling to Las Vegas."
I did not become
any of the above, nor will I. I turned in the
direction of Islam when I knew almost nothing of it.
One year later, I took Shahada. I only wish I had
taken it much earlier. This is my story of becoming a
Muslim. It began when I was 10.
When I was 10,
my parents enrolled me at the local Conservative
Synagogue, in the densely Jewish town of Brookline,
Massachusetts. I was sent there supposedly to learn
Hebrew and be taught Judaism. I was adequately taught
neither. The teachers were mainly Israeli. It is
hard for me to remember now, but they actually taught
[reformed] Judaism very well. At 10, I sincerely
believed in God, read the stories from the Torah and
Old Testament, and was more pious than my much older
parents. I tried to pray and be steadfast, even
though my family and friends, as I remember, did not
think of it as even the least important. Why didn't
they care? Nevertheless, I kept up my inner Jew.
During this time of Judaica, I took peeks at
Christianity, wondering how so many of my friends
followed this great man, whose name so many people
used in vain when they dropped their papers or
tripped. Shouldn't Jesus Christ, I thought, be shown
more respect? Moreover, could he be the son of God?
Then one day,
still 10, as I went through my readings on the Jews
and Israel, I came across a new religion. First, I
saw a crescent and star; I read further. I was
profoundly moved when I found out that another billion
people in the world worshipped the same God as I did.
As I think about it now, it was truly remarkable.
These followers of Islam, of Allah Almighty read the
Qur'an, as it was spelled, and went on a pilgrimage.
further learning at that time was hindered by the
affinity for Israel. I was brainwashed about the
Muslim terrorists who blew up Jews like dynamite. The
Jews were good; the Arabs were bad. That's what my
friends told me, that's what my teachers seemed to
imply, and I would seldom hear of Islam again until
turned into 1995. My family switched synagogues, and
sects. From conservative, we now called ourselves
"reform Jews." We became very liberal. Our "Rabbi"
was not kosher. He was hardly what I consider a
spiritual leader, a man who leads Jews as followers of
God. One night, as we sat in the "congregation," our
Rabbi tried to keep us awake. He referred to his
pleasure of looking lustfully at Boston College
"coeds" from his nearby home. He incited only a
handful of laughs. Today, as I look back, I remember
how he spoke of the "haram" in front of his wife,
before the Torah, and in the presence of God. My
discontent with Judaism grew, and I knew that a
religious move to the right wing was inevitable. Only
it wouldn't be Orthodox Judaism.
People of the Book
I was impressed
at the time with the Christians' spirituality because
it seemed powerful. Judaism, I knew, was a corrupt
religion, but I still believed in God. The Christians
believe in God, do they not?
I went to mass,
I spoke to priests, but I had the world's most
difficult time believing that Jesus could be divine.
So I forced myself. I would pray to the "son," and
what a mess. I tried very hard, but I knew there was
no answer. I didn't understand, but I continued
studying the Catechism and saying the Lord's Prayer.
I wasn't baptized, so I wasn't Catholic. In fact, to
become Catholic, you needed to study for nine months.
What if I died before I became a Catholic because the
priests wouldn't let me become Christian? Then what?
I continued to notice flaws in the Christian
doctrine. The priests seemed to notice them, but
nevertheless they continued preaching.
26, 1999, I quit the confirmation class. I quit
Christianity, although I was not even Christian. I
was not "saved," but I did not care. I pleased my
parents immensely by leaving the Catholic Church.
But, I still knew there was only one God. To this
day, I am surprised at how instantly it happened. Not
one week after I left the church for good, I was ready
to learn about the final religion of God.
My father was
overjoyed to learn of my fading interest in
Catholicism and he welcomed me with open arms.
Unfortunately, he took me to the library. There, I
was presented with Encyclopedia Britannica. I read
about Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be
upon him. The article claimed he slaughtered all the
Jewish men of their tribe. Having read this, I was
deeply saddened, and I was angry and confused at the
same time. I was indignant at having learned that
this prophet from Islam had slaughtered Jews, and I
was confused about what to do now. I thought I had
ruled out Islam, but I still believed in God. Then
what? Indeed, I could not go more than a couple of
weeks before returning. I knew Judaism was corrupt, I
knew Christianity was corrupt. Now I got it:
Encyclopedia Britannica is also corrupt.
So I began my
search for a local Mosque. In fact, I found a nearby
Mosque by accident. I looked on the Internet
relentlessly. As soon as I saw the word Boston, I
clicked the mouse, awaiting the information that would
bring me to worship God in the right way. I waited,
patient with a slow and unfeeling modem, and finally,
the site had loaded.
At the tap of a
mouse button, I was greeted with Assalamu Alaikum. I
took down the address, and planned the journey. So
special was it to have found a mosque in Boston; I was
thrilled that I wouldn't have to travel to Egypt or
Jordan or Yemen.
It was around
February 28, 1999. I walked down Prospect Street, and
I saw the Mosque. I walked to the front, I reached to
open the door, and noticed a sign: Women's Entrance.
Women's entrance! I didn't know what that meant, so I
walked around the mosque, hoping they would let men in
somewhere. Suddenly, I felt nervous as I found the
men's entrance. I had never met a religious Muslim,
and I had no idea what the Muslims' reaction would be
upon meeting me. I wondered if I should hide my
Jewish identity. I took a breath and entered the
"Excuse me," I
said to the first man I saw. "I am here to learn
about Islam." I waited for his reaction. I waited for
an education or to be sent out. Would they really
send me out? I had hung up my shoes. The man opened
his mouth to speak: "Sorry, I don't speak English,"
and he went inside the main room. I followed him in.
I wasn't sure if he had left me to wander. I looked
around, at the faithful prostrating in submission to
Allah (swt). I was moved, but I wasn't sure what to
do next. Then, I noticed the man returned with what
seemed like a horde of faithful others. I sat down.
There was one of me and what seemed like 50 of them.
They all spoke to me at the same time. It was
overwhelming, but it felt great. It showed how
important Islam was to Muslims then and there. I was
given "A Brief Illustrated Guide to Islam," and within
minutes, I had the Shahada before my eyes. There it
was: La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammadun Rassoolu Allah.
I was ready to say it. Here and now. Nine months to
become a Catholic, probably more to be a Jew. In a
matter of moments, I could embrace Islam.
"Are you sure?
You don't have to do this," came the advice of a
friendly but cautious brother. I was surprised: was
it such a big thing that I would have to think about
it? Should I not become a Muslim now?
That day, I did
not become a Muslim. But it was a wonderful
Saturday. I met brothers from all over the world.
And yet, as diverse as the people appeared, they all
shared a common objective, which was clear: the utmost
submission to Allah (swt).
It would be over
a year before I would become a Muslim. During that
year, I had been at the site of an alleged shooting in
the Bronx, passing through in my family's car. In
fact, the bullet shattered the rear window, just a few
feet away from my head. I survived without a scratch,
and soon forgot about the whole incident.
On May 6, 2000,
I took the same train I had always taken to the Masjid
in Cambridge. This time, I brought with me a book on
Arabic, as I thought it would be appropriate to learn
the language. That was my philosophy back then.
Study Islam comprehensively. By the time you take
Shahada, you'll be a genius. I ran into a Muslim I
hadn't seen in months. He asked me if I had become a
Muslim yet. Then, we had a short conversation. He
talked about how if I went out in the street and got
in a car accident, I would die a non-Muslim. This
very well could mean hellfire. He told me this exact
story back in December 1999, but I had dismissed it,
even in the wake of the Bronx shooting. This time,
putting off Islam would not last.
At the Masjid
that same afternoon, I sat down and watched as the
Muslims lined up for Dhuhr, the second prayer of the
day. I stared as they prostrated, an act Shaitan had
refused. And I couldn't take it any longer. I
wondered what it would be like to become a Muslim now,
but my thoughts were all one-sided. I told the
brother right after the prayer that I wanted to become
a Muslim today. As I write this, three months later,
I know that taking Shahada was the best thing I could
ever have done. I only wish I could have done it