How an American computer programmer
found peace in practicing the religion of Islam and
finally became Muslim.
By Richard Leiman
As a child, I
always had access to a short-wave radio. I used to
listen to the BBC World Service about the Middle
East. I also loved the music from that part of the
world, and I probably was listening to the Quran being
recited, but did not know it at the time.
As I grew older,
I continued to listen to the BBC World Service. Back
then, they had a program called Words of Faith in
which they had a five- to eight-minute talk given by a
different religious speaker each day of the week
representing all the major religions in the United
Kingdom. Out of all the speakers, the Muslims were
the ones I loved listening to most.
Every time the
Muslim representative spoke, I wanted to find out more
about Islam. My impression of the religion was that
the person who practices Islam is a happy person, not
like the mean people portrayed by the American media.
I just refused to believe people that loved Allah so
much could be like the people portrayed by the media.
Because I come from a Jewish background, the thing
that united me with Islam was the belief that Allah
had no partners.
Work in the
time in my life came when I met a real Muslim, but did
not know it yet. I was doing contracting computer
programming work in New York State when I had a strong
urge to visit the United Kingdom.
I visited London
and loved it. During my visit, I went to several
employment agencies without luck. One of the agencies
gave me several trade magazines. When I arrived back
in the States, I started to send more CV's to
companies and other agencies listed in the magazines.
I returned to the United Kingdom because one of the
companies wanted to interview me. Then I started to
visit more companies and agencies until I landed a
position even though I was on a visitor's visa.
The company that
hired me applied for a work permit for me and the
Department of Employment told me that I had to leave
the country in order for the paperwork to be
processed. Again, I went back to the States. Another
agency obtained a temporary work permit and employed
me for a company called LogoTech, which, at that time,
was located in Egham, Surrey.
Real Muslim for the First Time
Some time after
I started working at LogoTech, I found out that my
supervisor, Anis Karim, was Muslim. I asked him if he
knew how I could get a copy of the Quran. To my
surprise, he obtained a copy of the Quran for me
within a few days. He also asked me to pledge that I
would have a bath before I read from the Quran and
that I would never show it to anyone who might make
blasphemous remarks about it.
The next day, I
took my morning bath and made breakfast. Then, while
eating breakfast, I started to read. Later I found
out that "read" is what Allah had the Angel Gabriel
instruct our beloved Prophet to do, even though he
could not read or write!
can't describe how I felt when I read just that small
portion of the world's most holy book. It took only
10 pages, when, at that point, I told myself that this
religion was for me. This occurred around 1990. The
more I read, the more I wanted to know, and I loved
what I was reading.
At the time, I
did not know anything about how to pray or any of the
details of Islam. If Anis had invited me to go the
masjid in London, I would have gone with him. The
only thing I knew about praying to Allah was the
prostration position. At the time, I knew that
Muslims prayed several times a day, and so I started
to do so at night before I went to bed and in the
morning when I woke up.
Back to the
When the work
permit ran out, I had to return to the States and was
unemployed for several years. I visited my father in
Huntsville, Alabama, and created a database
application for him. I saw that Huntsville was a
high-tech cosmopolitan city and decided to try to land
a programming position there. My father told me that
if I did not get a position, I would have to go back
to New Jersey to my mother, who had moved from New
York to New Jersey. About a fortnight before I was
going to go back to New Jersey, I landed a programming
position at a company in Huntsville.
Trip to a Masjid
My sister and I
were planning a trip to Indonesia because we had a pen
pal on the Internet. My sister asked me if I could
help her find Islamic jewelry as a gift. At that time
I had no idea that there were Muslims in Huntsville.
Then Allah put
things into place for me. I remembered that there was
a shop called Crescent Imports, which I thought was
run by Muslims. It was not. It was run by the group
called Nation of Islam. Now here is the strange part
that only Allah could have arranged. We spoke to the
owner of the shop and told him that we wanted to find
Islamic jewelry. He directed us to the Huntsville
I do thank Allah
for having them direct me to the masjid. We went to
the building, but there was only one car parked
there. I spoke to a man in the car, and he told us
that we should speak to the imam about where to find
the jewelry. I was still afraid to go into the
building because for me, it was such a sacred place.
At the moment, I
remembered one day when I saw a lady at work wearing a
hijab. I told her about accepting Islam personally
and she said, "Why don't you visit the masjid in
Huntsville?" I eventually went back to the masjid
after I summed up enough courage to go into that
I spoke to the
imam, and he invited me to perform salah with the
Muslim brothers. This was a turning point in my
life. I loved it and started to visit the masjid once
a week at night. Then I started to visit it several
times a week at night. The urge to come more times
was stronger and I now perform most of my prayers at
the masjid, except `Asr and Maghrib prayers when I am
In November of
1996, I publicly made Shahadah. At work, I pray Zhuhr
and Asr by myself or with other Muslim brothers in a
small mosque in my work place. I proudly carry my
prayer rug in the hallways at my work in an attempt to
get people to ask me what they are. When they do ask
me about it, I tell them that I am Muslim and the mats
are what I use to pray on. Also, my work area,
including my computer, is decorated with Islamic
artwork. My background on my computer is usually the
Ka`bah or our masjid.
Now that I am a
Muslim, there is no turning back to disbelief!
this is not something recommended, this Muslim
happened to think so – IslamReligion.