My name is Tarik
Preston. I embraced the religion of Islam in 1988 at
the age of 19.
The story of how
I came to embrace Islam is not a very long story, and
in many respects, I think that the story of how Allah
(God) continued to guide me after I entered Islam is
more of an inspiring story.
this story begins with my name. I was given the name
Tarik at birth. In the 60s, the 70s, and even the
80s, it wasn't all that unusual for some Americans to
give their children African names. Many times, the
names they chose from Africa were actually Islamic
names, which is what happened with my name.
life before Islam I periodically met other people
named Tarik, or someone who knew the significance of
my name and they would ask me, "Do you know what your
name means?" I would reply proudly as I had been
taught: "It means ‘star of piercing brightness.'"
would add the story of the famous Tariq ibn Ziyad who
conquered Spain in the year 711 A.D.
despite knowing those important facts about the
meaning of my name, I did not know the Islamic
significance of my name until later, when I was a
student in college.
college at the age of 16 majoring in pre-med/biology
with the intent, at that time, of becoming a doctor.
I knew that if I was going to have such an important
responsibility, I would need a good methodology to
follow in my life.
freshman year, I attempted to read the Bible, but
Christianity had begun not to make sense to me.
the marvelous complexity of cell biology that year,
several of my classmates and I reaffirmed our belief
in the Creator and that creation was not an accident
as some scientists speculated.
break, I had a theological discussion with my
grandmother, with whom I was very close. And she,
despite being a Christian, made a remarkable statement
that I paid close attention to.
She said: "I
worship God and I don't worship Jesus, because I feel
safer worshipping God!" She advised me not to pray in
the name of Jesus anymore and to just pray to God!
When I returned
to college after that conversation, I continued to
pray every night before sleeping as I had been
taught. But I decided that I would no longer pray in
the name of Jesus, and to direct my prayers only to
Once I made that
decision, I started to feel guilty about praying lying
down in bed. So I began to pray kneeling at the side
of my bed, which felt better to me.
for something that would guide me safely through life,
one day I asked God to guide me while walking across
During my junior
year in college, a fellow student who I knew embraced
Islam saw me walking across campus and he greeted me
with "as-salamu alaykum" (peace be upon you)!
Having grown up in the 1970s in Chicago, I had heard
this greeting many times, so I replied: "Wa alaikum
He then asked me
if I was a Muslim, to which I replied (at that time),
"No. I am United Methodist." He replied: "Oh! I
thought you were a Muslim because your name is
Not long after
that encounter, he came to a study session that I and
a few classmates were having, and he attempted to
inform us about Islam. He was very young and very new
to Islam himself, so he didn't know very much. But he
did warn us about the dangers of worshipping Jesus,
the son of Mary.
Of course that
was a familiar statement, but I still didn't know much
about Islam, but I did learn what Muslims looked like
because my friend had a very distinct appearance and
demeanor after his conversion.
When I returned
home that summer, I took a summer job as a
telemarketer where I met a Muslim named Ahmed.
Despite being a Puerto Rican convert to Islam, he had
the same distinct look and demeanor as my friend from
college, so I asked him, "Are you a Muslim?"
He smiled and
replied: "Yes Tarik. Are you?"
"No. I am a United Methodist."
He smiled and
said wryly: "With a name like Tarik you should be a
He began talking
to me about tawheed (the oneness of God). I
was impressed with the concept of Islamic monotheism.
invited me over to his house and showed me a copy of
the English translation of the Quran. I was very
impressed by the respect that he had for this Book,
and I asked him if I could borrow it in order to read
it. He reluctantly agreed, saying that it was his
only copy of the Quran, and he sternly advised me to
respect the Book and keep it clean and in a place of
respect in my home.
I couldn't wait
to read it!
Two weeks later,
I invited Ahmed to my house and we sat and talked
again about Islam. I informed him that I believed the
Quran was the truth and that I wanted to become a
The very next
day we went together to the Islamic Center in
Washington D.C. and I embraced Islam.
A few years
after my conversion, Allah blessed me to be able to
study Islam at the Islamic University of Medina where
I earned an Associate's degree in Arabic language and
a Bachelor's degree in Hadith Sciences.
I hope the story
of how I came to Islam encourages others to embrace
Islam. I also hope that my story encourages my fellow
Muslim brothers and sisters to share the true message
of Islam with those around them in word and deed.