I usually don't
do this. That is, I usually don't take this much time
to tell anyone how I converted to Islam, or should I
say, how I came back to Islam.
See, when people
find out you've become a Muslim, you always get the
same questions over and over again. How did your
parents react to it? Were you in love with a Muslim
woman? Are you accepted within the Islamic community
as a convert?
But most of all,
people ask me: Why did you convert to Islam?
I found it
shocking that even Muslims ask me why I converted to
Islam. "Well, this is the one true religion,
remember?" is my usual reply. I did not crash my car
into a tree and almost die, I did not have a moment
when I saw the light. I don't even know exactly when I
became a Muslim.
Some people are
surprised, but I wasn't even looking for God. I wasn't
looking for a reason in life. I wasn't looking for a
Actually, I was
just looking for a book. I walked into a bookstore not
knowing what I would buy. This must have been
somewhere in the year 2003 or 2004. I like to read,
with a special interest in the books sold in the store
somewhere between "recent history", "philosophy" and
That's where a
green book caught my eye. It was called "Islam;
Values, Principles and Reality". I held it in my hand,
looked at it, and realized I knew quite a few Muslims
but had no idea at all what they believed in.
is all over the news and seems to influence both
internal and foreign affairs. I decided to buy the
book and see what this religion is all about. I walked
to the counter and bought the book, totally unaware of
the four and a half year journey I had just embarked
on, which would lead straight up to my Shahadah
(Testimony of Faith).
Before I started
to read about Islam, I already had some negative
associations related to this religion in mind. For
example, I was wondering how a practicing Muslim could
ever think he is a good pious person while at the same
time he's oppressing his own wife.
instance, I would wonder why Muslims would worship a
cubic stone in Makkah while statues or buildings have
no power and cannot help anyone.
I could not
understand why Muslims were so intolerant against
other religions instead of simply saying that
everybody believes in the same God. With this in mind,
I started reading.
After the first
book came a second one. After the second came a third,
and so on. After a few years, I had read quite some
books on Islam and was very surprised. I found out
that almost everything that I thought was a part of
Islam and which I opposed to, was actually opposed by
It turned out
that the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings
of God be upon him, had said that one can see how good
a believer is by the way he treats his wife. I found
out that Muslims don't worship the Kabah, they rather
oppose worshipping statues or the like.
I found that the
Islamic civilization in all of its history — except
maybe the most recent ages — was the best example of
religious tolerance on the face of the planet.
I did not have
to be convinced of most of the things Islam tells us
to do or how to behave, since I found a lot of basic
rules I already agreed upon before learning about
Islam. I read my own opinion on a lot of subjects, but
the books kept on saying "this is Islam".
Dawah was done in my surroundings back then. Well,
not proactive anyway. The help I got was what I asked
for when talking to people around me. This doesn't say
everything about how dawah is organized in the
Netherlands, I just didn't have the people around me
who were very much into this.
So when Ramadan
came and I decided to give it a try — no book can tell
you how it truly feels — I went to my Muslim
co-workers and told them I would fast with them. I
bought a Quran and found the 30-day schedule on the
When I told the
others about reading the full Quran and fasting in
Shawwal [the lunar month after Ramadan], some of them
had never heard of this or done it themselves. I
brought milk and dates to work and explained to them
how this was a sunnah to follow.
or wives cooked meals we ate at work, so I experienced
some new food as well.
I learned a lot
that Ramadan, and so did the others. And we had a lot
of fun. My first Eid turned out to be a funeral, but
for the rest it was a great month.
After the month
of Ramadan, I went to the mosque to pay my zakah. I
figured that giving money to a good cause is a correct
thing to do, so not being a Muslim was no reason for
me not to pay.
This is where I
first met the treasurer of the mosque in my hometown.
He asked me if I was a Muslim. "No sir, I am not a
Muslim," was my reply, "but I did fast the month of
He told me to
take it easy, take my time, and never rush into
passed, I kept reading books about Islam. Most of the
books I read where from non-Muslims, like Karen
Armstrong. I also took some time to read what people
said that was negative towards Islam. I read about
religiously motivated terrorism, about clashes between
civilizations, and so on.
However, I found
that for every question I could raise, Islam had a
convincing answer. This did not always mean that the
Muslims I spoke with had a convincing answer, but most
of the information I gathered on Islam came from these
At the end of
the next Ramadan, I went back to the mosque to pay my
zakah. I met the treasurer again and he recognized me.
He asked me, again, if I was a Muslim.
"No sir, I am
not a Muslim," was my reply, "but you told me to take
it easy, right?"
He calmly shook
his head and said, "Yes, take it easy, but don't take
it too easy!"
I now started my
last year as a non-Muslim. I had already stopped
drinking alcohol. I stopped smoking cigarettes. I
tried to stimulate myself and others to do good, try
to prevent myself and others from doingwrong.
I went to Turkey
on holiday and had a look inside some of the greater
mosques. With every step I took, with every day that
went by, I could feel the presence of God in my life
I went into
nature and for the first time, I could see that what
was in front of me where signs of the Creator. I tried
to pray sometimes — something I had never done by
myself — which obviously didn't look much like the way
I pray today. I kept reading and reading, but now also
started to get information on Islam from the Internet.
On Hyves, a
popular Dutch social networking website, I was
approached by a Dutch Muslim revert. She asked if I
was a Muslim and I told her I wasn't a Muslim yet. She
asked me to come over to her house and meet her
husband. He was a Muslim by birth, practicing, and
born in Egypt.
He and I had
dinner together and then talked the rest of the
evening about Islam. The second time I was there, he
showed me the correct way to pray (upon my request). I
tried to do it as good as I could and he was watching
me try. When we took a short break, he asked me the
"So, do you
think you're ready to do this?"
"Yes, I think
I realized that
I had already become a Muslim. I didn't take my
Shahadah yet, so it wasn't official, but somewhere in
the previous years I had become a Muslim. I had come
to believe that there is no God to be worshiped
besides the one true God, the Creator.
I had come to
believe that Muhammad was His messenger, the final
messenger, who had part in completing the religion. I
wanted to fast, I wanted to pay zakah, I wanted to
make my salah [Prayers], I still dream of the hajj
My path was
through books, I came through the theory. It was a
rational choice, not an emotional choice. I looked at
the information which was out there, compared and
contemplated. Islam was the answer to every question.
One or two weeks later, he and I went to the mosque in
his home town. He had already talked to the imam so
they all knew I was coming. My dad came along and
brought a camera.
The imam said
the Shahadah, bit by bit. I repeated, bit by bit.
As the imam
recited a duaa [supplication], my Egyptian brother
translated it into Dutch for me. I felt like I had
been running for miles and miles and now reached the
finish line. I mean literally, I was out of breath as
if I had been running. I slowly got back my breath, I
felt calm and happy.
realized, finally, I had become Nourdeen.
I went to the
mosque in my hometown. As I entered the building, I
met the treasurer. He asked me, again, if I was a
"Yes sir, I am,
and my name is Nourdeen!" I said with a smile.
he replied, quickly to add: "…at last!"