Converts of Western Background (Part 1)



The following accounts were taken from the Converts Accounts section at whyahmadi.org.


Bashir Ahmad Orchard

The aforementioned event took place in 1944, in which year deeper spiritual inclinations seemed to awaken within me. I was never much influenced by Christianity. I had become quite enchanted with Hindu literature and a close friend of mine was a Brahmin. As yet I had not been attracted in any way towards Islam although I did enjoy reading about the lives of the Moghul emperors in Glimpses of World History by Pandit Nehru.

Right up to that time my enjoyment in life was more or less the same as most young men. At sixteen I had become a regular drinker and smoker. Gambling was in my blood. When I was eighteen I had a temporary craze for dancing and, of course, I enjoyed going to the cinema and theatre. Although smoking is not specifically forbidden in Islam and may be considered a lesser vice, it was the hardest of them all for me to overcome. Nevertheless the physical and spiritual benefits gained from discarding that obnoxious habit have been immense…

An Ahmadi sergeant who was also serving in my unit concluded, for reasons best known to himself, that I might be a person to whom he could introduce the message of Islam. His name was Abdul Rahman Dehlvi. There were also a number of other Britishers attached to the same unit, but as far as I know, he never approached any of them. Naturally he had to exercise diplomacy in view of the fact that I was commissioned officer with whom it would not be normal to discuss or propagate freely his religion. He arranged for a copy of the ‘Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam‘ by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be sent to me from Qadian…

The highlight of my two-day visit was an audience with Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, the Khalifa and the supreme head of the Jama’at Ahmadiyya. This was a memorable event…I was impressed most of all by his luminous countenance, which radiated an intangible spiritual light, which seemed to shine from his face and when he spoke, a charming smile animated his face. He was an embodiment of energetic repose, radiating physical, intellectual and spiritual magnetism, which captivated all within his presence. I realized that I was in the company of no ordinary person…My knowledge of Islam at that time was negligible, but I reasoned, that if these people were fruits of the faith, then it certainly had something to offer. I was in search of the truth and later I was to realize that I had found it in Qadian.

A notable event took place in my life in the evening after my departure. I was waiting on the station at Amritsar which is a town about thirty miles from Qadian. While waiting for my connection, I joined some other officers for drinks in the refreshment room. I was suddenly overcome with a feeling of aversion. The atmosphere seemed repulsive compared with the holy atmosphere of Qadian. There and then I resolved to forsake drinking once and for all. One of the first things I did when I rejoined my unit on the Burma front was to throw away all the bottles of alcohol I had in my possession… I used to gamble on horses, greyhounds, dice and card games. Once when stationed at Imphal I lost a month’s pay gambling on cards with officers. These were the first two evils from which Islam rescued me….

Prior to my acceptance of Ahmadiyyat, I used to contribute nothing in the way of God or towards charity. Islam taught me the philosophy of giving in the way of Allah. Sacrificing what one loves for the sake of Allah wins the pleasure of Allah and earns one abundant reward. I commenced by paying one sixteenth of my income and later increased it to one tenth (Al-Wassiyat). Finally in 1967, I commenced paying one third and have been doing so ever since. Despite the fact that I enjoy only a meagre income, life is good to me in every respect…

Ahmadiyyat introduced into my life the regular observance of daily prayer which have proved a source of great blessing and comfort to me, testifying to the truth of the verse in the Holy Quran:

It is only in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort. (13:29)

I am still novice in the art of prayer. Prayer is more than a routine habit. I have gained much on the subject from the writings and discourses of the Promised Messiah may peace be upon him. They have been a source of inspiration to me…

Everybody dreams. It is a normal function of the body. Investigators have ascertained that even animals dream. Since time immemorial, God has revealed Himself through the medium of dreams. The Holy Qur’an and earlier scriptures abound with incidents of people to whom God communicated knowledge, messages and future events through dreams. I do not recall the details of any dream before the time I accepted Ahmadiyyat. Since then, however, I have had many dreams, which I have never forgotten. Throughout the years they have remained with me as fresh and clear as at the time I received them.

Read more about Bashir’s story here.

 


Selma Mubarika Khan

I was brought up in a Christian Household in Yorkshire, England… I became a Sunday school teacher on reaching my teens and at times attended weekend Christian prayer groups when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old. We were given talks and film shows of missionary work in the Zambezi Valley of Africa.

[…] I met in the course of my work [nursing], a young doctor. Whilst we were ‘crowing’ about our success, he quietly used to say ‘Alhamdulillah’.I asked him what that meant and when he told me it meant ‘all praise belongs to God’, I felt rather ashamed but agreed he was right. Further conversations followed when we found time and he revealed he was a Muslim. I felt ‘what a pity, what a great pity, that such a nice religious boy hadn’t been introduced to Christianity’. How little I knew! He was far too clever and learned for me! He said to me that if I could convince him of the truth of Christianity and its superiority over Islam, then he was prepared to accept it. He knew full well it was a ‘Mission Impossible’. However I didn’t and with missionary zeal I launched on his conversion. After all, why not practice before going to Africa?

How soon the tables were turned. At first I was cross, then furious that there were so many basic questions I could not answer. I had never understood Trinity, and had dismissed it as unimportant until then…One by one I went through spokesmen of all the major Christian Churches. No one was able to answer my questions on Trinity or atonement satisfactorily. They would simply say ‘We will pray for you sister. Have faith and believe.’ I realised now that my faith in Christianity was really reduced and the result was that I was extremely angry.

I read [rather] reluctantly, Islam, the small booklet called ‘Death on the Cross’ by Maulvi Abdul Atta Sahib, which shattered my last hopes of clinging to Christianity. I began to be honest with myself and I prayed for help and guidance. In my heart I already accepted Islam, the Holy Prophet and the Promised Messiah, peace and blessings be upon them. It was a revelation to learn that Islam was the youngest of the revealed books of God. I realised I had been reading old, out of date stuff, not the latest up to date guidance send by God through a Messenger for our time.

When I was about ten years old, I was with my grandfather after he had given the evening sermon in a small country Chapel… I clearly remember somebody saying that if Jesus came now we would not reject him as the Jews did. Another church member mentioned about a man in India who claimed to be the Promised Messiah and made a derogatory remark. My grandfather quietly said ‘how do we know he is not?’ That memory came back to me just when I most needed reassurance and I felt that had my grandfather been alive he would have supported me.

Read more about Selma’s story here.

 


Ann Patricia Samia Sheikh

My husband was a big influence as to why I converted to Islam, because I saw the way he lived; it was beautiful and played a big role for me to convert to Islam.

Converting to Islam changed the way I lived my life. Instead of going to church weekly, I started to pray five times a day at home. My dietary habits changed. I wouldn’t drink on celebratory occasions, instead I thanked God for everything I have and all of His blessings that He gave me. Soon I saw a dream, details of which I have not discussed with anybody, but it convinced me that conversion to Islam and Ahmadiyyat was the correct course for me. I have been a Muslim since then, by the Grace of Allah. Initially my husband and his father guided me towards Ahmadiyyat. Later on I met other Ahmadis and my knowledge gradually started to increase with talking to other Ahmadi Muslims and reading a lot of literature.

Read more about Ann’s story here.

 


Nasir Ward

Tahir Selby, Nasir Ward, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Muzaffar Clarke

(from left to right) Tahir Selby, Nasir Ward, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Muzaffar Clarke.

My father lived a normal British life, his interests were reading books, traveling and gardening.He was a person who was always thinking about the world around him and considering the system of things. So perhaps it is this quest for knowledge and a broadminded attitude towards new cultures and beliefs, which led him towards Islam…more than anything my father was an independent thinker. He would consider all sides of an argument before reaching a conclusion and in studying Ahmadiyyat the conclusion he reached is that the Qur’an and the claims of the Promised Messiah were true.

My father was working with another Ahmadi teacher who would offer him a [lift] home. After the lift my father, wanting to be polite, would invite him in for a cup of tea. It was at these times that they began to talk about religion in general and Islam. My parents were given books of Ch. Muhammad Zafarullah Khan Sahib and others. They were impressed with what they read, continued to read and finally accepted Ahmadiyyat.

…it gave him a respect for God and for the message of religion. My father studied all religions through the lens of the Holy Qur’an. He saw truth in scripture because he always took the Qur’an as his starting point. He had no doubt that Islam was true.

Read more about Nasir’s story here.

 


Muzaffar Clarke

(1983) Muzzafar Clarke, second from the right, accompanies other British converts in welcoming Maulana Ataul Rashid, the Imam of the London Mosque.

(1983) Muzzafar Clarke, second from the right, accompanies other British converts in welcoming Maulana Ataul Rashid, the Imam of the London Mosque.

…I did not believe that Jesus was God. And I did not believe a just and merciful God could have allowed him to die on the cross. Even when I was very young I asked the nuns and priests to whom Jesus was praying to in the garden of Gethsemane? Why was he asking God to save him, if he was God himself? They could not or would not answer the question and told me that I need not ask such questions. That just made me even more doubtful. I was amazed when these people [Mr and Mrs Malik] who had come from the other side of the world, starting to tell me about their belief in Jesus or Hazrat Isa pbuh (peace be upon him) as they called him. They said that Jesus pbuh was a human being and he was also a prophet of God. That he was definitely not God Himself, and they also did not believe that Jesus pbuh died on the cross. I was completely stunned by this! How could these people who had come from the other side of the world, believe the same things that I did? I knew nothing about Islam, and yet here my views were being reflected back at me as if I was looking into a mirror. This came as a great shock and also a wonderful surprise to me.

I was privileged to meet [the third khalifa] later at the London Mosque. His bright pink shiny face overwhelmed me and this luminous milky glow that seemed to come from his face into the air around him. I can only describe it as a spiritual experience and I was convinced that this man was different to any other man that I had ever met. I could tell that he was a very special person and true spiritual leader. This increased my desire to know more about the Ahmadi community and I asked the Malik family many questions and had many meetings with the Imam, Maulana Bashir Ahmad Rafiq and the then deputy Imam, Maulana Ataul Mujeeb Rashid. Over the course of several meetings I had asked some very difficult questions about Islam and Ahmadiyyat. I made my questions difficult because I really wanted to find out the answers. Thank God they are able to answer all my questions.

I felt emptiness inside like a black hole; there was something missing. I joined an historical re-enactment society to help fill the hole…but it was not enough. The black hole needed to be filled by something more…I wondered what the purpose of such a life was and whether or not people could ever really be happy. I fell asleep and had a strange dream. I saw that I was sleeping on the bed and that my body rose off the bed. I was looking down and I could still see myself on the bed, but separate from my body. I floated out of the room and then I floated into the church where I had been previously and when I looked down I could see everything in the church including the lady’s head, she had bright ginger hair, and it looked like a red circle from the up above. I was still suspended above the scene and I floated out of the church and back into the room where my body lay. I was able to look down at my body on the bed and somehow I re-entered my body as it lay on the bed. After this I awoke and was looking up at the ceiling, towards the electric light bulb. The filament inside the light bulb seemed to be spelling out a name and the name it was spelling out was Allah.

I put my hands up to my face and I could see the light reflecting on my palms. I could see this with my eyes and it was happening in front of me. This was not a dream. Then the whole room was bathed in light and at some point I felt heaviness on my shoulder, it felt like someone had placed a hand on me, a comforting hand. And then I felt a shockwave go through me right through my head to my feet.

Read more about Muzaffar’s story here.


Tahir Selby

Tahir Selby (left), alongside Azhar Hanif (centre) and Bakr Abeidi (right) at Jamia Ahmadiyyat, Pakistan.

Tahir Selby (left), alongside Azhar Hanif (centre) and Bakr Abeidi (right) at Jamia Ahmadiyyat, Pakistan.

I was totally not interested in religion at all. I wasn’t the type of person that dismissed God. But I always thought to myself that there was never a point in being righteous because at the time, I was young and I was enjoying life. So I felt that for me to follow religion was restricting myself and I didn’t want those restrictions for myself. I wanted to be free and enjoy my life. So at that time there was no part for God in my life…My understanding about God and religion [changed] and now I started to understand what was the real purpose behind religion, that it was not something to restrict you; but to guide you, to help you become a better person, to help you develop your relationship with God.

Read more about Tahir’s story here.

 


Rafiq Mahmood

When I started visiting churches, particularly Catholic Churches where there are a lot more graven images than anywhere else, I saw people bowing down in front of an image of Jesus on the cross! I felt that this was complete disobedience and hypocrisy. I thought to myself that this was not acceptable. What I also found very hard to accept and to believe that anyone else could accept was that ‘how a man could be God!’ It was and is a bizarre and obscured belief to me. My father taught me that we have to test everything and not accept what other people say blindly and make our own decisions in life. He told me very strongly that ‘it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are true to yourself and as long as you believe that what you are doing is right.’

I found it very hard to accept that other people would accept a human being as God. It was as though there was a structure that had an empty belief which nobody really believed in. I remember once seeing a programme on television about Islam and the Kalima. (I remember I was very young then). When I heard the Kalima for the first time I thought to myself that ‘yes the first part makes sense obviously’ (‘There is None Worthy of Worship except Allah’) and I thought to myself that surely everyone could believe in that. But I wasn’t sure about the second part that ‘Muhammad, pbuh, is the Messenger of Allah’ because I didn’t know!

I used to run a little magazine…I used to prepare this magazine on wax paper, which is very old technology now, but I didn’t have the machinery required to print the magazine. I was always asking people to help me so I could run this magazine…Then I had the idea that I should ask my friends from different religions. I told them that I would give them an opportunity to write an article about their religion in my magazine.

There were three boys in my class, one was an orthodox Jew, another was a liberal Jew and the third was a Muslim. The first boy I asked was the orthodox Jew. First I greeted him with their Jewish greeting word ‘Sholom’… he got very angry with me and told me that I was a Gentile so I wasn’t allowed to say ‘Sholom’.Then I asked my liberal Jew friend. He told me that they were liberal Jews and that he didn’t really know that much about his religion and therefore wouldn’t be able to write a very good article for me.

This is when I went to see the Muslim
boy whose name was Arif Nasir. I greeted him with the Islamic greeting of ‘Assalaam-o-Alaikum’ to which he replied with ‘Waalaikum-Asalaam’ and I asked that did he not mind me saying the Islamic greeting to him? He told me that he was very happy. I asked him about the article and he told that it was great what I was doing and he would be more than happy to help.

After a while I got in the habit of going to the mosque and taking part in the Sunday Seminar…the purpose of this was to get young people to talk about any subject under the sun, whether it was politics, current affair or religion; whatever it may be and to also bring in invited guests to present their point of view and to discuss and to try and bring the Islamic perspective to it. This was the bait and this was the hook and this is what caught me!

It took me about a year after which I was convinced intellectually that the Ahmadiyya interpretation of Islam was satisfying to me…One of the significant things in becoming an Ahmadi was a realisation that this is who I was and this is where I belonged. When I got the letter from the third Khalifa, may Allah have mercy on him, saying ‘I suggest that your name should be Rafiq Mahmood’, I was delighted. I learnt what this name meant and the realisation that I had at last an identity, a place, somewhere where I belonged. This had a very profound effect on me.

Read more about Rafiq’s story here.

 


Ibrahim Noonan

Ibrahim Noonan (right), alongside His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad, at the UK Khuddam Ijtema in 2000.

Ibrahim Noonan (right), alongside His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad, at the UK Khuddam Ijtema in 2000.

On my arrival in Tunisia, like most young Irish men I was unaware of the Islamic customs and traditions of purdah and separation of men and women, but this really had an impact upon me from a moral perspective. I was quite impressed… I admired it very much. It was during this time I heard my first ever Azan and I was spelled bound. I asked a local person, whose English was very good, what it was. And what did it mean? When he explained everything, I was overwhelmed by it all. I made my mind that when I return to UK I would pursue more about Islam.

When I returned to UK I was adamant to learn a lot more about Islam, I remember telling a Christian friend of mine whom I met in the World Wide Apostolic Church about my experience in Tunisia and he made a very interesting comment, he said ‘Muslims are the hardest to convert’! When I asked him why? His reply was more shocking, he said ‘because they really practice their faith and believe in it’. This really had a deep impact upon me.

There was an incident when I saw a young Muslim the same age as me then (22) he had a beautiful beard (long) and was wearing very simple clothes. He was asked about the nature of God according to Islam, he beautifully explained about tawhid. I was so impressed, that deep down I knew, I wanted to be a Muslim. The second incident which convinced me that Islam is what I truly wanted to follow.

When the Fourth Khalifa (r.h.) came in [to the Q&A marquee], he looked so beautiful and bright like a shining star. The Question & Answer had not begun yet just looking at him overwhelmed me….After the formalities the session started, each question was profound and the answers were astonishing. The Khalifa was able to answer every question with such authority, it was amazing. I could not keep my eyes off the Khailifa for a second.

I remembered the words of the great Maulana Bashir Orchard sahib ‘you can take the high road and read all the books or you can take the low road and pray for the truth’. I was given a janamaz (prayer mat), I put the Qur’an and the Bible on a shelf in front of me. I did not know the Arabic for Salat so I prayed in English and fell to ground in prostration and said “Oh God, I know you exist, and I know Satan is not more powerful than you, so when I pray to you, he cannot come to me before you, you say in the Qur’an, ‘make one step towards me and I’ll come running to you’ in the Bible it says ‘knock and the door will be opened.’

Oh God, I believe in Jesus, a noble Prophet and I believe that Muhammad pbuh is also a Prophet and I only want to follow the truth, so which of these two Prophets should I follow?”

“Oh God, Satan cannot get to me before you, so which of these prophets should I follow? If you don’t answer me than I’ll hold you accountable on the Day of Judgment.”

After this prayer I fell asleep and I saw my first real dream. I saw that I was praying in a church with other Christians and I stood up and turned to the east and raised my hands and said ‘Allahu Akbar’ and I fell in prostration, also seven other Christians stood and turned to the east and said ‘Allahu Akbar’ and fell in prostration.

I was now fed up [after reading allegations against Ahmadiyyat], was Ahmadiyyat true or not? I took my Janamaz [prayer mat] and fell in prostration and cried in anger and said ‘Oh God, I have no time for this! If Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is true and he is the Messiah and Mahdi, then I want to see him.

That night after sleeping I saw the Promised Messiah pbuh in front of me and he said ‘Ahmadiyyat is Islam and Islam is Ahmadiyyat’. He then said ‘if you are ever in doubt again pray in this position, and I saw the Promised Messiah pbuh fall in prostration’. When I woke up I was sweating and I realized that Ahmadiyyat is the true Islam. Alhamdulillah.

Read more about Ibrahim’s story here.