The following accounts are taken from By the Dawn’s Early Light: Short Stories by American Converts to Islam.
Rasheed Reno, Portland, Oregon
Despite not being a church-going family, my mother felt it was important that I have at least some kind of religious education, so sent me to Sunday school when I was young. There, I was taught a very literal form of Christianity, in which God literally created the world in seven days, less than 10,000 years ago. I found this difficult to believe based on what I was learning in science class. So at a young age, upon learning that the stories of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were just fairy tales, I also assumed that the stories of the Bible were just fairy tales. By the age of ten, I had become an Atheist. After this I had a very negative opinion of religion and considered people who believed in God to be simple-minded […] But the thing that impressed [about Islam] is that the conflict between religion and science that had led me to atheism, did not exist in Islam. One of the first books that I read was ‘Where did Jesus Die?’, and it blew me away. For the first time I saw science and rational thought being used to explain the life and miracles of a prophet, not refute it. So ironically, it was the (Ahmadiyya description of the) life of Jesus that helped lead me to Islam, and Islam that led me to believe in Jesus.
[…] As an Atheist, I had learned how to be very sceptical, and I readily applied this practice to my study of the Qur’an and the Prophet pbuh (peace be upon him). I said to myself, “If this is not from God, then I should be able to find fault in both.” I studied both closely and sceptically and yet was unable to find any faults. I concluded that there was no way an illiterate, uneducated person such as the Prophet Muhammad pbuh could have concocted such a grand scheme, written such a profound book, centuries ahead of its time, nor simply “gotten lucky” with all the accomplishments in his lifetime. Believing this to be a big hoax was simply irrational and foolish. And so with this, my faith in Islam was confirmed and strengthened.
I thus began reading books about Ahmadiyya beliefs and the Promised Messiah pbuh. I studied his life sceptically, just as I had studied the life of the Prophet pbuh. I found many of the accomplishments in his life to be phenomenal and again was unable to find fault in his character, or in his teachings. In particular, his writings on the life of Jesus, had a great impact on me. I had actually learned the Ahmadiyya beliefs on Jesus, before I had learned the non-Ahmadi Muslims beliefs and the former were a major factor in my acceptance of Islam. I later learned that the non-Ahmadi Muslims believe that Jesus, was not even put on the cross, but that Allah made someone else look like Jesus, who was mistakenly crucified in the place of Jesus. Then, for no apparent reason, he ascended to heaven. I found this to be ridiculous; Allah would not need to deceive the Jews in order to save his Messenger. How could the Jews be blamed for rejecting him if this was indeed the case? To me, this belief is more far-fetched than even the Christian belief in his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. This was the same kind of nonsense that had led me to Atheism before and there was no way I could believe it. My belief in Islam had come through rational means and I could not throw that away.
Ronald Abdur Rahim Hubbs, Jr. Chino, California
The more I began to study and ponder, the more I became disillusioned with politics and religion altogether. I became agnostic and even leaned towards atheism. Overly literalistic beliefs of the fanatical Christians on campus really turned me off. It wouldn’t be until I was 25 years old and miserable in nearly every aspect of my life, that I would start to more deeply explore spirituality […] When I came upon Islam, it really caught me off guard. I had never considered it. It seemed so foreign and I knew nothing about it. I was surprised, however, to learn that Islam was very simple and comforting. The five pillars of faith and six articles of belief were refreshingly simple and easy to grasp. I was even already practicing most of them, as I was fasting and praying and knew that God was One. I stayed up all night in prayer begging God to help me make the right decision, until I actually fell asleep in prayer. When I woke that morning, December 13, 1998, I knew without a shadow of doubt that Islam was my path.
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Oakland, California
In grad school I began to question my belief in the divinity of Jesus, and more importantly, why I was taught, told, and instructed to pray to Jesus, instead of God. In my mind God created Jesus, so shouldn’t I pray to the Creator? It was hard to admit, but when I questioned why I believed what I believed…I could only respond with, “That’s what I was told.” I did not have proofs of my own, or true knowledge that I could confidently stand on. And for many of the fundamental questions that I had, where there were gaps in my understanding, I was often told, “That’s where you have to have faith.”
[…] My schoolmate, Amatus Karim, invited me to the mosque. At the time, I had no idea that there was a difference between Ahmadi Muslims and other sects. I just went to the Friday prayer. As I followed the motions of the brothers – standing, bowing, prostrating – I began to cry. But they weren’t tears of sadness, or even joy, for that matter. I could not understand a word of the prayer, but ironically, they were tears of understanding. For the first time in my life, I knew where I was, spiritually speaking.
I converted to Islam in my final year at graduate school, and I began to work soon after graduation. […] While in Los Angeles I began to study with some mainstream Sunni Muslims. I assume they were Sunnis – again denominations were not as important to me then. I just wanted to learn and understand the faith and practice. But it was my time with some brothers in L.A. that led me to the Ahmadiyya Community. The non-Ahmadi Muslim perspective was not practical in certain matters, making Islam feel difficult to the point that I developed a fear of the religion, which I feel Allah would not want anyone to have.
A non-Ahmadi Muslim brother who stood out as being quite learned at that convention (non-Ahmadi) I attended actually corrected how I was holding my hands while standing upright in prayer. I specifically remember being afraid to say it, but I went on and asked, “Well, why is this the correct way, what sect is right? I’ve seen people hold their hands different ways. Some even leave them at their sides.” He responded by saying, “The way I am showing you is correct.” I was really bothered by that.
And as that feeling in my stomach began to tell me that this was wrong, my eyes fell on the words that seemed to glow from the back of a vacuum cleaner: “REFER TO YOUR MANUAL FOR INSTRUCTIONS.” I immediately thought of my Ahmadiyya Muslim prayer book. As crazy as that might sound, it meant something to me…I knew it was a sign!
A year and a half later, on June 23, 2001, I joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the 53rd Annual Convention in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was through reading Invitation to Ahmadiyyat by the Second Khalifa, specifically the portion on prophecies, along with very simple, logical answers by Brother Ali Murtaza, to what I had believed were difficult questions, that convinced me of the truth of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Luqman Malik, Chino, California
I grew up in a rough environment, surrounded most of my years by many of the problems associated with the barrio. Both my mother and father were a source of guidance and inspiration for me, preventing me from much of the trouble others my age fell victim to. […] I met a very pleasant mannered Muslim from Afghanistan during this period whose name was Tariq. I learn about Islam from him as well. Then 9/11 happened. I still remember driving home from school that day, wondering why there was so much unrest in the world. I asked God what is the purpose of creating us if we keep on behaving like this to one another. I went through a catharsis of sorts, asking God, who is right? I said that my mother would always say “One day we will all be under one umbrella and believe in all the prophets of God,” but how is this possible with all this going on?
All my Muslim friends came from affluent families. Islam fostering terrorist ideology just did not add up. As fate would have it, I happened to be driving past Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino and felt this sudden urge to go in and find out about Islam. I did not know anything about the Ahmadiyya Community at the time. So I enter the mosque and meet an American convert from Hawaii with an easy smile, brother Abdul Ghaffar. I asked him bluntly, “Tell me, what’s going on?” Our conversation began around noon. Ghaffar slowly went through all the basics of Islam, then moved onto the concept of jihad, then explained how terrorism and Islam are incompatible. We talked about religions that came before Islam as Ghaffar painted a holistic picture of religion, explaining that Islam was the final component in God’s master plan to bring man a complete code of life. I can honestly say that all the answers he gave me made complete sense.
[…] During this period I also began to develop an intense admiration for Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Here was someone who had the ability to motivate people towards true faith in droves. His difficult upbringing as an orphan reminded me of the challenges Jesus Christ faced as well. I said to myself, if Jesus Christ were to return, most people would certainly reject him because this is the pattern with prophets. So too was the case with Prophet Muhammad pbuh, a man whose teachings were a fulfillment and confirmation of my mother’s statement, “One day we will all be under one umbrella.” Here was an unlettered man who successfully preached racial and gender equality, universal brotherhood, and a belief in all of God’s prophets. This is what religion should be like. I signed the initiation form [on December 21st].
Michael Morris, Boston, Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Boston’s Roxbury neighbourhood. Roxbury is the inner city, where the crime rate is high and there is a lot of low income housing. […]In 1990, my mother got introduced to Islam by a Sunni Muslim, converted and got married to him. The three of us then moved to Baltimore. I was 16 and it was my freshman year of high school. This is when I first learned about the tenets of Islam and fell in love with its concepts – the One God, prayer and so on.
[…] Over time, here and there, I would get little reminders of Islam. I would see Muslims on the street, say salaams…it just took a long time for me to find my way back to Islam. It took until 2006, when I met Brother Rafiq Lake of the Boston chapter. I had gotten into trouble with the law and was luckily sentenced to his place of work by the courts. Brother Rafiq works for a Therapeutic Community (TC), a boot-camp style program where people can get back on the straight and narrow. Brother Rafiq asked me if I knew about Islam and I said yes, I had been introduced to Islam when I was sixteen years old. Then he asked me if know Ahmadiyya. I said negative, I had never heard of that. So he said if you are willing to learn, I will teach you.
He also said Ahmadiyya challenges you to do your own research. Read up on it, come up with questions and ask me. So I did just that. I read the Ahmadiyya commentary of the Qur’an, the Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, and a few small booklets, and it all made sense to me. But what really won me over was Brother Radiq’s kindness. Never mind his arguments, it was his kindness and genuine nature that made the real impact on me. What comes from the heart goes into the heart.
I continued my study of Islam Ahmadiyya and continued going to Friday prayers whenever I could. In the summer of 2006, I took the pledge. I was ready to begin living my life according to the teachings of Islam. I read several books while I was at TC – Conditions of Bai’at, Jesus in India, Where did Jesus Die?, to name a few. But it was The Essence of Islam by the Promised Messiah pbuh that had an amazing effect on me. Essence is so powerful that I had to put the book down and walk away from it for a minute, just because it was so overwhelming. No one had ever described God in the way the Promised Messiah pbuh had.