Priests and Missionaries who have Embraced Islam
- And thou wilt find
the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to
be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because
there are among them priests and monks, and because they
are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been
revealed unto the messengers, thou seest their eyes
overflow with tears because of their recognition of the
- They say: Our Lord,
we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses
are Christian priests and missionaries embracing Islam ?
Join our discussion board and share your views ! You can find many
converts from Christianity to Islam there, as well as Christians
who are learning more about Islam. If you are a former Christian
priest or missionary who has embraced Islam, please email your testimony
to us at email@example.com
- Dr. Jerald F. Dirks - Former
minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church. He holds a Master's
degree in Divinity from Harvard University and a Doctorate in
Psychology from the University of Denver. Author of The Cross
and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity
and Islam (ISBN 1-59008-002-5 - Amana Publications, 2001).
He has published over 60 articles in the field of clinical psychology,
and over 150 articles on Arabian horses
- Abdullah al-Faruq - Formerly
Kenneth L. Jenkins, minister and elder of the Pentecostal Church
- Viacheslav Polosin - Former
Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church
- Anselm Tormeeda - 14th century
CE scholar and priest
- Khadijah 'Sue' Watson - Former
pastor, missionary, professor. Master's degree in Divinity
- Ibrahim Khalil - Former Egyptian
- Anonymous Female Missionary
- Former Catholic missionary
- Martin John Mwaipopo - Former
- Raphael - Former Jehovah's
- George Anthony - Former Catholic
- Dr. Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad
Omar) - Former missionary
Dr. Jerald F. Dirks
- Former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church. He holds
a Master's degree in Divinity from Harvard University and a Doctorate
in Psychology from the University of Denver. Author of The Cross
and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity and
Islam (ISBN 1-59008-002-5 - Amana Publications, 2001).
He has published over 60 articles in the field of clinical psychology,
and over 150 articles on Arabian horses
MINISTER’S CONVERSION TO ISLAM
© 2002 (Abu Yahya) Jerald
F. Dirks, M.Div., Psy.D.
One of my earliest
childhood memories is of hearing the church bell toll for Sunday
morning worship in the small, rural town in which I was raised.
The Methodist Church was an old, wooden structure with a bell tower,
two children’s Sunday School classrooms cubbyholed behind folding,
wooden doors to separate it from the sanctuary, and a choir loft
that housed the Sunday school classrooms for the older children.
It stood less than two blocks from my home. As the bell rang,
we would come together as a family, and make our weekly pilgrimage
to the church.
In that rural setting
from the 1950s, the three churches in the town of about 500 were
the center of community life. The local Methodist Church,
to which my family belonged, sponsored ice cream socials with hand-cranked,
homemade ice cream, chicken potpie dinners, and corn roasts.
My family and I were always involved in all three, but each came
only once a year. In addition, there was a two-week community
Bible school every June, and I was a regular attendee
through my eighth grade year in school. However, Sunday morning
worship and Sunday school were weekly events, and I strove to keep
extending my collection of perfect attendance pins and of awards
for memorizing Bible verses.
By my junior high
school days, the local Methodist Church had closed, and we were
attending the Methodist Church in the neighbouring town, which was
only slightly larger than the town in which I lived. There,
my thoughts first began to focus on the ministry as a personal calling.
I became active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship, and eventually
served as both a district and a conference officer. I also
became the regular “preacher” during the annual Youth Sunday service.
My preaching began to draw community-wide attention, and before
long I was occasionally filling pulpits at other churches, at a
nursing home, and at various church-affiliated youth and ladies
groups, where I typically set attendance records.
By age 17, when I
began my freshman year at Harvard College, my decision to enter
the ministry had solidified. During my freshman year, I enrolled
in a two-semester course in comparative religion, which was taught
by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, whose specific area of expertise was
Islam. During that course, I gave far less attention to Islam,
than I did to other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as
the latter two seemed so much more esoteric and strange to me.
In contrast, Islam appeared to be somewhat similar to my own Christianity.
As such, I didn’t concentrate on it as much as I probably should
have, although I can remember writing a term paper for the course
on the concept of revelation in the Qur’an.
Nonetheless, as the course was one of rigorous academic standards
and demands, I did acquire a small library of about a half dozen
books on Islam, all of which were written by non-Muslims, and all
of which were to serve me in good stead 25 years later. I
also acquired two different English translations of the meaning
of the Qur’an, which I read at the time.
That spring, Harvard named me a Hollis Scholar, signifying
that I was one of the top pre-theology students in the college.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Harvard, I worked
as a youth minister at a fairly large United Methodist Church.
The following summer, I obtained my License to Preach from the United
Methodist Church. Upon graduating from Harvard College in 1971,
I enrolled at the Harvard Divinity School, and there obtained my Master
of Divinity degree in 1974, having been previously ordained into the
Deaconate of the United Methodist Church in 1972, and having previously
received a Stewart Scholarship from the United Methodist Church as
a supplement to my Harvard Divinity School scholarships. During
my seminary education, I also completed a two-year externship program
as a hospital chaplain at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.
Following graduation from Harvard Divinity School, I spent the summer
as the minister of two United Methodist churches in rural Kansas,
where attendance soared to heights not seen in those churches for
Seen from the outside, I was a very
promising young minister, who had received an excellent education,
drew large crowds to the Sunday morning worship service, and had
been successful at every stop along the ministerial path.
However, seen from the inside, I was fighting a constant war to
maintain my personal integrity in the face of my ministerial responsibilities.
This war was far removed from the ones presumably fought by some
later televangelists in unsuccessfully trying to maintain personal
sexual morality. Likewise, it was a far different war than
those fought by the headline-grabbing paedophilic priests of the
current moment. However, my struggle to maintain personal
integrity may be the most common one encountered by the better-educated
members of the ministry.
There is some irony in the fact that
the supposedly best, brightest, and most idealistic of ministers-to-be
are selected for the very best of seminary education, e.g. that
offered at that time at the Harvard Divinity School. The irony
is that, given such an education, the seminarian is exposed to as
much of the actual historical truth as is known about: 1)
the formation of the early, “mainstream” church, and how it was
shaped by geopolitical considerations; 2) the “original” reading
of various Biblical texts, many of which are in sharp contrast to
what most Christians read when they pick up their Bible,
although gradually some of this information is being incorporated
into newer and better translations; 3) the evolution of such concepts
as a triune godhead and the “sonship” of Jesus, peace be upon him;
4) the non-religious considerations that underlie many Christian
creeds and doctrines; 5) the existence of those early churches and
Christian movements which never accepted the concept of a triune
godhead, and which never accepted the concept of the divinity of
Jesus, peace be upon him; and 6) etc. (Some of these fruits
of my seminary education are recounted in more detail in my recent
book, The Cross and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue
between Christianity and Islam, Amana Publications, 2001.)
As such, it is no real wonder that
almost a majority of such seminary graduates leave seminary, not
to “fill pulpits”, where they would be asked to preach that which
they know is not true, but to enter the various counselling professions.
Such was also the case for me, as I went on to earn a master’s and
doctorate in clinical psychology. I continued to call myself
a Christian, because that was a needed bit of self-identity, and
because I was, after all, an ordained minister, even though my full
time job was as a mental health professional. However, my
seminary education had taken care of any belief I might have had
regarding a triune godhead or the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon
him. (Polls regularly reveal that ministers are less likely
to believe these and other dogmas of the church than are the laity
they serve, with ministers more likely to understand such terms
as “son of God” metaphorically, while their parishioners understand
it literally.) I thus became a “Christmas and Easter Christian”,
attending church very sporadically, and then gritting my teeth and
biting my tongue as I listened to sermons espousing that which I
knew was not the case.
None of the above should be taken to
imply that I was any less religious or spiritually oriented than
I had once been. I prayed regularly, my belief in a supreme
deity remained solid and secure, and I conducted my personal life
in line with the ethics I had once been taught in church and Sunday
school. I simply knew better than to buy into the man-made
dogmas and articles of faith of the organized church, which were
so heavily laden with the pagan influences, polytheistic notions,
and geo-political considerations of a bygone era.
As the years passed by, I became increasingly
concerned about the loss of religiousness in American society at
large. Religiousness is a living, breathing spirituality and
morality within individuals, and should not be confused with religiosity,
which is concerned with the rites, rituals, and formalized creeds
of some organized entity, e.g. the church. American culture
increasingly appeared to have lost its moral and religious compass.
Two out of every three marriages ended in divorce; violence was
becoming an increasingly inherent part of our schools and our roads;
self-responsibility was on the wane; self-discipline was being submerged
by a “if it feels good, do it” morality; various Christian leaders
and institutions were being swamped by sexual and financial scandals;
and emotions justified behaviour, however odious it might be.
American culture was becoming a morally bankrupt institution, and
I was feeling quite alone in my personal religious vigil.
It was at this juncture that I began
to come into contact with the local Muslim community. For
some years before, my wife and I had been actively involved in doing
research on the history of the Arabian horse. Eventually,
in order to secure translations of various Arabic documents, this
research brought us into contact with Arab Americans who happened
to be Muslims. Our first such contact was with Jamal in the
summer of 1991.
After an initial telephone conversation,
Jamal visited our home, and offered to do some translations for
us, and to help guide us through the history of the Arabian horse
in the Middle East. Before Jamal left that afternoon, he asked
if he might: use our bathroom to wash before saying his scheduled
prayers; and borrow a piece of newspaper to use as a prayer rug,
so he could say his scheduled prayers before leaving our house.
We, of course, obliged, but wondered if there was something more
appropriate that we could give him to use than a newspaper.
Without our ever realizing it at the time, Jamal was practicing
a very beautiful form of Dawa (preaching or exhortation).
He made no comment about the fact that we were not Muslims, and
he didn’t preach anything to us about his religious beliefs.
He “merely” presented us with his example, an example that spoke
volumes, if one were willing to be receptive to the lesson.
Over the next
16 months, contact with Jamal slowly increased in frequency, until
it was occurring on a biweekly to weekly basis. During these
visits, Jamal never preached to me about Islam, never questioned
me about my own religious beliefs or convictions, and never verbally
suggested that I become a Muslim. However, I was beginning
to learn a lot. First, there was the constant behavioural
example of Jamal observing his scheduled prayers. Second,
there was the behavioural example of how Jamal conducted his daily
life in a highly moral and ethical manner, both in his business
world and in his social world. Third, there was the behavioural
example of how Jamal interacted with his two children. For
my wife, Jamal’s wife provided a similar example. Fourth,
always within the framework of helping me to understand Arabian
horse history in the Middle East, Jamal began to share with me:
1) stories from Arab and Islamic history; 2) sayings of the Prophet
Muhammad, peace be upon him; and 3) Qur’anic verses and their contextual
meaning. In point of fact, our every visit now included at
least a 30 minute conversation cantered on some aspect of Islam,
but always presented in terms of helping me intellectually understand
the Islamic context of Arabian horse history. I was never
told “this is the way things are”, I was merely told “this is what
Muslims typically believe”. Since I wasn’t being “preached
to”, and since Jamal never inquired as to my own beliefs, I didn’t
need to bother attempting to justify my own position. It was
all handled as an intellectual exercise, not as proselytising.
Gradually, Jamal began to introduce us
to other Arab families in the local Muslim community. There
was Wa’el and his family, Khalid and his family, and a few others.
Consistently, I observed individuals and families who were living
their lives on a much higher ethical plane than the American society
in which we were all embedded. Maybe there was something to
the practice of Islam that I had missed during my collegiate and seminary
By December, 1992, I was beginning
to ask myself some serious questions about where I was and what
I was doing. These questions were prompted by the following
considerations. 1) Over the course of the prior 16 months,
our social life had become increasingly centered on the Arab component
of the local Muslim community. By December, probably 75% of
our social life was being spent with Arab Muslims. 2) By virtue
of my seminary training and education, I knew how badly the Bible
had been corrupted (and often knew exactly when, where, and why),
I had no belief in any triune godhead, and I had no belief in anything
more than a metaphorical “sonship” of Jesus, peace be upon him.
In short, while I certainly believed in God, I was as strict a monotheist
as my Muslim friends. 3) My personal values and sense of morality
were much more in keeping with my Muslim friends than with the “Christian”
society around me. After all, I had the non-confrontational
examples of Jamal, Khalid, and Wa’el as illustrations. In
short, my nostalgic yearning for the type of community in which
I had been raised was finding gratification in the Muslim community.
American society might be morally bankrupt, but that did not appear
to be the case for that part of the Muslim community with which
I had had contact. Marriages were stable, spouses were committed
to each other, and honesty, integrity, self-responsibility, and
family values were emphasized. My wife and I had attempted
to live our lives that same way, but for several years I had felt
that we were doing so in the context of a moral vacuum. The
Muslim community appeared to be different.
The different threads
were being woven together into a single strand. Arabian horses,
my childhood upbringing, my foray into the Christian ministry and
my seminary education, my nostalgic yearnings for a moral society,
and my contact with the Muslim community were becoming intricately
intertwined. My self-questioning came to a head when I finally
got around to asking myself exactly what separated me from the beliefs
of my Muslim friends. I suppose that I could have raised that
question with Jamal or with Khalid, but I wasn’t ready to take that
step. I had never discussed my own religious beliefs with
them, and I didn’t think that I wanted to introduce that topic of
conversation into our friendship. As such, I began to pull
off the bookshelf all the books on Islam that I had acquired in
my collegiate and seminary days. However far my own beliefs
were from the traditional position of the church, and however seldom
I actually attended church, I still identified myself as being a
Christian, and so I turned to the works of Western scholars.
That month of December, I read half a dozen or so books on Islam
by Western scholars, including one biography of the Prophet Muhammad,
peace be upon him. Further, I began to read two different
English translations of the meaning of the Qur’an.
I never spoke to my Muslim friends about this personal quest of
self-discovery. I never mentioned what types of books I was
reading, nor ever spoke about why I was reading these books.
However, occasionally I would run a very circumscribed question
past one of them.
While I never spoke
to my Muslim friends about those books, my wife and I had numerous
conversations about what I was reading. By the last week of
December of 1992, I was forced to admit to myself, that I could
find no area of substantial disagreement between my own religious
beliefs and the general tenets of Islam. While I was ready
to acknowledge that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a prophet of
(one who spoke for or under the inspiration of) God, and while I
had absolutely no difficulty affirming that there was no god besides
God/Allah, glorified and exalted is He, I was still hesitating to
make any decision. I could readily admit to myself that I
had far more in common with Islamic beliefs as I then understood
them, than I did with the traditional Christianity of the organized
church. I knew only too well that I could easily confirm from
my seminary training and education most of what the Qur’an
had to say about Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus,
peace be upon him. Nonetheless, I hesitated. Further,
I rationalized my hesitation by maintaining to myself that I really
didn’t know the nitty-gritty details of Islam, and that my areas
of agreement were confined to general concepts. As such, I
continued to read, and then to re-read.
One’s sense of identity,
of who one is, is a powerful affirmation of one’s own position in
the cosmos. In my professional practice, I had occasionally
been called upon to treat certain addictive disorders, ranging from
smoking, to alcoholism, to drug abuse. As a clinician, I knew
that the basic physical addiction had to be overcome to create the
initial abstinence. That was the easy part of treatment.
As Mark Twain once said: “Quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done
it hundreds of times”. However, I also knew that the key to
maintaining that abstinence over an extended time period was overcoming
the client’s psychological addiction, which was heavily grounded
in the client’s basic sense of identity, i.e. the client identified
to himself that he was “a smoker”, or that he was “a drinker”, etc.
The addictive behaviour had become part and parcel of the client’s
basic sense of identity, of the client’s basic sense of self.
Changing this sense of identity was crucial to the maintenance of
the psychotherapeutic “cure”. This was the difficult part
of treatment. Changing one’s basic sense of identity is a
most difficult task. One’s psyche tends to cling to the old
and familiar, which seem more psychologically comfortable and secure
than the new and unfamiliar.
On a professional basis,
I had the above knowledge, and used it on a daily basis. However,
ironically enough, I was not yet ready to apply it to myself, and
to the issue of my own hesitation surrounding my religious identity.
For 43 years, my religious identity had been neatly labeled as “Christian”,
however many qualifications I might have added to that term over
the years. Giving up that label of personal identity was no
easy task. It was part and parcel of how I defined my very
being. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that my
hesitation served the purpose of insuring that I could keep my familiar
religious identity of being a Christian, although a Christian who
believed like a Muslim believed.
It was now the very
end of December, and my wife and I were filling out our application
forms for U.S. passports, so that a proposed Middle Eastern journey
could become a reality. One of the questions had to do with
religious affiliation. I didn’t even think about it, and automatically
fell back on the old and familiar, as I penned in “Christian”.
It was easy, it was familiar, and it was comfortable.
However, that comfort
was momentarily disrupted when my wife asked me how I had answered
the question on religious identity on the application form.
I immediately replied, “Christian”, and chuckled audibly.
Now, one of Freud’s contributions to the understanding of the human
psyche was his realization that laughter is often a release of psychological
tension. However wrong Freud may have been in many aspects
of his theory of psychosexual development, his insights into laughter
were quite on target. I had laughed! What was this psychological
tension that I had need to release through the medium of laughter?
I then hurriedly went
on to offer my wife a brief affirmation that I was a Christian,
not a Muslim. In response to which, she politely informed
me that she was merely asking whether I had written “Christian”,
or “Protestant”, or “Methodist”. On a professional basis,
I knew that a person does not defend himself against an accusation
that hasn’t been made. (If, in the course of a session of
psychotherapy, my client blurted out, “I’m not angry about that”,
and I hadn’t even broached the topic of anger, it was clear that
my client was feeling the need to defend himself against a charge
that his own unconscious was making. In short, he really was
angry, but he wasn’t ready to admit it or to deal with it.)
If my wife hadn’t made the accusation, i.e. “you are a Muslim”,
then the accusation had to have come from my own unconscious, as
I was the only other person present. I was aware of this,
but still I hesitated. The religious label that had been stuck
to my sense of identity for 43 years was not going to come off easily.
About a month had gone
by since my wife’s question to me. It was now late in January
of 1993. I had set aside all the books on Islam by the Western
scholars, as I had read them all thoroughly. The two English
translations of the meaning of the Qur’an were back
on the bookshelf, and I was busy reading yet a third English translation
of the meaning of the Qur’an. Maybe in this
translation I would find some sudden justification for…
I was taking my lunch
hour from my private practice at a local Arab restaurant that I
had started to frequent. I entered as usual, seated myself
at a small table, and opened my third English translation of the
meaning of the Qur’an to where I had left off in my
reading. I figured I might as well get some reading done over
my lunch hour. Moments later, I became aware that Mahmoud
was at my shoulder, and waiting to take my order. He glanced
at what I was reading, but said nothing about it. My order
taken, I returned to the solitude of my reading.
A few minutes later,
Mahmoud’s wife, Iman, an American Muslim, who wore the Hijab (scarf)
and modest dress that I had come to associate with female Muslims,
brought me my order. She commented that I was reading the
Qur’an, and politely asked if I were a Muslim.
The word was out of my mouth before it could be modified by any
social etiquette or politeness: “No!” That single word
was said forcefully, and with more than a hint of irritability.
With that, Iman politely retired from my table.
What was happening
to me? I had behaved rudely and somewhat aggressively.
What had this woman done to deserve such behaviour from me?
This wasn’t like me. Given my childhood upbringing, I still
used “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing clerks and cashiers who were
waiting on me in stores. I could pretend to ignore my own
laughter as a release of tension, but I couldn’t begin to ignore
this sort of unconscionable behaviour from myself. My reading
was set aside, and I mentally stewed over this turn of events throughout
my meal. The more I stewed, the guiltier I felt about my behaviour.
I knew that when Iman brought me my check at the end of the meal,
I was going to need to make some amends. If for no other reason,
simple politeness demanded it. Furthermore, I was really quite
disturbed about how resistant I had been to her innocuous question.
What was going on in me that I responded with that much force to
such a simple and straightforward question? Why did that one,
simple question lead to such atypical behaviour on my part?
Later, when Iman came
with my check, I attempted a round-about apology by saying:
“I’m afraid I was a little abrupt in answering your question before.
If you were asking me whether I believe that there is only one God,
then my answer is yes. If you were asking me whether I believe
that Muhammad was one of the prophets of that one God, then my answer
is yes.” She very nicely and very supportively said:
“That’s okay; it takes some people a little longer than others.”
Perhaps, the readers
of this will be kind enough to note the psychological games I was
playing with myself without chuckling too hard at my mental gymnastics
and behaviour. I well knew that in my own way, using my own
words, I had just said the Shahadah, the Islamic testimonial of
faith, i.e. “I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify
that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. However, having
said that, and having recognized what I said, I could still cling
to my old and familiar label of religious identity. After
all, I hadn’t said I was a Muslim. I was simply a Christian,
albeit an atypical Christian, who was willing to say that there
was one God, not a triune godhead, and who was willing to say that
Muhammad was one of the prophets inspired by that one God.
If a Muslim wanted to accept me as being a Muslim that was his or
her business, and his or her label of religious identity.
However, it was not mine. I thought I had found my way out
of my crisis of religious identity. I was a Christian, who
would carefully explain that I agreed with, and was willing to testify
to, the Islamic testimonial of faith. Having made my tortured
explanation, and having parsed the English language to within an
inch of its life, others could hang whatever label on me they wished.
It was their label, and not mine.
It was now March of
1993, and my wife and I were enjoying a five-week vacation in the
Middle East. It was also the Islamic month of Ramadan, when
Muslims fast from day break until sunset. Because we were
so often staying with or being escorted around by family members
of our Muslim friends back in the States, my wife and I had decided
that we also would fast, if for no other reason than common courtesy.
During this time, I had also started to perform the five daily prayers
of Islam with my newfound, Middle Eastern, Muslim friends.
After all, there was nothing in those prayers with which I could
I was a Christian,
or so I said. After all, I had been born into a Christian
family, had been given a Christian upbringing, had attended church
and Sunday school every Sunday as a child, had graduated from a
prestigious seminary, and was an ordained minister in a large Protestant
denomination. However, I was also a Christian: who didn’t
believe in a triune godhead or in the divinity of Jesus, peace be
upon him; who knew quite well how the Bible had been
corrupted; who had said the Islamic testimony of faith in my own
carefully parsed words; who had fasted during Ramadan; who was saying
Islamic prayers five times a day; and who was deeply impressed by
the behavioural examples I had witnessed in the Muslim community,
both in America and in the Middle East. (Time and space do
not permit me the luxury of documenting in detail all of the examples
of personal morality and ethics I encountered in the Middle East.)
If asked if I were a Muslim, I could and did do a five-minute monologue
detailing the above, and basically leaving the question unanswered.
I was playing intellectual word games, and succeeding at them quite
It was now late in
our Middle Eastern trip. An elderly friend who spoke no English
and I were walking down a winding, little road, somewhere in one
of the economically disadvantaged areas of greater ‘Amman, Jordan.
As we walked, an elderly man approached us from the opposite direction,
said, “Salam ‘Alaykum”, i.e., “peace be upon you”, and offered to
shake hands. We were the only three people there. I
didn’t speak Arabic, and neither my friend nor the stranger spoke
English. Looking at me, the stranger asked, “Muslim?”
At that precise moment
in time, I was fully and completely trapped. There were no
intellectual word games to be played, because I could only communicate
in English, and they could only communicate in Arabic. There
was no translator present to bail me out of this situation, and
to allow me to hide behind my carefully prepared English monologue.
I couldn’t pretend I didn’t understand the question, because it
was all too obvious that I had. My choices were suddenly,
unpredictably, and inexplicably reduced to just two: I could
say “N’am”, i.e., “yes”; or I could say “La”, i.e., “no”.
The choice was mine, and I had no other. I had to choose,
and I had to choose now; it was just that simple. Praise be
to Allah, I answered, “N’am”.
With saying that one
word, all the intellectual word games were now behind me.
With the intellectual word games behind me, the psychological games
regarding my religious identity were also behind me. I wasn’t
some strange, atypical Christian. I was a Muslim. Praise
be to Allah, my wife of 33 years also became a Muslim about that
Not too many months
after our return to America from the Middle East, a neighbour invited
us over to his house, saying that he wanted to talk with us about
our conversion to Islam. He was a retired Methodist minister,
with whom I had had several conversations in the past. Although
we had occasionally talked superficially about such issues as the
artificial construction of the Bible from various,
earlier, independent sources, we had never had any in-depth conversation
about religion. I knew only that he appeared to have acquired
a solid seminary education, and that he sang in the local church
choir every Sunday.
My initial reaction
was, “Oh, oh, here it comes”. Nonetheless, it is a Muslim’s
duty to be a good neighbour, and it is a Muslim’s duty to be willing
to discuss Islam with others. As such, I accepted the invitation
for the following evening, and spent most of the waking part of
the next 24 hours contemplating how best to approach this gentleman
in his requested topic of conversation. The appointed time
came, and we drove over to our neighbour's. After a few moments
of small talk, he finally asked why I had decided to become a Muslim.
I had waited for this question, and had my answer carefully prepared.
“As you know with your seminary education, there were a lot of non-religious
considerations which led up to and shaped the decisions of the Council
of Nicaea.” He immediately cut me off with a simple statement:
“You finally couldn’t stomach the polytheism anymore, could you?”
He knew exactly why I was a Muslim, and he didn’t disagree with
my decision! For himself, at his age and at his place in life,
he was electing to be “an atypical Christian”. Allah willing,
he has by now completed his journey from cross to crescent.
There are sacrifices
to be made in being a Muslim in America. For that matter,
there are sacrifices to be made in being a Muslim anywhere.
However, those sacrifices may be more acutely felt in America, especially
among American converts. Some of those sacrifices are very
predictable, and include altered dress and abstinence from alcohol,
pork, and the taking of interest on one’s money. Some of those
sacrifices are less predictable. For example, one Christian
family, with whom we were close friends, informed us that they could
no longer associate with us, as they could not associate with anyone
“who does not take Jesus Christ as his personal savoir”. In
addition, quite a few of my professional colleagues altered their
manner of relating to me. Whether it was coincidence or not,
my professional referral base dwindled, and there was almost a 30%
drop in income as a result. Some of these less predictable
sacrifices were hard to accept, although the sacrifices were a small
price to pay for what was received in return.
For those contemplating
the acceptance of Islam and the surrendering of oneself to Allah—glorified
and exalted is He, there may well be sacrifices along the way.
Many of these sacrifices are easily predicted, while others may
be rather surprising and unexpected. There is no denying the
existence of these sacrifices, and I don’t intend to sugar coat
that pill for you. Nonetheless, don’t be overly troubled by
these sacrifices. In the final analysis, these sacrifices
are less important than you presently think. Allah willing,
you will find these sacrifices a very cheap coin to pay for the
“goods” you are purchasing.
Please note: The ordination
certificate above was too large to scan in completely - the top
line of text is missing, which says "Let It Be Known To All Men
Abdullah al-Faruq - Formerly
Kenneth L. Jenkins, minister and elder of the Pentecostal Church
As a former minister and
elder of the Christian church, it has become incumbent upon me to
enlighten those that continue to walk in darkness. After embracing
Islam I felt a dire need to help those who have not yet been blessed
to experience the light of Islam.
I thank Almighty God, Allah,
for having mercy upon me, causing me to come to know the beauty
of Islam as taught by Prophet Muhammad and his rightly guided followers.
It is only by the mercy of Allah that we receive true guidance and
the ability to follow the straight path, which leads to success
in this life and the Hereafter.
Praise be to Allah for the kindness
shown to me by Shaykh 'Abdullah bin 'Abdul-'Azeez bin Baz upon my
embracing Islam. I cherish and will pass on the knowledge gained
from each meeting with him. There are many others who have helped
me by means of encouragement and knowledge, but for fear of missing
anyone, I will refrain from attempting to list them. Sufficient
it is to say that I thank Almighty God, Allah, for each and every
brother and sister that He has allowed to play a role in my growth
and development as a Muslim.
I pray that this short work will be
of benefit to all. I hope that Christians will find that there is
yet i hope for the wayward conditions that prevail over the bulk
of Christendom. The answers to Christian problems are not to be
found with the Christians themselves, for they are, in most instances,
the root of their own problems. Rather, Islam is the solution to
the problems plaguing the world of Christianity, as well as the
problems facing the so-called world of religion as a whole. May
Allah guide us all and reward us according to the very best of our
deeds and intentions.
Abdullah Muhammad al-Faruque at-Ta'if,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
As a young boy I was raised with a
deep fear of God. Having been partially raised by a grandmother
who was a Pentecostal fundamentalist, the church became an integral
part of my life at a very early age. By the time I had reached the
age of six, I knew all too well the benefits awaiting me in Heaven
for being a good little boy and the punishment awaiting in Hell
for little boys who are naughty. I was taught by my grandmother
that all liars were doomed to go to the Hellfire, where they would
burn forever and ever.
My mother worked two full-time jobs
and continued to remind me of the teachings given to me by her mother.
My younger brother and older sister did not seem to take our grandmother's
warnings of the Hereafter as seriously as I did. I recall seeing
the full moon when it would take on a deep reddish hue, and I would
begin to weep because I was taught that one of the signs of the
end of the world would be that the moon would become red like blood.
As an eight year old child I began to develop such a fear at what
I thought were signs in the heavens and on earth of Doomsday that
I actually had nightmares of what the Day of Judgement would be
like. Our house was close to a set of railroad tracks, and trains
passed by on a frequent basis. I can remember being awakened out
of sleep by the horrendous sound of the locomotive's horn and thinking
that I had died and was being resurrected after hearing the sound
of the trumpet. These teachings were ingrained in my young mind
through a combination of oral teachings and the reading of a set
of children's books known as the Bible Story.
Every Sunday we would go to church
dressed in all of our finery. My grandfather was our means of transportation.
Church would last for what seemed to me like hours. We would arrive
at around eleven in the morning and not leave until sometimes three
in the afternoon. I remember falling asleep in my grandmother's
lap on many occasions. For a time my brother and I were permitted
to leave church in between the conclusion of Sunday school and morning
worship service to sit with our grandfather at the railway yard
and watch the trains pass. He was not a churchgoer, but he saw to
it that my Family made it there every Sunday. Sometime later he
suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralysed, and as a
result, we were unable to attend church on a regular basis. This
period of time would be one of the most crucial stages of my development.
I was relieved, in a sense, at no longer
being able to attend church, but I would feel the urge to go on
my own every now and then. At age sixteen I began attending the
church of a friend whose father was the pastor. It was a small storefront
building with only my friend's family, myself, and another schoolmate
as members. This went on for only several months before -the church
closed down. After graduating from high school and entering the
university I rediscovered my religious commitment and became fully
immersed in Pentecostal teachings. I was baptised and "filled with
the Holy Ghost," as the experience was then called. As a college
student, I quickly became the pride of the church. Everyone had
high hopes for me, and I was happy to once again be "on the road
I attended church every time its doors
would open. I studied the Bible for days and weeks at a time. I
attended lectures given by the Christian scholars of my day, and
I acknowledged my call to the ministry at the age of 20. I began
preaching and became well known very quickly. I was extremely dogmatic
and believed that no one could receive salvation unless they were
of my church group. I categorically condemned everyone who had not
come to know God the way I had come to know Him. I was taught that
Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and God Almighty were one and the
same thing. I was taught that our church did not believe in the
trinity but that Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed the Father,
Son and Holy Ghost. I tried to make myself understand it even though
I had to admit that I really did not fully understand it. As far
as I was concerned, it was the only doctrine that made sense to
me. I admired the holy dress of the women and the pious behaviour
of the men. I enjoyed practicing a doctrine where women were required
to dress in garments covering themselves completely, not painting
their faces with makeup, and carrying themselves as true ambassadors
of Christ. I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had
finally found the true path to eternal bliss. I would debate with
anyone from a different church with different beliefs and would
totally silence them with my knowledge of the Bible. I memorized
hundreds of Biblical passages, and this became a trademark of my
preaching. Yet, even though I felt assured of being on the right
path, a part of me was still searching. I felt that there was an
even higher truth to be attained.
I would meditate while alone and pray
to God to lead me to the correct religion and to forgive me if what
I was doing was wrong. I had never had any contact with Muslims.
The only people I knew that claimed Islam as their religion were
the followers of Elijah Muhammad, who were referred to by many as
the "Black Muslims" or the "Lost-Found Nation." It was during this
period in the late seventies that Minister Louis Farrakhan was well
into rebuilding what was called "The Nation of Islam." I went to
hear Minister Farrakhan speak at the invitation of a co-worker and
found it to be an experience that would change my life dramatically.
I had never in my life heard another black man speak the way that
he spoke. I immediately wanted to arrange a meeting with him to
try to convert him to my religion. I enjoyed evangelising, hoping
to find lost souls to save from the Hellfire - no matter who they
After graduating from college I began
to work on a full-time basis. As I was reaching the pinnacle of
my ministry, the followers of Elijah Muhammad became more visible,
and I appreciated their efforts in attempting to rid the black community
of the evils that were destroying it from within. I began to support
them, in a sense, by buying their literature and even meeting with
them for dialogue. I attended their study circles to find out exactly
what they believed. As sincere as I knew many of them were, I could
not buy the idea of God being a black man. I disagreed with their
use of the Bible to support their position on certain issues. Here
was a book that I knew very well, and I was deeply disturbed at
what I deemed was their misinterpretation of it. I had attended
locally supported Bible schools and had become quite knowledgeable
in various fields of Bible study.
After about six years I moved to Texas
and became affiliated with two churches. The first church was led
by a young pastor who was inexperienced and not very learned. My
knowledge of the Christian scriptures had by this time developed
into something abnormal. I was obsessed with Biblical teachings.
I began to look deeper into the scriptures and realized that I knew
more than the present leader. As a show of respect, I left and joined
another church in a different city where I felt that I could learn
more. The pastor of this particular church was very scholarly. He
was an excellent teacher but had some ideas that were not the norm
in our church organization. He held somewhat liberal views, but
I still enjoyed his indoctrination. I was soon to learn the most
valuable lesson of my Christian life, which was "all that glitters
is not gold." Despite its outward appearance, there were evils taking
place that I never thought were possible in the Church. These evils
caused me to reflect deeply, and I began questioning the teaching
to which I was so dedicated.
Welcome to the Real Church World
I soon discovered that there was a
great deal of jealousy prevalent in the ministerial hierarchy. Things
had changed from that to which I was accustomed. Women wore clothing
that I thought was shameful. People dressed in order to attract
attention, usually from the opposite sex. I discovered just how
great a part money and greed play in the operation of church activities.
There were many small churches struggling, and they called upon
us to hold meetings to help raise money for them. I was told that
if a church did not have a certain number of members, then I was
not to waste my time preaching there because I would not receive
ample financial compensation. I then explained that I was not in
it for the money and that I would preach even if there was only
one member present... and I'd do it for free! This caused a disturbance.
I started questioning those whom I thought had wisdom, only to find
that they had been putting on a show. I learned that money, power
and position were more important than teaching the truth about the
Bible. As a Bible student, I knew full well that there were mistakes,
contradictions and fabrications. I thought that people should be
exposed to the truth about the Bible. The idea of exposing the people
to such aspects of the Bible was a thought supposedly attributable
to Satan. But I began to publicly ask my teachers questions during
Bible classes, which none of them could answer. Not a single one
could explain how Jesus was supposedly God, and how, at the same
time, he was supposedly the Father, Son and Holy Ghost wrapped up
into one and yet was not a part of the trinity. Several preachers
finally had to concede that they did not understand it but that
we were simply required to believe it.
Cases of adultery and fornication went
unpunished. Some preachers were hooked on drugs and had destroyed
their lives and the lives of their families. Leaders of some churches
were found to be homosexuals. There were pastors even guilty of
committing adultery with the young daughters of other church members.
All of this coupled with a failure to receive answers to what I
thought were valid questions was enough to make me seek a change.
That change came when I accepted a job in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
A New Beginning
It was not long after arriving in Saudi
Arabia that I saw an immediate difference in the lifestyle of the
Muslim people. They were different from the followers of Elijah
Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan in that they were of all nationalities,
colours and languages. I immediately expressed a desire to learn
more about this peculiar brand of religion. I was amazed with the
life of Prophet Muhammad and wanted to know more. I requested books
from one of the brothers who was active in calling people to Islam.
I was supplied with all of the books that I could possibly want.
I read each and every one. I was then given the Holy Qur'an and
read it completely several times within four months. I asked question
after question and received satisfactory answers. What appealed
to me was that the brothers were not keen on impressing me with
their knowledge. If a brother did not know how to answer a question,
he would tell me that he simply did not know and would have to check
with someone who did. The next day he would always bring the answer.
I noticed how humility played such a great role in the lives of
these mysterious people of the Middle East.
I was amazed to see the women covering
themselves from face to foot. I did not see any religious hierarchy.
No one was competing for any religious position. All of this was
wonderful, but how could I entertain the thought of abandoning a
teaching that had followed me since childhood? What about the Bible?
I knew that there is some truth in it even though it had been changed
and revised countless numbers of times. I was then given a video
cassette of a debate between Shaykh Ahmed Deedat and Reverend Jimmy
Swaggart. After seeing the debate I immediately became a Muslim.
(To view this debate click here - requires RealPlayer)
I was taken to the office of Shaykh
'Abdullah bin 'Abdul-'Azeez bin Baz to officially declare my acceptance
of Islam. It was there that I was given sound advice on how to prepare
myself for the long journey ahead. It was truly a birth from darkness
into light. I wondered what my peers from the Church would think
when they heard that I had embraced Islam. It was not long before
I found out. I went back to the United States for vacation and was
severely criticized for my "lack of faith." I was stamped with many
labels - from renegade to reprobate. People were told by so-called
church leaders not to even remember me in prayer. As strange as
it may seem, I was not bothered in the least. I was so happy that
Almighty God, Allah, had chosen to guide me aright that nothing
Now I only wanted to become as dedicated
a Muslim as I was a Christian. This, of course, meant study. I realized
that a person could grow as much as they wanted to in Islam. There
is no monopoly of knowledge - it is free to all who wish to avail
themselves of the opportunities to learn. I was given a set of Saheeh
Muslim as a gift from my Qur'an teacher. It was then that I realized
the need to learn about the life, sayings and practices of Prophet
Muhammad . I read and studied as many of the hadith collections
available in English as possible. I realized that my knowledge of
the Bible was an asset that is now quite useful in dealing with
those of Christian backgrounds. Life for me has taken on an entirely
new meaning. One of the most profound attitude changes is a result
of knowing that this life must actually be spent in preparation
for life in the Hereafter. It was also a new experience to know
that we are rewarded even for our intentions. If you intend to do
good, then you are rewarded. It was quite different in the Church.
The attitude was that "the path to Hell is paved with good intentions."
There was no way to win. If you sinned,thenyou had to confess to
the pastor, especially if the sin was a great sin, such as adultery.
You were judged strictly by your actions.
The Present and Future
After an interview by the Al-Madinah
newspaper I was asked about my present-day activities and plans
for the future. At present, my goal is to learn Arabic and continue
studying to gain greater knowledge about Islam. I am presently engaged
in the field of da'wah and am called upon to lecture to non-Muslims
who come from Christian backgrounds. If Allah, Almighty, spares
my life, I hope to write more on the subject of comparative religion.
It is the duty of Muslims throughout
the world to work to spread the knowledge of Islam. As one who has
spent such a long time as a Bible teacher, I feel a special sense
of duty in educating people about the errors, contradictions and
fabricated tales of a book believed in by millions of people. One
of the greatest joys is knowing that I do not have to engage in
a great deal of dispute with Christians, because I was a teacher
who taught most of the dispute techniques used by them. I also learned
how to argue using the Bible to defend Christianity. And at the
same time I know the counter arguments for each argument which we,
as ministers, were forbidden by our leaders to discuss or divulge.
It is my prayer that Allah
will forgive us all of our ignorance and guide us to the path leading
to Paradise. All praise is due to Allah. May the peace and blessings
of Allah be upon His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad, his family,
companions, and those following true guidance.
Viacheslav Polosin - Former
Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church
ARCHPRIEST VIACHESLAV POLOSIN CONVERTS
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religii, 2 June 1999
Archpriest Viacheslav Polosin, a priest
of the Kaluga diocese leave of absence who now heads the administration
of the Committee on Relations with Public Associations and Religious
Organizations of the State Duma of the Russian federation, has converted
to Islam. "I decided to bring my social status into line with my
convictions," Viacheslav Polosin declared, "and to testify publicly
that I consider myself an adherent of the great tradition of the
true faith of the prophets of monotheism, beginning with Abraham.
And thus I do not consider myself a priest nor a member of any Orthodox
At the same time Viacheslav Polosin recited the traditional formula
testifying to his acceptance of Islam: "There is no god besides
the One God Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." Viacheslav Polosin
consider that the final revelation on earth is the Holy Koran send
down to the prophet Muhammad and he categorically disagrees with
those who "for some reason consider that the Arabic text of the
Holy Koran is alien to the Russian mentality." In his interview
with the journal Musulmane, Viacheslav Polosin subjected to sharp
criticism the Christian, and especially the Orthodox, tradition.
In his opinion, Christianity contains an "assimilation of the Creator
God to his creation, man," which is anthropomorphism. "For centuries
there have existed mediators, fathers and teachers, who while not
prophets have spoken in the name of God," Viacheslav Polosin said
about the Christian cult of saints, "and this practice has so become
the norm in the church that it is difficult for the laity to escape
it, and for one in the position of a priest it is impossible." According
to Viacheslav Polosin, his wife "completely shares this choice of
Among Muslims who had influence on
this choice the former Orthodox clergyman identified Geidar Jemal
and reported that the stories about the Holy Kaaba and the Hadj
made a great impression on him. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 3 June 1999)
- FATHER VIACHESLAV: FROM CHURCH TO
by Alexander Soldatov
Moskovskie novosti, 8-14 June 1999
- Source: http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/9906b.html#10
Viacheslav Polosin, a former priest of the Russian Orthodox church
and chairman of the Committee of the Supreme Soviet on Freedom
of Conscience, recently announced his conversion from Orthodoxy
to Islam. This unprecedented event of the adoption of the religion
of the Prophet by a prominent Orthodox clergyman was a surprise
for many. The former archpriest is suspected of psychological
illness or of subtle political calculation. But he himself speaks
of his own free, spiritual, philosophical choice.
--As far as I know, this is the second time in your life when
you have officially announced a change in your worldview?
--From childhood I believed in God, in my spirit. Later, when
I was in the university, I came across Orthodox literature and
went to the church and found there something that I had not seen
in philosophy classes. I do not regret that; I learned a lot there.
I submitted my documents to the ecclesiastical seminary in 1979
and have now, after twenty years, given an interview to the journal
"Musulmane;" these are two stages in the development of my life.
Interview with Musulmane
"Several years of intense work have brought me to the conclusion
that the Koran does not contain an assimilation of the Creator
God to his creation, humanity, which is anthropomorphism, the
essence of paganism. There is no basis for the ritual practice
of appeasing God like some kind of human ruler. . . . I have decided
to bring my social status into conformity with my convictions
and to bear public testimony that I consider myself a follower
of the great tradition of the correct belief and of the prophets
of monotheism, beginning with Abraham, and thus I do not consider
myself any longer either a clergyman or a member of any Orthodox
church. . . . As regards possible penalties, we all are mortal
and all sooner or later will depart from this life, so it is better
to depart from it abiding in the Truth and not in spiritual ambivalence
or in the delusions of human fantasy. With regard to the practical
difficulties, including the Arabic language, I must place my hopes
in help and cooperation from my new brethren. My will [Note: This
is a typo in the original, it should be "wife" not "will", as
indicated by the previous article] fully shares this worldview
--How did your clerical path evolve?
--Within the church circles of Moscow I was not "my own person."
There also were family circumstances which forced me to request
ministry in Central Asia. I served briefly in Frunze and somewhat
longer in Dushanbe. There I dealt with Islamic culture and the
eastern mentality for the first time, which made a deep impression
on my soul. After half a year I was ignominiously deprived of
my registration for disobedience to secular authorities, that
is, to the commissioner for religious affairs. For three year
I was not accepted anywhere and was in complete disgrace. In 1988,
when perestroika began, I was offered a half-destroyed church
near Obninsk. From there I was elected in 1990 as a member of
the soviet of the RSFSR.
The position of the Moscow patriarchate
For the Moscow patriarchate, the announcement by Archpriest Viacheslav
Polosin of his conversion to another faith came as a complete
surprise. In the Department of External Church Relations his move
is explained as instability of character and convictions and a
quick "subsequent change" of religious views is predicted. In
the patriarchate there is an inclination to let the matter drop,
relying on the decision of Fr Viacheslav's ruling bishop, Archbishop
Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk.
--Were you suspected of conversion to Protestantism?
--American protestants, who in 1991 arrived in Russia in abundance
and whom I received, proposed that we begin our meeting with prayer.
But I categorically objected, saying that this was a secular institution
and that I protected freedom of conscience and thus there must
not be any prayer here. I was cordial with protestants, but where
this rumour that I wanted to adopt Protestantism came from, I
--For many it is a puzzle what your real position on the new law
on freedom of conscience of 1997 is. Some consider you its author
and some recall that you have frequently criticised the law itself.
--As long as I am a state employee I cannot discuss the whole
truth about this law. I participated in the writing of this law
as one of fifteen members of the working group and I had very
little influence. Then the law was presented to the duma where
work on it went forward. I can consider myself a co-author of
what resulted from this work. But the deionisation of the law
was necessary to those circles and forces who figured on being
able to make a name and money for themselves on the basis of the
negative events that arose around the country. Actually the law
upheld the principles of a secular state and maintained the situation.
--Was your religious quest provoked by your displeasure with formal
--While I was working in the state apparatus I began to see more
clearly how various activities within the church or politics affect
the life of the people. Some people try to interpret Christianity
so as to justify the irresponsibility of the government, giving
it an image of divine ordination.
--There are similar examples in the history of the Islamic world:
khans, Turkish sultans, palace intrigues of the Sublime Porte.
--In the Koran viewing the government as "God's anointed" is strictly
forbidden. It is said that if someone usurps power and a Muslim
tolerates this, then he is an accessory to this sin. In the Ottoman
empire there was a stagnation of Muslim culture--the cult of the
military, violence, slavery. Islam degenerated there. The Revelation
itself is a different matter.
--What has been the reaction of your new Muslim brethren to your
--My interview with the journal Musulmane provoked lively interest,
so much so that it was necessary to put out another printing.
--What has been the reaction on the part of your leadership in
--Some naturally will be unhappy, but I don't care to please everyone.
I think that nothing will change in my work in the duma. I do
not intend to criticize Christianity. When I was within Orthodoxy,
I criticized it rather harshly. Now I don't. Islam, as it is presented
in the Koran, is the most democratic religion because it contains
a prohibition of tyranny; vis-a-vis the Creator is the people,
society on earth. There are no mediators of a priestly caste or
anointed monarchs in the Koran.
Viacheslav Polosin's office
In the State Duma he occupies one office along with Murad Zaprishiev,
a former deputy and now an employee of the staff of the duma Committee
for Relations with Public Associations and Religious Organizations.
In a prominent place in the office there is the Koran and the
walls are decorated with Arabic inscriptions. In this office Polosin
and his colleague sometimes perform their prayers, for which they
use a special rug. At the same time, Viacheslav Sergeevich opposes
making a demonstrative profession of Islam in his secular work
and especially in governmental service.
--Do you have plans to return to a more political life?
--For the time being, no. I would prefer to use my profession
and knowledge for socially useful activity within the bounds of
Islam. I see myself as a public and academic Islamic leader, but
not a politician. But what the future will bring, only God knows.
In 1990 my election as a deputy also was unexpected.
INFORMATION: Viacheslav Sergeevich Polosin was born in 1956. In
1979 he graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of MGU and in 1984
from the Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary. He was ordained a priest
and served in parishes in the dioceses of Central Asia and Kaluga
of RPTs. In 1990 he was elevated to the rank of archpriest. In
the same year he was elected a people's deputy of RSFSR from Kaluga
region and headed the committee of the Supreme Soviet on freedom
of conscience. While working in the Supreme Soviet, he graduated
from the diplomatic academy of the ministry of foreign affairs
and defended his dissertation on the subject: "The Russian Orthodox
church and the state in USSR, 1971-1991." From 1993 he has been
an employee of the staff of the State Duma on relations with public
associations and religious organizations. He was a member of the
Russian Christian Democratic Movement and a member of the Council
of Christian Organizations. In 1991 he went on leave from the
Kaluga diocese and since 1995 he has not officiated in liturgies.
In his interview with the Musulmane journal, he officially called
himself a Muslim: "I consider that the Koran is the final Revelation
on earth, sent down to the Prophet Muhammed. There is no God but
the One God, Allah, and Muhammed is his Messenger." Viacheslav
Polosin is the author of many scholarly works on historical,political,
religious, and philosophical subjects. In February of this year
he defended another dissertation on the subject: "The dialectics
of myth and political myth-making." His basic philosophical ideas
are presented in his book "Myth, Religion, and the State" (Moscow,
From the point of view of Islamic theologians, to convert to the
religion of the Prophet it is sufficient to recite the famous
formula containing the profession of faith in the one God Allah
and his prophet Muhammed. In doing so it is not important which
language is used for reciting the formula. It is important that
the recitation be made before two witnesses who are Muslim and
can give written confirmation of the fact of the profession of
Islam. The rite of circumcision, which many consider to be analogous
to baptism in Christianity, is not obligatory for entrance into
the Muslim Ummah. (tr. by PDS)
"RUSSIAN ISLAM" RECRUITS ADHERENTS FROM RANKS OF ORTHODOX
by Sergei Chapnin
--Viacheslav Sergeevich, you first announced that you had embraced
Islam in an interview in a small journal, "Musulmane." What's
is this related to? Why did you not first announce that you were
demitting the Orthodox priesthood?
--I did not want to make a political show or sensation out of
my spiritual choice. In Islam it is required that one profess
monotheism in the presence of witnesses, and the journal for Muslims
which is purely for internal use fully accords with this goal.
So I made the announcement in the presence of witnesses, which
were all the readers of the journal. And the print run of the
journal, 7,000 copies, is not so small in our times; for example,
its twice that of the newspaper "NG-religii." And the issue is
not the demitting of the priesthood but a complete break from
the jurisdiction of a particular church: it would be strange to
profess Islam and consider one's self an Orthodox layman.
--The title under which your interview was published is "The straight
path." Does that reflect your personal conviction that your path
to Islam was really straight?
--The words "straight path" frequently are used in the books of
the Old Testament. When the king rode along the stony gorges in
the Palestinian hills, his servants cleared his path of stones
and straightened it out. When the prophet John the Forerunner
called for making straight the way of the Lord, that is, the path
for Jesus the Saviour, the spiritual Lord and King, John had in
view the spiritual straightening out, freeing the soul from pagan
superstitions and embracing the truth. In the Holy Koran "straight
path" is one of the central terms: it is the path to the Most
High without mediators or priests, without faith in the independent
miracle working of manufactured objects. After all, even in the
New Testament Jesus Christ called for this, saying that his goal
was that all could turn directly to God, to "thou," "Abba, Father."
This was connected with Jesus' unconditional prohibition of calling
anyone one's father on earth (Mt 23.9). The straight path is direct
communion of the soul with God through the only mediator, the
Spirit of God, his action and energy. Islam, monotheism, right
belief--this is the exposure of all departures from the commands
of the preceding prophets, including Jesus, and the affirmation
of the social doctrine of monotheism which had earlier been lost.
--It is obvious that your decision will have enormous response
in Russia and in the whole Christian world: for the first time
in history a Christian cleric consciously and not under the pressure
of circumstances embraces Islam.
--Twenty years have passed since I declared myself Orthodox. In
1979 it was not easy to make the decision about entering seminary;
such actions were then condemned by society and I faced many obstacles.
Strictly speaking, it is impossible to "leave" into Islam. "Islam"
in translation means submission to God, entrusting one's whole
self to God, or it can be translated as "resignation to God."
From the root "sam" comes the world "salyam," or "shalom" or 'peace."
To embrace Islam doesn't sound right in Russian. The issue is
not an embracing but rather profession of strict monotheism. My
faith in God has not changed but only grown stronger, and I have
changed my social status.
--Isn't your departure from the church connected with the fact
that over the last ten years you have been engaged solely in political
activity and you rejected active participation in church life?
What kind of spiritual path have you travelled in that time?
--Since 1993 I have been involved in politics only episodically.
It is possible to talk about the influence of lawmaking as an
element of politics, but this isn't public or independent politics.
Thus there's no politics here. Through participation in the state
structures I came to see the consequences in practice of decisions
that are made. Sometimes they have very great effects in society.
Any mistake or miscalculation of the public interests leads to
difficult and sometimes tragic consequences and brings about disorder
in society. This forced me to think about how religious concepts
can be applied to politics and how people use these concepts for
their goals that are far from religion, for example, for usurpation
of authority. In Islam there are no such concepts that all authority
is from God. On the contrary, the power of the people is affirmed
and accommodation to tyranny and to the one who usurps the power
of the people is considered sin. If we are talking about the decision
to profess one's self as a strict monotheist, let's say, within
the confines of the Abrahamic tradition, this matured gradually
and is connected only with my worldview quests.
--What were the milestones along the way? Were there new spiritual
experiences? Were these conversations with people, reading books,
or some other events?
--Yes, primarily it was books and people.
--In the interview with the journal Musulmane you mention Geidar
Jemal. What kind of influence did he have on you and what role
did he play in your conversion?
--His addresses and sermons on the program "Nyne" [Now] produced
a strong impression on me. He often spoke about the tradition
of Abrahamic monotheism. Geidar Jemal is a respected man who participates
in political processes and politics always evokes a multitude
of questions. I would wish to distance myself from political activity
in the field of Islam for I have not participated in it, but his
religious sermons often produced an impression on me. Besides
this, my conversations with Murad Zargishiev also played a great
role. I studied the history of Christianity and Islam and the
theological works of various writers, including the French philosopher
Rene Genon who embraced Islam. It was a long process. In the end
it was the same as going to graduate school after undergraduate.
Islam is for me not a negation of the former path nor a negation
of Christianity, including
Orthodoxy. It is a transition to some new quality which I view
as the next stage for myself.
--Does that mean that your conversion to Islam personally does
not mean renunciation of Christ the Saviour?
--The way he is described in the New Testament is for me only
partially acceptable inasmuch as there are questions about the
authenticity of the texts, but I have not renounced Jesus as he
is described in the Most Glorious Koran. It is said, first, that
he is a prophet; second, a righteous man; third, he was conceived
in a miraculous manner. He really saved people and thus is called
Messiah in the Koran. The doctrine of the divine essence of Christ
arose in the fourth century and was made dogma in the fifth. For
several centuries Christians got on well without professing that
Messiah was God and there is no basis for considering that they
were profoundly mistaken.
--The famous Orthodox theologian of the eighth century John of
Damascus spoke of Islam as one of the Christian heresies. Christian
consciousness took Islam in the period of its beginning as one
of numerous Christian sects.
--Yes, it was considered that way. And really there were many
Christian sects at the time in the East, so that even patriarchs
were considered as "heretics" as well as whole local churches.
--What is your opinion about this?
--Islam is not an offshoot from Christianity but a second and
great reform of Abrahamic monotheism. Abraham believed in the
one God and was the first to express this publicly. He announced
it and confirmed it for his successors, becoming the "father"
of all believers. Subsequently this tradition suffered deviations.
It is known that all of the prophets--incidentally many of them
also are called "saviours"--criticized the people for
their deviation into heathenism. And the greatest prophet, Jesus,
also criticized people for heathenism. More than that, he himself
spoke of himself in parables as sent by God with a special mission.
Before this people said: "Prophets are sinners like us." But God
sent a sinless Angel of God--in the bible angels are called "sons
of God" (Job 38.7)--who really was a pure prophet but he was not
obeyed. They conceived the desire to destroy him. He criticized
the dominating shortcomings of the time and spread the Good News
of the one God beyond the boundaries of a single people, for all
people; this was a great reform of Judaism. Islam is the second
reform, cleansing the Christianity of the sixth and seventh centuries
from the pagan accretions which has been formed in the period
of its acquiring official status and compulsory mass acceptance.
--How do you relate monotheism and the dogma of the Trinity? When
you entered seminary and especially when you gave your clerical
vows, it was required that you profess faith. What has changed
in your understanding of divinity?
--Throughout the course of life a person develops. I was from
a non believing family and the soviet environment, at a time when
there was a system without religious education. I knew nothing
of religion before the age of eighteen. There was only an internal
urge and a faith in an unknown God. Twenty years ago I came to
the Orthodox church. I accepted Orthodox teaching, perceiving
it through a prism of my personal comprehension. In my spirit
I always believed in the one God and the teaching about a plurality
of persons and hypostases I understood approximately as now I
understand the teaching about the plurality of names in the Most
Glorious Koran and the Old Testament. There can be many names
because a name does not signify the essence but an activity of
God in this world. If he clearly saves someone from danger, they
say "God is merciful." "Merciful" in this case is his name, but
it is not the substance of God and does not pretend to be so.
Moreover, in Christian dogmatic manuals it is said that we know
nothing about the substance of God. At the same time there is
a paradox here: we know nothing about the substance but we distinguish
several persons within this substance.
--Aren't you confusing person and action, hypostasis and energy?
If there is a plurality of actions and a plurality of names, this
does not mean that there is a plurality of persons.
--I am talking about this as I understand it. What the Greeks
thought in creating this teaching that was completely new for
the church, which, note, was not even mentioned in the creed of
A.D. 381, I do not know. Incidentally, Jesus is not directly called
God in this creed. Several years ago I specifically began investigating
this subject in order to confirm all of this for myself theoretically.
In the Holy Koran it is said: "You must not give companions to
God." It does not speak of "hypostases," which means that the
issue is that believers must not imagine two or more subjects
of activity when discussing the Creator. If for the Christian
a "hypostasis" is not a different subject but a "name," he is
not violating the command of God. In the term "hypostasis of God"
there is Greek influence in which there is much sophistry. The
fruit of such Greek thought were several doctrinal innovations
which appeared many centuries after the New Testament was already
well known. For me this is obvious, but it does not mean that
I criticize Christianity as a confession, but there already are
many conjectures about this. I speak of levels of comprehension.
In practice I do not know how a specific babushka believes who
comes to the Orthodox church or some elderly Baptist woman. Do
they have a concept of a companion of God or is it only an abstraction
for her, only a name, or does she not even think about this? Perhaps
she has blessed simplicity and God hears and receives her prayers.
It is not important where she is, in an Orthodox church, or in
a Baptist congregation, or in an Islamic one. Therefore in the
Koran Christians and Jews are called brothers and "people of Scripture,"
that is, heirs of Abraham.
--I get the impression that until now you have been talking as
an historian of religion who has come to God not through personal
spiritual experience but more through analysis of the historical
development of world religions. Does this mean that scholarly
investigation for you means more than personal experience? Or
are you simply defending yourself?
--No. In all that I have said there is an internal torment. Honestly,
even in clerical activity several things disturbed me. For example,
an akathist is appointed and you open it up and there, for example,
in a prayer to Saint Nicholas it says: "Save us from our sins."
Of course, confusion arose here because this even contradicts
the teaching of the Orthodox church. What is the point of Jesus'
mission when some other person can save people from sin? Of course,
without theoretical knowledge, without historical study, there
will not be a full picture.
--As an Orthodox priest, albeit in the past, you know well the
Orthodox liturgical tradition. Do church music, hymnology, and
iconography really confuse you? Is it really easy to renounce
all this wealth?
--It is not easy, but this is not a spur of the moment decision
and I have not renounced aesthetics and the spiritual beauty.
In the beauty of singing the human search for God is expressed
and this evokes awe. Over several years I gradually underwent
spiritual cleansing. There were both doubts and internal struggle.
In Orthodoxy this is called "spiritual growth," and in Islam this
inner struggle with thoughts and self-analysis is called the "great
jihad." For about the past four years I have continually thought
about this and approximately a year ago I finally got it settled.
I treat with great care and respect the feelings of other people
who experience awe in the face of what you have mentioned, standing
in church and everything that is connected with prayer. I do not
criticise this in the least and I do not criticise people. I consider
that in any case it is impossible to pull them anywhere, even
if I consider that some form of religion is better. Monotheism
lies at the base of Christianity and thus, when people turn to
God, God the all-seeing and all-powerful, he can hear them just
as in Islam. Trying to win them over only brings harm. It is a
different matter if a person is dissatisfied and seeks answers
to questions. It is possible to talk with such a person and to
help him in his movement. I regret that the newspaper "NG-religii"
wrote that I have criticized Christianity. This is not true.
--It is no secret that in recent years
your relations with the Moscow patriarchate have not been harmonious.
Did this play any role in your conversion?
--No. The decision to adopt Islam and to profess monotheism was
a deeply internal decision and my interrelationships with the patriarchate
had no place here. In 1991 I went on leave on my own initiative
and I began wearing secular clothing. If I had continued believing
as I had been believing when I entered seminary, I would have continued
to serve in a parish. After the dismissal of the Supreme Soviet
in 1993 the patriarch offered me the rectorship of a wealthy Moscow
church, but I declined. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk suggested
in 1994 that I work in OVTsS, but I declined myself and agreed only
to be an external consultant for it and I received the appropriate
official authorization for his signature. This was a definite move
in the direction about which we are now talking. But at the time
my decision still had not been formulated and there was only some
reservations with regard to concrete liturgical practice. I emphasize
that as a priest I served sincerely and did not deceive anyone when
I performed the sacraments, rites, and rituals. People who partook
in these services should not have any doubts. There were no personal
contacts between me and the hierarchy. Metropolitan Kirill I consider
the de facto leader of the church and he also is a potential candidate
for president of Russia. If the "Regeneration" society nominates
him for vice president of Muslims of, say, Tatarstan, his rating
will dramatically increase. I wish him and Fr Chaplin well!
--It is impossible to remove your action from the political context.
Whether you want it or not you are on the edge of very serious problems.
On the one hand, Islam in Russia is divided into several groupings.
On the other hand, Russian Islam has no clear figures who really
belong to the political elite. Will not the Islamic leaders each
try to win you over?
--I don't know; nobody has made any suggestions to me.
--Would you agree with the correction "nobody has made any for the
--No. In 1990 by God's will I became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet.
It is an awesome thing, of course, to speak of the will of God himself,
but events were filled with coincidences. The unclear position of
the synod in those years was like this: Archbishop Platon, with
the blessing of the synod, was running for Supreme Soviet, but lower
level bishops were not supposed to permit priests to run for seats.
One exception was made for Fr Aleksei Zlobin. Then some Kalugans
suggested to me that I run. Struggling with doubts, I went to Bishop
Ilian and told him that people wanted me to run. He said: "I wanted
to run myself for this district, but the synod forbade me to and
so I give you my blessing and let them solve the problem." He blessed
me. I speak about this in order to show that this was not a human
intention on my part. Everything happened as if by itself. I met
with voters only three times and the election district was the whole
province. Everything worked out.
What the future will be, I do not know. I try to be obedient. The
word "Islam" means "obedience, submission to God." If such is God's
will, I am obliged to submit to it. If not, I myself will not strive
for it. By nature I am a quiet man, peaceful. Scholarship attracts
me more and I would return to it. Reading books, writing, involvement
in education activity among my own people so that everything will
be quiet. Now my desire is not to return to politics, much less
to public politics. In today's Russia this would be unpleasant for
a non believing person and for the time being nobody has the power
to change it. I see myself in the public educational field but being
a political pawn in somebody else's hands is not to my liking.
--One more question about your "past" life. In 1991 you became a
priest on leave. What have the recent pages of your spiritual life
been like? Have you officiated since then; were you assigned to
--No. When I was a deputy and arranged with the patriarch for the
leave, I retained the right to officiate in Kaluga diocese. However
I did not exercise that right often and since 1995 I have not conducted
the liturgy at all.
--And when was the last time you wore vestments?
--Several years ago.
--What will be the fate of Orthodoxy and Islam in Russia? Will there
be real cooperation between them?
--My civil position has not changed. Today, as in the time of the
Supreme Soviet, I consider that between Christianity and Islam in
Russia there should be a social union. Specifically social, confirmed
at the governmental level. Before the revolution, both Orthodox
and Muslims were present at official ceremonies. Of course, Orthodox
ceremonies were governmental, but Muslims were present at them,
though they did not participate directly but stood alongside. Muslims
had special prayers for the tsar as their earthly patron.
Russia always has been a Eurasian country, widespread and essentially
imperial. The empire was integrated, although there were colonial
acquisitions and the union of Christians and Muslims was complementary.
Moreover the ideology of the state, as a secular program, must be
based on values of monotheism, because this is the essence of what
is. In the ideology there should be no questions like whether one
must kiss icons or not or what processions to make or what kind
of vestments to wear. The ideology provides only the most general
matters which pertain to every person. This is the moral basis and
then the laws are a reflection of the morality. If someone is punished
for something, this is a moral judgment. This scale of moral values
of society must be based on monotheism, which is common between
Christians and Muslims: do not kill, do not steal, do not wish another
ill, help the needy, do mercy, etc. The future ideology of Russia,
if Russia is destined to survive and again become great, is monotheism
and concretely a social union of Islam and Christianity.
--If one speaks of Islam as an ideology, then it is obvious that
there are various trends: fundamentalism, "euro-Islam," and the
like. Which is more attractive to you?
--What is more attractive is simply monotheism in its pure form
in order not to think of God in an unworthy manner. I like it when
there are no contradictions and there is logical consistency. The
Glorious Koran says outright that the truth is not contradictory.
There is the doctrine of the transcendental God, the Creator, the
Almighty, the Merciful and all the rest should be in agreement with
this. If something contradicts this, that means it must be eliminated.
--How do you perform the prayers?
--Usually, five times a day is required.
--Daily or only on Friday?
--I made my announcement only recently and before this it was necessary
not to advertise all of this. Now I will do it as required.
--Do you have a prayer rug?
--I do. In state service it is extremely difficult to perform the
prayers, but all rules are constructed flexibly. If by force of
circumstances it is necessary to put it off, it can be done after
work. Incidentally, it's the same in Christianity. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 10 June 1999)
Anselm Tormeeda - 14th century
CE scholar and priest (Extracted from Material on the
Authenticity of the Qur'an: Proofs that it is a Revelation from
Almighty God by Abdur-Raheem Greene)
Great numbers of Christians embraced
Islam during and soon after the Islamic conquests after the prophets
death. They were never compelled, rather it was a recognition of
what they were already expecting. Anselm Tormeeda, a priest and
Christian scholar was one such person who's history is worth relating.
He wrote a famous book The Gift to the Intelligent for Refuting
the Arguments of the Christians. In the introduction to this
work he relates his history:
"Let it be known to all of you that
my origin is from the city of Majorca, which is a great city on
the sea, between two mountains and divided by a small valley. It
is a commercial city, with two wonderful harbours. Big merchant
ships come and anchor in the harbour with different goods. The city
is on the island which has the same name - Majorca, and most of
its land is populated with fig and olive trees. My father was a
well respected man in the city. I was his only son.
When I was six, he sent me to a priest
who taught me to read the Gospel and logic, which I finished in
six years. After that I left Majorca and travelled to the city of
Larda, in the region of Castillion, which was the centre of learning
for Christians in that region. A thousand to a thousand and a half
Christian students gathered there. All were under the administration
of the priest who taught them. I studied the Gospel and its language
for another four years. After that I left for Bologne in the region
of Anbardia. Bologne is a very large city, it being the centre of
learning for all the people of that region. Every year, more than
two thousand students gather together from different places. They
cover themselves with rough cloth which they call the "Hue of
God". All of them, whether the son of a workman or the son of
a ruler wear this wrap, in order to make the students distinct from
Only the priest teaches controls and
directs them. I lived in the church with an aged priest. He was
greatly respected by the people because of his knowledge and religiousness
and asceticism, which distinguished him from the other Christian
priests. Questions and requests for advice came from everywhere,
from Kings and rulers, along with presents and gifts. They hoped
that he would accept their presents and grant them his blessings.
This priest taught me the principles of Christianity and its rulings.
I became very close to him by serving and assisting him with his
duties until I became one of his most trusted assistants, so that
he trusted me with the keys of his domicile in the church and of
the food and the drink stores. He kept for himself only the key
of a small room were he used to sleep. I think, and Allah knows
best, that he kept his treasure chest in there. I was a student
and servant for a period of ten years, then he fell ill and failed
to attend the meetings of his fellow priests.
During his absence the priests discussed
some religious matters, until they came to what was said by the
Almighty Allah through his prophet Jesus in the Gospel: "After
him will come a Prophet called Paraclete". They argued a great
deal about this Prophet and as to who he was among the Prophets.
Everyone gave his opinion according to his knowledge and understanding;
and they ended without achieving any benefit in that issue. I went
to my priest, and as usual he asked about what was discussed in
the meeting that day. I mentioned to him the different opinions
of priests about the name Paraclete, and how they finished
the meeting without clarifying its meaning. He asked me: "What
was your answer?" I gave my opinion which was taken from interpretation
of a well known exegesis. He said that I was nearly correct like
some priests, and the other priests were wrong. "But the truth
is different from all of that. This is because the interpretation
of that noble name is known only to a small number of well versed
scholars. And we posses only a little knowledge." I fell down
and kissed his feet, saying: "Sir, you know that I travelled
and came to you from a far distant country, I have served you now
for more than ten years; and have attained knowledge beyond estimation,
so please favour me and tell me the truth about this name."
The priest then wept and said: "My son, by God, you are very
much dear to me for serving me and devoting yourself to my care.
Know the truth about this name, and there is a great benefit, but
there is also a great danger. And I fear that when you know this
truth, and the Christians discover that, you will be killed immediately."
I said: "By God, by the Gospel and He who was sent with it, I
shall never speak any word about what you will tell me, I shall
keep it in my heart." He said: "My son, when you came here
from your country, I asked you if it is near to the Muslims, and
whether they made raids against you and if you made raids against
them. This was to test your hatred for Islam. Know, my son, that
Paraclete is the name of their Prophet Muhammad, to whom was revealed
the fourth book as mentioned by Daniel. His way is the clear way
which is mentioned in the Gospel." I said: "Then sir, what
do you say about the religion of these Christians?" He said:
"My son, if these Christians remained on the original religion
of Jesus, then they would have been on God's religion, because the
religion of Jesus and all the other Prophets is the true religion
of God. But they changed it and became unbelievers." I asked
him: "Then, sir, what is the salvation from this?" He said
"Oh my son, embracing Islam." I asked him: "Will the one
who embraces Islam be saved?" He answered: "Yes, in this
world and the next." I said: "The prudent chooses for himself;
if you know, sir the merit of Islam, then what keeps you from it?"
He answered: "My son, the Almighty Allah did not expose me to
the truth of Islam and the Prophet of Islam until after I have become
old and my body weakened. Yes, there is no excuse for us in this,
on the contrary, the proof of Allah has been established against
us. If God had guided me to this when I was your age I would have
left everything and adopted the religion of truth. Love of this
world is the essence of every sin, and look how I am esteemed, glorified
and honoured by the Christians, and how I am living in affluence
and comfort! In my case, if I show a slight inclination towards
Islam they would kill me immediately. Suppose that I was saved from
them and succeeded in escaping to the Muslims, they would say, do
not count your Islam as a favour upon us, rather you have benefited
yourself only by entering the religion of truth, the religion that
will save you from the punishment of Allah! So I would live among
them as a poor old man of more than ninety years, without knowing
their language, and would die among them starving. I am, and all
praise is due to Allah, on the religion of Christ and on that which
he came with, and Allah knows that from me." So I asked him:
"Do you advise me to go to the country of the Muslims and adopt
their religion?" He said to me: "If you are wise and hope
to save yourself, then race to that which will achieve this life
and the hereafter. But my son, none is present with us concerning
this matter , it is between you and me only. Exert yourself and
keep it a secret. If it is disclosed and the people know about it
they will kill you immediately. I will be of no benefit to you against
them. Neither will it be of any use to you if you tell them what
you heard from me concerning Islam, or that I encouraged you to
be a Muslim, for I shall deny it. They trust my testimony against
yours. So do not tell a word, whatever happens." I promised
him not to do so.
He was satisfied and content with my
promise. I began to prepare for my journey and bid him farewell.
He prayed for me and gave me fifty golden dinar. Then I took a ship
to my city Majorca where I stayed with my parents for six months.
Then I travelled to Sicily and remained there five months, waiting
for a ship bound for the land of the Muslims. Finally a ship arrived
bound for Tunis. We departed before sunset and reached the port
of Tunis at noon on the second day. When I got off the ship, Christian
scholars who heard of my arrival came to greet me and I stayed with
them for four months in ease and comfort. After that I asked them
if there was a translator. The Sultan in those days was Abu al-Abbas
Ahmed. They said there was a virtuous man, the Sultan's physician,
who was one of his closest advisors. His name was Yusuf al-Tabeeb.
I was greatly pleased to here this, and asked where he lived. They
took me there to meet him separately. I told him about my story
and the reason of my coming there; which was to embrace Islam. He
was immensely pleased because this matter would be completed by
his help. We rode to the Sultan's Palace. He met the Sultan and
told him about my story and asked his permission for me to meet
The Sultan accepted, and I presented
myself before him. The first question the Sultan asked was about
my age. I told him that I was thirty-five years old. He then asked
about my learning and the sciences which I had studied. After I
told him he said. "Your arrival is the arrival of goodness .
Be a Muslim with Allah's blessings." I then said to the doctor,
"Tell the honourable Sultan that it always happens that when
anyone changes his religion his people defame him and speak evil
of him. So, I wish if he kindly sends to bring the Christian priests
and merchants of this city to ask them about me and hear what they
have to say. Then by Allah's will, I shall accept Islam." He
said to me through the translator, "You have asked what Abdullah
bin Salaam asked from the Prophet when he-Abdullah came to announce
his Islam." He then sent for the priests and some Christian
merchants and let me sit in an adjoining room unseen by them. "What
do you say about this new priest who arrived by ship?", he asked.
They said: "He is a great scholar in our religion. Our bishops
say he is the most learned and no one is superior to him in our
religious knowledge." After hearing what the Christian said,
the Sultan sent for me, and I presented myself before them. I declared
the two testimonies that there is no one worthy of worship except
Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and when the Christians
heard this they crossed themselves and said: "Nothing incited
him to do that except his desire to marry, as priests in our religion
can not marry". Then they left in distress and grief.
The Sultan appointed for me a quarter
of a dinar every day from the treasury and let me marry the daughter
of Al-Hajj Muhammed al-Saffar. When I decided to consummate the
marriage, he gave me a hundred golden dinars and an excellent suit
of clothes. I then consummated the marriage and Allah blessed me
with a child to whom I gave the name Muhammed as a blessing from
the name of the Prophet."
[Note: The full name of Anselm Tormeeda
is Abu Muhammad Abdullah Bin Abdullah Al-Tarjuman. The title of
his book, in Arabic, is Tuhfat al-arib fi al-radd 'ala Ahl al-Salib.
Some background details about this scholar and his work are available
Khadijah 'Sue' Watson - Former
pastor, missionary, professor. Master's degree in Divinity
“What happened to you?”
This was usually the first reaction I encountered when my former
classmates, friends and co-pastors saw me after having embraced
Islam. I suppose I couldn’t blame them, I was a highly unlikely
the person to change religions. Formerly, I was a professor, pastor,
church planter and missionary. If anyone was a radical fundamentalist
it was I.
I had just graduated
with my Master’s Degree of Divinity from an elite seminary five
months before. It was after that time I met a lady who had worked
in Saudi Arabia and had embraced Islam. Of course I asked her about
the treatment of women in Islam. I was shocked at her answer, it
wasn’t what I expected so I proceeded to ask other questions relating
to Allah and Muhammad (pbuh). She informed me that she would take
me to the Islamic Centre where they would be better able to answer
Being prayed up, meaning-asking
Jesus for protection against demon spirits seeing that what we had
been taught about Islam is that it is Demonic and Satanic religion.
Having taught Evangelism I was quite shocked at their approach,
it wa s direct and straightforward. No intimidation, no harassment,
no psychological manipulation, no subliminal influence! None of
this, “let’s have a Qur’aanic study in your house”, like a counter
part of the Bible study. I couldn’t believe it! They gave me some
books and told me if I had some questions they were available to
answer them in the office. That night I read all of the books they
gave. It was the first time I had ever read a book about Islam written
by a Muslim, we had studied and read books about Islam only written
by Christians. The next day I spent three hours at the office asking
questions. This went on everyday for a week, by which time I had
read twelve books and knew why Muslims are the hardest people in
the world to convert to Christianity. Why? Because there is nothing
to offer them!! (In Islam) There is a relationship with Allah, forgiveness
of sins, salvation and promise of Eternal Life.
Naturally, my first question
centred on the deity of Allah. Who is this Allah that the Muslims
worship? We had been taught as Christians that this is another god,
a false god. When in fact He is the Omniscient-All Knowing, Omnipotent-All
Powerful, and Omnipresent-All Present God. The One and Only without
co-partners or co-equal. It is interesting to note that there were
bishops during the first three hundred years of the Church that
were teaching as the Muslim beli eves that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet
and teacher!! It was only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine
that he was the one to call and introduce the doctrine of the Trinity.
He a convert to Christianity who knew nothing of this religion introduced
a paganistic concept that goes back to Babylonian times. Because
the space does not permit me to go into detail about the subject
insha’Allah, another time. Only I must point out that the word TRINITY
is not found in the Bible in any of its many translation nor is
it found in the original Greek or Hebrew languages!
My other important question
centred on Muhammad (pbuh). Who is this Muhammad? I found out that
Muslims do not pray to him like the Christians pray to Jesus. He
is not an intermediary and in fact it is forbidden to pray to him.
We ask blessing upon him at the end of our prayer but likewise we
ask blessings on Abraham. He is a Prophet and a Messenger, the final
and last Prophet. In fact, until now, one thousand four hundred
and eighteen years (1,418) later there has been no prophet after
him. His message is for All Mankind as opposed to the message of
Jesus or Moses (peace be upon them both) which was sent to the Jews.
“Hear O Israel” But the message is the same message of Allah. “The
Lord Your God is One God and you shall have no other gods before
Me." Mark 12:29).
Because prayer was a
very important part of my Christian life I was both interested and
curious to know what the Muslims were praying. As Christians we
were as ignorant on this aspect of Muslim belief as on the other
aspects. We thought and were taught, that the Muslims were bowing
down to the Ka’bah (in Mecca), that that was there god and centre
point of this false deity. Again, I was shocked to learn that the
manner of prayer is prescribed by God, Himself. The words of the
prayer are one of praise and exaltation. The approach to prayer
(ablution or washing) in cleanliness is under the direction of Allah.
He is a Holy God and it is not for us to approach Him in an arbitrary
manner but only reasonable that He should tell us how we should
At the end of that week
after having spent eight (8) years of formal theological studies
I knew cognitively (head knowledge) that Islam was true. But I did
not embrace Islam at that time because I did not believe it in my
heart. I continued to pray, to read the Bible, to attend lectures
at the Islamic Centre. I was in earnest asking and seeking God’s
direction. It is not easy to change your religion. I did not want
to loose my salvation if there was salvation to loose. I continued
to be shocked and amazed at what I was learning because it was not
what I was taught that Islam believed. In my Master’s level, the
professor I had was respected as an authority on Islam yet his teaching
and that of Christianity in general is full of Misunderstanding.
He and many Christians like him are sincere but they are sincerely
Two months later after
having once again prayed seeking God’s direction, I felt something
drop into my being! I sat up, and it was the first time I was to
use the name of Allah, and I said, “Allah, I believe you are the
One and Only True God.” There was peace that descended upon me and
from that day four years ago until now I have never regretted embracing
Islam. This decision did not come without trial. I was fired from
my job as I was teaching in two Bible Colleges at that time, ostracised
by my former classmates, professors and co-pastors, disowned by
my husband’s family, misunderstood by my adult children and made
a suspicion by my own government. Without the faith that enables
man to stand up to Satanic forces I would not ha ve been able to
withstand all of this. I am ever so grateful to Allah that I am
a Muslim and may I live and die a Muslim.
“Truly, my prayer, my service
of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God the Cherisher
of the Worlds. No partner has He, this I am commanded. And I am
the first of those who bow to Allah in Islam." Holy Qur'an 6:162-163)
Sister Khadijah Watson
Sister Khadijah Watson
is presently working as a teacher for women in one of the Da'wah
(Invitation) Centres in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Ibrahim Khalil - Former Egyptian
Coptic priest (Source: The Islamic Bulletin, San Francisco,
Al-Haj Ibrahim Khalil Ahmad, formerly
Ibrahim Khalil Philobus, was an Egyptian Coptic priest who studied
theology and got a high degree from Princeton University. He studied
Islam to find gaps to attack it; instead he embraced Islam with
his four children, one of whom is now a brilliant professor in Sorbonne
University, Paris France. In an interesting way, he reveals himself
saying: "I was born in Alexandria on the 13th of January 1919 and
was sent to the American Mission schools until I got my secondary
education certificate there. In 1942 I got my diploma from Asiut
University and then I specialized in religious studies as a prelude
to join the Faculty of Theology. It was no easy task to join the
faculty, as no candidate could join it unless he got a special recommendation
from the church, and also, after he should pass a number of difficult
exams. I got a recommendation from Al-Attareen Church in Alexandria
and another from the Church Assembly of Lower Egypt after passing
many tests to know my qualifications to become a man of religion.
Then I got a third recommendation from Snodus Church Assembly which
included priests from Sudan and Egypt.
The Snodus sanctioned my entrance into
the Faculty of Theology in 1944 as a boarding student. There I studied
at the hands of American and Egyptian teachers until my graduation
I was supposed, he continued, to be
appointed in Jerusalem had it not been for the war that broke out
in Palestine that same year, so I was sent to Asna in Upper Egypt.
That same year I registered for a thesis at the American University
in Cairo. It was about the missionary activities among Muslims.
My acquaintance with Islam started in the Faculty of Theology where
I studied Islam and all the methods through which we could shake
the faith of Muslims and raise misconceptions in their understanding
of their own religion.
In 1952 I got my M.A. from Princeton
University in U.S.A. and was appointed as a teacher in the Faculty
of Theology in Asiut. I used to teach Islam in the faculty as well
as the faulty misconceptions spread by its enemies and the missionaries
against it. During that period I decided to enlarge my study of
Islam, so that I should not read the missionaries books on it only.
I had so much faith in myself that I was confirmed to read the other
point of view. Thus I began to read books written by Muslim authors.
I also decided to read the Qur'an and understand its meanings. This
was implied by my love of knowledge and moved by my desire to add
more proofs against Islam. The result was, however, exactly the
reverse. My position began to shake and I started to feel an internal
strong struggle and I discovered the falsehood of everything I had
studied and preached to the people. But I could not face myself
bravely and tried instead to overcome this internal crisis and continue
In 1954, Mr. Khalil added, I was sent
to Aswan as secretary general of the German Swiss Mission. That
was only my apparent position for my real mission was to preach
against Islam in Upper Egypt especially among Muslims. A missionary
conference was held at that time at Cataract Hotel in Aswan and
I was given the floor to speak. That day I spoke too much, reiterating
all the repeated misconceptions against Islam; and at the end of
my speech, the internal crisis came to me again and I started to
revise my position.
Continuing his talk about the said
crisis, Mr. Khalil said, <<I began to ask myself: Why should
I say and do all these things which I know for sure I am a liar,
as this is not the truth? I took my leave before the end of the
conference and went out alone to my house. I was completely shaken.
As I walked through Firyal public garden, I heard a verse of the
Qur'an on the radio. It said: <<Say: It has been revealed
to me that a company of Jinns listened (to the Qur'an). They said:
We have really heard a wonderful recital! It gives guidance to the
Right, and we have believed therein: We shall not join (in worship)
any gods with our Lord.>> (Qur'an S72v1-2) <<And as
for us, since we have listened to the Guidance, we have accepted
it: and any one who believes in His Lord, has no fear of either
a short (account) or of any injustice.>>(Qur'an S.72 V.13)
I felt a deep comfort that night and
when I returned home I spent the whole night all by myself in my
library reading the Qur'an. My wife inquired from me about the reason
of my sitting up all night and I pleaded from her to leave me alone.
I stopped for a long time thinking and meditating on the verse;
<<Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, verily thou
wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of
Allah.>> (S.59 V.21) And the verse: <<Strongest among
men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and the Pagans,
and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those
who say, "We are Christians": Because amongst these are men devoted
to learning. And men who have renounced the world, and they are
not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by
the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears,
for they recognize the truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe,
write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to
believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that
we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?>>
(Qur'an S.5 V.82-84)
Mr. Khalil then quoted a third quotation
from the Holy Qur'an which says: <<Those who follow the Messenger,
the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures),
in the Taurat and in the Gospel; for he commands them what is just
and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is
good (and pure) and prohibits them what is bad (and impure): He
releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are
upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him
and follow the light which is sent down with him, it is they who
will prosper." Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger
of Allah, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth:
there is no god but He: It is He that giveth both life and death.
So believe in Allah and His Messenger. The unlettered Prophet, who
believeth in Allah and His Words: follow Him that (so) you may be
guided.>> (Qur'an S.7 V.157- 158)
Now that same night, Mr. Khalil dramatically
concluded: I took my final decision. In the morning I spoke with
my wife from whom I have three sons and one daughter. But no sooner
than she felt that I was inclined to embrace Islam than she cried
and asked for help from the head of the mission. His name was Monsieur
Shavits from Switzerland. He was a very cunning man. When he asked
me about my true attitude, I told him frankly what I really wanted
and then he said: Regard yourself out of job until we discover what
has befallen you. Then I said: This is my resignation from my job.
He tried to convince me to postpone it, but I insisted. So he made
a rumour among the people that I became mad. Thus I suffered a very
severe test and oppression until I left Aswan for good and returned
When he was asked about the circumstances
to his conversion he replied: <<In Cairo I was introduced
to a respectable professor who helped me overcome my severe trial
and this he did without knowing anything about my story. He treated
me as a Muslim for I introduced myself to him as such although until
then I did not embrace Islam officially. That was Dr. Muhammad Abdul
Moneim Al Jamal the then undersecretary of treasury. He was highly
interested in Islamic studies and wanted to make a translation of
the Holy Qur'an to be published in America. He asked me to help
him because I was fluent in English since I had got my M.A. from
an American University. He also knew that I was preparing
a comparative study of the Qur'an, the Torah and the Bible. We cooperated
in this comparative study and in the translation of the Qur'an.
When Dr. Jamal knew that I had resigned
from my job in Aswan and that I was then unemployed, he helped me
with a job in Standard Stationery Company in Cairo. So I was well
established after a short while. I did not tell my wife about my
intention to embrace Islam thus she thought that I had forgotten
the whole affair and that it was nothing but a transitory crisis
that no more existed. But I knew quite well that my official conversion
to Islam needs long complicated measures and it was in fact a battle
which I preferred to postpone for some time until I became well
off and after I completed my comparative study.
Then Mr. Khalil continued, <<In
1955 I did complete my study and my material and living affairs
became well established. I resigned from the company and set up
a training office for importing stationery and school articles.
It was a successful business from which I gained much more money
than I needed. Thus I decided to declare my official conversion
to Islam. On the 25th of December 1959, I sent a telegram to Dr.
Thompson, head of the American Mission in Egypt informing him that
I had embraced Islam. When I told my true story to Dr. Jamal he
was completely astonished. When I declared my conversion to Islam,
new troubles began. Seven of my former colleagues in the mission
had tried their best to persuade me to cancel my declaration, but
I refused. They threatened to separate me from my wife and I said:
She is free to do as she wishes. They threatened to kill me. But
when they found me to be stubborn they left me alone and sent to
me an old friend of mine who was also a colleague of mine in the
mission. He wept very much in front of me. So I recited before him
the following verses from the Quran: <<And when they listen
to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see
their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the
truth: They pray: "Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the
witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the
truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to
admit us to the company of the righteous?>>. (Qur'an S.5 V.84)
I said to him, "You should have wept in humiliation to God on hearing
the Qur'an and believe in the truth which you know but you refuse.
He stood up and left me as he saw no use. My official conversion
to Islam was in January 1960.
Mr. Khalil was then asked about the
attitude of his wife and children and he answered: My wife left
me at that time and took with her all the furniture of our house.
But all my children joined me and embraced Islam. The most enthusiastic
among them was my eldest son Isaac who changed his name to Osman,
then my second son Joseph and my son Samuel whose name is Jamal
and daughter Majida who is now called Najwa. Osman is now a doctor
of philosophy working as a professor in Sorbonne University in Paris
teaching oriental studies and psychology. He also writes in <<Le
Monde>> magazine. As in regards to my wife, she left the house
for six years and agreed to come back in 1966 provided that she
keeps her religion. I accepted this because in Islam there is no
compulsion in religion. I said to her: I do not want you to became
a Muslim for my sake but only after you are convinced. She feels
now that she believes in Islam but she cannot declare this for fear
of her family but we treat her as a Muslim woman and she fasts in
Ramadan because all my children pray and fast. My daughter Najwa
is a student in the Faculty of Commerce, Joseph is a doctor pharmeologist
and Jamal is an engineer.
During this period, that is since 1961
until the present time I have been able to publish a number of books
on Islam and the methods of the missionaries and the orientalist
against it. I am now preparing a comparative study about women in
the three Divine religions with the object of highlighting the status
of women in Islam. In 1973 I performed Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)
and I am doing activities preaching Islam. I hold seminars in the
universities and charitable societies. I received an invitation
from Sudan in 1974 where I held many seminars. My time is fully
used in the service of Islam.
Finally Mr. Khalil was asked about
the salient features of Islam which have attracted his attention
most. And he answered: My faith in Islam has been brought about
through reading the Holy Qur'an and the biography of Prophet Muhammad,
peace and blessings of God be upon him. I no longer believed in
the misconceptions against Islam and I am especially attracted by
the concept of unity of God, which is the most important feature
of Islam. God is only One. Nothing is like Him. This belief makes
me the servant of God only and of no one else. Oneness of God liberates
man from servitude to any human being and that is true freedom.
I also like very much the rule of forgiveness
in Islam and the direct relationship between God and His servants.
<<Say: "O my servants who have
transgressed against their souls!, despair not of the Mercy of Allah:
for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
Turn ye to your Lord (in repentance) and submit to Him before the
Chastisement comes on you: After that ye shall not be helped.>>
(Qur'an S.39 V.53-54)
Anonymous Female Missionary
- Former Catholic missionary (Source: Saudi Gazette)
The nuns looked so clean and smart
in their starched white habits. They looked like the saints in the
pictures that hung on the wall of every classroom, that I dreamt
of the day I could be like them. I was among two other girls who
get excellent grades at the end of the school year and we were asked
if we would like to study religion. They thought we were pious for
our ages because we liked to spend endless hours inside the church.
They didn’t realize that the inside of the church was dim and cold
and a welcome relief from the hot African sun.
I couldn’t wait to tell my father,
who surprisingly said, ‘absolutely not!’ He would not like that
kind of life for one of his girls; without husband and children.
He enrolled me in another school, which had previously only admitted
Besides myself, there was another girl
in the Roman Catholic Mission school in Burundi. The years I spent
at this school made me quite tough as I competed only against boys.
The nuns used excessive force in disciplinary matters. The fact
that we were all adolescents might have had a good deal to do with
it. Still, it didn’t seem a very Christian thing to do.
I was interested in religion and excelled
in the study of languages and accepted a full scholarship to a university
in Cameroon after graduating from high school. Again, as the only
female, I enrolled in the College of Theology. I wasn’t sure where
I would go with it, but after a short while, the administration
applied for a scholarship in the same College of Theology, but in
Belgium. There I would learn how to be a Pastor in the Roman Catholic
My language ability aided me quite
a bit and my mastery of some of the African dialects attracted them
as a good candidate for missionary work.
As the years went by, I began to see
through the layers of theology and found the superficiality of their
teachings. I was not alone in seeing the many contradictions in
the New and Old Testaments. To learn that the ‘Trinity’ is mentioned
only once in the New Testament was a surprise but when I learned
it had been fully established at the Council of Nicea and that it
was not part of what Jesus taught, something in my mind clicked.
We were shown certain books called
the Gnostic Books, which we were told were hidden teachings, I understood
that the church was being deceitful and this was disturbing. How
could I believe that this was, as they said, the word of God from
A to Z. "The People of the Book know this as they know their own
sons; but some of them conceal the Truth which they themselves know.
The Truth is from thy Lord, so be not in doubt." (Qur’an 2:146-147)
Still I pursued my studies in an effort
to be able to help myself and my people some day. "As for those
who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou has no part
in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the
end tell them the truth of all that they did." (Qur’an 6:159)
After graduation from University, I
took a position in Nairobi, Kenya. The Church was very anxious to
have an African in a position such as this. They had many programmes
for women and I was a coordinator for these programmes under the
auspices of the World Council of Churches. I handled different aspects
of exhibitions, women’s projects, donors, workshops and conferences.
I was sent to the regional office in
Togo because they are mainly French-speaking which I spoke fluently
and the type of projects I knew how to handle were being implemented
there. I began to search for the spiritual force that was missing
in my life and in Togo I searched through all the practiced religions.
When one looks for truth there are many things thrown in one’s path.
This part of Africa has many people
who practice witchcraft and who claim to have knowledge of the unseen
and it was obvious they were just taking people’s money. There is
no one with knowledge of the unseen except God.
I had been facing much mediocrity from
the Church and at the same time I had Muslim friends who were very
comfortable in their knowledge of God, who prayed five times daily
and who had many virtues. They believed in what they said, in contrast
to the Church where you repeat what you have been taught without
believing in it.
I had never been taught anything about
Islam except a superficial introduction so I did a lot of reading
about the religion.
I cannot say that to convert to Islam
was easy; it was very difficult. But when one is searching for the
truth there is no way to deny it.
The decision was also difficult for
economic reasons as I had one of the highest paying professions
with many perks.
I resigned from my position citing
my conversion as my reason and immediately lost my job and salary,
housing and medical benefits. I became destitute in one day!
My family does not like my hijab but
they admire the moral aspects of Islam.
I helped to raise my brothers and sisters
and they are much younger than I, and now to see how much they hate
me is almost unbearable.
They felt the economic hardship immediately
as I did, and cannot understand why I would do such a thing. But
with the grace of Allah they too will find the truth of Islam, Insha'Allah.
I hope and pray that I can use the
knowledge that the education in the Church gave me towards the propagation
of Islam. The spiritual climate of West Africa is ripe for Islam
and there are many projects which need doing. This is what I have
been trained to do and so my path is straight and narrow for me
Martin John Mwaipopo - Former
Lutheran Archbishop (Source: http://mandla.co.za/al-qalam/sept97/bishop.htm)
(It was December 23, 1986,
two days away from Christmas, when Arch Bishop Martin John Mwaipopo,
announced to his congregation that he was leaving Christianity for
Islam. The congregation was paralysed with shock on hearing the
news, so much so, that his administrator got up from his seat, closed
the door and windows, and declared to the church members that the
Bishop’s mind had become unhinged, that is, he had gone mad. How
could he not think and say so, when only a few minutes earlier,
the man had taken out his music instruments and sang so movingly
for the church members? Little did they know that inside the Bishop’s
heart lay a decision that would blow their minds, and that the entertainment
was only a farewell party. But the congregant’s reaction was equally
shocking! They called the police to take the "mad" man away. He
was kept in the cells until midnight when Sheikh Ahmed Sheik, the
man who initiated him into Islam came to bail him out. That incident
was only a mild beginning of shocks in store for him. Al Qalam reporter,
Simphiwe Sesanti, spoke to the Tanzanian born former Lutheran Arch
Bishop Martin John Mwaipopo, who on embracing Islam came to be known
as Al Hajj Abu Bakr John Mwaipopo)
Credit must go to the Zimbabwean brother,
Sufyan Sabelo, for provoking this writer’s curiosity, after listening
to Mwaipopo’s talk at the Wyebank Islamic Centre, Durban. Sufyan
is not sensationalist, but that night he must have heard something
- he just could not stop talking about the man! Who would not be
hooked after hearing that an Arch Bishop, who had not only obtained
a BA and Masters degree, but a doctorate as well, in Divinity, had
later turned to Islam? And since foreign qualifications matter so
much to you, a man who had obtained a diploma in Church Administration
in England and the latter degrees in Berlin, Germany! A man, who,
before becoming a Muslim, had been the World Council of Churches’
General Secretary for Eastern Africa - covering Tanzania, Kenya,
Uganda, Burundi, and parts of Ethiopia and Somalia. In the Council
of Churches, he rubbed shoulders with the present chairman of the
South African Human Rights Commission . Barney Pityana and the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission ‘s chairman, Bishop Desmond Tutu.
It is a story of a man who was born
61 years ago, on February 22 in Bukabo, an area that shares its
borders with Uganda. Two years, after his birth, his family had
him baptised, and five years later, watched him with pride being
an alter boy . Seeing him assisting the church minister, preparing
the "body and blood" of Christ , filled the Mwaipopos with pride,
and filled Mwaipopo Senior with ideas for his son’s future.
"When I was in a boarding school, later , my father wrote to me,
stating he wanted me to become a priest. In each and every letter
he wrote this" , recalls Abu Bakr. But he had his own ideas about
his life, which was joining the police force. But at the age of
25, Mwaipopo gave in to his father’s will. Unlike in Europe where
children can do as they will after age 21 , in Africa , children
are taught to honour their parent’s will above their own.
"My , son , before I close my eyes (die), I would be glad if you
could become a priest", that’s how father told son, and that’s how
the son was moved, a move that saw him going to England in 1964,
to do a diploma in Church Administration, and a year later to Germany
to do a B.A degree. On returning , a year later, he was made acting
Later, he went back to do Masters. " All this time, I was just doing
things, without questioning . It was when he began to do his doctorate
, that he started questioning things. "I started wondering … there
is Christianity, Islam, Judaism Buddhism each different religions
claiming to the true religion. What is the truth? I wanted the truth"
, says Mwaipopo. So began his search , until he reduced it to the
"major" four religions. He got himself a copy of the Qur’an, and
" When I opened the Qur’an , the first verses I came across were,
‘ Say : He is Allah , The One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begeteteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto
Him? (Surah Ikhlas)’ ", he recalls. That was when the seeds
of Islam, unknown to him, were first sown. It was then that he discovered
that the Qur’an was the only scripture book that had been
not tampered with, by human beings since its revelation . "And in
concluding my doctoral thesis I said so. I didn’t care whether they
give me my doctorate or not - that was the truth, and I was looking
for the truth."
While in that state of mind he called
his "beloved" Professor Van Burger.
"I closed the door, looked him in the eye and asked him ‘of all
religions in the world, which is true’, I asked.
‘Islam’, he responded.
‘Why then are you not a Muslim?’, I asked again.
He said to me "'One, I hate Arabs, and two, do you see all this
luxuries that I have? Do you think that I would give it all up for
Islam?’. When I thought about his answer, I thought about my own
situation, too", recalls Mwaipopo. His mission, his cars - all these
appeared in his imagination. No, he could not embrace Islam, and
for one good year, he put it off his mind. But then dreams haunted
him, the verses of the Quran kept on appearing, people clad in white
kept on coming, "especially on Fridays", until he could take it
So, on December 22, he officially embraced Islam. These dreams that
guided him - were they not due to the "superstitious" nature of
the Africans? "No, I don’t believe that all dreams are bad. There
are those that guide you in the right direction and those which
don’t, and these ones, in particular, guided me in the right direction,
to Islam", he tells us.
Consequently, the church stripped him
of his house and his car. His wife could not take it, she packed
her clothes, took her children and left, despite Mwaipopo’s assurances
that she was not obliged to become a Muslim. When he went to his
parents, they, too, had heard the story. "My father told me to denounce
Islam and my mother said she did not "want to hear any nonsense
from me", remember Mwaipopo. He was on his own! Asked how he now
feels towards his parents, he says that he has forgiven them, in
fact found time to reconcile with his father before he departed
to the world yonder.
"They were just old people who did not know. They could not even
read the Bible…all they knew was what they had heard the priest
reading", he states. After asking to stay for one night, the following
day, he began his journey to where his family had originally come
from, Kyela, near the borders between Tanzania and Malawi. His parents
had settled in Kilosa, Morogoro. During his journey, he was stranded
in Busale, by one family that was selling home brewed beer. It was
there that he met his future wife, a Catholic Nun, by the name of
Sister Gertrude Kibweya, now known as Sister Zainab. It was with
her that he travelled to Kyela, where the old man, who had given
him shelter the previous night had told him that that’s where he
would find other Muslims. But before that, in the morning of that
day he had made the call to prayer (azaan), something which made
the villagers come out, asking his host why he was keeping a "mad"
man. "It was the Nun who explained that I was not mad but a Muslim",
he says. It was the same Nun who later helped Mwaipopo pay his medical
fees at the Anglican Mission Hospital, when he had become terribly
sick, thanks to the conversation he had had with her.
The story goes that he had asked her
why she was wearing a rosary, to which she responded that it was
because Christ was hanged on it. "But, say, someone had killed your
father with a gun, would you go around carrying a gun on your chest?"
Mmmhhh. That set the Nun thinking, her mind "challenged", and when
the former Bishop proposed marriage to the Nun later, the answer
was "yes". Secretly, they married, and four weeks later, she wrote
a letter to her authorities, informing them of her leave. When the
old man who had given him shelter, (the Nun’s uncle) heard about
the marriage, when they arrived at his house, they were advised
to leave the house, because "the old man was loading his gun", and
the Nun’s father was enraged, "wild like a lion".
From the Bishop’s mansion, Mwaipopo
went to live in a self built mud house. From earning a living as
the World Council of Churches’ General Secretary for Eastern Africa,
he began earning a living as a wood cutter and tilling some people’s
lands. When not doing that he was preaching Islam publicly. This
led to a series of short term imprisonments for preaching blasphemy
While on hajj in 1988, tragedy struck. His house was bombed, and
consequently, his infant triplets were killed. "A bishop, whose
mother and my own mother were children of the same father, was involved
in the plot’, recalls Mwaipopo. He says instead of demoralising
him, it did the opposite, as the numbers of people embracing Islam,
increased, this including his father in law.
In 1992, he was arrested for 10 months, along with 70 followers,
charged with treason. This was after some pork shops, against which
he had spoken, were bombed. He did speak against them, he admits,
saying that constitutionally, since 1913, there was a law against
bars, clubs and pork shops in Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Mafia, Lindi
and Kigoma. Fortunately for him, he was acquitted, and immediately
thereafter, he fled to Zambia, exile, after he was advised that
there was a plot to kill him.
He says that that very day he was released,
police came to re-arrest him. And guess what? "The women said no
ways! They said that they would resist my arrest physically against
the police. It was also the women who helped me cross the borders
unnoticed. They clothed me in the women’s fashion!", according to
Mwaipopo. And that is one of the reasons that make him admire women.
"Women must be given a high place, they must be given good education
in Islam. Otherwise how would she understand why a man marries more
than one wife…It was my wife, Zainab, who proposed that I should
marry my second wife, Shela, (her friend), when she had to go for
Islamic studies abroad", it’s the bishop who says so. Yah?
To the Muslims, Al Hajj Abu Bakr Mwaipopo’s
message is, "There is war against Islam…Flood the world with literature.
Right now, Muslims are made to feel ashamed to be regarded as fundamentalists.
Muslims must stop their individualistic tendencies, they must be
collective. You have do defend your neighbour if you want to be
safe", he states, also urging Muslims to be courageous, citing the
Islamic Propagation Centre International’s Ahmed Deedat. "That man
is not learned, but look at the way he has propagated Islam".
Raphael - Former Jehovah's
Witness minister (Source: The Islamic Bulletin, San Francisco,
forty-two-year-old Latino, Raphael, is a Los Angeles-based comic
and lecturer. He was born in Texas where he attended his first Jehovah's
Witness meeting at age six. He gave his first Bible sermon at eight,
tended his own congregation at twenty, and was headed for a position
of leadership among the 904,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the United
States. But he traded in his Bible for a Qur'an after having braved
a visit to a local mosque.
On November 1, 1991, he
embraced Islam, bringing to the Muslim community the organizational
and speaking skills he developed among Jehovah's Witnesses. He speaks
with the urgency of a new convert, but one who can make immigrant
Muslims laugh at themselves.
He told his story mimicking
a cast of characters.
I remember vividly being
in a discussion where we were all sitting in my parents' living
room and there were some other Jehovah's Witnesses there. They were
talking about: "It's Armageddon! The time of the end! And Christ
is coming! And you know the hailstones are going to be out here
as big as cars! God is going to use all kinds of things to destroy
this wicked system and remove the governments! And the Bible talks
about the earth opening up! It's going to swallow whole city blocks!"
I'm scared to death! And
then my mother turned around: "See what's going to happen to you
if you don't get baptised, and if you don't do God's will? The earth
is going to swallow you up, or one of these huge hailstones is going
to hit you on the head [klonk], knock you out, and you will not
exist ever again. I'll have to make another child."
I wasn't going to take a
chance of being hit by one of those big hailstones. So I got baptised.
And of course Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the sprinkling
of the water. They submerge you completely, hold you there for a
second, and then bring you back up.
I did that at the age of
thirteen, September 7, 1963, in Pasadena, California, at the Rose
Bowl. It was a big international assembly. We had 100,000 people.
We drove all the way from Lubbock, Texas.
Eventually I started giving
bigger talks - ten minutes in front of the congregation. And a circuit
servant recommended me to give the hour lectures that are done on
Sunday when they invite the general public. They usually reserved
those [sermons] for the elders of the congregation.
[In an authoritarian voice:]
"Sure he's young. But he can handle it. He's a good Christian boy.
He has no vices, and he's obedient to his parents and seems to have
pretty good Bible knowledge."
So at the age of sixteen
I started giving hour lectures in front of whole congregations.
I was assigned first to a group in Sweetwater, Texas, and then,
eventually, in Brownfield, Texas, I got my first congregation. At
age twenty, I had become what they call a pioneer minister.
Jehovah's Witnesses have
a very sophisticated training program, and they also have kind of
a quota system. You have to devote ten to twelve hours a month to
door-to-door preaching. It's like sales management. IBM has nothing
on these guys.
So when I became a pioneer
minister, I devoted most of my full time to doing the door-to-door
ministry. I had to do like 100 hours a month, and I had to have
seven Bible studies. I started lecturing other congregations. I
began to get a lot of responsibility, and I was accepted at a school
in Brooklyn, New York, a very elite school that Jehovah's Witnesses
have for the crème de la crème, the top one percent. But I didn't
A few things no longer made
sense to me. For example, the quota system. It seemed like every
time I wanted to turn a corner and get into another position of
responsibility, I had to do these secular material things to prove
my godliness. It's like if you meet your quotas this month, God
loves you. If you don't meet your quotas next month, God doesn't
love you. That didn't make very much sense. One month God loves
me and one month He doesn't?
The other thing I started
noticing is tunnel vision. Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones
who are going to be saved in God's new order, nobody else, because
all of them are practicing false religions. Well, I thought, Mother
Teresa's a Catholic. That's our dire enemy. So I said, Wait a minute,
Mother Teresa has spent her entire life doing things that Jesus
said: take care of the poor, the sick, the orphans. But she's not
going to have God's favour because she's a Catholic?
We criticized the Catholic
Church because they had a man, a priest, to whom they had to confess.
And we'd say, "You shouldn't have to go to a man to confess your
sins! Your sin is against God!" And yet we went to a Body of Elders.
You confessed your sins to them, and they put you on hold, and said
[Elder as telephone operator:] "Hold on just a minute . . . What
do you think, Lord? No? . . . Okay, I'm sorry, we tried our best
but you're not repentant enough. Your sin is too big, so you either
lose your fellowship in the church or you're going to be on probation."
If the sin is against God,
shouldn't I directly go to God and beg for mercy?
Probably the nail that hit
the coffin was that I noticed that they started reading their Bible
less. Jehovah's Witnesses have books for everything that are put
out by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The only people on
the entire planet who know how to interpret Bible Scripture correctly
are that group of men, that committee in Brooklyn, who tell Jehovah's
Witnesses worldwide how to dress, how to talk, what to say, what
not to say, how to apply Scripture and what the future is going
to be like. God told them, so they can tell us. I appreciated the
books. But if the Bible is the book of knowledge and if it's God's
instructions, well, shouldn't we get our answers out of the Bible?
Paul himself said find out for yourself what is a true and acceptable
word of God. Don't let men tickle your ears.
I started saying, "Don't
worry so much about what the Watchtower says - read the Bible for
yourself." Ears started to prick up.
[Old Southerner's drawl:]
"I think we got us an apostate here, Judge. Yup. I think this old
boy's one taco short of something."
Even my father said, "You
better watch it, young man, that's the demons talking right there.
That's the demons trying to get in and cause division."
I said, "Dad, it's not the
demons. People don't need to read so much of these other publications.
They can find their answers with prayer and in the Bible."
Spiritually I no longer
felt at ease. So in 1979, knowing that I could not make headway,
I left, disgruntled and with a bad taste in my mouth, because all
my life I had put my soul, my heart, my mind into the church. That
was the problem. I didn't put it in God. I put it in a man-made
I can't go to other religions.
As a Jehovah's Witness, I had been trained, through the Scriptures,
to show that they are all wrong. That idolatry is bad. Trinity doesn't
I'm like a man without a
religion. I was not a man without a God. But where could I go?
In 1985, I decided to come
to Los Angeles and get on the Johnny Carson show and make my mark
as a great comedian and actor. I have always felt like I was born
for something. I didn't know whether it was going to be finding
the cure to cancer or becoming an actor. I kept praying and it got
frustrating after a while.
So I just went to the Catholic
church close to my house, and I tried it. I remember on Ash Wednesday
I had that ash cross on my forehead. I was trying anything I could.
I went for about two or three months, and I just couldn't do it
anymore, man. It was:
Stand up. Sit down.
Stand up. Sit down.
Okay, stick your tongue out.
You got a lot of exercise. I think I lost about five pounds. But
that's about it. So now I'm more lost than ever.
But it never passed through my mind that there is not a Creator.
I have His phone number, but the line's always busy. I'm doing my
little movie shots. A film called Deadly Intent. A telephone commercial
in Chicago. An Exxon commercial. A couple of bank commercials. In
the meantime I'm doing construction work on the side.
We're working on this mall.
It's the holiday season, and they put these extra booths in the
hallways. There was a gal at one, and we had to pass right in front
of her. I'd say, "Good morning, how are you?" If she said anything,
it was "Hi." And that was it.
Finally, I said, "Miss,
you never say anything. I just wanted to apologize if there was
something I said wrong."
She said, "No, you see,
I'm a Muslim."
"I'm a Muslim, and Muslim
women, we don't talk to men unless we have something specific to
talk about; otherwise we don't have anything to do with men."
She said, "Yes, we practice
the religion of Islam."
"Islam - how do you spell
At the time, I knew that
Muslims were all terrorists. She doesn't even have a beard. How
could she possibly be Muslim?
"How did this religion get
"Well, there was a prophet."
I started some research.
But I just came from one religion. I had no intention of becoming
The holidays are over. The
booth moves. She's gone.
I continued to pray, and
asked why my prayers weren't being answered. In November of 1991,
I was going to bring my uncle Rockie home from the hospital. I started
to empty his drawers to pack his stuff and there was a Gideon Bible.
I said, God has answered my prayers. This Gideon Bible. (Of course,
they put it in every hotel room.) This is a sign from God that He's
ready to teach me. So I stole the Bible.
I went home and I started
praying: O God, teach me to be a Christian. Don't teach me the Jehovah's
Witness way. Don't teach me the Catholic way. Teach me Your way!
You would not have made this Bible so hard that ordinary people
sincere in prayer could not understand it.
I got all the way through
the New Testament. I started the Old Testament. Well, eventually
there's a part in the Bible about the prophets.
I said, Wait a minute, that
Muslim lady said they had a prophet. How come he's not in here?
I started thinking, Muslims
- one billion in the world. Man, one out of every five people on
the street theoretically could be a Muslim. And I thought: One billion
people! C'mon now, Satan is good. But he's not that good.
So then I said, I'll read
their book, the Qur'an, and I'll see what kind of pack of lies this
thing is. It probably has an illustration on how to dissemble an
AK-47. So I went to an Arabic bookstore.
They asked, "What can I
help you with?"
"I'm looking for a Qur'an."
"Okay, we have some over
They had some very nice
ones - thirty dollars, forty dollars."
"Look, I just want to read
it, I don't want to become one, okay?"
"Okay, we have this little
five-dollar paperback edition."
I went home, and started
reading my Qur'an from the beginning, with Al-Fatihah. And I could
not get my eyes off of it.
Hey, look at this. It talks
about a Noah in here. We have Noah in our Bible too. Hey, it talks
about Lot and Abraham. I can't believe it. I never knew Satan's
name was Iblis. Hey, how about that.
When you get that picture
on your TV set and it's got a little bit of static and you push
that button [klop] - fine tune. That's exactly what happened with
I went through the whole
thing. So I said, Okay, I've done this, now what's the next thing
you got to do? Well, you gotta go to their meeting place. I looked
in the yellow pages, and I finally found it: Islamic Center of Southern
California, on Vermont. I called and they said, "Come on Friday."
Now I really start getting
nervous, `cause now I know I'm going to have to confront Habib and
I want people to understand
what it's like for an American Christian coming into Islam. I'm
kidding about the AK-47, but I don't know if these guys have daggers
under their coats, you know. So I come up to the front, and sure
enough, there's this six-foot-three, 240-pound brother, beard and
everything, and I'm just in awe.
I walked up and said, "Excuse
[Arabic accent:] "Go to
He thought I was already
I said, "Yessir, yessir"
I didn't know what I was
going back for, but I went back anyway. They had the tent and the
rugs were out. I'm standing there, kind of shy, and people are sitting
down listening to the lecture. And people are saying, Go ahead,
brother, sit down. And I'm going, No, thanks, no, thanks, I'm just
So finally the lecture's
over. They're all lined up for prayer and they go into sajdah. I
was really taken aback.
It started making sense
intellectually, in my muscles, in my bones, in my heart and my soul.
So prayers are over. I say,
hey, who's going to recognize me? So I start to mingle like I'm
one of the brothers, and I'm walking into the mosque and a brother
says, "Assalaamu alaikum." And I thought, Did he say "salt and bacon"?
There's another guy who
said "salt and bacon" to me.
I didn't know what in the
world they were saying, but they all smiled.
Before one of these guys
noticed that I was not supposed to be there and took me to the torture
chamber, or beheaded me, I wanted to see as much as I could. So
eventually I went to the library, and there was a young Egyptian
brother; his name was Omar. God sent him to me.
Omar comes up to me, and
he says, "Excuse me. This is your first time here?" He has a real
And I said, Yeah, it is.
"Oh, very good. You are
"No, I'm just reading a
"Oh, you are studying? This
is your first visit to a mosque?"
"Come, let me show you around."
And he grabs me by the hand, and I'm walking with another man -
holding hands. I said, These Muslims are friendly.
So he shows me around.
"First of all, this is our
prayer hall, and you take your shoes off right here."
"What are these things?"
"These are little cubicles.
That's where you put your shoes."
"Well, because you're approaching
the prayer area, and it's very holy. You don't go in there with
your shoes on; it's kept real clean."
So he takes me to the men's
"And right here, this is
where we do wudu."
"Voodoo! I didn't read anything
"No, not voodoo. Wudu!"
"Okay, because I saw that
stuff with the dolls and the pins, and I'm just not ready for that
kind of commitment yet."
He says, "No, wudu, that's
when we clean ourselves."
"Why do you do that?"
"Well, when you pray to
God, you have to be clean, so we wash our hands and feet."
So I learned all these things.
He let me go, and said, Come back again.
I went back and asked the
librarian for a booklet on prayer, and I went home and practiced.
I felt that if I was trying to do it right, God would accept it.
I just continued to read and read and visit the mosque.
I had a commitment to go
on a tour of the Midwest on a comedy circuit. Well, I took a prayer
rug with me. I knew that I was supposed to pray at certain times,
but there are certain places where you are not supposed to pray,
one of which is in the bathroom. I went into a men's room on a tourist
stop and I laid out my carpet and I started doing my prayers.
I came back, and when Ramadan
was over, I started getting calls from different parts of the country
to go and lecture as a Jehovah's Witness minister who embraced Islam.
People find me a novelty.
[Two immigrants converse:]
"This guy like apple pie
and he drives a Chevy truck. He is a red-blooded American boy. He
was a Jehovah's Witness."
"Those people that come
in the morning?"
"That never let us sleep
"Yeah, this guy was one
of them. Now he's one of us."
Eventually somebody would
come up to me and say [Pakistani accent], "Oh, brother, your talk
was so good. But you know, in the Shafi'i school of thought.."
The only thing I could do
was turn to them and say, "Gee, brother, I'm so sorry, I wish I
knew about that, but I don't know anything about Islam except what's
in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Some of them are taken aback
and say, "Ha-ha! Poor brother. He doesn't know anything. He only
knows the Qur'an."
Well, that's what I'm supposed
to know. And it's been a very loving protection. I think it's all
in Allah's hands."
George Anthony - Former Catholic
priest (Source, including photographs: http://www.islam.com.kw/3.htm#MY
JOURNEY TO ISLAM)
Fr. Antony was a Catholic priest in
Sri Lanka. His tale of becoming a true believer and adopting a name
Adulrahman for him is quite interesting. Being a Christian priest
he was well versed with the teachings of the Bible. He quotes the
Bible frequently as he sits to narrate his journey to Islam. While
reading the Bible he found many contradictions in it. He goes on
quoting verses from the Bible in Sinhalese language and points out
“He quotes Esaiah 9:12 which reads
like this.” And the book is delivered to him that is not learned,
saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith; I am not learned.”
This verse is a prophecy towards prophet Mohammed (pbuh), because
Mohammad (pubh) was an unlettered prophet and when he was an unlettered
prophet and when he was asked by Angel Gabrielto read out the first
divine revelation upon him he said, “I am not learned” Contrary
to the Christian belief that Jesus is God, Acts 2:22 of the Holy
Bible considers Jesus as a man. It says, “Ye men of Israel, hear
these words, jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you
by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst
of you, as ye yourself also know.”
Christianity and the other religions,
do not define the prophethood according to him. Nor does Bhudda
and is silent about the other prophets. Contrary to this it is compulsory
in Islam to believe in all the former Prophets and to revere them.
According to Abdulrahman this belief is quite convincing and appealing
to every body.
Abdulrahman says that there is no reason
for the restriction that a Roman Catholic priest cannot marry, when
the priests of many other sects of Christianity can marry. Abdulrahman
was pondering over the confusions of Christian belief. Meanwhile
he got an Audio Cassette of a converted Christian priest Sri Lanka
Shareef D Alwis. Cassettes of Ahmad Deedat also attracted him. His
continuous efforts to find the truth finally resulted in reversion
to Islam. Fr. George Antony
Abdulrahman, hails from the Rathnapura
village of Sri Lanka. He was rendering his services as a priest
in Katumayaka church. He has ten years of training of the priesthood
to his credit.
He wrote letters to his mother introducing
Islam. After months of studies she followed the path of her son
and embraced Islam. Abdurahman’s only sister is working in Greece.
His father and sister still remained Christians.
Abdurahman gave up his highly respected
career as a priest for the sake of truth. He happily sacrificed
all material gains for the spiritual triumph. He is now working
as a trainee in Islam Presentation Committee of Kuwait.
Dr. Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad
Omar) - Former missionary
Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad Omar) shows
how we can establish true faith by setting standards of truth. He
illustrates a simple but effective method of finding out the right
direction in our search for truth.
G.R. Miller is a mathematician and
a theologian. He was active in Christian missionary work at a particular
point of his life but he soon began to discover many inconsistencies
in the Bible. In 1978, he happened to read the Qur'an expecting
that it, too, would contain a mixture of truth and falsehood.
He discovered to his amazement that
the message of the Qur'an was precisely the same as the essence
of truth that he had distilled from the Bible. He became a Muslim
and since then has been active in giving public presentations on
Islam including radio and television appearances. He is also the
author of several articles and publications about Islam.
Some of his works are available at
Taken From: http://www.thetruereligion.org/