Former Operations Manager, Dallas Central Mosque, Texas
Now Professor Dr. in a Dallas University
American Family Converted to Islam
My father was a Jew and my mother a not very religious Christian. With this mix I started and ended up taking first communion in the Catholic Church. I do not remember attending church regularly as a child. However, I do remember that once when I was very young (perhaps seven or eight years old) having a powerful experience in a Catholic church, a feeling that I was suddenly very light; a feeling that I was being lifted. Although I was too young to have burdens, it was a feeling that the "burden of the world" was being lifted from me. This was my first profoundly spiritual experience. As one of my earliest memories it remains with me to this day.
As a teenager, I was really into the psychedelic sixties and all that came with it. I looked for a deeper meaning in the lyrics of the Beatles,
Cat Stevens (now
Yusuf Islam), and the Moody Blues. I read metaphysical books, some philosophy, Carlos Castaneda, and more. I attended a Baptist church, and was even baptized one afternoon when I felt that powerful feeling again. I started reading the Bible in earnest and found myself reading only the 'red-ink-words' of Christ (as). Still, the people and the religion seemed to be lacking something that I knew was out there somewhere.
I continued to read and search. I practiced yoga, joined an ashram of Sikhs, read the Guru Granth Sahib; I married a Muslim woman that wasn't practicing Islam and began living in an ashram. Even though her father prayed five times a day, her parents did not teach her. [Hence, she too was always searching for the straight path.] This was a good thing for me. Otherwise, we would not have married and I would not have been placed in the life situations that I have found myself in that eventually led me to Islam. At any rate, we soon left the ashram. Soon I went to India, practiced Krya yoga, and joined SRF (Self Realization Fellowship). Still I always had this feeling that something was missing. I continued to study Taoism, and Buddhism and other religious teachings.
During much of this period, I was a Field Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army. After Desert Storm, and a few days in Iraq fighting the ground war, I attended a military school in Pakistan for a year. Of course, most of my classmates were Pakistani Muslims, and several were from other countries: Malaysia, Brunei, Syria, and Bangladesh, to name but a few. I became a close friend with two officers that were not what we would consider very good examples of Muslims [they smoked and drank on occasion!] However, despite their shortcomings, I was very impressed with them. And there were several Pakistani Muslims that impressed me even more. They were devoted; they had strength and dignity, humility and kindness, and many more traits that I had rarely seen in others in my travels. And certainly I had never seen so many people at one time with so many fine qualities. I decided that it must be their religion that had made them this way.
I read some about Islam and discovered the logic and simplicity that I had looked for in other dogmas. I was really struck by the fact that al-Qur'an was still in the original unchanged form [If there is a King James Version, then I'd like to see the version published before that?!]
And that ANYONE could read Hadith and learn what the Holy Prophet [PBUH] would have we Muslims do. One does not have to have a Pope, a priest, or a monk tells you what to do; there is no guesswork; it's all right there! Hence, towards the end of my year in Pakistan, I told two of my close friends that I would like to become a Muslim. They were astounded. Nonetheless, they met with two more of our friends that were following the Sunnah a bit more closely than they had been, and we arranged for me to say Asshadu anlaa ilaaha ilAllah... Four of us met, I became a Muslim, and was taught how make salah. I thank Allah for that glorious day and the days that led up to it.
There is a lot more to this, but the bottom-line is that: It was the kindness, humility, and excellent manners of Muslims, coupled with the system of straightforward Islamic ideals and way of life, which appealed most to my reason and my heart. This is why I am a Muslim now.
And yes, now my wife also practices Islam, as does our grown daughter. Even my mother has become a Muslimah! Al hamdu lilLah!