I was born in Cochin, Kerala in South India into a very orthodox Christian family with both my father’s and mother’s family members being very religious, belonging to the Protestant form of Christianity. Both my parents were school teachers. From my childhood, I was asked to read the Bible, although I never really understood what it was. For me, the Bible and the episodes in them were just like any other storybook. In fact, I was a Christian only because I was born into a Christian family.
As a child, I remember sitting on my maternal grandfather’s lap and staring at the wide skies, admiringly looking at all those majestic celestial bodies. While most of the times, I found the stars fixed to their location, sparkling in all their glories, sometimes, I found them falling away. Once, when a shooting star passed above us, I asked my grandfather what it was, he looked at me and said that it was the angel, Michael. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend the concept of angels, so I just looked at him bewildered, but I never got any clear signs. As years passed on, when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I often used to have strange dreams.
I had never really understood what they were about. There was no one, I could go and narrate these experiences to. But years later, I would have this dream again and this would change my life forever.
Conversion I had come to Bangalore for my higher studies, after completing my schooling in Kerala. Being devoid of any Muslim influence in my early years, I was completely unaware of Islam. I was very ignorant of its teachings and I used to think that Muslims worship the moon. This erroneous belief about Islam had crept into me because I had often seen the symbol of a moon, star and the number 786 in Muslim places of worship and businesses. Some three years after arriving in the city, I made some Muslim friends.
Being a Christian, I used to drink and even go to parties frequently, and my only goal was to complete my studies and settle down abroad. Even my Muslim friends had a similar lifestyle. I didn’t see any difference between them and me, except for the one, who often got taunted as ‘Maulvi saab’, for being a strict adherent of Islam, the rest of them lived their lives, totally devoid of it. In fact, some of them even used to consume alcohol. One day, I got around asking, ‘Maulvi saab’ what Islam was about. With whatever knowledge he had about the faith, he started explaining to me the concept of Allaah, the Quran and the Prophet (SAWS). One of the things he told me was that “Your Jesus is our Isa. He is a prophet of God and is mentioned in the Qur’an”.
This was something that really impressed me. For the first time, I felt there was a similarity between Islam and Christianity and it got me really curious. It was during this time of kindling the inner self, that I saw the dream again. The dream was distinctly clear, and it forced me to flee from fright. What unfurled before I was something like “The Final Episode”, the very end of the world. I dreamt that as I stood and watched in horror the mountains crumbled to dust. The trees were uprooted and started flying, even the cattle were flying. All the houses were turning to dust and that heavy wind was carrying away everything.
The Earth was spread out into barren land. I couldn’t comprehend the events and I was so scared that I ran out of the house at around 2 AM in the night. This really made me think that something is wrong somewhere in my life.
Years later, I would find a mention of a similar event in the Quran in Surah Al-Waqiah verses 4:6. I went to a church some days later and related my dream to a priest and even asked him several questions about Christianity. He didn’t have any satisfactory answers to any of them. He even said, I stop asking such questions, and instead just believe in the Christian faith, without having any doubts. Sometime after this, my friend ‘Maulvi saab’ asked me to accompany him to the masjid for prayers. I had never given this a thought, but when he asked I was only glad to go.
It was after Isha prayers. Everyone had left, and we were the last ones to enter. I still remember, when I bowed my head, as my friend did, I had a calm and comforting experience that I had never felt before. Truth be told, I had never bowed to anyone in my life before, and that day bowing before the creator of the world soothed my heart and mind. The next day, I decided to offer Salah on a Jum’ah. As I entered the masjid I looked at the people around me. Someone was washing his leg so I washed my leg first, I saw someone else washing the hand, so I washed the hand and yet someone was washing their face so I washed my face.
That’s how I offered my Salah. I was totally impressed by the way Muslims offered prayers and by the rituals. As I kept reading more about Islam, I started getting closer to Allaah. I found a copy of the Qur’an in English in a masjid and I began reading verses mentioning Jesus. I read Surah Maryam verse 30, Surah An-Nisa verse 157, Surah As-Saff verse 6 and Surah Al-Maeda verse 116. What I read blew me away. Before I could even realise, deep down in my heart, I had begun to accept that Islam was the true deen. When I asked ‘Maulvi saab’ for help, he gave me the address of an institution in Kerala established in 1906, which helps people who want to embrace Islam and I travelled to that place from Bangalore.
On meeting them, I said that I wanted to become a Muslim. They asked me if I believe in Allaah; being reluctant to say Allaah I said I believe in God and they confirmed my belief in the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). They then asked me to shave my head, basically trying to test my enthusiasm and I agreed. They gave me a room to stay, which had some 150 students studying there. At night something unusual happened. I felt someone whispering in my ears such that I could even feel the breath: “What are you doing? Are you leaving Jesus? Why are you going to the religion of Shaytan?” At this, I felt very disturbed. I felt the need to seek refuge in God and I prayed to the True God that if I was doing something wrong, I shouldn’t get any sleep but if I was doing right, may He give me sound sleep. I didn’t know when I fell asleep, but after some time, I was woken by someone saying,
“It’s Fajr Salaah”. SubhanAllah! Allaah gave me such a sound sleep. I stayed there for 21 days. I was instructed in the basics of school and circumcised. And from that time on I have never looked back. Christianity Before coming to Islam I never questioned much about my religion, although, there were always contradictions in my mind. Whenever I read the Old Testament its concept of Jehovah attracted me. I would feel that is the true concept of God, Our Creator. But only because of my parents, I had to believe that Jesus was God and the Son of God, but personally, I did not have any satisfactory answer for such a belief. While reading the New Testament, I started getting more and more doubts about Jesus.
It says Jesus prayed “Our Father in Heaven,” and I started thinking that if Jesus is God why should he pray to somebody? Also upon being put on the cross he is quoted as saying “Oh My God, Why have you forsaken me?” this is something unacceptable for if Jesus was God or the son of God shouldn’t he have enough power to just walk away? How could it be that a Divine being is so helpless? I asked my mother about Ibraheem (AS) and she said he was a Prophet. In fact, the Bible wrongly describes Prophets of God as mere kings, like Solomon and David etc. And this portrayal of Prophets as kings was something utterly confusing in Christianity for me. She continued to say that from Prophet Ibraheem’s son Isaac we have the Children of Israel, the chosen people of God whereas the Muslims are from Ismail and he is not the original son. I asked her that if it was so, then which son did Abraham take for sacrifice. The Christians say that Abraham sacrificed Isaac, but Isaac was born later so that is contradictory.
I then asked where the place Ibraheem (AS) made the sacrifice is. To this question, they had no answer. I know today that they will accept Islam if they know that the place of sacrifice is Kaa’ba, the Holy place of Islam. Islam Islam has made me a strong believer in Jesus (May peace be upon him), more than Christianity ever could have. Today, I pray like him, have a beard like him and even dress like him. Islam has the ability to grant the maximum contentment and peace of heart and mind to a human being. Today,
I run my own business and the dawah organization Amity Peace Foundation, through which I distribute free Qur’ans to non-Muslims. I come across a lot of people every day, who are non-Muslims. I make it a point that I talk to them about Islam. If I don’t, I feel I am doing a great injustice to them. When people talk about Islam, they often use the term religion to describe it, however, Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life. Encountering Islam is like opening a brand new iPhone. Using it for the first time one needs to look up the “instruction manual”.
Now, as long as the device is functioning according to the manual, it’s called iPhone, but if it doesn’t comply with the standard specifications one would return it to the shop and ask for a replacement. We must remember our “User manual” from Allah is the Qur’an and one is Muslim only as long as he is functioning according to the Qur’an and following the Prophet (SAW). Our foremost duty is to understand the Qur’an for it is the Word of Allaah.” Read in the name of your Lord” should be our motivation. As a revert to Islam, I often get asked how one should approach the Qur’an. I say, if one desires to read the Qur’an, one should not come with an intention to find mistakes in it or to attack Muslims or Islam but rather to look at it with an unbiased mind. I myself read the Qur’an with an intention to understand the book because more than attacking anybody for me the salvation of my soul is more important. This should be our attitude to approach the Qur’an while being ready to accept the truth whichever quarter it comes from.
How I Found Islam by Saeed Ibn George. As told to Shaik Zakeer Hussain.