How She Found God

stepping-stonesBeing a Muslim, I am very much interested in listening to the stories of reverts. It really fascinates me, how people of different religions come into Islam by their own will. And all of them have beautiful stories of how they are guided by Allah (swt) to the true religion and to the one and only God.

On Wednesday night, 10th December, 2014, a Columbian lady came to my house with her husband and two little daughters: Shazia and Hanan. Actually, she was my father’s old friend’s wife. She was clad in a black Abaya with a scarf neatly tucked onto her face. Her mother tongue was Spanish, and so her daughters could only speak Spanish. They all were sitting in our drawing room, when the two cuties saw the whiteboard in our basement, and they wanted to write on it. So we all went into the basement and they just started playing. A huge smile came on their faces and they got busy. It was then that the Columbian lady told me that she reverted to Islam in 2001, and before that she was a Catholic.

I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly.

I was excited to know that she was a revert. I wanted to know everything about her journey to Islam. So we went upstairs at the dining table to talk. She asked me where and what was I studying. And then told me that she herself was a costume designer. She went to USA to get her degree in costume designing, as she was very passionate about it. I then asked her; “So how did you find your way to Islam and Allah (swt)?” She said; “Okay, so let me tell you my story. But I want all of you to listen; your mother, brother and sisters.” So I called my siblings and mom. We all sat at the dining table, eager to hear from her. As she recently learned English from USA, so her English accent was a mixture of Spanish and American English, which sounded really sweet.

She started off with her story. “I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly. I used to go to the church and ask the nuns: ‘Why can’t I pray to God directly? Why do I have to pray to the priests and saints as intermediaries?’ She said that’s how it was. But her answer did not satisfy me. I told her again: ‘Tell me a way, through which I’ll be able to pray to God directly.’ She told me: ‘For that, you will have to become a nun.’ Obviously I never wanted to become a nun, as I wanted to get married and have kids. This caused so much chaos in my mind that I just told myself that I wasn’t a part of any religion. However, it was somewhere in my mind that there is a God… the One Who created me.” She told.

“There were some thoughts that kept coming to my mind. I knew deep inside that there was a Creator – the One, Who created me. And I really wanted to pray to Him. My mother was a very practicing Catholic, whereas my father wasn’t that practicing.”  “He’s an artist.” She added, looking at a painting on our staircase wall.

“I went to USA to do my career in costume designing, as I loved clothes. During my stay in USA, I used to live alone in an apartment with my younger brother. Since a very young age, my parents had taught me to be sincere and truthful. I used to tell myself: ‘Keep it clean.’ My brother had gotten into bad company, and his conduct was worsening day by day. I was getting very depressed for him, because back at home in Columbia, my parents were thinking that my brother was doing well, as he was living with his elder sister, i.e., me. But sadly, little did they know that the reality was very different. When I could not bear my brother’s ill behaviour any more, I told him to leave my apartment and live where ever he wanted. From then on, I was living alone. I was very disturbed. I started thinking about life, my purpose, God… I was in a state of utter confusion.

As I had to earn for my living, I started a part time job as an office cleaner. The job of cleaning is very beloved to me as God guided me to Himself through this simple job. So one day, I was alone in the office, and it was very late. I was exhausted. I went clumsily to get the cleaning equipment. Then, with a lot of effort, I cleaned the office. As I was tying the garbage bag, all of a sudden it fell on the carpet and all the tiny pieces of paper were scattered on the carpet that I just cleaned. Although I was drained out, I had to clean everything again – otherwise, my boss would get angry. So instead of bringing all the equipment again from the store, I sat on my knees and started picking up the mess with my hands. As I was on my knees, a very strange thought came to my mind; I am on my knees. I am humbling myself in front of whom? In front of this garbage just to please my boss? Why can’t I humble myself to God? Why?”

“You know, I used to write these thoughts in a diary. I still have that diary. Because I knew these thoughts were not mine. And I was scared I would forget these thoughts, so I secured them in the form of writing. I was lost in these thoughts. At times I felt like I was getting crazy. I never felt like partying anymore. My friends and I used to party a lot every weekend. But later, whenever they called me I used to refuse. I wanted solitude. I told them, “Leave me alone please.” I started thinking about life. I started thinking: whom am I worshipping? What are my desires? My career – costume designing? Is that it? Is this what I will be doing all life?

I felt empty and purposeless. I missed my brother, too. I prayed to God in my own way; I prayed that my brother comes back home. And after a few days, he did come back. This strengthened my belief that we can communicate to God directly without any intermediaries. And God listens to our prayers.

Now, when I look back, I realize that God was guiding me step by step. So one day, I was in my university library working on an assignment on the computer. I needed some assistance in setting up a program on the computer, so I went up to the librarian. She was a young lady, who wore Hijab. And she was writing an essay on Islam. I don’t know what happened to me, but I asked her if I could read her essay. She was astonished. She asked me, if I was interested in Islam. I told her: “I don’t mind reading your essay. I’m very open minded.” So she took my email address and gave her number to me. She said she’d mail me her essay. Her name was Zahida.

After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism.

So, I went home, read the essay. I was not intrigued by it. My depression phase continued… After some time, I had opted for another job of a house cleaner. Due to my parents’ upbringing, there were some values that were ingrained in my mind: to do every work with perfection and not to steal or lie in any case. Hence, I was a perfectionist even at cleaning. I used to clean every corner of the house. One day, I was cleaning this house, working too hard to clean it well. Suddenly, a thought struck my mind that why am I being so cautious while working? I am not stealing even though there’s nobody looking at me. Why? Because of recompense from my boss. I immediately got my answer to “What is life?” and “What is our purpose in life?”  I thought just like I’m working sincerely because of recompense from my boss; similarly, in life, whatever we do, there will be a recompense from God for all our deeds. I immediately went into prostration and I was crying like a baby, although I knew nothing about prostration. It was just automatic, by default. I thought this was a last push from God for me to come to the true path.

I went back home and wrote about all this in my diary. Then I called Zahida (that Muslim librarian) and told her: “I don’t know why I feel like crying and I feel like talking to you only Zahida.” I told her about my recent thoughts. She told me: “God does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” I found these words so beautiful and soothing. I cried when I heard them. I asked her, if these were her own words. She told me these are from the Quran. I told her I wanted Quran. She told me she would send it to me with translation in my language i.e. Spanish. In the meanwhile, she gave me Hadeeth-e-Qudsi (Hadeeth Qudsi are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) as revealed to him by the Almighty Allah (swt). Hadeeth Qudsi (or Sacred Hadeeth) are so named because, unlike the majority of Hadeeth which are Prophetic Hadeeth, their authority (Sanad) is traced back, not to the Prophet but to the Almighty) to read. The Hadeeth-e-Qudsi touched my heart deeply. I knew this was the true religion that I was searching for. And Alhumdulillah, I took my Shahada.”

After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism. Subhan’Allah! She told me: “My parents named me Monica. But after accepting Islam, I named myself Sakina.” Sakina means: tranquility, devout, God-inspired peace of mind.

When leaving our house, Sakina hugged me warmly. And her daughters just clung on to me. They didn’t want to leave. I asked Sakina how to say “Come back soon!” in Spanish. “Regrato pronto!” she told me cheerfully. I asked her the same for “I love you”. “Te quiero mucho!” she said. I kissed her lovely daughters saying “Te quiero mucho.”

This beautiful sister left such a deep impact on my soul. How she yearned to pray to Allah (swt), how she cried, while prostrating. And then I thought of how strong her faith was, Masha’Allah. Most of us are born in Muslim families, but we hardly strive to find Allah (swt) and build a connection with Him. The signs are everywhere… if only we strive to seek for Him.

Part 2 – Chaplain Yusuf Estes

lightMy father was very active in supporting church work, especially church school programs. He became an ordained minister in the 1970’. He and his wife (my stepmother) knew many of the TV evangelists and preachers and even visited Oral Roberts and helped in the building of the “Prayer Tower” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were also strong supporters of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker, Jerry Fallwell, John Haggy and the biggest enemy to Islam in America, Pat Robertson. Dad and his wife worked together and were most active in recording “Praise” tapes and distributing them for free to people in retirement homes, hospitals and homes for the elderly.

In 1991, he began doing business with a man in Egypt and told me that he wanted me to meet him. Then my father mentioned that this man was a “Moslem.” I couldn’t believe my ears. A Moslem, no way! I reminded dad of the various things we had heard about these people, how they are terrorists, hijackers, kidnappers, bombers and who knows what else! Not only that, but they don’t believe in God, kiss the ground five times a day, and worship a black box in the desert. My father insisted that I meet him, however, and reassured me that he was a very nice person. So I gave in and agreed to the meeting.

I was looking for a huge man with flowing robes and a big turban on his head, a beard halfway down his shirt and eyebrows that go all the way across his forehead. But this man had no beard. In fact, he didn’t have hair on his head at all; close to bald. And he was very pleasant with a warm welcome and handshake. It didn’t make sense. I thought Muslims were terrorists and bombers; what was this guy all about?

I decided to get the right to work on him. He needed to be “saved”, and the Lord and I were going to do it! I was winning souls to the Lord day after day, and this would be a big achievement for me – to catch one of these “Moslems” and convert him to Christianity.

I asked him, if he liked tea, and he said he did. So off we went to a little shop in the mall to sit and talk about my favorite subject – beliefs. We talked about the concept of God, the meaning of life, the purpose of creation, the prophets and their mission, and how God reveals His will to mankind. We also shared a lot of personal experiences and ideas. Constantly on business trips, we became good friends.

One day, I came to know that my friend, Muhammad, was going to move out of the home he had been sharing with someone and would be living in the mosque for a time. I went to my dad and suggested that we could invite Muhammad to our big home in the country and he could stay there with us. After all, he could share some of the work and expenses, and he would be there whenever we were ready to travel. My father agreed, and Muhammad moved in.

I recall asking Muhammad how many versions of it were there. He told me that there was only one Quran and that it had never been changed.

One day, while visiting a friend in the hospital, I met a Catholic priest in a wheelchair, who seemed extremely depressed. The priest began to share his story of being a missionary for over twelve years in South and Central America, in Mexico and even in New York’s “Hell Kitchen.” When he was released from the hospital, he needed a place to recover. Rather than let him go to stay with a Catholic family, I suggested my dad that we invite him to come and live with us in the country, along with our families and Muhammad. It was agreed to by all.

After settling in, we all began to gather around the kitchen table after dinner every night to discuss religion. My father would bring his King James Version of the Bible, I would bring out my Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and my wife had another version of the Bible (maybe Jimmy Swaggart’s Good News for Modern Man). The priest, of course, had the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books it than Protestant Bible). We spent more time talking about which Bible was the right one or the most correct, than we did trying to convince Muhammad about becoming a Christian.

In the meantime, I had finally read the Quran in translation. I recall asking Muhammad how many versions of it were there. He told me that there was only one Quran and that it had never been changed. He also let me know that the Quran had been memorized in its entirety by hundreds of thousands of people in many different countries. Over the centuries, millions have memorized it completely and taught it to others, letter perfect without mistakes.

This did not seem possible to me. After all, the original language of the Bible had been a dead language for centuries, and the original documents had long been lost.

One day, the priest asked Muhammad, if he might accompany him to the mosque to see what it was like there. They came back talking about the experience, and we could not wait to ask the priest what it was like and what types of ceremonies they had performed. He said they just prayed and left. I said, “They left without any speeches or singing?” He said that was right.

A few more days went by and the Catholic priest asked Muhammad, if he might join him again for a trip to the mosque. But this time, they did not come back for a very long while. It became dark and we got worried that something might have happened to them. When they finally came in the door, I immediately recognized Muhammad, but who was this with him wearing a white robe and cap? It was the priest! The priest had become a Muslim!

I immediately recognized Muhammad, but who was this with him wearing a white robe and cap? It was the priest! The priest had become a Muslim!

So I went upstairs to think about things over a bit and began to talk to my wife about the subject. She then told me that she too, was thinking to enter Islam, because she knew it was the truth. I was really shocked then. I went downstairs and woke up Muhammad and asked him to come outside with me for a discussion. We walked and talked that whole night through. By the time he was ready to pray the morning prayer, I knew that the truth had become clear at last and then it was up to me to do my part. Behind my father’s house, I found an old piece of plywood and right there I put my head down on the ground facing the direction, in which Muslims pray five times a day.

In that position, with my head on the ground, I prayed, “O God, if You are there, guide me, guide me.” After a while, I raised my head and noticed something. No, I didn’t see birds or angels coming out of the sky, nor did I hear voices or music, nor did I see bright lights or flashes. What I noticed was a change inside me. I was aware then that it was time for me to stop lying and cheating and doing sneaky business deals. It was time that I really worked at being honest and upright man. So I went upstairs and took a shower with the distinct idea that I was “washing” away the sinful old person that I had become over the years. I was now coming into a new, fresh life – a life based on truth and proof.

Around 11:00 a.m. that morning, I stood before two witnesses, one the ex-priest (formerly known as Father Peter Jacobs) and the other Muhammad Abdul Rahman, and announced my Shahadah (testimony to the oneness of God and the prophet hood of Muhammad (sa)). A few minutes later, my wife followed suit and gave the same testimony.

My father was a bit more reserved on the subject and waited a few more months, before he made his commitment. But he did finally accept Islam and began offering prayers right along with me and the other Muslims in the local mosque. My father’s wife was the last to acknowledge that Jesus could not be a son of God, but that he was a mighty prophet of God.

Our children were taken out of Christian school and placed in Islamic schools. And now, ten years later, they were memorizing much of the Quran and the teachings of Islam.

If I were to stop here, I’m sure you would have to admit that this is an amazing story. But it is not all. The same year I met a Baptist seminary student from Tennessee who came to Islam after reading the Holy Quran while being in Baptist Seminary College! There were others as well. I recall the case of Catholic priest in a college town who talked about the good things in Islam so much that I was compelled to ask him why he didn’t enter Islam. He replied, “What? And lose my job?” His name was Father John, and there is hope for him yet.

The very next year, I met a former Catholic priest, who had been a missionary for eight years in Africa. He learned about Islam while he was there and embraced it. He then changed his name to Omar and moved to Dallas, Texas. Two years later while in San Antonio, Texas, I was introduced to a former Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Russia, who learned about Islam and gave up his position to enter Islam.

I have encountered many more individuals, who were leaders, teachers and scholars of other religions, who learned about Islam and entered into it

I have encountered many more individuals, who were leaders, teachers and scholars of other religions, who learned about Islam and entered into it, from amongst Hindus, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Coptic Christians, non- denominational churches and even scientists who had once been atheists. Why? Because they all became aware of the truth. I suggest to any seeker of truth the following:

  • Open your mind, heart and soul.
  • Clear away all prejudices and biases.
  • Read a good translation of the meaning of the Holy Quran in the language you understand the best.
  • Take time.
  • Read and reflect.
  • Think and pray.
  • Continue asking the One who created you to guide you to the truth.
  • Keep this up for a few months and be regular in it.
  • Above all, do not let others who are poisoned in their thinking influence you while you are in this state of “rebirth of the soul.”

The rest is between you and the Almighty Lord of the universe. If you truly love Him, then He already knows it, and He will deal with each of us according to what is in our hearts.

May Allah (swt) guide you on your journey to truth. And may He open your heart and your mind to the reality of this world and the purpose of this life. And peace to you and guidance from Allah (swt), the One Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer, of all that exists.

Source: “An Undeniable Fact – Prominent Church People Enter Islam” by Dr. Abdurahim bin Mazher Al- Malki. Excerpt printed by permission of the publisher Dar Abul-Qasim, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (www.abulqasimbooks.com).           

Part 1 – Chaplain Yusuf Estes

islam_christianI was born in Ohio, raised and educated in Texas, and made a living as a successful marketing entrepreneur and preacher of Christianity. My ethnic background is English- Native American, Irish and German. I was what they call a “WASP” (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). My family moved to Texas in 1949, while I was still in grade school.

I grew up in a very religious home. My parents and their relatives, they were all “good Christians.” Basically, that means they never drank alcohol except on very special occasions; and never gambled except for playing Bingo at the church. Religion was a real part of my life. I thoroughly believed in God, and the Bible as His word. Our church was originally called only “Christian Church.” It wasn’t until I turned ten or twelve years old, when the church “split” into two different groups that we started calling ourselves “Disciples of Christ.”

My father was an ordained minister, and also very active in church work as a Sunday school minister and fundraiser for Christian schools. He was “the expert” on the Bible and its translations. It was through my father that I came to know about the various versions, translations and editions of the Bible, as well as, the introduction of pagan worship into Christianity about the time of the emperor, Constantine (325 C.E.). He, like many preachers, would answer the question, “Did God actually write the Bible?” by saying, “The Bible is the inspired word of man from God.” Basically, it means humans (inspired humans, but humans just the same) wrote the Bible. That sufficiently explains the errors, mistakes, deletions and additions which have crept in and fallen out over the years. He would add, “But it is still the word of God as inspired to man.”

It was through my father that I came to know about the various versions, translations and editions of the Bible, as well as, the introduction of pagan worship into Christianity about the time of the emperor, Constantine (325 C.E.)

God was always on my mind. I was baptized into the “spirit” at age twelve and even the minister (an ex-Jew who accepted Jesus) was surprised by my seriousness and intent on being a “full, real follower of Christ.”

After growing up, I realized that I did not want to be a preacher. I was too afraid that I might be a hypocrite or call people to something that I myself didn’t truly understand. After all, I had “accepted the Lord” and considered myself a true Christian, but at the same time I could not resolve the idea of God being One and at the same time “Three.” And if He is the Father, how could He also be Son? And then, what about the Holy Ghost? (Later they changed that to the “Spirit.”) But my big question was always the same, “How does three equal one?”

Over the years, I had tried to “find” God in many different ways. I checked out Buddhism, Hinduism, Metaphysics, Taoism, different forms of Christianity and Judaism. The one most attractive to me was a combination of Gnosticism (Christian mysticism), Cabbalism (Jewish mysticism) and Metaphysics. This actually is a form of pantheism (God being throughout His creation) and is similar to the claims of some Sufi mystics of today. But this concept repulsed me because I did not want to imagine myself as being a “part of God.”

God is Pure! God is Perfect! God is All-knowing and aware of all things! So how could I repeat what I was hearing from other preachers, “In a way, we are all gods… Read the Bible: ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’” (Psalms 82:6 and John 10:34)

The rationalization which comes about in the books attributed to the Apostle Saul (who changed his name to Paul) is full of statements which basically cancel the Torah (or law of the Old Testament). He claims it is a matter of how you “understand” something that makes it permissible or forbidden. As an example, in the English Revised Standard Version it says in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Romans 14:14)

And again in the same letter: “So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Roman 14:16)

By such statements, Paul destroyed the authority of Old Testament commandments. Yet, in the same English version of the Bible in the first book of the New Testament, We are told that Jesus preached a message contrary to that of St. Paul:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth shall pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches them so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)

According to Paul’s testimony in his letter to the new Roman Christians, he not only was relaxing the least of these commandments, but basically that if one doesn’t consider something evil, then it’s not!

I just felt that something was wrong in this message and decided to upload the Commandments according to the Old Testament as much as I could. That would mean circumcision, no pork, no sex outside marriage, no adultery, and no worship of creation. This would be in compliance with the verse which says: “You shall have no other gods before (i.e., besides) Me. You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)

It seemed reasonable to me that there should only be one God. He alone should be in charge, set the rules and give the orders. This life would be a test for those who really loved Him and followed His commandments.

It seemed reasonable to me that there should only be one God. He alone should be in charge, set the rules and give the orders. This life would be a test for those who really loved Him and followed His commandments.

I tried not to deal with these issues for many years. But I was now approaching the age of fifty and needed to do something for the Lord. After all, He had done everything for me. Sometimes I would join with missionaries to preach in Mexico. We travelled together, praised the Lord, shared in “the spirit,” and went wherever the “the spirit led us.” One of my preacher friends used to carry a huge cross on his shoulder and would drag it down the highway, giving out mini-Bibles to those who cared to stop and visit. I took my Bible everywhere and was very fast to whip it out and preach the message.

There was only one problem: What was the message? For a while, I accepted the answer of the “born-agains” – the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. “He died for your sins! He paid the price of redemption! He is the risen Son of God! Jesus is Lord!” I preached that message myself and thought I understood it well as anyone. But I remember hearing another preacher say one time. “Don’t leave your brain in the parking lot with your car.”

Then it hit me that I should start thinking about the very serious problems and real facts about my religion.

  • The Bible was never written in English, so what was the original language of the Bible and who actually wrote it?
  • The Bible does not exist in its original form anywhere on earth.
  • The Catholic Bible has seven more books than the Protestant Bible, and these two Bibles have different versions of the same books. There are too many mistakes, and the errors are obvious throughout the text.
  • Born-again Christians teach the concepts that are not from the Bible.
  • There is no mention of the word “Trinity” in the Bible in any version of any language.
  • The oldest forms of Christianity do not conform to today’s “born-again” beliefs.
  • Jesus of the English Bible complains to God about the crucifixion: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?”

I began to ask many questions, such as:

  • How can Jesus be the “only begotten son” in John 3:16, while in Psalms 2:7, David is also God’s “begotten son?”
  • Would a “just” God, a “fair” God, a “loving” God- punish Jesus for the sins of the people that he called to follow him?
  • How could God create Himself?
  • How can God be a man or a man be God?
  • How can God have a son?
  • Couldn’t God just forgive us and not have to kill Jesus?
  • Isn’t it true that Jesus did not claim to be God or equal to God?

One day, while I was still a Christian, I came to know that Muslims believed in Gospel. I was shocked. How could this be?

I began to pray like this: “God, let Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” I used this particular phrase for a good length of time. During all that, I consciously chose faith in God. It was faith, without really having reason to believe, but choosing to do so anyway. Some preachers would say that often God seems far away or non-existent, so keep faith! Trust God even though you don’t see Him at all. So that is what I did.

One day, while I was still a Christian, I came to know that Muslims believed in Gospel. I was shocked. How could this be? But that’s not all, they believe in Jesus:

  • a true messenger of God.
  • as a prophet of God.
  • and his miraculous birth without human intervention.
  • as the “Christ” or Messiah predicted in the Bible.
  • as being with God now.
  • and his returning to earth in the last days to lead the believers against the Antichrist.

It was too much for me; especially because the evangelists we used to travel with hated Muslims and Islam very much. They even said things that were not true to make people afraid of Islam.

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

Source: “An Undeniable Fact – Prominent Church People Enter Islam” by Dr. Abdurahim bin Mazher Al- Malki. Excerpt printed by permission of the publisher Dar Abul-Qasim, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (www.abulqasimbooks.com).