By Fozail Aqdas Ghazali
Abdul Aziz Lewis
When Rudolph Lewis, an American working in Saudi Arabia, turned 50 on May 1, 1998, he thought he knew just about everything in this life that to be known and since he retired from the United States Air Force on October 1, 1978, he thought he was through travelling around the world. As the year passed by, he joined college in 1956 after graduating from high school.
Lewis was born on May 1, 1938, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States. He obtained a diploma in computer programming in 1987 from the school of computer technology in Pittsburgh. He arrived in the Kingdom on December 2, 1987 as a Catholic Christian and embraced Islam on November 2, 1990, while serving at the King Fahad Airbase in Taif as a data professor. Presently, he is associated with the Lockheed-Martin Aircraft (C-131 Aircraft), Middle East Services, at the Prince Abdullah Airbase in Jeddah as a computer analyst.
His Islamic name is Abdul Aziz. He in close contact with his Saudi colleagues, friends and soldiers. He was much impressed by the frankness and open-mindedness among the ordinary clerk, officer or soldier and those who enjoyed lofty positions and high ranks, without any distinction whatsoever.
“I saw them taking their meals together in the same plate, performing prayers at the same Mosque or standing in the same row. Sometimes, I even observed a joiner leading the prayers and senior officers following him from behind. This is wonderful. I see distinction between junior and senior officers everywhere in the United States. Juniors have to give ‘proper respect’ to their seniors to get their blessings (to get themselves promoted). Senior army officers take their meals in separate mess. They never treat their juniors as their brothers, rather as someone inferior to them.”
“As an air force soldier I myself have been a victim of such discrimination. But, see the revolution Islam has brought among the Muslim soldiers, whether seniors or juniors in Saudi Air Force. This kind of brotherhood, which is not witnessed in other religions, really impressed me much and was a turning point in my life to study and know about the basic beliefs and teachings of Islam,” said Abdul Aziz as one of the reasons for his conversion to Islam.
During his days in Taif, Abdul Aziz went through some pamphlets and cassettes on Islamic beliefs, worship and moral values prepared by Saudi Da’wa workers, Fauzi Kamal and Turki Asbat. Later on being transferred to Dhahran, he attended classes at the Dhahran Islamic centre too.
Attending classes and studying different reading materials on Islam showed him that Islam establishes a direct link between the creator and his creatures.
“Unlike the followers of other religions; Muslims do not need any intercession to seek the forgiveness and ble.0s0sings of the Almighty. In my previous religion, one has to confess his sins before the Church authorities. He has to accept the atonement or punishment they impose on him in exchange of their promise to get him forgiven by the Almighty. This generally results in revolt. Why should we expose our sins to a fellow human being who is no different from us? Islam takes care of self-respect and saves human beings from humiliation through establishing direct contact with the Almighty,” Abdul Aziz said.
Before coming to Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz used to indulge in all sorts of illicit acts. Do whatever your mind thinks to do and do not worry about tomorrow or anything else, he used to think. His drinking habits were getting out of hands, but he was able to hold himself in a somewhat sober way.
As the years went by, the quality of his life deteriorated. He had several bad marriages and it just seemed that his life was going to hell. After several skirmishes with the law, (with drinking and driving), his drinking problem began to increase with the problems he was facing everyday.
In the meantime, Abdul Aziz got a job with the United States Postal Service in his home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his drinking continued unabated. He missed out on many opportunities to get promoted to more senior jobs because of his drinking problem and he became very despondent.
After working seven years for the post office, his life deteriorated, his marriage was falling apart and again alcohol played a major factor in that bad spell in his life. He was required to attend an alcoholic awareness programme to clear his driving record.
He resigned from the postal service in December 1986 and just became totally oblivious of life. He was single again, and wanted to go back to school and get a degree in computer science. He then attended a one year computer course in Pittsburgh. After graduating he saw an advertisement in the US Air Force Times newspaper for retired US Air Force personnel to work in Saudi Arabia.
He applied for a position in the supply career field and was accepted with a company called Lear Siegler Middle East Management Services who hired him. When he arrived in Saudi Arabia on December 2, 1987, that was the beginning of a new life. After studying Islam for three years he finally confirmed his belief in the Shahada on Nov. 2 1990.
Abdul Aziz felt that it was a way of life and the true religion that he has been looking for his entire life with all his struggles and pitfalls. He felt his life changed 360 degrees, and from that day onward he had become a new person.
Abdul Aziz is an active Da’wa worker too. Due to his efforts, his mother, who is living in the US, has embraced Islam two years ago.
“Praying to Allah only one day a week makes a person very weak in his/her religion and the remaining six days are for each individual to do whatever he/she desires as I saw in my previous religion. Obviously, that is not what we are created for.
On the other hand, Islam urges Muslims to worship and obey the divine commands every day, every hour and every minute in all spheres of life,” comments Abdul Aziz. (Courtesy Saudi Gazette)