Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rajab / Shaban 1423 H
October 2002
Volume 15-10 No:190

News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments View from the Other Side Muslim Perspectives
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From Darkness to Light


"Life is full of challenges from Allah"
"Islam presented a needed balance for my family"
"Islam's respect for other religions floored me"
"I was at peace after I submitted myself to Allah"
'Lack of hypocrisy among Muslims impressed me"
"We experienced a great attraction to writings of the Sufi Saints"


"Life is full of challenges from Allah"

By Muhammad Beck
Architect, Maryland

Though America has failed to realise its goal as a racial and ethnic melting pot,
Islam touched the hearts of millions of Americans.
Their personal accounts reveal the search for the Divine Order.

Early in my life I wanted to learn about Muslim culture and often visited my elementary school’s library to read about Islam. I remember media coverage of the Iran-Iraq war, the Russians in Afghanistan and the siege of Beirut, all of which occurred in the early 1980’s. I started to realize that the politics of the world were very much against the Muslim people of the Middle East and, as I would later learn, against Muslims everywhere.

In High School I wanted to visit Yugoslavia because I watched the Olympics and learned about this country where the people sounded like Russians but followed Islam. When I enrolled in a local college I met Muslims from Pakistan who explained many things about Islam in a gentle, non-forceful way. This is a theme in Islam from the Holy Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in faith.” I enrolled at the University of Maryland after my parents refused my request to study Islamic and Arabic Science at the American University of Egypt. I was devastated, but realized that if I disrespect my parents my Islam would be incomplete, so I accepted their decision. The situation helped me realize that you do not have to be in another country to be Muslim, you do not have to be from a particular ethnic group or even a certain age. I then considered myself a Muslim regarding my relationship with Almighty Allah and I converted at age twenty-one. I believe that a person’s Islam is something that changes all the time. If you are a good Muslim today you cannot assume you always will be. One must continually work towards improving their submission to Almighty Allah. Life is full of challenges from Allah (swt) and there are many tests that we must pass. I try to promote peace and kindness in this world because here we are given a chance to submit ourselves in goodness.

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"Islam presented a needed balance for my family"

By Muhammad Amin Bootman
Vice President, Bank of America

My wife and I converted to Islam a few years ago and, more recently, some of our older children have as well. Admittedly, our path to this religion has been travelled in slow motion. I had studied the ideas of George Gurdjieff for over 30 years, all of my adult life. In this culture of California, everyone loves to shop. New malls, subcultures and belief systems seem to pop up overnight. Ironically, locked within the confines of the ultimate secular state, increasing numbers of people are shopping for religions. As a convert, I can now see that it is a great pity that this religion is not at the top of the shopping list because, in some strange way, Islam includes everything else. As a newcomer it was something of a shock over the last few years to encounter the marked Islamic reverence for all the prophets of the Torah and the Gospels.

There seems to be a lot more about Moses and Abraham in the Qur‘an than the Prophet himself, (peace be upon all of them). When you think about it, such deference and innate modesty would, indeed, befit the bearer of God’s final and perfected message to all of mankind. My hope at this point, as a husband and a father, is that Islam will provide a much-needed balance for my family. Children learn by example, and this religion presents a standard of behaviour quite beyond anything I’ve encountered in my own culture.

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"Islam's respect for other religions floored me"

By Jennifer McLennan
Former Marketing Officer, British Columbia

It happened so gradually that I didn't recognize what happened until I sat down to tell this story. I bought a computer with a free CD-Rom encyclopedia, and the first thing I did was look up "Islam." A colleague at work learnt of my budding research and asked very casually if I'd learned about the Sufis. He was from the South Pacific himself, but had read extensively about them. So off I went to the library and checked out all the books on Sufism. I didn't get very far, though I enrolled in a course on Islamic Art. I was floored. The professor's approach was to teach the basic tenets of Islam before delving into the art. Since everything in Islam is done in the Name of God, I learned, it seemed to make sense. It was like everything I had come to believe on my own—through informal explorations as a teenager, formal schooling as a university student, and self-analysis—was rolled up into a neat little package and handed to me. I had never felt so much like I belonged to something and that something was made for me.

The Islamic concepts of God and angels, its recognition of all holy books, its respect for other religions and policy of tolerance for other religions, and many other truths rang true to me. I went to my professor after the course was over and asked what I should do. At that moment she became the guiding light in my life that she remains today. A few people questioned my conversion: they thought it too hasty and not well thought out, but most expressed their apprehensions, however gently, about the religion of Islam. The funny thing is, I didn't know what they were talking about. Born in 1975, I wasn't exposed to the fame Islam was subject to until the Gulf War. Even then I didn't understand enough of what was going on to develop prejudices against Islam. What I learned, I learned in my heart, and when I converted it was because my heart was telling me to, not because it made sense in any other way, because in the worldly sense, it didn't.

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"I was at peace after I submitted myself to Allah"

By Abdul Jalil
Under-Graduate Student

While living in Minneapolis, I had been attending martial arts classes for some time, when I came to learn that the instructor also led a small dhikr group. At the time I was around 16, and was interested in Malcolm X, revolution, poetry and, among other things, the religions of the East, although in reality, I knew very little about the religion of Islam. I went to check out the group. Considering I knew next to nothing about their practices, but was full of zeal and interest in the subject, I came with an open mind and desire to learn. I was greatly moved by their practice of reciting the Quran and the names of Allah (swt) together in a harmonious, yet very simple and humble way.

I was intrigued as they spoke of the careful succession of tradition from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). The only definition of Islam I had previously known was “submission,” although never fully explained as was the meaning they offered, that one achieves peace and balance in this world when one fully submits to the Divine Will that exists in all things. Needless to say, this peaked my fascination and drew me to return and learn more. I began to think that this was a religion I would want to follow. I found a place in which I was welcomed: as if it were a home built and waiting for me; or rather, it found me.

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'Lack of hypocrisy
among Muslims impressed me"

By Jamaluddin Hoffman
Journalist
Iman Meyer-Hoffman
Under-Graduate Student
San Francisco
East Bay Area

It has been just two years since my wife and I embraced Islam, and were embraced by it. But the change brought in our lives by the utterance of one simple phrase-There is no God but God and Muhammad is his messenger—has been so profound and so all-encompassing that it is, at times, difficult to remember what it was like not to be Muslim. Our journey to Islam began long before we met. Iman and I were both born into Christian families and baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. However, neither of our families were anything resembling devout, so our religious training was informal, at best. We both developed a keen interest in the questions of faith at a rather young age. By the time we were in high school, Iman and I had begun searching for alternatives to Christianity. We found many. While America has failed to realize its goal of becoming a racial and ethnic melting pot, it has succeeded in becoming a nation in which all of the world’s faiths are blended to the point of absurdity. Iman and I plunged headlong into this confusing melange of religiosity. We tried everything, but ended up with nothing.

I was the first to encounter Islam. There were many Muslim students at the university I attended, and we American leftists made common cause with them on the Palestinian and other issues. As I got to know them, I was increasingly impressed by their sincerity, their sobriety, and their lack of hypocrisy. My interest in Islam continued, but I found little to satisfy my curiosity in a country that has made the demonisation of Islam a matter of foreign policy. I may have been the first to encounter Islam, but Iman was the first to see it in our future. One night, as I was reading a verse from the Quran to her, Iman turned to me with a serious look in her eyes. “You are going to be a Muslim,” she said. “I am certain of it.” One night, I had an inspiration. I ran into my office, turned on the computer, connected to the Internet, and typed in the word “Islam.” In a matter of seconds, the names of dozens of Internet sites with information about Islam were flashing on the screen. On one specific website were volumes of writings by learned men of the faith.

When I began to read what was there, I knew that I was approaching the end of my quest. At that moment, my heart opened to Islam. However, while Islam has proven the solution to the puzzle of faith that had confounded Iman and me for so long, our conversion has not always been easy. Wearing hijab (head scarf) was a challenge for Iman. “Today, I can’t imagine not wearing it. It protects me, and it also continually makes me aware that I am a Muslim.”

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"We experienced a great attraction to
writings of the Sufi Saints"

By The Lutz Family of New Mexico
As narrated by Rahmah Lutz

We first encountered the teachings of Islam over 20 years ago when we were a young married couple with two beautiful children. We had sought a spiritual path for awhile and had met many good and sincere people from different disciplines. Every path had benefits that we enjoyed, but none of them "fit" comfortably. We were seeking the "Divine Order" for our own destiny. We experienced a great attraction to the writings of Sufi masters, and had come to realise that these saints who had lived over the past centuries were all practising Muslims. This led to a study of the teachings of Islam, and we began to repeat the key word that surfaced over and over: "Allah." We fasted during Ramadan although we still didn't understand the regulations of the fast, and we made simple attempts to pray as best we could.

At the time, we were isolated in a small town in southern Colorado and had never met any Muslims. In the summer of 1977, I attended a Women's Weekend at Lama Foundation, a spiritual center located on a beautiful and remote mountain top in northern New Mexico. For the first time I prayed with Muslim women and asked questions about Islam. I returned home convinced that Islam was the "way of the family." My husband, Abdur Rahim, then visited the Lama Foundation himself, and we were invited to spend the winter studying Islamic texts at the Intensive Study Center. There were available copies of Quran and collections of Hadith. Abdur Rahim accepted the invitation, came home, quit his job, packed up our family and we moved to the mountain. We were directed to some young American Muslim families living in Santa Fe. When they discovered we were interested in Islam, they took us into their homes so we could pray with them and ask questions. Never once did they suggest we might be burdening them, although they were struggling to support their families on very little income.

They believed that Allah had sent us to their door and they opened their doors wide to receive us.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments View from the Other Side Muslim Perspectives
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