seventeen years have been a bit different than the youth
experienced by most Americans. I grew up on an extremely
rural goat ranch in Western Riverside County, California,
where my family raises on average 150 to 200 animals for
milk, cheese, and meat. My father is a halal butcher [a
butcher who slaughters in an Islamic manner -ed.] and
supplies to an Islamic Food Mart a few blocks from the Islamic
Center in downtown Los Angeles.
was raised agnostic or atheist, but he became a believer
in One God when he picked up a Bible left on the beach.
He once had a number of Muslim friends, but they've all
moved out of California now. My mother was raised Catholic,
so she leans towards Christianity (although she, like my
father, disregards the Trinity). I and my siblings were/are
home-schooled, and as you may know, most home-school families
are Christian. In the last 8 or so years, we have been involved
with some home-schooling support groups, thus acquainting
me with fundamentalist Christianity. It was an eye-opening
experience. Setting aside the blind dogmatism and charismatic
wackiness, it was quite a shock to me when I realized that
these people, in their prayers, were actually praying TO
JESUS. You see, I had always believed that Jesus was, at the very most, the Son of God (since that is what
the Bible mistranslates "Servant of God" as). As I learned
that belief in the Trinity, something I find absolutely
ridiculous, is considered by most Christians to be a prerequisite
for salvation, I gradually realized I could not be a Christian.
meantime, I had become obsessed with demonic Heavy Metal
music, something the rest of my family (as I now realize,
rightfully so) was not happy with. My entire life was focused
on expanding my music collection. I eschewed personal cleanliness
and let my room reach an unbelievable state of disarray.
My relationship with my parents became strained, although
only intermittently so. I am sorry even as I write this.
this year, I began to listen to the apocalyptic ramblings
of Christian radio's "prophecy experts." Their paranoid
espousal of various conspiracy theories, rabid support of
Israel and religious Zionism, and fiery preaching about
the "Islamic Threat" held for me a strange fascination.
Why? Well, I suppose it was simply the need I was feeling
to fill that void I had created for myself. In any case,
I soon found that the beliefs these evangelists held, such
as Original Sin and the Infallibility of "God's Word", were
not in agreement with my theological ideas (not to mention
the Bible) and I began to look for something else to hold
turning point, perhaps, was when I moved in with my grandparents
here in Santa Ana, the county seat of Orange, California.
My grandmother, a computer whiz, is hooked up to America
Online and I have been scooting the information superhighway
since January. But when I moved in, with the intent of finding
a job (easier said than done), I begin to visit the religion
folders on AOL and the Usenet newsgroups, where I found
discussions on Islam to be the most intriguing. You see,
I discovered that the beliefs and practices of this religion
fit my personal theology and intellect as well as basic
human logic. Islam presents God not as an anthropomorphic
being but as an entity beyond human comprehension, transcendent
of man, independant and undivided. Islam has a holy book
that is comprehensible to a layman, and there is no papacy
or priesthood that is considered infallible in matters of
interpretation: all Muslims are free to reflect and interpret
the book given a sufficient education. Islam does not believe
that all men are doomed to Hell unless they simply accept
that God (apparently unable to forgive otherwise) magnanimously
allowed Himself to be tortured on a cross to enable Him
to forgive all human beings who just believe that He allowed
Himself to be tortured on a cross... Islam does not believe
in a Chosen Race. And on and on...
began reading English translations of the Qur'an, I became
more and more convinced of the truth and authenticity of
Allah's teachings contained in those 114 chapters. Having
been around Muslims in my formative years, I knew well that
they were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that
the news media and the televangelists paint them to be.
Perhaps this knowledge led me to continue my personal research
further than another person would have. I can't say when
I actually decided that Islam was for me. It was really
a natural progression. In any case, last week [November
1995 -ed.]I went to the Islamic Society of Orange County
in Garden Grove and told the brother in charge of the library
I wanted to be a Muslim. He gave me some excellent reading
material, and last Friday I took Shahada [accepted the
creed of Islam -ed.]in front of a packed masjid. I have
spent this week learning to perform Salat and reflecting
on the greatness of Allah. It feels great to be a Muslim!
Subhaana rabbiyal 'azeem!