My story basically begins in my first year at university.
I had a year where a lot of problems happened to me.
My parents separated that year, my dog died - that was a particularly tough day - I had two car accidents in the space of one week. And also sadly, I had a friend pass away that year.
I think that year led me to ask some questions along the line of why am I here?
|Other Inspirational Journeys to Islam|
What is the purpose of life?
Why do I get up in the morning? Why even bother?
Why don’t I just sit on the couch, watch TV? …I started to ask these questions about the purpose of life, and that led me to start doing like a holy inquest.
Naturally as an Ozzie, the first thing I did was to investigate Christianity. I had a few Christian friends, and I remember going into a church camp - it was one of the funniest camps I had been to in my life - everybody was singing, and I did not know what the words were, and I did not know what they were saying. They had beautiful voices, but it just seemed really strange. Everybody was telling me just how much God loved me, and I was thinking: God loves me? But my dog died !!
So I kept on investigating Christianity, and I went to a whole lot of different aspects of Christianity. So we’re talking about Catholicism, Anglicanism, Baptism, priests, pastors, and every time I would go there and ask questions I would find that they would not pick up the Bible and start to say this is the answer my dear brother, they would just answer me, they would answer from their own opinions. And I started to realize that there is a lot of interpretation of Christianity, and a lot of people had their own interpretation, as one priest in one church believed one particular aspect of Christianity, while another was proclaiming another. So I started thinking to myself, the Bible is one text, but there seems to be so many different interpretations, and it was confusing.
Searching for the Right Path
|we would have these deep theological debates while people were buying petrol|
And at that time while I was in the first year in university, I was also working in a service station, one of my part-time jobs, and one of my colleagues was a Hindu, he was Indian Hindu, and we regularly changed shifts, and at the time I was very inquisitive, and I would say to him “Dude, what’s the deal with the elephant head guy, you know what’s the deal with him? Why does that guy have an elephant head? Couldn’t you have chosen like a lion’s head? Or something a bit better?” … And we would have these deep theological debates while people were buying petrol. So again, I found that was very hard to stomach.
So I investigated a little bit further, a good friend of mine was a Mormon, and I found this religion appealed to me the best, the Church of Latter Day Saints. They were quite strict; they don’t drink alcohol, they don’t drink caffeine - so unfortunately coke is out guys - but again there was that leap of faith that I had to make to embrace this religion, and I found I was not in to making a leap of faith, I wanted proof.
I was investigated Judaism - would you believe - and my original name before Abu Bakr is Ruben, so if you’ve probably seen all the movies you see the name Rubinstein at the end, they probably thought I was Jewish, so they thought this guys is one of us. But again I just did not find what I was looking for.
Lastly I probably looked into Buddhism, and I found this is probably the religion I was going to choose, I thought this is great, you know there is so much people at peace here, they seem to be switched-on, and they seem to be living one with the world, and that was what really appealed to me. But the more I looked into it I guess I realized it wasn’t a religion of God, it was just a nice way to live.
Have You Investigated Islam?
One of my close friends, who is a Christian, would you believe, said “tell me the religions that you have investigated,” so I went through them and I said Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, … And he goes “What about Islam?” I said “Islam? They are terrorists! I will not investigate their religion. They are crazy, why would I ever look into their religion?”
But I found myself walking into a mosque one day, this is my eternal quest, so I walked straight in – shoes on – straight across the prayer rug, there was a brother praying, I walked straight in front of him, as he went into sujood, I nearly stepped on his head, Subhan Allah, I didn’t have any clue of what I was doing.
I looked over and I saw this brother, you probably know this guy, this is Abou Hamza, he’s come here and he’s lectured a few times, I call him “Abou Dakn” because he has a very large beard, Ma-Shaa-Allah. He came walking towards me and I thought “Today I’m about to die. This is the last day of my life. I’m a dead man. I’m a white boy what am I doing here? I’m dead.”
He came walking across as though he had just walked out of the Sahara desert, big abaya, a big beard, but Subhan Allah the first words he said were “get out …” Subhan Allah, I was very taken back by his welcoming nature, as Ozzies, I don’t want to offend any Australians here, but my upbringing is from a country upbringing.
My parents raised me as an atheist, they were raised as Christians. They were dragged along to Church every Sunday, and they hated every minute of it. So as soon as we were born, they drummed it into our heads that when you die you’re wormed through, that’s it, there is no God, there is no afterlife, it is all rubbish. So I was raised as an atheist.
So when I walked across and I saw Abou Hamza and he was talking to me in a very polite fashion, which I was very thankful for, but I was sure I had seen him on the 5 O’clock news hijacking a plane the day before … Now Ozzies are hospitable, don’t get me wrong, but Lebanese are the most hospitable people I have ever come across, and as the brother Hamza was talking these brothers are making me cups for tea, you know, and honest I needed to keep going to the toilet every 5 minutes, they just kept putting tea in front of me, biscuits, … I’d never seen anything like it. And I think to some degree I kept coming back for the biscuits, but also for the religion.
|every time that I asked a question, they would not just answer, they would pick up a Quran and they would say “read this..."|
So when I sat down with these brothers, I actually started asking questions. I asked all the questions that I’ve asked to the priests, the pastors, my friends, and Subhan Allah the thing that really struck me is that every time that I asked a question, they would not just answer, they would pick up a Quran and they would say “read this brother, read this.” And there was the answer, every single time. And then I would ask another question, you know the hard questions, not the easy questions; Why do women have to wear the scarf? Why the hijab? How come I can have four wives and she can’t have four husbands? And I wanted to know all the tough questions, which is the first questions I guess you ask when you come across Islam. But long behold, they kept on answering the questions from the Quran, not from their own opinion.
And I got frustrated with this. And I actually said to one of the brothers – by this stage I’d been going there for a couple of weeks – there was always a few brothers there when I went, and I said to one of the brothers “What’s your opinion on the matter? Why won’t you give me your opinion? And one of the brothers turned to me one day and said “How can you have an opinion when this is the Word of God, Subhan Allah. I remember that really hit me.
A Spiritual Night: All I Need is a Sign!
So I asked him if I could take a Quran home, and I said I was going to respect the book. I took it home, and I started reading it. What I found while reading it, it was not as though I was reading a story, it was as though someone was commanding me, you know someone giving me guidance. And one night, I decided I would really try to get the spiritual mood happening, and I’m sure some of you have probably heard this story before, so I apologize.
I lit a candle, I had the window open, I had the curtains drawn, you know I was trying to get that real spiritual feeling, it was a nice summer night in Melbourne, as summer as it can get in Melbourne, and I was sitting there and thinking “this is it, this is the night.” I’ve been investigating all the spiritual proofs, all the scientific proofs about the facts about the mountains are pegs, how the embryo develops inside the woman, … all these amazing proofs, but I still needed that little push, it’s like I was on the edge of a cliff, I was ready to jump, I just needed a push.
So I was sitting there, it was very quiet, I was reading Quran, I stopped, I said: “Allah, this is my moment. This is the time I’m about to jump into Islam. All I need is a sign, just a little sign, nothing huge, maybe a bit of lightning, you know maybe half the house could fall down or something, … something you know just small, small for You. So I sat there, I was waiting for the candle to start lighting up before me, like in the movies… And Subhan Allah, nothing. Absolutely nothing happened.
I was really disappointed to be honest. So I sat there and said “Allah, this is Your chance. I’m here. I will give You another chance. OK, I know You may be busy, I know it’s daytime the other side of the world, there is a whole lot of stuff going on. Maybe this time it could be like a car back-firing, You know, something small. Alright half the house, the candle, let’s forget it. A bird could fart outside, I don’t care just anything, … So I said OK, go. And Subhan Allah, absolutely nothing happened. And I mean I couldn’t even say “that was it, that creek in the wall that was it”. Absolutely nothing. I was really disappointed. I was sitting there thinking this was it, this was my last chance, Islam, and I haven’t found it.
I pulled back the Quran, I turned back to where I was reading, Subhan Allah the very next verse on the next page “for those of you who ask for signs, have We not shown you enough already? Look around you. Look at the stars, look at the suns, look at the water. These are the signs for the people of knowledge.” And Subhan Allah, I threw the duvet over my head, and I pretended I was asleep, I was that scared because I couldn’t believe how arrogant I’d been to want my own specific sign when all the signs had been there for me all along. The fact that we have this world, the fact that there is this creation, these are the signs for all of us.
Shahadah at the Mosque: Takbir!
|I had never been kissed by that many men in my life!|
The next day I decided, this is it, I’m becoming a Muslim, I’ve been investigating Islam now for probably six months to be honest. I went in and I said to myself I’m going to make Shahadah. I had no idea what I had to say, I had no idea what the word were, it was probably close to Isha prayer, so it would have been 7-8 o’clock at night, I went in and I could not believe it. There was about a thousand people at the mosque, I thought Subhan Allah, look at this religion, look at how strong they are. It was the first night of Ramadan, Ramadan Muslims?
So I sat there, I was very nervous, I must admit. I got up and this person was going at me: “You’ve got to say these words: Ash-hadu”
And I would go “What? Ash what?
Can’t I just say it in English?”
No, you’ve got to say it in Arabic.
And I thought, as I looked at this sea of beads that I could see in front of me, if I get these words wrong I’m a dead man, again I had this feeling, you know. And they were staring at me, and I don’t know if you know this but Australians can’t stare, Lebanese people can stare. So I was sitting there, I was very scared. I got up, and Subhan Allah as soon as I started to say the words, all fear went out of my mind. It felt as though a shower was inside my head and someone had just turned on the cold tap. I felt like I had been flushed clean. I said the words, and I was not expecting so many brothers to come up and yell Takbir, Allahu Akbar and start kissing me and hugging me - I had never been kissed by that many men in my life! But it was a beautiful day I must admit, and that day was the day I had more brothers than I could ever imagine, and more sisters as well.
I guess since that day I have never looked back.
My family were initially very worried that I was going to be I guess a little bit weird towards them… But they realized, I think soon, that this religion was actually making me a better person. … Ever since then, I look as good as I do now, (don’t laugh please), but my parents were actually the first people to say that to me which really amazed me.
My father actually asked me for the Quran recently, which I was really happy about, I always thought he would be one of the hardest people to work on, but he said to me, ever since you’ve been a Muslim, you’ve been a better person.
You are more reliable. I can count on you to pick me up if my car breaks down, whereas before I would go “Dad, I was drinking last night, I don’t know if it is still out of my system...
Watch brother Ruben describe his journey to Islam
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Reverts' Journey After Shahadah (Folder)