My name is Justin Peyton, and I am a 29-year-old African American convert to Islam, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up in a loving, two-parent, and middle-class household with three siblings.
Growing up, my family and I identified ourselves as Christians, but we were never members of a church, nor did we attend Sunday services or other activities. The extent of religious expression in our home was celebrating Christmas.
[…] If I had to identify one single event as the starting point for my journey to Islam, it would have to be the tragic events of 9/11. After months of seeing very unflattering media coverage about Islam and Muslims, it occurred to me that the negative portrait being painted did not coincide with the experiences I had with Muslim classmates, neighbors, and others, growing up in Philadelphia.
It also occurred to me that despite knowing Muslims, I had never actually bothered to take the time to learn about their faith.
So, with the open-mindedness instilled in me by my parents, I decided to research some facts about Islam in order to reconcile the apparent disparity between my personal experiences and media coverage.
[…] Spurred to learn more, I went to a local bookstore, purchased a copy of the Quran, and began to read. I could spend pages listing which information struck me most and why, but suffice it to say that everything that I read made intrinsic sense to me.
After a few more months I decided that reading and learning about Islam on my own was not enough, so I searched to find any nearby mosques.
I contacted the closest mosque, which was about 45 miles away, spoke to their president, and arranged a time to visit and discuss Islam with local Muslims.
On the appointed day, I showed up and spent a great deal of time talking to a very helpful brother. Unbeknownst to me, the information he shared permeated my heart.
During my second visit […] it dawned on me that I believed that Islam was the truth, so right then and there, I took my Testimony of Faith and spent the whole weekend at the mosque learning what was necessary for me to perform the ritual prayers on my own when I returned to school.
That community was wonderful and had I stayed in the vicinity, and I am sure that I would have received a lot of support adjusting to my life as a new Muslim. But that was not to be. Prior to the events of 9/11, I had developed an interest in the military, and continued discussions with local armed forces recruiters, concurrent with the exploration of Islam that would lead to my conversion. […] Looking back on that part of my life, I am grateful for the skills I gained and the experiences I had during the course of my service. But in retrospect, the timing between these two events was less than ideal.
Even after leaving training, I was located in an area of the U.S. With no Muslim community, which prevented me from developing my faith. It wasn't until some three years into my service that I met another practicing Muslim service member who would be able to teach me both about Islam and how to navigate military life as a Muslim. May God reward him for his efforts.
After completing my military service in the summer of 2007, I moved back to Philadelphia, became an active member of a local mosque, and was blessed with the ability to obtain a job at the local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a non-profit civil rights and advocacy organization for Muslims.
The two years I spent as a part of the Philadelphia Muslim community, and an employee of CAIR-PA was a tremendous learning experience that really spurred my development and whetted my appetite for more.
And that leads me to where I am now, an Islamic chaplaincy student at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, pursuing its combined Masters of Arts in Islamic studies, Christian-Muslim relations and Graduate Certificate in Islamic chaplaincy.
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First of all, I would like to start by saying that this true story is not for my own fame or admiration, but for the sake of my Lord and your Lord God. All praises due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful Owner of the Day of Judgment. I would like to repeat to you something I heard: the journey of a thousand miles has to start with the first step, and this is the first part of my journey and conversion to Islam.
My name is Malik Mohammed Hassan, and I have recently converted to Islam. When I was in junior high school, I was first introduced to Islam by reading the book Roots by Alex Haley. It taught me a little bit about the strong will that most Muslims possess, myself included. It also introduced me to Allah. I had never heard of Allah in his real form until I read that book, and I was very curious. I then started reading about The Nation of Islam (specifically Malcolm X), and it fascinated me how devoted he was to God, especially after he left the self-serving Nation of Islam. Reading about Malcolm made me think about a God who (for a change) did not have any physical … limitations and, being a totally blind person, it made me relate to these people: the people who Malcolm and Haley referred to as Muslims. I continued reading what I could about Islam, which wasn’t as much as it should have been. My reading material was very limited, because like I said above, I am a totally blind person, and the material available about Islam in Braille or on tape was not only very little but also very general. I believe the reason was that the material that I had access to wasn’t written by Muslims, and it kind of painted a dark picture of Islam. I think most of the literature written by Christians or non-Muslims about Islam tends to do that most of the time. And I didn’t know that there were even Muslims in Halifax, so I obviously didn’t know any. I didn’t even know about the local Islamic association until I was already a Muslim.
So I read what I could until my first year out of high school, around the month of May 1996, when I received a phone call asking me if I wanted to participate in a camp for blind and visually impaired people, known throughout Canada as Score. I agreed and sent them a resume, and praise be to God, I was accepted for work.
At first, I really didn’t want to go, but something kept telling me it would be a good idea if I went. So, on June 30th, 1996 I boarded a plane from Nova Scotia to Toronto and took my last trip as a non-Muslim; I just didn’t know it yet.
I got to Toronto, and everything at first was pretty normal... It was on the second day I was there when the journey of a thousand miles first started.
I arrived on a Sunday, and on the next day, I met the person who God would use with His divine power to help guide me to the beautiful Religion of Islam. I met a sister named [...], and if she reads this, I hope she doesn’t get mad at me for using her name.
When I met her, I immediately wanted to talk to her because I liked her name. I asked her what origin her name was and she told me that it was Arabic; so I asked her if she was Muslim and she replied with the answer of yes. I immediately started telling her what I already knew about Islam, which lasted about ten seconds. I started asking her questions and also asking her to talk to me about Islam.
One particular incident that comes to my mind is when all of the workers at the camp went to a baseball game, and the sister and I started talking about Islam and missed pretty much the whole game.
Well, anyway, we talked for about three, maybe four days on and off about Islam, and on July the fifth, if my memory doesn’t fail me, I became a Muslim. My life has been totally different ever since. I look at things very differently than I used to and I finally feel like I belong to a family. All Muslims are brothers and sisters in Islam so I could say that I have approximately 1.2 billion brothers and sisters all of whom I’m proud to be related to. I finally know what it feels like to be humble and to worship a God that I don’t have to see.
For any non-Muslim reading this, just look at it this way. It’s good to learn, but you never know when you will be tested, and if you’re not in the class at the time of the final exam, no matter how much you know, you’ll never get any credit. So like I said, it’s good to learn, but if you want to get credit, sign up for the class. In other words, declare shahada (testimony to faith) and let God teach you everything you need to know. Believe me, the reward is worth it. You could say the reward is literally heaven.
If any good comes out of this story all the credit is due to God; only the mistakes are my own. I would like to mention a part of a hadith that has had a great effect on me and that is:
“Worship God as if you see him and if you don’t see him, know that he sees you.” (Saheeh Muslim)
By Malik Mohammed Hassan
I did not heed his warning. Again I went to Mr. Fernandez; then he asked me “DID JOSEPH, MARY, THE 12 DISCIPLES WORSHIP JESUS CHRIST AS GOD, AS YOU SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS DO TODAY?” I turned speechless.
I went back to our quarter in Zamboanga City, and debated with my team leader! At that moment after our confrontation, our team leader immediately ordered me to pack up my things and leave. That time I could not accept that I was a Muslim. My team leader and our whole group branded me that I became a Muslim and not fit to do our task in a Muslim community.
With tears and confusion, I was forced to leave my SDA companions. That was the turning point which led me to research Islam and eventually became a Muslim a few months later in September 1981, Isabela, Basilan, Philippines.
I pondered. The center of the Muslim world is in the Middle East! If the West and the East knew the life of the Prophets, and particularly Jesus’ life, how about in the Middle East - the birthplace of the Prophets, and where the Muslims are praying, in the House of God,… built by Abraham, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
There are almost two billion Muslims throughout the world, and more people are embracing Islam daily than any other religion. Why? This trend had challenged me to research history in the Middle East and the life of the last Prophet.
I never thought that Muslims believe in God, as well as the above mentioned. What I had believed before was that Muslims are people who are doomed to Hellfire. Some non-Muslims believe that Muslims are like rats, a menace to a developed and peaceful society.
This might be the reason why some countries systematically carry out ethnic cleansing and deprive Muslims of basic human rights. Such state-sponsored activities were done in Bosnia, Kosova, Kashmir, Chechnya, Mindanao, and the occupied territories in Israel which originally belong to Palestinians. […]
I embraced Islam because I found out that Islam is the true way of life (religion) prescribed by God, given to the Prophets, and the Quran is the only perfect book of God that has never been revised. I am appealing to non-Muslims to know about Islam from the Quran and authentic sayings or references written by Muslims.
At the time I write this article, the population of the Philippines has reached 95 million, only 10% are Muslims. This means that more than 80 million are non-Muslims, and the majority of these non-Muslims are Christians. Most Islamic propagators in the Philippines are driven to Muslim-Arab Countries for economic survival. If our Arab Muslim brothers are sincere to spread the message of Islam, why don’t they send us back to our country with substantial support to propagate Islam there?
In Saudi Arabia 90% who embraced Islam are Filipinos. It is easy for the Filipinos to understand Islam because the original culture and traditions of Filipinos are rooted in Islam. Historically, Islam came to the Philippines in 1380, almost 200 years before Christianity.
Christianity came to the Philippines on March 16, 1521. Muslims remained a minority due to incessant civil war, struggle for independence and enormous efforts and well-funded activities of Christian Missionaries. The early Christians embraced Christianity not because they love and understand Christianity. They were forced to embrace Christianity through guns and cannons brought by the Christian Spaniards.
Personally, spreading Islam to Christians is an interesting and challenging endeavor. Due to my background as an energetic Evangelist in SDA, I am enthusiastic in propagating Islam both publicly or privately. Alhamdulillah! I strongly believe that light is for the darkness: Likewise, the non-Muslims need Islam for them to see that light and embrace the truth.
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