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6721Convert/Revert: A Muslim Employee Led Me to Islam

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jun 4, 2006
      A Muslim Employee Led Me to Islam
      A South African's Journey to Islam
      By Ashraf Williams
      Wed, May. 31, 2006


      My name is Ashraf. I live in Johannesburg, South
      Africa. I used to belong to the privileged White
      minority. I used to have only three brothers, but now
      I have more than a billion brothers and sisters!

      When describing my Islam, I always call myself a new
      Muslim and will till the day I die! I am very
      uncomfortable and feel insulted when described as a
      revert or a convert — I am not a car!

      My journey started many years ago, at the age of 23,
      when I realized that I would not live long if I
      carried on with drinking wine, womanizing, and leading
      a bad lifestyle. I stopped my bad habits and when I
      was totally sober, I wondered what for — what was the
      point of being so good?

      I worked in an environment that dictated that if you
      were not pretty, you did not work for me. At the end
      of the day, I would stand at the exit and say goodbye
      to the "girls" who worked in my business. There was
      one woman, who, at the end of the day, always smelled
      and looked fresh. I could not help but ask her why —
      why did all the other women look so worn out at the
      end of the day and she so fresh? She replied that it
      was due to her religion.

      "What? Your religion tells you to be fresh?" I asked.

      "No, my religion tells me how to be clean," she

      "Your religion tells you when to wash?" I wondered.


      "Your religion tells you how to wash?"


      "Your religion tells you what to wash?"


      "What religion is this?"


      I then decided I should find out more about Islam. The
      first literature I got a hold of was booklets about
      comparative religion by Ahmed Deedat. May Allah reward
      him for his good works.

      After reading a booklet about the Trinity (God, Jesus,
      and the Holy Spirit), I meditated on it for a few
      days. I had been a good Catholic boy and had studied
      Catholicism until I was 18 years old, so I had a lot
      of conceptions and misconceptions I to overcome.

      After a few days, I reread the booklet and found
      myself comfortable with the idea of there being one
      God. I was then able to move on and read all the
      Islamic literature I could find. I started learning
      the Shahadah, and after about a year, I decided it was

      I took a shower, put my topi (head cover) in my
      pocket, went to my car, and headed for the nearest
      mosque. After circling the mosque for about 30
      minutes, I realized that I would never become a Muslim
      if I kept riding round the block! I walked into the
      mosque and found a group of brothers sitting together.
      One of them asked if he could help and I told him I
      wanted to become a Muslim. He gave me an address and
      said I must go there and study.

      I said "No, I want to become a Muslim now!" He asked
      me if I knew the Shahadah. I said, "Yes." I then sat
      with the brothers in the mosque. I read my testimony
      of faith and was then asked what name I had chosen. I
      said "Muhammed Ashraf. "Al-hamdu lillah, I became a
      Muslim on that day.

      I then started associating with Muslims, carried on
      studying, and after two years, I felt the need to get
      married. I married a sister of a friend of mine.

      My marriage meant I was breaking three of our
      country's laws:

      1. Group Areas Act — I should have been staying in a
      White area.

      2. Mixed Marriages Act — I was supposed to marry a
      White woman.

      3. Immorality Act — I was only supposed to have sex
      with White women.

      My wife's family and mine were very concerned about
      our situation. Yet I believed that as long as my
      marriage was good in the eyes of Allah, all others
      could do what they wanted to — Allah was my protector.

      One day in 1994, I happened to be alone at home during
      the week. There was a knock on the door and I opened
      it. According to my habit in those days, I checked out
      the shoes first. Yes, they were police issue (I sure
      knew because my father was a policeman and I had spent
      many hours polishing his shoes), but was this a White
      or Colored person? I panicked — should I push him over
      the balcony? Deny everything? Slam the door on him?

      I tried to be steadfast. He said it had been reported
      that there was a Colored lady staying at this address.
      "No," I said, "There was no Colored lady staying here,
      please come in." He walked into our apartment, saw the
      Islamic calligraphy on the wall, sat on the couch, and
      put the folder to the side.

      As he was speaking, I was still wondering what race he
      was. Then he told me that he was once a Muslim. I was
      shocked and asked why he said was a Muslim? His father
      and mother were Muslims, but then they got divorced
      and his mother married a White man and he and his
      mother became Christians.

      The biggest joke was that his ID said he was White and
      he would regularly send his ID to Home Affairs and
      tell them he was Colored, but they always insisted he
      was White. We drank tea together, and before he left,
      he told me that I must not leave the country, as
      things would be changing.

      I continued my relationship with my family after I
      became Muslim. I am conservative at heart and it was
      nice to tell my mother when she said to me "You are so
      old- fashioned" that "I am a Muslim!" When my mother
      saw my first-born child, a beautiful little girl, she
      said I must make sure she marries a good White boy!

      I told her that she must marry a good Muslim boy! My
      daughter went on to marry a dark-skinned Indian boy
      and I am now the proud grandfather of my "golden boy"

      Islam fits me like a glove. My wife and I started a
      family and I knew that I had to raise my children as
      Muslims. My children grew up as Muslims and were
      dedicated to their faith.

      At school, when teachers used to record the ethnic
      make-up of my children's class, my children would be
      left sitting. When they were asked what race they
      were, they would always answer "Muslim." Much to their
      teachers' frustration, they never said they were
      White, and if their teachers insisted, they told the
      teachers to put down what they wanted to.

      Yes, I do have one regret in my life. As I mentioned
      before, my father was a policeman and he had been very
      frustrated at the lack of discipline in the Catholic
      Church. He went searching in other churches, yet he
      did not find the peace he was looking for and passed
      away before I had the knowledge and courage to speak
      to him about Islam. I am sure he would have found
      peace in Islam, as Muslims are perceived to be
      "militant" in our prayers. The ritual ablutions before
      prayer and standing shoulder to shoulder in straight
      lines would have appealed to the "soldier" in him.
      What I do know is that when he died, he was at peace
      with my chosen religion as well as my wife.

      My family had the privilege of nursing my mother until
      she died of cancer. During her last moments, she
      expressed herself as a being a Muslim and was very
      proud of that. She asked to be buried in one of the
      beautiful long Islamic dresses that belonged to my

      My other brothers are not Muslims, but they are still
      very proud of me, their big brother. One of them
      stayed at my place for a few months and adopted
      certain Islamic behaviors.

      In conclusion, I am a "new" Muslim who embraced Islam
      25 years ago through the actions of a Muslim woman,
      but I have never been comfortable with the divisions
      of Muslims in South Africa. At gatherings, I normally
      search out my African brothers, and other Muslim
      "brothers" lose interest in me when I tell them I live
      in a ghetto and do not own a business.

      Islam is not the property of the Indians, Arabs,
      Blacks, or anyone else! Those who perpetuate these
      divisions are impeding the progress of Islam on a
      continent and in a world that needs it.

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