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6894Converts/Reverts: A Photographer Finds Allah in Nature*

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jul 20, 2006
      A Photographer Finds Allah in Nature*
      A Swedish Man Discovers Islam
      Ibrahim Karlsson
      Thu, June. 29, 2006


      I was born into an ordinary, non-religious Swedish
      home, but one that had very loving relationships. I
      had lived my life for 25 years without really thinking
      about the existence of God or anything spiritual
      whatsoever, I was the typical materialistic man.

      Or was I? I still recall a short story I wrote in the
      seventh grade about my future life, where I portrayed
      myself as a successful games programmer (I hadn't yet
      even touched a computer) living with a Muslim wife!
      OK, at that time, "Muslim" to me meant dressing in
      long clothes and wearing a scarf, but I have no idea
      where those thoughts came from.

      Later, in high school, I remember spending a lot of
      time in the school library becoming a bookworm, and at
      one time, I picked up a translation of the Qur'an and
      read some passages from it. I don't remember exactly
      what I read, but I do remember finding that what it
      said made sense and was logical to me.

      Still, I was not at all religious; I couldn't fit God
      in my universe, and I had no need of any god. I mean,
      we have Newton to explain how the universe works,

      Time passed and I graduated from school and started
      working. I earned some money and moved to my own
      apartment and found a wonderful tool in my PC. I
      became a passionate amateur photographer and enrolled
      in photography activities. One time, I was documenting
      a marketplace and taking photos from a distance with
      my telephoto lens when an angry-looking immigrant came
      over and explained that he wanted to make sure I
      wasn't going to take any more pictures of his mother
      and sisters. Strange people, those Muslims!

      More things related to Islam happened, and there are
      some things that I can't explain why I did what I did.
      I can't recall the reason I called the Islamic
      Information Organization in Sweden to order a
      subscription to their newsletter and to buy Yusuf
      Ali's translation of the Qur'an and a very good book
      on Islam called Islam: Our Faith. I just did!

      I read almost all of the Qur'an and found it to be
      both beautiful and logical. But still, God had no
      place in my heart. One year later, while I was out on
      a patch of land called Pretty Island, which really is
      pretty, taking autumn-color pictures, I was
      overwhelmed by a fantastic feeling. I felt as if I
      were a tiny piece of something greater, a tooth on a
      gear in God's great gearbox called the universe.

      It was wonderful! I had never ever felt like this
      before, totally relaxed, yet bursting with energy, and
      above all, totally aware of God wherever I turned my
      eyes. I don't know how long I stayed in this ecstatic
      state, but eventually it ended and I drove home,
      seemingly unaffected. But what I had experienced left
      inerasable marks in my mind.

      At this time, Microsoft introduced Windows 95 to the
      software market with the biggest marketing blitz known
      in the computer industry. The package included the
      online service Microsoft Network (MSN). I was keen to
      know what it was all about, so I got myself an account
      on MSN. I soon found that the Islam BBS (electronic
      bulletin board system) was the most interesting part
      of MSN, and that's where I found Shahida.

      Shahida is a American woman, who, like me, had
      converted to Islam. Our chemistry worked right away,
      and she became the best pen pal I have ever had. Our
      e-mail correspondence will go down in history — the
      fact that my mailbox grew to something like three
      megabytes over the first six months tells its own

      Shahida and I discussed Islam, and faith in God, in
      general, and everything she wrote made sense to me.
      Shahida had the patience of angels to deal with my
      slow thinking and silly questions, but she never gave
      up hope in me. She told me, "Just listen to your
      heart, and you'll find the truth."

      I found the truth in myself sooner than I had
      expected. On my way home from work, I was riding the
      bus and most of the people around me were sleeping. I
      was adoring the sunset, which was painting the
      beautifully dispersed clouds with pink and orange
      colors. At that moment, all the parts came together.

      I understood how God could rule our life, although
      we're not robots. I saw it was possible to depend on
      physics and chemistry and still believe and see God's
      work. It was wonderful: I experienced a few minutes of
      total understanding and peace. I longed so much for a
      moment like this to happen again.

      And it did. one morning I woke up, my mind clear as a
      bell, and the first thought that ran through my brain
      was how grateful to God I was that He made me wake up
      to another day full of opportunities. It was so
      natural, like I had been doing this every day of my

      After these experiences, I could no longer deny God's
      existence. But after 25 years of denying God, it was
      no easy task to admit His existence and accept faith.
      But good things kept happening to me. I spent some
      time in the United States, and, at this time, I
      started praying and feeling and learned to focus on
      God and to listen to what my heart said. It all ended
      in a nice weekend in New York, about which I had
      worried a lot, but it turned out to be a success, most
      of all because I finally got to meet Shahida.

      At this point there was no return; I just didn't know
      it yet. Back in Sweden, God kept leading me. I read
      some more, and I finally got the courage to call the
      nearest mosque and to meet with some Muslims. With
      trembling legs, I drove to the mosque, which I had
      passed many times before, but had never dared to stop
      and visit.

      I met the nicest people at the mosque, and I was given
      some more reading material and made plans to come and
      visit the brothers in their homes. What they told me
      and the answers they gave all made sense. Islam became
      a major part of my life. I started praying regularly
      and went to my first Jumu`ah Prayer.

      It was wonderful. I sneaked in and sat in the back. I
      didn't understand a word of what the imam was saying
      but still enjoyed the service. After the sermon, we
      all gathered together in rows and performed two
      rak`ahs. It was one of the most wonderful experiences
      I ever had on my journey to Islam. The sincerity of
      200 men fully devoted to just one thing — praising God
      — felt great.

      Slowly, my mind started to agree with my heart, and I
      started to picture myself as a Muslim. But could I
      really convert to Islam? I had left the Swedish state
      church earlier, just in case, but could I pray five
      times a day? Could I stop eating pork? Could I really
      do that? And what about my family and friends? I
      recalled what one brother named Omar told me, how his
      family had tried to get him admitted to an asylum when
      he had converted. Could I really convert?

      By this time, the Internet wave had swept through
      Sweden, and I too had hooked up with the Infobahn. And
      there was tons of information about Islam out there. I
      think I visited just about every website that included
      the word Islam anywhere in the text, and I learned a
      lot from them.

      What really made a change in me was a story entitled
      "Twelve Hours" of a newly converted British woman who
      had experienced feelings exactly like mine. When I
      read the story, I wept and realized that there was no
      turning back anymore; I couldn't resist Islam any

      Summer vacation started, and I had made my mind up. I
      had to become a Muslim. But the start of the summer
      had been very cold, and if the weather was going to
      start getting sunny during my first week of vacation,
      I didn't want to miss a day of sunshine and had to
      take advantage of the weather by going to the beach.
      On the TV, the weatherman had drawn a big sun right on
      top of my part of the country. OK, then I would
      convert some other day.

      The next morning there was a steel gray sky, with
      ice-cold gusts of wind blowing outside my bedroom
      window. It was like God had decided that my time was
      up and I could wait no longer. I performed the
      required bath (ghusl), dressed in clean clothes,
      jumped in my car, and drove for one hour to the

      In the mosque, I approached some brothers and told
      them about my wish to become Muslim. So after noon
      prayer, the imam and some brothers witnessed me say
      the Shahadah. Al-hamdu lillah.

      To my great relief, all my family and friends have
      taken my conversion very well; they have all accepted
      it. I can't say they were thrilled, but they didn't
      have any hard feelings at all. Of course, they can't
      understand all the things I do, such as praying five
      times a day at specific times or not eating pork. They
      think these practices are strange foreign customs that
      will die out with time, but I'll prove them wrong, in
      sha' Allah!


      * This story first appeared on
      http://thetruereligion.org It is republished with
      kind permission.

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