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9535Convert/Revert News: Does Islam really condemn converts to death?

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jun 8, 2014
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      Does Islam really condemn converts to death?
      Opinion by Abed Awad, special to CNN
      June 6th, 2014


      (CNN) – Last month, a Sudanese court imposed a death sentence on Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a 27-year-old pregnant mother, because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

      Ibrahim says she was raised Christian by her mother after her Muslim father abandoned them when she was 6 years old.

      But this week, a man claiming to be Ibrahim’s brother said that she was raised a Muslim and that if she does not return to the faith, she should be killed.

      Both the Sudanese court and the man who claims to be Ibrahim’s brother say the Islamic faith is clear: Apostasy, renouncing the religion, is a capital crime.

      But is it really?

      The idea of apostasy as a crime within Islam begins with the Quran and the Sunna, the faith’s foundational texts.

      The Quran is Muslims’ holy scripture, believed to be revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammed. Because Muslims believe the Quran contains God’s will, it is the most authoritative source of the law – the final word.

      The Sunna is the example of Mohammed, embodied in stories about his sayings and conduct.

      Two centuries after the death of Mohammed, Muslim scholars collected and sifted through hundreds of thousands of narratives (called hadith) attributed to him, accepting a few thousand as likely to be authentic.

      Together, the Sunna forms the second most important source of legal guidance – but their application to modern life isn’t always clear, and at times, one lesson from Mohammed seems to contradict another.

      What does the Quran say about apostasy?

      The Quran warns apostates, except those who later repent, that a severe and painful punishment awaits them in the afterlife.

      They shall forever be the companions of hellfire, the holy book says.

      But nowhere in the Quran does God command earthly authorities to execute anyone who has converted from Islam.

      That omission is key, because the Quran says, “The Lord neglects nothing, nor does he forget.”

      In other words, if God wanted apostates killed, he would have said so.

      Instead, the Quran’s message is: The apostate is accountable to Allah in the hereafter, not to judges on Earth.

      As one passage says, “It is God who judges.”

      What did Mohammed say about apostasy?

      Unlike the Quran, there are conflicting stories and opinions about the prophet’s stance on apostasy.

      According to several sayings attributed to him in the Sunna, Mohammed did call for apostates to be killed. “He who changes his religion, kill him,” the prophet said, according to one hadith, or story about his life.

      But other stories contradict that teaching.

      In the seventh century, for example, Mohammed, as leader of the growing Muslim community, brokered a truce with the Qurayshites, a competing religious tribe.

      In the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, Mohammed agreed that if any Qurayshite came to join the Muslim community, he would not accept them.

      On the other hand, Muslims were permitted to join the Qurayshites, no questions asked, no executions threatened.

      Moreover, lots of Muslim coverts abandoned Islam during the prophet’s life, and he never sentenced one to death.

      The Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the most famous collections of Sunna, contains an illustrative example.

      A Bedouin man pledged allegiance to God and the prophet, only to later inform Mohammed that he wanted to cancel his pledge.

      After the prophet refused three times to accept his cancellation, the Bedouin simply moved to another town.

      The prophet did not order his execution despite such clear and undisputed apostasy. And there are many other examples like this in the Muslim historical literature.

      The conflicting stories and lessons from Mohammed's life is one reason why the Sunna is not considered as authoritative a source of Islamic law as the Quran.

      So, why is apostasy a capital crime in countries like Sudan?

      Mohammed preached a message of unity and social justice, and his religious community welcomed believers regardless of tribe, color, race, ethnicity, social status or gender.

      At the same time, the prophet’s growing tribe frequently battled outsiders, from competing Arabian religious tribes to Jewish groups.

      That means a Muslim who decided to abandon his religion was not simply making a personal choice to follow another God. He was turning his back on his tribe at a time of almost perpetual war.

      So, you can see why early Muslim jurists and leaders wanted to discourage conversions. To them, it was an act of treason against the community. It was a political crime and not a restriction upon one’s freedom of conscience.

      A majority of early Muslim jurists thus concluded that male apostates should receive the death penalty. For women, the main schools of Islamic law don’t agree. Some say female apostates should be killed. Others argue that she should be imprisoned until she returns to Islam.

      Still, many prominent contemporary Muslim scholars have argued that apostasy should never carry the death penalty except in cases where converts take up arms against Muslims.

      That doesn’t mean that nations like Sudan have gotten the message, though. And while Meriam Ibrahim is undoubtedly the victim of harsh human judges, there are also larger cultural forces at play.

      But at the end of the day, the fact remains that the Quran without a doubt supports religious freedom. Allah the most merciful and wise said it best: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

      And that should be last word.

      Abed Awad is an attorney, a national Islamic law expert and an adjunct law professor at Rutgers Law School and Pace Law School. The views expressed in this column belong to Awad.

      Apostasy in Islam – Tariq Ramadan
      BY PAUL WILLIAMS on MAY 17, 2014


      “In light of the texts (Qur’an and prophetic traditions) and the way the Prophet behaved with the people who left Islam (like Hishâm and ‘Ayyash) or who converted to Christianity (such as Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh), it should be stated that one who changes her/his religion should not be killed. In Islam, there can be no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith not only because it is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an but also because free conscious and choice and willing submission are foundational to the first pillar (declaration of faith) and essential to the very definition of “Islam”. Therefore, someone leaving Islam or converting to another religion must be free to do so and her/his choice must be respected.” (Tariq Ramadan on Apostasy)

      Aisha Sherazi: A Convert Mother in Ottawa
      Written by Sakina bint Erik


      In this installment of my column, I interview just one local convert about her experiences raising her children as Muslim while having non-Muslim parents. Dr. Aisha Sherazi was born and raised in the UK, and migrated to Canada in 2000. She hails from a Hindu family, and is of Indian origin. She writes freelance editorials in various newspapers and resides in Ottawa, Canada. She now works as a spiritual counsellor for teenagers and teachers at Merivale High School, and conducts workshops across the city on the dangers of stereotyping. She helps represent the Muslim Community of Ottawa on COMPAC for the Ottawa Police Service and sits on the board of the Islamic Social Services Association of Canada. Happily married with two busy children, she also writes poetry and fiction in her spare time

      Indian actress converts to Islam
      Sunday, 01 June 2014


      After musicians AR Rahman and Yuvan Shankar Raja, the latest to join the bandwagon of those who converted to Islam is actress Monika. The Azhagi actress revealed that not only did she convert to Islam and changed her name to MG Rahima, she also bid adieu to her film career. The actress added that she was planning to tie the knot, soon. The actress at a press meet added that she liked the principles of Islam and hence, took the decision.

      She conducted a press meet at the RKV Studio where she said, “I started my career in cinema as a child artist, completed 70 films in cinematic industry. I have done it with your full support. The word thanks is not enough for your affections”.

      She added, “I didn’t convert for the reason of love or money, I am not such a person. I like Islamic principles, so I converted to Islam. I will intimate about my marriage to media once arranged by my parents and I really thank my dad for his full support. I was not convinced to change my name but finally, I have changed my name to M.G. Raheema (M – Maruthi Raj (Father), G-Gracy (Mother)). Hereafter, I won’t act in films.”

      Monica, who had won Tamil Nadu State Award as a best child actor for her performance in Vijaykanth starrer En Aasai Machan, is known for few of the Tamil movies like Azhagi, Imsai Arasan 23m Pulakesi and Silandhi. In 2001, Monica had changed her name a Paravana for Malayalam film industry. The actress was last seen in Tamil film Jannal Oram, which was released in 2013, November. The flick, directed by Karu Pazhaniappan, had Parthiban, Vimal, Vidharth, Poorna and Manisha Yadav in the lead roles. Monica aka MG Rehima is presently busy with the shooting of Naran, Kannigapuram Sandippil and Amaran.

      What Triggers People to Accept Islam?
      (Survey and Analysis)
      By Shannon Abulnasr-
      Saturday, 10 May 2014 00:00


      Have you ever wondered what are the main factors that inspire people to accept Islam?

      Typically there is a trigger that first interests someone in Islam, and then something else that triggers them to take a later step when convinced and say their shahadah.

      I conducted an online survey asking eight questions to find out these main factors.

      Seventy reverts took the anonymous survey providing me with answers which I have sorted to give the following statistics and conclusions.

      Purpose of the Survey

      Why and how are these results useful to us?

      With this information, we can identify patterns and statistics based on commonalities found within them.

      These results can guide those who call others to Islam to priority issues and significant topics for non-Muslims, and to effective approaches and methods to use, and to better understand the mindset of non-Muslims who are interested in Islam.

      With this information, one can give more effective dawah, with an increased chance of resulting with a shahadah.

      Survey Questions

      The following eight questions were asked in this survey:

      1- Their age when they first learned of something related to Islam and how old they were when they said their shahadah.

      2- What the “trigger” was (the very first thing they heard/saw) that sparked their interest.

      3- Where or who did they learn that first bit of information about Islam and what it was.

      4- How long they studied about Islam before they did their shahadah, and by what method.

      5- What the specific information was that convinced them of Islam.

      6- How long was it between the time they learned that very first thing about Islam, until they found that “trigger” that made them say the shahadah.

      7- Where and how they did their shahadah (at a mosque, alone, with a Muslim friend, etc).

      8- If they had any other information they wanted to share that wasn't discussed already.

      For the purposes of this article, I will only be focusing on the results found in the replies to questions 2, 3, 5, and 7.

      Survey Results

      Triggers that Sparked their Interest in Islam

      The highest percentage of respondents, 30% (21 people), stated that the first thing that interested them to inquire about Islam was simply meeting and talking to a Muslim about something other than Islam. Just you being you, can be dawah in itself!

      How easy is that!

      Simply witnessing a Muslim doing something, was the trigger for 24.2% (17 people) to become curious about Islam. Never underestimate the power of observation of strangers! You may not see them, or talk to them, but they are paying attention!

      One woman stated that she and a man she had just met went to a hotel to have sex, but that after arriving there he was overcome with a guilty conscience and changed his mind. It left her pondering why, and he explained he was a Muslim. She had never heard of a man refusing sex before and it caused her to have respect for him because she saw that he had respect for his religion. She wanted to know more about the religion that could influence a man at such a time of strong temptation.

      Ten people out of the 24% who simply witnessed a Muslim doing something said they witnessed a prayer. Seeing Muslims at Hajj on the news and a tour guide in Egypt stopping the tour to pray in random places, were examples that caught their attention.

      Another man was having coffee with a friend whom he didn't know was Muslim, then he got up to “pray” in the middle of their conversation, leaving him baffled at this action, and wanted to know more about it.

      So, next time you think about delaying prayer until you get home, consider offering your prayer where you are because non-Muslims may just become interested in Islam from watching you pray!

      Reading a small bit of information about Islam caused 17.1% (12 people) to become interested in Islam. However, only 3 of those 12 read the Quran, while the remaining read other books or articles about Islam.

      Have you ever heard the phrase “There's no such thing as bad publicity”?

      Well, this seems to hold true for Islam because 12.8% (9 people) stated that hearing/reading something negative got them interested to know more. The events of 9/11 and the media blaming Muslims triggered 5 out of the 9 to want to learn more.

      9/11 caused a huge surge in people accepting Islam, as people wanted to understand why Muslims would do such a thing, as the media insisted it was carried out by Muslims.

      The remaining 15.7% (11 people) didn't have notable commonalities, but included things such as learning something at school, traveling to a foreign country, hearing Quran, and seeing something online.

      Since over half, 54.2% (38 people), were triggered by talking or witnessing the action of a Muslim, this tells us that we should get out there, and meet non-Muslims and socialize with them more. Let them know you and your faith. Build the bridge for opportunities to give dawah in the future!

      Where or Who They Learned that First Bit of Information from

      Friends and roommates accounted for the biggest group of respondents, 20% (14 people), who taught them that first piece of information about Islam. Replies included telling them story tidbits from the Quran, discussing corruption of the Bible, to talking about marriage in Islam. There were no common threads in the topics, except for teaching them Islamic words in Arabic and explaining the meanings.

      This simple and easy method of dawah can be done in our everyday lives simply by saying Islamic words and phrases in our conversations, in hope that someone asks “What does that mean?” It's super simple, and most people are naturally inquisitive of foreign words and phrases and want to learn them.... so make use of that!

      The next category, 31.4% (22 people), either learned by themselves via browsing the web (15), Islamic chat rooms (4), or online contacts (3).

      18.5% (13 people) responded stating that they learned that first thing about Islam from a romantic relationship partner. Boyfriend/girlfriend relationships account for 8 of the 13, leaving only 5 who learned it from a spouse after marriage. These results do not mean that we should go out and get involved in haram relationships for the sake of ‘dawah' - It can backfire later on!

      The remaining 30% (21 people) learned something from a number of different people ranging from a neighbor, co-worker, school, relatives, or other undeclared sources.

      Specific Information that Triggered Shahadah

      The largest group, 27.1% (19 people) of those surveyed, expressed that tawheed was the trigger for them to say their shahadah. The simplicity and oneness of Allah can't be beaten! The “rejection of the Trinity” was a common expression shared. Pure monotheism is the most logical and easiest concept for non-Muslims to grasp.
      20% (14 people) said that Islam simply agreed with their natural inclinations, or common sense/logic regarding God and faith. This statistic is expected, considering we are all born with a natural pure state of submission to Allah, but may be raised as a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, etc.

      Contents of the Quran led 15.7% (11 people) to their shahadah, including but not limited to scientific miracles in the Quran, inspirational verses, and the clarity of tawheed.

      Then, there were 7.1% (5 people) that were guided by a dream after asking God for a sign, while another 7.1% (5 people) were triggered by witnessing an action by a Muslim.

      The remaining 22.8% (16 people's) replies were mixed, with no common factors.

      Where & How They Said Their Shahadah

      The masjid with several witnesses was the prime location for 31.4% (22 people) to recite their shahadah. They expressed how they had an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort simply by being in a masjid. Next time you have someone that is interested in Islam, take them to the masjid as soon as possible. After all, it is the house of Allah, so they will most likely have strong emotions stirred within simply by being there.

      It seems that the two opposites are the most common methods for reciting the shahadah. The second most popular method, 15.7% (11 people) - recited it alone. Many non-Muslims don't know a Muslim, nor have a masjid anywhere near them, so it is expected to see this percentage being recited while being alone.

      Friends were in the presence of 14.2% (10 people) when they recited the shahadah, while 8.5% (6 people) were at a Muslim event or gathering for their shahadah, while 7.1% (5 people) did their shahadah online.

      Boyfriends/girlfriends/fiancées were witnesses to 5.7% (4 people), and 10% (7 people) were with spouses or other family members. The remaining 7.1% (5 people) said their shahadah with either a teacher, co-worker, or over the phone.

      General Conclusions

      These survey answers reveal that most people are responsive to the actions of Muslims. Seeing or meeting a Muslim, are major trends for triggering a non-Muslim to become interested in learning about Islam.

      So get out there, make an effort to get to know non-Muslims, and build up those windows and doors for dawah! Share small interesting bits of information about Islam, and let them see you pray.

      The best way to learn is to be lead by example! We do this for our children, so why not for others?

      Be friendly, outgoing, know how to talk about the basics of Islam, and offer to take anyone interested in Islam to the masjid.

      Be the best Muslim you can be, because Allah is not the only one paying attention. Just think.... Someone's journey to Islam can all start with you!

      “Convey to the people even if it were a single sentence.” (Al-Bukhari, 3461)

      “By Allah, were Allah to guide a single man through you would be better for you than a herd of red camels.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim, 4)

      May Allah give us the knowledge and ability to bring more people to Islam through His guidance.


      An Avid Musician Accepts Islam
      By Harry Joseph
      Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00


      For many years of my young life, but most profoundly in recent times, I have been in avid pursuit of God and His universal Truth.

      I live in a New England suburban town, and I enjoy many things, including music, reading, and camping; however, religion and God have always been important in my life, and I have always had a relationship with Him.

      I was previously a Christian and was very happy and content with my faith; however, I came to realize that much of what I believed was "un-Christian" by doctrinal standards.

      Also, I was becoming rather interested and intrigued by other religions in an attempt to promote universality, yet many Christians are against learning, and especially practicing other religions.

      Mind you, I have received my share of "watch out with that stuff and don't be deceived" and "the Bible is God's only truth." However, I realized that a loving, kind, and merciful God such as Allah would not limit Himself to one group of people. Soon enough, I was immersed in the teachings of Gautama Buddha and of Hindu yogis, and yes, I even got myself a copy of the Quran.

      I'm not entirely sure why I first decided to buy an English Interpretation of the Quran, but I believe it had something to do with me wanting to learn about a faith which was almost entirely foreign to me. As I eagerly thumbed through the pages I felt something inside me saying, very quietly at first, "This is indeed the Word of God." Now, being a Christian I was taught that the Bible is God's only preserved, perfect, and unchanged Word.

      At first, Islam was just an interest of mine, some intellectual theology that I could dabble in from time to time. I was at first very reluctant to call the Quran the Word of God, and I didn't really know much about Muhammad at the time.

      Meanwhile, I also spent time reading the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus and the wisdom literature in the Old Testament. While reading what Jesus taught, I thought to myself, "This Messenger taught Truth, and God has given me so much through him. Yet, why are so many Christians hypocritical, often harsh against others beliefs, and why has Church doctrine invented beliefs calling it God's Word?"

      When thoughts like this and thoughts pertaining to the falseness of the Trinity (which was invented at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) came into my mind, it was at this time when Islam began coming into my life.

      My history teacher, a Christian, once told me that every misconception about Islam is untrue (i.e. Muhammad was a terrorist, he is the Muslim Jesus, peace be upon both Prophets, etc, etc) and was very pleased with my reading of the Quran and open-mindedness.

      I soon came to accept the truth of Islam; ironically, to Christians at least, there was a prominent figure that inspired me to convert to Islam: Jesus Christ.

      I recognized the similarity and importance of what he taught in many passages of the Quran. I saw how the Quran states that Jesus and his teachings contain guidance, salvation, and Light.

      Also, I believe Muslims and Sufis refer to him sometimes as the "Word of God," "Spirit of God," etc, and that Muslims believe (or at least the Quran says) he is near stationed to God. Almost immediately I was researching Islam on the internet and I thought, "Surely this is a true faith!"

      I was also influenced by Yusuf Islam, or Cat Stevens, one of my favourite musicians of all time; he made a statement in converting to Islam, and showed me that one does not need to be Arab to be a Muslim. Since I too am an avid musician in pursuit of a musical career, Yusuf showed me that living a righteous life before God should never be put aside due to music.

      So, I eventually took shahadah (I believe in the one true God, Allah, and that Muhammad is a Messenger of God) and became an "official" Muslim. I was fourteen upon my conversion, and er... well I'm still fourteen, but Islam has already affected me quite profoundly.

      Now, just because I now began referring to myself as a Muslim instead of a Christian didn't mean that I had to give up beliefs. I never believed in a Trinitarian God or that Jesus was God Himself; after all, Jesus taught to abide by his word and to obey the Father, and that the Father is greater than he. The only main difference was that I now recognized the validity of Muhammad's prophethood and the Truth of the Quran.

      However, Islam was different to me in some respects than Christianity, but in ways that were pleasant and helpful. For example, I have always had a good relationship with God because of Jesus and his teachings, and I have always seen Christianity as a religion focused on God's love.

      At school I have many Jewish friends, and I have partaken in the Sabbath with some of them, attended holidays, etc, and I noticed that they are very law abiding, yet in talking to my friends, it seemed to me as though they didn't have that same connection/relationship with God that I and many other Christians I knew had.

      So my feeling was this: Christianity is great because it is focused around the love of God, but there is a lot of blind faith and mysteries involved, and that Judaism is great because many Jews live in accordance to the laws of the Torah, yet in my personal observances, it seemed as though many lacked some of that relationship.

      Islam is both a religion which requires certain beliefs and is focused around the love of God/a relationship with Him, and it also has a strong aspect of law abiding, and ritual; in short, it has the passion and love of Christianity and the law and ritual of Judaism. These two are of course a fine combination if one wishes to know God and be obedient of His commandments.
      As I partially mentioned before, my conversion to Islam was not an entirely huge step for me, because I was already a very spiritual person in touch with God; however, upon my conversion I found myself reading the Quran a lot, learning about the Prophet Muhammad and researching all aspects of Islam.

      Soon enough, I learned how to do the ritual prayer and even if I don't pray at all during the day (I'm trying to improve on that), I usually pray at night, often for long periods of time (20 minutes to an hour) because after the ritual prayer I stay prostrate before God thanking Him for what he has blessed me with, praising Him, etc. Prayer is indeed the door to the Eternal, and when I finish praying I feel "intoxicated" with God's presence and I am often at a heart-warming peace.

      My family has no qualms about me converting to Islam; I still believe in Jesus, I wouldn't be a Muslim if I didn't! I haven't gone to extremes like changing my name to an Arabic one, and I will still celebrate Christmas and Easter with my family in addition to Ramadan and other Muslim holidays.

      I know that neither Christian holiday is prescribed by God, yet I feel I need celebrate them now not because of my religious upbringing, but mainly for love of my family, and I see no harm in doing so as long as I know in my heart what it is that I am really celebrating.

      I have been brought up to shun the pagan ideas and commercialism that pertains to these holidays. I know not how my friends will react to my conversion, but it's not like I shall be walking around campus professing that I am a Muslim, but if anyone asks me or religious status comes up in conversation, I will be proud to say I am a Muslim, just as I was proud to say I was a Christian.

      I hope to God that anyone who hears about my religious conversion will see me the same way as they did before.

      The main impact that Islam has had on my life is that now, more than ever, I find myself in great obedience to God. I'm almost never angry, I don't swear, I obey the Quran to the best of my abilities, and any minor sin I may commit (i.e. lust) I ask immediate forgiveness from God.

      I am also very jovial and peaceful, and I have excelled in wisdom. God even inspired me to write an essay in which I propose a non-Trinitarian way of viewing the nature of God which can be fully accepted by both Muslims and Christians.

      I feel as though in recent times I know God more than ever.
      I was always taught to believe in God and Jesus so that I may have eternal life, yet one day I realized that I do not believe in God and His Messengers and His commandments so that I can live forever, but because of my undying love and supreme reverence for the Almighty.

      God exists here and now, on Earth, and you must look inside yourselves and around you at His Creation to find Him. Why wait for eternity to come when you can experience God's presence anywhere at any time?

      Islam has indeed made me spiritually stronger than ever, and I thank God for inviting me to be a part of it. I wish the entire world could know how great Islam really is and stop judging it by the actions of a few men (terrorists and fundamentalists) who bring shame to Islam and the name of God.

      As advice to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, don't take seriously what is written negatively about Islam on the internet, especially on Christian websites: I have read horrible things including: Islam is a cult, it leads people away from God, Muslims don't believe in Jesus, Allah is not God or Yahweh, and even a site which poked fun at Islam, instructing Christians how to kindly point out contradictions in the Quran or Muslim belief to get Muslims to convert to Christianity, etc.

      The real truth is, it doesn't matter what religious title you hold (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu); it is one's relationship with God and obeying His commands that leads to eternal life and salvation. To any Christian who may be sceptical about this simple statement on the ticket to eternal life, ask Jesus: "Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me (God) has eternal life." (John 5:24)

      And to support it with a Quranic passage: {O believers, believe in God and His Messenger(s), and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger (Muhammad), and the Book (Gospel) which he sent down before.} (An-Nisa' 4:135)

      In the prior, as in the latter, there is no complex theology: just God and His Messengers.

      I hope and pray that there shall be a day when every person shall bow before God Almighty, and love Him with the greatest of love. May the Truth guide all men to salvation, and may the Eternal engulf them in His ever embracing Light.

      Van Doorn’s son embraces Islam
      Published — Friday 25 April 2014


      Almost a year after his father’s reversion to Islam, the son of a former anti-Islam Dutch politician, Arnoud Van Doorn, has reverted to Islam after studying the holy Qur’an.
      “I bear witness that there is no God to be worshipped but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His servant and last messenger,” Iskander said in his Shahadah (testimony) to become a Muslim.
      Doorn, a former member of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), embraced Islam a year ago after an extensive study into the religion.
      He was among party leaders who helped produce an offensive film titled Fitna in 2008 that linked Islam and the Qur’an to violence.
      But after Muslim outcry at the movie, Doorn began to read more about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), leading him to embrace Islam in 2013.
      Iskander was among 37 people who converted to Islam during Dubai International Peace Convention, astonishing attendants.
      “I saw my father become more peaceful after converting to Islam,” Doorn’s son said.
      “That’s when I realized there is something good in this religion and it made me change my perception of Muslims.
      “I started studying the Holy Qur’an and going through lectures of important scholars.”
      The 22-year-old Isakander said that his Muslim colleague Younis was a role model for Muslim youth who encouraged him to embrace Islam.

      “My friend Younis is a good practicing Muslim who taught me something new every day,” said Iskander.
      “He was patient with me and there was no way I could be rude to him.”
      As his son reverted to Islam, Doorn reiterated his regret for participating in producing the anti-Islam film Fitna.
      “There is a misconception among people that I produced the movie Fitna, but I wasn’t involved in it,” Doorn said.
      “I was only responsible for distributing the movie. Today, it is something that I deeply regret.”
      In April 2013, Doorn vowed to use his experience in producing an international film that highlights the noble traits of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
      Under the title ‘Muhammad: Master of Human Beings’, the movie would be co-produced by the Canadian Dawah Society, which had invited him to perform hajj.
      The former far-right politician also announced his plans to form the first Islamic political party in Europe last October to serve Islam and Muslims, a few months after reverting to Islam.
      “I feel an urge and a responsibility to correct the mistakes I have done in the past. I want to use my talents and skills in a positive way by spreading the truth about Islam,” Doorn said.
      “I am trying to make a new movie about Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
      “It would show people what examples the Prophet set in his life and the movie would invite younger
      people to Islam.”

      Courtesy: islamonline.com

      Number of Muslims in United States increasing day by day
      Saturday March 15, 2014 10:51 PM, Michele Moses


      He has felt that way since a clear summer evening in 2007 at a nondescript gas station off a nondescript interstate somewhere between Savannah and Macon. He was on his way home to Saint Simons Island from Emory University, where he had just finished his junior year. Caldwell had pulled his red Mini Cooper into the rest stop because the sun was starting to set and, since he had converted to Islam one year earlier, this meant that it was time to pray.

      In the empty field next to the gas station, he found a discrete corner, laid out his mat and began to recite the holy verses, first standing, then bent forward, then on his knees with his head to the ground. He noticed two people looking at him, secretively peering out from behind their truck. Uneasy, he rushed through the ritual, folded up his mat and got back in the car to leave. As he pulled away, he could see in his rear view mirror a cop car pulling into the parking lot. The people who had been staring were flagging down the police officer and pointing at Caldwell. He drove on at an intentionally moderate pace, and the cop did not follow, but he has not risked praying publicly in the South since.

      Caldwell is soft spoken. He pauses thoughtfully before talking and sometimes between sentences. He wears a plaid button down shirt, slacks and small, round wire-framed glasses. His wide-set green eyes gaze out earnestly from his creamy white face. One quickly gets the sense that he is a kind and spiritual person. Perhaps this is his fatal flaw. After growing up in the Episcopal Church, Caldwell rediscovered his spirituality in Islam and decided to convert. Now, less than a hundred miles from where he was raised, onlookers see Caldwell's prayer as a potential threat. Why might this be?

      "The political context we are in is so charged with anti-Muslim rhetoric that it's almost impossible, I would say, for that conversion not to have some kind of political ramifications even if the convert in no way intends it," says Brannon Ingram, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, who specializes in Islam and Sufism. In July of 2013, Fox News correspondent Lauren Green interviewed religion scholar Reza Aslan about "Zealot", a book he just had written about Jesus Christ. She repeatedly questioned his credentials and asked him to explain how a Muslim could write about Christianity. In 2013, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that 45 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face "a lot" of discrimination.

      Negative sentiments about Muslims most often link to an association of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. A 2007 document by the New York Police Department entitled "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat," says, "Jihadist ideology is the driver that motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out an 'autonomous jihad' via acts of terrorism against their host countries." Because of these beliefs, the police instated surveillance over New York City's mosques and Muslim communities using informants, neighborhood mapping, photos and video footage. When the American Civil Liberties Union caught wind of this policy in June of 2013, they sued the NYPD.

      Muslim converts have received extensive media attention. Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the notorious Boston Marathon bombers, began practicing Islam after meeting her husband. Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the "White Widow" after her husband's 2005 suicide bombing in London public transit, is among the suspects implicated in the Nairobi mall massacre in September 2013. She, too, is Muslim convert. Nicholas Brody, a main character of the popular television show "Homeland", becomes a Muslim while he is imprisoned by al-Quaeda in Damascus, Syria. Once back in the United States, he collaborates with his captors to plot and execute terror attacks.

      Karen Danielson, Director of Outreach at the Chicago chapter of Muslim American Society, says that any event that brings Islam into the public consciousness — for negative or positive reasons — generates interest. "After 9/11 for example, there was a large influx of converts. Sometimes people come forward hostile, but then even they end up converting because of what they discover," she says. "They investigated, they read the Quran, and it answered a lot of questions that they had before." Danielson herself found Islam in 1983 when she was a young adult. She has worked in community building for Muslims ever since and has interacted with hundreds of converts and support groups.

      Despite their powers of attraction, these terror-infused portrayals are very problematic for converts, says Iqbal Akhtar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University. New Muslims are forced to view themselves as outsiders in their own culture and are not given the opportunity to reconcile the different parts of their identities. "Even if in day-to-day interactions you can pass for being American or not being differentiated, you live in a society where the media is constantly defining the Muslim as an 'other,'" says Akhtar. "All these things fit into how you define yourself."

      Converts to any faith seem increasingly abnormal as the United States gravitates farther away from religion. According to a Pew Research study, the number of Americans who do not affiliate with a religion has gone up by 5 percent in the past five years, from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012.

      Yet the number of Muslims in the United States is increasing. In the seven years that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Muslim American population grew from 1,104,000 to 1,349,000, according to the 2012 census. And in a study of that same time frame, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40 percent of Muslims in the United States were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

      This anomalous increase in religious practice may be because conversion to Islam is quick and very simple. "It really just requires reciting a formula called the shahada in front of a number of witnesses," says Ingram. He translates the verse to mean, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger." And that's it. There's no training, no test. You just recite the creed. Ingram attributes the successful global spread of Islam to the ease of this process.

      The difficulty for many converts comes in the change of daily customs, rather than in the change of faith. In 2005, at the age of 36, Jennifer Gauthier converted from Catholicism to Islam in order to marry to a Muslim man. The pair has since moved to Alexandria, Egypt. "I would say the greatest challenges I face are more related to Islamic cultural traditions rather than what I understand from the Quran," she says. "My dad and I have had many conversations about Islam and Catholicism and have found many overlaps." She says it made a big difference that she already felt comfortable with the idea of one god.

      Saba Safder, Scholarship Manager at the national non-profit Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim convert from Methodism, speaks to the challenging cultural adjustments. "In the beginning it was hard to fit in. Sometimes when I came to the mosque, my scarf may not have covered all my hair, or my sleeves may not have been as long as they should have been," she said. "There were many times that women would correct my praying or how I dressed."

      Many converts also felt alienated because of their whiteness. In theory, explains Ingram, Islam is meant to be a race-free religion. But in practice, he says, this is not the case. "In the popular imagination Islam is still very much," – he makes air quotes with his fingers – "a brown person's religion." And this belief, he continues, is somewhat valid. "American Muslim communities can be very closely knit in terms of some ethnic background," he says. "Not just immigrants from or descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, but even specific regions in India."

      As a result, when Caldwell enters a Muslim center for the first time, he says he gets one of two reactions to his whiteness. The first is suspicion. In a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he recalls, he could feel everyone's eyes on him. Muslims sometimes suspect that he is an FBI agent, working for the aforementioned government surveillance, he says. "I just try to deal with it because I understand it." he says. Others place him on a pedestal. Immigrants trying to assimilate into white American society take his race as a sign of their success. "Seeing a white person [practicing Islam] sort of validates their own religious existence. There's a lot of embedded racial assumptions about that," he says. "I don't think it's a desirable situation for me or for them, but it is the case nonetheless."

      Some converts are forming their own groups, one of which is Ta'leef Collective. Founded as a resource for new Muslims and prospective converts, Ta'leef runs classes, discussions and support groups. Its headquarters are in Fremont, Calif., but it opened a Chicago chapter in 2012. Ta'leef stays away from the media for fear that it will portray them badly. "Our concern is both one of how we are represented to the larger American population and how we are represented to other Muslim communities," said Caldwell, who is a participant. "A lot of what we do would be controversial to other Muslim communities in the sense that it's not a mosque but it's a Muslim community. That doesn't fit so well into the parameters of what they expect."

      New Muslims often especially need this social outlet after distancing themselves from their former lives. "I very rarely associate myself with the community I was raised in. I have strong contacts with my family, but many times I just feel like it is hard to belong," says Safder. "There are too many media influences that give people a preconceived idea before seeing that I am still the same person."

      If not at home, how do converts find Islam? Danielson was in her first year at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. She intended to lead missions targeting Muslims. To prepare, she studied the Quran and was deeply moved by it. "It was through my personal reading of Quran that I had my own private conversion," she says. "I felt like my questions were answered. The deep bigger questions about justice and life in general. What is the universe all about? What does everything mean?" She says she never found this type of spiritual guidance in the Bible and converted to Islam one month after.

      Caldwell's story of coming to Islam is strikingly similar. An altar boy in his youth, Caldwell looked up to his Episcopal priest and wanted to follow in his footsteps. While an undergraduate at Emory University, he learned that seminary students studied Greek but not Hebrew. In order to understand the Old Testament, he started taking Hebrew classes. These led him to Jewish studies classes. Judaism introduced him to the possibility of practicing other religions, but it was too connected to an ethnic and cultural history for him to fully embrace it, he says. "I guess in a lot of ways Islam is a natural place to look at that point." He started reading the Quran and spent the summer and fall of his junior year in Jerusalem. He promised himself that he wouldn't make any big decisions until he finished it. One month into his studies in Israel, he finished the Quran and converted to Islam.

      Ingram has noticed a trend in why people like Danielson or Caldwell may gravitate toward the religion. "I've spoken to a few white converts over the years who said Christianity never made sense to me, the trinity never made sense to me, the idea of God being one and three at the same time never made sense to me," he said. "Islam doesn't have that problem. People are attracted to the comparative simplicity of Islam's notion of God."

      Their strong connection to Islamic theology helps converts deal with stigma. "We know that Islam does not preach terrorism. We know Islam does not preach extremist radical thought. Those things are not linked to Islam. They're linked to Muslims," says Danielson. "Muslims are people. They have so many factors that motivate who they are. Yes, Islam influences them, but they have their economic condition and their political situation, too."

      Gauthier puts this idea concisely. "A saying I've heard often — and I think it applies to all religions — is 'Don't look to Muslims to understand Islam. Look to Islam itself,'" she says.

      But, according to Danielson, converts need to change people's preconceptions about Muslims. "We have to get our voice heard better. Islam should be understood better, and that's a difficult position to be in," she says. "First-hand knowledge of Islam and Muslims needs relationship building and a genuine commitment to long-term cooperation." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

      Why Robert Davila is the Most Famous Muslim in America This Week
      Posted by: Hena Zuberi February 27, 2014


      Assalam 'alaykum wa rahmatulah,
      Sometimes we land in a spiritual slump and want to stop doing what we are doing, and then Allāh sends us inspiration when we need it most. I watched this last night and had to share this with our readers. Although it has probably been shared all over the world, on forums, Facebook pages, and websites (yes, even soap opera sites), it deserves to be shared even more, māshā'Allāh!
      What a story, what an inspiration! JazakAllah Khayr to Ustadh Nouman for sharing the story of Robert Davila.
      I relayed this story to three different people today, and each of them felt rejuvenated on his/her journey to Allāh, including my daughter, who was struggling with her Qurʾān lessons. To encourage her, we were reading Khuram Murad's Way to the Qurʾān together and at the part where he writes about making sure that we are “constantly alert with intense praise and gratitude to [our] Master for having blessed [us] with His greatest gift- the Qurʾān and for having guided [us] to its reading and study,” Brother Robert was the most perfect example that I could give to her, having seen this video.
      It really, truly reminded me that Allāh's work doesn't stop–we need Him–he doesn't need us. May Allāh guide all of us with the light of His Guidance in whatever position we may be in and give us the taufiq of du‘ā’ (supplication), shukr (thankfulness), sabr (patience), and ridha bil qadha (satisfaction with Divine Decree). Āmīn.

      Update: Here is a photo of Robert for those who were doubting his existence. Ustadh Nouman plans on airing an interview with him soon. Yusuf made some great points in comments. It is not enough for us to celebrate and be inspired by conversion stories, we have to realize that disabled and New Muslim support is severely lacking in many of our communities. If you were moved by this story, use the inspiration to start a support group in your masjid or community center. One immediate thing you can do is teach people how to talk about disability with respect. People with disabilities live in a world designed primarily for the able-bodied. We can only really start to empathize when we think of how inconvenient or unkind circumstances are getting to the places where people worship and socialize; things that many of us take for granted.

      Muslimmatters had our own da‘wah cheer to share this week. Yesterday, Br. Sebastian took his shahadah and shared this tweet with us, and another brother who cannot drive to the masjid due to a disability asked if he could take shahadah online with one of us. Allahumma taqabbal ya Rabb.

      How Catholic Bishops Led Me to Islam
      By Michael Byrne
      Wednesday, 08 January 2014 00:00


      I was born to devout Catholic parents and attended a Catholic school taught by devout priests and nuns.

      We learned thoroughly our religious knowledge by means of the question and answer method called "catechism". It consisted of 499 questions to which we memorized the 499 well-thought-out answers, word for word.

      Our catechism dealt with all aspects of faith, morality and prayer. We attended Mass every Sunday and on seven other special yearly holidays.

      Every day at home we prayed the Rosary, a meditation on the 15 most important events in the life of Jesus and his mother, Mary. We dearly loved our parents, our teachers, and our religion. We had a happy childhood.

      When I was a teenager, there was a meeting of all the Catholic bishops of the world, about 2500 of them, in Rome. After the meeting, they published a book which said, among other things, The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims.

      They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.

      Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead.

      Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

      Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

      After reading what the bishops had written, I decided to learn more about Muslims and Islam.
      I wrote to a mosque in our provincial capital. The imam sent me a copy of Yusuf Ali's translation of the Quran and a little book called Primer of Islam. I loved the little book, its simplicity, and its message: When you surrender to God's will, you find peace.

      Thomas Aquinas, a great Catholic theologian, when asked how to become learned, wrote:

      "Read one book. Whatever you read or hear, take care to understand it well. Attain certainty in what is doubtful."

      I applied this advice to the Quran. I carefully read through Yusuf Ali's Quran translation twice, and studied his many footnotes. A while later, our city's university hosted a three-day symposium on Islam, which I attended. The principal speaker was very intelligent, well-spoken, and gentle. Everything the bishops had written about the Muslims seemed to agree with what I was reading and hearing.

      I began to attend weekly Arabic and Islamic lessons offered by local Muslims. The head teacher was very intelligent, a university professor of electrical engineering. I asked him many questions and he answered every one with great insight, patience, and clarity. Under his instruction, I soon learned the five pillars of Islam and how to recite some short surahs of the Quran, and within a few months, I attended my first Friday Prayers.

      I attended Friday Prayers regularly at the university and made new friends from many countries. I took part in learning circles and made progress in my Quran recitation. I prayed the five daily prayers and found great joy in the new routines of my life.

      Ramadan arrived, and I enjoyed fasting and attending Tarawih Prayers. When I saw the beautiful crescent moon and the planet shining in the sky on `Eid, my heart leaped with joy and I thanked God for such a favor as He had bestowed upon me.
      Though surprised at my conversion to Islam, none of my Catholic family spoke against the published opinions of the world's Catholic bishops. They wished me well in my new faith. But there was a separation in family activity. I no longer prayed with them at home or in the church, and they never considered praying with me, nor did they ever visit a mosque.

      I moved to another city not far from home in order to teach at an Islamic school. I was able to visit home on weekends. Then I moved to another city in a nearby country to attend university. I was able to visit home only twice a year. I moved once again, this time to a city across the sea to attend another university. I was able to visit home once in two years.

      Years have passed and I teach now at a school on the distant edge of my country, far from old friends and family. Nature is raw here. The sun, moon, and stars rise and set and the seasons come and go in due order. In summer the days are long; in winter, the nights. In summer, the days are never too hot; in winter, they are always cold. The sea-tides come in and go out exactly as God planned.

      Wide open wilderness surrounds our town in all directions except to the east: There lies the ocean, wild and blue in summer, frozen solid in the bleak winter. Is not God great? To have created all this strong and wild beauty so that man may find peace in it, and out of this boundless peace chant the Quran in slow measured tones! One cannot thank Him enough for the blessings He has given me.

      Praise be to my Lord the Most High!

      First published in January 2007.

      Nigerian Footballer Reverts to Islam
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00


      CAIRO – A retired Nigerian World Cup footballer Emeka Ezeugo has reverted to Islam, saying he reached his life-changing decision after reading about the life of Islam Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

      “I am always a curious person and studied different religions when I found the life of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) very inspiring,” Ezeugo told reporters earlier this week, Spy Ghana reported.

      Ezeugo, 46, said he embraced Islam after being inspired by the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

      The former footballer, who represented Nigeria in the 1994 World Cup after playing for Mohammedan Sporting Club for nearly a decade, said he feels honored to be a follower of the great prophet who he thinks is the greatest among all messengers of God.

      He has now taken a new name, Mustafa Mohammed and plans to apply for a new passport with his new name once he returns to his home in Nigeria.

      Reports about Ezeugo’s reversion to Islam first spread in February 2012, yet it is the first time he speaks to media about reasons behind his decision.

      He recited the shahada, declaration of faith, after visiting a Muslim scholar last week with Mohammedan manager Amirul Islam, his former team-mate Kaiser Hamid, Zaker party leader Amir Faisal and club official Abu Hasan Prince.

      “I am a grown up man brother. I am free to make my own decisions. None of my family members protested the decision,” he said.

      Emeka, however, said that the large number of friends he made in Bangladesh is like his family and they gave him good support in making the decision.

      “Bangladesh is my second home and I have some friends here who are like my brothers. They helped me in making the decision,” Emeka said.

      New Man

      Finding Islam, Emeka said the decision made him stronger.

      He added that his life has become more disciplined as he has to offer prayers more now and follow some other rituals of the religion.

      “I have just planted a seed and now I have to nourish it into a tree,” said Emeka

      “I know that I will discover many good sides of this decision with time but at this moment I can say the religion has made my life more disciplined,” he added.

      Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.

      Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.

      Last November, eighteen Igbo men from Nigeria's mainly Christian southeast region embraced Islam at the National mosque Abuja, in Nigeria's capital.

      A Christian monarch and then a daughter of a pastor had earlier this year reverted to Islam, the latter drawing widespread controversy over claims that she was hypnotized by a Muslim monarch in the country's north central city Bida, Niger state.

      The Pastor’s daughter, Aisha, denied being hypnotized, insisting her choice of Islam was strictly a personal decision driven by conducts of Muslims around her.