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Conversion Stories New Muslims

My Path to Islam: It’s about Sincerity & Persistence

nature flowers

Religion is the only one stable you can have in life. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

I converted to Islam in October 2007. I was raised a Catholic. I used to teach Catholicism, and I was not so much reactive in the church.

I started to have questions about life I went to the church for my answers and I was met with a lot of resistance. I decided to take my time in knowing about different religions. I started studying Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism , Jainism and, eventually, Islam.

My life has been very different after converting to Islam. It has been one of the most beautiful things that can ever happen to me but it has also brought its share of hardships. My family since I’ve accepted Islam doesn’t speak with me.

As a result, they have taken my daughter from me. I have suffered a lot, I’ve lost my job, I can’t attend school anymore because I’m not able to afford it financially though I was one of the top students in my school.

In life nothing is stable. You can have money, you can have family, you can have anything and all can go in the blink of an eye. But religion is the only one stable you can have. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

And going to the church and being told ‘that’s the way it is’, ‘because God said so’, and ‘you shouldn’t question that’, was not acceptable for me.

If I need answers where am I going to find them then?

Being Catholic you believe that there’s the trinity in it (the religion), that Jesus is son of God and he is God, etc. It’s when you can take your mind out of it and look at it, it doesn’t make sense. But it is hard – when for so many years you have this as your faith; this is what you defend and what you’re dedicated to, to take this step back and kind of be open-minded about it.

For me, it took time. I started it for a long time, I had a lot of misconceptions about what Islam was. I even hated Muslims.

I thought all Muslims should die, and in my mind that anyone who is Muslim was they shouldn’t exist; why are they here? They should go back to their countries. You know I had the common American idea of what Islam and Muslims are. But that was my own ignorance following the media.

At this point I read often…

What happened to the sister? Why the change of Heart?

Learn more about what questions the sister had and what answers she have found and how? What did Islam gave here, and how have it contributed to all aspects of her life?

Watch the sister telling her touching and inspiring story her…

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

From an Atheist to a Devoted Muslim: My Path to Islam

fence in nature

I know times can get hard, with family, society, friends not agreeing or mocking your religion or choices of life. Just know that Allah is testing you.

I didn’t even know Islam existed. I did not even know it was a religion, the only religion I knew was Christianity, due to my mother’s side of the family being Catholic and Christian.

I was oblivious to what Islam was. Subhan Allah, I was obviously caught up in this world way too much. Satan had seriously veiled my heart from seeking the true path.

Glory be to Allah, I went from being an atheist to (al-hamdu lillah) being a God-fearing person who implements Islam into every aspect of my life. I converted September the 21st 2011. Islam was the total opposite of how I lived my life before. It was a literally huge turning point in my life.

How I Did It

As I said, my Mom’s side of the family are Christian and Catholic. They’ve never been religious, only taking me to church occasionally on Christmas Eve. My dad’s side of the family are all non-practicing Muslims. However, due to my parents breaking up I was never close to my Dad. My dad would tell me to not eat pork or reveal myself, but never told me why, so I ignored it.

Before I converted, my life was chaos. It was all about me. When I was nine years old, I had many problems which eventually led me to nearly killing myself, accidentally. Family problems, problems at school, bullying, self-image… you name it. I decided to self-harm, and ended up cutting too deep, just missing my artery on my left arm. I had to stay in hospital and have four stitches. Al-hamdulillah, Allah gave me life when I did not deserve it. I was thirteen and had been through so much.

Towards the end of my ninth year, I had a Muslim person on my BBM. I would always see them post words such as ‘In sha’ Allah’ and ‘Masha’Allah’. This intrigued me, as they would send broadcasts and etc. about Islam. I became interested and started to seek answers.

My friends at the time were all Caucasian or Jamaican. I approached a Muslim girl in my year, who had been in my class since year seven. I told her I wanted to convert. I didn’t know why, it was so confusing. I never even knew what the religion was. Something was just telling me to convert!

Another sister in my year, would speak to me every science lesson and decided to take my number. At first I was interested, I was at the point of converting, then I told my Mom.

She told me that I wouldn’t be able to conform to the rules of Islam, due to how different it was. This hurt me. Then some serious family problems arose which was when I decided to not convert.

I then went on holiday to Spain, as it was the six-week holiday! I was a proper Western girl and lived life to the fullest; wearing my bikini, eating bacon, and occasionally drinking Lambrini or Malibu. When I came back I was surprised to see messages from this sister. She was still trying to help me convert (Al-hamdulillah). Not once did this sister give up on me!

I started to challenge the religion, trying to pick flaws, but it was too perfect, there were no flaws, subhan Allah!

When we went back to school, the sisters were trying so hard. One day, they brought me some chocolates; this is what changed my heart. I was no one to these girls yet they were so passionate about my hereafter. The love they showed towards me was beautiful and unique. I converted later that day!

Challenges Faced

As for reaction from non-Muslim friends and family members, my mom’s family was disappointed and still are. I lost all my old friends.

I don’t speak to most of my family. Now, morals, friends, choices and life are for Islam.

As for holidays, I spend most `Eids alone. Still, he warming, loving atmosphere of `Eid is beautiful.

Stand Your Ground

You can benefit and learn from my experience. So, this is my advice to you:

– Ensure that you have good company, leave any bad influences.

– Learn the basics of the religion before trying to rush into the deeper aspects of it.

– Do things in your own time with pure intentions for the sake of Allah; do not aim to please the creation, but to please the Creator.

– Try to use your experience to help others to convert.

– Share the message of Islam.

– Put your trust in Allah. I know times can get hard, with family, society, friends not agreeing or mocking your religion or choices of life. Just know that Allah is testing you.

– Hold firm to your religion and know that Allah chose you to be amongst his beloveds.

______________________

Source: Islam.about.com

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Happiness Like I Never Felt before: Former French Rapper Diam’s

French rapper Diam’s talks about her conversion to Islam

“I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness; the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets.”

Four years after she converted to Islam, French Rapper Diam’s explains why she decided to take this amazing step that changed her life. In an interview with the French channel TF1, she explains that Islam has brought a lot of meaning to her life.

“I became a normal woman. When I wake up every morning, I know that I have to improve myself,” she said.

“When you carry God’s love in your heart, you are fulfilled.”

She went on to say that she was not built for stardom, clarifying that the life of stars made her miserable. “I tried very hard to have fun in the parties, but, I was not built for that. I believed in the dream of becoming a star, but it was just an illusion,” she said.

Connection with God

The turning point of her life was when she was with her Muslim friend Sousou. When Soussou went to do her prayer, Diam’s asked her if she could pray with her.

“When I prayed with her and I prostrated, I felt being connected with God,” she explains.

When she went on a trip to Mauritius, she took the Qur’an with her in order to read it: “It was a revelation, I was intimately convinced that God exists,” she explained.

“The more I was reading, the more convinced I became.”

Concerning her decision to wear the veil, she explained how it all came step by step. She was not ready to wear I at the beginning, but when she learnt more about Islam, she grew convinced that she needed to wear the hijab.

Hostile Reaction

When the press and her entourage discovered that she converted to Islam, she explained, as she was filmed coming out from a mosque, the press lashed out at her.

Some went as far as accusing her of becoming a danger for all her young fans. She deplored the confusion that the media created about the story of her conversion to Islam.

“I lost my team, because nobody trusted me. When a young girl converts, people say that either she is indoctrinated or her husband forced her to do it, as if I did not have my intellectual independence as if people knew that I was a woman with a weak personality or no character,” she added.

Her veil stirred controversy, especially that she had never explained what led her to change her path. She highlighted the intolerance of the French society and how it is far from being benevolent towards her when she decided to convert to Islam and how she went through tough moments after her decision.

Answering the question if it was complicated to live in France while being a veiled woman, she explained that although France remains a country that promotes freedom, people are not that kind towards her: “France remains the country of freedom since I can still wear my veil, but people’s prejudice and nastiness, make one tired,” she said.

She deplored the fact the French press and the public opinion accused her of becoming a ‘danger for the youth’.

“Is this danger, to advocate peace and be a nice person, and have a family life?”, she wondered.

“I wonder if I people would have said the same to me had I ended up like Amy Winehouse,” she added.

Religion of Peace

She criticized the people who defame Islam without having any knowledge about it and the amalgam between Islam and extremism:

“There are some people who are ignorant and they should refrain from talking. When we talk about something, we have to know what we are talking about,” she said.

Regarding the accusation of extremism leveled at Islam in Western countries, she emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace.

“That is not what I discovered. I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness. It is the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets. Why do people make it look like that? Under no circumstances can we find it normal that innocent people are killed in terrorist attacks.”

“I am very happy to the point that I have happiness in my heart that nobody can take away, neither through taking pictures nor attacking me, I have faith,” she concluded.

_________________________

Source: Morocco World News

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

From a Christian Preacher to a Muslim Community Leader: Khalil Meek

Raised in a typical American Christian family, going to traditional Bible school, Khalil Meek aspired to be a Baptist preacher. During this time he got involved in religious conversations with whoever he met and on college campuses, and, unsurprisingly, very much enjoined it.

That’s was how he communicated Christianity with others, through asking people what they believe and why. And for him it was amazingly beneficial and entertaining as well.

That’s where he found utmost passion and pleasure.

So what did he find and learn from such conversations? How did he react to it? What findings did he come across?

What did make someone of such a conservative upbringing, who always believed in Christianity and never challenging or questioning its teachings and beliefs, convert to Islam?

From such conservative upbringing, how did Khalil Meek make his way into Islam, being now one of the founders of Muslim Legal Fund of America?

From where did his journey begin? How did he learn about Islam?

The interview below of ‘Path to Guidance’ with Khalil Meek brings a very important theological discussion about his captivating story on the path of guidance

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Path to Guidance: Christianity Led Me to the Light of Islam

God guides whom He wills to His path, the path of guidance. Though, we have to seek His guidance to get on that path. That’s how brother Philippe found his way to Islam.

Born and grown up in Brazil his life was not different from what is usual for a child there. It was when he moved to New Jersey, United States that he began to question the truth behind all this.

Exposed to different religions, backgrounds and lifestyles, he wanted to seek and find the truth himself. He went to various religious schools and joined different churches that reading the Bible was a part of every day. He joined the Marines Corps which was before 9/11.

During his traineeship upon graduation from the Marines he embarked on his soul searching journey; reached a stage where he introspected and questioned life on a much deeper level, beginning with his very Christian background.

It was his Christianity that opened the door to the light of Islam, bringing him closer to the true religion of God.

Nine years into Islam now, brother Philippe is not just a devout Muslim; Islam has guided every aspect of his life and profoundly influenced his family members and almost every one who get to know him.

Watch brother Philippe Martins unfold unbelievable details of his very interesting journey to Islam in his interview with ‘Path to Guidance’…

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New Muslims Reflections

Being Muslim in America…Between Diversity & Contribution

Nurullah Ates talked to Suhaib Webb for World Bulletin about American Muslims and being a Muslim in the U.S. Here are the questions and his answers …

1- Can you evaluate demographic and cultural background of Muslims in US- in terms of education, ethnic background, median age?

The best resource for that would be PEW. PEW study that was done and also there is a book written by Dalia Mogahed called “Who Speaks for Islam’’. These numbers show that 50% of American Muslims are from America and 50 percent are immigrants or children of immigrants. Also, 37% of Muslim Americans are under the age of 35. As far as ethnicity, our Mosque alone has 90 different ethnicities. So, extremely diverse.

Overwhelming of American Muslims have college degrees. Professionally most people are moderately successful. 50 percent of the community are African American according to some studies.

2- What do you think about this cultural diversity and its implication in the future? Do you think it has advantages or disadvantages?

I think there is an incredible potential where you have obviously financial potential and you see Muslims are participating in public institutions. Number two is that you are going to see the connection between older generations and younger generations. It is almost 40 percent of our community is under 40 years old. Then, definitely they are going to have different expectations and needs that are different than those who came before them.

3- What do you think about the attitude of Muslims towards other ethnic minorities- like Asians and Hispanics?

You can see in California that Muslims are doing a lot of work with those communities and Texas is another central place for those groups where substantial amount of them resides. But still Muslims are trying to institutionalize themselves to play a ‘‘larger game’’ if you would participate in broader societies. At least the dominant institutions, I mean institutional works are still not there.

4- Do you think the diversity (variety of ethnic and sectarian backgrounds) within the Muslim community has setback or potential?

No I think it is a setback. Because the lack of symmetry when it comes to religious authority of thought has led to splitting of mosques, jama`as (congregations) , communities. So I would rather prefer the monolith of Turkey and Malaysia than the diversity of America when it comes to Islam. But in England you cannot compare England to America. It is another level. The divisions are in England are very much more intense level than here. It is not like here.

Even the approach to education is very problematic. If you look America, I do not know about Turkey, there is no liberal arts experience in Muslims schools. There is no history. The only history that we have is Seerah (biography of the Prophet) and Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), when you take out Islamic historical experience what you are doing is creating the perfect modernist. You create someone who just looks life as kufr (disbelief), iman (belief), shirk (associating others with Allah), tawheed (Oneness of God), Sunnah, bid`ah (innovation in religion), fiqh, grammar, balaghah (eloquence). And these are all constructed in Aristotle’s format which looks perfection. But when we bring history like history of Spain and Ottoman Empire, the history of Indians, Mongols or the history of Abbasid or Umawyeen, it will protect us from utopic understanding.

I am sure if you look at ISIS, you will see that their knowledge of Islam is shown to be extremely weak, like their knowledge of history. In Spain once the Muslims conquered one of the cities, they put Jewish people as the governors of those cities. This humanizes the experience.  So we are teaching young people now to be perfect modernist. They have no exposure to organic history.

The embodiment of Prophetic mercy is found in the human experiences not in the theological ones necessarily. Like for example I was taking a humanity class in college and we were studying Hagia Sophia and our professor said: ‘‘do you know that the Ottomans did not destroy the paintings of `Isa (Jesus) and Maryam (Mary). And she was like ‘’is not that incredible, amazing? ’’.

If we were to ask to “some” people, the fiqh opinion on that, they will burn it down. But for the genuine Muslim-human opinion it does not say that. The Prophet (Pbuh) said my community is not agree on misguidance.

So we have human experience of the Ummah that we can also learn from. This is something I am working on actually. We have collective experiences that we can learn. So in American Muslim community, if you go to Islamic schools there is no history. There is no calligraphy etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   To be continued

_________________________

Source: World Bulletin

 

About Imam Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American Muslim Resident Scholar, thought leader and educator. After his conversion to Islam, Webb left a career in the music industry and pursued his passion in education. He enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree Imam Webb studied privately with a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. After intense private training in various Islamic sciences, Imam Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he not only provided Khutbas (Sermons) and religious classes but also counseled families and young people.

After serving as Imam and resident scholar in various communities across the country, Imam Webb decided to further his education and training in Islamic Law and various other Islamic sciences. Imam Webb enrolled at the world-renowned Islamic educational institution Al-Azhar University in the College of Shariʿah. There he studied at the college and privately with leading Islamic thinkers on contemporary Islam. After years of study in the Arabic Language, he was appointed head of the English translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyah as a Mufti (Jurist).

While undergoing rigorous training in Islamic Law, Imam Webb completed the memorization of the Quran while in the city of Makkah. Imam Webb has not only studied at Al-Azhar but also holds a number of licenses from traditional scholars in various sciences as was practiced in traditional Islamic law for centuries.

Imam Suhaib Webb strongly advocates for an authentic articulation of the American Muslim identity. He is a proponent of understanding the various challenges facing the American Muslim community and finding solutions based on an authentic American Muslim experience.

In 2009 his website www.suhaibwebb.com won the Brass Crescent’s best “Blog of the Year” award. Recently he was part of a delegation that visited Auschwitz to develop better understanding between Muslim and Jewish Americans. He was named by the British Government as a “Moderate Muslim leader” and was named in 2010 and 2013 as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

From December 2011 to March 2014 Imam Suhaib Webb served as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center’s Imam. In April 2014 he transitioned into ISBCC’s Resident Scholar. Imam Webb has lectured extensively around the world including the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America.  He is also the founder and an Instructor at Ella Collins Institute. He lives in Boston, MA and is a proud Celtics fan.

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New Muslims Reflections

Being Muslim in America… Between Individuals & Institutions

Part 1

Islamic Information Centre of North America

These institutions should be independent, well-funded, accountable and effective.

Nurullah Ates talked to Suhaib Webb for World Bulletin about American Muslims and being a Muslim in America. Here are the questions and his answers…

5- What do you think about the contribution of the converts?

What you need is that you need academics but you also need activists. So you need people like Timothy Winter who are taught leaders right, taught production. We have a lot of those people in America like Sherman Jackson but many times people get lost in academia.

You have extremely gifted people but often times there is a linguistic gap where the dialectic they may be employing is different than those masses have. So between masses and academia that is why you have popular activists to convey their message.

This is also in the history of Ashab Al-Ukhdud right? As Sheikh told the boy: ”Do not tell people about me, just teach people”. The Sheikh is an academic and the taught leader whereas the boy is kind of popular activist. You need activists and you need scholars. We have a number of people like these scholars. The masses however have problem in understanding scholars due to vocabulary they are using.

6- One more question; there is like a tendency among some converts they choose to live in a Muslim country rather than staying in US.

I think there is a number of reasons for that. I think the first reason is that we do not build really institutional home in US. I think first reason therefore we do not have a community like American Muslims. You do not have institutions. Number two is we are faced to deal with immigrant community that is still very much try to negotiate “Americannes”. We did this 300 years ago.

Like I put a picture of a gun on my Facebook wall and there was a rigid reaction by a larger community which happens to be immigrant. But converts say like ‘”that is great to protect yourself”.

If you go to the conferences in America you know that the topic will be assimilation. I am a blonde and white guy. Assimilation? That is something important for certain people. Do not get me wrong! I was unassimilated by Wahhabi discourse. So I think when we go overseas it goes back what I said about history.

You experience human-organic, simple ideologically based practice. So if you go to Malaysia, very comfortable very simple very easy and also certain parts of Yemen there people are very easy going, like West Africa (God helped them with Ebola now).

One day my ex-wife , she is from Malaysia, said to me the difference between American converts in the West and those who are born Muslims still overseas, you are like someone who reads the book on how to ride a bike, but I just born riding a bike. So it does make sense but we want to be in a place where we can ride it.

I think a lot of us tired from the rule based Islam, modernist Islam I talked about earlier. We find more organic Islam in Muslim countries. When I go Muslim countries I feel so relaxed. But what seems scary is that groups like ISIS and others they are brained with very modernist, fascist understanding of religion in trying to impose to all people. I mean like how do you capture Muslims (regarding Turkish diplomats who were captured in Mosul). I mean in the most primitive fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). How come?

7- Coming to the Ella Collins, what do you say about its programs and future plans?

Ella Collins is the sister of Malcolm X. This again goes back to what we talked about earlier. Organic history with our roots here in America. Her life style was not perfect and she died in a very difficult situations. We named it ECI because she lived in this city. Our focus is primarily two areas: number one is adult education. This includes international students too. We have 130 students now. And second component of ECI is to train Imams and scholars (men and women) to serve as pastors in American Muslim communities. Like Imam-Hatip Schools in Turkey. (Smiling)

We want to grow by ourselves, we want to have our own schools and scholars. Like you guys. You know what I love about the Turks. You have your own identity and we have to have American identity in terms of cultural bases. So we can send our kids to Turkey and you can send some of your students to here and we train them in our community. This is the cooperative effort which will work.

In the past everybody came to America and tried to conquer it, take it. Those ideas still around but isolated everybody because they do not speak to a broader context. Al-Maghrib and Zaytuna are doing good job in this sense. For example we teach Hanafi School of fiqh in ECI so we can bring one from Turkey.

I brought one of my classmates from Al-Azhar to teach Shafi`i mazhab (school). She is a scholar. It was great for our sisters to see a woman scholar. Cooperation would be fantastic in this way. If I come to Turkey that is the one of the goal i.e. to build this bridge. Next year we are going to open our seminary. We will be opening with a seminary school. We will have 10 fellowships. It will be 2 years program. Then they can do 3rd year in Turkey.

You will have a guy in Turkey after 2 years he can come here and we can expose him like drug counseling care, sex abuse, we will expose him in America that will make him such a more dynamic scholar. I have been in Turkey I saw all the gay people. They might be good people though. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that people are like metals. You have to dig a metal. But if we can’t speak to them we do not have the right to justify them.

I met one time with a really secular person, I mean atheist, in Turkey. He was asking that why I converted. I said him when do you think Islam what do you think about it? He said- I swear by Allah- things like Al-`Qaida. His understanding of Islam was really like this and no wonder why he is not Muslim. Then when I explained to him why I converted Islam that is because of Allah’s rahmah (mercy).

You know what he told me, he was just crying, and telling me I never heard this before. I think what would be good to do is try to foster the cooperative model by sharing our best practices and best values.

For Turkish students as I said once they come here, after completing 2 years in Turkey, they can advance their skills. We can have them mentor like rabbis and priests they can see these advanced Jewish community members. Their administration was like White House. Perfect! We can have them also to work in prisons and in colleges.

Does ECI has an accreditation?

In order to get a state accreditation you need to sacrifice your curriculum. The other challenge I believe is that Muslims should first accredit themselves. We need to define what is right in our community and wrong. We should have first internal accreditation.

8- Being in Boston do you think beneficial because you have such a high number of students?

The students here are not actively coming to Mosque so like after 4 years they are gone. They have a huge academic pressure like in Oxford. That is the reason why I may relocate to like DC or similar places where more substantial population of Muslims are stable.

And also here in Boston even in MA the Muslim population is under 50.000. So it is not a big community. Not like Bay area or Virginia or New York city. New York city has a ridiculous number of mosques reaching to 300.

9- In US, some values and laws that are contradictory to Muslim values like mortgage, gay marriage, huge consumption. How do you see this?

Whatever Allah made is haram is haram. And whatever is halal is halal. So political alliances with people like who are pro-gay marriages and how to deal with them those are the job of political scientists and social scientists not the job of scholars.

Scholars, we do not know about the politics. We should stay out of politics. We should be advisers in political issues like ethical religious positions. But once it comes to political strategy we should be quiet. Those of the decisions that should be made jointly, this is not a fatwa this is a community decision.

As far as mortgages things like that, that is the fatwa. We have North American Fiqh Council and AMJA those are the institutions that make fatawa. Some of the issues like these, scholars should not have explicit voices. But they should shape the ethical aspect of it. So we need to have institutions that are going to service to these needs.

If the institutions are anemic then the result would be anemic. These institutions should be independent, well-funded, accountable and effective. So we are in the process of building these institutions.

This is the age of institutions for American Muslim community. It takes time but it needs a strategy too. Look at the Catholics and Jewish communities. What they were able to do is that they went beyond institutions not just for their community, they began to build institutions for the rest of society as well. They humanized themselves. Every major church in America runs hospital, why? Muslims have still not created functional institutions for themselves let alone the rest of society.

The second component what makes us very different than the Jewish communities, Catholic communities or Hindus etc. is that we have people in our community who want to destroy America. This is a problem. And who want to kill people. People will say Zionists Jewish people kill too. But they do not say explicitly. Israel did not come out and said we are going to kill Gazans. They say we are fighting with Hamas; even though we know what does that mean in broader context but the language they use very intelligently.

There was a senate in Oklahoma last week who said Muslims are cancer in this society. If he was to say this for any other religious community, they would fire him. But we are too busy with imams on Facebook and criticizing them all. The goal of ECI is to create institution that functions at high level.

_________________________

Source: World Bulletin

About Imam Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American Muslim Resident Scholar, thought leader and educator. After his conversion to Islam, Webb left a career in the music industry and pursued his passion in education. He enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree Imam Webb studied privately with a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. After intense private training in various Islamic sciences, Imam Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he not only provided Khutbas (Sermons) and religious classes but also counseled families and young people.

After serving as imam and resident scholar in various communities across the country, Imam Webb decided to further his education and training in Islamic Law and various other Islamic sciences. Imam Webb enrolled at the world-renowned Islamic educational institution Al-Azhar University in the College of Shariʿah. There he studied at the college and privately with leading Islamic thinkers on contemporary Islam. After years of study in the Arabic Language, he was appointed head of the English translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyah as a Mufti (Jurist).

While undergoing rigorous training in Islamic Law, Imam Webb completed the memorization of the Quran while in the city of Makkah. Imam Webb has not only studied at Al-Azhar but also holds a number of licenses from traditional scholars in various sciences as was practiced in traditional Islamic law for centuries.

Imam Suhaib Webb strongly advocates for an authentic articulation of the American Muslim identity. He is a proponent of understanding the various challenges facing the American Muslim community and finding solutions based on an authentic American Muslim experience.

In 2009 his website www.suhaibwebb.com won the Brass Crescent’s best “Blog of the Year” award. Recently he was part of a delegation that visited Auschwitz to develop better understanding between Muslim and Jewish Americans. He was named by the British Government as a “Moderate Muslim leader” and was named in 2010 and 2013 as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

From December 2011 to March 2014 Imam Suhaib Webb served as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center’s Imam. In April 2014 he transitioned into ISBCC’s Resident Scholar. Imam Webb has lectured extensively around the world including the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America.  He is also the founder and an Instructor at Ella Collins Institute. He lives in Boston, MA and is a proud Celtics fan.

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New Muslims Reflections

What It’s Like To Be A Muslim College Student Today

Muslim College Students

Muslim students are trying to accomplish the exact same goal as every other college student: to find their space on campus and make it to graduation.

“If you’ve never met a Muslim,” says Fatmah Berikaa, “you’re only getting the images that you see in the media.”

Berikaa, a freshman at Boston College, is one of several Muslim college students. The Huffington Post spoke to in recent weeks. Every day, in colleges across the country, young Muslims like Berikaa are confronting the stereotypes that endure about Islam.

They asked students to tell their stories about being practicing Muslims, in the hopes of dispelling some of the misconceptions about the religion, wanted to hear students speak for themselves about the role that faith plays in their lives. Each of these stories is presented as the student or students told it. The series features personal essays, transcribed conversations and a video blog.

Healthy Diverse

This is simply a collection of compelling stories -it’s not representative of all Muslim students in the U.S., nor is it meant to be. Students practice their faith in countless ways, and the Muslim population, in college as everywhere else, is incredibly diverse.

Some students spoke about the discrimination they face on a daily basis. One student, in journalism school, told of always being expected to write the news stories about the Middle East. Another spoke of the fear and shock that galvanized their school’s Muslim community after the killing of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this past February.

Still others talked about how they practice their religion on campus. We heard about student communities, prayer rooms and an Islamic fraternity.

The Need for Community-based Support

While all the stories were different, two common themes emerged. One was the importance of having a community. Many students told us that while they have friends who practice other religions, they find a particular kind of comfort in being among fellow Muslim students. They spoke about how the togetherness helps them to maintain their cultural identity and not feel isolated by their religion.

The other theme was the need for communication. Students often took a forgiving stance in the face of discrimination, saying that if someone doesn’t personally know any Muslims and associates Islam with terrorism because of what they see in the media, how are they to know any better?

The students we spoke with all showed a deep desire to spread knowledge about their faith. They urged non-Muslims to ask them about the religion, and they urged their fellow Muslims to be open in explaining it. They spoke about fostering tolerance and peace through awareness.

In addition to these individual stories, we asked students what they want non-Muslims to know about their student life.

“I want people to understand that we are just human beings,” Berikaa said. The stories we heard contained pieces any student could relate to -choosing schools for financial aid and the perfect distance from family, adjusting to coed dorms, dealing with final exam timing conflicts.

Overall, Muslim students are trying to accomplish the exact same goal as every other college student: to find their space on campus and make it to graduation.

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Source: The Huffington Post

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New Muslims Reflections

What Muslim College Students Want Non-Muslims to Know

By Alexandra Svokos

We asked Muslim students across the country what they’d like non-Muslims to know about their student life. These are their responses.

This Is What Muslim College Students Want Non-Muslims To Know…

Lana Idris

Junior at Harvard University; from Texas; studying human evolutionary biology

“I think if I wanted non-Muslims to know anything about my student life, it’s that although we have struggles that are particular to following our faith, such as finding time to pray in between classes, we are for the most part going through the same phase in life as any other college student is. We are trying to come into our own personalities, find out who we are and where we fit into our communities.

“The one thing that may differ is that at times it feels like we’re trying to carve a space into communities that seem to fundamentally misunderstand us and reject us on face value because we are Muslim. So I’d say it’s the same struggles, just nuanced differently depending on our context.”

Masud Rahman

Sophomore at the University of California, San Diego; from California; studying mathematics-computer science

“I would like non-Muslims to know that we have the same struggles as you.

“If any non-Muslim has any fears or concerns regarding Muslims on campus or Islam in general, please just contact your local Muslim Student Association and just talk to a Muslim for a bit.

“The tensions with our families, other friends of various faiths and desires are all the same. We just choose to live by a faith and way of life that provides spirituals guidance and community at our universities.”

Tesneem Alkiek

Senior at the University of Michigan; from Michigan; studying Islamic studies with a minor in early Christianity, religion

“My entire student life – classes, social activities, studying, you name it – revolves around my five daily prayers. Before I even register for classes, I’m making sure that three-hour evening lab won’t interfere with my sunset prayer. All it takes is five minutes five times a day, but those few minutes force me to think about where I’ll be throughout the entire day and if I’ll be able to excuse myself to follow a command of God.

“It’s my secret in maintaining self-discipline and organizing my time well.”

Fatima Chowdhury

Junior at the University of Michigan; from New York; studying international studies and Middle East and North Africa studies

“What people need to realize is that Muslims are just people.

Being Muslim isn’t an overwhelming thing that’s different from being human or being a student or being a person or being an American. First and foremost we’re all people, and we should all be treated like people: with respect and dignity.”

Fatmah Berikaa

Freshman at Boston College; from Massachusetts; studying secondary education and English

“If you’ve never met a Muslim, you’re only getting the images that you see in the media. And – at the moment – that’s not how we are. That’s not compatible with what Islam stands for.

“I want people to understand that we are just human beings. When tragedies happen – because I feel like Islam is not discussed unless it’s in the context of some tragedy – we’re just as affected as the next guy.

“We’re just as hurt, we’re scared, we’re just as angry. We’re going through the same emotions they are. To cut us off, or say “You can’t feel that, because it’s your people who did that – that makes no sense.”

“I want people to see me as a real person. I don’t want my personality and my religion to be exclusive. I’ve had people go, “You’re so nice, I almost don’t see your headscarf!” I understand that they’re trying to be nice, and I get that. But at the same time, I want you to know that I’m nice and I want you to see my headscarf, because those are both parts of me. I don’t want people to think that I should sacrifice part of myself for another part of myself. These two things can coexist.”

Aisha Subhan

Second year at UC San Diego; from Arizona; studying political science/international relations

“As a student, I dream and aspire like many of my peers do. Each day is an opportunity for me to learn something new, make someone laugh, or clear up misconceptions.

“My student life is purposeful and I am really grateful that I have one.”

Faran Saeed

Higher education graduate student at Louisiana State University

These photographs really show my view of my experience as a Muslim student:

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Source: The Huffington Post

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New Muslims Reflections

8 Things You May Not Truly Understand about Converts

By Alex Arrick

1- A lot of things are running through our heads right now.

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.  (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

New converts to Islam have just made the biggest decision of their lives, and changed their religion to one that they are unfamiliar with in many ways. There are a lot of stimuli around us that we are not used to, being in the mosque, hanging out with Muslims, hearing foreign languages other than Spanish, etc.

Often, new Muslims might look uncomfortable because they are not used to their surroundings. A big change has just occurred in the convert’s life, and each person will respond differently to these situations.

While we are learning the basics of Islam, either before or after our Shahadah (Testimony of Faith), we are constantly coming across new things that we’ve never heard of before. It takes a long time to be able to have a consistent foundation that’s strong enough to feel any amount of comfort in the religion.

This process is similar to moving to a foreign country, not knowing the language, customs, or environment that surrounds us. We often have no idea about the origin of certain customs and whether they are from Islam or a person’s culture, and it takes time to be able to discern between the two.

2- Our family life is uncertain.

A man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “What is the right of parents on their offspring?” The Prophet replied: “They are your Paradise and your Hell.” (Ibn Majah)

People who are born into Islam have the benefit of having a foundation with their parents and family. The Qur’an is on their bookshelf, Arabic words are mixed into conversation without needing definition, and there is an environment of tradition that provides a reference point for looking at the world.

A convert is experiencing the total opposite. He or she doesn’t have any sort of religious connection with their family anymore, and there is sometimes backlash from parents and extended family about the decision to become a Muslim.

Even if there’s no significant backlash, there are no blood relatives to talk to about Islam, no one to clarify things, and no family support to be offered in the entire process. All of these things can cause an immense amount of stress and disillusionment.

It’s common for converts to have moments of breakdown where they feel like nobody is on their side. For those who are lucky enough to have a close friend or mentor to help them in situations like this, it’s still not the same as having family help.

Converts need an exceptionally good amount of emotional support from individuals in their community to feel empowered as Muslims. This doesn’t require a full-time therapist, but just people to make them feel at home.

3- Our friends are leaving us.

“A man follows the religion of his close friend, so each of you should be very careful about whom he takes as a close friend.”  (Abu Dawud & At-Tirmidhi)

Friends are known for being brutally honest. When a convert tells his friends that he or she just became Muslim, they are going to receive a wide range of reactions. Even if their friends are supportive, they will still be really puzzled and they will ask a million questions that most born Muslims would have trouble answering. And while most converts don’t get a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies before becoming Muslim, they’re going to sometimes feel pushed into a corner when tested by their friends.

Their friends might stick around for a while, but chances are their habits are not always what a new Muslim wants to be around. After you deny a few invitations to go to parties, they might stop calling all together. Friends who seem to have abandoned you can cause a lot of depression and loneliness, and it will always take a while to replace a decent group of friends with a good group of Muslim friends.

4- We don’t know how to spend our free time.

“Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression –even a thorn’s prick, Allah expiates his sins because of it.”  (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

After the distance is created with friends and family, it’s hard to fill free time or stay busy enough to not start feeling down sometimes.

Converts will notice a gap in their schedules that was previously filled with something else like hanging out with friends, going to concerts, or partying. This is especially hard to cope with in a smaller city where there isn’t much else to do and not enough Muslims to spend time with.

In this situation, there might be a desire to go back to old habits to feel “normal” again, or there will be an urge to stay alone and away from other people. While Islam doesn’t allow monasticism or hedonism, this causes a problem for converts to Islam when it’s a minority religion in the society. Eventually the situation will get easier and there won’t be any problem in staying busy, but initially it can be very hard to stay positive.

5- We don’t know what to learn and who to learn from.

“Make things easier, do not make things more difficult, spread the glad tidings, do not hate.”  (Al-Bukhari)

Converts usually experience some trouble in the beginning with differences in fiqh (jurisprudence). Their background is usually from a religion with a narrower view of right or wrong. Often converts will think: “So do I raise my hands after bowing or not? Which one is right and which one is wrong?”

The fact is there are many correct opinions regarding such issues in Islam. Converts will often find themselves in the dilemma of whether to take the easier opinion or the stronger one.

mosque

Because they feel like they’re in a foreign country while in the mosque, a convert won’t know when someone will point out something they’re doing wrong.

At the very best, this will cause only a small amount of confusion at first. Remember that converts don’t have a family to help form their opinions about these things, and they are getting information from all sides. A common decision converts will make is choosing between dhabeehah (slaughtered according to Islamic rite) and non-dhabeehah meat.

In reality it’s a fact that there is a difference of opinion among scholars regarding the meat of Ahl Al-Kitab (People of the Book, i.e. Jews and Christians), but converts can feel pressured to take one opinion over the other based on someone’s limited knowledge of the issue.

6- We don’t know when we’ll make another mistake.

And whoever is patient and forgives – indeed that is of the matters (requiring) determination. (Ash-Shura 42:43)

Because they feel like they’re in a foreign country while in the mosque, a convert won’t know when someone will point out something they’re doing wrong.

Often people come up to converts with a self-righteous attitude and give them harsh advice based on their own limited understanding. The convert is already dealing with differing opinions coming from every angle, and it’s very discouraging to have someone correct you in a harsh way.

The ideal way to correct a convert is the way of the Prophet, with kindness and understanding. Remember all the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) were converts and were constantly receiving guidance directly from the Messenger. The Sahabah didn’t feel chastised or discouraged when they were corrected, but uplifted.

This is something that needs to be taken into deep consideration when advising a convert, who may be more sensitive to these things than a born-Muslim (who often needs just as much advice).

7- We don’t know what you actually think of us.

The Prophet said: “Not one of you can believe if you do not want for your brother what you want for yourself.” (Al-Bukhari)

A lot of converts will get a lot of praise and helpful words from fellow Muslims, but there is sometimes an animosity towards converts that should be something alien to our ummah (Muslim community); it resembles a pre-Islamic attitude of racism.

As a convert, there is often a feeling of inferiority because “I’m not Arab” or “I’m not desi” that can sometimes lead the convert to acting like they are from a culture they are not, and that has nothing to do with Islam.

This is something that needs to be resisted by converts who might have the urge to wear Pakistani clothes to “fit-in” around Muslims because they feel so different.

Let converts retain their culture in ways that don’t contradict Islam. They need to feel empowered and uplifted as Muslims and not reduced to the lowest common denominator. Converts have a lot they can bring to the table, and to take that ability away from them is a crime.

Salman Al-Farisi, a Persian Companion of the Prophet, was the one to recommend the battle strategy in the Battle of the Trench against the Quraysh. Salman’s Arab brothers in Islam took his opinion and used it to win the battle. If Salman had had an inferiority complex because of his Persian heritage, he might not have offered his opinion.

Remember to make your convert brothers and sisters feel like they are a valued part of our community that links us to the culture around us.

8- We might be second-guessing our decision.

“If someone does not show mercy to people, Allah will not show mercy to him.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

In the worst-case scenario, converts might feel so discouraged that they second-guess their decision to convert.  With all the different problems that arise after conversion, there is a sense of desperation that can lead to apostasy.

While some of it is unavoidable, there is much that our communities can do to help our converts feel welcomed and strong as Muslims. Most of it requires simple attitude changes like getting rid of the “back-home” mentality and having outrageous ideals that don’t reflect reality.

Research by Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus notes that 75% of American converts leave the religion after a few years. This is a tragedy that reflects the inability of American-Muslim communities to take care of their converts.

With these statistics we should be asking ourselves: what can we do as individuals and as communities to help our convert brothers and sisters find comfort in Islam?

This is a compassionate call to action for the born-Muslims to do what they can to understand, assist, and advise those who enter into Islam. Instead of alienation, we need to embrace with open arms.

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Source: virtualmosque.com

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