The Story of a Jewish Boy - Finding Islam in Cyberspace

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Prior to my conversion to Islam, I lived my life as a Jew. Although my family was not traditional, I learned Judaism from traditional Jews. I went to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and an Orthodox Jewish school. I lived, and continue to live, in a Jewish community in the United States where there is little diversity. And considering how much Judaism was involved in my life, I did not have any non-Jewish friends. But about a year ago, I began to chat online quite often and my e-mail list slowly began to fill with more and more Muslims.

I developed a strong interest for studying other religions as well as my own. I paid special attention to Islam, for I knew it was a religion not much different than Judaism. We share many similar prophets (peace be upon them all), morals, values, and most importantly, we worship the same God — Allah. Although I knew much about Islam and knew it was a peaceful religion, I cannot say I did not have stereotypes. I was lucky because I knew many Muslims online, one of which was my girlfriend who I consider to be my guide to Islam. She led me to the doors of Islam, and Allah took me through the rest. Regardless, when I heard of a terrorist attack, similar to many others, I figured the cause of it was Islamic extremists.

Many times I was not wrong. But then you must ask yourself, what makes these people go to the extreme? Does their religion really teach to kill innocent people? The reality is that it does not. Prophet Muhammad was a great warrior. Yet he managed to never kill an innocent human being. I realized that Islam is a religion that teaches respect, peace, and tolerance. Never does it say to kill an innocent disbeliever. A true Muslim is taught never to force conversion, but instead, to share his knowledge with the world, which I hope to do in this article. In the Qur'an a valuable lesson to be learned is "to kill a man, is to destroy the world."

[Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men.] (Al-Ma'idah 5:32)


After realizing Islam was not a religion of war, I decided to look deeper into the faith. By doing so I discovered flaws in my own religion. According to the Old Testament, the great Prophet Aaron committed the worse sin possible. Due to pressure put upon him by the people while waiting for Moses to return with the Torah from Mount Sinai, he built an idol.

How could a great prophet possibly commit one of the three sins that are so great that one should prefer death before committing them? In the Qur'an, Moses comes down and sees the Jews worshiping the Golden Calf. At first he thinks it is the creation of Aaron and is angry at him; later he finds it was other Hebrews who had created this idol. A lot can be learned from this story.

Would a nation of people led by God really be forgiven for such a sin? My view on this story matches the Islamic view that the Old Testament has changed over the years. In the past, there have been many Cohaneem (religious leaders at the Holy Temple) who were corrupt. Couldn't it easily be possible for them to have changed Judaism to make it easier to observe and less time-consuming in order to make more money with their profession?

Another astonishing factor that led me to Islam is the scientifictruth written in the Qur'an. The Qur'an mentions the human embryonic development long before it was discovered by science.

[And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place, Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.] (Al-Mu'minun 23:12-14)

The Qur'an also mentions how mountains are formed and talks about the layers of the atmosphere! These are just a few of so many scientific discoveries mentioned in the Qur'an 1400 years before discovered by science. Here is one of the key factors that led me to explore my heart to find the truth of life. In Arabic, the word Islam comes from salama which means "to submit"; "purity" and "peace" come from the same root. The person submits to the One, the Merciful, and the Most Beneficent Allah; whereas other religions are named after people: Judaism comes from the tribe of Judea, Christianity from Jesus Christ, etc. Islam is a word derived from a verb; anyone who submits to Allah and believes in all the prophets is a true Muslim. Many of the great prophets mentioned in the Old Testament lived prior to Judaism and Judea; they submitted to God, and therefore they were all Muslims. And we shall live as the prophets lived, for they were great human beings.

Considering my situation of being very young and living in an all-Jewish area, it would be difficult to have my beliefs accepted. My parents and relatives are very respectful, but I am unsure how they would react if it is their own son who reverts to Islam. So for now, I am unable to live out an Islamic life to the fullest, but thanks to Allah, I am able to pray five times a day, I am able to study Islam online, and at least I am openly able to believe in one God and express those feelings. In some ways it can be very difficult. I become more emotional than most people would when I debate something involving Muslims, for example the Middle East. When I talk about Israel, my whole family supports Israel and doesn't know the truth of what goes on to Palestinians, but I think they should have proper treatment for the Palestinians. And when they talk about this situation, I become easily offended, especially if they bring up the idea that it is "the Jewish Holy Land" and "Promised Land."



Because I have not yet told my parents of my reversion to Islam, I am unable to attend prayers at a mosque. As I stated before, my area has little diversity and all the mosques are far away. I have never had the opportunity to do Shahadah in front of witnesses although I have said Shahadah for the best witness of all — Allah. When I am 16 in about one year, I will be able to drive to the mosque, in sha' Allah (Allah willing). The most important thing is to improve the person I am. I try to avoid my friends who do drugs, watch porn, drink alcohol, and steal. It is not always easy to avoid close friends, but I try my best for the sake of Allah. And I hope over time my personality will meet what Allah wishes to see from us all.

When studying Qur'an, my advice to you is to read it for yourself. Looking at biased websites, you are not able to see the full content of a verse. "Go forth to war" will be a phrase you can find on prejudiced sites in order to make you think Islam is a religion of war. But if you read on, you will see the Qur'an specifically says only with those who first wage war with Islam. Through this whole experience I have discovered that I did not find Islam, I re-embraced Islam; nor did I convert, I reverted; and on my ride from darkness to light, it has only made me a stronger, more spiritual, and a better human being. May Allah guide us all to the truth that I was led to.

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1155064242788&pagename=Zone-English-Discover_Islam/DIELayout#

The new face of Islam

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At first she tried to resist. She did not want this to happen. She was
not
that sort of person. After all, there were no gaps in her life, no
spiritual ache, she did not need support or direction. But she kept
reading
and it kept making sense.

'I had absolutely no expectation or desire to end up where I am,' she
says.
'It was almost with trepidation that I kept turning the pages and the
trepidation just increased. I kept thinking: "OK, where's the flaw?
Where's
the bit that doesn't make sense?" But it never came. And then it was
like:
"Oh no, I can see where this is leading. This is disastrous. I don't
want
to be a Muslim!"

Caroline Bate is 30 years old, blonde, blue-eyed and pretty, with a
soft
Home Counties accent. She has a degree from Cambridge (she studied
Russian
and German before switching to management studies) and works for an
investment bank in the City. She is Middle England's dream daughter or
daughter-in-law. And though she has yet to make her formal declaration
of
faith in Allah and the prophet Mohammed - a two-line pledge called the
Shahada - she considers herself Muslim. She ticked the box on a form
recently. It felt good, she says.

Caroline is not alone. Though data is hard to come by, several London
mosques have been reporting an increase in the number of converts to
Islam,
especially since 11 September. Like Caroline, many of these converts
are
from solid middle-class backgrounds, have successful careers, enjoy
active
social lives and are fundamentally happy with their lot.

This is not a new trend, however. Matthew Wilkinson, a former head boy
of
Eton, became Tariq, when he converted to Islam in 1993. Jonathan Birt,
son
of Lord Birt, late of the BBC and now the government's transport guru,
converted in 1997. The son and daughter of Lord Justice Scott also
converted and Joe Ahmed Dobson, the 26-year-old son of the former
Health
Secretary Frank Dobson, has recently and, somewhat reluctantly, emerged
as
the voice of new Muslim converts in Britain. But it is a trend that has
been pushed along by recent events. So far it has gone largely
unnoticed,
as the press concentrates on some of the more colourful characters that
11
September has thrown up.

Since 11 September, the luridly painted poster boys of British Islam
have
been radical clerics such as Abu Hamza al-Masri, the steel-clawed,
milky-eyed so-called 'mad mullah' of Finsbury Park mosque. Here are
Victorian villains, fiendish emissaries of some ancient and foreign
evil,
straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

Their followers are blank-eyed drones like Richard Reid, packing his
high-tops with high explosives. Or James McLintock, the 'Tartan
Taliban'.
There are lost boys, dislocated and dysfunctional, petty thieves preyed
on
in South London prisons and young offenders' institutions by fakir
Fagins
who forge an untempered anger into a righteous ire and provide it with
a
target. (Three imams working in British prisons have been suspended
since
11 September for making 'inappropriate remarks' about the terrorist
attacks.)

But that is a sideshow, a compelling melodrama played out beyond the
fringes of Islamic culture in this country. And while it might be
stretching a point - and answering caricature with caricature - to
insist
that a demure English rose is the exemplar of the modern British
convert to
Islam, Caroline Bate is certainly more representative than Richard
Reid.

Talking to recent Muslim converts, it is striking how similar the
descriptions of their embrace of Islam are. Most were introduced to
Islam,
and Islamic history and teaching, by friends. And, given that Islam is
not
generally a missionary faith, these were gentle introductions. For
most,
conversion was born of curiosity, an attempt to better understand the
people around them.

Caroline first started reading about Islam last April. A school friend
she
has known since she was 11 was marrying a Tunisian, a Muslim. 'My best
friend was marrying into a different culture so I wanted to know more
about
it,' she explains. 'I came at it from more of a cultural perspective
than a
religious one. But the literature that I picked up just stimulated me.
And
Islamic teaching made perfect, logical sense. You can approach it
intellectually and there are no gaps, no great leaps of faith that you
have
to make.'

Roger (not his real name) is a doctor in his mid-thirties. About a year
and
a half ago, he started talking about Islam to Muslim colleagues at
work.
'All I had ever heard about Islam in the media was Hezbollah and
guerrillas
and all of that. And here were these really decent people whom I was
beginning to get to know. So I started to ask a few questions and I was
amazed at my own ignorance.' He became a Muslim a couple of months ago.

For these new converts, embracing Islam is usually a covert operation.
They
quietly read, talk, listen, learn. The hard part is coming out,
declaring
your newly acquired faith to friends and family, and, in some cases at
least, facing up to fear, scepticism and even loathing.

Caroline insists that the coming-out process has not been too painful.
'The
reaction has been pretty much what I expected. I've had everything from
"Do
you know how they treat women?" to "Wow, great timing!" But your
friends
are your friends and I expect them to deal with it.'

Others have had a harder time. Eleanor Martin, now Asya Ali (or some
other
combination of these names, depending on the circumstance), was a
24-year-old TV actress when she met Mo Sesay. She had a regular role as
WPC
Georgie Cudworth in BBC's Dangerfield during the mid-Nineties and
Sesay,
who later starred in Bhaji on the Beach, was also a Dangerfield
regular.
Sesay is a Muslim.

'Mo was such a kind man, just a good person. He wanted to know me as a
person, there was nothing else going on. And I thought, well, here is
this
really decent guy and he is a Muslim. And the image I had of Islam was
of
men beating up women and going round in tanks killing people.

'The thing is we both had regular parts on the show, but they weren't
very
big parts, so we had a lot of time to sit in the caravan and talk. He
really opened my eyes.'

Eleanor finally converted in 1996. 'I wasn't sure I was going to until
the
last minute and then it just felt as if everything had fallen into
place
and there was no other option.'

At first she kept her conversion secret. 'I was afraid of an adverse
reaction from friends and family. I was really worried about what my
father
would say.' Her father was a devout Christian. A former radiotherapist,
he
had taken early retirement to go into the priesthood. But circumstances
forced Eleanor's hand. A few months after she converted she met a
Muslim
African-American actor, Luqman Ali, and they decided to get married. 'I
went home and said: "I've got some news. I'm getting married and I'm a
Muslim." My mum was great. My dad said: "I think I'm going to get a
drink now."

'It took Dad time. He went to see his spiritual adviser, a nun, whose
brother happened to be a convert to Islam, and that helped. And he's
great
now, too. He's just happy that I'm following a path to God.'

Roger, meanwhile, has yet to tell family or work colleagues of his
conversion. 'I worry it will affect my career prospects,' he admits. 'I
know first-hand how little people understand Islam. I know there is
prejudice based on ignorance. A couple of years ago, if someone had
told me
they had converted, I would have thought they were odd. I don't want
people
to think I am an oddity or a curiosity because I don't think of myself
like
that.'

Most converts acknowledge that living in an ethnically diverse city has
made conversion easier than it might have been elsewhere. Stefania
Marchetti was born and raised in Milan but came to London to study in
1997.
She converted to Islam from Catholicism in April last year. 'It would
have
been far more difficult for me to convert in Italy,' she admits. 'The
Italian media is very anti-Islam and generally Italians think that
Muslim
men are all terrorists and all Muslim women are slaves.'

Certainly Karen Allen, a 28-year-old scheduler for Sky TV from Stoke
Newington, has enjoyed a relatively smooth transition period. She
converted
to Islam last June and soon started wearing the traditional headscarf
or
hijab. 'When I first started wearing the hijab to work, there were a
few
jibes about Afghanistan and stuff, but people are fine now. They say
things
like: "That's a nice one you're wearing today."

'I think it might be more difficult outside London, but here there are
a
lot weirder things to look at than me.'

What is especially striking about this stream of converts to Islam is
that
the majority seem to be women. Some suggest that twice as many women as
men
are turning to Islam.

Batool Al Toma, who heads the New Muslim Project at the Leicester-based
Islamic Foundation, which offers advice and support to recent converts,
suggests this might be exaggeration, but admits that female converts
are in
the majority. 'A lot of people seem to think that women are more
susceptible to Islam. I think it's largely because a lot of people are
obsessed with the idea of an educated, liberated British woman
converting
to Islam which they feel subjugates and represses them in some way. We
just
get a lot more attention I suppose and that sparks people's interest.'

The lure of Islam for women is surprising, given that the conversion
process may be even more problematic for them than for men. There is
the
commonly held belief that Islam represses women and female converts
often
have to deal with recrimination from female friends who view their
adoption
of Islam as some sort of betrayal. The wearing of a headscarf or hijab
(a
sartorial option, it should be noted, not a requirement) also makes
Muslim
women more visible than their male counterparts.

Certainly, all the women I spoke to were quick to refute the idea that
Islam imposes a women-know-thy-place ideology.

'The perception of how women are treated is completely incorrect,'
insists
Caroline. 'Women have a fantastic position in Islamic society.'

Indeed, many women converts talk about the adoption of the Islamic
dress
code as a liberation. They see it not as a denial of sex and sexuality
but
rather as an acknowledgement that these are treasures to be shared with
a
loved one and them alone. They are not hidden but rather freed from
objectification.

Asya insists that the trick is to turn preconceptions on their head.
She
wears a scarf to show she is a Muslim and a smile to prove she is happy
being one.

One problem for converts is that they are caught between two cultures.
'Young Muslims are very accepting,' says Caroline. 'They are really
happy
that you have chosen to become Muslim. The older generation are not so
accepting. For them, Islam is part of their cultural background, it's
about
the country they came from and it's what binds their communities
together.'

One step towards greater acceptance came last October when Reedah
Nijabat
opened ArRum, an Islamic restaurant/members' bar/ cultural
centre/social
club in Clerkenwell. Nijabat, a 31-year-old former barrister and
management
consultant from Walthamstow, originally conceived ArRum as a meeting
place
and networking venue for professional first- and second-generation
London
Muslims. But it has also become a focal point for many of London's
Muslim
converts.

It is easy to see why. On any work evening, a mixed bag of middle-aged
Pakistani men, young couples (some Muslim, some curious non-Muslim),
kids
and white British converts chat and tuck into halal 'fusion' food.
While
the club promotes Islamic culture, the vibe is a Hempel temple of inner
calm. Sufi wailing calms the nerves, while the bar specialises in
healthy
juices.

For the new converts I spoke to, ArRum is a place to meet other Muslims
and
somewhere to bring non-Muslim friends and introduce them to Islam in a
way
that doesn't scare them.

ArRum accents Islam's USP among the major faiths: its openness and lack
of
hierarchy. And Nijabat has realised that if there is an endemic
suspicion
of stuffy organised religion among the British (and increasingly, one
suspects, second-generation British Muslims) there is great interest in
'spirituality', whatever that might mean.

'I think that the problem has not been with the substance of the major
faiths, whatever they are, but a marketing defect,' argues Nijabat.
'Everything we do here is about remembrance of God and Islam, but you
can
get that across in a cool way. I'm not saying anything that isn't in
the
Koran, but you have to talk to people on their level.

'I'm beginning to see that there is a huge misunderstanding and a
bridge
that needs to be crossed between ethnic communities, host communities
and
spiritual communities, and I think we are making a contribution to
that.
You can get so hung up on the divisions and how different we are, but
it is
the same God for all of us. And we still feel that loss whether it is
an
American life or a Palestinian life. A lot of people are going through
a
period of soul-searching and that can only be a good thing.'

For many, that soul-searching has led them to Islam, not the Islam of
the
suicide bombers but mainstream Islam. And, as Joe Ahmed Dobson points
out,
ArRum and its new converts do not represent some kind of liberal
IslamLite,
media-friendly dilution of the real thing. Dobson and the other new
converts are orthodox, in the truest sense, and proud.

They are also part of a project that may help all parties see Islam in
new ways. As Nijabat admits: 'You can end up being quite defensive about
it. And you can either get hung up about it or be proactive. Opening ArRum
has
helped me recognise that I can be British and Pakistani and a Muslim
and a woman. And I'm not going to be a victim in any of this.'

source: www.islamawareness.net


Thousands Of British Elite Embrace Islam: Study

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Jonathan Birt, the son of Lord Birt and Emma Clark, the granddaughter of former liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith, are only two of 14,000 mostly-elite white Britons having reverted to Islam.

In the first authoritative study of the phenomenon, carried by the Sunday Times on February 22, some of the country’s top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced the Muslim faith after being disillusioned with western values.

The new study by Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt, son of Lord Birt, former director-general of the BBC, provides the first reliable data on the sensitive subject of the movement of Christians into Islam.

He uses a breakdown of the latest census figures to conclude that there are now 14,200 white reverts in Britain.

Mass Conversion

Speaking publicly for the first time about his faith this weekend, Birt argued that an inspirational figure, similar to the American revert Malcolm X for Afro-Caribbeans, would first have to emerge if the next stage, a mass conversion among white Britons, were to happen.

“You need great transitional figures to translate something alien (like Islam) into the vernacular,” Birt, whose doctorate at Oxford University is on young British Muslims, was quoted by the Times.

“The image of Islam projected by political Islamic movements is not very attractive,” he said.

Initially, Birt said he had no coherent reasons for reverting, but “in the longer term I think it was the overall profundity, balance and coherence and spirituality of the Muslim way of life which convinced me,” he said.

‘All Rage’

Meanwhile, it emerged this weekend that Emma Clark, the great-granddaughter of a British prime minister has reverted.

Emma, whose ancestor, the Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith, took Britain into the first world war, said: “We’re all the rage, I hope it’s not a passing fashion.”

Clark, who helped design an Islamic garden for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, is now helping create a similar garden for a mosque in Woking, Surrey, on the site of a car park, said the British newspaper.

Furthermore, fresh evidence came this weekend that Islam has received formal acceptance at the heart of the Establishment.

The Queen has approved new arrangements to allow Muslim staff at Buckingham Palace time off to attend Friday prayers at a mosque.

A member of staff in the finance department is the first to take advantage of it, said the British paper.

‘Trophy Lists’

Others have come to Islam through love or marriage.

Kristiane Backer, a former girlfriend of the cricketer Imran Khan, said she was introduced to the religion through love but reverted after her break-up.

She has shrunk from speaking publicly about her religion before because of fears it might affect her work prospects.

“Imran sowed the seeds, but when (the relationship) finished (the faith) took on a momentum of its own,” she said.

Drawn to Sufi mysticism, Baker said that white reverts had to overcome prejudice both from those born into Islam and from non-believers.

“In the mosque women come up and say to me, ‘You have hair showing: you must cover up completely.’ I say, ‘Mind your own hair, you’re here to think about God’ ”.

Many reverts have been inspired by the writings of Charles Le Gai Eaton, a former Foreign Office diplomat, it added.

“I have received letters from people who are put off by the wishy-washy standards of contemporary Christianity and they are looking for a religion which does not compromise too much with the modern world,” said Eaton, author of Islam and the Destiny of Man.

Wary

Some prominent reverts are even more wary, said the Times.

The Earl of Yarborough, 40, who owns a 28,000-acre estate in Lincolnshire, declined to discuss anything about his faith.

“I have nothing to say to you,” said Yarborough, who has apparently taken the name Abdul Mateen.

Muslim leaders are harnessing modern campaigning methods to promote their faith. Groups have sprung up on the internet publishing “trophy lists” of white reverts.

The state-funded school in London founded by Yusuf Islam, formerly the singer Cat Stevens, has turned to Premiership footballers to provide role models, said the Times.

Sources close to the school say reverts including Nicolas Anelka, the Manchester City striker, and Omer “Freddie” Kanoute, of Tottenham Hotspur, have made visits.

The trend is being encouraged by Muslim leaders who are convinced that the conversion of prominent society figures will help protect a community stigmatized by “terrorism and fundamentalism“.

The Muslim Council of Britain has co-opted Joe Ahmed-Dobson, son of Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, to chair its regeneration committee.

“The community has been unfairly targeted and these developments encourage it in a time of difficulty,” said Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Imams and Mosques Council.


source : www.islamonline.net

Islam converts speak on how they found religion

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By Karen Schwartz, Daily Staff Reporter

LSA sophomore Michael Dann was raised as a Christian,
going to church and Sunday school in Amherst, Mass.,
as was his family's tradition. But four years ago, he
decided he was destined for a different path. Dann
converted to Islam, which he said has changed his
life.

Dann said he went from being involved in "the drug
culture" and party scene in junior high school to
looking for something more in life - thanks to the
example set by his tennis coach, a black Muslim man
from New Jersey.

"Through my contact with him, and especially through
tennis, I got to see there was something more serious
about life, something more serious than gratifying
your immediate desires," he said, adding that his
coach did not often talk about Islam explicitly but
rather led by example.

"It was just through his approach to life and his
character, being around him - I was attracted to
something I knew he had, something that was motivating
his life," Dann said. "He gave me different books to
read, not mostly about Islam except for the Quran, but
those books served more to wake me up to that there's
more to life than partying and fun, and that God
should be in my life."

Dann, who also goes by Abdullah, which means "servant
of God," helped organize a panel held last night in
Hutchins Hall as part of Islam Awareness Week. The
panel featured testimonies from three people who
converted to Islam, who told an audience of 50 their
stories and answered questions about their experiences
with the religion.

"It's important because it's a chance to speak for
ourselves, for Muslims to present Islam as they
understand it and not as other people understand it,"
Dann said. He added that the event was a chance for
people to learn about the process of becoming Muslim
and the diverse experiences that bring people to
Islam.

"Ultimately all we can do is present Islam as we've
experienced it and understand it," he said. "What
other people do with it will be different according to
who they are and what they want. I'm looking at it
more from our angle, that we have a responsibility to
express ourselves."

Law School student Felix Chang said he attended the
event out of curiosity and was very impressed with the
testimonies he heard.

"I think they were really honest and open about the
decisions they had to make, something very personal to
them that they shared, and I appreciated that," he
said. "I think their stories are really interfaith,
that their stories of conversion can pretty much be
applied to any belief system, so it has universal
appeal."

Muslim Students Association President Omar Khalil said
the panel drew positive response last year, and that
people commented that they enjoyed seeing how
panelists were introduced to Islam and what aspects of
Islam affected them the most.

"We had a lot of feedback last year saying perhaps
that was people's favorite event of the week, so we
felt it was something we should continue," said
Khalil, a Rackham student.

He said the event also showcases the diversity within
Islam and gives campus and community members a more
familiar angle from which to approach understanding
Islam.

"First of all, what we wanted to show is that Islam
isn't just a foreign religion (and that Muslims are)
not just from the Middle East or Pakistan or from
Indonesia," he said. "We wanted to show that there are
people like the students on this campus who are born
American, raised American, and yet they felt this for
them was the religion they chose for themselves."

Dann remembers being 14 years old and having a short
discussion about Islam with his coach, but it was not
until later that he said he realized the impact the
discussion had on him and the process he had embarked
upon.

"I didn't realize it at the time, but suddenly it had
an attraction to me. When I met a Muslim I would ask
him what he believed and if he had anything I could
read. The seed was already there," he said.

His conversion was a gradual process, Dann said, but
it didn't entirely negate his previous beliefs.

"Becoming a Muslim to me wasn't disbelieving in Jesus
or leaving everything from Christianity behind. It was
about believing in what I considered to be a more
accurate version of God's message."

He added that Islam has changed his life and his
interactions with his family for the better.

"Without Islam I don't know where I would be today. My
motivation for succeeding academically and succeeding
professionally - all that stems from Islam, and I
don't think it'd be there if it weren't for Islam."

source : www.islamawareness.net


Russian Converts to Islam Promote Tolerance

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By Nathan Gray

Staff Writer




Taras Cherniyenko looks like a typical young Russian
banker: neatly dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and
necktie, with a thin beard and short hair.

Sitting in a cafe on Ulitsa Sretenka, he told the
story of how a spiritual discovery that began in his
early teens led to his conversion to Islam and the
adoption of the name Abdul Karim.

Now Cherniyenko is the vice chairman of a new
organization of ethnic Russian converts to Islam, the
National Organization of Russian Muslims.

The values that Islam offers as guidance, such as the
restriction on alcohol consumption, are values he and
his colleagues in the group wish to share with Russia
as possible solutions to problems that the country
faces.

"One can say that drinking vodka or wine is a
significant aspect of Russian culture, yet I can be a
good Russian while not drinking alcohol," Cherniyenko
said. "Most of the social problems in Russia are
caused by alcohol consumption.

"If we can introduce some Islamic social values to
Russia, society and the country will become stronger."

When Cherniyenko tells Russians he is Muslim, they
react mostly with curiosity, he said. Many ask him why
he chose to convert, not out of rudeness but out of
interest.

"I am not counting the hard-core nationalists, of
course, but those are maybe only 5 percent," he said.

"I grew up in a rather liberal environment in St.
Petersburg," he said. "My parents encouraged me in all
of my studies, which included different religions and
cultures.

"I learned to read the Torah in Hebrew, the Gospels in
Greek. I did not study Hindu texts as much,
unfortunately, but I did read them."

Cherniyenko's study of different religions led him on
a search for a faith whose interpretation would
coincide with his own.

"For me, to understand Jesus' passions, one had to
understand them as a man's passions," he said. "I was
searching for a faith that, rather than rejecting
Jesus or worshipping him as a god, would recognize him
as a man -- a pure, sinless man, but a man. That led
me to Islam."

The number of Russians who convert to Islam is quite
small, said Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the
Carnegie Moscow Center. "I would count them in the
dozens, at most," he said.

Vladimir Divakhov, a spokesman for the Moscow
Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, agreed,
saying that the church has no stated policy on
Russians converting to Islam. "The situation arises
very rarely," he said. "Most often, Russian converts
to Islam have been Russian women who marry Muslim men.
It occurs very infrequently, however."

Cherniyenko estimated that the membership of the group
stands at about 2,000, in approximately 20 of the
country's regions. He cautioned, however, that since
the organization has not yet applied for registration
with the Justice Ministry, no formal list of members
exists.

There are 19 million Muslims in Russia, making Islam
the country's second-largest religion, behind Russian
Orthodoxy.

Russian conversion to Islam is not always viewed
neutrally. In an April 2003 interview with the web
site portal-credo.ru, Gusman Iskhakov, the mufti of
Tatarstan, expressed his displeasure at the idea of
Russians converting.

"A person must remain himself. He was born, that is
his homeland, his nation. He must not change his
nation, his religion, his name every year," Iskhakov
was quoted as saying. "The Russians who convert to
Islam are not very reassuring. They are usually more
aggressive, and their mentality is completely
different."

But a spokesman for Iskhakov's office clarified the
mufti's remarks, saying that the reporter made them
sound more negative than they were intended to sound.

"The mufti said simply that it would make him happier
to see more Tatars, Muslims, return to the practice of
Islam," the spokesman said by telephone from Kazan.

Cherniyenko dismissed Iskhakov's reported concerns
about the susceptibility of Russian converts to
extremism. Another goal the group has is to develop
discipline among Muslims, he said, and to prevent them
from falling into extremist and militant groups.

Cherniyenko sees Iskhakov's statement as not merely a
usurpation of spiritual authority that ultimately
belongs to an individual Muslim, but also a
deprivation of a constitutional right.

"The Constitution of the Russian Federation gives
every citizen the right to worship according to the
dictates of his conscience," he said. "When the mufti
of Tatarstan says [that Russians should not convert to
Islam], he is taking away a right we have under the
Constitution."

Farid Asadullin, assistant to the head of the Council
of Muftis of Russia, offered a more neutral position
than that reported by portal-credo.ru.

"Conversion to Islam is a personal choice," he said.
"Our task is to encourage a proper understanding of
Islamic teachings. We will work together with such an
organization as the occasion requires, because they
are our spiritual brothers."

As for the group's future, "we hope that we will
extend beyond Russia into all of the countries of the
former Soviet Union," Cherniyenko said. At the
founding meeting in Omsk in June, there were
representatives of Russian Muslim communities in
Kazakhstan, and the group has been in contact with
potential members in Ukraine.

Fundamentally, the common thread among the
organization's membership and among all Muslims is
spirituality. Cherniyenko's prayers usually have two
parts, he said, the first being a prescribed prayer,
required of all Shiite Muslims. The second can be
about anything a person might be feeling on any
particular day.

"Mostly, I pray for my mother, my family, and peace
and prosperity for the Muslim community," he said.

source :http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/08/31/015.html

Increasing Number Of Germans Embracing Islam

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BERLIN, October 25 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) -
The number of Germans who accept Islam "is rising each
year" and they "are getting younger and younger,"
confirmed the director of a Muslim cultural center in
the capital Berlin.

"Many are looking for new lifestyles and some sense of
direction," Herzog-turned Mohammed – a former
Protestant who worked in a social welfare center for
Turkish immigrants for many years, told Agence
France-Presse (AFP) Saturday, October 25.

To all appearances Herr Herzog is an average German,
but on Sunday, October 26, he will be one of a growing
number of his compatriots to observe the Muslim
fasting month of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of
their faith, according to AFP.

Herzog converted to Islam in 1979 when he realized
that "the Qur'an gathered together everything I had
ever believed in."

Today he is the director of a Muslim cultural center
in the capital Berlin and he maintains that the number
of Germans who embrace Islam "is rising each year."

The central institute on Islam archives estimates that
about 12,400 people born in Germany to German parents
are Muslims, with the total Muslim population set at
around 3.5 million people, most of them of Turkish
origin.

Each year, the institute issues between 350 and 400
documents in German and Arabic, complete with identity
photograph, as proof people have converted.

"It would be an exaggeration to talk of a rash of
conversions," the center director Salim Abdullah told
AFP.

Nevertheless, the document gives its owner the right
to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, another of the five
pillars of Islam which has to be performed at least
once in a lifetime, provided the believer is both
financially and physically able.

Norbert Mueller grew up with almost no exposure to
religious instruction, but he says he has found warmth
and "the feeling that he belongs to a community" with
his Turkish and Arab friends in the northern city of
Hamburg.

A 41-year-old practicing lawyer, Mueller embraced
Islam in 1991 and has married a Muslim woman from
Iran.

When he was a student, he used to go to bars with
other Germans, but some grew irritated when he refused
to drink a beer with them.

"I never realized that alcohol played such an
important role in one's social life," says Mueller,
who now mainly frequents other Muslims.

"Impossible To Know How Many"

According to Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, a Leipzig University
professor and author of a study on religious
conversions in Germany and the United States, it is
impossible to know how many people have become
Muslims.

Professing one's faith before another Muslim is enough
to convert, she says.

"The majority are people whose spouses are Muslims.
Nothing obliges though to convert," Wohlrab-Sahr says.


"Many of them have difficult pasts that pose them
problems, they are looking for discipline in their
lives."

By becoming Muslims, though, they are confronted with
other problems.

"The newest of converts have to deal with a new world
which they have to assimilate," says Norbert Mueller.

"They have to find their way and for that reason some
give the impression they are observing the rules 150
percent, but it's usually a passing phase."

Nor does Wohlrab-Sahr see this as a big issue.

"One could say that some new converts follow the rules
in a particularly strict way. But that's a tendency
one finds with all converts, Catholics included," she
says.

source :http://www.islamonline.net

Catholics turn to Islam as faith conversions rise

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By Jonathan Petre



PEOPLE are converting from one religious denomination or faith to
another at a faster rate than ever, with 1,000 swapping every week,
according to a new study.

Despite the decline in formal church attendance, the remaining
"religious traffic" is "heading in all directions", Rabbi Jonathan Romain claims
in a book to be published next month. Traditional barriers between religions
are crumbling in a multi-faith, consumerist society, he says in Your
God Shall Be My God.

Anglicans are becoming Roman Catholics, and vice versa, Jews are
becoming Buddhists, Muslims are becoming Anglicans and Roman Catholics Jews.
Between 10 and 30 per cent of converts to Buddhism are Jewish,
according to official estimates. Such converts are referred to as a "Jew-Bu".

Dharmachavi Vishvapani, 35, a Jew who changed his name from Simon
Blomfield to join the Western Buddhist Order, said he preferred
Buddhism because it focused on practice rather than dogma. He said: "Not long
after my barmitzvah, at the age of 15, I took up meditation. It all happened
quite quickly after that. Judaism did not seem relevant to my life. It
was more about sustaining a culture than living a good life."

A high proportion of the 1,500 to 2,500 converts to Islam every year
are Catholics. According to Sarah Jacobs, a former Catholic who is now a
Muslim, the leap between the two faiths is not as great as it seems.
She was confirmed in the Catholic Church, the faith of her mother, at 13.
When one of her brothers married a Muslim she was horrified, but three years
ago she followed him, to the dismay of the rest of her family. She
said: "What appealed to me was the incredible simplicity and clarity of
Islam."

Dr Ahmed Andrews, a lecturer in the sociology of religion at Derby
University and another convert from Catholicism to Islam said: "There
are between 5,000 and 10,000 white Muslim converts in this country, and
most of the ones I know are former Catholics." Rabbi Romain maintains that
Islam is not the only beneficiary: of the 300 to 400 coverts to Judaism
every year, about a fifth are Catholics.

Catholicism has also had some high-profile converts, including the
Duchess of Kent and Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary. Defections from
Anglicanism to Rome, dubbed "crossing the Tiber", reached a peak after
the Church of England's decision to ordain women. The traditionalist
umbrella group Forward in Faith, believes about 350 clergy and thousands of lay
people have switched.

Many conversions follow marriage, as in the high-profile cases of the
society girl Santa Palmer-Tomkinson, who became a Jew after she married
the writer Simon Sebag-Montefiore, and Jemima Goldsmith, the daughter
of the half-Jewish tycoon Sir James, who became a Muslim after marrying
the former cricketer Imran Khan.

Rabbi Romain, minister of Maidenhead synagogue, Berkshire, says in his
book: "Not only is Britain a multi-faith society, but it is proudly so.
People previously used to one faith are now presented with an array of
different religious options that were hardly thought of beforehand." He
says that a further spiritual impetus has been created by the
Millennium.

"While there has been a decline in knowledge about religion, the
spiritual yearning for answers to questions of the meaning of life and personal
direction remain. People feel a spiritual vacuum so they look outside
their own religious backgrounds, and there is a lot more on offer."

The biggest growth is being experienced by Islam and Buddhism, and
movements such as New Age and paganism. Rabbi Romain believes that
Britain is more fruitful territory for the "new religious movements", or cults,
than the United States. An estimated 400 have spring up since 1945, and
there are 3.2 cults per million of the population in this country
compared with 2.3 per million in the US. "Britain also has the distinction of
being the country in Europe with the highest number of Indian and Eastern
cult centres and communities," he adds.

Peter Brierley, of Christian Research, said the rate of
cross-fertilisation appeared to have increased. He added: "What we
don't know is whether people, having changed, are not changing back again
five years later."

source :
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=000140326706927&rtmo=LlS7GKid&atmo=LlS7GKid&pg=/et/00/9/3/nrel03.html

New converts to Islam -- Some advice

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ssalamu Alaikom,

The process of conversion isn't a simple journey, and sometimes a person feels rather alone. I thought I would write an article for new female converts and those thinking of converting, based on my experiences and the experiences of other converts that I have read online and heard about in person.

When I was in the process of converting, I devoured all information I could about Islam. My primary source was the internet, simply due to the volume and variety of sources available. Oftentimes, I was confused, because what one website stated as fact was not necessarily what another said. And what one Muslim poster thought was the cat's meow made another Muslim poster howl. Oh so many opinions, and so many Qur'anic verse and hadith to back up all these opinions! What to think, for the new convert who is just learning and isn't quite yet sure what is opinion and what is fact?

Having been in the faith for a while now, I am aware that there are schools of thoughts and difference of opinion between scholars. (Islam has no central authority to turn to, unlike other religions with a very set hierarchy.) This difference of opinion is allowed, and scholars (and therefore the rest of us) are to respect the opinions of one another.

However, some of the websites one encounters have a set opinion and will not tolerate any deviance from this opinion. Not only this, but some posters to Islamic websites will answer as if from a position of knowledge, when they actually do not have the necessary knowledge.

This occurs in person, too. There are Muslims with very set opinions, who very strictly adhere to their school of thought, and seek to impose this way of living Islam on those around them... especially new converts, who are like sponges, eager to soak up absolutely anything relating to Islam.

So, it is vital that the new Muslim research everything for themselves, and never blindly accept what others are telling them. Take from multiple sources! Read the Qur'an and hadith, read the scholarly opinions relating to them, and also read articles and fatwas from a variety of sources. Yes, ask your fellow Muslims, but don't blindly follow. In addition, don't take the easiest path *or* the hardest path. Don't quickly accept an opinion that says what you want to hear, when you know that 99.9% of the other opinions did not agree with this one. If it seems like a controversial or weak opinion, look deeper before deciding. And don't take the opinion that makes the religion too difficult to bear. The Qur'an itself warns us against this, too!

You know, when I converted, I was given a giant haram list: makeup, music, dogs, any piercing beyond a single earlobe piercing, pants, Western dress, Western haircuts, exposed feet, maintaining friendships with non-Muslims, talking to men on the phone even for business purposes, brushing the teeth while fasting, eating with the left hand, tampons, wearing bright colors, travelling anywhere alone, working in a mixed environment, using any sort of guide to pray, all Western holidays and celebrations, praying a certain way or failing to pray a certain way, and so on. I thought my head would burst. It seemed like Islam was merely a collection of millions of minute rules intended to strictly regulate every single breathing moment of a person's life! It is true that there are rules we are expected to follow, or recommendations that we ought to consider, but at first, give yourself time and space to grow into these commitments. Don't expect yourself to magically become super Muslim in the blink of an eye (or in the time it takes to recite the shahada.)

And of course, don't forget the biggest insistence a new Muslim woman will hear: YOU MUST WEAR HIJAB STARTING NOW!

Later, I found out a lot of what those few Muslims around me insisted were... if you'll pardon me for saying this... "gospel", were either distortions of scholarly opinion, the strictest opinion, one opinion out of a few, or flat out wrong. That means I spent a lot of time obsessing and feeling like a failure for no good reason at all. It wasn't until I started meeting a larger variety of Muslims and researching things for myself that I realized there is more than one way to live Islam.

Many converts are isolated and do not have direct access to a mosque or Muslim community. Many must rely on books, tapes, the internet, and perhaps one or two Muslim families or friends to guide them. It's difficult and I sympathize because I was once in that situation, myself.

The best way to understand the dazzling beauty and variety within Islam is to meet as many Muslims as you can, and to visit as many mosques and communities as you can. When I came to Dearborn, and when I met my husband's family, I was floored by the rich variety in how people live as Muslims. There are Muslim women who do not wear hijab at all. There are Muslims who own dogs. There are Muslims who do not pray every day but fast each Ramadan and intend to make the hajj. There are Muslims who follow every last rule of Islam and those who ignore most. There are Muslims who have very set opinions on how a Muslim ought to live, and those who are quite agreeable to disagreeing. There are Muslims who are extremely knowledgeable about the religion and those who know very little. In other words, given that there are six billion of us worldwide, it makes perfect sense that there are all kinds of Muslims in the world. Your job as a convert is to find *your* Islam, *your* path, *your* voice. I am not advocating that you fail to meet what could be called the basic requirements of the faith... but I am advocating that you find a way of living Islam that is right for you.

As I have already briefly mentioned, hijab is a major issue. Such a small, simple piece of cloth, yet it wields incredible power. While researching Islam, I was struck by how much attention hijab is given. A woman could go her whole life without truly understanding Islam, but she sure as heck understands that she ought to have that square of cloth on her head. So much attention is devoted to this topic. A new Muslim convert is also going to encounter the opinion that hijab is not a requirement at all. The need to cover is agreed upon by all four schools of thought, I am sure, but there are individuals and groups out there that do not believe it is necessary. So, with all of this in mind, a convert has some decisions to make. Remember that this is your life, your spirituality, and hijab is an intensely personal issue. Don't allow others to badger you into doing something that you are not yet comfortable with. Likewise, don't let others badger you out of doing something you feel you must. I know for myself, it took me some time to want to wear hijab. Honestly, it took me more time to understand hijab on an inner, spiritual level. I wore hijab first out of duty and only later came to identify with it and understand the inner modesty it represents.

I want to mention marriage. As a new convert, I felt intense pressure to marry, and I've heard other new Muslims say the same. "Marriage is half your deen" is an expression you are going to hear regularly, and from acquaintance and stranger alike. Whether or not you wish to marry is a personal choice, but I would recommend that you spend a few years as a Muslim before you do so. "You'll learn from your husband, he can teach you Islam" is something you will hear, and sure, that's true, but you have your own brain and you can learn Islam without a husband! You must learn and grow into your deen, because trust me, you are going to undergo some changes in your first few years of being a Muslim. You will look back at the person who converted to Islam, and the person you are now, and you are going to see some real differences. Wait until you are firm in your religion and a little more knowledgeable before you put your future in the hands of somebody else. What if his Islam is much more strict than yours? What if it's too lenient? And let's be honest here... It is entirely possible that a convert will be manipulated due to her lack of knowledge. "Oh yes, honey, it's required that the wife massage the man's feet every day or else the angels curse her. Oh yes, honey, it's recommended that the wife does all the housework. Oh yes, honey, it's totally halal for me to smoke weed." Being a part of a Muslim family will strengthen your Islam and will improve your knowledge and perhaps even make you feel closer to the community, but it is something that should not be rushed. "Marry in haste, repent in leisure".

Not to mention that for most of us, we don't have family and community behind us when we decide to marry. If we wish to follow Islam properly, we avoid dating and being alone with potential partners. Because converts may find themselves on the fringe of the Muslim community, and alone when in search of a marriage partner, we are often quite vulnerable when seeking marriage. Not all of us have any connections, we must rely on the word of our wali (who is sometimes someone we don't know very well), or if we cannot find a wali, the word of the potential husband himself. We can't look into his background and his reputation because we don't know who to ask and what to ask. We may not have many offers of marriage because of our distance from the community. This is not a secret, and there are opportunists who will take advantage of this vulnerability. So, do not rush marriage. Learn your religion, become comfortable in it, attempt to become part of a larger Muslim community if possible, network with your trusted Muslim friends, and proceed very slowly with potential partners.

Now, enough of your interactions with Muslims. What about non-Muslims? You are going to be asked many questions about Islam, some simple, some intricate, some obscure. Don't answer beyond your ability. Be honest with people, tell them when you cannot answer for something. (And then go home and research it!) Likewise, you are not responsible for everything done in the name of Islam, nor do you have to agree with it. Here is a radical example: honor killing. Honor killing is known within Islamic societies but it's not at all Islamic. It is cultural. You are going to be asked difficult questions, and it's worth being prepared for it. Similarly, becoming Muslim does not nullify your ethnicity and cultural background. You do not have to become something or somebody else. You are not renouncing your people or your culture.

Also, don't feel any shame about your non-Muslim family. Do not turn away from them if you've previously had a relationship with them. Don't discard your non-Muslim friends (although it's fine to evaluate a friendship if, say, your primary connection is the fact that you went bar hopping together every weekend...) Becoming Muslim does not mean you must entirely reinvent yourself and do away with anything that came before.

Another thing I would like to discuss is the topic of name changes. A number of new Muslims are told that they must take on an Islamic name. It is true that a Muslim is required to change his or her name if their current name insults Islam or has a bad meaning. A man or woman named "Christian" might want to change their name, for example. But I would guess that for many of us, our names do not have negative meanings. A woman may wish to adopt an Islamic name as part of the conversion process, but that is a personal choice. As a funny aside, one time a man *told* me what my new Islamic name would be. Yeah, sure! I like having a Western name because it's mine, it's my identity, and also because I feel it promotes understanding. Most non-Muslims think all Muslims are Middle Eastern, and when they see me, Ms. European-Descent Convert, it makes them re-evaluate some of their preconceived notions of Islam!

Give your family and friends time to accept the changes you're making in your life. Your journey toward Islam may have been a long time in the making from your perspective, but it may be completely surprising to your loved ones. Additionally, I would recommend that you refrain from insisting that those outside of your direct influence (such as your children) follow you into Islam... You can certainly make dawah to your friends and family, but be gentle with them. And although I have heard of non-Muslims following their sole Muslim relative into Islam, I would say don't expect this. Respect is a two way street, of course. I highly recommend that you talk to your friends and family all along the way, as you grow into your new religion.

Now, having written all of this, I can't help but think that the overall tone of this article is negative. That is entirely not the case! Converting to Islam will be a wondrous journey, and you will be amazed at the improvements in your outlook, frame of mind, and habits. Islam has brought me very little discomfort and a whole lot of security and peace. But, a new Muslim may find herself encountering some of these situations and I wanted to better prepare her for it.

source :www.torntoislam.com

Memeluk Islam, Pelukis Rusia Ekspresikan Keimanannya Lewat Lukisan

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Seorang pelukis kenamaan Rusia, Arcadi Yamortsov, dikabarkan telah mengucapkan dua kalimat syahadat dan memeluk agama Islam. Pilihan Yamortsov atas Islam jatuh setelah melalui pengembaraan dan pencarian hakikat keimanan yang teramat panjang.

Televisi Rusia berbahasa Arab Rusiya al-Yaum (22/3) mengabarkan, Yamortsov (60) melabuhkan hidupnya pada dermaga Islam setelah bertahun-tahun ia tenggelam dalam penelaahan panjang tentang tiga agama samawi, yaitu Yahudi, Kristen, dan Islam.

Sejak masa kuliah, Yamortsov sangat gandrung dengan kajian agama-agama. Ia pun banyak membaca buku-buku perbandingan agama. Iklim Uni Sovyet yang komunis menjadikannya berada pada posisi yang kosong di hadapan semua agama.

Di usianya yang ke-48, Yamortsov mulai berkenalan lebih jauh dengan Islam. Di samping mengetahui Islam dari buku-buku yang dibacanya, Yamortsov juga mengenal agama pungkasan itu dari orang-orang Tatar-Rusia yang mayoritas Muslim.

Saat bekerja di Ukrania, Yamortsov banyak memiliki kawan kerja orang-orang Tatar itu. Hubungan sehari-hari dengan mereka menjadikan Yamortsov mengetahui lebih jauh tentang Islam.

Hingga akhirnya, Yamortsov memutuskan untuk memeluk agama Islam di usia enam puluhannya. Ia pun mengganti namanya dengan Hasan Yamortsov.

Meski telah menjadi seoran Muslim yang taat, namun pamor Hasan Yamortsov dalam dunia seni lukis tetap bersinar terang. Ia kini banyak melukis lukisan-lukisan keislaman, semisal ka'bah, ayat-ayat Al-Qur'an, masjid, dan lain-lain.

Yamortsov adalah putra pelulik kenamaan Rusia di masa Sovyet, yaitu Carilia Boris Yamorstsov.sumber : [rta/atjeng/www.hidayatullah.com]

Jamilah Kolocotronis, Menemukan Cahaya Islam Saat Mengejar Cita-Cita Jadi Pendeta

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Jamilah Kolocotronis, melalui jalan berliku untuk sampai menjadi seorang Muslim. Uniknya, ia mendapatkan hidayah dari Allah swt mengikrarkan dua kalimat syahadat, justeru saat ia menempuh pendidikan demi mewujudukan cita-citanya menjadi seorang pendeta agama Kristen Lutheran yang dianutnya.

Kisah Jamilah berawal pada tahun 1976. Meski kuliah di sebuah universitas negeri, ia masih memendam keinginan untuk menjadi pendeta. Jamilah lalu mendatangi seorang pastor di sebuah gereja Lutheran dan menyampaikan keinginannya untuk membantu apa saja di gereja. Pastor itu kemudian meminta Jamilah untuk mewakilinya di acara piknik untuk para mahasiswa baru dari negara lain. Dalam acara ini, untuk pertamakalinya Jamilah bertemu dengan seorang Muslim.

Muslim itu bernama Abdul Mun'im dari Thailand. "Ia punya senyum yang manis dan sangat sopan. Saat kami berbincang-bincang, ia seringkali menyebut kata Allah," kata Jamilah.

Jamilah mengaku agak aneh mendengar Mun'im menyebut nama Tuhan, karena sejak kecil ia diajarkan bahwa orang di luar penganut Kristen akan masuk neraka. Saat itu, Jamilah merasa bahwa Mun'im adalah golongan orang yang akan masuk neraka, meski Mun'im percaya pada Tuhan dan berperilaku baik. Jamilah bertekad untuk bisa mengkristenkan Mun'im.

Jamilah pun mengundang Mun'im datang ke gereja. Tapi betapa malu hatinya Jamilah ketika melihat Mun'im datang ke gereja dengan membawa al-Quran. Usai kebaktian, Jamilah dan Mun'im berbincang tentang Islam dan al-Quran. Selama ini, Jamilah hanya mendengar istilah "Muslim" dan memahaminya dengan hal-hal yang negatif. Kala itu, sejak era tahun 1960-an warga kulit putih di AS meyakini bahwa warga Muslim kulit hitam ingin menyingkirkan warga kulit putih.

Selama dua tahun, Jamilah tetap melakukan kontak dengan Mun'im. Lewat aktivitasnya di sebuah Klub International, Jamilah juga bertemu dengan beberapa Muslim lainnya. Jamilah tetap berusaha melakukan kegiatan misionarisnya untuk memurtadkan mereka dan masih punya keinginan kuat untuk menjadi pendeta meski waktu itu, di era tahun '70-an gereja-gereja belum bisa menerima perempuan di sekolah seminari.

Waktu terus berjalan, kebijakan pun berubah. Setelah menyelesaikan studinya di universitas, sebuah seminari Lutheran mau menerimanya sebagai siswa. Jamilah pun langsung mengemasi barang-barangnya dan pergi ke Chicago untuk memulai pelatihan menjadi pendeta.

Tapi, cuma satu semester Jamilah merasakan semangat belajarnya di seminari itu. Jamilah sangat kecewa dengan kenyataan bahwa seminari itu tidak lebih sebagai tempat untuk bersosialisasi dimana pesta-pesta digelar dan minum-minuman keras sudah menjadi hal yang biasa. Jamilah makin kecewa ketika seorang profesor mengatakan bahwa para cendikiawan Kristen mengakui bahwa Alkitan bukan kitab suci yang sempurna, tapi sebagai pendeta mereka tidak boleh mengungkapkan hal itu pada para jamaah gereja. Ketika Jamilah bertanya mengapa, jawabannya tidak memuaskan dan ia diminta menerima saja keyakinan itu.

Jamilah akhirnya memutuskan meninggalkan seminari dan pulang ke rumah. Ia memutuskan untuk lebih meluangkan waktu untuk mencari kebenaran. Di tengah pencariannya itu, Jamilah diterima kerja sebagai sekretaris di daerah pinggiran St. Louis tak jauh dari rumahnya.

Mencari Kesalahan al-Quran

Suatu hari Jamilah masuk ke sebuah toko buku dan menemukan al-Quran di toko buku itu. Jamilah tertarik untuk membelinya karena ia ingin mencari kelemahan dalam al-Quran. Jamilah berpikir, sebagai orang yang bergelar sarjana di bidang filosofi dan agama serta pernah mengenyam pendidikan di seminari, pastilah mudah baginya menemukan kelemahan-kelemahan al-Quran sehingga ia bisa mempengaruhi teman-teman Muslimnya bahwa mereka salah.

"Saya baca al-Quran dan mencari kesalahan serta ketidakkonsistenan dalam al-Quran. Tapi saya sama sekali tak menemukannya. Saya malah terkesan saat membaca Surat Al-An'am ayat 73. Untuk pertama kalinya saya ingin mengetahui lebih banyak tentang Islam," ujar Jamilah.

Jamilah memutuskan untuk kembali ke universitasnya dulu dan mengambil gelar master di bidang filosofi dan agama. Pada saat yang sama, selain mengunjungi kebaktian di gereja, Jamilah juga datang ke masjid pada saat salat Jumat. Saat itu, Jamilah mengaku belum siap menjadi seorang Muslim. Masih banyak ganjalan pertanyaan memenuhi kepalanya.

Namun Jamilah tetap melanjutkan pencariannya tentang agama. Ia banyak mendapat penjelasan dari teman-temannya di universitas yang Muslim tentang berbagai keyakinan dalam Kristen yang selama ini ketahui. Selain mempelajari Islam, Jamilah juga mempelajari agama Budha. "Saya cuma ingin menemukan kebenaran," kata Jamilah.

Mengucap Dua Kalimat Syahadat

Seiring berjalannya waktu, Jamilah merasakan kecenderungannya pada Islam pada musim panas 1980. Satu hal yang masih mengganggu pikirannya ketika itu adalah mengapa orang Islam harus berwudhu sebelum salat. Ia menganggap itu tidak logis karena manusia seharusnya bisa mengakses dirinya pada Tuhan kapan saja. Namun pertanyaan yang mengganggu itu akhirnya terjawab dan Jamilah bisa menerima jawabannya.

Akhirnya, malam itu Jamilah membulatkan tekadnya untuk menerima Islam sebagai agamanya. Ia pergi ke sebuah masjid kecil dekat universitas. Kala itu, malam ke-9 di bulan Ramadhan, Jamilah mengucapkan dua kalimat syahadat disaksikan oleh sejumlah pengunjung masjid.

"Butuh beberapa hari untuk beradaptasi, tapi saya merasakan kedamaian. Saya sudah melakukan pencarian begitu lama dan sekarang saya merasa menemukan tempat yang damai," tukas Jamilah.

Setelah menjadi seorang Muslim, awalnya Jamilah menyembunyikan keislamannya dari teman-teman di kampus bahkan keluarganya. Menceritakan pada keluarganya bahwa ia sudah menjadi seorang Muslim bukan persoalan gampang buat Jamilah. Begitupula ketika ia ingin mengenakan jilbab. Tapi jalan berliku dan berat itu berhasil dilaluinya. Kini, Jamilah sudah berjilbab, ia tidak jadi pendeta tapi sekarang ia menjadi kepala sekolah di Salam School, Milwaukee. Di tengah kesibukannya mengurus enam puteranya, Jamilah mengajar paruh waktu dan menulis novel bertema Muslim Amerika. (ln/readingislam/iol)



sumber :eramuslim.com

Luna Cohen, Yahudi Maroko Menemukan Kebenaran Islam

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Luna Cohen, lahir di kota Tetouan, Maroko dari keluarga Yahudi. Pada usia 16 tahun, ia sudah meninggalkan rumah rumah keluarga di Maroko untuk melanjutkan sekolahnya di sekolah khusus perempuan Bet Yaakov di Washington Heights, Manhattan, Amerika Serikat. Bet Yaakov adalah sebuah sekolah Yahudi Ortodoks yang dikenal rasis.

Usia 18 tahun ia memutuskan menikah lelaki yang sampai saat ini menjadi suaminya. Sejak menikah, Luna dan suaminya sampai tiga kali berpindah tempat tinggal di apartemen yang ada di Brooklyn, New York karena ia dan suaminya merasa tidak pernah bahagia tinggal di lingkungan masyarakat Yahudi di tempat tinggalnya. Pasangan suami isteri itu kemudian memutuskan untuk membangun masa depan di Israel. Luna beserta suami yang ketika itu sudah dikaruniai empat anak, akhirnya pindah ke Israel.

Ketika tiba di Israel, Luna dan keluarganya tinggal pemukiman Yahudi, Gush Qatif di wilayah Jalur Gaza. Luna mengaku menjalani masa-masa yang berat karena melihat "cara hidup" orang-orang Yahudi di tempat tinggalnya itu dan meminta pada suaminya agar mereka pindah saja ke Netivot, yang terletak sekitar 23 kilometer ke arah utara di wilayah pendudukan Israel di Palestina.

Di tempat itu, Luna lagi-lagi menyaksikan kehidupan masyarakat Yahudi Israel yang disebutnya tidak berpendidikan. "Mungkin cuma satu dari sejuta anak yang berperilaku baik," kata Luna. Ia menyaksikan bagaimana orang-orang Yahudi di Netivot, sama seperti di pemukiman Yahudi Gush Qatif, membenci orang-orang yang bukan Yahudi yaitu orang-orang Arab Palestina.

"Kami melihat tindakan mereka sebagai tindakan mereka yang buruk dan mau menang sendiri. Pada titik ini, saya dan suami tidak sepakat dengan sikap orang-orang Yahudi itu," ujar Luna.

Hingga suatu hari suami Luna yang juga Yahudi tapi sekuler, pulang ke rumah dan mengatakan bahwa baru saja membaca al-Quran dan memutuskan untuk masuk Islam. Luna tidak tahu, bahwa suaminya selama ini banyak mempelajari Islam lewat dialog yang dilakukannya dengan seorang Muslim asal Uni Emirat Arab yang dijumpainya saat masih tinggal di pemukiman Gush Qatif. Selama dua tahun suami Luna dan kenalan Muslimnya itu berdiskusi tentang Yudaisme dan Islam.

Mendengar pernyataan suaminya ingin masuk Islam, Luna mengaku sangat-sangat syok. "Karena dalam Yudaisme, kami selalu diajarkan untuk membenci agama lain," kata Luna yang sebenarnya mempertanyakan ajaran yang dinilainya "mau menang sendiri" itu.

Tapi sang suami cukup bijak dan mengatakan bahwa Luna boleh tetap memeluk agama Yahudi jika tidak mau masuk Islam, karena dalam Islam, seorang lelaki Muslim boleh menikah dengan perempuan ahli kitab. Suami Luna pun masuk Islam dan memakai nama Islam Yousef al-Khattab.

Dua minggu setelah suaminya masuk Islam, Luna tertarik untuk membaca al-Quran dan ketika ia membacanya, Luna merasa semua pertanyaan yang mengganjal di kepalanya terjawab semua dalam al-Quran. Luna lalu menyusul suaminya mengucapkan dua kalimah syahadat dan menjadi seorang Muslimah. Luna memilih nama Qamar sebagai nama Islamnya.

Karena situasi yang tidak memungkinan buat mereka untuk tinggal lebih lama wilayah Israel, keluarga mualaf itu lalu memutuskan pindah ke Maroko, negara asal Luna pada tahun 2006. Sampai saat ini, pasangan Yousef dan Qamar al-Khattab hidup bahagia di tengah saudara-saudara Muslim Maroko dan menemukan kehidupan sejati setelah menemukan kebenaran dalam jalan Islam. (ln/jewsforAllah)

sumber :eramuslim.com

Katlin Hommik Terkesan Puasa Ramadhan

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Katlin Hommik nama gadis asal Estonia ini. Usia tiga tahunKatlin Hommik dia sudah banyak bertanya tentang Tuhan dan hidup setelah mati. Ketika Estonia masih dalam genggaman Sovyet, agama adalah hal tabu untuk dibicarakan. Begitupun, selepas Estonia merdeka Katlin mencoba belajar ajaran Kristen di sekolahnya. Tapi dia dikeluarkan karena dianggap terlalu banyak bertanya tentang keberadaan Tuhan. Akhirnya dia memutuskan keluar dari Kristen dan mencari agama lain. Begitulah, bertahun-tahun mempelajari berbagai ajaran diapun menemukan Islam. Menariknya, dia memeluk Islam selepas sebulan penuh ikut berpuasa. Dia mengaku puasa Ramadhan telah membimbingnya masuk Islam. Berikut cerita Katlin dalam bahasa bertutur.

0O0

“Saat masih berumur tiga tahun, aku pernah bertanya pada ayah: ”Apa yang nanti aku lakukan setelah mati, Ayah?” Kala itu ayah sangat terkejut mendengar pertanyaan dari anaknya yang masih berusia tiga tahun. Dia terlihat bingung harus memberi jawaban apa. Itulah awal pencarianku akan keberadaan Tuhan.

Di Estonia, terutama ketika masih berada di bawah kekuasaan komunis Sovyet, agama adalah barang tabu dan tak seorang pun diijinkan untuk berbicara di depan umum masalah agama dan keyakinan. Waktu itu berlaku opini bahwa hanya orang gila saja yang percaya akan Tuhan. Bagaimana mungkin percaya pada sesuatu yang tidak bisa kita lihat? Astronot kami pergi ke angkasa luar dan mereka tidak melihat Tuhan duduk di atas awan. Karena itu Tuhan tidak ada! Begitulah opini yang berkembang saat itu.

Hidup dalam masyarakat serupa itu, tentu saja ayah tak mampu memberikan jawaban atas pertanyaan ”aneh” yang kuajukan itu. Dia hanya menjawab ringan: ”Anakku, ketika mati nanti kamu ya cuma tidur di dalam tanah...” Tak ada penjelasan lebih detil.

Selebih itu aku tidak pernah mendengar jawaban lain yang melawan pendapat ayahku. Sejak itulah aku berusaha mencari jawaban sendiri, meski baru berumur tiga tahun. Tapi, ternyata jalannya sangat panjang sekali. Perlu waktu bertahun-tahun. Aku selalu merasa Tuhan itu pasti ada kendati aku tidak mampu menyebut nama-Nya. Aku juga seakan merasa Dia selalu ”mengamati” tindak tandukku.

Saat mulai masuk sekolah dasar, pertanyaan-pertanyaanku makin membuat ayah pusing hingga aku dihantarkan kepada nenek. Nenekku sendiri lahir di masa Republik Estonia pertamakali dicetuskan. Jadi dia masih merasakan kehidupan gereja pada saat usianya masih muda.

Neneklah yang pertamakali mengenalkanku cara memanggil Tuhan. Dia mengajarkan cara berdoa ala Kristen dengan menyebut “kepada Bapa kami di surga”. Uniknya, dia melarangku agar tidak mengucapkannya di depan khalayak ramai. Nanti ayah bisa dapat masalah besar. Begitu pesan nenek kala itu. Sejak itulah aku berniat untuk terus belajar ajaran Kristen dari nenek secara diam-diam.

Begitulah. Waktu pun berjalan cepat. Tepat di usia 11 tahun , persis di hari kemerdekaan dari Sovyet, aku masuk sekolah Minggu. Tahu tidak, mereka justru menolak kehadiranku!

Mereka berdalih aku terlalu banyak tanya. Kata mereka, keimananku telah rusak. Aku merasa heran, padahal semua pertanyaanku itu tak ada yang salah. Pertanyaanku rasional. Bagaimana mungkin ada anak Tuhan yang pada saat yang sama sekaligus bertindak sebagai Tuhan. Hingga guruku pun bingung.

Memasuki usia 15 tahun, aku makin intensif belajar ajaran Kristen secara otodidak. Aku mencari sendiri melalui literatur yang ada. Waktu itu aku masih menganggap aku ini orang Kristen. Tapi entahlah, pada akhirnya aku tak mampu bertahan. Aku tidak bisa menerima hal-hal tak rasional dalam ajaran Kristen. Aku memutuskan untuk mencari “sesuatu” yang lain. Nah setelah mempelajari berbagai ajaran agama, akhirnya aku pun menemukan Islam.

Selepas mengenal Islam, aku butuh waktu hingga tiga tahun untuk ”mengenal” siapa aku ini sebenarnya. Aku selalu bertanya pada diri sendiri apa aku sudah benar-benar yakin jadi muslim. Apa aku sudah siap? Begitulah, akhirnya di usia yang ke-21 aku pun bersyahadah.

Aku memeluk Islam tepat beberapa hari selepas Ramadhan 2001. Ramadhan sangat menginspirasiku. Bulan puasa itu kurasakan begitu indah. Menjalankan ibadah puasa berarti sekaligus berempati kepada mereka yang tak berpunya. Jauh sebelum aku mengenal Islam, perasaan kasih antar sesama telah hadir dalam hatiku.

Aku sendiri masih bingung, kenapa aku bersyahadah setelah Ramadhan. Bukannya sebelum atau selama Ramadhan. Yang kuingat, aku berpuasa sebulan penuh. Aku berharap hal itu bisa menghapus segala “kotoran” dalam diriku dan masuk Islam dalam keadaan suci bersih. Begitu pemahamanku waktu itu.

Karena itu, tiap kita puasa jangan hanya memikirkan kapan datangnya waktu berbuka. Kapan waktunya bisa makan dan minum lagi. Kapan bisa merasakan enaknya masakan sang istri di rumah, dan lain-lainnya. Tapi seharusnya kita juga memikirkan nasib orang lain yang menderita, bukan hanya karena kekurangan makanan, tapi juga karena menderita ”batin” akibat belum mendapatkan petunjuk-Nya. Itulah esensi puasa.

Sebagai seorang muslim, kita harusnya benar-benar bersyukur sebab diberi waktu untuk berpuasa sekali dalam setahun. Harus kita yakini hal itu sebagai upaya untuk memperbaiki diri kita secara personal, jasmani dan rohani serta yang maha penting lagi untuk berbagi kasih sayang dengan sesama. Terutama kepada mereka-mereka yang sedang dalam perjalanan mencari kebenaran Islam, semoga mereka cepat mendapatkan hidayah Allah. Amiin.”

sumber : [Zulkarnain Jalil/www.hidayatullah.com]

Konsep Trinitas Tak Masuk Akal, Kathryn Memilih Islam

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Saya pernah bertanya pada pendeta,'Saya tidak paham dengan konsep Trinitas. Bisakah Anda menjelaskannya?' Tapi pendeta itu menjawab 'Yakini saja'. Mereka tidak memberikan jawabannya

Kathryn Bouchard dibesarkan dalam lingkungan keluarga Katolik yang moderat. Kedua orangtuanya adalah guru sekolah Katolik. Hubungan antar keluarg mereka terbilang akrab satu sama lain.

Kathryn yang asal Kanada menghabiskan masa remajanya di London dan Ontario. Seperti penganut Katolik lainnya, ia pergi ke gereja setiap hari minggu, sekolah di sekolah Katolik hingga ke jenjang universitas.

Kathyrn kuliah di Brescia University College, sebuah perguruan tinggi Kristen khusus perempuan yang berafiliasi dengan Universitas Western Ontario.

"Meski saya dibesarkan dalam lingkungan Katolik, orangtua mendorong saya untuk berteman dengan beragam orang dari berbagai latar belakang dan boleh menanyakan apa saja berkaitan dengan kehidupan dan agama," kata Kathryn.

Konsep Trinitas Yang Tak Masuk Akal
Ia mulai mempelajari agama-agama dalam usia yang relatif masih mudah ketika ia berusia 16 atau 17 tahun dan masih duduk di sekolah menengah. Kathryn mengatakan, ia tidak mau menjadi bagian dari sebuah agama hanya karena ia sudah menganut agama itu sejak ia dilahirkan. Itulah sebabnya, Kathryn tidak sungkan mempelajari beragam agama mulai dari Hindu, Budha sampai Yudaisme. Ketika itu, ia hanya sedikt saja mengeksplorasi agama Islam.

Alasan Kathryn mempelajari beragam agama, salah satunya karena banyak hal dalam ajaran Katolik yang tidak dipahami Kathryn. "Kami sering kedatangan pendeta di sekolah dan kami melakukan pengakuan dosa. Saya pernah bertanya pada seorang pendeta,'Saya betul-betul tidak paham dengan konsep Trinitas. Bisakah Anda menjelaskannya?' Tapi pendeta itu menjawab 'Yakini saja'. Mereka tidak memberikan jawabannya," tutur Kathryn.

Ia belum mendapatkan jawaban yang memuaskan tentang konsep Trinitas dalam agama Kristen, hingga ia di bangku kuliah dan mempelajari berbagai ilmu di seminari dan mempelajari teologi agama Katolik.

"Jika saya menanyakan tentang Trinitas, mereka akan menjawab 'ayah dan ibumu saling mencintai, ketika mereka memiliki anak, itu seperti tiga dalam satu dengan identitas berbeda'.


Jadi, banyak sekali analogi yang diberikan untuk menjelaskan bagaimana Yesus bisa menjadi Tuhan dan menjadi anak Tuhan dan menjadi dirinya sendiri. Saya pikir banyak penganut Kristen yang menerima konsep ini tanpa memahaminya, " ujar Kathryn.

Ia lalu menanyakan konsep Trinitas ke beberapa temannya dan ia mendapat jawaban bahwa konsep Trinitas ada dan ditetapkan sebagai dasar kepercayaan dalam agama Kristen setelah Yesus wafat.

Sebuah jawaban yang mengejutkan Kathryn, karena itu artinya semua dasar dalam ajaran Kristen adalah ciptaan manusia. Yesus semasa hidupnya tidak pernah bilang dirinya adalah anak Tuhan dan tidak pernah mengatakan bahwa dirinya Tuhan.

"Saya membaca Gospel Mathias pertama dan dalam Gospel itu Yesus tidak direferensikan sebagai anak Tuhan, tapi anak seorang manusia. Tapi dalam Gospel yang ditulis setelah Yesus wafat, banyak sekali disebutkan bahwa Yesus adalah anak Tuhan. Dan disebutkan pula bahwa ada alasan politis dibalik argumen konsep Trinitas," papar Kathryn.


Yesus & Tuhan (Allah), 2 oknum yang berbeda

Ia melanjutkan,"Saya juga menemukan bahwa Yesus berdoa dan memohon pertolongan pada Tuhan. Jika Yesus minta pertolongan pada Tuhan, lalu bagaimana Yesus bisa menjadi Tuhan. Ini tidak masuk akal buat saya."

Mengenal Islam

Setelah menyelesaikan studinya di Ontario, Kathryn pindah ke Montreal dan di kota ini ia bertemu dengan banyak Muslim dari berbagai latar belakang mulai dari Eropa, Afrika dan Karibia. Keberagaman ini membuka mata Kathryn bahwa pemeluk Islam ternyata berasal dari berbagai latar belakang kebangsaaan. Fakta ini mendorongnya untuk lebih banyak belajar tentang Muslim dan latar belakang mereka.

Kathryn mulai membaca banyak referensi tentang Islam. Tapi ia menemukan bahwa contoh-contoh ekstrim tentang Islam di internet sehingga ia sempat berkomentar "Saya tidak mau menjadi bagian dari agama ini (Islam)." Oleh sang ayah, Kathryn disuruh terus membaca karena menurut sang ayah, dalam banyak hal sering terjadi salah penafsiran.

Kathryn pun melanjutkan pencariannya tentang Islam. Ia bergabung dengan situs "Muslimahs", sebuah situs internasional yang beranggotakan para Muslimah maupun para mualaf dari berbagai negara. Dari situs inilah ia banyak belajar dan bertanya tentang Islam.

Kathryn mengatakan banyak hal yang ingin ia ketahui tentang ajaran Islam. Misalnya, apa saja persamaan dan perbedaan ajaran Islam dan Kristen, bagaimana posisi Yesus dalam Islam, siapa Nabi Muhammad, masalah poligami dan berbagai isu Islam yang muncul pasca serangan 11 September 2001 di AS.

Selama kuliah di Montreal, Kathryn belajar banyak hal tentang Islam. Ketika ia pulang ke London, orangtuanya mengira bahwa Kathryn hanya rindu kembali ke rumah dan bukan untuk memperdalam minatnya pada Islam. Kathryn lalu membeli al-Quran dan buku-buku hadist. Pada ayahnya, ia bilang bahwa al-Quran bukan buatan manusia, ketika membaca al-Quran sepertinya Tuhan sedang bicara pada kita.

"Anda merasa bahwa ada juga kebenaran yang ditulis dalam alkitab, tapi Anda tidak akan merasa bahwa itu semua tidak ditulis langsung oleh Tuhan. Sedangkan al-Quran, Anda akan merasakan kebenaran yang sesungguhnya," ujar Kathryn.

"Saya juga menemukan banyak ilmu pengetahuan yang sudah lebih dulu diungkap oleh al-Quran dan baru muncul kemudian dalam kehidupan manusia. Saya pikir, al-Quran diturunkan pada manusia dengan tingkat emosional dan logis. Islam mendorong umatnya untuk berpikir dan mencari ilmu," sambung Kathryn.

Kathryn pun mulai belajar salat, datang ke ceramah-ceramah agama dan mengontak masjid terdekat untuk mencari informasi apakah masjid itu punya program untuk orang-orang sepertinya dirinya, yang berminat pada agama Islam.

"Pertama kali saya masuk ke masjid, saya menangis. Saya merasakan ada energi yang begitu besar yang tidak saya rasakan ketika saya ke gerejat," kisah Kathryn yang kemudian belajar membaca al-Quran di masjid itu. Ia terus belajar dan bergaul dengan para warga Muslim. Sedikit demi sedikit, Kathryn bisa mengubah gaya hidupnya.

Ditanya apakah orangtuanya keberatan dengan perubahan dirinya. Kathryn mengaku butuh waktu cukup panjang untuk meyakinkan orangtuanya bahwa ia tidak menjauh dari keluarganya jika memeluk Islam.

Mengucap Dua Kalimat Syahadat


pengajian di Islamic Center bimbingan Dr Munir El-Kassem

Kathryn mengungkapkan bahwa ia sendiri tidak pernah menyangka akhirnya memutuskan masuk Islam dan itu semua terjadi begitu saja. Saat itu, di bulan Juni tahun 2008, seperti biasanya ia datang ke pengajian mingguan di sebuah Islamic Center. Ia sama sekali berniat mengucapkan dua kalimat syahadat hari itu. Tapi ketika ia tiba di gedung Islamic Center, banyak sekali orang-orang yang telah ia kenal hadir.

Hari itu, tema pengajian adalah umrah. Banyak anak-anak muda Muslim yang datang dan menceritakan pengalaman mereka ikut umrah serta bagaimana hidup mereka berubah setelah umrah. Pengajian dibimbing oleh Dr Munir El-Kassem. Saat Dr El-Kassem bertanya apakah ada diantara para hadirin yang ingin mengajukan pertanyaan, Kathryn dengan spontan mengangkat tangan dan berkata,"Bisakah saya mengucapkan syahadat?" Kathryn sempat kaget sendiri dengan pertanyaan itu karena ia merasa tidak merencanakannya. Semua terjadi begitu saja, spontan.

"Seketika ruangan menjadi sunyi dan saya pikir Dr El-Kassem juga terkejut. Saya memang mengenakan kerudung setiap kali datang pengajian sebagai bentuk penghormatan saya pada Islam. Dr El-Kassem lalu meminta saya maju ke depan dan menceritakan di depan hadirin bagaimana saya bisa sampai pada Islam," tutur Kathryn.

Kathryn mengaku gemetar ketika mengucapkan dua kalimat syahadat. "Tapi saya merasa hati saya begitu lapang, penuh dengan cahaya ibarat sebuah pintu hati yang terbuka. Saya mereka sudah mengambil jalan yang benar," ungkap Kathryn.

Itulah hari bersejarah bagi Kathryn, hari dimana ia memulai kehidupan sebagai seorang Muslimah. Tahun pertama menjalankan puasa di bulan Ramadhan, diakui Kathryn sangat berat. Namun ia merasa bahagia setelah menjadi seorang Muslim. Kathryn mengaku hidupnyan lebih teratur, disiplin dan sehat karena ia tidak lagi makan daging babi dan minum minuman beralkohol. Kathryn juga mengatakan bahwa ia kini tahu apa sebenarnya tujuan dan mau kemana arah hidupnya.

sumber : (ln/iol/readislam/eramuslim)