Turning Muslim: My Story, Part One

I’ve been Muslim since the end of 2002. I decided to write my story when I suddenly came in contact with so many old friends through the internet, many of whom I assume were surprised and maybe a bit confused when they found out that I had become Muslim. Looking back, I realize that my journey began long before I ever knew anything at all about Islam.

Ironically, not long before I was introduced to Islam, I harbored a sort of loathing for religion in general. I never could have imagined that I would one day embrace and practice any religion.

I was an aspiring artist; by my early twenties I had learned, to some degree, six different musical instruments in addition to vocal instruction and had participated in several sports. I travelled the country and to six foreign countries, I was a certified deep sea diver, experiencing the awesome reefs of Thailand and Australia. My favorite activities included woodworking, oil painting, welding and ceramics.

I was basically an agnostic enjoying life, I was as unlikely a candidate as could be for a convert to any religion.

After high school I attended Pratt institute in Brooklyn. It was a fabulous experience. I lived there and put myself completely into my studies. It was at this time that my apathetic view of religion changed to disdain. I was a sort of self-invented “thinker” or “intellectual”.

I felt that all religions were just hindering people from really thinking on their own, used by people who needed quick answers and were lazy to contemplate their existence or reality.

It seemed to me that people were too afraid to deal with the difficult realities of life and death and so grabbed the security blanket of religion without much deep thought or analysis. Religion which, so long as one had “faith”, would seemingly answer those difficult questions and provide comfort where there might otherwise be fear.

My attitude was a bit arrogant, I admit… but thankfully I managed to maintain a fairly healthy curiosity and a willingness to learn and discover new things.

2I became very interested in philosophy. I had an attraction to existentialism but, through much research I found most philosophies unsatisfying and far too complicated. Although I held a sort of belief that through reason and our own intellectual faculties we could and should do without religion, I still had the nagging sense that there must be some purpose for our existence. My curiosities led me to read many books; from novels to history, facts to fiction.

Being on my own for the first time at college in Brooklyn, I became keenly aware of my own mortality. I suddenly realized that I had no idea when my life would end… and how fragile life really is.

I remember looking out my dorm room window as a freshman and being aware of the vastness of the skies, noting the smallness of myself. I thought about time and how so many generations have passed on before us, and probably will after us.

I longed for knowledge but I didn’t think there was a way to know more about the truth of our existence. I thought we as human beings could never really know what this life was really all about; how we came to be, where we are all going, etc.

I did not believe there were real answers to my questions. As for God, I simply had no idea if there was one or not. How could my little insignificant self know such a thing?

I surely was not about to blindly believe in God because some books or people claimed it was true. To my knowledge there were plenty of rebuttals to such affirmations.

I was an artist, striving to make something beautiful, something amazing, something powerful… Though I enjoyed living in Brooklyn, I began to tire of the city and so much concrete. I longed to get away.

My friend and I decided to go on a month long, cross-country road trip. We spent the month camping under starlit skies and visiting the most spectacular land forms in the country.

We went to so many beautiful places including deserts and caves with the most amazing, intricate and delicate rock formations. We experienced the vast white sands of New Mexico. Utah, with the vivid blue skies and arches formed out of rock, Pyramid Lake in Nevada, up the coast of California and just so many incredibly beautiful places…

I wrote a postcard to my parents from somewhere in Arizona I think, saying something to the effect that I had realized I would never be able to create anything of much greatness, now that I had seen such astonishing beauty on the earth.

This was a staggering realization for me.

It was a wonderful trip.


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