Dignitaries who Embraced the Light!
The social aspect of a religious conversion should be sought in the inadequacy of the religion one has been practicing and the consolation the new religion provides. There can be many motivations for one to abandon a lifestyle practiced till the day before. For most who embrace Islam, this motivation is finding a way of salvation. We can see many remarkable examples in the history of Prophet (May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) justifying this.
The History of Umar(R), who embraced the light of Islam imparting the much needed glory for the faith at the time Prophet (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) started his mission, is a remarkable chapter in this.
Eminent poets of Arab literature, who proclaimed the words of Shahada with the same tongue, with which once they out-poured criticisms on the Prophet (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the gallant warriors who protected the Prophet with the same sword that was once sharpened and raised to kill him are golden chapters from the history of Islam.
This history has been repeating ever since. Pushing aside all manmade ‘isms’ that emanate every now and then for the liberation of mankind, Islam continues to be the fastest growing religion in the world. Structure of world politics and the social order post 9/11 has given a new shape and face to Islam. Academic scholars, celebrities from television and film industries, and colossus in sports… many are hasting to embrace the light of Islam. Likewise, many eminent personalities have come to the light of Islam in last 10 years. Numbers of common people will be many folds of this. Here we can read the desire and means of some famous personalities who chose Islam as their way of life, in recent times.
Arnoud Van Doorn
Arnoud Van Doorn is one of the well-known personalities who came to the fold of Islam in the previous year. He is a Dutch citizen and was a strong critique of Islam. He was the producer of the film ‘Fitna’ in 2008, which made much controversy by defaming Islam and Prophet. His curiosity on why Muslims were strongly protesting against his film and their allegation that the contents in the film were ‘baseless’, made him to learn about Islam deeply. In one of his interviews after accepting Islam he tells that he had only heard negative stories about Islam before. The more he read about Islam the more he was convinced that Islam is actually a beautiful and a wise religion. He was in the leadership of PVV party in Netherlands lead by Geert Wilders. This party, which was in forefront for spreading false allegations against Islam, has compared Qura’n with Hitler’s ‘Mein Kamph’ and had sought a ban for Qur’an in Netherlands. Arnoud’s basis for producing ‘Fitna’ was his traditional prejudiced understanding about Islam as a Christian and the strong criticism against Islam orchestrated by his PVV party. Later he clarifies that both these reasons actually lead him to learn more about Islam. Those who have knowledge in Christianity will be able to easily return to the original faith if their quest for the search of truth has not ceased. Readiness to learn in depth about what we criticize is the uniqueness of those who try to comprehend things impartially.
Idris Tawfiq works as a professor in the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Idris, a graduate in English Literature and Theology, was a roman catholic priest for long time. He taught at different seminaries in Britain and used to quote from Qur’an for his students. ” …nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning (priests), and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant”. One day when he read this verse from Qur’an to his students, he was stunned for a moment. This verse was strong enough to overturn the understanding a Christian priest had about Islam. He started to learn more about Islam. His trip to Egypt and opportunity to talk to Islamic scholars in Cairo made his journey to Islam faster. Before that, he was working as a teacher in a famous Christian seminary in Vatican. When he became interested in learning Islam, he quit this job and traveled to Egypt again. And there he accepted Islam. Idris is an eloquent speaker and a well-known writer. ‘Garden Delight’, ‘Talking to Young Muslims’, ‘Calling others to Islam’, ‘Gift of the Nile: Land of the faith’ are some of his books. He is a regular columnist in Egyptian Mail and a speaker in Radio Cairo.
It was in 1998, when he was as a graduate student in New York City, Steven Eric Cross, a Protestant Christian, got interested in Islam. He was much interested in spirituality and was looking for anything that didn’t have to do with organized religion. During that time he came to know that one of his Jewish friend in hostel is Practicing ‘Silat’, a traditional Malaysian martial art that is based on the teachings of Islam. From the very beginning, he was intrigued by Silat and Islam and this encouraged him to learn more about Islam.’ To Islam through Martial Arts’ – that was how media described his conversion to Islam.
Why couldn’t I just pray directly to God? Why did I have to begin and end every prayer with “in the name of Jesus Christ?” How can an eternal, omnipotent Creator and sustainer also take the form of a man? Why would He need to? Seeking out to answer questions like these led him to the principle of Monotheism in Islam. Upon his graduation from graduate school in the spring of 1998, he spent the entire summer living with his Silat teacher and his wife. As his learning in silat increased, so did his learning about Islam, a religion that he had hardly any knowledge of prior to his experience in silat.
In the beginning of his life as a Muslim, he admits it was very difficult for him to understand the amount of discipline Islam requires. As time went on, however, and his understanding of Islam grew, he began to slowly see that what seemed to be religious dogma was really the lifestyle put forth to human beings by their Creator. Abdul-Lateef Abdullah, who is now engaged in fundamental researches in the field of social science, testifies that the teachings of Islam give new face and means for his research.
Amir Junaid Muhadith
Chauncey Lamont Hawkins, was an American rapper best known by his stage name Loon. He is known for his role in the hit hip hop song in 2001 “I need a girl”. He converted to Islam in 2009 and changed his name to Amir Junaid Muhadith. He then went to Makkah to perform Umrah and enjoyed this journey of spirituality. He invited his family to the true religion. He then visited countries like Algeria and Canada with his family and engaged in da’wa activities to spread the peace and protection Islam has to offer. He talks about the reason behind his conversion to Islam in the interview he gave to Al-Jazeera and in a discussion in London Brics Masjid
Yvonne Ridley, leader of Respect party, a leftist movement in Britain and a journalist, came to Islam in 2003. She was captured by Taliban while reporting for Sunday Express newspaper during US attack on Afghanistan. Being denied a visa to Afghanistan, Ridley crossed the border covering her face with veil. When she was finally released from the prison of Taliban, she decided to learn Quran and was much impressed in the freedom Qura’n depicts for women. She accepted Islam in 2003.
Ridley says there is no justification for the terrorism of Taliban in Qur’an and again Qur’an is the Magna Carta for women’s liberation. In 2004, BBC religion site had aired a special feature about Ridley’s conversion. ‘In the Hands of Taliban’ and ‘Ticket to Paradise’ are her books. Ridley, who stand strongly against Zionism and the stereo typed allegations of western medias, currently works for press tv.
“I first tried to approach Qur’an in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind”,the words of Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a British writer and actress. She embraced Islam in 2003. She happened to read Qur’an while she was studying in Cambridge. When she completed her graduation in social science from university, she was also completely submitted to Islam. She informed the news of her conversion to her friends by continuing to wear her head scarf even after winter, that was presumed to save her from cold. According to her, it’s not a new religion she followed, but the final form of the religious beliefs that is inherited through previous scriptures and societies. Myriam, who appears in western Medias representing Islam, currently is a spokesperson for Oxford university Islamic society.
Franck Ribéry and Emeka Ezeugo
There are two famous football players who embraced Islam recently. French player Frank Ribery is now Bilal Yusuf Muhammed. Left side winger of the German football club Bion Munich, Ribery is famous for his speed and tactics in soccer fields. Sinadin Sidan, famous French football player once described him as “precious gem”. He accepted Islam in 2006, just before his travel to Turkey. He told in an interview that his conversion to Islam gives him more confidence in his play and a new direction for his life.
Emeka Ezeugo, retired Nigerian football defender and midfielder and also current coach for Mohammedan sporting Club, got attracted towards Islam after reading the biography of prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). His family, belonging to Roman Catholic Church, never stood against his conversion. Thus he became Mustafa Muhammed. He considers Bangladesh, the country that gave the right twist to his life, as his second native land. His testimony is that Islam enables him to handle his life with more discipline and contentment.