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For Me is My Religion: Tales of Conversion Part 1

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Last week I was asked what my favorite ayah in the Quran was, but I couldn’t give just one; so without hesitation I responded with my favorite surah, which is Sūrat’l-Kāfirūn (The Disbelievers).

Kafirun

 Say, “O disbelievers,

I do not worship what you worship.

Nor are you worshipers of what I worship.

Nor will I be a worshiper of what you worship.

Nor will you be worshipers of what I worship.

For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”[109]

There are many reasons that this is one of my favorite surahs, the simplest of which is that we are all humans with one world to live in. I mean, at this moment, it isn’t like people can just move to another planet. So, regardless of our views on life and religion, we have to learn to get along with one another. You worship what you want to worship, I will worship what I want, and neither of us will do harm or push the other. After all, doesn’t the Quran say, “There is no compulsion in religion,” (2:256)? This is all summed up in Sūrat’l-Kāfirūn.

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The bigger reason that this surah hits home for me is based on the experiences I had upon converting to Islam – both amongst the congregation I left and the one I joined.

Converting was not much of a personal challenge for me. I had come to a deep understanding of Islam, what it stood for, what the core beliefs were, what the five pillars stood for, and that Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the last Prophet of Allah.

Of course, I had concerns about my family and friends. What would they say? How would they react? Much to my surprise, my parents were the ones that took it best.

My mom simply asked, “Do you still believe in God and his oneness? That he has no partners?”

Right away I thought about Sūrat’l-Ikhlāṣ (The Sincerity):

Ikhlas

 

Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One,

Allah , the Eternal Refuge.

He neither begets nor is born,

Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”[112]

I replied, “Yes, mom,” and she was very much at peace with it.

My dad, on the other hand, had the typical worries and concerns of someone who didn’t understand Islam. He had questions like, “Are you being forced to do this? Are you moving to the Middle East? You’re being careful who you are spending time with?” Once I put his worries to rest he was at peace with it too, although I do think it took him a little longer than my mom.

One of the biggest and most unexpected challenges of converting was leaving the congregation that I had been a part of for three years.

Once word had gotten out, it started simply enough – phone calls, emails, and coffee with concerned, senior members of the congregation. Nothing more than what I had expected, but it escalated quickly. I had been out to dinner with one of these senior members. After dinner, we were in the parking lot saying goodbye when he grabbed my arm and said, “Do you mind if I pray over you?” Not wanting to cause a scene, and hoping to just get the meeting to end, I told him to do what he felt was necessary.

It was at that point he struck me on the forehead with the palm of his hand and started saying very loudly, “Oh Lord! Heal this brother from the evil that is within him and wash away the sin of Islam that has clouded his sight and judgment.” As soon as he finished I quickly thanked him and made a dash for my car!

I thought that was it, I mean how much worse could it get, right? I had been hit in the head and prayed over loudly in a public parking garage; what else could there possibly be?

A few days later, I got a call that if I was truly leaving the congregation I would have to stand before a board of senior members and explain myself. I knew I could have just said no and been done; I knew I could have said this is getting silly and I want no part of this…but I didn’t. In my heart, I felt that Islam was on trial here, not me. I felt I had to go to defend Islam.

The day came for my ‘trial’ and I entered with a calm and peaceful heart, having no real idea what I was stepping into.

During my inquisition, I was hit with questions that were beyond insulting. Questions like, “The Muslim God is not the God of Abraham and Moses, how can you follow a false God? All Muslims want to kill non-Muslims, how can you be a part of and support these beliefs?” This went on and on for hours, to the point where they were telling me that if I followed Islam my children would burn in hell with me, because I had led them astray.

I stood my ground as I knew in my heart what was right. At the end of this three hour bullying session, my name and the names of my family were written down and nailed to the doorway with this statement:

“Anyone caught speaking with the following people will be barred from entering here and worshipping.”

You know, if the year had been 1600 or even 1800, I might have been able to digest this; but the fact that it was the 21st century and this behavior was still taking place, floored me. I kept thinking to myself, this can’t be real, how can someone act like that? Why couldn’t we just part ways and be done with it?

It took me quite a while to recover from this ‘trial’. Then one day, while reading the Quran and trying to reconcile and forgive the actions of my former congregation, I read the ayah, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion,” (109:2). It summed up my feelings so perfectly, and a sense of ease washed over me; I was able to put their actions and accounting in the hands of Allah.

Now I would be lying to you if I told you I have never again thought about that ordeal. I think the one question that haunts me the most is, “The Muslim God is not the God of Abraham and Moses, how can you follow a false God?”

How can anyone truly believe that? Was that question supposed to be humorous? Did this person really think Muslims had a totally different God from the Jews or the Christians? But when this all becomes too much for me to process, I take a deep breath and remind myself, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion,” then I simply say Tawakkaltu Ala-Allah (I am putting my trust in Allah and depending on Him).

Little did I know the judgment of my faith and conversion was not over. Having overcome the ‘trial’ of my former congregation served only to prepare me for the actions of the congregation I was headed towards….

For Me is My Religion: Tales of Conversion Part 2

 

Photo credit: Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

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Carl Dodge, originally from New England, now lives in the Washington D.C. area where he runs his own consulting firm, Rose and Angel Productions Carl converted to Islam in 2009 after reading “Towards Understanding Islam” by Abul A’la Mawdudi.  Since his conversation he has been interviewed by RT T.V. for the special “Unlikely Converts” (http://goo.gl/SO1Xc3)  and had an Algerian State TV Ramadan special done on him (http://goo.gl/XBwKVK). Carl has been designing websites and dealing in social media for the last 15 years. He started building sites back when all the coding had to done in Microsoft Notepad. Since then he has kept up with the changes working with Wordpress, doing graphic design, and making sure that all sites are Web 2.0 compliant.  He can be found on Twitter at @BCDodge_me

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Amel

    May 5, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    What a bone-chilling and utterly horrifying experience. It is amazing that such a “trial” could take place in 21st-century America. You should consider writing about this in more mainstream venues as well.

    When I was growing up, I remember school textbooks treating Islam as an “Eastern” religion that was lumped in with beliefs such as Buddhism and Taoism. When I later learned that Muslims believe in Adam, Noah, Jesus, etc., this really piqued my curiosity even though I had no particular interest in Christianity or religion in general at the time.

  2. Jamila

    May 5, 2014 at 5:05 AM

    Wow, very interesting story. Thanks for sharing, and may the almighty Allah be with you. I will be looking forward to part 2.

  3. Melanie

    May 5, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    If someone disagrees with you they must be possessed!! LOL But honestly if the tables were turned and one of our Masjid members left the faith wouldn’t we do the same thing. ( I know We are on the Haqq., but still intolerance is not okay.)

    • mae

      May 5, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Because no similar alKaafiruun in the bibles

    • umm habiba

      May 5, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      Would we do the same. I doubt.
      Yes we would be concerned, we would approach the person with n mails, calls etc. But pinning their names on the wall with those of their family members to bar entry. I don’t think this happens in a masjid or an Islamic center.

    • Ihsan

      May 8, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      After seeing the evidences that Islam IS the true religion, he wouldn’t have been a true believer to leave it.. Allah knows best. Anycase, the ruling for a Murtadd is death in Islam. So that’s what should be done if in the case of an Islamic state.

      • RCHOUDH

        May 8, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Salaam Ihsan,

        While I agree with you about the general ruling for the Murtadd, I always read that there were certain steps one should take before declaring someone else a Murtadd, and other steps one should take to help that person return to Islam. After all these steps are taken, then and only then can one carry out the above mentioned judgment. But we also have to be aware of the fact that since we are living in a different time (with no genuine Islamic state in existence) this general ruling cannot be applied willy nilly by just anyone, and so we will have to deal with Murtadds differently in this case.

        • Mahmud

          May 13, 2014 at 12:20 AM

          Assalamuallaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          I remember that murtads are of differing categories. Some need to be killed even if they repent and their repentance only saves them from an eternity of fire. Others can be given three days to repent.

        • Ihsan

          May 13, 2014 at 9:00 AM

          Jazaakumullahu Khairan akhi RCHOUDH and akhi Mahmud, I’ve read this as well but don’t remember where. Could you please help me with the sources, or evidences rather. Jzk again.

  4. Umm ZAKAriyya

    May 5, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    I used to wonder – why is surah Al-kafiroon such an important chapter?

    And now I see someone say that’s his favourite surah ! Allahu Akbar . How amazing is the quran ; it has something for everybody , for every situation , for all times.!

    • Ihsan

      May 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Subhanallah… Specially to one who understands enough Arabic to understand the Quran while reciting it… It’s amazing the stories it tells… Even if it’s re read over and over…

  5. Omer

    May 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Wow, I am frightened to read part two.

  6. Syed

    May 5, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    If you don’t mind me asking, what religion did you belong to before? If it was Christianity wht sect? I have never heard of a Christian congregation acting like this in the modern day.

  7. Noha

    May 5, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    What a fascinating story. I felt like I travelled back in time with the literal posting on the door of you and your family’s names! I’m sorry you were treated like that. I do hope tolerance spreads as fast as ignorance has. Thank you for sharing your experience!!

  8. Mahmud B.

    May 5, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Cant wait for part 2

    Brother Carl…I hope you dont mind me asking but:

    Were you part of the Mormon church?

    • Zeba Khan

      May 7, 2014 at 8:35 PM

      I’m curious too, my mother is Mormon. They’re a tightly knit community, but I honestly have no idea what would happen if someone left the church.

  9. Halima

    May 6, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    What a sad experience to have to endure. It’s crazy to think people would act like that way in this day and age. I like how this was written. It was interesting to read.Can’t wait for part 2.

  10. Wael Abdelgawad

    May 7, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    Harrowing story, brother. Sounds like the Salem witch trials are still going! I look forward to part 2.

  11. Kamal

    May 7, 2014 at 2:27 AM

    Alhamdulilahi you handled it maturely, as for their belief on Abraham and Moses not Muslims, I’m not surprised as Nigerian Christians believed they understand Islam more than the Muslims and thus make unnecessary comments about Islam.

  12. broAhmed

    May 7, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    Definitely looking forward to part 2! The “trial” and nailing of the order forbidding talking to your family sounds medieval.

    Also, maybe I missed it while reading but I’m curious as to what church you belonged to br. Carl.

  13. RCHOUDH

    May 7, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    May Allah reward you for your patience through such a trial. And may He guide those members of your former congregation upon the Right Path. It’s unfortunate to hear them deny that Allah is basically the same Creator that Jews and Christians recognize. This reminds me of the famous hadith that talks about how Islam arrived to the world as strange, and will return to its formerly strange state in a later era because most people will not be aware of its true Teachings, except for the “strangers”. Looking forward to reading Part 2 of your story In sha Allah!

    • Mahmud

      May 13, 2014 at 12:37 AM

      They hate this deen but Allah will complete His light even though they hate it.

  14. Pingback: For Me is My Religion: Tales of Conversion | Share Quran and Hadees

  15. O H

    May 14, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Allaahu Akbar that’s highly hypocritical behaviour on their part! I thought they were ‘peaceful’ & all loving. May Allaah keep you steadfast upon the truth through trials, Ameen. I cant wait for part 2 on this.

    اللهُمَّ لا سَهْلَ إلا مَا جَعَلتَهُ سَهْلا وَ أنتَ تَجْعَلُ الحزْنَ إذا شِئْتَ سَهْلا ‘

    Allahumma la sahla illa ma ja’altahu sahla, wa ‘anta taj-alul hazna idha shi’ta sahla’
    niphropharoh:

    ‘O Allah! There is nothing easy except what You make easy, and You make the difficult easy if it be Your Will’

  16. jawaad

    June 1, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    As salaamu alaikum my name is Jawaad Salahudeen im doing a book on peoples reversion to islam…. If youre interested send your story to jsalahudeen1@mail. ma asalaam

  17. Pingback: For Me is My Religion: Tales of Conversion part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

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