April 27, 2001

How did you Accept Islam?

Yahya Emerick

Many people have asked me lately how I came to Islam. It is not an unusual
question for a convert (or revert) to be asked. I guess I’m being asked about it
again because of having this regular column in the Message. Every person who
accepts Islam has a unique story and tale to tell. I remember getting one of the
books filled with “convert stories” and being enthralled for days at
the variety of experiences people have.

Many “born” Muslims, as they call themselves, take a great interest
in such convert stories as well. It reaffirms their faith and strengthens their
resolve. After all, if people are accepting Islam in droves today, even though
Islam has been stigmatized in popular and secular culture all over the world,
there must be a hidden value. Reading what others see in accepting the Islamic
way of life reinforces our awareness of this value.

There is another valuable source of convert stories as well. A source which
can have an even greater effect on your Iman and Taqwa then contemporary
sources. I would recommend that people spend more time reading these stories
than those of modern converts. This other source is the stories of the Sahaba
(Companions of the Prophet).

Did you know that almost all of the Sahaba were converts to Islam? Every last
one of them has a unique story, and quite a few suspense-filled adventures on
their way to the truth. Sometimes when I read about one of them, I find
parallels in my own journey to Islam. Other times I find myself amazed at the
power of the humans spirit to overcome even the most insurmountable obstacles.

My personal favorites among the Sahaba are Fatimah, Salman al-Farisee, Abu
Darda, Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari, ‘Umar, Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Umm Ammarah. In my humble understanding, I
feel every Muslim should make it a point to be familiar with the stories of at
least ten of the Sahaba. Skim through a book of their biographies, pick a few
that seem to interest you and then read in detail. Compare their examples. How
did they interact with the Prophet and others? What lessons are there for our
own lives today?

I sometimes find myself wishing that in study circles and Tarbiyyah sessions
that Muslims would move away from repeating the same worn-out old topics
(lessons of the Hijra, significance of Sura al-‘Asr) and explore other, deeper
themes that are more relevant. The struggles, achievements and trials of the
Sahaba
have a timeless relationship to what people face in every age.

Is it any wonder that the Blessed Prophet advised us to follow the example of
his Sahaba and even Allah, Himself, praises the Sahaba in many places in the
Qur’an. Today our children’s heroes are basketball players, fashion models,
singer and movie stars; people who do nothing important. All they are is
entertainers. They teach nothing good in a real sense, they contribute nothing
to society and all they do is present an example of a wild and wealthy lifestyle
that children want to duplicate.

What of the Heroes of Islam? Time and time again I have seen Khateebs,
lectures and scholars mention the names of one Sahaba and other to an audience
which was filled with people who didn’t know anything about those names. The
speaker may feel flushed with pride mentioning those names, but his or her
listeners don’t know the deep implications and significance.

That’s a whole other topic, of course; the gap between the scholars (who live
in a dream world) and the masses of Muslims (who are cut off from most Islamic
knowledge). I’ll save that for another column. Suffice it to say, by reading the
stories of those who have accepted Islam, we ourselves can learn jewels of
wisdom which can permeate our own experience and make us better Muslims.

Every parent, school and teacher must make certain that our children know at
least Sahaba stories in a meaningful and relevant way. Then our children will
look to the real giants of history as their heroes and born Muslims can get a
sense of pride in their way of life that goes beyond, far beyond what stories
those of us converts of today can tell.

Do I have any suggestions for you to begin? Of course, that’s the whole
reason I write this column month after month. I want improvement. Business as
usual may be fine in a dilapidated Muslim country, but the Islamic movement is
alive and kicking in America. I want to see it stabilize and become a permanent
part of this nation’s fabric.

As far as books to read for the stories of the Sahaba, there are three main
sources I recommend: “The Beauty of the Righteous and Ranks of the
Elite
” (Akili), “The Companions of the Prophet” (Hamid) and “Hayatus
Sahaba
” (Kandhalvi). These three sources are available just about
everywhere. If you don’t know where to get them you can call a Muslim bookstore
and they can send them to you.

There you have it! The names of three great sources for learning and the
numbers where to get them. It just doesn’t get any better than this! After
reading one or all of these books, choose ten Sahaba which you feel most drawn
towards and then accept this further challenge. Sit down with some paper and a
pen and write a short essay to yourself about what impresses you most about each

Sahaba
and what lessons you can draw for your own life.

Save those essays and read them again every few years or months as you need
to. If you’re feeling down or helpless or stressed you can center yourself by
reading the examples of others who had even tougher struggles than us and who
came through with flying colors. Let’s not be live the people that Allah spoke
about, the people who are like donkeys carrying piles of books. Let’s apply our
reading, make it meaningful for our lives and do something with it. Will you
accept this challenge? I will.

(courtesy of http://www.ifna.net)

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