I was brought up in a Christian home, and my father was a Baptist minister, so he was actually a clergyman or a minister of the church, and we would travel around with him to a church that he was placed at.
It was a really really good upbringing, I was brought up with the ethics in the belief system of the Bible obviously and Christianity. And it was a really good foundation for me in my life.
My parents worked very hard for us to understand what we were taught in the Bible, and also good manners, old traditional manners that often don’t get taught now.
I was lucky enough to be brought up in such a home, with an understanding of God definitely, growing up younger going to Sunday school, and having a belief that there was a Creator who had a plan for my life, and had a plan for everyone’s life, and I had to find out what that was and do the best I could.
As I grew older I would go to youth group as well, which would be during the week and socialize with friends, and most of our life revolved around the church because dad was so involved in the church.
At church, we were taught that Islam was not a very good thing. I don’t need to go into the detail there, so early on my experience with Islam was really negative, what the media had portrayed to me.
When I first came up against it in a real way I was in Syria, in Jordan on a holiday, and stayed with various Muslim families, and was taken aback by the hospitality.
So I was very suspicious of their hospitality at first, because I had never come across people who were so friendly and so giving and so open.
I was invited into their mosque to meet people, and I was very scared, and having not had any experience of that except through the media, and wondering what the mosque was going to be like.
The first time I was there, I was welcomed by many strangers and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses and contacts, and it was a very pleasant introduction to Islam.
I first started learning more about Islam when I started working on a project that I’d been assigned to, and I met a couple of Muslims at work who steered me in the right direction. They both were very interested in my circumstances, and where I was at.
Where I was at in my life at the time was not particularly pleasant, I didn’t have a very happy life, and really self-destructive, and both of my friends that I met directed me to some older Muslim friends they knew who asked questions as they could see that I was searching.
So initially I was given a book which covers all the major religions in the world, and how they had formed and where they had formed, and what their beliefs were.
From there I decided that Islam seems like a very reasonable approach to life, and a very measured way of doing things, rather than the dogmatic beliefs that I had previously, that were not necessarily the truth but what I had in my mind.
I reverted, or converted over a year ago, I was at a stage where I was undecided what I wanted to do.
Then I had made some serious changes in my life: I stopped drinking, and I was on my way to stop smoking, and I was settling down in my crazy ways, but I still was not quite decided on where I wanted to go in my spiritual life.
My Muslim coworkers taught me about Ramadan, and I decided that I would fast Ramadan, and do the prayers to experience it.
I went to the Islamic center and met the people there, and had lots of meals there, it was fun and lots of prayers there, and during the day I did the Ramadan fast.
After I completed fasting, I was surprised at the effect that it had on me. In a western society, we don’t choose to deprive ourselves of things, and you go through these days of intentionally not eating during the day, when everything around you is telling you to eat and drink, it was quite an inspiring thing for me.
After that I met with Sheikh Noury again, and he came to my house, and he said why are you waiting to make a decision? I agreed and so in my house, just over there, I said what I need to say and became Muslim, and it was great. I felt that I had made a very worthy decision.
There was a little bit of tribulation because I knew that my friends and family would not understand, as those who have no exposure to people who are Muslims it would seem like a crazy decision.
I felt like I had been walking in a long dark corridor, and I opened the door and I just gone… I can sort of take my breath out now, and start the journey again because I had lost my way.
It was a great experience.