I was born and brought up in Toronto, but my family is from an Indian background.
A lot of my life had to do with I guess a mix of Canadian culture as well as at home the Indian side of things. So I grew up knowing my culture, knowing my language and knowing the religion of my parents very well.
I grew up in a temple and I would always go to summer camps and Sunday School and always go to prayers and so on. So, I went through a lot of “culturalization” in both the culture of my parents and the culture that I was growing up in at school.
I went to a high school over here in Toronto. I was a very studious person but I also had my fun on the side. I was really into music. I used to play guitar for eleven years.
How I Became a Muslim
When I look back over how I came to Islam, it was really different from a lot of other people because I didn’t think I had any kind of problems or emotional component that was leading me towards the truth.
Since I was young, I just didn’t feel right in the religion of my parents although I was brought up in it. Actually at one point of time I was a very ardent defender of it and I was almost staunched you can say but that staunchness was like a shell, it was very hollow and it was only because I was trying to defend myself in a place where I guess people would attack that faith a lot for different aspects.
I just never got down with the idea of the many gods or the idol worship, it just didn’t fit right with me. Also, there were numerous different explanations which were not fitting well in terms of science. I wasn’t satisfied that the truth was there although there were many good teachings and I had to clarify that values and beliefs are found in every religion.
After I left the religion of my parents when I was just starting my teenage years, I came across the Bible and Christianity. I read the Bible and it was beautiful because I came across this idea of one God, I think it was in the Old Testament that I came across this idea of one God.
And that helped me and the way that this God was so benevolent, and at the same time it was like the might of God that really attracted me towards this, and the concept of prophets who were the men who gave you the message and were not divine themselves, and this is the Old Testament I’m talking about and this really really attracted me toward that. My search kept on going from there.
I went to the New Testament and read it. Again I was really happy with the values that I had found and I fell in love with the character of Jesus, but at the same time I just couldn’t accept it into my heart, it didn’t fit for me. That’s when I started to cast off all religions, and I became atheist from that point in time.
But after a while I couldn’t force atheism upon myself because I knew in my heart and just from the logic around me that this whole creation was created by some awesome being. And that’s what led me to go to any spiritual buzz I could find; a Buddhist circle or a Catholic church or a Sikh temple or even sometimes a Hindu prayer with my parents. The only religion I never actually bothered to look into was Islam.
My parents are from India and from a Muslim city in India, so we always grew up knowing about Islam, although not the belief itself but the lifestyle of a Muslim and the Islamic culture. And the thing is we always had a lot of misconceptions that were going around. So whenever I grew up knowing about Islam, I was always centered around certain conceptions, like misconceptions about terrorism or the rights of women. These were always issues that held me back from wanting even to look into the religion.
A lot of my friends in high school, actually some of my best friends in high school, were Muslims. Although they were not practicing Muslims at that time, I never got the message of Islam through their actions because we were doing the same things. Only once that I came to university and I found that it was a place I guess where you could open up your ideas a little bit more, question yourself and question those around you. I actually came across a book about Science in the Quran and I was doing a B.Sc. at the time and I decided to take a really critical look at what this religion was saying.
In terms of a defining moment, I can definitely say that the minute I came across a scientific fact in the Quran my thinking style is very rational, I like to think based on facts rather than emotion because I’ve done a lot of emotional religious activities in different groups and I knew that the truth wasn’t only an emotional component but it was a logical rational component. I needed to find a truth that was consistent and rational all the way through. When I came across reading books about science in the Quran that started to propel me towards finding all about the religion, but definitely the defining moment was the day that I took my declaration of faith (the shahadah).
Life After Accepting Islam
After I became Muslim, I told my parents and everyone around me about my conversion very shortly after. This started to pick up on me a little bit because I started to grow a beard and something like that. They have the same misconceptions that I had.
I don’t blame them at all, actually it’s an innocent ignorance where they had these misconceptions and nobody had explained to them and reached out to them as to what the truth and beauty of Islam really was. So, when my family reacted slightly negative towards me, I knew it was just their emotional reaction and it was not their understating that I have become a better person and why I made that change.
When I became a Muslim there was no real support network or social web to kind of guide the new Muslims into their religion. There wasn’t a big machine to propagate the truth about the religion.
This is where I think my personal contribution can come as I’m also trying to know about the religion everyday and while I do that I’d like also to teach others and make the transition as easy as possible as well to let people understand that when they become Muslims they don’t lose their identity. They are still who they are, they still have their interests and their likes and their dislikes.
I’d like to make it easier for the families to let them know that these persons are still them; their son or daughter or brother or a sister and the only thing that changed is their outlook. They’ve just come in touch with the greater reality.
I think the biggest things that Islam has done for me is first it gave me satisfaction in my heart that I finally understand why I’m here and why this universe was created so I feel in sync with nature itself around me, I feel in sync with every human being and all of nature even in all animal objects is beautiful. It’s a beautiful feeling to wake up every morning to think about God and to have in mind every morning the miracles that He has given to us as well.
I think that I developed a respect to every single human being, animal… you name it. Islam is a system of rights in many ways. I’ve learned to respect my parents more, respect my neighbors more, respect people from other faiths and other cultures more.
I think this kind of respect is needed especially in the world today where we have to heal a lot of wounds from the past.