I grew up in the rural South USA as a Christian in the Baptist denomination.
As a freshman in college, I became a member of the Church of Christ as a result of a Bible study group in the dormitory led by a resident upper classman.
I believe that I was sincere in my Christian faith and I had believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) was the Son of God and at the same time God on earth.
I remember the gratitude I felt that God would come to live on earth and then die on the cross so that I could be cleansed of my sins and gain Eternal Life. Although I could not explain the Trinity, I accepted it on faith.
When I was a junior in college, a Muslim student asked if he could be my roommate and I said yes. Although we would occasionally discuss religion, he continued to practice Islam and I adhered to Christianity.
After a year of being his roommate, I took his Quran home over Christmas break. I used the index to find and read verses about Jesus, Mary, Abraham, Moses, Joseph (peace be upon them all) and other people I knew from the Bible.
At first I disbelieved in what I was reading because it disagreed with my Christian beliefs, particularly the parts about Jesus not being the Son of God.
As I read more, I reached a pivot point where I saw that what I was reading made more logical sense than my faith. I experienced what can be compared to a ‘Paradigm Shift’, or a change in a fundamental understanding of the world.
I have always believed in a Creator for the universe, but my understanding or perception of God changed dramatically and irreversibly during that Christmas break.
Upon returning to school, I informed my roommate of the change in my faith and then we went to the local masjid where I publicly professed my belief in One God (Allah) and that Muhammad was His servant and His Messenger.
I learned the basic prayer in Arabic and practiced Islam until I went to graduate school in the Midwest. Away from my home ‘support group’ I found it difficult to be different (American of Scottish/European decent) from the other Muslims and for this and other reasons I did not practice Islam during that time.
I finished my MS degree and returned to work in the South. Upon returning to the same university, where I became a Muslim, I once again started practicing Islam… for a short while.
The association of Islam in the media with ‘terrorists’, opposition from my family, and my inability to find a Muslim wife led me to again quit practicing Islam. I married a Christian and started a PhD program. After graduating and getting a job, I made a few more attempts to start practicing Islam, but to little avail.
For many years, I was not practicing Islam, but I wanted my son to have some sense of God and the Hereafter, even if it was a Christian view. I had taken him and my wife to the local Church of Christ for a while.
I believe that it was this very thing that drove me back to Islam. I could not sit there in church listening to things that I did not believe. I felt like a hypocrite and decided that I could not be dishonest with myself and with others anymore.
At this point in time, I also reached 40 years old and fully realized my own personal mortality in that I knew one day I would die and believed that I would have to give an account for my life before God on Judgment Day.
While on a family vacation, I made the decision to practice Islam regardless of what others thought. I also remember thinking that I could not use the excuse that some so-called ‘Muslim’ terrorist blew himself up and killed innocent people as the reason for my not practicing my Islamic faith.
I felt a personal accountability for my own life and the need to practice my faith regardless of what others might do in the name of Islam or what others thought.
Then shortly thereafter, as everyone knows, came 9/11… That was indeed a test, but Allah led me through it with my faith preserved. I have come to understand that terrorism is definitely not from Islam and that it is in fact directly contradictory to what I have read in the Quran and the Hadith.
I have read the Quran several times and other Islamic books. I have five translations of the Holy Quran, of which my favorite is ‘The Gracious Quran’.
One of my favorite books is ‘The Sealed Nectar’ which provides a detailed biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and shows the persecution and hardships that he and the early Muslims suffered and endured only to establish the worship of One God.
It is amazing to me that we have the original Arabic Quran preserved, letter-for-letter, according to what was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and that we have so much of his and his companions’ lives recorded in the Hadith.
God has willed that I have continued along my chosen path. In 2004, I legally changed my name so that I would be known as a Muslim. I chose Mustafa as my new name because it means ‘chosen’, not by my own merit, but by the Grace and Mercy of God.
I feel extremely blessed to have been guided to the Truth of Islam.
My transition to becoming a Muslim has been gradual and changing my name was a defining moment of ‘no-turning-back-now’ commitment.
I hope and pray to live the rest of my life in submission to the Will of God as revealed in the Quran and Sunnah and that I die not but as a Mu’min (believer in Islamic monotheism).