It was way back in 1989 when I, along with my sister, conducted a tour to some of the countries of the Middle East. During our stay in Bahrain, we were accorded a warm welcome. There I happened to meet some children and had a light chitchat with them. I put certain questions to them and they flung at me their innocent queries.
During the course of this interaction, they inquired about my religion. I told them, “I am a Christian.” I asked them, as to what was their religion. A wave of serenity took over them. They replied in one voice: Islam. Their enthusiastic answer really shook me from within. Then they started telling me about Islam. They were giving me information, much in piece with their age. The pitch of their voice would reveal that they were highly proud of Islam. This is how I paced towards Islam.
A very short interaction with a group of children ultimately led me to have long discourses about Islam with Muslim scholars. A great ripple had taken place in my thought. I made failing attempt to console myself that nothing had happened but I could not conceal this fact any longer from myself that at heart I had converted to Islam. This I disclosed first to my family friend, Qunber Ali.
The same Qunber Ali managed to take me to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia. Till that time, I did not know much about Islam. From there, in the company of a Saudi family, I proceeded for Mecca for the performance of “Umrah” [A lesser type of pilgrimage performed to Mecca]. There I made public for the first time that I had become Muslim.
What were your feelings after you proclaimed that you were a Muslim?
Having embraced Islam, I felt as if I were born again. I found in Islam the answers to those queries which I had failed to find in Christianity. Particularly, it was only Islam that provided satisfactory answer to the question relating to the birth of Christ. For the first time I was convinced about the religion itself. I pray my family members might appreciate these facts.
My family is the follower of that cult of Christianity, which is known as AVENDANCE of JEHOVA (Jehovah’s Witness). According to its creeds, only 144,000 men would finally qualify to enter into paradise. How come? It remained always a perplexing creed for me.
I was surprised to know that the Bible was compiled by so many men, particularly about a volume scripted by King James. I wondered if a man compiles a directory and then ascribes it to God, but he does not fully comply with these directions. During my stay in Saudi Arabia, I have had the opportunity to buy a cassette released by the erstwhile British pop-singer and the present Muslim preacher, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). I learnt a lot from this as well.
What happened when you got back to the US after embracing Islam?
When I returned to USA, American media orchestrated heinous propaganda against Islam and the Muslims. Gossips were let loose on me which really disturbed my peace of mind. Hollywood was hell-bent upon maligning the Muslims. They were being projected as terrorists. There are many things where there is consensus between Christianity and Islam, and the Quran presents Holy Christ as a virtuous Prophet. Then, I wondered, why Christian America levels baseless allegations against Muslims?
This made me gloomy. I made up my mind that I would do my best to dispel the wrong image of Muslims, portrayed by the American media. I had not the slightest idea that American media would not digest the news of my accepting Islam and raise such a great hue and cry. It was virtually acting against all its tall and much-publicized claims about the freedom of expression and the freedom of conscience.
As a matter of fact, I came to think of myself as a complete human being, in the literal sense of the word. After becoming Muslim, I felt a tremendous change in me. I discarded all thing prohibited in Islam. This made things difficult for my family too. In short, the Jackson family tumbled altogether. Threatening letters poured in, which further intensified the worries of my family.
What are the views of the rest of the members of your family about you?
When I returned to America, my mother had already heard the news of my conversion to Islam. My mother is a religious and civilized woman. When I reached home, she put forth only one question, “you have taken this decision all of a sudden, or is it the outcome of some deep and long thinking behind it?”
“I have decided after a lot of thinking about it,” I replied, let me say we are known as a religious family. Whatever we possess, is due to the blessing of God.
Then why we should not be grateful to Him? This is why we actively participate in the charity institutions. We dispatched medicines to the poor African countries through special aircraft. During Bosnian war, our aircraft were engaged in supplying aids to the [affected].
Who has influenced you, so far as Islam is concerned?
Many persons have impressed me. But the fact is that first I turn to the Holy Quran, therefore I do not run a risk of getting strayed on the way. However, there are many Islamic scholars that one can be duly proud of. God willing, I plan to go to Saudi Arabia with my family to perform Umrah.
Your wife and children are Muslims too?
I have seven sons and two daughter who, like me, are fully Islamic-oriented. My wife is still studying Islam. I trust InshaAllah [God-Willing], she would sooner join Islam. May God Almighty give us the courage and perseverance to remain on this true religion, Islam. (Ameen)
Abridged from islamreligion.com