My name is now Abdullah Abdul-Malik and I’m a 28-year-old Muslim born, raised, and living in America.
I have been practicing Islam now for almost 5 years. I grew up in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania in a nice neighborhood, and I played soccer when I was a child.
As a teenager in America, I grew up listening to rap music and watching violent movies, and came to believe that life was meant to be lived that way.
I thought that everything I was doing was cool, and that living this way was how life was meant to be, exciting and dangerous. So I naturally took these rappers and movie roles as role models, and become consumed by the thought that life is meant to be rebellious to society.
I now know the danger that music and TV have on us as a society. If you do not have a positive role model, you will have a bad one. I got into marijuana and started selling it as a teenager and lived this way up through high school until I was around 23 years old.
I learned that my friends aren’t really friends. I learned to be paranoid, not knowing who to trust, and inside, I felt empty. I got into making music and that became my only way of releasing the aggression I had built up inside.
My life became very depressing and isolated. I had become what I had looked up to. My family had some financial problems and moved to Florida, and I decided to stay in Pennsylvania since it was where I grew up. Good or bad, it was home, and I was not ready to leave yet.
I moved out and got my own apartment close by where I grew up. I had learned the struggle of trying to make it in life. It was difficult and I felt all alone. Since my life had turned even rougher, I started taking more chances. I stopped being smart about selling drugs and became more reckless, fearing nothing.
Instead of being on the low, I started selling to people what I didn’t really know. I started doing things that I normally wouldn’t do. But when you get away with so much, then you start to take more of a risk, and this dangerous way of life becomes comfortable, and even normal. I ended up selling some marijuana to an undercover police officer in 2004. I was now under investigation and feeling pressure from all over.
When the fear of going to prison became reality, I stopped selling drugs and got a job. It was there that I met a man in his 50s who was a Muslim, and it was at that job that I had my first conversation about Islam. I asked him if Muslims believed in Jesus, since all I ever heard about was Jesus.
He said yes, Jesus was one of the highest people in the religion, but that we believe in him as a prophet and not as a God. He told me that the Muslims believed in all the prophets from Adam to Muhammad, and God alone as One with no partners and no equals.
When he told me this I accepted it; it was kind of how I felt already. It is common sense and how could one reject such a strong and logical statement?
He told me that since I seemed interested that he was going to give me something. I was at the point in my life that I needed a change and desperate for answers. I always believed in God but was confused on many issues and didn’t accept Christianity as the truth.
One night after giving this man a ride home from work, he gave me a Quran. I thanked him and started reading that same night. The Quran spoke to me and made everything clear for me, I knew that it was the truth and only God alone could have put together such a book.
It made sense to me and immediately made me feel peace inside like never before, and it made me feel good. When I saw him the next day, he said I looked completely different, and I told him that that book makes you feel good, it was amazing.
I knew that I was under police supervision and was afraid to pack up and leave. So I thought that since they didn’t arrest me, that maybe they would leave me alone and wait until I did something worse. Since many detectives don’t like to make an arrest on something small, they usually want a bigger charge. After a few months of being investigated, some undercover detectives jumped out of an unmarked, broken-down van and grabbed me. I ended up getting arrested and charged with selling a small amount of marijuana.
I lost the job I had, and went to jail for a couple days before being bailed out by my family, who was in Florida. The news crushed them, and caused many giant problems for my whole family.
The detectives told me that they didn’t really want me, and that they wanted me to help them set up other people, but I denied them and decided to do the time like a man. While I was out on bail, I just continued to read the Quran and think deeply on its meanings.
One night while reading in the dark with a nightlight on I saw light coming out of the book, and knew that this was a sign from God that this was the truth, and that my life was going to change forever and that I had a purpose.
It wasn’t just there for a minute, but it was there the whole night I read — for about 45 minutes. I thought about getting up to show my roommate, who was sleeping upstairs, but I decided that this was a sign from God to me and that I wasn’t going to ruin it.
I had already believed that this book was the truth, but when I saw that, my belief was changed forever. I ended up going to prison and it was there that I met Muslims and they turned out to be the best people I had ever met; people who weren’t bad, but who had just got caught up in stressful positions and made the wrong choices.
I learned the character of Muslims: strong men with dignity who were humble, loving, pious people. It was there that I learned to fast, pray, and attend the Friday Prayers.
I saw that the Muslim character was firm on the truth and knew how to carry himself as a true believer of God. They were people who were in stressful positions but who were content with what was decreed for them, with no worries, with full trust in the Creator.
My whole life I was medicated and mentally distracted. Prison helped me sober up, and my mind became clear for the first time. In prison you learn to be resourceful, and you have nothing but time to think. You question everything: your religion, your family, your friends.
You are somewhere where there are no distractions. It was a huge blessing for me.
I knew that I would hate it, but I knew it would be the best thing for me. I just read and worked out and learned who I was and what my purpose was. I served just over one year, and after getting out, I moved to Florida and have been here ever since.
I felt like I was reborn.
I’m currently in nursing school and planning on traveling the world helping people not as fortunate as myself and continuing to convey the message of truth. When you live wrong and you find the truth, it so much more clear. It is amazing for the first time to learn how to live as an adult. The truth came to me at a time when I was desperate for it, and at the best moment.
My life has been crazy and I feel so blessed — Islam is the righteous path of truth. When you find this religion, then there is no going back.
I’ve been from the streets to the prison and to Islam.
In the end, it was all worth it and without all these trials I wouldn’t be who I am today. Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God)!