I was born just north of Wellington into a Christian family, which means we all got up on Sunday morning and went off to Sunday school.
I was the youngest of five, and we went to Sunday school while mom and dad were sleeping, I hope my brothers don’t mind me saying this, but we used to get money to put in the plate, and they used to take mine and go and play pool.
So I think that was probably a pretty average Kiwi upbringing. I was in the school choir and I was baptized, that sort of thing, it was part of our life. It was probably more of a social thing, the parents discharging their duty and putting us on the “right” foot hopefully.
I didn’t actually become Muslim till my late twenties, but spiritually I believe it was always there.
In my teens, obviously at that age I studied some Christian things, and I had a few experiences not quite life-threatening, but probably when you are 12 years old and on an out-of-control horse, and that’s one point for me that I can always go back to, everything else is gone, and I just cried “O God help me.” To me that is sort of like you know inside you that there is something bigger.
The only time when I was 17, I got into Buddhism a bit, and there used to be a team I used to go to, and it was my first look into religion apart from Christianity. I saw it as the other extreme of Christianity that you don’t believe in God, so I started to leave Christianity and I went to Buddhism, and then round to Hinduism I suppose.
I went to live in England, and while I was there I started a comparative religion course, so I went through all there, Hinduism and other type of Indian religions, and Islam was at the end of the course, and before we got to the limit part of the course it really started falling in front of me.
I remember in one instance, a friend of mine, she was Australian and she had just come back from Palestine/Israel, and she had some books she had there. And I remember this one book called “The Arab Israeli Question,” which I knew about the political side of it, and I started reading about Islam, then I went back home.
I used to ride my bike around and when I got back to my flat I just sat down and put the TV on, and there was a BBC program about Islam which had just started, it was the first of a series of ten, Al-Hamdulel-Allah, and that was the first sort of I’m not in control of this…
And from here basically, I moved house which meant I was cycling past the London mosque, and someone said “Have you looked inside and seen the big chandelier?” Little things like that were starting to build up, and I started to meet Muslim people, it was Ramadan and there were talks at the Muslim Society on Ramadan, so I started going along.
And I started meeting Muslim people in strange places, I was going to pubs and meeting Muslims there. I actually met another Kiwi that had become Muslim in England and started going to the mosque.
Al-Hamdulel-Allah, another thing I realized now that I was really lucky was that I managed to be given an appointment with the Imam at the mosque, who was actually educated at Al-Azhar, and I went to see him every Sunday at 1:00 o’clock, from 1:00 to 1:30, and asking him questions etc…, he would give me the answers and I would go away and during the week I would be reading and writing down all these questions, and then go back to him.
I did not actually notice the importance of this at the time, but later on I realized every time he answered me he would quote something from the Quran, and I realize now how important that was, because you can go into a bookshop and pick up a book about Islam written by whoever, and I realize now how important that was, because to me it was like we have the Quran but we need its right explanation.
It was actually two years after that first day that the program on Islam was on, till when I actually took my Shahadah in London, and I remember saying I’m 100% sure about the Quran and all that but I didn’t want to wear that scarf, so that was the final boundary for me…