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Abdul-lateef Abdullah (steven Krauss)

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Abdul-Lateef Abdullah (Steven Krauss)

 

My journey to Islam - How Malay martial arts led a theologically dissatisfied American Protestant to Islam.

 

My experience in Islam began as a graduate student in New York City in 1998.

Up to that point in my life, for 25 years, I had been a Protestant

Christian, but had not been practicing my religion for quite some time. I

was more interested in “spirituality†and looking for anything that didn’t

have to do with organized religion. To me, Christianity was out of touch and

not relevant to the times. It was hard for me to find anything in it that I

could apply to my everyday life. This disillusion with Christianity led me

to shun everything that claimed to be organized religion, due to my

assumption that they were all pretty much the same, or at least in terms of

their lack of relevance and usefulness.

 

Much of my frustration with Christianity stemmed from its lack of knowledge

and guidance around the nature of God, and the individual’s relationship to

Him. To me, the Christian philosophy depends on this rather bizarre

intermediary relationship that we are supposed to have with Jesus, who on

one hand was a man, but was also divine. For me, this difficult and very

vague relationship with our Creator left me searching for something that

could provide me with a better understanding of God, and our relationship to

Him. Why couldn’t I just pray directly to God? Why did I have to begin and

end every prayer with “in the name of Jesus Christ?†How can an eternal,

omnipotent Creator and Sustainer also take the form of a man? Why would He

need to? These were just a few of the questions that I could not resolve and

come to terms with. Thus, I was hungry for a more straightforward and lucid

approach to religion that could provide my life with true guidance, not just

dogma that was void of knowledge based in reason.

 

While in graduate school, I had a Jewish roommate who was a student of the

martial arts. While I was living with him, he was studying an art called

silat, a traditional Malaysian martial art that is based on the teachings of

Islam. When my roommate would come home from his silat classes, he would

tell me all about the uniqueness of silat and its rich spiritual dimension.

As I was quite interested in learning martial arts at the time, I was

intrigued by what I had heard, and decided to accompany my roommate to class

one Saturday morning. Although I did not realize it at the time, my

experience in Islam was beginning that morning at my first silat class in

New York City back on February 28th, 1998. There, I met my teacher, Cikgu

(which means teacher in Malay) Sulaiman, the man who would first orient me

to the religion of Islam. Although I thought I was beginning a career as a

martial artist, that day back in 1998 actually represented my first step

toward becoming Muslim.

 

From the very beginning, I was intrigued by silat and Islam and began

spending as much time as possible with my teacher. As my roommate and I were

equally passionate about silat, we would go to my teacher’s house and soak

up as much knowledge as we could from him. In fact, upon our completing

graduate school in the spring of 1998, upon his invitation, we spent the

entire summer living with him and his wife. As my learning in silat

increased, so did my learning about Islam, a religion that I had hardly any

knowledge of prior to my experience in silat.

 

What made my orientation to Islam so powerful was that as I was learning

about it, I was also living it. Because I studied at the home of my teacher,

being in the presence of devout Muslims allowed me to be constantly

surrounded by the sounds, sights and practices of Islam. For as Islam is an

entire lifestyle, when you are in an Islamic environment, you cannot

separate it out from everyday life. Unlike Christianity, which lends toward

a separation between daily life and religion, Islam requires its followers

to integrate worship of Allah into everything we do. Thus, in living with my

teacher, I was immersed in the Islamic deen (lifestyle) and experiencing

first-hand how it can shape one’s entire way of life.

 

In the beginning, Islam was very different and powerful to me. It was also

very foreign in many ways and the amount of discipline it requires was

difficult to understand. At the time, I was liberal in many ways, and was

used to shunning anything dogmatic or imposed, regardless of where it came

from! As time went on, however, and my understanding of Islam grew, I began

to slowly see that what seemed to be religious dogma was really a lifestyle

put forth to us by our Creator. This lifestyle, I would later learn, is the

straight path to true contentment, not just the sensual and superficial way

of life that my society and culture promote. I realized that the question is

quite simple actually. Who could possibly know better what the best way of

life is for human beings than the all-wise Creator?

 

From that first silat class in New York City to the day I took my shahadda,

July 30, 1999, I had undergone a thorough self-examination that was

comprised of two major processes. One was to question the culture of the

society I was brought up in, and the second was to question the role I

wanted religion to play in my everyday life. As for my culture, this one was

not as difficult as most people would think.

 

American culture is highly influential on how we see life because it

constantly bombards us with sensual gratification aimed at appealing to our

worldly desires. In America, happiness is defined by what we have and

consume, thus, the entire culture is geared toward the marketplace. Unless

we are removed from this type environment, it is difficult to see its

drawbacks, which are based on worshipping and putting faith in everything

but God, the only One that can provide us with real, lasting contentment in

our lives.

 

Being a social scientist by trade, much of my professional time is spent

trying to address the social ills of our society. As I learned more about

Islam, I came to the conclusion that many societal ills are based on

unhealthy social behavior. Since Islam is a lifestyle focused totally on the

most healthy, positive way of conducting our lives in every setting, then it

is, and will always be, the only real answer to any society’s social

dilemmas. With this realization, not only did I decide that Islam was

relevant to my everyday life, but I began to understand why it is so

different from other religions. Only Islam provides knowledge and guidance

for every aspect of life. Only Islam provides a way to achieve health and

happiness in every dimension of life – physical, spiritual, mental,

financial, etc. Only Islam provides us with a clear life goal and purpose.

And only Islam shows us the proper way to live in and contribute to a

community. Islam is what everyone needs, and what so many who have not found

it yet, are searching for. It is the path to purpose, meaning, health and

happiness. This is because it is the straight path to the source of truth

and real power – Allah.

 

It was only until I actually became Muslim that I realized just how

encompassing the Islamic lifestyle is. Literally everything we do has one

underlying purpose – to remember Allah. The lifestyle provides us with the

way – not just the understanding – but an actual method of constantly

remembering our Creator in as simple an act as greeting someone, or getting

dressed in the morning, or waking up from sleep. Islam shows us that by

remembering Allah, everything we do becomes focused on Him, and thus becomes

an act of worship. From this, our energy, our thoughts, and our actions all

become redirected away from unhealthy and useless causes, and focused on the

source of all goodness. Thus, we are continuously tapping into His divine

strength, mercy and grace. So, by remembering Allah constantly, we become

stronger and healthier in every aspect of our lives and not distracted by

self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.

 

There still remain some minor aspects of Islam that have proven to be

somewhat difficult adjustments for me. Nevertheless, I thank Allah everyday

for the ease to which he has allowed me to make the necessary changes in my

life so that I can continue to live in America and still be, Insha-Allah, a

good Muslim. As a white, middle-class American, many cultural aspects of

Islam are quite different from the way in which I grew up. In fact, when I

finally broke the news to my family that I had become Muslim, almost all of

their questions and concerns were related to cultural differences –

marriage, social life, family, etc. They were much less concerned about my

general beliefs about God and religious practice. For my family, friends,

and co-workers, becoming Muslim was not seen necessarily as a negative

change, but it has required a great deal of education about Islam.

 

Because acquiring knowledge is a critical component to a Muslim’s

development, having a teacher who has taught me how to apply Islam in

everyday life has made all the difference in managing whatever difficulties

I have experienced from my reversion. Having someone knowledgeable you can

turn to whenever you have questions is a wonderful support that every new

shahadda should go out of their way to find. Islam is not a religion that

can be rationalized, in the way that Christianity and Judaism are. It is a

clear path that must be followed just as Allah has laid out for us through

the Qur’an and the lives of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his

companions, and the saints of Islam.

 

In this day and age, in this society, discerning the path can often be

difficult, especially when we are constantly faced with questions and doubts

from people who on the surface may not be hostile to Islam, but whose

general lack of faith can have a harmful effect on someone who bases

everything they do on their love for Allah. It is also not easy being in an

environment where we are constantly bombarded with sensual temptations that

are seen as ordinary, common aspects of everyday life. But when we have the

support of a knowledgeable, experienced teacher, who is able to apply the

universal teachings of Islam to his life, then the truth becomes clear from

error, exactly how Allah (SWT) describes in the Qur’an. From this, we are

able to understand how to apply Islam correctly to our own lives, and

Insha-Allah receive Allah’s many blessings. The ultimate test, however, of

anyone who claims to have true and right knowledge, is to look at how they

apply it in their own lives. If their actions support their teachings, then

and only then should we look to them for guidance.

 

My journey to Islam has been a life-altering experience. It is one that with

every passing day, makes me more and more appreciative and thankful to

Almighty Allah. The extent of His mercy can only fully be understood from

the perspective of a Muslim – one who prostrates regularly and submits their

will to that of the Creator.

 

I look back at my life prior to Islam and reflect on the different ways I

sought guidance. I think back to all the different ideas I once had of who

God really is, and how we can become close to Him. I look back now with a

smile and perhaps even a tear because now I know the truth. Through Islam, I

know why so many people who do not believe have so much fear inside them.

Life can be very scary without God. I know, because I once harbored that

same level of fear. Now, however, I have the ultimate “self-help†program.

It’s the self-help program without the self. It’s the path that puts

everything is in its proper place. Now, life makes sense. Now, life is

order. Now, I know why I am here, where I want to go, what I want my life to

be, how I want to live, and what is most important not just to me, but to

everyone. I only hope and pray that others who have not found the path yet,

can feel the same that I do. Ya arhama rahimeen wal hamdulillahi rabbil

aylameen……

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PropellerAds

Assalam Alaikum

 

Mashahallah.. It brought smile to my face.. :sl:

 

Jazaak Allah Khair for sharing this with us.

 

May Allah swt guide us all on the right path.. ameen

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Waalaikum-Assalaam,

 

Ameen to Dua.

True that, it brought a smile on my face as well, as I was reading it.

It's truly very inspirational to read this Brother's story, and thoughts.

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Peace be upon you, brother .

I am a new member.

This is my 1st post here.

What a look deep faith ! It is a story worth reading . The largest grant from Allah for a Muslim to feel that divine mandates are divine gifts and grants.

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