American Muslims – Jim

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The pace of life in the western world is very fast, in spite of this hustle and bustle many Muslims do find time to help the neighborhood mosques and Islamic schools voluntarily. For example, one day the congregation of Tawheed mosque of Detroit agreed to visit Tawheed mosque of Farmington Hills after Salaatul Fajr. We wanted to cut the wild trees with a gas saw and chop them into small parts. We intended to make small bundles of these unwanted trees and place them on roadside to be picked up by the city services. This would clean up the courtyard of the mosque.

After Salaatul Fajr we left for this job in two cars. Jim was a new American Muslim and very new to this mosque. I invited him to join me in my car. On the way I asked Jim how he accepted Islam. Jim told me his fascinating life history in detail:

He used to go to a Christian church with his parents. My parents used to pay ten percent of their income to this church in order to attend its services. My parents did not like the religious practices of this church. Hence they switched to another church. There they had to pay only eight percent of their income to attend the services. This was acceptable to my parents since nearly all churches operate like this. I however did not like the practice of buying our seats through compulsory contribution. I stopped going to any church since I disapproved the ideas and practice of these churches.

After finishing high school I joined university. There I met many Muslim students from various countries. I asked them, “Do you have to pay for using a place for worship?” They said, “Not at all. In fact everybody has equal right to use the place of worship for his prayers.

It is beneficial to add here that the university campuses in the western world offer a great freedom of choices to the student. A few students misuse this freedom and ruin their future. Most of the students, however, interact with each other constructively. In fact, their this interaction is very enviable. They do not answer others’ questions very briefly to leave the questioner in confusion. They do not also answer them with maximum possible detail so the questioner is not discouraged to ask more questions. Furthermore they do not impose their viewpoint on the others so that they are not disenchanted with each other. This kind of beneficial interaction goes on all the time among the students and it is, in fact, guidance for some of our religious preachers.

Jim thought it was, indeed, a very reasonable practice not to pay compulsorily for the use of a place of worship. Why should he, therefore, not explore other details about such a religion? Jim related the rest of his story to me as follows:

My girlfriend and I used to live in a rented apartment. My girlfriend was a Buddhist. She had put statues of Buddha in the whole apartment although she was not very regular in her religious practice. I was also not practicing Christianity. She inferred from my daily talk that I was looking for a new way of life. We accepted each other the way we were. At last, Christmas arrived.

Christmas is such an occasion that everybody expects a present from his friend irrespective of the religious inclination or beliefs. For example, Jews do not belief in Jesus at all. They are usually the first to exchange these Christmas presents and decorate their business with huge Christmas trees to attract customers. Jim continued:

My Buddhist girlfriend rushed to the market to pick a Christmas gift for me. There she came across a book which appeared to her somewhat philosophical. She said to herself, “Jim may like this book since he is always expressing strange and novel ideas.” I started reading this book after receiving it as a present from her. It happened to be an English translation of the Quran. I liked to read it everyday. It posed many new questions in my mind. The Muslim students answered my daily questions very reasonably. It enhanced my interest in Islam. Finally I was fully satisfied with the Muslim way of life. I contacted members of Muslim Student Association at my University campus. They explained to me the Islamic pledge to enter Islam. I very eagerly accepted Islam. Alhamdulillah.

I knew very well that Salaat is an important article of the Islamic faith. I used to offer some prayers at the University campus and others at home. I told my girlfriend to remove all the statues from the living room since I had to offer Salaat there. She did not like this since to interfere with somebody’s religion is not a joke. She, however, removed the statues from the living room unwillingly simply to please me.

Now as soon as my Islamic education and faith firmed up, I started showing an indifference towards her. Several times we quarrelled about it. She said again and again, “I always tried my best to please you. My commitment to you is not lessened in any way. What has made you indifferent towards me in spite of my firm commitment to you?” I said to her seriously, “Whatever you said is true. I am, however, a Muslim now and I cannot have a matrimonial relation with a non-Muslim.” My girlfriend knew that I was a gentle person by nature and I have a good relationship with my fellow friends. She did not wish to leave meat any cost. She asked me, “After all, what have I to do to maintain this relationship?” I told her, that she should embrace Islam. She asked me, “What is Islam?” I gave her a broad outline of Islam in a short time. She could not digest all the ideas fully. She, however, accepted Islam in order to please me. She removed all the statues from the apartment with her own hands.

After marriage we used to visit the local mosque. Life went on at its usual pace. I found that my wife was not offering her five daily prayers regularly. I said to her, “What kind of Muslima are you when you do not even offer your five daily prayers regularly?” She said, “I am trying my best.” I reminded her once again very firmly. She started crying and she spoke to the Muslim women of the neighbourhood concerning our differences.

The local Islamic leaders understood the problem between us. They deputed an educated couple to reconcile between us. They told me that my wife is a new Muslima, and Islam reaches the heart and soul gradually. I should not behave very rigidly. It somewhat softened my critical attitude towards her.

Before embracing Islam, I used to spend considerable time with the youth of my neighborhood. Whenever we gathered most of us would talk simultaneously without paying any attention to others ideas or wishes. It looked like a mad house with everybody shouting a teach other. After accepting Islam I attended some of these gatherings. My peers were surprised to see me mostly quiet. I only talked as and when others were listening to me. They wondered about this big change in my etiquettes and manners. All they said was that something did happen to Jim. I got fed up with their lengthy and useless conversations resulting in sheer waste of time. I wished to get away from this kind of socialisation.

My parents and I had totally different religious thinking too. I found it very difficult for me to live in this place under these pressures. I wished to move away from here and go to a place where I could practice the beautiful teachings of Islam with full concentration and sincerity. I, therefore, left my homeland, parents and friends and arrived here in Detroit. My wife stayed there to complete her university education. I have come here to my university friend, Brother Ahmad, who is the office bearer of the Indonesian and Malaysian Muslim organisation in North America. I have come here with nothing in my hand. Br. Ahmad provided me with accommodation, meals and clothes. That’s why you see me coming to the Masjid with Brother Ahmad. I find a good spiritual climate in this mosque. I am very happy here.

Many brothers in the mosque gave Jim presents. He settled down very quickly. He started looking for a job in the Detroit area. He soon found one. He told me that he had to leave this job since the owner of the business did not permit him to go for Juma prayers. This was because Jim was only a new employee. It must be mentioned that many employers are, very co-operative with their Muslim employees and permit Muslims to offer their Juma prayer during the extended lunch break.

Jim had learnt many Surahs from the Quran and his pronunciation was very good too. I asked him, “Did brother Ahmad help you with this?” Jim said, “No. In fact there is a computer in the house with a C.D. with Quranic recitation. I played it again and again and learnt the Surahs myself.”

One day Jim asked me if he could buy a copy of English translation of the Quran from the Masjid. I told him, “It is free for the new Muslims.” He said that he wished to present a copy of the Quran to his mother hoping that she might be guided by it as he had been. He also wanted to give several copies to his old peers in his mother town. I told him that he could have as many copies of the Quran as he wanted without seeking any permission.

In the meanwhile Jim came across Tabligh or Dawah group. This group do receive the new Muslims warmly. They not only provide Islamic socialisation to the new Muslims but also teach them the basic principles of Islam. Dawah group is ahead of other Islamic groups in this respect. Jim joined this Dawah group and travelled with them to various states of America for teaching learning process and for the propagation of Islam. He used to visit Detroit for a night or so after several months. In this way we had chance to meet with him very briefly. It appeared that he had devoted his life for the service of Islam in his youth. May Allah further enrich his knowledge and practice of Islam. May Allah accept his devotion, commitment and service to Islam. Ameen.

Imtiaz Ahmad
True Stories of American New Muslims