IIS Interview: Why I came to Islam

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Event Name: IIS Interview: Why I came to Islam
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/27/2019
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

Host: Oh thank you for being here as we've been planning to get together with you for some time and I'm gonna learn now who's the the opportunity for us let us talk a little bit about your own, how should I say, "transitions that have brought you into Islam."  Maybe that would be internal and we'll go into other things well.

Shaykh Humza: I'm originally from California and my father was a university professor in Northern California and my on my mother's side actually they've been in California for over 100 years so it's an old Californian family and I was raised you know Christian background my father's Catholic my mother's Greek Orthodox but I was actually if anything more towards

the Greek Orthodox side and then 1977 I

became Muslim which was very early on

for me just at my our way I was 17 in a

17 and I think what from then just began

a journey that took me several different

places you know I studied in the Middle

East and I ended up in West Africa

northern Africa but before you you you

get into your Odyssey and you said that

you became a Muslim at the age of 79

what brought about this change and was

there something extraordinary that was

happening in your life their influences

that or was it just your own no I think

it's interesting because I studies

statistics have shown that conversion of

people to inter religiously but also

intro religiously usually occurs between

the ages of 12 and 21

which people don't realize that but it's

actually more common for people of a

younger age to have religious

inclinations than at an older age and I

think maybe some people tend to find

religion or at least a spiritual

tradition because I was much more

interested in spirituality than religion

at that age I think I that is unusual

though and it's well I had you the heavy

topic I think for me it was a

confrontation with death at an early age

I I was in this serious car accident and

that began a journey of reflection just

about death and the nature of life and

the also coming to terms with the fact

because I think as individuals all of us

at a certain point in our lives suddenly

become aware of our mortality and for

some people I mean you're a physician so

I think you know that for some people it

happens quite late in life you know the

bat never happens or never happens at

all until those last moments like even

in the Quran points that story of the

felon I mean Ryan he yes so people I

think just the idea of mortality is is

something that hit me very early on in

life and and looking death very close

you know up front I think will give

somebody an introspective perspective

and that's what happened to me and and

then it'd be kind of searched because I

you know I was in Catholic schools and

and so I'd been exposed to religion

quite a bit and I really although there

I think there's a lot of positive things

for religion I think there's a lot of

very negative things as well and I think

that can be said about anything

no no any religion and I'm using

religion a very broad sense of how we

live our lives right but particularly

absolutely I feel how religion manifest

in human cultures is is problematic

mm-hmm but that's interesting it will

come back to looking at the religion and

faith and spirituality little bit later

on but so that after having gone through

a experience

I sort of tend to think that a lot of

people who convert have some defining

moment of this kind when do you agree or

well this is another fascinating topic

and if you look at the one of the great

conversions in the Islamic traditions is

all Mountain living a kabob and we know

that he was literally on his way to kill

the Prophet peace be upon him and by the

time he gets to the door I mean there's

a whole side scenario that takes place

of going to his sister's and but in the

same day by the time he gets to the door

he's converting to the the way of Islam

so I conversions that it's a really

unusual thing you're saying that that

it's also this higher dimension I think

there's so many variables involved with

conversion itself that it's very hard

people have asked me how did you become

Muslim and I find that a really hard

answer a question to answer simply

because you're dealing with with such a

multi-dimensional situation and there's

so many variables from from one

perspective we could say that our

journey to whatever unfolds in our life

begins literally with inception and

there's an argument and it certainly is

the Islamic one that it begins prior to

inception so you know we can look at it

materialistically and say will this

happen this happened I was having an

identity crisis which according to

Erikson's psychosocial theory I mean

this is what happens during that period

of time we're trying to resolve our

identity and things like that so we can

look at it from a materialistic

perspective but I don't think it's it

simply can be limited to that although

there's certainly that element exists

and I wouldn't deny that yeah but I

think by the same token the the kind of

experience that sometimes people can can

look back to when they were either

looking at imminent death or you know I

have this conversation with my patients

also sometimes who are going through

that and then they say very clearly that

something intrinsically or internally

happens to them and their whole view of

my life changes well this is called

pepra right I mean is what the Quran

calls pepra which is the inherent nature

and I think what happens which

is fascinating because I my own time of

working in critical care which was for

about four years and dealing with

patients and I was in a cardiac unit so

I was doing with people that were

dealing with heart attacks and and it's

fascinating to see a Vista open up to

people that are confronted with their

mortality and it can be closed very

quickly and often times it's the

physician who is complicit in the

closing of that Vista because they'll

remind them that this is a you know

things are okay all you need to do I

think you know you've had a slight

infarct there's not a lot of damage to

the tissue you can have a good long life

if you just you know cut down on the fat

lower your cholesterol and things like

that and suddenly you see within a

period of a day or so a patient who's

has has had this impact in which they're

saying wow I need to look at my

priorities and what's important in life

and where am I going and what's it and

suddenly they're back on the phone

calling and I think my doctor says I can

get back to work by yeah you know two

weeks or a week and so it's fascinating

so I think vistas do open up for human

being and I at the age of 17 chose to to

you know take yet to enter into that

Vista and really to explore it to its

fullest and it and it ended up in my

conversion to Islam and I think that

somebody would have a very similar

experience as I did and and they might

look at and get interested at that Vista

but turn and get on with life and and I

didn't and it's it's been a defining

moment for me in my life and a turning

point but what but but but you said that

you use that moment then the pathway

open to to get into Islam or why Islam

though at that time if you you well I

think what happened to me is that I

became interested in in after death in

what happens after death and I began to

study various traditions what they said

and I think I was already disappointed

with the Christian tradition in many

ways and partly because just history of

just studying I find you know European

history is is really embarrassing for a

European and

Americans but I got interested looking

at after death scenarios and I think of

all the traditions because my

backgrounds also comparative religion at

in university background was I went into

later obviously yeah because I did the

nursing and then I went into comparative

religion but it what if you look at

comparative religion tradition I think

what you find is that really Islam has

added more to the after death

scenario than any other tradition prior

to it the Oceania T has yeah but they

don't have a great detailed account of

literally what takes place and what I

find fascinating is work like a Raymond

Moody's life after life and different

books and I actually had seventeen went

to see him lecture yeah and I got

interested in your death experiences

because that's really kind of what I had

and I find it fascinating that many of

the experiences that people have are

very similar to what has been defined by

the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him

as what happens after death and one of

the signs of the latter days of the

human experience according to the

Islamic tradition is that people will be

brought back from death

this is in the hadith literature or the

traditions of the Prophet celada Sena

what the actually we would really get

towards the what Islam says in terms of

the hereafter but I'm just keeping track

of your story presently and so that

after this this this moment of this

defining moment if I may put it you you

looked at Islam because you were

studying I was just looking at various

religion I was looking at different

traditions and particularly with this

after death and you know the Islam it's

changing now but this is 1977 probably

76 77 prior to the Iranian Revolution

and what was happening then and Islam is

just it you know it's the last place

people look in the United States

traditionally when you up in sentences I

mean I you'd look at Hinduism Buddhism

we Shintoism or Taoism before somebody

think about looking at Islam you know

because there's just such a negative

stereotypical image of Islam and the

Muslims and it's also there's this

incredibly anti intellectual backlash

that I mean Islam is what what one of my

father's friends mmm who was a lawyer

educated person in this country they

were just in conversation mentioned that

Islam was an idiot's religion and my

father said well you know my son's a

Muslim actually and and I don't think

he's an idiot

well that's interest but you see you've

brought up another topic which is which

needs some reflection here and that is

that you said the impression of Islam

compared to other tradition is so

terribly negative of course there is a

reason for it and I go it's historical

and third yeah there's a lot of reasons

for it and certainly the historical

tension that existed between

Christianity and Islam for centuries I

mean given the who penned the the

decline and fall of the Roman Empire

said that the the debate he termed the

the war between Christianity Islam is

the great debate and so that their

Europe has always felt the pressure of

Islam at its borders and has had several

wars with the Muslims over the centuries

but I think that that what's happened in

in the West is that religion in general

it was a negative isn't it it has a

negative perception and and part of it

is is that you know the Enlightenment

period of recognizing that the religion

by and large is fairytales and this is

something and this is what a lot of

modern research as has clearly shown

that we're dealing with mythological

conditions in which books were written

and pre-scientific pre rational magical

world views were presented that's only

one aspect of it I mean you you one can

can look at that argument and say well

yes there's a strong argument that it is

it is partly partly there but I don't

think that that one can dismiss the

entire you know substance of any

eh by saying that this is what side to a

lot of scientists do a lot of a lot of

modern people do I mean I think that's

one of the refreshing things about Islam

is that Islam is is it's really kind of

freed religion from a lot of pre

enlightenment thinking

I mean Islam to me is in many ways its

radically postmodern in its approach

because I again because you use the

expression postmodern you're falling

into a growing debate again Odom antics

and whether that term is has been coined

is valid in terms of applying to Islam

however if if you look if you examine

the the poses that are generated one of

the recent polls that I saw was from

from Pew foundation or what-have-you and

in that poll they said that ninety-five

percent of the people in America

believed in God and a substantial number

of them believed in religion now if you

took though this is pepero I mean belief

in God is a is an inherent you part of

the human creature I mean this is we're

stuck with this whether people like it

or not this is something fundamental to

our being is that from the time a child

is is is as little it's looking for the

cause of things it's asking what how why

did that happen what what made that

sound what did this I mean this is

something you see search for cause and

ultimately the great question is how did

we get here what is all this stuff I

mean where this flesh and blood come


where did this incredible synergistic

biological species come from you know

who where did this I who designed the I

because we obviously see the form and

function of the I very clearly and it

would indicate that there is some type

of intelligence behind the thing no I

think people reject the statistical you

know billions of years of random cosmic

I think that that whole theory that

that's that science has advanced given

the right set of circumstances the world

can create itself is is by and large

rejected on the basis of what you've

just said either fitara or intuitively

people rejecting this whole notion so I

think that the

is becoming more and more clear but

religion the belief in religion

ultimately to use the masses as some

kind of justification for religion I

think is is not really

most people don't know anything about

their tradition I would grant it that

most Muslims don't know about their own

tradition same there and this is what

what I meant about Islam being radically

postmodern is in the sense that one of

the things that Islam confronts you with

is why are you the way you are I mean

it's you're just a product of the

culture that you were born in this is

something that I became aware of you

know at an early ages Moira's i'ma

Christians because my parents are

Christian the only reason it

accidentally conditioned genital

condition and I really haven't given it

a whole lot of thought I mean I was

taught that there's a Santa Claus I was

taught that there's an Easter Bunny had

I grown up in Sri Lanka or or in it

would have been something in whatever

they call it get fast they scare people

to have the boogeyman they say get a

fast it's this you know bear-like

creature that comes out snatches little

kids that don't do what their parents

say so I am you're going to be defined

by this cultural environment you're in

and this this historical productivity

you know that we see that that produces

people and their worldviews in there is

something that the hold on says think

about this yes no I think that shall you

just be following this thing just

because your parents are doing it no I

think that that aspect of the spirit of

rational inquiry that the Quran

emphasizes to the nth degree it's

something which it is but it what I'm

pointing out here I think is that it's

looking at something not just rational

inquiry it's looking at something really

really deep here which is who are you

how did your being get formulated to the

point where you have all these ideas and

opinions I mean have you really given

these things a lot of fun I mean this is

a radical this is night late 19th

century this is Nietzschean this is late

19th century early 20th century

Heidegger Ian yeah questioning about

ones you know Hyder called your from

only this right but I mean it's

fascinating the Quran Ibrahim the

Prophet Abra