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

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ham in the Quran when he

points out the stupidity of worshipping

idols and and and at one point they say

to him

you know well who broke the idols and he

said the big one did it they said the

big one can't do anything so woman why

are you worshiping that says they can't

do any and then it says in the hold on a

beautiful expression Raja

oh it says they returned to themselves

in other words hey he's got a point here

and suddenly this is the Vista opening


yeah and they chose to not follow it

they said this is what we found our

fathers doing and this is that is a

radical the other time shift up it's a

paradigm right and you can either

go with it or become the Inquisition

that wants to put out anybody that's

forcing you have to think without you

know the radical implications of the new

paradigm that's emerging now even

pursuing this decision of yours now

you've just had a defining moment or

experience and than you already are

pursuing the study of Islam and then you

later on you you go to college or

actually I I was I was in my first

semester of college and I actually when

I became Muslim I left at Doha and then

I went to England and 38:17 yeah and

your parents just sort of I I had I

actually became Muslim like a month or

so before my 18th birthday and so yeah I

I left up I spent a short time here I

think about six months yeah and then

after that I left and I think initially

you know when you become that when you

do something that radical like changing

your you know your entire way of life

your entire way of thinking and Islam is

not you know Islam is quite monolithic

in its and it's a probe other than

agreeable parting with your parents or

at that time I think innovation no I

think initially it was just difficult

for my parents to understand and both my

parents are university educated are very

broad-minded people

other humanities professor and very

philosophical inclinations in his

worldview and my mother went to Berkeley

and that says enough yeah yeah so um you

know she was very active in the civil

rights movement I mean I grew up that

you know she took me when I was 12 to

the Soledad brothers know that so in the

six yeah yeah

- George Jackson's prison trial just to

see you know what was happened that

there were political struggles going on

in this country

she was very opposed to the Vietnam War

so I did grow up with a lot of awareness

so with a lot of awareness social

awareness very much so and and certainly

about the inequities in in our culture

you know because I'll we grew up in an

area that is you know probably more

wealthier area I mean my family my close

family there's wealth in my favor my

party confirm was not wealthy at all so

I did not grow up wealthy by any means

in fact quite probably a bit more the

other end but idealize about definitely

the area we were in was quite wealthy

and so I think my mother was you know

wanted to make us sure that we

understood that this country has a lot

of inequities so you know my sister was

in Selma Alabama marching with you know

I mean we've that's the background that

we were raised in and the 60 was a

fascinating time in this country you

know Berkeley was right across the

street from where I grew up quite

literally and it wasn't far at all and

we were aware that there were big things

happening you know in in in the States

so I think initially um you know my

parents they were just perplexed more

than anything and and my mother's always

been very accepting whatever any of her

children have done so you went to

England and then you you know I went to

England and I said I was with a

community there and stand and was

studying and they were probably more

spiritually inclined and although there

was a wedding the Nadi's or no

no no not no but probably um there was a

lot of political emphasis to the disarms

of spiritual political movement it's not

it's not politics without spirituality

and spirituality with politics so there

was I think now you said I agree with

that or you I would get very much so

absolutely yeah yeah I mean that's we

have a personal and a social transaction

here yeah so I I spent a few years in

that communion and then what I'm not

doing anything particularly was just I

was studying I think I was studying very

seriously yes but then at a certain

point I I realized that I wanted to

learn Arabic good because I wanted to

get into the sources you know right to

really experience Islam from the source

and I think being at that age because

I'm still only at this point about 22

for me it was still probably one of

these things that could go either way

you know there were a lot of people

dabbling in religions in the 60s and 70s

and you know you become a Buddhist for a

few years then transitions are you know

yeah so people did their religion thing

right it in the sixties and seventies it

was very much in - yeah and early 70s

also yeah you know it started changing

with them you know I mean certainly 69

was a big turning point because of the

Manson thing that happened in this

country but you know and then Jonestown

was a major master disaster to an idea

community that religious community so I

think those things were going on and and

but I definitely wanted to study the the

tradition from the sources and I got the

opportunity from the share who was from

charges yeah Abdullah in Mahmud who was

kind of a minister without portfolio he

was in England at that time he was in

England I met him and I was just

starting to learn Arabic and he I gave

me an opportunity to go to the Emirates

and so I went to the United Arab

Emirates and I entered into a Islamic

Institute there in align and I studied

there and I spent four years there and

then I actually became an imam in a

small mosque in Sharjah in in a line in


yeah and

I lived there and and I'm dude I it was

a very good experience for me and then I

during that time I had met West African

scholars and became very interested in

traditional Islam that was still being

taught in West Africa and I started

studying with them personally and I had

one of them actually ended up living

with me in the apartment that I was

living at and teaching me personally so

I learned a lot during that period and

then I decide to actually go to this


yeah West Africa and that began a whole

nother sure that there you you again you

spent quite a bit of time as I

understand yeah I was overseas almost 10

years yeah and there again you you were

just learning or teaching or no I was I

was uh pretty much committed just to

learning and I was I was a more Edvin

wherewhere was that one mosque in a line


for because I didn't want to live

anymore in the Institute's dorm because

they were very young I don't think a lot

of more as serious as I was and you know

they were just young high school

students and I was a little older and

and I think I was more serious about

what I was doing not all of our money

certainly there was some very good

people but I didn't like the environment

so I asked somebody who was at the

Ministry of endowments religious

endowments if you know they could work

out a situation where I could be amoled

then and just live in because the

mosques have in those countries they

have living quarters North to them for

the more than and for the Imam so I

didn't take money for the work that I

was doing I had a stipend from the this

Institute not very much but I didn't

ever get back yeah and so they let me do

that I wasn't with then and I lived in

the mosque and then I became after a

year of doing that I've learned but not

very much but I learned you know the

vast portions of the Quran micro alga

could write them recite them well so

they let me become an imam in another

mosque that was near there yeah and

people were very generous to me that you

know they used to bring the food and

things like that but you were now

you know going through several different

cultures all of a sudden within a short

period of time in about five ten years

and you here you were up in Northern

California having exposure to Berkeley

and all the things that you alluded to

going to England where different culture

practically I mean although Western

culture but then you were interacting

with different people now in all of this

your August contact was Muslims and they

were from many different parts of the

world and so what was happiest that that

was a quest well that's a good question

and I think for me it was a big shock

because I think when I became Muslim

here I had no idea because I knew so

little about Islam and about Muslim

cultures and about Muslim peoples and

really vague ideas in my mind about and

then suddenly you know gays all this

Hollywood stupidity starts reading into

the subconscious you know

Saracens with their Sabres at the gates

you know Allah Akbar and Sinbad and all

this nonsense ending out of the

subconscious so yeah that thrust me on

it just having look at a whole and that

was the shock for me realizing further

make you sort of doubt your sanity about

or your validity of going into Islam at

that point the reason I ask that is I

had a good question because I think

there was a a period early on in which I

did start questioning that have I done

the right thing is this really and I

think that is part of what really

inspired me to want to study the

teaching deeply I said you know just to

find out you know I've given up my my

past my my background you know in an in

a sense my country it was a very

alienating experience and and now I'm

kind of wondering you know looking

around at the Muslims and and the

prospects of you know of the Muslims it

was it was kind of discouraging and so

yeah I think that's a good question

because I think I did have that

period it's hard you know we have this

fascinating self-delusional states in

which we try to remember what I actually

happen and we often create you inventing

memories it was a fascinating thing

because I've tried to do this wreath

piece did this really happen or didn't

you know and in many ways I mean I think

this whole idea past lives is just our

own lives it's not about living you know

I mean how many lives have you had you

thought about that as fasiq Justin

thinking about exactly yeah you think

the time when you're a student you know

how that was a past life for me you know

my pre-islamic life was a past life for

me my childhood was a past life so I

think we incarnation is just it's it

happens in our own lifetime you know no

actually the reason I asked also this

question is that I sat across from the

different people who converted and then

ever asked them after conversion whether

they relented at any point whether they

had any doubts it's always that they say

that it happened when they suddenly met

a whole lot of Muslims and with their

diversity and complexity and their

attitudes and their whole interaction to

some of them was very negative and they

said well being really really closed off

and we well I've always had mixed I

think you know on the one hand yeah

there's massive negativity on the other

hand there's all these things that we in

the West have lost that that the Muslims

still have a considerable amounts of

community you know family is still very

strong also just social relations I mean

for instance you know you and I have not

known each other a great deal of time

yet you know already bonds or forms very

quickly amongst the Muslims that don't

happen amongst people in the West very

often is quite rare and yet it's quite

common in the Muslim world so so I think

that you think that that then Aslam is

the sort of leveling factor here which

which reduces these barriers amongst


that's yeah that's a good question

I think definitely that that that when

you become a Muslim or being a Muslim is

a very powerful force that is not the

same as being a Christian or not the

same as being a Buddhist or a Hindu or

some other religion I think that that

the the Brotherhood that exists in Islam

is is much more powerful than I've seen

in other traditions that and that is not

to deny that there are communities of

Christians that don't have deep deep

Brotherhood but I'm talking about this

Universal more global outlook

I think the Amish for instance probably

have much better community than you'll

find almost anywhere in the Muslim world

much better support group of a more of

an episode I mean you might find in the

Swat Valley as in in Pakistan or or the

honza's or you know or in the Caucasus

Mountains or somewhere but but you know

communities a disappearing phenomenon I

mean some people consider it irrelevant

Indian from informational period that it

was necessary in agricultural societies

where you need people to stick together

and help each other but when you have

these massive megalithic cities in which

you've got two state apparatus but the

state apparatus is falling apart yes I

mean and now there's this whole modern

you know communitarianism they call

which is an attempt at reestablishing

communities even within inner cities and

you book Bowling Alone you read that I

honestly read that set by a guy from

East Coast apartment was postulating

this whole thing that America is now

becoming a very different what it used

to be where they were bowling club they

will go bowling and there would be

opportunity did read out on day and all

of that so anyway going back again know

I the reason I asked about about Islam

as a leavening sorry you know what hit

me in probably what science means the

word leveling yeah because this you know

Kierkegaard's one of his ideas about the

nihilistic age that we're in is that it

levels every ya know

we use it as a very negative I'm not

writing that word it is it kind of me I

don't know if that was the appropriate

word I not be I think equalizing would

be a better word I think that I think no

the reason I asked also was Malcolm had

that same experience when I mean it when

you might not really he what right what

what really sort of mahadji Hodges is a

definitely leveling exterior but still

he as much as there was that spiritual

bonding which occurs in Hajj and all of

that but to see the humanity interacting

with yourself in at that level of

equality was when I thought what this is

one of the thousand a again you know one

of the this conditions that we're

finding ourselves in is that

provincialism is increasingly becoming a

detrimental to the human condition

because massive groups of peoples of

different backgrounds and cultures are

thrust together in mega cities like Los

Angeles and Burbank in these places and

suddenly it's you know you've got a

Korean for a neighbor or you've got a

Vietnamese for a neighbor and your son

might have been in Vietnam and suddenly

is having to deal with human beings that

are very different from yourself and I

think that's one of the things that

Islam does to us is that it forces us to

deal with other Nastasia nating but is

in fact bond argument and what what you

know the other nurse of color of

language of is broken down by by the the

the sameness of belief that transcends

whatever differences that people do have

at these exterior levels that ultimately

are our basic impulses are pretty

fundamental I mean we're dealing with

people that want the best for their

family this is a universal human

situation we're dealing with people that

want to live harmoniously that don't

want to be violated or or violate others

I mean I think the vast majority of

human beings share some dream

basic virtues and all religions have

those the same core values more or less

into that it's just how do we achieve

absolute this is this is the crisis I

mean we can all agree yeah let's all be

human right but how do you do that how

do we become human this is where the

whole issue becomes problematic and I

think this is where Islam's agenda for

humanizing people is so bad where I

don't know whether you call it agenda

it's a process I think well I'm using

agenda see we're looking at negative

terms again that can be yeah yes I mean

a song does have an agenda and its

agendas to transform people into into

kind of crude assemblance --is of benny

atom or the Adamic species to a true

Adamic being a true human being I mean I

definitely think that conscience with a

conscience and the most radical way of

doing that is how many people pray

together five times a day yes you you're

praying in a line in a rank with people

a black man as I'm on your right side a

white man's on your left side of

chinese' you know and this is something

pretty extraordinary and the whole idea

of having being forced to touch them

yeah you know yes which is not shouldn't

be field force it should be a longing or

as desire for that closeness and that

intimacy that takes place in prayer so

that the social aspect Rama bond yeah no

I think there's no question that in in

all those and universalizing Ramadan

yeah the idea that we're all one fifth

of the world's population is in fasting

yes one month out of the year together I

mean you talk about harmonic convergence

so you spent about ten years and you

know when I came back here you came back

to Northern California yeah actually

Southern California and I studied I was

studying homeopathy and then I was

studying I went into nursing program and

completed nursing school

yes program then I went to I was working

in nursing and then went back to the

University to do a program comparative

so how long that take the um well

altogether it's been about seven years

till you finish that yeah I'm I'm

actually now gonna probably hopefully

next year be doing some graduate work

wonderful so where are you finding all

this time well I just it's making time

for I mean I'm very very time conscious

I'm conscious of the hourglass ticking

away so I just try to utilize it in that

in Santa Fe awesome absolutely man is in

Los with x passage except for those who

don't waste their time that's right so I

just try not to waste time time is very

valuable to me what have you what sort

of relationship now have you got with

your parents is that all wonderful then

absolutely so they're not both my

parents have a great my sister became

Muslim all of my family now has a very

good idea of what Islam is and I've done

it I think hopefully in a way that you

know I'm not condemning them or just you

know just I think they all have an idea

of what my life's about and I think all

of them they're very impressed with you

know I've won I mean it's quite

difficult to have successful marriage in

in this modern 20th century lay part of

it in in California and you know I'm

doing that my children are thanks god

they're a big grand parents and also I

think being or generally they're very

pleased yeah

well that's nice now coming back to a to

Islam and was its impact on your own

life which is it is obvious since you're

quite actively engaged in learning and

teaching and now what difficulties do

Muslims have in presenting Islam to the

west in a proper way because we talked

earlier on about how Islam is perceived

we didn't talk about our own

rown own responsibility of how we have

even to succeed that good points I think

part of it is the fact that I think

Islam is perceived by the Muslims as

well I mean it's not just a

misperception of the Western people

laugh it's also misperception that the

Muslims haven't and part of that is the

fact that that Islam has been reinvented

or you know what what they term in in

philosophy or religious studies redacted

by late 19th century and 20th century

modernist revision errs of Islam people

have been called the reformers some

people called the deformers what do you

mean I mean I don't really like to get

into specific individuals because I

think you're dealing with on the one

hand infiltration into the Islamic

academic Katter which is which is quite

pernicious but on the other hand you're

dealing with just unfortunately people

that were caught up in the flow of what

was happening I mean when the Muslims

were defeated by the colonialist this

was a great shock to the Muslim Ummah

and and I think what what happened is

suddenly they were having to deal with

the fact we've been defeated by the

Europeans who for centuries the Muslims

had looked down on them as being

unworthy of even their consideration and

you can see some of the letters that

were written by Muslim rulers

unfortunately to the Europeans really

with disdain and and and loathing and so

you know I think that one of the things

that God does is but you tears people

with the thing that the you know with

the medicine that they need to be cured

and the medicine of arrogance and pride

you know the medicine is very bitter

medicine it's called humility and and

Submission and and I think what's

happened to a Muslim world that became

very arrogant and very prideful we have

really been humiliated and if we don't

learn this lesson but have you that's

what my question is I'm asking is there

you you see that we are notice have been

rubbed into the grammar and I don't

think we've learned the lesson yeah

that's what that's what I'm saying but

okay but the wonderful thing about life

is it keeps teaching you to say

lesson over and over again unlike school

here where you can keep graduating on

without having learned anything in the

previous year they'll put you to the

next year that doesn't happen in life

life will just keep giving you the same

lesson over and over again and you get

your diploma when you get the point

right and and we haven't gotten the

point because Muslims still think

somehow that I even hate my BA it gives

you some exalted position by the mere

fact that you state that well if that

was true then the hypocrites would

certainly not be in the lowest portion

of hell because they say that too so

Laila him Allah really on the saying

that saying it has no you know no

meaning unless it's emanating from the

knowledge or any bonusing and if it

emanates from the heart it manifests on

the limbs and if it manifests on the

limbs you have a human being that's

called a Muslim and if it's not you have

somebody that the Quran clearly defines

as a hypocrite I'm gonna have somebody

that in fact the way the Quran

articulates is your hide your own allahu

and levena amma no one not only in that

bosom they attempt and it's Mahad in the

Arabic language is an attempt they

attempt to fool Allah and those who

believe and they only succeed in fooling

themselves and there's another version

which is the washed version which says

while my you had your own event for some

and they only attempt to fool themselves

in other words that self delusion

ultimately yeah you can be self diluted

but ultimately you know in reality what

the truth is so then you notice to

summarize that what we are saying here

then is that the prevailing attitudes

within the Muslim communities that they

haven't really really come to grips with

the humiliating defeat and therefore

they will continue to and this is why we

go around Christian bashing which is a

very common Muslim activity you know to

feel good about ourselves and I point

out how horrific the Christians are I

know isn't that there is a change I mean

what is happening though what do you

think let's let's examine that why is it


meanwhile they say the best definition

of do you have the lashavia or they say

the best definition of madness is to do

the same thing over and over again and

expect different results yeah so I think

in one sense we've been afflicted with a

type of madness and unfortunately

post-traumatic stress syndrome is you

know it has deep repercussions and and I

think the Muslim Ummah as a body is

suffering from post-traumatic stress

yeah but then what are the remedies do

we where is the CPR I mean is now

talking about where is the CPR well many

doctors and nurses for that this is a

good point because I think part of our

struggle is the fact that we do not have

anymore institutions that are producing

human beings of a brilliant intellectual

caliber and a spiritual depth that can

not only diagnose but also treat the

patient and traditionally this has been

the realm of the you know the the UNA

muhammadun who are called the Elia the

people that are close to to God in their

knowledge and in their action and those

people traditionally have guided the

Muslims through their devastating

periods of time well you can see quite

literally that in and I don't like to

get into colonial bashing because I

think it's a real dead end for the

Muslims victimization is a dead-end road

but nonetheless there are some important

features that need to be looked at and

one of them is the fact that our our

libraries our scholars are you know

kanakas and and madrasahs and tech aids

and all these places where there was

spiritual preparation intellectual

preparation of the Muslims they were

literally shut down and not only that

but the government's that were created

and social reform in in Syria is a good

book to look at talks about this the

government's that were created were

created by the colonialist and this is

the fifth column which ultimately I've

never seen historically and historians

would obviously verify this or negate it

but I personally have not seen

historically where there was a

conquering of a people without that

fifth column element and this is why the

Quran says home that I do follow

MacArthur home a lot that the hypocrites

they are the true enemy

and may Allah destroy them because these

are the people that have been complicit

with the the colonial enterprise and the

neo-colonial and we can only say why say

neo-colonial because as far as I'm

concerned colonialism's never ended it's

just changed form because you know the

chameleon-like nature of the West is one

of this most extraordinary features that

it's able to change its its its former

location and this is what media and

television is all about yeah well that

is now cultural imperialism we will come

to that but then what you're again

pointing out is that we are indeed in a

double jeopardy if I might put one but

one is one is that we feel that there is

a conspiracy that the rest has on one

hand on the other hand we do not seem to

acknowledge that we are no more the

power and we are nothing in terms of

amounting to anything we're a scheme of

things right well neither was the

prophets of Medina in the seventh

century you shouldn't forget that no and

the Quran very clearly says come and

Fiat an idea a lot about fear I think at

the beginning that how many times have a

small faction defeated a great factor by

the permission of God and so we have you

know the Muslims that they're obeying

their teachings and practicing then they

have a permission to have an authority

which is very powerful we shouldn't

underestimate it you know but I think

it's you know it's a good point that

that if you if you look you know what

why isn't anything happening and I think

part of it is the fact that that if you

look at the disease what I feel the

greatest articulation of it from the

from the Islamic perspective is the word

itself which is used to designate

everything that is against Islam and

that is Julia and Julia is a word that

in its root meaning means ignorance and

this is the whole argument of Islam that

you you reject the truth out of

ignorance that you only do things that

are bad out of ignorance and this is

Socratic teaching as well I mean even

the Europeans have this idea that that

you know that people don't do bad things

if they really knew

what they were doing and this is part of

what Islam does is it is is ill you know

or what God does through Islam is

listening to open the eyes of people to

let them see and one of my favorite

things that's happened in recent popular

cultures this Kathie Lee Gifford

incident and there was a wonderful

picture of her in Newsweek that

obviously got out some television

broadcasting which is where she's got

this horrified look like you know a

shocked look when she finds out that

she's been supporting a child labor this

whole country is supporting child labor

the clothes were wearing our supporting

child labor the tennis shoes that we jog

in are supporting child labor the soccer

balls the baseball bats that we hit our

baseballs with I mean the whole thing is

supporting child labor don't blame

Kathie Gifford blame the whole country

you see and this is what people don't

want to deal with is that no we have to

look deeply at what's going on what

children and this is this what you're

saying that I mean at the example that

you've used is is is of how should I say

of abusing people or of abusing people

to to create the to support the

consumerism or what-have-you but getting

away from from the people that brings us

to the issue justice and economic

justice and the Quran we'll get into

that but let us talk a little bit too

now of why is it that looking at all of

the the Muslim countries 50 and odd 55

56 I don't know what whatever then I

whatever the number is they've grown is

there still isn't either an awareness

one or acknowledgment or formulation of

some kind of vision or strategy what is

our world view now well this is part of

the crises again I mean we're we're an

Ummah in search of a world view one of

the things that David shidduch in his

vision and the vision of the song

wonderful book this is one of the things

that he puts forward is that the Muslims

have lost sight of a Quranic world

you you know the veldt and shown the

relevance of what you know it's not this

what guy eaten in the Islamic destiny

man calls a Boy Scout religion this is

what we've been reduced to thinking that

Islam is it is going around doing good

deeds no it has a way of viewing the

world of vision and if you don't have

the vision of Islam no matter how

sincere your efforts are you're not

going to be anything other than a

glorified Mormon or a glorified you know

Jehovah's Witness or somebody who's out

because they're doing good deeds I mean

that doesn't the the moral element of

Islam is not what makes us unique as a

community because every community has a

moral element no it's it's the vision

it's what the tradition was called the

Arpita it was the understanding that

islam imparted to human beings which

enabled not only the morality to

function but also for there to be an

absolute clarification of what exactly

morality is because there's a great deal

of confusion in our modern world for

instance but that is confusion within

the muslims to loot li because we don't

have this thing anymore

no you're asking not only that but the

thing that that is interesting now is

that there are muslims and they are

pious Muslims wonderfully powerful if I

absolutely but then if you look at that

if you look at the whole world of Islam

at present these Muslims which who are

pious some of them very few of them are

also actively engaged in a social

emancipation right so all just the rest

of the rest of them well this is the

separation of Deen from Milda because

this LOM has these two concepts it has

the personal which is deemed this is our

relationship with God but also has the

Milda which is the collective group of

what our goal is as a collective body

and the goal of the collective body is

the establishme