I was not always a Muslim. As a matter of fact, I was raised in a Christian household. However I was without guidance and Islam changed my life. I grew up going to an Assembly of God Church and a Baptist Elementary school in Redding, California. From a young age I could already see the dissension between members of the two Christian sects.
I was exposed to the Mormon or LDS Church when I was around 8 years old. My parents were divorced, and my mother briefly went to the LDS church and when my sister and I visited her she had us baptized. Other than that, I never went to their church except for a bit in my early 20s before I became a Muslim.
Growing up with a broken family was tough for me just like it is for anyone. My parents divorced when I was very young, and I have no recollection of my parents being married except for a fight between them and my mother screaming for my and my sister to go to our room.
I was not close to my mother. It seemed that she did not want much to do with me and my sister. It seemed that my father took her mind. Due to the abuse she suffered she was traumatized and resorted to hard drugs to deal with the pain from the PTSD. She neglected my sister and I and would only allow us to take showers once a week. My father was able to get me out of that household and get custody of us.
I had a step-mother whom I did not get along with when I was young. Her son did some horrible things and so he was cast out from our family and so I had to pay for the sins of this man. Later I became close to my step-mother after I became Muslim. Islam allowed me to be forgiving and patient of others. Allah swt tells us in the Qur’an that he created some people to be a fitnah or tribulation for us, so will you show patience? This taught me that everything is a test and how we react is how we will be judged.
Starting my Junior year in high school, I went to Enterprise High School which at that time was a gladiator’s academy. The school was notorious for being extremely violent. It even made the news all the way in Sacramento due to their being 18 fights in one day.
This was in the early 90s when gangs were very serious in California. You could be killed for wearing the wrong color and my high school was filled with group home kids from all over the State of California creating a climate of opposing gangs. It was really hard to focus in this atmosphere. When I graduated I had about a 2.0 gpa. It was always stressful to go to school. Most of the people I graduated with are either strung out on drugs, incarcerated, or dead. I am only familiar with maybe a handful of people that I went to school with that went on to be productive members of society.
Being in this atmosphere, it was necessary to be packing a gun in school. My friends and I did not have any guns on us but we for sure had them in the immediate area. It is something that I am not proud of, but the gang problem necessitated it. We were scared of going to school and then due to the gangs, rival gangs from other cities would even come to the campus to look to shoot people. It was very chaotic.
Shortly after high school I went to Sacramento to work for a record label. I wanted to get away from Redding. Per capita it had become more violent than Oakland, California.
I would sometimes come back to visit and on one of my visits back I had met someone who was a Muslim watching my friends clothing store who was a Muslim. There was no mosque in Redding at that time, but I was already familiar with Islam. He gave me some materials and I became a Muslims.
I can honestly say that I have never done an illicit drug in my life. I had refrained from smoking cigarettes, and I was never into alcohol. When I became Muslim, I actually had guidance. This guidance kept me on a path of self-improvement and prevented me from self-destructed habits that I saw my friends in. Within a few years of graduation, I saw so many people strung out and sucked up, I was so happy that I became Muslims. Following Islam and the Sharia kept me away from the things that were destroying people I grew up with. I can honestly say to this day that if I had not become a Muslim, I would probably be dead or incarcerated. I was hanging around gangs, and people with self-destructive lifestyles.
Islam made me hungry to seek knowledge. The more I was gaining knowledge, the more I wanted to learn. I began to learn how to debate Christian from reading all of Shaykh Ahmed Deedat’s books and watching his videos of debates against Christian scholars. I wanted to be able to defend my position in a debate against Christians.
After a while, I wanted to know what my religion taught inside and out. This led me to study from scholars of Islam in one-on-one sessions as well as to take part in distance learning courses. I was learning from people like Hamza Yusuf and Gharib Khalil. This made me look at the world as a different place and glad that I was a Muslim. I became to understand that Islam is a religion for intellectuals, it is why intellectuals were drawn to Islam. I wanted to be like them.
One day I heard Imam Zaid Shakur say at the MCA in Santa Clara, California that Muslims should not just be scholars in religion but that they should be scholars in secular knowledge as well. The Muslim Ummah should have experts in all fields not just religious fields. This made sense to me because we are taught to gain knowledge from the cradle to the grave and that the first commandment given to Prophet Muhammad PBUH from the Angel Gabreel to read (Iqraa). Shaykh Zaid Shakur said that this was inclusive of all knowledge not just religious knowledge. This made sense to me because in Islam we are taught that the study of science and math are actually acts of worship in Islam whereas I was taught at Bethel Church in Redding not to study science because it is geared to make people not believe in the Bible and make then Atheists. It makes sense that Bethel teaches this because they are a cult that tells people that they can teach them to bring people back from the dead and that they can heal people of anything. They need people to be uneducated in order to fool them into joining. Anyone knowledgeable in science could see through their garbage.
I was convinced thhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmEWtMiV-2Uat I needed to go to college and get my degree. I wanted to gain secular knowledge, so I began going to Weber State in 2007. They were open enrollment so I was able to be accepted despite my low GPA in high school. Within a semester I was in the Honors Program and I graduated with General, University, and Departmental Honors and a 3.5 GPA. I was the non-Traditional Student Senator for one year, and a finalist for the Crystal Crest Award for the Personality of the Year. I was also given an award for being the best example on campus.
My religious knowledge really helped me in my studies. I was in the Integrated Studies program and I focused on Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science. Due to my Islamic Knowledge, everything I learned confirmed my Islam even more even though the professors thought that religious knowledge was bogus. They understood what Christians understood and their religion that has the faith kick in when the facts cannot support their religions. Whereas, everything in these social studies confirmed Islam and this is a topic that I could write a book about.
I did not do to bad for someone who barely made it through high school but graduated with over 40 awards and honors and the President of the University telling my family that I had more honors that anyone she had ever seen. I went from someone in a self-destructive lifestyle to someone intent on bettering the world.
I went on to get two Masters Degrees. One is an MBA with an emphasis in Sustainability Management. I wanted to gain knowledge in a field that I could use to not only benefit Muslims but humanity as whole because this is what Islam taught me. Sustainability allows for me to have the skills to help protect the Earth and make it better for future generations, to be a better steward of the planet. Part of Islamic Sharia is to protect the environment and not be wasteful, to conserve resources.
Alhumdillallaah, all praises to God almighty that I became a Muslim. I have become a better person for it. I am far from perfect, but I know that Allah swt forgives if we give sincere tawbah or repentance. The beauty of Islam is about perfecting the self and bettering the community and the planet.