My Journey as a Muslim
“Err, you have a strange name: Richard is Christian, Imran is Muslim and Ding – what are you?”
That is probably the most common question I am asked when I meet someone new.
Well, I was born Christian – Roman Catholic actually, and on one fateful day, said an oath – that I submit to only one God with Mohammad (PBUH) as his last messenger – and that was it. There was no party, no blaring of horns, no non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice being popped, nothing.
A conscious effort for a name change – so that when I die I get to be buried as a Muslim, and then the slow, gradual and conscientious change of lifestyle. Failing at some points, succeeding at others.
“Why did you become Muslim?”
Well, honestly, I started on the road to Islam because of a girl. A girl I wanted to marry – and she being Muslim – gave me no choice but to learn Islam.
Consciously, I felt that if I remained Catholic and she Muslim and we had kids, then surely, the kids would be confused in their upbringing and that cannot be good for their life and afterlife. I could not be a father who had no clue what Islam was if my children were Muslim and how can we be in a proper “halal” marriage otherwise? How could I lead them in prayer? What happens when she dies? When I die? It was all too complex if I remained Catholic. So if I could not accept Islam, then we should not get married.
Now, reaching this conclusion was not as easy as it sounds.
It was really difficult – both internally – for me, and externally, for my family and friends. It did not happen overnight. It took months, maybe a year. There were many hang-ups which I needed to deal with, principally a change of lifestyle, acceptance by family and friends, loss of friends, interference, guilt trips and others. But nonetheless, after I made the choice, and the conclusion, I just dealt with everything as it came. Not really thinking in detail about it and trying just to be a good person.
The Journey Begins
I met a learned Muslim man at a Muslim converts centre in my home country of Malaysia. He was from China. I remembered when we talked – he asked my name and when I told him, he smiled. He said the Chinese surname “Ding” is short for “Sallahuddin”. Being one of the Muslims who travelled from Arabia to China to spread Islam. My ancestors were Muslims.
Anyway, the approach at the Muslim converts centre was not to my liking and we started to look elsewhere.
A friend recommended us to go to an Islamic Outreach Centre which had classes and open discussions about Islam, comparative religions and meeting other people like me. We attended a few of the discussions and found that it was interesting.
And so, the slow but steady quest of attending classes, listening to talks and discussions started.
Islamic Outreach was filled with wonderful volunteers. There was a man, Ayoob, who used to sell luxury cars – Ferrari’s I think. And he volunteered. The one thing he said or rather sang was “Hallelujia” and in the same tune sang “Allahuakhbar”. That struck a chord.
One day, a lovely man came to the centre to teach. His name, Marwan. He had an aura about him and because we were probably about the same age, we could connect. We attended his classes and most times, we stayed till the wee hours with him talking about Islam.
I was getting convinced, but still not fully.
Months after we started the classes and at Marwan’s class, the following wonderful words – hit me like a baseball bat on my head.
“He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together; Between them is a Barrier which they do not transgress” (Qur’an 55:19-20)
How could someone 1400 years ago know about this especially since he was living in a desert?
Waters of different salinity in the sea cannot mix, your hand can pass through but the waters do not mix. I was convinced he could not know. He being, the Noble Prophet (PBUH).
And the answer to me was simple, no one knew about this till recently but God who has created everything would have made it this way. Hence, God knows. And if God knows, and it is in the Quran – which now convinced me are God’s words, then Islam is correct. So why bother thinking about anything else.
The logical conclusion in my head reached. I was hooked.
“Ashhadu Anla Illa Ha Illullah Wa Ash Hadu Anna Muhammadar RasulAllah”
Simple words. And a complete change.
I was told all my past deeds have been changed to Good Deeds. I now have 1,500,000,000 brothers and sisters. I was cleansed, as clean as a brand new baby.
I leave you with the following 2 hadiths:
In Tirmidhi (2404) :
Anas (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger said, “When Allah decides to do good to His slave, he hastens for him punishment in this world. And when He decides to do evil to his slave, He holds back from him (punishment for) his sins till He takes retribution from him on the Day of Resurrection.” And, through this isnad, it is reported from the Prophet. He said,” A mighty reward is associated with a large affliction. Indeed, when Allah loves a people, He afflicts them in trial. Thus, he who is pleased, for him is (His) pleasure, and as for him who is angry, for him is displeasure.”
In Sahih Bukhari (Bk 7, Volume 70, Hadith 545)
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”
Richard Imran Ding (reverted 1 April 2000)