By Kaleem Sharma Qadri
I grew up in a well to do Hindu Brahmin family. My house was full of idols and pictures were pasted all over its walls. Whichever room you went in, you could see these pictures of Hindu deities like famous names associated with Hinduism such as Shiva, Vishnu, and Goddess of Kali and so on. Living in and brought up in the Western world, I was a much challenged teenager in the sense I had exposure to the so called western way of life at a very early age which constitutes and meant exposure to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. All this accrued from the saying that “you only live once” suggested by the famous quote from Aleister Crowley, “Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law.”
I had studied the Ramayana, the Sikh religion and the scriptures of the Jehovah witnesses at a very young age. I also used to have a Jehovah’s Witness teacher named James that would come to my house, teach me the Bible and take me to the Kingdom Hall Church to listen to lectures. Occasionally, I would stand up in the church and quote passages from the Bible when I was asked by the priest to do so. My parents were very open in that sense and never stopped me from attending church, even though we were from a strict Hindu Brahmin background.
It was during this time, as a young teenager, when I had been exploring, a family friend who was from Pakistani origin named Imran Anwar Khan came to our home. Imran had come to our home at the invitation of my mother. My mother hoped that he would be able to put some sense into me as and advise me as I was quite a messed up kid. However, prior to visiting us, Imran told her that the only way he could advise was by the religion of Islam. My mother told him it was fine as I would learn something good. She didn’t realize what was about to come. But , Imran warned her and said to her, ‘’If he comes to this path, not you or the entire world will be able to stop him from leaving it’’. My mom agreed , and lo and behold, Imran was sitting in my home.
He looked very different as he was wearing a Pakistani style shalwar kameez something that was quite novel for me. (Even his way of speaking and tone of his voice were very different). After we had introduced ourselves for some odd reason, the first question I asked him was, ‘’who do you pray to?’’
He replied, ‘’ Allah’’. I was fascinated, as it was a name I had never heard before. Imran left that day but would visit our home from time to time .
On one occasion, I expressed my zeal of learning his language to him. I told him ,’’ I am fascinated by the letters of your language and want to learn it ‘’. He responded me, ‘’ it’s hard, but I will bring you a book’’. I came home one day from school and saw him sitting in our living room. Imran told me he had a gift for me and handed me a book ,which said,’ ‘The Holy Quran’. I opened it and saw letters that looked like Urdu. I asked him, ‘ Is this the Bible in your language?’ He said, ‘it’s the Quran’. I asked if the Bible was in Urdu. He replied: ‘No. The Bible is different, this is the Quran’ .
I ran upstairs to my room and began reading the Quran. I read the first 3 chapters till the middle of Chapter Al Imran. Each time, I was reading the verses, I kept thinking that this was such a simple message to believe in, yet people are so arrogant they would rather be destroyed than do something as simple as to believe. I also thought to myself, ‘I’m not like these people who are destroyed in these verses’. I am a person of faith and I do believe even though I don’t understand it. I closed the book and went downstairs. Imran was still sitting in the living room. He asked me what I thought about the book?
I told him it had seemed very strict and rigid. In the coming days and months, I continued reading the Qur’an on and off. Then, in the March of that year, I had travelled with my family to Punjab, India, and yet again I followed Mr Aleister Crawley’s quote,
‘Do as thou wilst…..’. I drank, smoked, danced and lived as if every moment was my last and this life is all we have.
I was just very happy to see my late grandfather Darshan Ram Kaushal and my late Grandmother Satya Kaushal.
In the following days we travelled on a pilgrimage to Haridwar which is also a part of the Ganges River and home to various other temples in UP, India. But, I was not excited or engaged as I previously had been on this journey. I had already visited the temples a year before. It was a custom of my family to visit temples from time to time. (Mind you, I had been baptized in a Hindu temple called Chintpurni, a major pilgrimage centre in UP when I was 5 years old).
It was a ceremony of having my head shaved and bathed in milk. I cried a lot. We also visited the Chintpoorni Temple on our pilgrimage. There were some temples we had to walk and climb mountains for hours before reaching the top. Once we reached the top we prostrated to an idol and received Prasad ( holy sweets)
But, amidst all this, there was one place in our pilgrimage that evoked and stirred something in me and that was a Sufi shrine called, ‘Peer Nigahe Wala’.
It was interesting because Hindus and Sikhs went there. There were verses of the Quran in this shrine and in the Bazaar close to the shrine had gone back to my old ways while I was there smoking some potent marijuana. But, I was still in deep thoughts about the religion of Islam and I was questioning it. I was questioning the substance in my hand. Was I allowed to smoke this stuff?
After a month or so, we returned to my hometown Vancouver B. C. Imran Anwar Khan came to our house, the very next day. We were sitting and talking generally about our India trip until I said to him, ‘I have a question? You keep talking about the religion and the Quran, but where did the Quran originate from? What’s the missing puzzle’?
He responded, “It came through Prophet Muhammad (SAW).”
Prior to that moment, I had never in my entire existence heard this name.
I asked Imran: Who is he? He told me Muhammad (SAW) was a Prophet. I further asked him: “What was that?”
He responded by saying that , a Prophet is someone like Jesus and Moses. I asked him if there were any books about Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He told me there were. I asked him to take me to the library as I wanted to read about him. So, he took me to the Vancouver Public Library. There, I borrowed two books on Prophet Muhammad(SAW) and one of Imam Ghazali’s poetry.
One was a biography written by Muhammad Husayn Haykal and the other authored by Martin Lings. I came home very eager and started reading “Muhammad”, the Husayn Haykal’s written biography. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was as if what I was reading was happening in my home. As I read about the Quraish and their ways and Makkah filled with idols, it seemed to me that my house looked like what I was reading. I had read everything from Abraha al-Ashrah and how he tried to destroy Kabah, to the birth of Prophet Muhammad(SAW). Each chapter fascinated me.
I read about the battle of Uhud, Badr, The Prophet’s(SAW) Night Journey. In between my readings, Imran would come to our house and make me listen to Sabri brothers’ qawaali . I remember he made me listen to “Balaghal ula be Kamalehi” which made me ecstatic. There was so much passion and love the way Sabri brothers were singing. As the days went by, I would spend time with friends in the day and, at night, I would read the life story of the Prophet (SAW). During this time, I saw in my dream a man who was speaking a language I didn’t understand. He was wearing all white and his words sounded like thunder. I was scared of him, but he approached me, smiled and walked away.
I was learning new knowledge, but I wasn’t ready to fully accept the new religion because I felt obligated to follow the path of my ancestors. However, I had read one story in the biography which made me think. This pertained to Syedana Maulana, Imam Ali(RA) and how he helped the Prophet (SAW) and accepted his call at such a young age. The story was a very significant factor in helping me accept the religion of Islam.
When I got near the end I thought I finally found someone to do Pooja to -somebody greater than Ram and Krishna together. I thought that since there was no image of him, I would do his Pooja in my heart. Not long after I had read the Prophet’s (SAW) biography till the end, I realized the Prophet had left this world. Right there, my heart changed and I knew this was the truth.
Imran did not come back for many months, but when he did eventually return, it was in Ramadan. He said he had to pray; he washed himself and performed the ablution. He went into the room in basement of our home and began his prayers. As I watched him, I joined him and made my first prostration to Allah. My first prostration was at Maghrib. I was only 15 then and remember Imran telling me that I do not realize how lucky I was. This, however, was the beginning of many challenges to come-challenges of discrimination and being ridiculed by my family, of trying to adjust with my beliefs in a non-Islamic home but, by the blessings of the Prophet(SAW) and the Will of Allah, I remained very consistent.
My determination and faith led to a lot of my family members later accepting the religion of Islam. I do want to mention very briefly here, Shaykh Tahir Ul Qadri advised me on how to deal with my family. He changed my approach of Dawa and expanded my horizons. I have had constant consultations with him since the past ten years. If I can summarize the actual and main core reason of me coming to Islam, I don’t hesitate to say, I fell in love with the Prophet(SAW) but my encouragement to accepting Islam came from Imam Ali.
After practicing Islam for more than 20 years I can honestly say I still have the same passion and thirst for knowledge and truth for the religion which I had when I first read the biography of The Holy Prophet (SAW). Seeking and learning about the Prophet’s (SAW) family and Sufism has only enhanced my understanding about the religion of Islam. I encourage everyone to try to understand the sole existence of Allah, the concept of Wahdat ul Wujud which has been taught to us by Muhammad Rasul Allah (SAW). Because nothing truly exists except Allah and everything shall perish except for the Prophet’s (SAW) sublimely Beautiful Face.
—The author is a revert to Islam and lives in Edmonton, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org