I am a white, male, middle class, midwestern American from Ohio, USA with no spiritual upbringing and never encountered a Muslim in my life other than strangers passing by. My life is also without controversy and I’ve never had a drug or crime problem. I raised my children and have a normal marriage.
You might wonder then how I was invited to Quran and then into Islam itself. It happened without my intention at all, simply a path I glimpsed and followed in a straight line.
I found my first Quran in a thrift store for $.50. That’s half a dollar. I’d never seen a Quran before! So I bought it out of curiosity because I’ve loved reading since before I even went to school. I’ve always been able to discern between good and bad books and good and bad intentions in writing.
So, I took it home and read it and understood it but my world ignorance and spiritual ignorance didn’t alert me to anything. I merely found the Quran interesting, like a good poem. And years went by with this Quran on a shelf that I took down every now and then and read but never took very seriously.
Then I began reading the Bible in the same manner, reading occasionally and understanding but not quite seeing anything alarming. But since I was reading both Quran AND the Bible, I did begin to see that they weren’t at odds and I started going to churches, thinking I’d find others like me who enjoyed reading scripture.
But that’s not what I found in churches at all. In churches, they had Bible study but it was clear to me right away that those at the study didn’t comprehend what they were reading at all. I was astounded at how little they grasped and how guided each study was. No one read scripture for their own enjoyment.
And no church would baptize me, either. They each said it would take a year of teaching and training and I’d need a sponsor to get baptized, and none of that sounded correct to me.
Eventually I read Martin Luther who said “If you’re in the flesh and if you’re in the world, then I beseech you to go to the nearest church and get baptized immediately” so I went to the nearest Lutheran Church down the street from me and knocked on the door and I was GOING to say “Luther said this, please baptize me” but what came out was “Christ Jesus, through Martin Luther, sent me here to be baptized” and it surprised us all. And it turned out that they couldn’t challenge that statement so the pastor, rather than make me wait a year, take training and get a sponsor, he baptized me then and there.
Then I went to his church and after service, they had a breakfast. At the table, a woman asked what my son’s name was (he was there with me) and I said “His name is Khalil” and she said “Oh!! What an interesting name! What is it from?” and I said “It’s a Muslim name!” and everyone got very stiff and no one talked again. Then a woman said “Those muslims worship a different God” and I innocently said “No! It’s just Sara and Hagar! Ishamael!” which seemed obvious to me but they wouldn’t accept it.
So at the next bible study, I took my Quran and gave it to that pastor and said (and I’d never read or even knew Hadith existed at this point) “You have to read it with the same angelic chime that spoke to the Virgin Mary”. And I gave him my Quran.
But now I didn’t have a Quran for myself so I ordered another Quran from Amazon. But I though maybe it wasn’t a very good translation so I ordered a Quran directly from Medina. When my Medina Quran arrived, I opened it and the very first page had this:
Which is EXACTLY what I’d just said to the woman at church. And it informed me also that there was something called “Hadith” so I ordered my first Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim again from Medina.
And when I got my Bukhari and opened it, I saw the very first Hadith!!
“Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ’ off after I have grasped what is inspired.”
Which again was exactly what I’d said to the pastor who’d baptized me!!!
So I took Sahih Muslim with me to read at work delivering Chinese food and two women walked in. One in a hijab and her friend without hijab. While the friend was ordering her food, I took the chance and blurted out to the hijabi “Do you read Hadith!?” and she said yes! And she saw Muslim open in front of me and asked if I was muslim so I told her no, she was the first Muslim I’d ever spoken to and that I understood Quran and Hadith deeply.
She said “You have to get to a mosque NOW!” but I didn’t know any mosque or how to enter one or anything. She gave me an address and the correct time to be there and said “Tell them sister Sarah sent you”.
So Khalil and I went to the mosque and went in and it was a little tense, two white guys walking into a mosque clearly not knowing what to do or how to behave. We got a lot of looks and quickly someone came up and asked if he could help us and what was my name.
I said “My name is Michael and this is my son Khalil” and when I said “Khalil” he smiled and said to Khalil “Oh! So you’re a muslim and you brought him here?” and I had to reply “no this is my son, neither of us is muslim”.
He then took us into the masjid and we talked for awhile and I told him our story. When he heard all of it he said “you should speak to Imam” and we went deep into the mosque and upstairs we met Imam Islam and several scholars he was meeting with. I told our story again and he said we clearly understood everything. Then he said “Well, it’s time for evening prayer! Would you like to learn wudu and come to prayer?” and of course we did!
So Imam and the scholars took us downstairs and showed us wudu and then we went to evening prayer and no one could say we hadn’t learned properly because they’d all seen Imam teach us!
We attended prayer after that as much as we could until the pandemic hit while also still going to church where we’d been baptized.
And to this day, we read and pray daily and are quite isolated and alone here in Ohio where Christians won’t hear anything about Islam and there are nearly no muslims anywhere and no sign of the umma at all.
Walahi, I couldn’t make this up!!