Samuel from Canada: I decided to change my life and seek my true purpose

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SHAFAQNA-

First of all I would like to thank you for agreeing to hold an interview and also for the time you allocated to us. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background, field of study, degrees, etc.
My name is Samuel, I am 20 years old and I am from Canada. I was originally raised as an atheist. I have one sister. I recently graduated from college as electrical engineer and currently work at Tech Insight, a company where they analyse all kinds of electrical components. Aside of my professional career, I really like sport. Growing up I was into dirt bike racing. I had my first dirt bike at 3 years old and had my first race at 4. Growing up I had a really supportive family! My dad was in the army so I had the opportunity to move all across the country every 4 years or so. That made me see a lot of different environments and made me more aware of the “world” at a young age. My dirt bike career was a fundamental part of my life; everything revolved around it. I would miss friends, family birthdays. I couldn’t always go hangout with my friends because I had to get ready for the races. This made me grow up really fast, I had to manage my responsibilities from a young age and prepare myself for the races.
At the age of about 16, I faced family issues. My parents separated and I had to choose between them. Due to this I had to give up my dream of being a potential professional dirt bike rider. I faced a great adversity. I had to leave my mom and sister, to live in a different town once again, to keep my dream alive. This was where my life started to go downhill.
To make it short I had so much on my plate and the environment was not healthy. I would be around people that would party every weekend from Friday to Sunday.
One night when I couldn’t sleep, I was contemplating on life something touched me, an angel or something enlightened me and that’s when I decided to change my life and seek my true purpose.

 

How did you get familiar with Islam? And what specifically attracted you to Islam?
As I mentioned earlier, I was raised as an atheist. That one night when I felt something I realized that I am much smaller then I think and that I was here for a reason. Why something is created if there is no need or point of it. It doesn’t make sense to me. So this is where my journey began. I moved back to my old town and found my old friend, the quality of living was much better, my mental state became better. My first step into my spiritual journey was looking into Christianity, I was more aware of it but I knew little about it. After looking into it I didn’t find anything that could touch me. There was too much illogical stuff.
As funny as it sounds, my school where I studied for 2 years was filled with Muslims. But I never thought of asking or looking into it just because the way they were acting and just thinking Islam was that thing for Arabs.
One day I got in a debate on religion with many of my friends that were part of a different sect of Christianity and some Muslims. From that debate, I saw the true beauty of Islam and realised that Islam is not what truly portrayed as.
After that I decided to go on YouTube and watch lectures on Islam for hours and hours a day. The more I was looking into it, the more I fell in love.
One day I met a convert that really helped me. Because I had many questions that I needed to reassure myself of this new life, new ethics. Because if I was going to convert, I wanted to be sure what I’m doing is right.
The thing that made me attracted to Islam was how logical but yet complex it was and how you find peace within you by your creator. There just so much that I could say about it that I could talk for days!
The order of books, worshiping only one, having Adam and Eve (peace be upon them) until Mohammad (peace be upon him). Islam is a way of life, that not only helped me spiritually, but in all aspects of life.

 

Can you please explain a little more about why you chose Islam instead of other religions such as Christianity? As you’ve previously mentioned you had some Christian friends that you spent some quality times with. What was it about Islam that caught your eyes?
I realized religion and how you connect with God is really personal, your relationship is unique and how you try to develop it is all up to the individual. So for me choosing Islam fitted my ideologies of creation and I’m thankful that Allah guided me towards that path. For me to worship one power, one creator, and this creator being the compassionate and merciful made sense. I didn’t get the role of Jesus in Christianity and the whole died for our sins thing, but I get the role of Jesus (pbuh) as a prophet.
Islam is simple, peaceful and I quickly saw that it was more than a religion; it was a way of life.

 

 

How do you define or articulate the influence of Quran on yourself, your personal life and your social life?
The Quran has so much hidden treasure and there is so much information. Personally it is hard to catch everything. Also the English Quran is not the same as the Arabic; so there is a language barrier that keeps me from really connecting even more with Allah by the Quran. I am working on it trying to find people to teach me, InshaAllah one day I’ll be able to read it in Arabic.
For my social life I try to implement it all the time. I use it to try to stay patient and understanding in hard situations. I really like some stories, so I often base or compare my actions with the prophets (peace be on them) to see how I’m acting. Not that I’m trying to be like them or copy but trying to be as noble and to be the best Muslim and individual as possible.
The book is filled with guidelines, some people see it as haram and halal but they are missing the point most often. It’s more than that Allah (swt) sets up guidelines just like in an instruction manual. If you’re trying to build something, He warns us and guides us to the straight path. So I try to base my decisions on the Quran as much as possible. My knowledge is restricted and I’m not perfect. I do make some mistakes. But as long as you realize and try to better yourself, I feel you’re going in the right direction.

 

What is the most beautiful Ayah of the Quran in your opinion? And why?
My favourite ayah is in surah Ar-Ra’d, ayah 13-11. It mentions how angels are near and how one state can’t change before one changes what they have in their heart.
This ayah really gets to me because it shows how the world of the unseen is near. The angels are watching us and protecting us by the grace of Allah (swt). So we are alive just because He wants us to be, without going too much in depth. And change comes from the heart, as a convert I can relate to it and it is a fact. One can read the whole Quran and it won’t change anything in his/her life because the heart is closed and they don’t have the right intentions.
Always having pure intentions and keeping an open heart and mind really shows the beauty of the Quran and that’s why I feel this ayah is so powerful for me.

 

What was your family’s reaction after you became a Muslim? Did you have any problem with people who knew you? Did people around you start to disapprove with you after converting to Islam?
My mom was caught off guard by it. She was a little shocked but she accepted it and she’s happy for me now. My sister was really open to it. But for my dad he still doesn’t know yet. My dad lives in another city so I don’t see him as much. He would probably not accept it, but he doesn’t know much about Islam so his view on it would be to stay away from it. Every time I try to bring up the subject there is tension. If I would tell him, he would be probably not accepting. It’s just scary and hard to handle because I don’t want it to have an awkward relationship with my dad that I don’t see him too often.
Other than family everyone was pretty open and accepting. I already had Muslim friends so they were really happy when they found out. People outside in the community don’t even know, I’m just a typical white person walking in the streets. Other than my Islamic necklace under my shirt, nothing says that I am a Muslim. That’s why I need to give so much credit to the sisters with the hijab. They are exposed to all the hatred every time they go out in public and everyday they represent Islam in good or bad times in the society’s.

 

How was your converting’s effect on your family?
At first it wasn’t bad, nothing really changed but after a couple of months, I was struggling to keep up with it because I didn’t have any reminder and I actually didn’t really feel Muslim because I didn’t really have anyone to rely on and to talk or to help me with the faith at home. It was really hard to stay in the faith because my old ethics and how I lived for the past 18 years don’t change over night. I kept on to it and pushed myself. Putting 5 alarms for fajr and to have constant notifications on my phone for prayer reminders. That made me a little bit more distant with my mom and sister in some aspect. But I’ve been talking to my mom and sister more about Islam and they understand better and they understand me if I can’t do certain things.
The journey since I converted was full of up and downs and I had to find my balance with everything. Alhamdullilah I feel like after a year and a bit I finally found my place and balance.

What was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day?
To be honest the first time praying I was completely lost. It was actually the day when I went to the mosque to convert. I didn’t know the fatiha; I didn’t know any surah. I didn’t even know the order to say anything or when to prostrate. I was a mess but I was following people around me. Slowly I learned the fatiha and one surah. I started to recite them in English to understand them then learned them in Arabic. Slowly by doing them repetitively my prayers dramatically improved.
Praying 5 times a day was the hardest thing for me. The main haram things like drinking and eating pork and all the main things people always talk about was really easy to push aside. I never really drank before and cutting on pork was easy but implementing something into your life is hard and to this day I still struggle. Finding a place to pray is hard sometimes. Being at work and they don’t have a prayer place or I’m gone running for an hour or two and I completely forgot it was maghrib and sometimes I’m just too shy to ask and bother people to know if I can pray here or somewhere. I just try my best and I always try to improve my prayers in all aspects because there is so much grace and details, InshaAllah one day I’ll master it.

 

Could you tell us a little about how difficult it was for you at the beginning of your search for the truth?
The resources wasn’t the problem, The hardest part for me was making peace with myself and accepting that I was living the wrong way for 18 years. Looking back at myself I feel dumb, I thought Allahuakbar was what terrorists said…
And I thought Islam was just some religion for middle eastern and Africans and like we should stay away. So I really needed to like hit the reset button. I had to ignore what I ever heard good or bad about Islam and make my own idea of it. It was a constant battle with myself for a few months trying to wrap my head around everything.

 

In the west Islam is generally accused of promoting terrorism, anti-human rights issues or maltreatment of women. What is your response to these charges?
People are just afraid, because in the past everything was ruled by the Christian catholic religion. It is only maybe for 40 or 30 years that the churches are no longer in power to set rules and everything. So seeing a new religion coming in they are scared that they going to take over and redo the same thing.
I personally think that All the charges are based on fear. They do not have any idea of what Islam is or only have one concept of it. Sadly most of their knowledge of Islam is gained by the media. I feel this is where I can come in to help this closed minded or lack of knowledge of Islam. Seeing a white Canadian talking about Islam, the way that they can understand it better and inshaAllah accept it more. So we can just live all together in peace.

 

So in your opinion how is it possible to broadcast pure Islam worldwide effectively? And which aspect of Islam is more attractive to the foreigners?
I don’t think there is one perfect way. I feel it is just keeping practicing our faith and showing that Islam is peaceful. Making ourselves open and available to answer questions of people that are interested is really important also.
Islam can be overwhelming when they never heard about it. So you can’t talk about praying multiple time a day, stopping drink, stop eating bacon …. they will just give up.
You need to bring them the more spiritual side of Islam, the angels, Allah and explaining that He is the one and only (the creator). They don’t know, they think Allah is like Jesus (peace be on him) or they think we worship Mohammad (peace be upon him).
Everyone takes information differently so it’s hard to do a speech that will touch everyone. So keeping a simple approach with the routes of Islam give them a good base to grow there knowledge if they want. Allah guides who he will.

 

What do you think about reasons behind some efforts to promote atheism in the world and what is your advice to those who are hesitant between belief and disbelief?
I feel like atheism is based on just doing anything you like, and believing what you like is the best for a successful life, but sometimes what we like is not the best thing for us or for the community. Some people are just atheists because they were never taught anything else. Look at how much the suicides rate are increasing and young people are getting anxious and depressed. Look at how much death is caused by the use of drugs alcohol or anything revolving around it. Where would be the limits? We already have nature ethics in us, if someone is getting attacked you know the person that is getting hit is getting oppressed and we know what is going on is bad. But something we are able to choose and that is where we can be found better then angels or lower then animals.
Religion and God relationship can not be filled up with anything else found on this earth. We need to nourish our souls just like we need some food for our body to work.
For people that are struggling in-between, I would just ask them a simple question who are you and why are you here? Because people think they know who they are but do they truly know. It’s not your job that makes you who you are or your tittle, because you can lose all that. Who you are deep down and why you are here? These are questions that would permit an individual to keep seeking the truth until they can answer these two questions. Sometimes it’s going to be hard but keep seeking the truth and one day you will find it.

 

Which attractive part of Islam made you to change?
The feeling of brotherhood and family is the most attractive part of it. Because I really didn’t expect that at first and still to this day it makes a big difference in my life. It’s not only keeping me around good people but also helping me in my struggles.

 

How do you analyze woman’s right in Islam compared to what the west has propagated?
The propagating of oppression of women in Islam in the west is just a thing because they have different core values. So anything not good for them is going to be wrong and they’re going to start over exaggerating in most cases. That’s fed by the media and western ideologies. They think covering up is bad or it is men that are forcing them to cover. I believe that they think indirectly that having freedom is doing anything and everything from there own values. So covering up for them they see it as restriction and not liberating. They just throws those claims without even knowing what is behind the whole purpose. People don’t know the difference between culture and religion. Most of the time if there is any operation, it would be in the culture and not the religion. But they will associate anything negative with Islam. Because Islam is so foreign and some people don’t like new stuff and change so they rather deny it. This is a really big topic and something that needs to be talked about in the western community. As Islamic awareness grows people will start to understand more and more.

 

If you want to invite a non-Muslim to Islam, what are the most important features that you would refer to?
I would start at the very base and explain the spiritual world not even touching Islam. I would start by a simple question like why are you here and who are you, more philosophical and then ease in Allah. How He is the one and only… I do not guide a person Allah does, so explaining the spirituality and the basics but afterwards I leave it in his hands. I’m always there to answer the questions and willing to talk more but he will come to me, I wont force him in any way.

 

If you want to say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion what do you say?
I don’t know where to start and what to say. I can talk about it for days. Because it has changed so many things for me. Small things to big things. It was done in a slow process by learning to be at peace with myself and my soul. It took time and really being open and having the will of finding truth. Because happiness, peace, calmness are really hard to find as a non-believer and it’s a constant stress that you try to replace with money or other material stuff.
Finding that your life has a bigger meaning, that there is a God that’s All-Knowing; that He is in control of everything. Your daily stress or negative thoughts vanish quickly. Because you realize you don’t control what life throws at you. Allah(swt) doesn’t give something a soul can’t bear. Because your trials become tests and you are suddenly not alone anymore. You trust him, your enemies from before become your friends and your true enemy becomes shaitan. I feel when you find Allah and put all your trust in Him that is when you find true happiness, true patience and calmness. You can see this in all the prophets (peace be on them all), Imams and righteous people.
Islam is beautiful because of thousands and thousands of reasons. It can touch a non-believer as much as it can touch 70-year-old that’s been in the faith his whole life. It can also break social, racial and language barriers. Allah(swt) relationship is unique to every individual and we all connect to him in different ways. It’s all about finding your way.

 

Understanding Islam which books you have studied about it, save the Holy Quran?
I didn’t read too many books. Because I didn’t want to read about false information and I truly didn’t know enough to see if something didn’t seem right. I have read a lot on al-Islam.org and I have watched a lot of videos on Alulbayt YouTube channel.

 

What made you to know about Ahlulbayt (AS)?
I started to learn about Shiism from my Shia friends around me. I learned more about it when I started to ask myself questions about why I’m doing a certain thing like praying. After that it lead me to learn about the historical side of Islam and after that it just made sense for me to continue in the path of the family of the Prophet (pbuh).

 

What did you think the first time you heard about Ahlulbayt (AS)?
To be honest when I first find out there was another branch of Islam, I was in denial. For me there couldn’t be other branches because I just couldn’t believe it. Everyone was saying don’t say you’re this or that you’re Muslim. My knowledge of Islam was really restricted and it work for a little bit. But then I started to talk to more people and my knowledge started to expand and I understood the way of doing things and why and where the information is coming from. So I started to talk to Shia people just as friend and I started to grab some knowledge of Ahlulbayt (AS) and I found it really made sense and I really connected with it. So that’s when I started to listen to Shia videos and started to read more about it. That’s when I slowly went to the Ahlulbayt (AS) just because it made sense for me, just like converting to Islam made sense. Just like when I chose to be Muslim, I didn’t need to be convinced to convert. It just happened because my soul just knew it was the right path.

 

Do you know about Arbaeen walking? If yes, what is the message of Arbaeen walking from Najaf to Karbala to the people around the world in your opinion?
When they brutally martyred Imam Hussain (AS), they captivated Zeinab (SA) and the other women and took them to Syria. Right after Zeinab’s (SA) powerful speech, Yazid was forced to release them. Zeinab (SA) and the other companions traveled all the way to Karbala bare foot so they could get to Imam Hussain (AS) and mourn (because of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom). They finally got there after 40 days since the tragic day and that’s why we mourn on every Arbaeen.
People from all over the world travel to Karbala and walk some of the way just to show and prove their respect toward Zeinab (SA). Iraqi citizens welcome passengers in order to show their regret for leaving Imam Hussain (AS) alone when he needed them the most and they ask him for forgiveness.
That be good to do, to see the perspective and really feeling and living it. InshaAllah next year I’ll be able to go.

 

InshaAllah. And for the last question, are you happy with your decision of reverting to Islam today?
I am extremely happy. With Islam I feel so much stronger and I can go through anything in life. I found myself and I know myself a lot more now. I don’t stress over random things that are not in my control. I do the best I can and the rest is in the hands of God. And that just brings so much relief and peace to the soul. Being able to accept whatever gets thrown to you.

 

Thank you very much for your attention. May Allah bless you and keep you strong and firm on this true path.

 

By Atieh Ansari

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